Category Archives: Eschatology

The Rapture in the early church fathers

1 Thessalonians 4:17 on the Rapture

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do you think anyone in the Christian church could be so audacious to make this kind of statement about eschatology (end times)? ‘The Rapture doctrine is only taught in America. Hardly anyone outside the US believes in such things’.[1]

1. Misinformation re rapture teaching

I found this statement not only overconfident but also ignorant of what is going to happen at the time of Christ’s second coming that will end world history.

Therefore, my response was:[2]

Come across the Tasman from NZ (Angelina lives in NZ) and you’ll find lots of people in Australia who also teach the Rapture, especially in Dispensational circles. I was taught it in an Assemblies of God Bible College in Brisbane in the 1970s. You’ll find it among Baptists, Wesleyan Methodists, especially Christian Brethren (Gospel Hall), and other evangelicals. There is a large Open Brethren assembly 15 minutes from where I live that teaches the Rapture.

2. Who will teach the Rapture?

clip_image004Any promoters of premillennial, pre-, mid- or post-tribulation eschatology, will promote the Rapture. See some examples in this publication (image on left) that deals with three views of the rapture.

Anyone who accepts one of these eschatological views will promote a Rapture of the saints. Here we have Three Views of the Rapture (Gundry et al 1996) that could be taught in any country around the world.

If you read the beliefs of Northside Baptist Church, Perth WA, Australia, you’ll see the doctrine of the Rapture taught. Here’s a list of Christian Brethren assemblies in your own country of New Zealand that teach the Rapture doctrine.

The Rapture is certainly not a doctrine restricted to North America. One of the leading verses used by Bible teachers to proclaim the Rapture is …

2.1    Interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Therefore, how do we understand 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (ESV), ‘Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord’?

What does ‘caught up together’ mean? The catching/snatching up is into the clouds to meet the Lord. Should this be taken literally or is there some symbolic view here that shoots down literal interpretation?

Is the Rapture bunkum doctrine promoted for ecstatic, futuristic reasons? Is this an over-the-top brand of exuberant pre-mill, pre-trib fundamentalism that is designed to get a following of those looking for a way out of this wicked world?

This is the context of verse 17 in 1 Thess 4:13-17 (NABRE):[3]

13 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers [and sisters], about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together[4] with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.

To what is verse 17 referring? This is my:

2.1.1   Textual outline of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

clip_image006(photo courtesy Rapture bombs’: Clothes at the end)

a. Be aware of the destiny of those who have died (fallen asleep) (v. 13).

b. Don’t grieve like those who have no hope (after death) (v. 13).

c. Belief in Jesus’ death & resurrection at death puts you in the group coming with Jesus when he returns (v. 14).

d. The Lord’s word is: Those alive when Jesus’ returns will not precede [rising before] those who have died (v. 15).

e. The Lord’s shout / trumpet will be blasted as he returns and the dead in Christ rise first (v. 16).

f. Those sill alive will be caught up (raptured) with the Lord and others in the air (v. 17).

g. Then all believers will be with the Lord always (v. 17).

Another on that Christian forum spoke up:

I have been to [a] couple of countries where protestant denominations teach Rapture. They did that even long before Iron Curtain came down and Americans got there.

The reason why Rapture was not taught until just a couple of centuries ago is because Christian doctrine was controlled by Catholic/Orthodox churches. In some countries Bibles in native languages were not even available until 18th century and few people were literate enough to read them.[5]

2.1.2  Exegesis of 1 Thess 4:17

The contentious verse 17 in the Greek can be read at SBLNT.

The key word causing controversy against the Rapture doctrine is harpagesometha. I need to get a little technical to parse this word and seek its meaning in lexicons and word studies. It is first person plural (i.e. ‘we’), future, passive, indicative of harpazw (will be caught up).

Harpazw means ‘I snatch or take away … in such a way that no resistance is offered’. Paul was ‘caught up to the third heaven’ (2 Cor 12:2). First Thess 4:17 is associated with this meaning of being snatched away with no way to resist (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:108).

The church being ‘caught up’ or raptured was taught long before J N Darby (1800-1882).[6] Darby was the founder of the Plymouth Brethren denomination in the UK who promoted his dispensational theories, beginning in the Anglican church but he found no satisfaction there (see Graves 2007).

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In his word study of harpazw, Foerster (1964:472) gave the meaning as ‘to take something forcefully (firmly, quickly, or rapaciously)’.[7] It can mean ‘to steal’ (Josephus) and in the NT is is ‘used in parables to speak of conflict between the kingdom of God and that of Satan… It occurs at 2 Cor:12:2, 4 (vision); 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 12:5 (“to catch up or away”); Acts 8:39 – always expressing a mighty operation of God’.

A T Robertson’s assessment was that harpazw was an ‘old verb to seize, to carry off like Latin rapio…. This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul’s argument of consolation’ (Robertson 1931:32). Vincent’s word studies (1887/1946:43) gives the meaning of ‘shall be caught up’ to include ‘by a swift, resistless, divine energy’ (cf. 2 Cor 12:2, 4; Acts 8:39).

Therefore, the meaning of ‘caught up’ in 1 Thess 4:17 is to be caught up or taken away forcefully by a mighty operation of God, called the Rapture.

The message of the Rapture in 1 Thess 4:17 harmonises with Jesus’ statements about his Second Coming in Matthew 24:36-44 (NLT):

36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.[k] Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

Christians don’t know the time of the Second Coming of Jesus and the Rapture of the church. Only God the Father knows that. However, those who love the Lord live in glorious expectation of meeting our Master and Saviour.

3. If you don’t know the information, use a logical fallacy

His reply was this sarcasm: ‘It is your opinion only. One of millions in at least a dozen of variations of beliefs on this topic. Go ahead and start a million first pre-post-mid-none trib topic’.[8] My rejoinder was, ‘It was NOT my opinion. I provided you with evidence from a church father to refute your view, but that’s not good enough’.[9]

Notice what he did. I provided the evidence so he erected a straw man logical fallacy. This happened when Skitnik ignored the evidence I presented and created his own distorted misrepresentation of what I stated. I provided evidence from Irenaeus that the rapture teaching was taught long before the last 2 centuries. His comeback was that it was my opinion. No, I provided the evidence that his statement was incorrect but he refused to accept that.

4.   Evidence from other early church fathers or literature

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The Shepherd of Hermas (ca. 150):[10]

You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. 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, and you spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly (Hermas, vision 4, ch 2, emphasis added).

Irenaeus (ca AD 130-202) wrote in his famous treatise, Against Heresies (5.29.1)

Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance — in fact, as nothing;” (1) so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” (2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption (emphasis added).

The church being ‘suddenly caught up’ is parallel with the language of 1 Thess 4:17.

Cyprian (ca. 200-258)[11] wrote in Treatise 7:

And this, as it ought always to be done by God’s servants, much more ought to be done now— now that the world is collapsing and is oppressed with the tempests of mischievous ills; in order that we who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. If in your dwelling the walls were shaking with age, the roofs above you were trembling, and the house, now worn out and wearied, were threatening an immediate destruction to its structure crumbling with age, would you not with all speed depart? If, when you were on a voyage, an angry and raging tempest, by the waves violently aroused, foretold the coming shipwreck, would you not quickly seek the harbour? Lo, the world is changing and passing away, and witnesses to its ruin not now by its age, but by the end of things. And do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an earlier departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? (Cyprian 7.25)

Ephraim (AD 306 – 373) was made a deacon in the church in Syria in 338 and later became the bishop of Nisibis. Although he was made a “saint” in the Roman Catholic Church, he was not involved in Catholicism and did not even live in the Roman Empire until the final years of his life. The book Pseudo Ephraim is one of his still existing works. It was called “Pseudo” because of later dispute over authorship. However the book’s one reference to the rapture is very compelling.

In his work, On The Last Times 2, he wrote:

We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled (consummated), and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? Believe you me, dearest brother, because the coming (advent) of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it is the very last time.

Or do you not believe unless you see with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!” For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. And so, brothers most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of the world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their hands, awaiting the empire of the Lord. And we think that the earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early. Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and incursions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor of the appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed, although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!’

With a sense of urgency and strong warning, Ephraim writes that the end times are upon this world and could start at any moment. This text very clearly states the saints and elect of God, all born again believers in The Lord Jesus Christ, will be “taken to the Lord” before the Great Tribulation. Ephraim also identifies the Old Testament Day of The Lord and the end times Great tribulation as the same event (in line with the teachings of the Beginning and End Rapture Series). Ephraim quotes Amos 5:18 which says: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light” (source).

5.   John Gill on the Rapture [12]

(image courtesy Pinterest)

clip_image012Dr. John Gill, a famous eighteenth-century Baptist theologian, published his commentary on the New Testament in 1748. He is considered a serious Calvinistic scholar who wrote many volumes on theology. In his commentary on I Thessalonians 4:15-17, Gill pointed out that Paul is teaching a doctrine that is ‘something new and extraordinary’. Gill calls the imminent translation of the saints ‘the rapture’ and calls for watchfulness because ‘it will be sudden, and unknown before-hand, and when least thought of and expected’. This is a clear, detailed 1748 teaching on the imminent pre-tribulation rapture (80 years prior to John Darby in 1830).

To summarise Dr. Gill’s 1748 pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching about the sequence of prophetic events it is vital to note that he declared: to all.

1. The Lord will descend in the air.
2. The saints will be raptured in the air to meet Him.
3. Here Christ will stop in the air and will be visible.
4. As yet, He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him.
5. He’ll take up the saints with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over.
6. He will preserve them from it.
7. And then shall all the elect of God descend from heaven to earth with Christ.

Gill then summarised the sequence:

1) They shall be with Him, wherever He is; first in the air, where they shall meet Him, then Him; then
2) In the third heaven, where they shall go up with
3) On earth, where they shall descend and reign with Him a thousand years.

6.   Philip Schaff: The Earliest Church Fathers Were Premillennial[13]

Without question, premillennialism was the earliest and most widely held view by leading teachers in the earliest centuries of the church. The dean of church historians, Philip Schaff wrote, ‘The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene Age [A.D. 100-325] is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism,… a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papia, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius’ (Schaff 1884:2.614).

German historian Adolph Harnack wrote,

First in point of time came the faith in the nearness of Christ’s second advent and the establishing of His reign of glory on the earth. Indeed it appears so early that it might be questioned as an essential part of the Christian religion…. It must be admitted that this expectation was a prominent feature in the earliest proclamation of the gospel, and materially contributed to its success. If the primitive churches had been under the necessity of framing a “Confession of Faith,” it would certainly have embraced those pictures by means of which the near future was distinctly realized.[14]

7. The Rapture – Not Historic Christian Teaching?

clip_image014This (to the left) is Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris’s caricature of a raptured person[15]

His theology is:

In this brief article, Fr. Anthony expresses with clarity the truth of the false teaching known as the “Rapture” and how much it distorts the teachings of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures.

As I was driving one day I encountered a bumper sticker admonishing me:

“WARNING! In the event of Rapture, this car will be driverless.”

The strange belief in the Rapture teaches that some day (sooner rather than later), without warning, born-again Christians will begin to float up from the freeway, abandoned vehicles careening wildly. There will be airliners in the sky suddenly with no one at the controls! Presumably, God is removing these favored ones from earth to spare them the tribulation of the Anti-Christ which the rest of us will have to endure.

Unfortunately the Rapture has been promoted widely by the Left Behind series of books that have sold over 70 million copies.

The Rapture represents a radical misinterpretation of Scripture. I remember watching “Sixty Minutes”a year ago and was appalled to hear the announcer say that “the Rapture is an unmistakenly Christian doctrine”. It is not!

It is a serious distortion of Scripture.

It is astonishing that a belief so contrary to Scripture and the tradition of the Church could be propagated by so-called “Christians”.[16]

That was Father Coniaris’s view. It is not mine. As long as 1 Thess 4:16 is in the Bible, it will announce that there will be no secret Rapture:

‘For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first’ (NABRE).

8. No secret Rapture

Confusion enters this discussion when pre-tribulation promoters claim that Christians will be whisked away before the tribulation. It will be a secret rapture of the saints, they claim. Erickson (1985:1187) notes the biblical emphasis: ‘While the fact of the second coming is very emphatically and clearly asserted in Scripture, the time is not. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear that we do not know and cannot ascertain the exact time when Jesus will return’. See Mark 13:32-33, 35 (ESV) where it states,

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come…. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning.

Norman Geisler summarised the Pretribulationism of Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord & Dwight Pentecost:

Pretribulationism holds that the Rapture of the church occurs before the Tribulation, during which the church, Christ’s bride, will be in heaven, standing before His judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10) and preparing for His return to earth. Pretribulationism holds that Christ’s coming for His saints will be in the air and before the Tribulation; after the Tribulation, Christ will come with His saints and to earth to reign for a thousand years (Geisler 2005:612).

To address further aspects of this eschatology, see my articles,

clip_image016 Is the rapture of the church hogwash?

clip_image016[1] A pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding

clip_image016[2] What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

9.   Conclusion

If people take the Scriptures seriously, they will confirm a Rapture according to 1 Thess 4:17. However, there is no unanimity on when it will happen. It could be pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation.

To deny the Rapture is to deny the Scripture and the content of 1 Thess 4:17. I find it best to conclude with Norman Geisler: ‘Only believers who have received the power of the Holy Spirit are in Christ’s body (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:13), so only those who have this power will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:16-17)’ [Geisler 2005:548].

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

10. Works consulted

Bauer, W (transl, 4th rev, & aug ed), Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W, 1957, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, trans. & adapt. of Bauer, W, The University of Chicago Press (limited edition, Zondervan Publishing House), Chicago.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Coniaris, A M n.d. The Rapture – not historic Christian teaching. Orthocath (online). Available at: https://orthocath.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/the-rapture-not-historic-christian-teaching/ (Accessed 15 September 2016).

Erickson, M J 1985. Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Foester, W 1964. harpazw, in Kittel, G (ed) Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1, 372-373. Tr and ed by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N 2005. Systematic theology: Church, last things, vol 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Graves, D 2007. John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. Christian History (online), April. Available at: https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/john-darby-of-the-plymouth-brethren-11630602.html (Accessed 28 February 2019).

Gundry, S N; Archer Jr., G L; Feinberg, P D; Moo, D J & Reiter, R R 1984,1996. Three views on the rapture: pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Harnack, A 1883. Millennium. The Encyclopedia Britannica, XVI, 9th ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Jeffrey, G n.d. Three fascinating discoveries! Rapture Ready (online). Available at: http://www.raptureme.com/terry/james27.html (Accessed 6 June 2016).

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Schaff, P 1884. History of the Christian church, vol 2. New York: Scribner.

Showers, R E 1990. There really is a difference! A comparison of covenant and dispensational theology. Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc.

Vincent, M R 1887/1946. Word Studies in the New Testament, vol 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

11.  Notes

[1] Christianity Board, Intense dreams, I need answers (online), Angelina#3, 30 November 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22150-intense-dreams-i-need-answers/#entry276105 (Accessed 2 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[3] This translation is the New American Bible (Revised edition), which is not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible. The NABRE is a Roman Catholic version.

[4] The footnote here in the NABRE was: ‘Literally, snatched up, carried off; cf. 2 Cor 12:2; Rev 12:5. From the Latin verb here used, rapiemur, has come the idea of “the rapture,” when believers will be transported away from the woes of the world; this construction combines this verse with Mt 24:40–41 (see note there) // Lk 17:34–35 and passages from Revelation in a scheme of millennial dispensationalism.

[5] Christianity Board op. cit., Skitnik#8.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#10. Darby’s lifespan dates are from Christian History: John Nelson Darby. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/pastorsandpreachers/john-nelson-darby.html (Accessed 1 November 2016).

[7] Oxford Living Dictionaries (online) gives the meaning of ‘rapacious’ as: ‘Aggressively greedy or grasping’ (2019. s.v. rapacious).

[8] Christianity Board op cit., Skitnik#12.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[10] Date is from Cairns (1981:76).

[11] Lifespan from Cairns (1981:113).

[12] I gleaned this information about John Gill from Grant Jeffrey (n d).

[13] See: http://biblocality.com/forums/showthread.php?5663-The-Earliest-Church-Fathers-Were-Premillennial&s=a101604c8cc517077ef721ad4f042da4

[14] Adolph Harnack (1883:XVI, 314-315, in Showers (1990:117).

[15] Coniaris (n.d.).

[16] Ibid.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:7 June 2019.

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Is the rapture of the church hogwash?

Flying Feet

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

It was 1973 and I stood at my father’s grave. A couple years before, my parents had sold their sugar cane farm near Bundaberg, Qld, Australia[1] and moved into town, where Dad had obtained employment. We three children were off their hands and they were happily living in semi-retirement, planning to serve the Lord in short-term missionary activity.

In the morning, Dad kissed Mum good-bye, which was his daily custom when going to work. However, he never returned home. At 57 years of age, while carrying some goods at a local hardware store where he worked, he dropped dead of a heart attack.

As I stood at that grave, I was in deep grief. But it was not a sorrow of desperation, because 14 years prior to that, at a Billy Graham crusade rally at the local Show Grounds,[2] my parents committed their lives to Christ (Billy Graham was in Brisbane and they were hearing his voice proclaim the Gospel through the loud speakers at the show grounds). Christ had changed them. My Dad was a vibrant witness for Christ. Witnessing was his way of life. I’m here today because Christ invaded our family back in 1959 and I eventually responded to Christ’s invitation to be saved.

While I was shocked at the sudden home-call of my father, I was confident I would meet Dad again because of my own faith in Christ alone for salvation.

I know there is hope beyond the grave because God had revealed—in Scripture—what happens to Christians who die. In the words of Paul to the Corinthians, it is ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8). Paul to the Philippians said, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Phil 1:23). I knew Dad was in a better place. At that grave side, I had the wonderful assurance of the passage we are studying (1 Thessalonians): those who are believers, whether they are alive physically or have died in Christ, will join the Lord in the air one day and be with the Lord forever at his second coming.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

A. Explanations of terms

1. The Millennium: ‘The term millennium comes from the Latin mille and annus, and means a thousand years. It is not found in Scripture, but the term “a thousand years” occurs six times in Rev. 20:2-7. The Greek term chiliasm, frequently occurring in theological literature, denotes the doctrine that Christ will come [at his second coming] and set up an earthly kingdom for a thousand years’ (Thiessen 1949:469).

2. Pre-millennialism: Those who believe that Jesus Christ will return prior to the Millennium are known as pre-millennialists or pre-millenniarians.

3. Post-millennialism: This is the teaching that Christ’s second coming will involve a visible and personal return, but it will not be until after the Millennium.

4. A-millennialism: Matt Slick explains,

Amillennialism is the teaching that there is no literal 1000-year reign of Christ as referenced in Revelation 20.  It sees the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation 20 as figurative.  Instead, it teaches that we are in the millennium now, and that at the return of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16 – 5:2) there will be the final judgment and the heavens and the earth will then be destroyed and remade (2 Pet. 3:10) (Slick 2014).

5.  The great tribulation

This teaching comes from Matthew 24:21, ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be’ (ESV). This is referring to the period around the time of Christ’s second coming. But that introduces two more terms associated with the great tribulation:

Pre-tribulation rapture refers to ‘the taking up of believers into heaven when (according to this view) Christ returns secretly, prior to the great tribulation’ (Grudem 1999:491).

Post-tribulation rapture indicates ‘the taking up of believers after the great tribulation to meet with Christ in the air just a few moments prior to his coming to earth with them to reign during the millennial kingdom (or, on the amillennial view, during the eternal state’ (Grudem 1999:491).

What is the Christian understanding of the rapture?

B. The rapture

‘Rapture’ in the English language has the meaning of exhilaration or excitement, in my contemporary understanding. The Oxford dictionaries give the meaning as, ‘A feeling of intense pleasure or joy’. The plural, raptures, means ‘Expressions of intense pleasure or enthusiasm about something’. However, this dictionary also gives this understanding, ‘North American (according to some millenarian teaching) the transporting of believers to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ’ (Oxford dictionaries 2014, s v rapture).

What is the Christian theological understanding of rapture? Is it a biblical reality or false teaching? Is it truth or bunk? It is this latter dictionary definition to which the evangelical Christian understanding of rapture refers. Simply stated, it is what happens at Christ’s second coming when believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, particularly with a reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which states:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (ESV)

The origin of the biblical use of, ‘rapture’, in the English language is explained this way:

The word “rapture” does not occur in our English Bibles. We get the word by way of St. Jerome (c. 347-420 A.D.). In his work of revising the Latin New Testament from the Greek New Testament, he translated the Greek word [harpazw] into the Latin “rapiemur.” The Latin verb form is “rapio” and means to be “caught up” or “taken away.” From these Latin words come our English word “rapture.” While Paul used the word [harpazw] only once (1 Thessalonians 4.17), he taught the doctrine of the Rapture in other places using other expressions. The Greek word [arpazw] means to “seize” or “snatch away.” It is used 13 times in the following verses: Matthew 11.12, 13.19; John 6.15, 10.12, 28-29; Acts 8.39, 23.10; 2 Corinthians 12.2, 12.4; 1 Thessalonians 4.17; Jude 1.23; Revelation 12.5. (doctrine.org, ‘The Rapture’)

Henry Thiessen, a pre-millennial theologian, explained Jesus’ second coming in the air:

The clearest statement of this is 1 Thess. 4:16, 17, where we are told that Christ will descend from heaven and that the believers will be caught up to meet Him in the air. 2 Thess. 2:1 speaks of our gathering together unto Him. This same idea is expressed in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Hints of the same thing may be found in several other places. In Matt. 25:6 the virgins “go forth to meet him.” And in Luke 19:15 the Nobleman first called for His servants when He returned, and then dealt with His adversaries, and only after that he set up His kingdom. Some would also refer Luke 17:34-36 to this aspect of His coming. We see, then, that the first aspect of His coming is with a view to His own (Thiessen 1949:449).

C. The public arena: The rapture is hogwash!

It is not unusual to hear comments like this from an a-millennialist on a Christian forum on the Internet:

The idea of the rapture portrayed in hollywood (ie, Left Behind, etc)[3] is nowhere to be found in Christian history until about 200 years ago. It’s a modern invention.[4]

My response was that I wouldn’t be so sure that there are no hints of a rapture of the church in relation to end times in the early church fathers. The statement, ‘nowhere to be found in Christian history’, is absolutistic. I asked this person, ‘Have you read every word of the church fathers and early Christian documents to be so confident about your statement?’[5]

What is the meaning of ‘rapture’ as applied to New Testament eschatology? See the definition above.

D. Examples from the Church Fathers

Here are a few of examples from the Church Fathers. I’ve incorporated the rapture, tribulation and Millennium references.

1. Papias (ca 60-130)[6].

Eusebius reported that Papias wrote that

there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth’. Eusebius’s comment on this view was, ‘I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenaeus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views (in Eusebius 1890:3.39.12-13, emphasis added).

2. Irenaeus of Lyon (ca 120/140-200/203).[7]

His most famous publication was, Against Heresies (written about AD 185). In it he wrote:

Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance-in fact, as nothing; ” so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, 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 (Against heresies, 5.29.1, emphasis added).

3. Cyprian of Carthage (AD 200-258)[8]

In one of his Treatises he described the last times of tribulation. He predicted and said that wars, and famines, and earthquakes, and pestilences would arise in each place; and lest an unexpected and new dread of mischiefs should shake us, He previously warned us that adversity would increase more and more in the last times….

And this, as it ought always to be done by God’s servants, much more ought to be done now — now that the world is collapsing and is oppressed with the tempests of mischievous ills; in order that we who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. If in your dwelling the walls were shaking with age, the roofs above you were trembling, and the house, now worn out and wearied, were threatening an immediate destruction to its structure crumbling with age, would you not with all speed depart? If, when you were on a voyage, an angry and raging tempest, by the waves violently aroused, foretold the coming shipwreck, would you not quickly seek the harbour? Lo, the world is changing and passing away, and witnesses to its ruin not now by its age, but by the end of things. And do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an earlier departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? (On the mortality, Treatise 7.2, 25, emphasis added)

4. Chrysostom (ca 347-407).[9] In his exposition of 1 Thess 5:1-2, he wrote,

‘If Antichrist comes … how is it “when they say Peace and safety,” that then a sudden destruction comes upon them? For these things do not permit the day to come upon them unawares, being signs of its coming’. But ‘the time of Antichrist … will be a sign of the coming of Christ, but Himself will not have a sign, but will come suddenly and unexpectedly’ (Homily on I Thessalonians 5:1-2).

While not especially referring to the rapture by name (the catching away of believers), there is a statement that the coming of the Antichrist with signs of destruction will precede the sudden and unexpected coming of the Lord. This is a post-tribulation view of the second advent.

5. Augustine of Hippo (ca 354-430),[10]

‘he who reads this passage [Daniel 12:1-3], even half asleep, cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church before the last judgment of God shall introduce the eternal reign of the saints’ (The City of God, 20.23).[11]

Augustine is definite about how the church will be assailed (trashed, maltreated, persecuted, abused) by the kingdom of Antichrist before the last judgment by God and the eternal reign of believers.

Examples from the Church Fathers and the statement of humbug from a member of the public are not enough to convince me of the genuineness of the Rapture and of Jesus’ second coming. I turn to the authoritative Scripture for that. Here’s what I find:

(theheavensdeclare.net, public domain)

E. THE CATASTROPHIC CLIMAX OF WORLD HISTORY (I Thessalonians 4:16-18)

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (NIV)

That great drama will be the coming of the Lord and the rapture of the saints will be involved. What will be the sequence of events?

1. First, ‘The Lord Himself Will Come Down from Heaven’ (v. 16).

Remember when Jesus ascended into heaven? Those who were looking intently into the sky as he was going up were told by ‘two men dressed in white’ (angels), ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11).

While I was in high school, I only ever remember one school teacher who actively opposed my Christian faith – I met more in university. My science teacher’s only objection was: ‘I cannot believe that your Jesus went into the sky and will return the same way. That’s impossible, scientifically’. Impossible or not from the human perspective, that’s exactly what will happen. The God of Scripture and the God whom I serve is the supernatural Lord of the universe who created this universe, raised Lazarus from the dead, and was himself supernaturally raised from the dead in his resurrection from the tomb after his death. The Lord God Almighty is the God who performs miracles – in spite of my science teacher’s objections to the supernatural.

The Lord who went to heaven will return ‘in the clouds’. It will be a personal return. Jesus, who died for us and ascended to heaven, will personally come back. It will not be a phantom or some substitute, but Jesus Christ Himself.

2. Second, This Descent Will be Accompanied by Some Awe-Inspiring Events (v. 16).

The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, according to v. 16,

(a) ‘With a loud command’.

Bible commentator, William Hendriksen, states that originally, this was ‘the order which an officer shouts to his troops, a hunter to his dogs, a charioteer to his horses, or a ship-master to his rowers’. Although it is not stated whose command it is, it sounds pretty much like the command of the Lord as he leaves heaven, for the dead in Christ to rise. Jesus is returning as the Mighty Conqueror. Christ has conquered, is conquering, is going to return as Conqueror—that is the thread running through the Book of Revelation (Hendriksen 1955:117).

Also, v. 16 says there will be

(b) ‘The voice of the archangel’

Literally, there will be ’a voice of an archangel’. We do not know who the chief angel is, and it is futile to speculate.

Third, there will be

(c) ‘The trumpet call of God’

The Salvation Army believers with their brass bands will be really at home here, in more ways than one – especially the trumpeters of Salvation Army bands. It is very fitting that there should be a trumpet blast here.

In the O.T., when God ‘came down’ to meet with his people, this meeting was announced with a trumpet-blast (see Ex. 19:16-19).

When the marriage of the Lamb and his bride reaches its culmination (cf. Rev. 19:7), this trumpet-blast is most appropriate.

Also, the trumpet was used as a signal of Jehovah’s coming to rescue his people from hostile oppression (Zeph. 1:16; Zech. 9:14). It was a signal for their deliverance.

So also, this is most appropriate—the final trumpet-blast, the signal for the dead to arise, for the living to be changed, and for all the Christians to be gathered from the four winds (Mt. 24:31).

‘From all this, it becomes abundantly clear that the Lord’s second coming will be open, public, not only visible but also audible’. Nobody will miss him. What forces of nature will be used to produce this sound? We are not told. ‘One fact has now become evident: for believers this sound will be full of cheer. This is God’s trumpet! It is his signal. It is sounded to proclaim his deliverance for his people…. It announces the coming of his Son’ (Hendriksen 1955:117).

J.B. Phillips translates it: ‘One word of command, one shout from the Archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and God in Person will come down from heaven’. This catches something of the vividness of the sequence of events. This is the fullest description of the actual Coming in the N.T. When we reflect on the little that is said here, we are warned against being too dogmatic about what will happen.

THE MAIN POINT IS THAT IT IS NONE OTHER THAN THE LORD HIMSELF WHO WILL COME. THE END OF THE AGE WILL BE USHERED IN BY GOD HIMSELF. THIS IS GOD’S GRAND CLIMAX TO WORLD HISTORY.

Please note:

3. The Dead in Christ Will Rise First (v. 16)

Those Christians who have died, will rise before the believers who survive on earth at the time of Christ’s coming. Some Christians suppose that the reference here is to the first resurrection; that the dead in Christ, shall rise before the wicked who did not know Christ. That a thousand years—the Millennium—will intervene between the first and second resurrections (Rev. 20:4-5). This seems to be an unsubstantiated assumption because all that is stated here is that the dead in Christ will rise, before the living in Christ will be changed. Here, there is no contrast between the dead in Christ and the dead not in Christ. Nothing is said about the resurrection of unbelievers or the final judgment.

Then,

4. Those Christians Living on Earth Will be Caught Up (Raptured) in the Air to Meet the Lord (v.17).

It will be forceful, sudden. The irresistible power of God will be at work. The survivors on earth will be changed ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye’ (1 Cor 15:52 NIV). The word, ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin language for ‘caught up’.

Then we will be

5. Together Forever (v. 17).

The living and dead in Christ will be in the presence of the Lord, and there will be no end to this relationship. What a meeting that will be! This will be a meeting without a parting. We will meet our loved ones who were believers.

Imagine what it will be like, joining saints like Moses, Joshua, King David, Daniel, Paul and Peter? I’m looking forward to meeting the great revivalists: Jonathan Edwards, John & Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney. Martin Luther, William Carey, William Booth.

What a day that will be when we meet together with the martyred saints throughout human history – Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Cyprian, Ridley, and Latimer. Those killed for their faith in the former Soviet Union, China, Jim Elliot, the Christians who were burned at the stake under the Roman Empire. The saints of faith in Heb. 11. Why don’t you take a read of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to meet some of those you will meet if you love and serve Jesus (online)?

What a meeting that will be! And we will be together forever.

Someday God will bring my Dad and Mum ‘with Jesus’. Mum’s and Dad’s souls reunited with their bodies—new bodies. Once again, we’ll be able to converse together, but this time in the presence of the Lord. What a day that will be!!

All celebrations on earth will pale into insignificance. And it will be nothing like the celebration by the supporters of the rugby league team – the Canberra Raiders – who, according to The Canberra Times, ‘guzzled their way into the record books after demolishing a week’s supply of beer in one night’.[12]

All believers will be together forever, with the Lord.

F. COMFORT EACH ANOTHER (v. 18)

Paul calls on the Christians, in the midst of this good news, not just to take heart, but to actively comfort one another–to encourage each other. Whether we live, or whether we die, we do not get away from God’s power.

In the face of death, that antagonist that no person can master, we can remain calm and triumphant. For we know that those who sleep, sleep in Jesus, and that there is a place for them in the great events at the end of the age.

G. ETERNAL QUESTIONS

The Moravians were known for their missionary zeal. They influenced John Wesley. Count Zinzendorf, the leader of the Moravians, had a motto he lived by—‘I have one passion, and it is He—only He’.[13]

Martin Luther’s preaching aroused the church from a thousand years of sleep. It is easy to understand why, when we discover how Luther preached. He said, ‘I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday; rose again from the dead today; and is coming back to earth tomorrow’.[14]

If I had to preach your funeral sermon this week, I want to be sure I’m telling the truth about your eternal destiny. These are eternal questions: What is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you know Him? Do you have the hope I’ve been teaching? Repent and believe – receive – Christ today and be ready. But remember, to serve Jesus is costly, it costs you everything—total commitment. Full-surrender of your life to Him. You have no assurance that you’ll live another moment on this earth. You could die before you finish reading this article. You have no assurance that Christ might not come this very moment. Whether you die or whether you remain alive, you can—you should—be ready for Christ’s second coming. You will be if you know Him personally.

H. CONCLUSION

My reading of the church fathers (and I have read only a sample) is that there is some sprinkling of a post-tribulation, pre-millennialism among them where there is a rapture of believers after severe tribulation and trouble on the earth. However, I’m open to consider a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture if that can be shown by more Scriptures than 1 Thessalonians 4.

However, my reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 guarantees that Christian believers will be raptured at the Lord’s second coming. They will meet him in the air. What a day that will be! I’m looking forward to the reunion with my Dad and Mum.[15]

What A Day That Will Be [16]
Words and Music by Jim Hill

Mark 14:62
“And Jesus said, I AM:
and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power,
and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

v.1

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Chorus
What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

v. 2

There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there;
And forever I will be with the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

For a couple Gaither vocal versions of this very appropriate song for this message, I invite you to take a listen to:

For further details to challenge the pre-tribulation rapture teaching, see my articles,
flamin-arrow-small What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?
flamin-arrow-smallA pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding

The Resurrection of Life

(image courtesy SomeHelpfulInfo)

Works consulted

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Eusebius Pamphilus of Caesarea 1890. Church history (online). Tr by A C McGiffert, in P Schaff & H Wace (eds), rev & ed by K Knight for New Advent, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Bks I-X. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Available at New Advent http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm (Accessed 24 March 2014).

Grudem, W 1999. J Purswell (ed), Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hendriksen, W 1955. New Testament commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Justin Martyr 1885. Dialogue with Trypho. Tr by M Dods & G Reith. In P Schaff (ed), Ante-Nicene fathers (online), vol 1, ed by A Roberts, J Donaldson, and A C Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight, available at New Advent http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/01284.htm (Accessed 26 March 2014).

Naismith, A 1963. 1200 Notes, quotes and anecdotes. London (U.K.): Marshall Pickering.

Oxford dictionaries 2014. Rapture (online). Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/rapture (Accessed 30 August 2014).

Slick, M 2014. Amillennialism and premillennialism. CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) (online). Available at: http://carm.org/amillennialism-and-premillennialism (Accessed 29 August 2014).

Thiessen H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Wingren, G 2013. Saint Irenaeus. Encyclopaedia Britannica (online). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/293911/Saint-Irenaeus (Accessed 30 August 2014).

Notes


[1] For information on Bundaberg, visit, ‘Welcome to Bundaberg North Burnett’.

[2] In the USA, they are called fairgrounds (Merriam-Webster).

[3] This refers to a Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B Jenkins. See HERE for a list. For details of the Left Behind apocalyptic film, see HERE.

[4] Skala#15, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Do you have a feeling that the Rapture is just around the corner???’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7814754-2/ (Accessed 24 April 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[6] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:76).

[7] Lifespan dates for Irenaeus are from Wingren (2013). Irenaeus became a bishop in Gaul about AD 180 (Cairns 1981:110).

[8] Cairns wrote that ‘Cyprian was born of well-to-do pagan parents shortly after 200 in the same city as Tertullian and was given a good education in rhetoric and the law…. He became a Christian about 246. About 248 he became the bishop of Carthage, a position that he held for nine years until his martyrdom about 258’ (Cairns 1981:113).

[9] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:141).

[10] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:146).

[11] The title of this chapter 23 in Book 20 of The City of God, is, ‘What Daniel Predicted Regarding the Persecution of Antichrist, the Judgment of God, and the Kingdom of the Saints’.

[12]The Canberra Times, 25 September, 1990, p.1.

[13] Cited at Congress, Canadian National Missionary. (2013). pp. 9-10. Canada‘s Missionary Congress. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1909), available at:http://www.forgottenbooks.com/readbook_text/Canadas_Missionary_Congress_1000645147/33 (Accessed 30 August 2014).

[14] In A. Naismith (1963:158).

[15] Mum went to be with the Lord in 1997.

[16] Available at: http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/sounds/Hymns/what_a_day_that_will_be.htm (Accessed 30 August 2014).

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 March 2019.

Is Jesus coming soon or quickly?

(courtesy Google, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Do the Scriptures lie about the second coming of Jesus or have the translators got it wrong? Is he coming soon or quickly?

1.  One man’s vision of the final day

On Youtube there is an interview with a David Jones by Sid Roth on his TV program, ‘It’s supernatural’. The title of the interview is ‘The final day’. Jones claims to have received an open vision of the final day on earth, a visionary experience of the day of the Lord in which he was exposed to the terror of the Lord. This was revealed in Isaiah13:6-9 and the Book of Revelation (Rev 6:15-17).

Now David Jones claims to have seen this final day as an open vision and that time is running out. He claims to have seen the coming of the Son of God.

Why don’t you watch the interview? I have a couple of issues with the TV program:

(1) It’s in a TV interview where there is drama and it is made to have a Hollywood touch of the dramatic and commercialism. Why should I believe David Jones when Isaiah and Revelation have already revealed the nature of that day?

(2) Jesus told us that nobody knows when he will return, including Jesus himself. Only the heavenly Father knows when that will be.

(3) It requires a premillennial end-times (eschatological) perspective.

This we know from Mark 13:32-33: ‘But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come (ESV).

Why should it be revealed to a contemporary human being that the final day of the Lord is soon and that time has run out and it is too late? Jesus himself did not know this. We have the warnings in Isaiah and the Book of Revelation. Why do we need David Jones’ warning?

2.  Soon or quickly? Does it matter?

Revelation 22:7 (courtesy Bible Hub) states in these versions:

New International Version
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
New Living Translation
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”
English Standard Version
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
New American Standard Bible
“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
King James Bible
“Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible
“Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.”

The NIV, NLT and ESV state that Jesus is coming ‘soon’, but the NASB, KJV, HCSB state he is coming ‘quickly’. Which one is it? Are the translators confused or is something else going on? If Jesus was said to be ‘coming soon’ and that was about 2,000 years ago with the composition of the Book of Revelation, it seems as though John the Revelator did not get an accurate message from God. He got it wrong!

But is that a correct conclusion?

3.  ‘Soon’ in English

What does ‘soon’ mean in English? According to dictionary.com, it means, ‘within a short period after this or that time, event, etc.; we shall know soon after he calls; before long; in the near future; at an early date; promptly or quickly; readily or willingly; early in a period of time; before the time specified is much advanced’.[1]

So to English speakers, ‘soon’, as applied to Jesus’ second coming and the day of the Lord, would generally mean within a short period of time after John the Revelator revealed this.

4.  ‘Quickly’ in English

Dictionary.com gives the meaning of the adverb ‘quickly’ as: ‘with speed; rapidly; very soon’.[2]

So even in English there can be a difference between saying something will happen soon and it happens quickly. If it happens soon, it means in the near future. Quickly can mean rapidly.

Therefore in Revelation 20:7, was John stating that Jesus was coming in the near future or that when he comes it will happen quickly? Let’s check the original language of the New Testament.

5.  ‘Soon’ or ‘quickly’ in New Testament Greek

Which Greek word is used in Revelation 22:7? The ESV translation of this verse states, ‘And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book’. Is ‘soon’ the correct translation?

By the way, the same word is repeated in Rev 22:12, 20 and other verses in the Book of Revelation. The adverb translation ‘soon’ or ‘quickly’ is the Greek, tachu, from the verb, tachus. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of tachus in Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20 as ‘without delay, quickly, at once’ but they note that ‘it is not always possible to make a clear distinction between this meaning’ and ‘in a short time, soon’ as in Mark 9:39 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:814-815).

Greek exegete, George Eldon Ladd, in his commentary on the Book of Revelation wrote of Rev 22:7,

The word may mean ‘quickly’ (AV) or ‘soon’ (RSV). The Christian community should always live under the expectancy of the imminent coming of the Lord. No man knows the day nor hour (Matt. 24:36) and no one can set dates or calculate the time of his coming; but every generation must be awake as though the coming of Christ was at the threshold (Matt. 24:42-44). The biblical warnings involve a spiritual and moral tension of expectancy and perspective (Ladd 1972:290).

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, confirms this understanding of Rev 22:7, ‘That Jesus is coming quickly is, indeed, Jesus’ own word as v. 20 shows. The angel quotes it twice, here and in v. 12’ (Lenski 1943/1963:659).

The passage of time has spoken as to which is the meaning in the verses in the Book of Revelation that use tachu associated with the second coming of Christ. It could not mean soon, meaning without delay or at once. It surely means ‘quickly’ because that is how Jesus stated his return will be.

  • ‘You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Luke 12:40 ESV).

6.  False predictions have come and gone

Image result for Ellen G White photograph public domain
(courtesy ellenwhitelibrary.new)

 Ellen White held a special place in the ministry of the Seventh-Day Adventists. Arthur L White in his brief biography of Ellen White stated:

Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. White was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent. From the time she was 17 years old until she died 70 years later, God gave her approximately 2,000 visions and dreams. The visions varied in length from less than a minute to nearly four hours. The knowledge and counsel received through these revelations she wrote out to be shared with others. Thus her special writings are accepted by Seventh-day Adventists as inspired, and their exceptional quality is recognized even by casual readers (Arthur White: 2000).

Arthur White wrote that Ellen White’s writings included ‘prophecy’ and that ‘this remarkable woman who, meeting all the tests of a true prophet as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, helped found the Seventh-day Adventist church’ (Arthur White: 2000).

Here are a couple of online paragraphs from Ellen White’s, ‘The Mark of the Beast‘:

In a view given June 27, 1850, my accompanying angel said, “Time is almost finished. Do you reflect the lovely image of Jesus as you should?” Then I was pointed to the earth and saw that there would have to be a getting ready among those who have of late embraced the third angel’s message. Said the angel, “Get ready, get ready, get ready. Ye will have to die a greater death to the world than ye have ever yet died.” I saw that there was a great work to do for them and but little time in which to do it.

Then I saw that the seven last plagues were soon to be poured out upon those who have no shelter; yet the world regarded them no more than they would so many drops of water that were about to fall. I was then made capable of enduring the awful sight of the seven last plagues, the wrath of God. I saw that His anger was dreadful and terrible, and if He should stretch forth His hand, or lift it in anger, the inhabitants of the world would be as though they had never been, or would suffer from incurable sores and withering [65] plagues that would come upon them, and they would find no deliverance, but be destroyed by them. Terror seized me, and I fell upon my face before the angel and begged of him to cause the sight to be removed, to hide it from me, for it was too dreadful. Then I realized, as never before, the importance of searching the Word of God carefully, to know how to escape the plagues which that Word declares shall come on all the ungodly who shall worship the beast and his image and receive his mark in their foreheads or in their hands. It was a great wonder for me that any could transgress the law of God and tread down His holy Sabbath, when such awful threatenings and denunciations were against them (emphasis added).

Language such as ‘time is almost finished’, ‘little time’, ‘soon to be poured out’, ‘get ready, get ready, get ready’, regarding the outpouring of God’s wrath, and that was 163 years ago, suggests that Ellen White, the SDA prophetess, got it badly wrong in her supposed prophecy. She was a false prophetess.

I shared this passage with posters on a Christian forum and how do you think an SDA promoter would respond? He wrote:

Do we throw out all prophets that say things like that?

Rev.22:12 “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”

That was about 2000 years ago. I guess you are missing something. Like what is 168 years compared to 2000??

You KNOW that there are more prophecies in the Bible just like that one. What is a thousand years more or less when
you are talking about eternity??[3]

My response was: ‘Are you saying that the Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, got it wrong? Are you prepared to admit that Ellen White got it wrong in 1850?[4] His reply was off at a tangent. He didn’t want to deal with Ellen White’s false prophecy so here is what he stated:

Got what wrong? That Jesus is coming back? I think every
church should be teaching that. Don’t you? I posted Rev.22
just to make the point. That prediction is about 2000
years old. Does that make it a false prophecy??

Nobody knows when He is coming.

Look over your library of SDA writings and find me one
time when anyone set a date. Preachers all over, today,
are preaching the same message. GET READY. Jesus is coming,
SOON. Do we know when? Of course not.
[5]

That is a red herring logical fallacy, where an unrelated comment is designed to divert attention from the topic being discussed. What is there to say to challenge him when he used such illogic? A reasonable conversation is not possible. I pursued the discussion regarding the topic of Ellen White prophesying that time is almost finished and we are to get ready:

Language such as ‘time is almost finished’, ‘little time’, soon to be poured out’ and that was 163 years ago [back in 1850], suggests that Ellen White, the SDA leader and prophetess, got it badly wrong in her supposed prophecy.

The facts are that White stated, ‘Time is almost finished…. Get ready, get ready, get ready’. She was dead wrong. She was a false prophetess.
Why don’t you admit it and quit the SDAs who continue to promote this false prophetess?

This thread deals with Ellen White’s false prophecy that time is running out and we are to ‘get ready, get ready, get ready’ – it was so urgent she repeated it 3 times. That false prophecy was given in 1850.[6]

His come back did not address Ellen White’s ‘get ready, get ready, get ready’ and Jesus coming back in a ‘little time’. He wrote:

Ellen White never set any dates. She is warning people, as any good Christian should, that when Jesus comes, that is the end of probation. If you are not ready, you will not go. Will He be here tomorrow, next week, month?? YOU nor I know the answer to that one. Are you ready?

So, is He coming soon or in another century more or less? Tell us.[7]

Harold is correct. Ellen White did not set any dates, BUT she might as well. Her warning was that there was ‘little time’ and that one should ‘get ready’ for the coming of the day of the Lord. Failing to give a specific date does not obliterate her prophetic expectation that she was warning people to get ready for the coming of the Lord as there was ‘little time’ to go. This kind of expectancy given in a prophecy amounts to a false prophecy as it has not taken place since 1850.

7.  Conclusion

Since tachu, the adverb, in Rev 22:7 may be translated as either ‘soon’ or ‘quickly’, the fact that it is 2,000 years since Christ’s death and resurrection and he has not returned, the meaning must therefore be ‘quickly’. The Book of Revelation was not lying because God, the originator of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17), cannot lie (see Num 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18). Luke 12: 40 confirms that Christians should be ready for Jesus is coming again ‘at an hour you do not expect’ and when he comes, it will be ‘quickly’ (Rev 22:7).

The warning is that Jesus’ second coming will come quickly (suddenly) and all people need to be ready. That can never be for unbelievers. They will be caught unawares. It will happen quickly. They need to be warned of the horrific nature of what will when the day of the Lord comes.

Isaiah 13:6-9 

New Living Translation (NLT)

6 Scream in terror, for the day of the Lord has arrived— the time for the Almighty to destroy.
7 Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts,
8 and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labor.They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear.

9 For see, the day of the Lord is coming— the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Ladd, G E 1972. A commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lenski, R C H 1943/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).

White, A L 2000. Ellen G. White: A brief biography. The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc., available at: http://www.whiteestate.org/about/egwbio.asp (Accessed 25 January 2014).

Notes


[1] ‘Soon’, Dictionary.com, available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/soon?s=t (Accessed 25 January 2014).

[2] Dictionary.com, ‘quickly’, available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/quickly?s=t (Accessed 25 January 2014).

[3] Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, ‘Ellen White: Time is almost finished’, Harold#12, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=11&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122828 (Accessed 25 January 2014).

[4] Ibid., ozspen#13.

[5] Ibid., Harold#14.

[6] Ibid., ozspen#15.

[7] Ibid., Harold#17.

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2016.

What’s the meaning of Matthew 24:34?

 

Explosions (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This is a rather tricky verse that has caused lots of debates over the years. Matthew 24:34 states: ‘Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (ESV).

It has created a number of challenges with interpretation, so much so that it has been included in this wonderful resource that is now available as a pdf document online: Gleason L. Archer 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House). Available online at: http://www.sent2all.com/Archer-Introduction%20to%20Bible%20Difficulties.pdf

The following comments on Matt 24:34 are on pp 343-344 of Archer (1982):

Did Jesus mean in Matthew 24:34 that all the signs of His second coming were really fulfilled before His generation passed away?

Matthew 24:34 reports our Lord as saying, “Truly I say to you, this generation [genea] will not pass away until all these things take place” (NASB). What things? The rise of false teachers and prophets, the persecution and martyrdom of believers, and all the horrors of the Great Tribulation will occur (vv. 9-22). Also, there will be false Christs, deceitful miracles, and strange phenomena in the heavens (vv. 23-29). Then at last the “sign of the Son of Man” (v.30) will appear in the heavens; and all the world will witness His return to earth with power and great glory, when he sends forth His angels to gather together all the “elect” from every part of the earth.

Obviously these apocalyptic scenes and earth-shaking events did not take place within the generation of those who heard Christ’s Olivet discourse. Therefore Jesus could not have been referring to His immediate audience when He made His prediction concerning “this genea.” What did He mean by this prophecy?

There are two possible explanations. One is that genea (“generation”) was used as a synonym of genos (“race,” “stock,” “nation,” “people”). This would then amount to a prediction that the Jewish race would not pass out of existence before the Second Advent. Whatever other races would die out before that event—and most of the races contemporaneous with Jesus of Nazareth have in fact died out already–the Jewish race, however persecuted and driven from one country to another, would survive until our Lord’s return. No other nation has ever managed to live through all the dispersions and persecutions and uprooted conditions to which the Jews have been subjected. Yet they live on until this day and have reestablished their independence in the State of Israel. Although this meaning for genea is not common, it is found as early as Homer and Herodotus and as late as Plutarch (cf. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed., [Oxford: Claredon, 1940], p. 342).

The other possibility is that genea does indeed mean “generation” in the usual sense of the word, but refers to the generation of observers who witness the beginning of the signs and persecutions with which the Tribulation will begin. Many of these will live to see the Lord Jesus come back to earth, as Conqueror and Judge, with great power and glory. This interpretation has the merit of preserving the more common and usual meaning of the word. But it suffers from the disadvantage of predicting what would normally be expected to happen anyway. Whether the Tribulation will last for seven years or for a mere three and a half years, it would not be so unusual for most people to survive that long. Seven years is not a very long time to live through, even in the face of bloody persecution.

Perhaps it should be added that if the Olivet Discourse was originally delivered in Aramaic (as it probably was), then we cannot be certain that the meaning of this prediction hinged entirely on the Greek word used to translate it. Genea and genos are, after all, closely related words from the same root. The Aramaic term that Jesus Himself probably used (the Syriac Peshitta uses sharbeta’ here, which can mean either “generation” or “race”) is susceptible to either interpretation, and thus could mean the Jewish “race” rather than the circle of Christ’s own contemporaries.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 June 2019.

What is the meaning of Matthew 23:39

United Kingdom of Israel (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This verse has bred some controversy among evangelical Christians who consider that all of Israel will be saved during the Millennium (the supposed 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth at his second coming). Here are a couple of examples:

# ‘Paul has already argued that the Jews have not stumbled beyond recovery, and Jewish branches can be grafted back in if they believe, so when he says they are hardened until the full number of Gentiles comes in, he implies a temporary hardening. And the following verses say that the Jewish people are still loved, that their calling cannot be revoked, and that God will have mercy on them. Paul believes that most of the Jews will be saved, because Deuteronomy 32 predicts a time when they will accept Jesus as their Savior’ (available HERE).

# ‘Even though Paul’s warnings did not influence all to repent and believe in Jesus at that time, Paul knew that in the long run—in the future—Jesus would come again to earth and those who had not previously had a full opportunity to recognize Christ and receive salvation would then have the opportunity to do so.

As Paul said, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:26-27).

God’s festivals reveal His plan of salvation for mankind, and through the meaning of one of these festivals—the Feast of Tabernacles—we understand that Christ will return to earth and reign for 1,000 years. During this millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be bound so there will no longer be the religious deception and confusion that exists today,  and people of all nationalities will have their opportunity to hear God’s truth, repent of their sins and receive salvation (Revelation 20:1-4) (available HERE).

What about Matthew 23:39?

Matthew 23:39 reads: ‘For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”‘ (ESV).

There are a few constructs in the Greek language that may help with our understanding:

1. ‘For’,  the Greek gar, provides the beginning of the reason for 23:38 as to why the house will be left desolate.

2. To whom is Jesus speaking? Matt 23:37 begins with ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem’, so it seems obvious he is addressing the Jews.

3. There is a double negative in this verse that is not highlighted by the English translations. The NIV translates the verse as, ‘I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”’. This is associated with the verb ‘will not see’ – a futuristic subjunctive mood (ESV, NIV). The double negative is ou me and means something like ‘by no means will see’, or as Lenski translates, ‘In no way shall you see me from now on’ (Lenski 1943:925). Jesus is referring to his death. They will not see him again until….

4. ‘You say’. The ‘humin … humwn’ (‘you’) of 23:38-39 is a plural pronoun in Greek and when we link the plural pronoun with the second person plural of the verbs, we know that he is addressing more than one Jew. He’s speaking to a group of Jews who are in his presence and their house is going to be ‘desolate’ with his death.

5. However, among this group there is a group that will eventually say, ‘Blessed’ to the One who comes in the name of the Lord. ‘Blessed’, eulogemenos, is a perfect tense participle, so it indicates that they are saying ‘blessed’ now and there are continuing benefits of being blessed. ‘He who comes’ is literally ‘the coming one’, which is common language for the promised Messiah. So,

6. There must have been a group among these Jews that was ‘blessed’ by Jesus’ presence and that blessing will have continuing results when ‘he comes’, which again is another reference to the Messiah.

7. I do not find in this verse any indication that ALL of the Jews in Jesus’ presence or all of the Jews of future Israel would welcome him at his second coming as Messiah. But,

8. If we look broader than the Gospels, we find in Paul’s writings that there is ‘a remnant’ (see Rom 10:18-11:5) of the Jewish people who started in the days of Jesus and continued in the future who repented and had faith in him. They will be the ones who will be able to mean what they say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’. That is not possible for secular Jews.

9. I know that there are people who designate themselves as chiliasts and others (premillennial pre-tribulation) whom I’ve heard in the evangelical churches with which I have contact, who believe that there will be a final conversion of the Jews as a nation during the millennium (1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth). I do not see that, but the consistent teaching of Scripture is that a ‘remnant’ will be saved and this remnant can genuinely proclaim, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’. An extension of this is that I regard Israel and the church as distinctly different groups.

Chiliasm or Millenarianism is based on the Greek word for a thousand years in Revelation 20 and is promoted by those who believe in a future literal Millennium of 1,000 years of peace on earth after Jesus’ second coming and before the final judgment.

That’s how I understand the meaning of Matt 24:29 in my spiritual journey. Not all premillennial supporters support Chiliasm and the conversion of the nation of Israel to Christ, but there is a considerable number who do.

Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Matthew’s gospel. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 April 2016.

What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

Any Moment

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This is not a fully fledged article in support or in opposition to the pre-tribulation rapture teaching. It is designed to give an overview of some of the public discussion on the Internet in the 21st century.

In my discussing on Christian Forums, I encountered this kind of opposition to a pre-tribulation Rapture:

The rapture position being a very late opinion in church history. If it wasn’t for John Nelson Darby and his disciples we wouldn’t be talking about it today….[1]

Dean, your questions have nothing to do with the PreTrib rapture and its inventor. You are creating rabbit trails to protect your pet doctrine. Dispensationalism is a shoe horn theology where you take a passage and shoe horn it into a place, that contextually, it just doesn’t fit. You shoe horn the rapture into Revelation.

The Dispensational PreTrib Rapturism didn’t exist before 1800.[2]

Of course such provocative statements would cause a pre-tribulation Rapture proponent to respond:

Again sir, what of Enoch and Elijah?
Only Elisha knew of this.
And nobody but Moses was it revealed to about Enoch.
Were these not “secret”?
And one of the gretest (sic) secrets of all: what happened to the resurrected saints in Mt. 27:52.
Did God raise them nly (sic) to put them back in the grave?
No sir. Moses was dead and buried thousands of years before Christ, yet he was seen alive and well at the mount of transfiguration.
So here again, just because something wasn’t taught before a certain time, does not mean that its (sic) untrue or heresy.[3]

I replied to JM and Dean:

It seems to me that the eschatological differences you are having with your back and forth challenge could be related to the two major disagreements in evangelical theology over the details of future events surrounding Christ’s return. These seem to be associated with:

(1) Christ could return at any time. There are verses that indicate this (e.g. Matt 24:42-44, 50; 1 Cor 16:22; 1 Thess 5:2; Heb 10:25; James5:7-9; Rev 22:20), and

(2) There are signs that precede Christ’s return, one of which is that the Gospel must be preached to all nations (Mark 13:10. Other signs are in passages such as Mark 13:7-8; Matt 24:23-24; 2 Thess 2:1-10; 1 John 2:18.

Are these two different approaches causing the disagreement or are there some other issues. If so, what are they?[4]

1. What is the pre-tribulation rapture?

Norman Geisler provided this definition:

Pretribulationism holds that the Rapture of the church occurs before the Tribulation, during which the church, Christ’s bride, will be in heaven, standing before His judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10) and preparing for His return to earth. Pretribulationism holds that Christ’s coming for His saints will be in the air and before the Tribulation; after the Tribulation, Christ will come with His saints and to earth to reign for a thousand years (Geisler 2005:612).

2. Others who taught pre-tribulation rapture

John Nelson Darby lived from 1800-1882 according to church historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette (1975:1185). Darby was previously an Anglican clergyman from Ireland. Was there any pre-tribulation teaching that is alleged to be prior to J N Darby? See:

  1. Margaret Macdonald (1830 Pre-trib vision);
  2. Edward Irving (1792-1834);
  3. Manuel Lacunza (AD 1731-1801). This Wikipedia article on Lacunza gives an idea of his view of futurism. Here is Dave MacPherson on Lacunza and pre-trib rapture.

David MacPherson has attempted to expose some of the pre-tribulation teaching in The Incredible Cover-Up (1975) and The Great Rapture Hoax (1983). There are critiques of David MacPherson’s research, e.g. HERE.

In MacPherson’s 1983 publication there is a quote from a letter written in 1834 by Francis Sitwell who became one of the 12 apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church (associated with Edward Irving) in 1835. The letter reads:

It is because the time of the world’s doom draweth nigh, it is because the time of the sealing is come, it is because the Lord is nigh, even at the door. It is because there is no safety where you are, because you cannot be sealed where you are, it is because if you are not sealed you must be left in tribulations, while those who have obeyed His voice shall be caught up to meet Him (Sitwell in MacPherson 1983:63).

For an overview of the historical origins of the pre-tribulation rapture, see Tim Warner, The Origin of the Pretribulation Rapture Doctrine, that gives some of the information to which I referred. Also see this article in the theological journal from Dallas Theological Seminary, Bibliotheca Sacra 159, July – September 2002, ‘A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century.

I replied to JM,

You don’t seem to have liked the fact that I used Norman Geisler’s research to identify a chronological logical fallacy by claiming that the pre-trib rapture, being late in exposition, does not necessarily make it invalid. I have not used an appeal to authority as a logical fallacy. I have simply used another’s research to show the nature of a chronological fallacy when applied to the pre-trib rapture. Surely you also use another’s research to save you having to do it yourself. That is what I did and did not appeal illogically to an authority.[5]

3. Beware of denying the validity of a doctrine because of  its lateness

Historically, there could have been others before J N Darby who promoted this view. Some say that Darby got the pre-trib rapture from Edward Irving (1792-1834). Others claim it could have come from Margaret MacDonald (ca. 1830). Still others go a little bit further back to Emmanuel Lacunza (AD 1731-1801).

However, post-tribulation, premillennialist, George Eldon Ladd, wrote that

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 (Ladd 1956:31).

Norman Geisler, who is a dispensational pretribulationist, claimed that those who object to pretribulationism as a late doctrine are committing the logical ‘fallacy of chronological snobbery which wrongly argues that truth can be determined by time’ (Geisler 2005:631). His point was that time has no connection with truth as something can be new and true just as it is possible to have something that can be old and false.

He claimed that with the discovery of Ephraem of Syria’s teaching (from ca. AD 306-373), it can be established that pretribulationism was taught in the early church. Earlier in this volume, Geisler established that premillennialism was taught in the early church shortly after the time of the apostles. His view is that the imminence of Christ’s return was emphasised from the start of the church, that ‘pretribulationism is based on a realistic concept of imminence’, and that ‘there is ample New Testament evidence to support pretribulationism’ (Geisler 2005:632).

Geisler covers such material in the 17th chapter of this volume, ‘The Tribulation and the Rapture’ (Geisler 2005:597-661).

Therefore, I cannot be adamant that the pre-tribulation rapture was not taught in the early church. However, I have not been convinced to this point in time, but I have not pursued all of Geisler’s material.

For further details to challenge the pre-tribulation rapture teaching, see my articles,

References

Geisler N 2005. Systematic Theology, vol 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Ladd, G E 1956. The Blessed Hope. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Latourette, K S 1975. A History of Christianity: AD 1500 – 1975, vol 2, rev ed. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.

MacPherson, D 1975. The Incredible Cover-Up. Medford, Oregon: Omega Publications.

MacPherson, D 1983. The Great Rapture Hoax Fletcher N. C.: New Puritan Library.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Rapture false doctrine’, JM #24. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7716090-3/ (Accessed 1 February 2013).

[2] Ibid., JM #26.

[3] Ibid., DeaconDean #28.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #43.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #74.

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 August 2018.

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A pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding[1]

Flying Feet

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

There’s a lot of promotion in evangelical Christian circles of the dispensational pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture. On the popular level, this has been given lots of air-play in Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind series (Tyndale House Publishers 1995) .  In fact, in the first Bible College I attended, this was the only view that was presented of eschatology. When I left college, I investigated other views and felt that I had been taught such a one-eyed understanding.

  1. These are nothing more than beginning thoughts on an understanding of end times from a pre-millennial, post-tribulation perspective, which is the view which I believe has the best scriptural support.
  2. I cannot find a Bible verse that tells specifically when the Rapture will happen. The Bible does not give specifics about the timing of the rapture.
  3. What is the Rapture? It is a part of the resurrection of the church. Those who have died prior to Christ’s second coming will be resurrected from the dead and raptured – taken up (I Thess. 4:12-18).
  4. At that resurrection, those believers who are still alive will be raptured with those who have died in Christ (1 Thess. 4:12-18).
  5. At the Second Coming, the dead in Christ and the living in Christ will be gathered in the air to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:12-18). This gathering is called “the harvest” at “the close of the age” according to Matt. 13:39, which states, “The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels” (ESV).
  6. What does the Bible say about the time of the Resurrection and the Rapture? Matt. 24:21-31 states:

21For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

29Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (ESV).

So, immediately after the great tribulation the Son of Man will come in the clouds with a loud trumpet call and Christian believers – the elect of God will be gathered (this is Christ’s second coming).

7.  Mark 13:18-27 states:

18Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. 24“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (ESV)

These two accounts of the Resurrection and Rapture state very clearly that believers (the elect) will be gathered (raptured) at Christ’s second coming.

Does it state when the Resurrection of believers and the Rapture will happen? Yes it does. It will be after the great tribulation. But we have further evidence

8.  Second Thess. 2:1-4 further confirms when this will happen:

1Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers [and sisters] 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (ESV).

This event is often called the “abomination that causes desolation” as in Daniel 9:27. Daniel 11:31, 36 states:

31Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate…. 36“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done (ESV).

The Antichrist (1 John 2:18) will be revealed at the “abomination that makes desolate”, which will begin the Great Tribulation (see Revelation 17:1-13).

9.  There is direct evidence for the resurrection of believers at the start of the Millennium, according to Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (ESV)

10.  Therefore, an instant, any moment Rapture of believers is not supported by these Scriptures. Instead, a great tribulation, an abomination must come first.

11.  A pre-tribulation Rapture is a recent innovation. See:

12.  In summary: The Bible states that the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the Rapture of the living in Christ will take place at Christ’s second coming, which will happen after the Great Tribulation. I can see no pre-tribulation rapture here.  But there is an affirmation for the post-tribulation rapture, a theological position that is called historic premillennialism.

See my other articles on this topic:

flamin-arrow-small Is the rapture of the church hogwash?

flamin-arrow-small What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

Recommended reading:

Robert Gundry 1973. The Church and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Robert Gundry 1997, First the Antichrist. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

George Eldon Ladd 1972. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

George Eldon Ladd 1956. The Blessed Hope. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

R. Totten, “The church and the post-tribulation rapture“.

See also A Case for Historic Premillennialism.

 

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[1] With some help from: http://www.lastdaysmystery.info/the_post_tribulation_rapture.htm [Accessed 11 April 2010].

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 November 2016.

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