THE RAPTURE: INCIDENTAL OR FUNDAMENTAL?
addition to the many themes touched upon in the preceding chapters, it yet
remains to clarify the major differences between the rapture of the Church and
the revelation of Christ to earth. If
the posttribulational view is correct, the center of Christian thought and
expectation should rightly be the revelation of Christ, the rapture becoming an
incidental part of His return to earth from glory. If, however, the rapture stands by itself as an individual crisis
and if it is the next major event upon the program of God, it becomes the one
issue of fundamental importance to all who look with hope to the end of the
must read the Word of God with discernment.
No matter how earnest the Bible student, his interpretations will go astray
if he fails to distinguish between things that differ. While it is a mathematical axiom that
“things equal to the same thing are equal to each other,” it does not always
follow that Biblical events which bear some similarity are therefore
identical. Particularly is this true of
eschatology. All judgments are not the
same judgment, nor are all resurrections the same resurrection, no matter how
hard some may try to press them into a single mold.
typical example of prophetic generalization may be noted from the Westminster
At the last day
shall be a general resurrection of the dead both of the just and of the unjust.
All found alive
shall be immediately changed.
after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of all
angels and men, good and bad.
With clear evidence to the contrary, such “lumping together” of
prophetic events can only confuse the student and discredit the Sacred
Text. While the author does not advocate
making complex the things of God, the tendency of many to oversimplify God’s
prophetic program is nevertheless an error of the first magnitude.
Posttribulational Concept of the Rapture
posttribulationalists refuse to distinguish between the rapture and the
revelation of Christ, blending them together into a single event which occurs
“in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump,” they fall into the same
reductive error. The outcome is to make
the rapture an insignificant and meaningless detail. In the words of Reese, it is “a mere incident of the appearing,”
spoken of only to show that the living will have no advantage over the dead in
Christ at His appearing. According to
this view, “both the rapture of the saints, with the change of living believers,
and the visible appearance of our Lord in glory and in judgment will occur at
one and the same time.” It is the purpose of this chapter to show
that such a theory is in conflict with the Scriptures at every point of
investigation. Two facts in particular
will be outstanding: first, the rapture of the saints and the revelation of
Christ to earth are separate in point of time, and second, these events differ
the one from the other in many of their leading characteristics.
it is rather obvious that one will search in vain if he looks for a
crystallized statement such as “The rapture will precede the revelation by
seven years.” If any such declaration existed
there would be no argument whatsoever.
But similarly, nor does the Bible say in just so many words that “God is
a trinity,” ye an abundance of Scripture attests this fact. The absence of a word or a definition is of
little consequence if the doctrine is woven into the very fabric of
Scripture. The solutions to all Bible
problems do not lie on the immediate surface, but must be settled by inference,
by comparing Scripture with Scripture, by reverent Spirit-taught exegesis. Such is the case with the question at hand,
and the lack of a clear, concrete statement is more than replaced by a wealth
of relevant verses – sufficient, it would seem, to afford a clear and
the Rapture Simultaneous with the
Revelation of Christ?
making the rapture of the Church saints a secondary part of the same crisis
with the revelation of Christ to earth, posttribulationalists stand alone. All others, pretribulationalists and
midtribulationalists, as well as partial-rapturists, unite in viewing the
rapture as a phase of the second advent, distinct from the return to
earth. Fraser, a posttribulational
author, recognizes that the rapture and the revelation are “two phases of our
Lord’s Second Coming,” but it is representative of his school of though when he
adds: “they occur together at the full end of the age.” The thought is that the saints will meet the
Lord in the air “and will return with Him at once.” In answer to the query: “If Christ comes for
His saints on the Day of the Lord, how are we to reconcile this with the statement
of Scripture that He then comes with His saints?” Reese responds:
There is no need to reconcile them; Christ
comes for His saints and with them at the same crisis. When He comes according to I Thess. iv.
13-17 and Matt. xxiv. 31, He is on His way to earth to establish the Messianic
Kingdom. But before the blow falls upon
the ungodly, the Elect are gathered from one end of heaven to the other to meet
the approaching Lord. They meet the
Lord in the air and follow in His train.
the authority for this view, there is cited the meaning of the Greek verb in I
Thessalonians 4:17, where it is recorded: “Then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in
the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” In the opinion of Cameron:
A very definite truth is settled, however, by
the word translated “to meet,” which has a distinct and definite meaning. It is only used three times in the New
Testament, and in every case it mans to meet and to return with the person
me. Therefore, those caught up, meet
the Lord and return with Him.
the noun άπάνησις,
meaning a meeting or an encounter, is found four times in the
Greek New Testament (Matt. 25:1, 6; Acts 28:15; I Thess. 4:17). Reese has drawn the posttribulational
interpretation of these verses a little more sharply than Cameron, as follows:
There are only three other places in the New
Testament, where the phrase here translated “to meet” occurs; and in all of
them (Matt. xxv. 1, 6; Acts xxviii. 15) the party met continues after the
meeting to advance still in the direction in which He was moving previously.
concluding that the Church saints who are caught up to meet Christ continue in
the direction of the Saviour, the posttribulationalists find evidence that the
rapture and the revelation are joined together in a single crisis.
there is slender evidence indeed to warrant robbing the Church of its
pretribulational hope. While Acts 28:15
may indicate that the brethren from Rome returned with Paul to that
city, it is far less clear (in both Matthew 25:1 and 25:6) what direction the
bridegroom takes after he has been met by the virgins. How can one be sure when the destination is
not given? But in I Thessalonians 4:17,
the destination of the bridegroom after He meets His bride in the air is not
open to question. According to John
14:2, 3, His coming again to receive His own unto Himself is for the express
purpose of taking His bride to the heavenly mansions now being prepared for
them. Here is clear Biblical evidence
that the party met by Christ does not continue “after the meeting to
advance still in the direction in which He was moving previously.” For posttribulationalists to attack the hope
of Christ’s pretribulational coming on the strength of what presumably happened
when Paul was met by brethren from Rome is precarious indeed. Of the two passages cited by Reese, Thiessen
In neither of these Scriptures is it clear
that they returned immediately after meeting. Paul undoubtedly had a time of fellowship with the brethren that
came to meet him, before they started for Rome. The Greek word here used means simply a meeting, and the
cognate Greek verb, to go to meet, to meet. Thayer, op. cit., s. v. Indeed, in the Textus Receptus reading of Luke 14:31, and in the
LXX text of I Sam. 22:17; 2 Sam. 1:15; I Macc. 11:15, 68, and in other Greek
writers, the thought of a return is impossible. Therefore we affirm that although Christ will return with His
own, the language nowhere implies that He will return immediately.
evidence against the posttribulational contention is even more devastating from
a study of the Greek verb which bears the same stem and meaning as the noun in
question. The cognate verb άπαντάω, to meet, which
Reese fails to mention, occurs seven times in the New Testament. Anyone who can read for himself the simple
narrative of the passages involved will immediately discover that the interpretation
suggested by Reese is arbitrary and misleading. In Matthew 28:9, 10, the women who met Christ did not continue
with Him but were sent on ahead into the city.
In Mark 5:2, a man with an unclean spirit comes out of the tombs to meet
Jesus. Rather than continuing together
in the same direction, Christ commands him to go home to his friends telling
what great things were done for him (v. 19).
in Mark 14:13, the idea of Reese and Cameron proves to be in error. Christ instructs His disciples to go into
the city, there to meet a man bearing a pitcher of water. The fact that Christ then adds the command,
“follow him” shows clearly that the verb itself does not convey the meaning
that they were to continue together. To
say otherwise is to accuse the Lord Himself of redundancy.
as striking is the account of Luke 14:31, which involves kings at war. Thayer’s Lexicon points out that the
verb “to meet” is used here “in a military sense of hostile meeting,” which
hardly implies going along in the same direction. Liddell and Scott, in their Greek-English Lexicon also
bear out the fact that the verb is often used in Greek literature in a
“hostile sense, to meet in battle.”
In Luke 17:12, ten lepers meet Christ and are cleansed of their dread
disease. Although the same verb, “to
meet” is used, it is significant that none continue with Christ and only one
returns long enough to glorify God and give thanks. Even this one whose faith has made him whole is sent on his way
by the Lord.
the seven references where the verb άπαντάω is used, John 4:51 alone
implies that those who meet continued on their way together – but this is
gathered, not from the meaning of the verb, but rather from the fact that they
were members of the same household. In
the final reference, Acts 16:16, the damsel with the spirit of divination which
met Paul and Silas hardly traveled on with these disciples, for they were
almost immediately put on trial and thrown into the Philippian prison. Nor can it be presumed that the evil spirit
cast out from the damsel cared to journey further in the same direction with
these men of God.
It is therefore
entirely in order to conclude that the posttribulational position in regard to
the rapture, that the saints will meet the Lord in the air and return with Him
to the earth in one simultaneous action, is hopelessly in error both
theologically and linguistically. Such
a view can only confuse and mislead the members of Christ’s Church. There is no Scriptural warrant or
lexicographical precedent to require an immediate return of the saints to
earth, save the demands of the posttribulational scheme.
and Revelation Differ in Point of Time
A New Testament Pattern
In addition to I Thessalonians 4:17 and these
other verses which prove an immediate return of the Church with Christ highly
improbable, the analogy of other New Testament Scriptures suggests that an
interval between the rapture and the revelation is necessary. Brookes has indicated how other dealings of
Christ with His people favor a twofold aspect of the second coming:
Christ at His first coming was revealed only
to His own who waited for the consolation of Israel, and, then after an
interval He was publicly manifested to the world on the banks of the
Jordan.... We are justified before God
by faith alone; we are justified before men by works. We are sanctified now in Christ Jesus, and we are sanctified progressively
also as we go through the world. The
Lord has private dealings with his own before there is any public exhibition of
himself or of them; and it is easy to believe that he will not make their
reception into His presence and His revelation in judgment a simultaneous act.
prior rapture of the Church is in complete harmony with the angelic testimony
recorded in Acts 1:11. The ascension
sets the pattern for His coming, for Christ shall return “in like manner.” Christ left the earth in the presence of His
disciples, not seen by His enemies as are the two witnesses of Revelation
11:12. Is it not implied that the
return of Christ will first be for His friends before He is manifested in the
sign of all men? This same truth is
illustrated by the parable of the pounds in Luke 19. When the nobleman returned, he first called together his servants
and had a reckoning with them concerning service rendered during his departure,
after which he dealt with his enemies.
times during this investigation, it has been indicated how the overall pattern
of New Testament doctrine is in accord with the presence of an interval between
the rapture and the revelation. The
Pauline Epistles deal extensively with the walk of the Christian while on
earth, yet there is no instruction for the behavior of the Church during the
trials of the Tribulation period and the conflict with the Beast. This is not an oversight, or a subject
thought unnecessary to expound, for Israel is certainly instructed (Matt.
24:15-26), with the reminder “Behold, I have told you before.”
is the Church mentioned in the fourteen chapters of the Revelation given over
to the detailed description of the Tribulation and its actors. In chapters two and three, during which John
writes of “the things which are,” the ekklesia of God is mentioned no
less than nineteen times; but when the vision turns to “the things which shall
be hereafter,” that is, during the Tribulation, the Church is no longer an
actor upon the world stage. Nor is she
seen again until Revelation 19:8, 14, at which time she is found returning with
the armies of heaven to rule and to reign with Christ. During the Tribulation, Israel is protected
from the anger of the Beast (Rev. 12:13-17), but no place of protection is recorded
for the Church, implying that it is not needed.
It is important to recognize this basic harmony between the
pretribulational view and the other themes of the New Testament. The hope of a prior rapture for the Church
is not something foreign to the Sacred Text.
Indeed, it is an integral part of the total pattern.
The Jewish Remnant
it is good millennial doctrine that God will yet revive His ancient people,
Israel, and send them out as witnesses to His saving grace in the end time,
posttribulationalists find it convenient to ridicule those of Israel who are
redeemed during the Tribulation. Reese
pours out his scorn upon this “half-converted, half-Christian Jewish Remnant
(unconverted, un-Christian would fit the facts better) ...”
but does not seem to recognize that his defense of a theory has thrown him into
conflict with the Word of God. By divine
inspiration, John calls them “servants of our God,” “they which follow the
Lamb,” “redeemed from among men,” “firstfruits unto God,” and “without fault
before the throne of God.” Testimony
such as this should be clear enough to satisfy anyone.
point, however, is that these redeemed ones are seen as Jews. They are listed according to their genealogy
from the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-5), yet they belong to
Christ for they bear His testimony (Rev. 12:17). Here is proof indeed that the Church is not on earth during the
Tribulation. Probably the most
distinguishing characteristics of the Christian Church is that both Jews and
Gentiles have been placed into the body of Christ by the baptizing ministry of
the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:12, 13).
to anything previously known, the Jew and the Gentile has been reconciled to
God in one body by the cross; the middle wall of partition has been broken
down; both now constitute “one new man” in Christ so making peace (Eph.
2:11-18). Now if the Church were still
on earth during the Tribulation, making that period merely the awful climax of
the present Church Age, the redeemed of the Tribulation would automatically become
members of the Church and would be classified as members of a distinct Jewish
group. To force the Church into the Tribulation
is to necessitate the simultaneous presence on earth of two separate, redeemed,
witnessing groups, each retaining their separate identities – but to do so is
to deny the vital Pauline doctrine of the unity of the body of Christ. The only other alternative is to deny that
there is any redeemed Jewish remnant at all during the Tribulation. As demonstrated, such is the expediency of
the posttribulationalist. It is
self-evident that the Scriptures do not sustain his thesis.
While it is evident that Israel’s national conversion will not be
complete until the revelation of Christ, when they shall look upon Him whom
they have pierced (Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26, 27), nevertheless a remnant from
among Israel shall be redeemed and become God’s primary witnessing body during
the Tribulation. The Church, her
witness complete, will be already with the Lord. Thus, the presence of redeemed Jews on earth during the time of
Jacob’s sorrow necessitates a period of time after the rapture and before the
revelation during which they will be converted and go forth to witness.
Important Events Separate Rapture from Revelation
to the posttribulational view of the rapture, the Church is caught up to meet
Christ in his triumphal sweep toward the earth, both rapture and revelation
occurring almost simultaneously “in the twinkling of an eye,” or at the most in
a matter of moments. Alexander Fraser,
an ardent posttribulationalist, has quoted with approval the view of James R.
On the same “day” and probably only a few
moments apart, He comes for His saints, and with His saints (I Thessalonians
4:16, 17). The dead and living go up to
meet Him as He descends, join His train and accompany Him back as He stands on
the Mount of Olives and destroys Antichrist and his armies.
is of the same mind when he says that the rapture is a mere incident of the
Appearing and that the coming for and the coming with the saints
belong to the same crisis. Cameron affirms that these events are
“synchronous, and cannot be separated.” Unfortunately, however, this is an
unsustained opinion. While
posttribulationalists are forced by clear revelation to admit two distinct
phases of the second advent, it is believed that they do not face squarely the
evidence of two additional predicted events which necessitates and interval
between rapture and revelation.
first such event, which cannot occur until the rapture has passed, is the
judgment seat of Christ (generally called the Bema eat, from βήμα,
Gr. tribunal). Mentioned
primarily in the writings of Paul, it constitutes a warning that each believer
shall give God account of his stewardship, and an incentive for faithfulness in
the Christian life and fruitfulness in Christian service.
For we must all appear before the judgment
seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body,
according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad(II Cor. 5:10).
Now if any man build upon this foundation
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be
made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by
fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built
thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself
shall be saved; yet so as by fire (I Cor. 3:12-15).
is not the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11); salvation is not in view, but
Christian works; none who stand before the Bema seat of Christ are lost, but
some will come there almost empty handed having gathered little fruit in God’s
harvest field (Ps. 126:6; John 15:8).
Paul speaks of a crown of righteousness “which the Lord, the righteous
judge, shall give me at that day” (II Tim. 4:8). Again, he mentions the prospect of a crown of rejoicing at the
coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (I Thess. 2:19). Peter encouraged believers with the hope that “When the chief
Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away”
(I Pet. 5:4; cf. Rom. 14:10; I Cor. 9:24-27; John 5:22).
judgment of the believer’s works is clearly associated with the return of the
Lord Jesus Christ for His own. It is
after the rapture but before the marriage supper, for it is inconceivable that
the church should be judged and her works tried by fire after she is
joined to Christ as His bride. This
viewpoint is in complete harmony with the twenty-four elders, who represent the
raptured church in heaven and are seen as crowned before God’s wrath falls upon
second major event to occur after the rapture but prior to the revelation is
the marriage of the bride to Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to
him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself
ready. And to her was granted that she
should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the
righteousness of saints. And he saith
unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of
the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
This is the time for the
Church to be presented “as a chaste virgin to Christ” (II Cor. 11:2), “a
glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle ... but ... holy and without
blemish” (Eph. 5:27). From John’s
record it is rather obvious that the presentation of the bride and the marriage
of the Lamb occur in heaven (Rev. 19:1, 4, 11). The call to the marriage and the whole wonderful union (which
Paul calls a “great mystery” in Eph. 5:32) takes place before heaven
opens and the Son of God descends to the earth in power and great glory. If there is any chronology at all to the
Revelation account, and if any harmony at all to the prophetic Word, the call
to the marriage, the presentation of the bride, and the marriage of the Lamb
occur in heaven before the revelation of Christ upon earth. In context the event is associated with heavenly
worship, the presence of the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures,
a voice “out of the throne,” and the mighty voice of the heavenly multitude
(Rev. 19:1-6). Without doubt, the whole
wonderful scene takes place in heaven.
The saints have all been raptured (for there will be no partial bride!),
but as yet the revelation has not taken place.
then, are two notable events – the Bema seat of Christ and the marriage of the
Lamb – both of which must occur in heaven after the rapture but before
the return to earth. Now, these events have long been
anticipated; they have been looked for with much rejoicing (Rev. 19:7) and will
not be hurried. The bride has time to
make herself ready (19:7). There is
worship and praise involving all of the hosts of heaven (19:6). The Hallelujah Chorus of the redeemed must
be sung, and with all eternity ahead it will not be limited to “the first and
the last stanza”! Before the marriage
and the supper will be the presentation of the bride. This is the most glorious, crowning experience in all the long history
of the Church, and will be a time of greatest joy for the Christ who redeemed
her. When all the saints go marching
in, “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa.
Bema seat, and now the presentation of the bride and the marriage supper –
there are literal events, not symbolical fancies. They cannot and will not be fulfilled all in one fleeting
moment. The lives of the saints must be
reviewed, their works must be tested, the rewards will be administered, the
bride will prepare herself and be presented to Christ, the marriage must be performed
and the marriage feast celebrated and enjoyed.
Yet for the sake of a theory, which by sheer necessity unites the rapture
and the revelation and all which intervenes into one solitary climax, some
would have us believe that all these blessed experiences occur in an instant,
in the twinkling of an eye, as part of the downward sweep of the Lord to earth,
with no preview of heaven, and wit no glimpse of the “many mansions” prepared
by a loving Saviour for the Bride whom He will receive unto Himself when He
comes again (John 14:2, 3).
is one posttribulationalist who sees the grave inconsistency of such a
program. He, at least, face the
inescapable fact that a time interval is required between the ascension of the
saints o meet Christ and their return with Him to reign. Rose makes the following interesting and
There is no direct statement in the Bible
concerning the length of time between the going up to meet the Lord in the air
and the returning with Him. However,
“forty days” is a significant period of time in Holy Writ. The flood rains descended in destruction of
the wicked for “forty days and forty nights.”
Moses was on the Mount with God “forty days and nights.” Christ showed Himself alive to His disciples
for “forty days” after His passion before He ascended to His throne in heaven
(Acts 1:3). If this is the pattern
which the resurrected and translated saints will follow, the “forty days” will
provide space for “the marriage supper of the Lamb,” before returning to the
earth to reign with Christ upon His throne.
There is no definitely stated length of time which the saints will be
away from the earth. It may be a full
year, or they return the same day. The
main thing is to be ready for His coming, and to escape the deluge of outpoured
Here, then, is the
conclusion of a thorough-going posttribulational author, quoted from his book: Tribulation
Till Translation. He acknowledges
the absolute necessity for an interval of time between the catching up of the
saints and the return with Christ. He
suggests that forty days may be an adequate interval for intervening events,
but admits that the length of time may be longer. “It may be a full year.”
One is reminded of the words of Reese: “Such is the admission of a
friendly writer; and if such a damaging concession is made from within the amp,
what must be the sober truth from without?” The idea of even one event, intervening
between rapture and revelation, is fatal to the posttribulational scheme. We have indicated from two to four such
events. How then can the rapture and
the revelation be synchronous? How then
a single crisis?
a time element is admitted between the rapture and the revelation, as it is
here by Rose, and as it is further conceded by other posttribulationalists who
maintain a judicious silence at this point, there remain but a few short steps
to a position which is clearly pretribulational. From Rose’s admission and in the light of the findings of preceding
chapters, let the reader reason back to the place the rapture must occupy in
God’s prophetic program. It will
obviously take place before the marriage of the Lamb, for this is in
heaven. Consistent thinkers will grant
that it must transpire before the Bema seat of Christ, for the time when Church
saints are judged and rewarded will not precede their translation into His
presence. Furthermore, II Thessalonians
2:3-10 establishes that the removal of the Church will be before the
manifestation of the Man of Sin, a fact which places the rapture before
Revelation 13 and probably as far back in the chronology of that book as 6:1, before
the opening of the first seal and the rider upon the white horse. From this point, a quick review of the
nature of the Church and the character of the Tribulation, of promises which
exempt the Church from any wrath poured out by God, of the shift in viewpoint
from earth to heaven at Revelation 4:1, revealing crowned and glorified elders
who worship Christ and sing the song of the redeemed – such a review should
convince any candid mind that the place of the rapture in the chronology of the
Revelation and in the order of prophetic events is clearly pretribulational. On the other hand, since intervening events
required a marked interval between the rapture and the revelation, the whole
posttribulational idea that these two phases of our Lord’s return are only
moments apart, if not simultaneous, is demonstrated to be utterly untenable.
and Revelation Differ As to Their
A time interval being established between the rapture of the
saints and Christ’s return at His glorious appearing, it now remains to
indicate briefly that these two phases of Christ’s coming also differ widely as
to their leading characteristics. Since
both involve actions on the part of the Lord and of His Church, one rightly
would expect to find some similarity between the two, but there are striking
contrasts as well. The discussion which follows purposes to tabulate many of
these contrasts – some of which are obvious enough to constitute additional
proof that two separate events are in view, others providing examples of
further differences once the primary distinction has been demonstrated.
Differences, as They Apply to the Redeemed
will be a marked contrast in the spiritual fervor of God’s earthly
testimony. At the rapture, the Church
for the most part will be in a state of Laodicean lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-19),
while prior to the revelation, Tribulation saints will be on fire with zeal toward
God (Rev. 12:11; 14:4, 5; f. Isa. 27:6).
The apostasy at the end of the Church Age is a subject of clear prediction
(II Tim. 3:1-5; II Pet. 3:3, 4), but this is in direct contrast with the testimony
of persecuted Tribulation saints which will be a white heat. History records that severe persecution
produces a church that is either hot or cold, with believers who seal their testimony
with their blood or capitulate weakly to the enemy. The former will characterize the Tribulation saints, but the
Church prior to the rapture will be nauseatingly tepid.
two phases of the Lord’s return differ widely as to their manner, Christ
coming first for the saints (I Thess. 4:16), then returning later with the
saints (I Thess. 3:13). A difference in
the matter of location is also apparent, the scene of the rapture being
in the air, but that of the revelation being upon earth. Destination provides a further point
of distinction, for after the rapture the Church will be associated with Christ
in heavenly mansions (John 14:1-3), but after the revelation she will reign
with Him upon the millennial earth (Rev. 20:6).
Again, these two events differ as to their immediate prospect. At the rapture the prospect for the Church
will be that of the Bema seat judgment and the marriage of the Lamb, while at
the revelation these events will be in retrospect, the prospect being the
culmination of God’s judgment and wrath upon His enemies. At the rapture, the Church is judged in view
of rewards (II Cor. 5:10); at the revelation, Israel and the Gentile nations
are judged in respect to their treatment of Christ and their entrance into the
kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46). At the
rapture, it will be a blessing to be taken, but at the revelation it will be a
blessing to be left upon earth to enter Christ’s kingdom, the wicked being
taken away in judgment. At the rapture,
the marriage supper of the Lamb is in view; at the revelation the judgment
“supper of the great God” is in view (Rev. 19:17; Ezek. 39:17-20). All of these are clear distinctions and
necessitate two entirely separate events.
To disregard such contrasts as these by blending everything into one single
action or crisis can only lead to confusion of mind as to the future program of
Differences, as They Apply to Christ
As the rapture, Christ appears as the Bridegroom, Lord, and Head
of the Church. At the revelation, He
comes as King, Immanuel, and Messiah of Israel (Rev. 19:16; Ps. 2:2; Isa. 7:14;
Zech. 12:10; 13:6; 14:4-11). Before the
Tribulation, Christ appears as the “bright and morning star” (Rev. 2:28;
22:16), but after the Tribulation His appearance to the remnant is as “the Sun
of righteousness with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2). These are apt symbols of the two phases of
Christ’s coming, for the morning star is seen by comparatively few and rises in
the heavens before the sun appears. At
the revelation, Christ shall rule the nations with a “rod of iron” (Rev.
19:15), but at the rapture (to use the language of Song of Solomon 2:4) His
banner over us is love.
Differences, as They Apply to the Events Themselves
several important factors, the coming of Christ for the Church differs from His
return to earth with the Church. When
Christ appears from glory to subdue His enemies and set up an earthly kingdom,
the whole order of life as it is now will be changed and improved. Creation will be liberated from its bondage
(Rom. 8:19-23) and the “desert shall rejoice, and blossom as a rose” (Isa.
35:1). Zoological behavior will be
radically altered, for the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and at that time
“the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” 9Isa. 11:6-9; Ezek.
34:25; Hos. 2:18). Governments shall be
altered and wars abolished (Isa. 2:2-4); sickness and death shall be diminished
(Rev. 21:4), and all the earth shall know experimentally that it is God’s Son
who reigns upon the throne of David.
These and other vast changes will occur when Christ returns to set up
His glorious millennial reign upon earth, yet none of these take place at the
snatching away of the Church. At the
rapture, the sin of the world remains unjudged and the creature continues
subject to bondage. However, at the
revelation not only will sin be judged, but Satan himself will be bound (Rev.
20:1-3) and the curse of sin largely lifted from the earth. At the former, Israel’s covenants remain
unfulfilled, while at the latter, Israel enters into her heritage. At the rapture, the dead in Christ are
raised and caught up o heaven; at the revelation, Old Testament saints are
raised and Israel shall stand in judgment before her King in respect to entrance
into an earthly kingdom.
very fact that the rapture of the saints is declared a mystery (I Cor. 15:51),
a truth “hid from the ages and from generations, but now ... made manifest to
his saints” (Col. 1:26), makes it impossible to merge it with the revelation of
Christ to earth. This fact alone serves
to confirm the many contrasts already discussed. A Pauline mystery is a truth which previously had not been
revealed, but now has been plainly declared. It is a truth, previously unforeseen in the Old Testament, but now
clearly revealed in the New Testament.
The translation of the saints, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trump,” is such a mystery (I Cor. 15:51, 52).
“mystery” character of the coming of Christ for His Church sets it distinctly
apart from the return of Christ to earth prior to His kingdom reign. The revelation of the Son of Man is nowhere
a mystery, but is the subject of plain Old Testament prophecy (Deut. 30:3; Isa.
11:11; 61:2; Zech. 14:4, etc.). Jude 14
records: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying,
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment
upon all. ...” How then can the rapture
of the saints be a Pauline mystery if it is not comprehended as a separate
event from the revelation of Christ?
Also, the coming of Christ to earth, as viewed by Old Testament
prophets, is associated with sings and predicted events which first must be fulfilled. The rapture, however, is viewed in the New
Testament as imminent; it is not subject to prior events, nor is it a topic of
Old Testament prophecy.
is a decided inconvenience to the posttribulation rapture theory that the
saints are raptured at all, but even they have to admit that the Bible teaches
it. And having so admitted, they have
yet to explain what benefit is derived for the Church by a round-trip into the
clouds and back to earth, all of which is instantaneous, or at best, in a
matter of moments. They have yet to
harmonize the many obvious distinctions by which the rapture is set apart from
the revelation, and also have yet to offer an orderly interpretation of
prophetic events – one that will include an acceptable view of the Bema seat
and the marriage supper, with all their attendant details. The posttribulational view would lose absolutely
nothing if the saints were not raptured at all, yet they cannot deny that when
Christ returns to earth the second time, His own are seen coming from heaven
with Him. Their view is out of harmony
with almost every detail of I Thessalonians 4:13-18, with its comforting hope;
it cannot reconcile the mystery character of the rapture in I Corinthians
15:51, 52; it has very little to say about the promise of heavenly mansions in
John 14:1-3. Yet even they acknowledge
that these are the three absolutely cardinal Scriptures as touching the rapture
of the saints. If only men would let
the Scriptures speak for themselves!
How clear is its testimony that rapture and revelation deal with
separate issues. We shall not
all sleep, but we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air – but
when they say, Peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh upon them. The contrast is clear. One has but to compare I Thessalonians 4:16-18
with II Thessalonians 1:7-10 to see immediately that something different is in
Shall Populate the Millennial Earth?
Scriptures which describe the end time make it rather obvious that there shall
be righteous men living upon the earth when Christ returns in the glory of his
revelation. Both Testaments indicate
that a believing remnant of Israelites shall be preserved from the Tribulation
to welcome the return of their Messiah (Isa. 11:11; Jer. 23:3; Zech. 13:8, 9;
14:4, 5; Rev. 12:17). The tribes of
Israel certainly will be upon the earth when the Son of Man comes in the clouds
of heaven and His elect are gathered together from the four winds (Matt. 13:30,
31). Matthew 25:31-33 gives not the
slightest indication that the “sheep” who stand at Christ’s right hand have
ever been caught up from the earth in translation experience. When the Son of Man comes in the blaze of
His glory, both the “sheep” and the “goats” are gathered together unto
Him. Furthermore, the two redeemed
companies of Revelation 7 bear witness that men are washed white in the blood
of the Lamb right up to the time of the revelation.
is important to consider this phenomena, that there are righteous ones on earth
who meet the Lord when He descends with ten thousands of His saints. These form an important group to enter the
millennial kingdom of Christ. Few seem
to have notice that their presence at the turn of the age has a vital bearing
on the position of the rapture in the schedule of end time events.
as the posttribulational brethren maintain, all the saints yet alive when
Antichrist has done his worse and Tribulation is past are caught up to meet
Christ and return in triumph in His train, how then is one to account for this
presence of righteous men on earth when Christ descends to establish the
millennial kingdom? Is one to believe
that some were overlooked, that there was a divided bride and a partial
rapture? Or is one simply to understand
that there must be a period of time between the rapture and the revelation
during which they were brought to a knowledge of salvation? Of the two alternatives, this latter is the
obvious conclusion, logical and uncomplicated.
But such a conclusion is fatal to posttribulationalism.
look at the same issue from a slightly different angle. Who shall populate the millennial earth
after the return of Jesus Christ?
Certainly not the saints who have been raptured, for I Corinthians
15:51-54 testifies that the dead and the living in Christ “will be changed,”
receiving at the rapture their glorified, resurrection bodies. Before the kingdom reign of Christ even begins
upon earth, they will have “put on immortality.” Nor shall the unrighteous populate the millennial earth, for
those not killed by Tribulation judgments shall be destroyed by the brightness
of His appearing (Rev. 19:15; II Thess. 2:8-12).
are many indicates that the unrighteous shall in no wise inherit the kingdom of
Christ. God shall purge from among
Israel all of the rebel Jews (Ezek. 20:38).
The tares shall be rooted out from among the wheat and burned with fire,
and this before “the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father”
(Matt. 13:30, 40-42). Christ, in the
Olivet discourse, constantly warns that none but the righteous shall enter His
kingdom. Who then shall populate the
millennium? Can immortal beings be
married and beget children? “In the
resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the
angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30).
Will men who have put on immortality own property, plowing their fields
and cultivating each his own vineyard?
(Micah 4:3, 4). What disorder is
wrought by the posttribulational theory that all the saints are raptured and
changed just prior to the kingdom!
do unbelievers in the millennium come from if all who enter in are saints who
have put on immortality? “When the thousand
years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to
deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth ... the number
of whom is as the sand of the sea” (Rev. 20:7, 8). These who succumb to this final Satanic delusion are not redeemed
men, and certainly have never been caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
Practically all that is known about the millennial
age is thrown into hopeless confusion by the notion that rapture and revelation
occur almost simultaneously on the day which ends Tribulation and ushers in the
kingdom reign of Christ. Harmony of the
prophetic Word is achieved only when a period of time is recognized after the
rapture but before Christ’s revelation in glory. Seven years of Tribulation intervene between
the two during which God speaks in wrath, yet not so loudly that He cannot in
grace call sinners to Himself.
Multitudes are saved during the Tribulation. Many shall be martyred, but those who endure to the end shall in
the flesh enter the kingdom. The
redeemed of the Tribulation period are the ones who populate the millennial