THE GOOD NEWS MINISTRY AND MISSIONS OUTREACH PROCLAIMING THE SOON RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST!

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 Revealing What We Can Know About the Rapture and The Second Coming !

Where do we stand after 2,000 years of false alarms and the current "future fatigue"?  Should we join those who have thrown in the towel on prophetic study in favour of "more practical, life-related issues"?  Or, if we are convinced that nothing is more practical than to look for our Lord's return, how should we do that?  Should we be expecting an any-moment- Imminent return?  Or should we be "Digging in" more concerned about saving our own skin by surviving and preparing to fight our way through the coming years of the unparalleled trouble of "The Great Tribulation" that the prophets predicted?

In an effort to answer some of these questions, We have provided this article.  It is our prayer that this work will lead you to an increased awareness of what the Bible has Lots say about our Lord's promised return.
 
 

Christians Divided on the Rapture Question

Millions Reported Missing

News reports arriving from cities around the globe tell of a mysterious disappearance of thousands and thousands of people.  In some instances entire families have vanished without a trace ... :

Could this headline and lead paragraph appear in your newspaper tomorrow?  Is it possible that Christ could return today and suddenly, snatch, quickly catch away or remove His children from this earth, Leaving Behind an unbelieving world of rebellion and disobedience to wonder where all the True and faithful Bible Believing Christians have gone?

This is an extremely practical issue.  If Christ could return today, we need to be ready.  We cannot afford to take the future for granted.  Just as a child finds the inner strength to pull his act together when he thinks his dad is coming through the front door, so those who live in the Imminent expectation that Christ could return at any moment have reason to live a different and better life.  It gives husbands reason to love their wives and to spend time with their children.  It gives managers incentive to be considerate of their workers and to treat them the way they would want to be treated.  It gives everyone who knows the way to heaven urgent reason to introduce others to Christ-before it is too late.

But, having said that, could Christ return today?  Church people do not all agree.  While all true Christians believe in the return of Christ, many disagree about the details of when it will occur.

Some think that Christ will come back at the end of the age just prior to destroying and recreating the heavens and the earth.  This is termed Amillennialism because it does not recognize a literal millennium (1,000-year reign of Christ on earth).

Others believe that Christ will return only after a predicted period of unparalleled trouble.  This view is called Post-Tribulationalism because it sees Christ coming for His people after the tribulation.

Still others, however, believe that our Lord will return in two phases-once for the salvation of His True Church and once for the rescue of the nation of Israel.  This view includes those who hold to either a Pre-Tribulational or a Mid-Tribulational approach to the Lord's return.

The return of Christ represents not only the ultimate sense of accountability but the ultimate sense of hope as well.

But with these options before us, what do we really know about the second coming of Christ?  To begin, we know that everyone who looks for Christ's return has reason to live the kind of life that will please the Lord at His coming.  The apostle John recognized this when he wrote, ". . . when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (I John 3:2-3).

Beyond that incentive for right living, we believe it is very important for us to be ready for a two-part return of Christ, the first phase of which could occur at any moment-maybe even today. But what is the evidence for such a position?

Why Would Christ Return Again and Again?

The main evidence for a two-part return of Christ revolves around:

(1) God's distinct plans for Israel and the Church and

(2) Prophecies that describe the time of Christ's return as being both knowable and unknowable. 

 The reasoning might seem to be a little involved at points, but the main point to keep in mind is that Scripture teaches us to be always ready for the Lord's return.

This Article will explain why that seems to signal a two-part return of Christ-one for the Church and one for Israel.

The Distinction Between Israel and the Church.

Basic to this discussion is our belief that:

The first of these two returns is for the Rapture - the rescue and removal of the The True and Faithful Bible Believing Church (I Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:9).

The second relates to God's plan for Israel (Ezek. 36:16-38; Jer. 23:5,6; Rev. 19:11-21).

Both have different places in God's prophetic program.

Even though both share a common spiritual ancestry that can be traced back to the faith of Abraham (Gal. 3:7), they have different places in God's world plan.  Israel represents a nation with whom God has made very earth-centered and geographically related promises (Isaiah. 2:1-6; Ezek. 36-37).  The Church, on the other hand, is a Spiritual Church made up of all true believers in Christ-Jew or Gentile.  The church is at the center of God's program until "the fullness of the Gentiles' is fulfilled (Rom. 1 1:25) and has been given a hope that is to be realized more in heaven than on earth (I Thess. 4:13-18).

The distinction between Israel and the Church is basic to understanding prophecy.  Many have called it the key to unlocking what the Bible says about the future.  When the two are kept distinct, many prophetic details fall into place.  Then it becomes evident that some predictions refer to the Lord's return for the True and Faithful Bible Believing Church, while others relate to His return as the King and Deliverer of Israel.

A two-phase return would explain why Israel but not the church is mentioned in the end-time events of Revelation.

This provides an explanation for why the church is not specifically referred to in most of the book of Revelation. Revelation 6-18 (which describes the "great tribulation" to which Jesus alluded in Matthew 24:15-28) never mentions the Church.  While an argument from silence is not the strongest, it does seem significant.  It gives credence to the idea that Christ will have returned to remove the The True and Faithful Bible Believing Church prior to all of those end-time events related to the restoration and salvation of the nation of Israel, called the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7).  The True and Faithful Bible Believing Church will already be with her Lord and will come with Him when He returns to save Israel and set up His promised earthly kingdom.

That brings us to a second important reason for being ready for a two-part return of Christ.  The teaching of the Bible includes:

(a) prophecies of dramatic events that will occur just prior to the Lord's second coming to earth and
(b) predictions of another coming at a time that is not expected.

It seems reasonable to resolve this apparent contradiction by seeing them as describing two different phases of the Lord's return.

A two-phase return makes sense if the first phase (for the church) could happen at any time and the second phase (for Israel) happens at a definite, presignaled time.

Just keep in mind that if this discussion seems unrelated to your real needs and problems, you're missing something.  Nothing is more practical than the return of Christ.  When seen properly, nothing provides more hope.  Nothing provides more accountability.  Nothing puts the pains and pleasures of life in better perspective than the promise of our Lord's return.

If the Lord were to return today, all of your worst problems and all of your deepest pleasures would suddenly look entirely different.  For that reason, let's take a closer look at what the Bible has to say about it:

The Distinction Between an Any-Moment and a Presignaled Return.

In the Olivet Discourse, delivered only shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus answered questions raised by His disciples after He had predicted the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem.  They asked, 'Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'(Matt. 24:3).

Notice that the disciples' question has three parts:

As we read our Lord's answer, we find that He began with the sign part of the question.  He dealt with the signs of His coming that will alert all generations (Matt. 24:3-14), the signs of the end of the age related to Israel (Matt. 24: 15-35), and the "when" or time question related to His unannounced coming for the church (Matt. 24:36-51).

The signs of His coming-alerting all generations (Matt. 24:3-14).

The Lord began by describing seven events that would occur before His return.  They will be signs of His coming because their purpose will be to remind His children throughout the age, saying, "Jesus is coming again."

It is a fact of history that all seven of these occurrences took place to some degree during the first century.  However, like most prophecies, the near-at hand and far-off elements were blended together into one word picture.  Therefore, Jesus' statements have different applications to different generations.  To believers who lived and died under terrible persecution, "the end" in verse 13 is the end of life.

But to those who live during the coming tribulation, it will be the end of the age.  Similarly, the world-wide preaching of the gospel during the first century was to the Roman world (Col. 1:5-6), while for us today it is to the entire globe.  These events portrayed by our Lord served as signs to first-century believers and to those of all subsequent generations that He is coming again.

The signs of the end of the age-related to Israel (Matt. 24:15-35).

At verse 15, we suddenly find ourselves with a very specific prediction about "an abomination of desolation." This is followed by a detailed description of a brief, terrible time of trouble that will end when the Lord returns.  We might be puzzled by the statement about the "abomination of desolation" in the "holy place." But the Jewish people to whom Jesus spoke understood it.  They knew that according to Daniel 9:24-27 a hostile Gentile ruler would someday desecrate their temple and initiate horrendous persecution.  While Luke 21:20-24 contains some elements that were partially fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, Matthew 24:15-31 focuses on the end-time.  There will be:

These will be the signs that the end of the age is near.  Just as the appearing of buds on trees signals the soon onset of the summer season, so do these signs show 'that it is near, at the very doors' (Matt. 24:33). In fact, the generation that sees the sign of the "Budding of The Fig tree" will not pass off the scene before the Lord has returned (Matt. 24:32-34).

[see our on-line document: "Revealing The Earths Final Generation"]

The when- question-related to His unannounced return for the church (Matt. 24:36-51).

After reminding His disciples that people who see the signs He had spoken of can be sure that the return will be near, Jesus began to answer the "when' question.  He didn't set a date.  He said His second coming would catch people by surprise.

How can the Lord's second coming catch people by surprise if it is going to be presignaled by all the spectacular events described in Matthew 24:15-31?

First, Jesus explained that the coming of the Son of Man would be "as the days of Noah were." In those days, despite Noah's warnings of danger, the people went about their lives as usual.  There was no concern for an imminent flood, because the people didn't believe it was coming.  There were no heavenly signs or unusual events-only the incessant hammering and sawing by Noah and his sons.  When the rains came, the people were caught by surprise.

After giving a couple of examples of what will happen when His unexpected coming takes place, our Lord makes this sobering, yet exciting warning: "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him" (Matt. 24:44).

How can the Lord's second coming catch people by surprise if it is going to be presignaled by all the striking and spectacular events described in Matthew 24:15-31?  That's a key question.  The best answer seems to be found in seeing the Lord's second coming as occurring in two stages.  First He will come to "catch up" or "rapture" His own people. They can not go up in bodies of flesh, but we will be "transformed" or "translated", "changed in the twinkling of an eye." (1Cor:15:52) That is the body of flesh will be changed to a new glorious body as was Jesus' body when he rose from the dead. This event will be unannounced.  Then He will return to establish His kingdom over the earth.  This event will be clearly presignaled.

Why didn't the Lord spell out the details of His second coming so clearly that we could put them together and know exactly how and when it will occur?

Matthew 24 describes both stages of Jesus' return: the surprise, any-moment rapture of believers (Matt. 24:36-44) and the glorious return of Jesus at the close of the tribulation to end the destruction and establish His kingdom (Matt. 24:15-35).  He began with the glorious return because that was the concern of the disciples when they asked the question.  He introduced the unexpected element to prepare them for the truths about the church age and rapture truths that would be made clear after His ascension.

Purposeful Ambiguity.

If you have read our Lord's prophetic words recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17 and 21, you probably wish you could find somebody who would give you a crystal-clear explanation of all He said.  If so, join the club!  Many people have had the same experience and asked, 'Why didn't He spell out the details of His second coming so clearly that we could put them together and know exactly how and when it will occur?' The answer is quite simple: He didn't set out to give us this kind of information.  His aim was to teach us that we should live by FAITH and in continual readiness for our meeting with Him.

In blending together into one picture references to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the end-time sacrilege in the temple, the apostolic persecution, the end-time great tribulation, the signs in the heavenly bodies, and an unexpected coming, the Lord followed the pattern of the Old Testament prophets.  In their prophecies they also merged, without explanation about sequence, predictions that would occur at four different time periods:

For example, the prophecies of Jesus' birth, exaltation, rule, suffering, and death ( Isaiah. 7:14; 52:13-54:17; Jer. 23:5; Mic. 5:4) were written in such a way that they could not be placed in chronological order until they were fulfilled.

We can be thankful that God doesn't tell each of us individually the exact time or manner of our death.  Similarly, He didn't give us a precise answer to the what, when, and how questions regarding our Lord's return.  It's better for us to live in the tension produced by the realization, "Perhaps today" the Lord will return, and that may be in my lifetime.

Imminency Parables.

At the conclusion of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus told two parables that shout out the message, "Be ready!'

In the first one (Matt. 24-.45-51), the servant is left in charge while his master is away on a trip.  He begins thinking that the owner will be gone a long time, so he abuses the people under him and lives it up.  But the master returns unexpectedly and punishes him severely.

In the second parable (Matt. 25:1-13), 10 virgins are invited to attend a wedding reception, but they have to wait for the arrival of the Bride Groom.  They know it is coming, but they don't know just when.  The procession in which each person carries a lighted lamp arrives, but five of the girls can't join the group because they have no oil in their lamps, they were Locked Out and Left Behind!  However, the five who are prepared become part of the rejoicing company.  The message is clear.  'We don't know when Jesus is coming back.  Therefore, be ready!'

The message is clear.  We don't know when Jesus is coming back. Therefore, be ready!

Down through the centuries Bible expositors have applied these parables to the church.  The servant who behaved wickedly and the five girls who had no oil represent False professing Christians who are not truly saved and do not have the True Holy Spirit.  When The Bride Groom, Jesus comes unexpectedly for His "Bride," The True and Faithful Bible Believing Church, He will punish the false Christians and the un-saved by leaving them Behind and excluding them from His banquet hall.  What a call to readiness!  What a powerful intimation of imminency!

Some Don't Agree

When the Lord appears in the air unexpectedly to Take His people to heaven, many will be "Left Behind." These Left Behind, Pseudo-Christians will be just as Surprised as the Left Behind non-Christians.  That is because many professing believers are not convinced that the rapture of the church could occur at any moment.  They know that Jesus is coming back, but they do not see His return in two stages.  They don't keep an eye on the sky.  Let's look at their objections to an imminent rapture.

[See our online document: "Revealing Those Who Will Be Left Behind To Go Through The Great Tribulation" ]

OBJECTION:

 The Any-Moment Rapture Is a Recent Idea in Church History.

A common objection to the any-moment, pre-tribulational doctrine of Christ's return relates to its supposed recent origin. Some post-tribulationists attempt to show that it began in the 1820s with an unstable Scottish clergyman named Edward Irving. They say that he was the first person to develop the idea that Christ's return would occur in two stages, and that an eccentric named Margaret Macdonald picked up on his teaching during the 1830s. Then, a few years later, J. N. Darby and several other Plymouth Brethren teachers further developed the idea of the two-stage return.

However there are more, in the 16th century there were also those who expressed absolute assurance of the Rapture.

Hugh Latimer, burned at the stake for his faith in 1555, said, "It may come in my days, old as I am, or in my children's days, the Saints shall be taken up to meet Christ in the air, and so shall come down with Him again"

Joesph Mede, the great 16th century literalist, understood I Thessalonians 4:13-18 to teach the "Catching Up" of the Saints and even used the word "Rapture". This was 250 years before Irving, Darby and MacDonald.

Morgan Edwards, a Welsh born Baptist preacher, wrote a book in 1742-44, teaching the Pre-Trib Rapture. Many people must have read it. If he was one of the most prominent Baptists in America, then he must not have been considered an heretic by his peers. No doubt there must have been other preachers who read the same Bible that Edwards did, and preached the same truth.

Edwards States: "The last event, and the event that will usher in the millennium, will be, the coming of Christ from paradise to earth, with all the saints he had previously taken up thither . . ." [(p. 24) Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties. by Morgan Edwards - 1742-44 ]

Morgan Edwards (1722-1795) was one of the most influential Baptist preachers of his time. In 1795 the Minutes of the Philadelphia Association carried a notice of his death. He was the founder of Brown University, the most influential Baptist school of that day. The Baptist Encyclopedia says of him: "Morgan Edwards was a man of refined manners, and shone to peculiar advantage in good society." It further states, "His attachment to Baptist principles was intense, and no man since the days of the Apostles ever showed greater love, or made more costly sacrifices for them than he did."

Post-tribulationists tell us to reject the any-moment rapture idea because, like the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists, Armstrong's various Churches of God, Arnold Murray's Shepherd's Chapel, Christian Science and many others, it is of recent and dubious origin.

Before we obey these critics and bid farewell to our belief in the rapture, let's think through their charge. Was the any-moment teaching really new? Did the two-stage teaching originate with evil, irresponsible people as post-tribulationists claim? Did the teaching of the second coming develop differently from other important doctrines? We'll find that each of the above questions can be given a solid answer of no.

1. The any-moment idea was not new. The Early Church father; Victorinus wrote the following commentary in A.D. 270: "Seven angels having the last seven plaques, for in them is completed the indignation of God. And these shall be in the Last Times, when the Church shall have gone out of the midst" Victorinus was talking about the "Catching Up" the Rapture of the Church.

The writings of the early church fathers are filled with warnings to live in continual readiness for our Lord's return. This was the "Blessed Hope" message (Titus 2:13).

  These men applied the parable of Jesus about the wise and foolish virgins to the people of their age, urging them to keep their lamps burning so they would be ready for Jesus at His return for them. They probably didn't see the need to develop a concept of two stages in the Lord's return because they tended to identify the Antichrist with the Roman Empire and sometimes thought of themselves as already in the great tribulation.

During the summer of 1994, after more than a decade of searching, There were discovered several fascinating manuscripts that contain clear evidence of the teaching of the Pre-Tribulation rapture in the early church.

Ephraem's Teaching on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

"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." (On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, by Ephraem the Syrian, A.D. 373)

The early Christian writer and scholar, Ephraem the Syrian, (A.D. 306 - 373) was a major theologian of the early Byzantine Eastern Church. He was born near Nisbis, in the Roman province of Syria, near present-day Edessa, Turkey. Ephraem's fascinating teaching on the Antichrist has never been published in English until recently. Some scholars suggested that this manuscript was written several centuries later (5th or 6th century) but definitely before the birth of Islam in 622. However William Bousset, one of the greatest scholars on ancient eschatology, concluded in his book The Antichrist Legend that it was written by Ephraem the Syrian before A.D. 373. (1) Andrew R. Anderson wrote in his book Alexander's Gate that he accepted the early date as being valid. (2)

This critically important prophecy manuscript from the fourth century of the Church era reveals a very clear statement about the Pre-Tribulational return of Christ to take His elect saints home to heaven to escape the coming Tribulation.

(1) William Bousset, The Antichrist Legend, trans. A. H. Keane (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1896)

(2) Andrew R. Anderson, Alexander's Gate: Gog and Magog and the Enclosed Nations. Monographs of the Mediaeval Academy of America, no. 5. (Cambridge, MA.: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1932)

The writings of the early church fathers are filled with warnings to live in continual readiness for our Lord's return.

Christians down through the centuries, mindful of the warning of Jesus that His coming would catch the world by surprise, never felt comfortable saying that Jesus Christ could not come at any moment.  Many Christians expected Christ's return during great natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.  When the dust storms during the early 1930s caused an eerie daytime darkness in some of our Midwestern states, many Christians panicked, thinking that the second coming was at hand.

The idea that the Lord could come at any moment certainly did not originate with Edward Irving.  In fact, it didn't even originate with Darby.  He simply tried to develop a biblical viewpoint that would explain how the imminent-return idea could be harmonized with the teaching of the Bible about a tribulation prior to the return.

2. The Plymouth Brethren who developed the two-stage teaching were biblical scholars.  The claim that Irving and Macdonald clearly taught the two-stage second coming doctrine rests on flimsy evidence.  In fact, their writings on this subject are confusing.  While Darby and his Plymouth Brethren associates may have picked up some ideas from Irving and Macdonald, they developed their teaching through a careful and systematic study of the Scriptures in the original languages.  They were systematic in the application of the Scriptures.  They rejected some elements of Irving's teachings and produced a sane and coherent doctrine of last things.  These men, like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, had flaws and blind spots.  But like them, they were also sincere men of God who made tremendous contributions to the church in both leadership and doctrine.

3. The method of development for this two-stage return idea is similar to that of other doctrines.  The doctrines of Justification, sanctification, and God's sovereignty, though taught by Christian leaders down through the centuries, were never as fully developed as they were by Luther, Calvin, and Wesley.  Throughout the years of church history, the Holy Spirit has led the Lord's people into clearer understanding of God's Word in every area of Christian doctrine, including that of the second coming. In summary, the claim that we should abandon the pre-tribulation, any-moment doctrine of Christ's return because of a recent and dubious origin carries no weight.  The logic that rejects a teaching on this basis demands that we also reject Luther's teaching on justification, Calvin's insights into God's sovereignty, and Wesley's contributions toward an understanding of sanctification.

The claim that we should abandon the pre-tribulation, any-moment doctrine of Christ's return because of a recent and dubious origin carries no weight.

OBJECTION:

 The Rapture Is Not in Scripture.  If we are to consider ourselves people who 'go by the Book,' we have to be careful that we never support an argument by adding to the Bible something that isn't there.  One of those 'somethings' that isn't found in God's Word is the word rapture.

When we use this word to designate the time of Jesus' return in the air to take His followers to heaven, though, we are not violating Scripture.  For example, the word Trinity doesn't appear in the Bible, but post-tribulationists don't deny its truth.

Where, then, does the term Rapture come from?  In I Thessalonians 4:17, Paul said that living believers will be 'caught up' with the dead in Christ to meet the Lord in the air.  The Greek word Paul used here is harpazo, which means "to snatch away quickly". When the Bible was translated into Latin, the scholars rendered harpazo as rapturo.  It is just a short-step then from rapturo to the English word rapture.  Therefore, although it is true that the word itself does not appear in our English translation of Scripture, the sense of the word picture painted is surely there.  Christians will be  quickly snatched away when the Lord descends with a shout.

OBJECTION:

 Jesus' Prophecy About Peter.  Another objection to the doctrine of imminency stems from what Jesus told Peter, as recorded in John 21. He said, 'When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish' (John 21:18).  This prophecy, which we know now indicated that Peter would be arrested and martyred, is used by some to refute the possibility of imminency. The return of Christ could not have been imminent because Jesus would have had to wait at least until Peter had passed from the scene at an old age.

Age is such a relative term.  Does this mean Peter would have to be 75 before Jesus' words would be fulfilled?  In the New Testament era, lifespans were much shorter than they are now.  Paul, for example, called himself 'aged" when he wrote to Philemon, and he was probably in his fifties.  Taking into account that Peter was already in his mid-thirties when Jesus spoke those words, it would not be very many years until he too could consider himself old. Granted, there would have been a few years in the first century during which anyone who knew of this prediction would have known that Jesus' coming was not imminent, but that time was brief.  Besides, Peter was 'old" by the time Paul wrote his epistles.

Now You See Them, Now You Don't

A few years ago, David Copperfield astounded a national television audience by making the Statue of Liberty "disappear.' Those who watched the spectacle on TV confessed bewilderment and amazement at such a grand display of illusion.  All the while, the audience knew, and Copperfield himself agreed, it was all just a trick.  The Lady never left her pedestal.

How that illusion by this master magician pales in comparison with what will occur when Jesus Christ appears to end this age and usher in the day of the Lord!  No smoke and mirrors, no stage hands, and no trickery will be needed when the Saviour reaches out His arms and makes millions of people-both living and dead-disappear from earth.

Here's how Paul described the disappearance of millions into the heavens:

 'Behold, I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Cor. 15:51-52).

And in I Thessalonians 4:16-17 he said: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord."  From these two passages we can learn several things about the rapture.

Who will be raptured?  Imagine the thrill of hearing the shout of the Lord, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God.  Imagine looking up and seeing Jesus with His open arms, ready to hold you for an eternity.  Imagine these things, though, only if you are a Christian.  In both of these passages, Paul is addressing brethren, a term that denotes fellow believers in Jesus Christ.  Also, in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, he mentioned that the 'dead in Christ' would rise first.  This indicates that all people who trusted in Jesus from the Day of Pentecost (the first time anyone was 'in Christ") until the moment of rapture-both the living and the dead-would join Jesus.  This is an event solely for the True and Faithful Bible Believing Christians.

Will this be a secret event?  Some Bible students refer to this 'catching up' of the church as a secret rapture.  They claim that only Christians will hear the shouts and trumpet blasts.  Whether or not this is true, this event will hardly be secret.  When whole congregations of people disappear, when employees suddenly vanish, when vital public services are disrupted by mass absenteeism, people will notice.  So no matter how blinded the unbelieving world may be to the events in the sky, they'll soon know that something extraordinary has occurred.

What happens to believers?  A quick trip to heaven is just the beginning of the marvellous things that will happen at the rapture.  Apparently, the moment living believers are ushered into Christ's presence, they will receive their new bodies.  Paul wrote, '. . . but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Cor. 15:51-53).

The rapture will hardly be secret. When whole congregations of people disappear, when employees suddenly vanish, when vital public services are disrupted by mass absenteeism, people will notice.

Where will Christians go?  Post-tribulationists teach that when Jesus appears in the sky, believers will rise to meet Him, make a U-turn, and descend to earth.  Then Jesus will set up His earthly kingdom.  Besides the obvious strangeness of this up-and down scenario, this theory has another problem.  It seems to contradict John 14

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. " (John 14: 1-3)

 After Jesus had made the Upper Room announcement that He was departing, He reassured His disciples by telling them that His departure was related to what He was doing for believers-preparing an eternal dwelling place for them.  Then He told them He would be coming back to take them to that place. if Jesus does not take us to be with Him at the rapture, then what happened to His promise of a place in His Father's house?

World of Joy, - World of Terror

The rapture will change everything.  In addition to calling out the world's population of Christians, it will create a new society of people with glorified bodies far removed from the limits of earth.  No longer will this blue marble have a monopoly on the populace.  And just as earth and heaven will be composed of entirely opposite groups of people, so they will represent totally variant events.  The two worlds will be as different as any two societies have ever been.  Let's see what will be going on in these two divergent worlds in the years that separate the two stages of Jesus' return.

A Time of Joy: An Awards Ceremony.

Few scenes are as touching and heart-warming as the awards presentations at the Olympic games.  We can all recall specific athletes and their reactions as they received their medal and then proudly turned to gaze upon their country's flag as the national anthem was played.

In a small measure, this can help us see what will transpire for the raptured believers at the event called the Bema- reward-judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor.3:I0).  Soon after Jesus has called His people together with a shout and a trumpet blast, this presentation of rewards will begin in heaven.  Christians will stand before Christ the Judge, either to be rewarded with crowns (lit. a winner's wreath) for the good things they have done for God, or to 'suffer loss' for their failure or neglect.

To understand what it means to "suffer loss," think again of the Olympic athlete.  The medalists earn the prize, while those who lose must step aside with the realization that they have not gained the reward.  They are still members of their Olympic teams, of course, but they have suffered loss.

Christians will stand before Christ the Judge and either be rewarded with crowns for the good things they have done for God or 'suffer loss' for their failure or neglect.

What, then, will be God's means of judging what was worthy of honour and what wasn't?  First Corinthians 3:13-15 speaks of a trial by fire.  Any works that were done with a selfish motivation will perish in the fire just as wood, hay, and stubble are consumed.  But those things that were done on earth with God's glory in mind will live on.  Like gold and silver, they cannot be burned.  The key elements in testing these works will be their quality and the motivation behind them.  What kind of rewards can the Christian work toward?  At least five distinct crowns are mentioned in Scripture.

The glory of the event is only beginning when all the crowns are handed out, for these rewards are not earned for personal gain.  When Christians receive their crowns at the judgement seat of Christ, they will give honour to Jesus by casting them at His feet (Rev. 4:10).  Imagine the scene as millions of glorified believers offer their heavenly rewards to God for His glory

A Time of Terror: Antichrist and Judgement.  What a contrast there will be between the best of times in heaven and the worst of times on earth!  Although things may at first seem to be tolerable, after Jesus removes the Christians and the restraining power of the Holy Spirit, the situation will deteriorate quickly.  Two events during this time will spell trouble, terror, and tragedy for those left behind.  The first-the revealing of Antichrist-will precipitate the second-the tribulation.

Referred to as the "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Antichrist will gain power as the final king of the restored Roman Empire.  Of course, a man who achieves the measure of world-wide power that will go to Antichrist cannot do so without first conning his fellowman into following him.  How he will do this is not exactly known, but he will probably show that he can create an orderly society out of one that has been reeling in chaos.  In addition, he will work miraculous wonders by the power of Satan.  Yet his benevolence will soon turn to malevolence.  He will fiercely persecute and attempt to slaughter all who accept Christ and would dare refuse his demand that he be worshiped (Rev. 6:9-11).

Antichrist will not be the only source of suffering during this time of tribulation.  These days will also be marked by great calamity-the result of God's judgement and wrath.

Antichrist will not be the only source of suffering during this time of tribulation.  In addition, these days will be marked by great calamity that will come as a result of God's judgement and wrath (Joel 1:15, Rev. 11:18; 16:9).  Amid this devastation will be the death of one third of the world's population (Rev. 6:8), massive earthquakes (Isaiah. 2:19), catastrophic fires (Isaiah 24:1,3,6), and sudden destruction (I Thess. 5:3).

Near the last part of the great tribulation, Antichrist will unwittingly begin setting the stage for an event on God's prophetic calendar that will be the grandest event of all time-the revelation of Jesus Christ at His glorious return.

The King Is Back-To Stay!

The tensions that headline the nightly news from the Middle East in our day do not cornpare with the events that will mark the final months of action during the tribulation.  As the clock winds down on the reign of Antichrist, more and more countries will align together against him and do battle with him in Palestine.

At the climax of those hostilities, armies of the "king of the north' and the "king of the south" will attempt to overrun Antichrist and his troops.  Unfortunately for them and for the people of neighbouring countries in the Middle East, Antichrist will lead his army to victory.  As Daniel describes it, " . . . he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.  He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown" (Dan. 11:40-41).

Yet all will not be calm in Antichrist's camp.  Despite his victories, he will hear rumours that new armies from the Orient are ready to attack.  Angrily, he will dispatch his troops to Jerusalem.  Indeed, the Eastern armies will arrive, spelling trouble for the Jewish people.  These new armies will stand against the Jews in Jerusalem-just as Antichrist's troops will.  Here's how Zechariah described it: "For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem, the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished.  Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (Zech. 14:2).

The scene seems hopeless.  The Jews have nowhere to turn as two opposing armies sweep over them.  There appears to be no way out for this war-wracked people.

The Warrior-King Intervenes.  Suddenly, the scene will change.  The heavens will open and Jesus will return.  He is portrayed as clothed in a robe dipped in blood and riding on a white horse as He appears in the air to send his white-clothed army against the armies of Antichrist (Rev. 19:11-21).  Victory will be swift and complete as the beast (Antichrist) is captured and banished to the lake of fire, and his army is soundly defeated.

The King of the universe, who had appeared in the air just a few years before, will come back to end the tribulation and to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.

This, then, is the second coming of Jesus Christ.  The King of the universe, who had appeared in the air just a few years before, will have come back to end the tribulation and to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.

The Judge-King Holds Court.  Among Jesus' first duties as He prepares to set up His 1,000-year reign is to sit in judgement on several groups of people.  Remember that He will have already judged  many when He distributed rewards to the raptured saints after they were taken up to heaven.  But now there are new people to examine.  In the first days after our Lord's return to earth, He will judge three groups:

1. Resurrected old Testament believers from before Pentecost, along with martyred tribulation saints (Dan. 12:1-3).

2. Jews who had gone through the tribulation (Ezek. 20:33-44).  Some will be allowed to become citizens of the kingdom and some will be cast into Hell.  Their destination will depend on whether they chose to accept Christ or to follow Antichrist and his revolt.

3. Gentiles (Matt. 25).  What Jesus will do with Gentiles who endured the tribulation will depend on how they treated Christ's 'brethren" during those devastating years.  Those who showed kindness to them showed their love for Jesus, so they will enter the kingdom.  The rest will be "cast away' into Hell either because they worshiped Antichrist or because they mistreated Jews or both.

The Creator-King Re-creates.  Shortly after Jesus' glorious return, He will transform this age-old earth, reversing some of the fallout from the curse in the Garden of Eden.  These changes will allow the inhabitants of earth to enjoy a time of prosperity and happiness unparalleled in human history.  His re-creation will be marked by:
 

The Ruler-King Reigns.  The millennial kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ will not be a democracy.  Rather it will be a benevolent dictatorship.  Another way of describing it would be to call it a theocracy, a government led by God.  As ruler of the earth during this time, Jesus will be a king who will "reign and prosper, and execute judgement and righteousness in the earth " (Jer. 23:5).

As King, Jesus will do what no other leader in his. tory has been able to do.  He will govern with absolute authority, righteousness, and justice.  Finally, after so many failures on the part of mankind, a utopian world will have arrived.  Jesus will rule as we have always desired leaders to rule.

Helping You Help Others

As you study the second coming with others, try using these questions as discussion starters.  You'll find that digging into the Word will create a hunger for clear teaching and analysis of the topic.

Evidence for an Any-Moment Return

1. What biblical evidence suggests that Christ's return will be in two phases?

2. Why is the distinction between Israel and the church basic to understanding prophecy?

3. How can the following conflict be resolved?  The Bible teaches that many dramatic events will precede the Lord's second coming, but it also predicts that Christ will come unexpectedly.

4. Why is it so important for us to live with the Imminent expectation that Christ could return at any moment? (2 Pet. 3:10-14; 1 John 2:28-3:3).

Characteristics of the Rapture

1 . List as many characteristics as you can about the rapture of the church.

2. According to I Corinthians 15:51-53, what is in store for Christians who will be raptured?

3. How does Jesus' promise in John 14:1-3 that He would go to prepare a place for His followers fit into the rapture picture?

Christ's Return and You

What are we to do? How do we face this?

How ashamed we would be if He came back and we weren't expecting Him.  We do not know exactly when Jesus will return in the air to Take His people to be with Him.  As a result, we should live in a continual state of expectancy.  We should constantly keep our lives clean and purified and in line with what God expects from us.

That's not the only part of our lives that should be affected by the hope of an any-moment return of our Lord.  In addition, we should have a sense of urgency toward those who don't know Jesus.  All too often we live as if we have all the time in the world to convey the message of salvation, when in reality we don't even know if we will have the rest of the day to do so.  The prospect of lost opportunities to share the gospel should propel us into a deeper concern for the lost.

Temporal goals lose some of their importance when we realize that we might not have as much time as we thought to accomplish things of eternal value.

Let's look at it another way.  Suppose you knew exactly when Jesus would come back.  You would probably have a 'To Do' list that would fill pages:

And on and on the list could go.  More than anything else, we would want to get everything squared away before the big day that was coming closer every second.  Although we would be secure in our salvation, we would want to do all we could to further the Lord's work in the time we had remaining.

The fact that we don't know the day and time of Jesus' return, though, shouldn't deter us from doing exactly that.  We may not have the assurance that we can accomplish everything on that 'To Do' list, but we should have those kinds of goals-perhaps with more urgency.  Temporal goals lose some of their importance when we realize that we might not have as much time as we thought to accomplish things of eternal value.

There is another, even more important, consideration.  Everyone who knows that Jesus Christ could come back at any moment must do some serious thinking.  Beyond making lists of good things that need to be done, each person must make sure that he knows Jesus Christ as personal Saviour.  That is the single most important commitment any man, woman, or child could ever make.

After Jesus returns for His own, those who have never accepted Him will be left behind to face a time of trouble and difficulty this world has never before seen.  God's wrath will be poured out over the face of the earth.  Death, destruction , deceit, danger and damnation will reign.  It's a prospect that should cause every thinking person to consider seriously the claims of Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus is coming back.  Perhaps He will come today, Are you ready?  If not, you can be.  Without another second's delay, pray something like this: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN! 

That is the first and most important step in getting ready for His return, a return that may be today'


50 Evidences for the Pre-Trib Rapture

Historical Doctrine of Imminency

1. The early church believed in the imminency of the Lord's return.

While it can be debated which church father said what, there is a consistency in the early church on imminency which is essential to the pre-trib position and in opposition to some other positions.

2. The Pre-trib position is the ONLY one which truly teaches imminency.

3. The fact that there is a greater development of the doctrine in recent centuries does not preclude it from the early centuries. In the very early years of the church you see the development of great fundamentals doctrines of Trinity, Deity, God-man, canon of Scripture, etc. Following those early church councils is a time of decline in the corporate church into great apostasy. The teaching of that time are built on many of the heresies of Augustine. When the Reformation comes, there is a period of reestablishing the foundational doctrines of salvation. Now, in these last days there is both and ability and a need in the church to better understand the doctrines of eschatology and the Spirit is continuing His ministry of guiding the church in all truth.

4. The exhortation to be comforted by the "coming of the Lord" (1Thes 4:18) is valid only in the context of the pre-trib view. It could even be a fearsome thing in a post-trib view.

5. We are exhorted to look for the "Glorious Appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:13) If there are any prophetic events (ie: tribulation) to come first, then this passage is nonsensical.

6. Again, we are to "purify ourselves" in view of his coming.(1 John 3:2-3) If his coming is not imminent then the passage is meaningless.

7. The church is told to look for the "Signs of the Times" (Mt:16:3) in relation to the Coming of Christ. It is Israel and the tribulation saints that are told to look for the tribulation signs and wonders.

Nature of the Church

(Those who do not understand the nature of the church as unique in the program of God will continually be confused about the nature of His coming for the church.)

8. The translation of the church is never mentioned in any context dealing with the second coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation.

  9. The church is "not appointed to wrath" (Rom 5:9; 1 Thes 1:9-10) The church cannot enter into the "great day of their wrath."

 10. The Church will not be "overtaken by the Day of the Lord." (1 Thes 5:1-9) (Day of the Lord is another term for the great tribulation.)

11. The church will be "kept from the hour of testing that shall come upon all the world." (Rev. 3:10)

 12. The believer will escape the tribulation (Luke 21:36).

13. It is in the character of God to deliver His own from the greatest times of trial. (Lot, Rahab. Israel, Noah,etc)

 14. It is clear that there is a time interval between the translation of the church and the Return of Christ. (John 14:3)

15. Only the pre-trib position does not divide the Body of Christ on a works principle as does partial rapture does so clearly and others to a lesser extent. It becomes a climatic finale to the grand plan of salvation.

16. The Scriptures are adamant that the church is undivided. In this age the church is divided by the continuing old nature in the believers. When we are glorified at the coming of Christ, the church is no more divided.

17. The godly remnant of the tribulation has the attributes seen in OT Israel and not the church. The church is not present in the prophecies of Revelation.

18. The pre-trib view, unlike the post-trib view does not confuse terms like elect and saints which apply to believers of all ages, as opposed to terms like church and in Christ, which apply only to those who are the body of Christ in this age.

 The Work of the Holy Spirit

19. The Holy Spirit is the Restrainer of evil in the world. He cannot be taken out as prophesied unless the church which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit is taken out.

 20. The Holy Spirit will be taken out before the "lawless one" is revealed. That lawless one will certainly be revealed in the tribulation. In fact, the tribulation begins with the signing of the covenant between that lawless one and Israel. That act will reveal him.

 21. The "falling away" in 2 Thes 2:3 would better be understood in its context as "the departure." This is a reference to the departure of the Holy Spirit as He indwells the church.

22. The work of the Holy Spirit making the church like Christ where they submit to death and persecution, whereas the OT saints (see many of the Psalms) and the tribulations saints cry out for vengeance (Rev 6:10)

The Hermeneutical Argument

 23. Only the pre-trib view allows for a truly literal interpretation in all of the OT & NT passages regarding the great tribulation.

 24. Only the pre-trib position clearly distinguishes the church and Israel and God's dealing with each. The Necessity of an Interval of Time between the Rapture and the Second Coming

 25. All believers must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). This event is never mentioned in the account of events surrounding the second coming.

 26. The "four and twenty elders" in Rev 4:1-5:14 are representative of the church. Therefore it is necessary that the church, undivided, be brought to glory before those events of the tribulation.

27. There is clearly a coming of Christ for his bride before the second coming to earth. Rev 19:7-10.

28. Tribulation saints are not translated at the second coming of Christ but carry on ordinary activities. These specifically include farming, construction, and giving birth. (Is 65:20-25).

29. The Judgment of the Gentile nations following the second coming (Mat 25:31-46) indicates that both the saved and the lost are in a natural body which would be impossible if the translation had taken place at the second coming.

 30. If the translation took place at the same time as the second coming, there would be no need to separating the sheep from the goats at the subsequent judgment. The act of the translation would be the separation.

 31. The Judgment of Israel (Ez 20:34-38) occurs after the second coming and requires a regathered Israel. Again, the separation of the saved and the lost would be unnecessary if all the saved had previously been separated by a translation at the second coming.

Differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming.

32. At the Rapture, the church meets Christ in the air. At the second coming, Christ returns to the Mt of Olives.

33. At the time of the Rapture, the Mt of Olives is unchanged. At the second coming it is divided by a Great Earthquake forming a valley east of Jerusalem.

34. At the time of the rapture, saints are translated. No saints are translated at the time of the second coming.

35. At the time of the rapture, the world is not judge for sin, but descends deeper into sin. At the second coming, the world is Judged by the King of kings.

36. The translation of the church is pictured as a deliverance from the day of wrath, whereas the coming of Christ is a deliverance for those who have suffered under severe tribulation.

37. The rapture is immanent whereas there are specific signs which precede the second coming.

38. The translation of living believers is a truth revealed only in the NT. The second coming with the events surrounding it is prominent in both OT and NT.

39. The rapture is only for the saved, while the tribulation and second coming deals with the entire world.

40. No unfulfilled prophecy stands between the church and the rapture. Many signs must be fulfilled before the second coming of Christ.

41. No passage in either OT or NT deals with the resurrection of the saints at the second coming nor mentions the translation of living saints at that same time.

The Nature of the Tribulation

42. Only the pre-trib view maintains the distinction between the "great tribulation" and the tribulations in general which we all experience.

43. The great tribulation is properly understood in the pre-trib view as a preparation for the restoration of Israel. (Deut 4:29-30. Jer 30:4-11, Dan 9:24-27, Dan 12:1-2)

44. Not one single passage in the OT which discusses the tribulation, mentions the church.

45. Not one single passage in the NT which discusses the tribulation, mentions the church.

46. In contrast to mid trib or pre-wrath views, the pre-trib view offers an adequate explanation for the beginning of the great tribulation in Rev 6. These others are clearly refuted by the plain teaching of Scripture that the great tribulation begins long before the 7th trumpet of Rev 11.

47. There is no proper groundwork provided that the 7th trumpet of Rev is the last trumpet of 1 Cor 15. It is accepted only on the basis of assumption. The pre-trib view maintains the proper distinction between the prophetic trumpets of the church and the trumpets of the tribulation.

 48. The Unity of Daniel's 70th week is maintained by the pre-trib view. By contrast, the mid-trib view destroys the unity and confuses the program for Israel and the church. The post trib view usually denies the clear teaching of the 70th weeks by subverting it into some form or another of allegory.

49. The gathering of saints after the tribulation is done by angels whereas the gathering of the church is done by "The Lord Himself."

50. Rev 22:17-20 And the Spirit and the Bride say come. And he that heareth, let him say come... He who testifieth of these things saith

Yes, Jesus is coming back.  Perhaps He will come today, Are you ready?  If not, you can be.  Without another second's delay, pray something like this: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN! 

That is the first and most important step in getting ready for His return, a return that may be today'


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