EXTRACT FROM "VISTAS
OF COMING GLORY"
With the world situation developing as it is, and nations trembling on the verge of a global gehenna, the relationship of the Church to the "Great Tribulation" has been thrust into the very forefront of evangelical thought.
Is the Church destined to pass through the Tribulation?
Are believers to be exposed to the wrath of God and the vengeance of Anti-Christ?
Or does the Church escape the travail of that day
by being caught away from the world and raptured to heaven?
The question is obviously a touchy one, and one that has occasioned not a little controversy, representing as it does the major cause of cleavage among Pre-millennialists.
Apart from individual viewpoints
there are at least four distinct positions occupied by Christians generally.
1. The Pre-tribulation interpretation which asserts that the Lord comes for the Church before the tempest of wrath breaks over the world.
2. The Mid-tribulation position, which maintains that Christ will come for the Church in the middle of Daniel's seventieth week, that is, the Church will be left to pass through the first three and a half years of tribulation.
3. The Post-tribulation viewpoint which insists that the Church passes through the entire seven years of tribulation. The coming of the Lord is seen as one event, and that as the Lord is coming down to judge the world, the Church rises to meet Him and then returns with Him to the earth.
4. The advocates of the "Partial Rapture" affirm that when the Lord comes He will select only the spiritual ones for the Rapture and allow the rest to go through the Tribulation.
Concerning this latter position,
two facts argue strongly against it,
and in the mind of the writer render the view wholly untenable.
A. The Scriptures clearly indicate that our Lord is coming for "the dead in Christ" (1 Thess. 4:16), and for the living saints designated "they that are Christ's" (1 Cor. 15:23). We must be content to allow the matter to rest there. Any further divisions are quite arbitrary and unwarranted.
B. Advocates of the partial rapture look upon the Rapture as a reward for faithful living.
This, however. is not so.
The Church age began with a wonderful display of grace,
at Calvary, and it will end with a great act of grace, the Rapture.
Degrees of faithfulness, and spirituality, differences as to service and stewardship which exist among believers are judged not at the Rapture, but at the Bema judgement of believers.
In presenting the case for the Pre-tribulation Rapture,
we have sought to allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves,
rather than dismissing the matter by listing formal reasons.
1. The Great Tribulation is a period of suffering and travail unique and unparalleled in human history. The Word of God leaves us in no doubt as to that. It is designated by Daniel, a "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1), and by our Lord declared to be "Great Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21), while in Revelation 7:14 it is referred to as "the Great Tribulation" or more literally "Tribulation, the Great One."
Our Post-Tribulation friends, when confronted with this testimony, seek to obviate the force of these Scriptures, first by playing down the acute travail and suffering of this period, and by asserting that despite the terrors of the Great Tribulation the Church will be miraculously preserved through it.
All this sounds plausible until we begin to examine the global nature of the Tribulation judgements.
These judgements will be so world-wide in their scope, particularly at the end of the Tribulation, that escape will be well-nigh impossible.
The deliverance of Israel in Egypt is offered as proof of God's ability to preserve a people in the midst of judgement. However, the position of Israel in Egypt and the Church in the world, are not analogous. All Israel dwelt in one place and the Egyptians in another, but believers will be scattered throughout the world, often inhabiting the same dwellings.
The former judgements were local, but the latter will be cosmic.
The Tribulation is declared to be "the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world,"
(oikoumene, the inhabited earth), (Rev. 3:10).
Isaiah declares that the earth itself will be mightily shaken and affected. (Isaiah 24:17-20).
It is evident from these, and other parallel Scriptures, that the whole course of nature will be dislocated, and convulsed, filling the inhabitants of the earth with consternation and dread.
2. The Tribulation is characterized by the outpouring of divine wrath and vengeance.
From this particular form of judgement, the believer is eternally free by virtue of the work of Calvary.
The Church was forewarned by her Lord that its pathway through this world would be beset with travail and persecution.
"We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom." (Acts 14:22). But tribulation incidental to the Christian life is not the Great Tribulation. There are at least three Greek words which have a direct bearing on the issue before us.
There is the word "thlibo", which means to press or afflict, used in 1 Thess. 3:4, and then there is a kindred word "thlipsis" which means pressure or affliction, used to describe the sufferings of Christians generally.
In several instances the word is also used of the "Great Tribulation": Matt. 24:21, 24, 29; Rev. 7:14, but there is another word which interests us greatly at this point, that is the word, "orge" translated "wrath." This word is found in many passages connected with the Tribulation:
Rev. 6:16:"Hide us from the wrath of the lamb." Rev. 6:17: "The great day of his wrath is come." Reg. 16:19: "The wine of the fierceness of his wrath." Rev. 19:15 "The fierceness and wrath of almighty God."
The word is used in some other significant connections, viz. It was this form of wrath against which John the Baptist warned his hearers - Matt. 3:7.
It is referred to in Romans 1:18 as the wrath of God revealed from heaven against unrighteousness.
Concerning the sinner, John says the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36). While in Romans 5:9 we are assured that "we shall be saved from wrath through him."
The particular judgement implied by this word is judicial and penal, it is judgement as a punishment, it is vengeance reserved for evil doers. From this form of wrath the believer is blessedly exempt, otherwise it would be a denial of the most vital principle of the Gospel that Christ suffered once for sins.
The Apostle Paul assures us in 1 Thessalonians 5:9,
"God hath not appointed us to wrath (orge) but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ"
and again in 1 Thess. 1:10
"Whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath (orge) to come."
The Authorized Version does not bring out fully the meaning of this promise.
The tense here is future "Which delivereth us from the wrath to come."(R.V.)
The Amplified New Testament renders this passage
"Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath which is coming and draws us to himself."
Believers, then, can wait without fear for that blessed event, being assured that before His wrath falls, He will take His own into His presence.
Some who dissent from this interpretation raise a query. If the Church is destined to tribulation and God has not intervened to rescue her in the past why would He do so in the future? God will intervene and that for the best of all reasons.
The Church in the past has suffered the wrath of men but as we have already observed the "Great Tribulation" represents the wrath of God. This is something quite distinct and apart from anything the Church has ever suffered in the past. Believers through faith in Christ have passed beyond the reach of judicial displeasure and wrath.
3. A further argument is drawn from the relationship of the Church to the Holy Spirit
and the appearance of Christ (2 Thess. 2:7-8).
Sin and lawlessness have been at work in the world from the beginning, but as the age draws to its end it will work itself up to a terrible climax. The flood of iniquity is pent up and ready to burst forth, infernal hordes are straining to be unleashed, but there is a power holding it all in check.
"He that letteth will let" (Katecho, to hold down or hold fast).
Who is the power holding down iniquity, like steam under pressure?
This power is declared to be a person (v.7) and evident that whoever this power is he is more powerful than men or the Devil. This being the case He can be none other than a Divine person and we believe him to be none other than the Holy Spirit acting in a variety of ways through providence, through legislation, through civil government, but principally through the Church.
When "He who restrains is taken out of the way" the Church will accompany the Spirit homeward to glory for it is inconceivable that the Church should be left when the Holy Spirit has completed his work in calling out the Church, and has removed his official dwelling from earth to heaven.
Immediately this takes place, Anti-Christ, already risen to a place of great power, is openly revealed. If the Church does not know Anti-Christ, the chief actor of the Tribulation, it is clear evidence that it will not see the Tribulation.
Thiessen discussing the relationship of the Church to the Tribulation writes:
"That which `withholdeth' (neuter verse 6) and `he who letteth' (`hindereth') (masculine verse 7) is none other than the Holy Spirit. He no doubt employs human government, human laws, as also providential interventions in the accomplishment of His purpose...but more especially the testimony and influence of the Church. When the Church is caught out, the Holy Spirit will be taken from the world in the peculiar sense in which He is present on earth today.
"He will no longer be here in the same degree of manifestation. He will be here at that time in some such way as was present in the world before the Day of Pentecost."
These comments anticipate and answer an objection raised at this point by those who reject the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. If the Holy Spirit departs with the Church, how can sinners be converted in the Tribulation?
It is important to observe that the operations of the Holy Spirit are not the same in each age. It is obvious that the Holy Spirit operated from heaven in Old Testament times, and that He cam intermittently to the earth to possess chosen individuals, but in New Testament times, the abode of the Holy Spirit has been on the earth. His work is to convict and regenerate sinners and thus call out the "Bride of Christ" and indwell the corporate body with His fulness. When the Church is completed, the Holy Spirit, having accomplished His work in this age, removes His abode once again to heaven.
With his abode once again in heaven, the Holy Spirit is free to operate in much the same way as in Old Testament times. It must be remembered that multitudes will enter the Tribulation with an exact knowledge of the Gospel, and with an abundance of Bibles, and Christian literature at their disposal. The shock of the Rapture will cause widespread grief and alarm, and since God has not revoked the promise, "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved," multitudes will cry out to God for mercy.
It, however, matters little what difficulties our friends choose to invent at this point; the Word of God plainly declares that multitudes will be saved, during the time of Tribulation, and the basis of their salvation will be the cross of Christ.
4. The Company of the 24elders (rev. 4:5) are seen in heaven
before even the first seal is broken. (Rev. 6.)
The vital question here is what does the symbolism of the 24 elders represent? If we can satisfactorily answer this question we have gone a long way towards proving the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
Dr. A. McClain in this connection consulted some 30 commentators excluding works with a strong bias for or against. The result of this investigation was truly amazing, for while the commentators differed vastly on the rest of the Revelation, they were strangely all in agreement that the 24 elders represent the Church in glory. That such a united testimony should be given concerning this one symbol is truly significant.
In chapter 4 the elders are seen before the throne, while in Chapter 5 they watch with absorbing interest the Lamb take the sealed book from the hand of Him that sitteth on the throne.
All this, mark you, takes place before the seal is broken. The Tribulation does not begin until the seals are broken, and in that case the Church is already in heaven.
5. The 70th week of Daniel's prophecy relates to Daniel's people exclusively. (Daniel 9:24).
In the 69 weeks already fulfilled, no other group of people is seen but Israel. If the Church is not mentioned in the 69 weeks, why should it be introduced during the 70th week or the final seven years?
Furthermore, the Church is a mystery, that is, it was a truth hidden in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. The prophets wrote wiser than they knew, for while they made allowance for the Church age, the fact of the church and the duration of this age was not discerned by them.
The 70th week of Daniel's prophecy was no mystery, but was the subject of Old Testament revelation which proves that the Tribulation is no part of the Church age.
6. Believers ascend at the Rapture, as the Church, but descend to earth as the "Lamb's Wife."
They go up, unjudged, unrewarded, and unprepared for Eternal service, but return equipped to perform their part in the divine programme. Now something very vital must have transpired between the ascent and the descent, and thus in Revelation 19:7 we read: "His Wife hath made herself ready." The expression here means "to make ready." What then does this making ready refer to? Surely there is but one thing,the Bema judgement where stewardship is investigated, service tested and rewards bestowed. The Bema is an inescapable necessity, that the Church may be pure and holy, a fit companion for the heavenly bridegroom.
The time of this judgement is clearly indicated, for it is connected with the coming of the Lord for His people.
"That ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 1:8).
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come," (1 Cor. 4:5).
"Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming." (1 Thess. 2:19).
"There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness...and not to me only,
but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
While the Tribulation proceeds on earth the Bema judgement is set in the heavens. Immediately following the Bema, comes the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb," the climax of the whole redemptive drama.
There is no judgement of the Church before the Rapture, and we may be certain there will be none after the marriage supper of the Lamb. That being so, there is only one place where the Bema can be located, and that is between the Rapture and the Revelation, all of which precludes any possibility of the Church ascending to meet the Lord in the air and immediately returning with Him to the earth, after the fashion described by our Post-Tribulation friends.
7. The Church is mentioned in Revelation, Chapter 1 and throughout chapters 2 and 3,
but from chapters 4 to 19 there is no mention of it.
It is interesting to observe that the gematria of Laodicea, the seventh Church, is 999, suggesting finality. The argument here, of course, is drawn from silence, but nevertheless an argument which cannot be ignored. Futurists contend that this silence, covering 14 drama-packed chapters, can be explained only in one way: the Church has already been removed from earthly scenes.
8. The divine purpose in this age is the calling out of an ekklesia. Jews and Gentiles,
believing in Jesus Christ, made nigh by His blood are fused into one body and constitute
one "new man".
This is God's great work in this age, and it is unique in the history of God's dealings with men. Believers constituted as one body is a truth peculiar to this age. In the Tribulation (Rev. 7), two distinct companies are seen, Rev. 7:4-8, a remnant of 144,000 called out from Israel and Rev. 7:9-17, the vision of the great multitude of Gentiles saved during the Tribulation. These two companies are kept separate, and are never seen as one body. This in itself testifies to a great change in the divine purpose and argues strongly that the Church age has already terminated ere this point is reached and a new programme initiated.
9. The placing of the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation involves its advocates
in a series of major displacements, changing, as it does, the whole order of events.
According to the Post-Tribulation schedule, the appearance of Anti-Christ is placed first, and the advent of the Lord, last; the Tribulation likewise takes primacy over the "Christian Hope." Now, all this has disturbing repercussions throughout the entire programme of events.
It compels believers to look for Anti-Christ, for resist the thought as we may, it is impossible to get away from the fact that the person who appears first is the one looked for.
Furthermore, it makes Anti-Christ a forerunner of Christ, and his appearance a sign of Christ's advent, and whether we relish the thought or not, it is tantamount to setting a date for Christ's return. For according to this chronology, the advent of Christ will be seven years from Anti-Christ's appearance, in which case the time of Christ's coming can be exactly calculated, and the whole element of surprise eliminated, thus frustrating the divine intention.
The Rapture is designated a comforting hope, 1 Thess. 4:18; a purifying hope, 1 John 3:3; a blessed hope, Titus 2:13, and in addition believers are enjoined to watch and wait for their Lord. Now we submit that all such language sounds strange and utterly lacking in propriety if Anti-Christ and the Tribulation should precede the Rapture.
10. It is alleged, by those who dissent from us, that at the end of the Tribulation the Church will ascend to meet the Lord in the air, and then immediately return with Him to the earth.
This is shown to be incorrect by the promise of our Lord in John 14:3, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also."
The plain meaning of these words is that when our Lord comes for His own people, He will immediately transport them to scenes of of heavenly glory where the Bema will be set preparatory to the descent to the Mount of Olives.
11. If the Church passed through the Tribulation it would necessitate the entire body of believers living through that period until the actual time of the second advent.
This contradicts the words of our Lord in Luke 18:8,
"When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
Dr. Hutton says of these words
"They are among the most disturbing found anywhere in the New Testament."
The brief space that immediately precedes the appearing of the Lord will be one of the darkest in human history. The knowledge of the faith will be so rare that only the omniscient Lord can discover it. It is obvious that such could not be the case if the Church was left to pass through the Tribulation.
12. An argument used to offset the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is drawn from Matt.24:31. It is argued that the elect here refers to the Church, and since the gathering of the elect from the four winds takes place after the Tribulation, this is offered as evidence that the Church will pass through it.
It is to be observed, however, that there are two classes designated "elect."
There is the elect Church, Col. 3:12, Romans 8:33, and there is the elect nation Israel, Isa. 45:4, 65:9, 65:22.
After the Tribulation, that part of Israel still dispersed among the nations will be summoned back to the land and their national unity restored.
We contend, then that the "elect" in Matthew 24:21 is Israel, and that this is the correct interpretation is proven by the fact that the physical signs mentioned in the Scriptures are found repeatedly in the Old Testament in a context that is exclusively Jewish, Isa. 13:9-10, 24:23, Joel 2:10, 31-32; 3:15.
The Old Testament usage is the clue to the correct interpretation of the parallel passages found in the New Testament, viz. Matt.24:29, Mark 13:24, Luke 21:25, Acts 2:19-20, Rev. 6:12. Physical signs, and prodigies are not connected with the Rapture; all of which proves that the events of Matthew 24:31 are quite outside the Church age.
It is often asserted by those who advocate the Mid-Tribulation position, that the last trump of1 Cor. 15:52 is the same as the seventh trumpet of Rev. 11:15, and as this sounds in the middle of the seven year period, this is put forth as evidence that the Church is taken up after the first three and a half years.
There are, however, pronounced differences between "the last trump" of 1 Cor. 15:52 and the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11, which we do well to recognize.
(a) The one is the trump of God, the other is the trump of the angel.
(b) The trump of God is sounded from the air and is heard on the earth, the trumpet of the angel is blown in heaven and heard in heaven.
(c) The trump of God is followed by the resurrection of the righteous dead and the translation of living saints, whereas the angelic trumpet announces a whole series of events which will take place right up to the setting up of the Kingdom. The reign of Christ, the judgement of the wicked, the rewarding of His servants all follow.
(d) The message of the trump relates to the deliverance of the Saints, while the angelic trumpet has to do with the punishment of the wicked. (Rev. 11:15-18).
Another objection to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is based on Rev. 13:7
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them."
It has been suggested that the saints here represent the Church. This, however, cannot be the case for the Church is seen in glory before the first stroke of disaster falls. (Rev. 5).
The saints in this connection represent those who turn to Christ after the Rapture has taken place. Millions will retain a knowledge of the Gospel and Christian teaching, Bibles and Gospel literature will still be available. In the early part of the Tribulation, multitudes will find Salvation and win the martyr's crown. They are seen in Revelation 7:13-17 as a company altogether distinct from the Church.
13. No translation of saints is mentioned in connection with the coming of Christ
to establish His millennial Kingdom.
We invite the reader to examine carefully the following Scriptures,
Isaiah 63, Zechariah 14, Matthew 25:31, Jude 14-15, 2 Thess. 2, Revelation 19.
The last-mentioned text is the classic so far as the second advent is concerned, but there is not here nor in any of the parallel passages even a hint that the Rapture is connected with Christ's return in judgement to usher in the Kingdom.
14. The enquiry of the elder (Rev. 7:13-14), "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, `What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?' And he said unto me, `Sir, thou knowest. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb'."
The company of 24 elders, representing the Church, are seen in heaven before the seals which introduce the Tribulation are broken. They are seen as a distinct company.
It is the martyrs, not the elders, who have come out of Tribulation, the great one.
Among certain futurists there exists a tendency to divide what is popularly known as the Great Tribulation into two distinct parts, designated the "Tribulation" and the "Wrath of God".
It is alleged that these periods are not identical, and that whereas in the case of the Tribulation the persecution comes from Anti-Christ, in the very short time denominated the wrath of God, the travail and suffering takes the form of punishment coming directly from God.
According to this theory the Church will suffer throughout the Tribulation
but will be raptured prior to the wrath of God period.
The contention is based on at least two arguments.
1. That the word "Thlipsis" used for suffering and persecution generally, is used of the Tribulation, but that the word "orge", wrath in the judicial sense, is used almost exclusively of the end time.
This is true as we have already indicated, but it is surely a flimsy foundation on which to erect such a theory.
The Scriptures recognize only one period designated "The Great Tribulation." This period is characterized by suffering and travail, varying in degrees of intensity. It is obvious that during the first 3-1/2 years there will be general world-distress and suffering. This will be intensified in the middle of the week, when Satan and his angels are ejected out of the mid-heavens and take up their abode on the earth. (Rev. 12) This suffering will be intensified until it reaches its fearful climactic at the actual appearing of Jesus Christ.
It is wholly unwarranted to differentiate between the varying degrees of distress to such a degree as to create an altogether separate period.
2. A further argument is based on a supposed division between the seven seals and seven trumpets, and a corresponding pause between the seven personages and the seven seals.
Now, the book of Revelation has been subject to no end of divisions, usually created to under gird some theory, but we know of no better division of the book than that given by the Lord Himself in Revelation 1:19.
(1) "Write the things which thou hast seen" (past). (Rev. 1:12- 18).
(2) "And the things which are" (present). (Rev. Chapters 2 and 3).
(3). "And the things which shall be hereafter" (after these). (Rev.4-20).
How any Bible teacher can attempt to discover the vital message of the Revelation and ignore this threefold division is quite beyond our understanding.
The inevitable result of course, is a man-made division such as we have under consideration, with all its attendant chaos.
Matthew 24:29 is cited to support the theory of two periods.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days." Matthew's obvious intention is to inform us that directly following the Tribulation which has already taken place,there occurs certain premonitory signs, cosmic disturbances, and physical portents leading up to the visible appearance of the Lord. That there are two periods in the end-time crisis goes to pieces utterly on Matthew 24:21.
Our Lord's words suggest that the Tribulation will be a period of travail and suffering, unparalleled either in the past or the future.
To create a separate period of judgement following the Tribulation, of greater severity than the Tribulation itself, is ruled out completely.
The Great Tribulation comprehends in itself,the wrath of God and every other form of wrath visited upon the earth at that time.
This theory puts the coming of Anti-Christ first, and in that case Anti-Christ will be the one naturally looked for, and at his advent the coming of Christ can then be exactly computed and the whole element of surprise obviated.
15. KEPT FROM THE HOUR.
It is to be noted that the preposition ek, "out of", is used here in connection with a period of time. The obvious meaning of this promise to the Church is that she will be kept from, or out of, the entire period of trial.
When the Holy Spirit could have instructed John to write `kept in' the hour of trial he chose to write `kept from' (out of) the hour of trial.
End of Section 3 - "Will the Church go through the Great Tribulation?"
This book is out of print... we have permission from the author's wife to use it to God's Glory, her husband is now with the Lord.
- (Source Endtime Ministries, Australia)