Author: Fuel For Faith

RAPTURE 15(a): THE BRIDE

The “wedding supper of the Lamb”, announced in Revelation chapter 19, is believed to be a love-feast involving Jesus Christ and his bride, the raptured Church.  The rapture of the Church is commonly considered to be the calling of Christ’s bride. To this point, I agree. However, pre-tribulation rapture believers are convinced this love feast will occur in heaven while the tribulation is playing out on the earth. They say that an early rapture mirrors betrothal rites and ceremonies in ancient Jewish culture. Are these beliefs really supported in Scripture?

Welcome to the latest excerpt from my book* This subject, the Bride of Christ, as it relates to the rapture, is in two parts. The second part (b) will probably appear next week.

THE IMMINENT COMING

The concept of “imminence”, which I covered in an earlier post, is vital to the theory that Christ will call his bride into heaven before the tribulation. Proponents quote Jesus from the Olivet Discourse, when he said:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36)

PT believers claim that this and other similar phrases are directly related to the ancient custom of the groom suddenly and unexpectedly showing up to claim his bride, and so support a pre-tribulation rapture. Instead, as I demonstrated when discussing imminence, the above quote and others like it were actually said for the benefit of the very people pre-tribulationists claim will be left behind to live through the tribulation.

TEN VIRGINS

One passage of scripture used to support the idea that ancient Jewish marriage rites prefigure a pre-tribulation rapture is found towards the end of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 25:1-13). Here Jesus tells the well-known parable of ten virgins who were betrothed, and expecting the groom to come and take them in marriage. Five were ready for the groom when he came, but five were foolish and were not ready. The belief is that the “ready” virgins who went with the groom represent people who will be ready for the rapture before tribulation, and so are taken by Jesus Christ into heaven. The foolish five represent those not ready, and so are left behind.

Upon a reading of the whole passage, we can see that this parable doesn’t work for the pre-tribulation rapture model, because once the ready virgins were taken to the marriage feast, said Jesus, “…the door was shut” (verse 10). The door was not just shut for seven years, but shut permanently. The groom said to those left behind, now on the other side, “I do not know you” (verse 12). Here is a complete severance of those left behind by the groom: they were rejected forever.

In contrast, as demonstrated even in a certain series of successful books and movies based on a pre-tribulation rapture, Scripture says that there will be believers, or ”saints” on the earth during the tribulation, who will be resurrected if killed, or “gathered” by the angels when Christ returns to the earth:

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring–those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus (Revelation 12:17).

These saints clearly have not been rejected. Are these believers, who remain faithful to Jesus against the forces of evil, to be left out of the marriage supper? Are they not wedded to Christ? If not, how can they receive eternal life? Can they be saved and faithful followers of Jesus and yet not be a part of the bride of Christ?

This very final-sounding remark of the groom to the five virgins he leaves behind, “I do not know you” is reminiscent of the words of Jesus when he warned that those who don’t do his will are going to get a severe shock when they expect to enter the kingdom of heaven but can’t:

I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23 ESV).

When the five virgins who were “ready” went with the groom to the wedding feast in Jesus’ parable, they were the last to go. Yet in the book of Revelation we find that the gospel is preached throughout the world even during the tribulation, and there will be many saints who “hold to the testimony of Jesus and obey his commandments”. The calling and gathering of believers in the day of the Lord will come when he sends out his angels to gather his elect, at the end of the tribulation. At the end of the virgins parable Jesus Christ again gives this warning:

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

If the five wise virgins going with the groom symbolize a pre-tribulation rapture, we Church-age and good rapture-candidate believers are presumably the “virgins” being told to be ready in this Olivet allegory. But the same warning to be ready was also given just after a description of Christ’s glorious return in power and glory, so that about that very day-the day of Christ’s physical appearing for all the world to see,  Jesus said:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son…” (Matthew 24:36).

The warning to be ready for the groom in the virgin parable matches the warning to be ready for the glorious, visible return of Christ.

Jesus continued from the above warning to be ready for his coming, reminding his disciples of the people who died in the Flood of Noah’s time (Matthew 24:37-39). He said:

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (verse 42).

The Church is, indeed, the bride of Christ. But the teaching that Christ will take his bride home before the tribulation is unfounded. Even if we accept the claim that ancient Jewish marriage customs do foreshadow Christ’s coming for his Church, there’s still no Biblical basis to demand that this calling must be before the tribulation begins, unless we use circular reasoning. It’s the belief that tribulation events will be clearly seen from the start of a seven year period, which then claims that the groom will appear without warning. But as we’ve seen, Jesus even warned those around on the earth during the tribulation that he will come without warning.

REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY?

Remember that after five wise virgins were called by the groom to the marriage feast in Jesus’ parable, the door was shut and nobody else was allowed in to the wedding. Indeed, the groom, representing Christ, said to those outside, “I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12 ESV). If the Olivet Discourse is mainly for Jews, and the marriage rites are those for Jewish wedding ceremonies, why is it that, according to pre-tribulation thinking, the wedding supper is excluding the “elect” gathered by angels, and seen by pre-tibulation teachers as the Jewish remnant? Isn’t this some sort of replacement theology?

We aren’t left without other scripture to guide us on the subject of the wedding and wedding feast. Earlier in Matthew’s gospel we read a lengthy section in which Jesus addressed the chief priests and elders who hated him (Matthew 21:23). This discussion leads to the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14).The king, snubbed by those representing unbelieving Jews, proceeds to invites any who will come. Those who respond represent, of course, Gentiles. But there are also Jewish believers, which must include at the very least Christ’s original eleven, and all his followers of the first century including Paul: all who will “come”. There’s no separate arrangement for different groups of guests: there is one wedding for all.

Why is it that the “bride” of Christ in Revelation is generally considered to be the Gentile Church, but the Jewish remnant is not, when Jews were the first to be invited to the wedding? Why would we think that the Church would be present at Christ’s wedding but not the remnant, nor the “elect” who are gathered at the second coming of Christ?

As I wrote in chapter five of my book, pre-tribulation teachers have to say that most of the content of the Olivet Discourse is intended for a Jewish believing remnant who will be around during the tribulation while the Church is in heaven, because obviously those who would see the events of the tribulation which Jesus was describing could not have been taken in a pre-tribulation rapture. Yet it was during that same discourse and to those same believers that Jesus said the day and hour, while clearly coming, would be unknown:

Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33).

This “right at the door” phrase is evocative of the marriage custom, claimed by pre-tribulationists, of the groom coming to the door of the bride to take her with him, and it’s placed immediately before the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ to the whole world. The observers Jesus is addressing would have to first see “all these things” (verse 33). “These things” are the very things which pre-tribulationists tell us we in the Church cannot see.

Then Jesus said:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36) and;

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

*ALL LEFT BEHIND:THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

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FAITH IN EVOLUTION

Billions of years ago the chloroplast evolved and enabled life on earth. Do you believe that? If you do, you have something called “faith”, because there is no evidence whatsoever that it evolved (note 1).

HAZE

Billions of years ago the first self-replicating living cell formed from non-life. Do you believe that? If you do, you have faith, because there is no evidence or record of it happening (note 2).

Billions of years ago, or thereabouts, the first enzymes-vital to life- were “invented” by happy chance. Do you believe that? If so, you have faith, because there is no record or evidence of it happening  (note 3).

Billions of years ago, our magnetosphere evolved, protecting life from the onslaught of the sun’s perpetual blast of plasma, or solar wind. At about the same time, give or take a billion or so years, the earth’s ionosphere evolved, protecting us from the sun’s life-destroying emission of UV and X-rays. Do you believe that? Your faith is truly amazing, because there’s no record of them evolving, or of why they would evolve (note 4).

The incredible “coincidences” of nature are endless. Stay tuned for some more in the future. Meanwhile, give a thought to the possibility (I really mean “fact”) that there is an intelligent creator.

NOTES (Previous posts where I have discussed these things, with references).

1: https://nickyfisher.com/2018/01/05/photosynthesis-fact-and-fiction/

2: https://nickyfisher.com/2016/07/22/the-must-haves-of-evolution/

3: https://nickyfisher.com/2019/06/22/the-managers-of-truth/

4: https://nickyfisher.com/2019/05/04/how-evolutionists-hide-meaning/

 

RAPTURE 14: THE ELECT

Who are the “elect” gathered by Jesus Christ and his angels, at the end of the tribulation?

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Here’s excerpt 14 from my book on the rapture. I’m sorry that this is a pretty long post again, so please scroll down the subtitles if you need to, to at least get the gist of it. I will, as promised, get around to the subject of the Bride of Christ very soon. Today’s post pertains to the Bride.

WHO ARE THE ELECT?

During his Olivet Discourse Jesus Christ said that in his future physical return for all the world to see, he will command angels to gather his “elect” from the “four winds”. This gathering of the elect, whoever they are, is generally recognized to be at the end of the Tribulation:

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24: 30b-31).

THE PRE-TRIBULATION VIEW

So just who are the “elect” Jesus was speaking of? They’re being gathered at the end of the tribulation, so it’s a significant question, because if it’s the Church, then the rapture cannot be before the tribulation. Teachers who hold to the pre-tribulation rapture are adamant that the elect in this passage cannot be the Church, but instead are an elite band of Jews, chosen and anointed by God to evangelize the world during the Tribulation. Jesus was speaking to Jews at the time, they claim, and believers who were previously rapture-ready have already gone to heaven. So the “elect” Jesus referred to must be Jews, according to the prevailing view in the evangelical world.  But does this assertion stand up to close scrutiny?

My Zondervan ESV Study Bible here defines “elect” as “the people of God”, and my “Strongs” Concordance (see chapter 6 note 1 of my book) states that the Greek word translated “elect” most often means “chosen” or “chosen one”. It can also mean “election”; “choice”; “selection” or “chosen”. There is no other qualifying term used by Jesus.

Given these definitions alone, apart from a single individual being specifically chosen for something, the word used in the Olivet Discourse could possibly be referring to a specific group of believers such as a remnant of Jews, but it could also be speaking of believers in general, since all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, are “chosen”. So we aren’t any clearer on the matter than we were, except to say that the assertion that the “elect” spoken of in the Olivet Discourse is a Jewish remnant only, is an assumption at best. Perhaps we can gain some insight by looking at other uses of the word in the New Testament.

Paul certainly used the word “elect” to refer to a remnant of Jews, in Romans 11 verses 6 and 7. Does this confirm the pre-tribulation view? No, because there’s no indication in Romans chapter 11 that only Jews can be the “elect” or the benefactors of election: God can and does “choose” from all people groups and nations. Not only that, but the same Greek word translated “elect” is used to describe Gentile believers.

THE APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES

Paul wrote to Timothy:

I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10).

Who was Paul referring to? Who was he calling the elect? If we read the context of the letter we see no direct reference to Jewish believers or a remnant of Jews. And who was Paul “enduring” for? Was it just for Jews? Paul himself gives us the answer in another letter:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles… “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:1 and 8).

When Paul wrote to Timothy that he endured everything for the sake of the elect, he was in a Roman prison, and suffering, as he said himself, “for the sake of you Gentiles”. And we know, from the book of Acts, that Paul not only suffered as a result of how the Jews persecuted him, but how the unbelieving Gentiles treated him. In fact, when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive:

He shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’” (Acts 18:5-6).

In the book of Romans Paul was addressing Gentiles in the same passage which we noted above, when speaking about a remnant of Jews:

I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry (Romans 11:13).

Paul’s “enduring” message was echoed in his letter to the Colossians. This statement clarifies for us who he was enduring for:

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

PAUL-SUFFERING FOR THE ELECT

Paul is speaking of suffering for the Church. So when Paul told Timothy that he endured everything for the sake of the elect, it seem pretty clear that he was speaking of the Church, and not simply a Jewish remnant. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. While he must have suffered for the sake of Jewish believers also, he stated plainly that he was suffering for the Church. It’s clear then that when he said he was “enduring” for the sake of the elect (2 Timothy 2:10) he saw the entire Church-Gentiles and Jews and not just a Jewish remnant, as the elect. The Church was and is the body of people who would become heirs of salvation through Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. They were and are the elect.

THE CHOSEN ARE THE ELECT

Further, the Greek word translated “elect” is at times translated “chosen” by some Bible versions. For example, in Romans chapter 8, the passage frequently used by Gentile Christians as encouragement that nothing can separate us from the love of God, the NIV tells us that Paul asks:

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 NIV).

Most translations, such as the KJV, use the word “elect” in place of “chosen” in this verse. In this case, Paul’s encouragement which we regularly and rightly apply to ourselves, is directed to the elect. Therefore we Gentiles, along with Jewish believers; we members of Christ’s body, the Church, are the elect:

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (KJV).

It would be a tough job indeed to convince a majority of Christian ministers and Bible teachers that Romans chapter 8 is only addressing a remnant of Jews and not Gentile saints. Therefore, Paul is calling the Church “God’s elect”.

To the Colossians, indisputably a predominantly Gentile church (1:27; 2:13) Paul wrote the following:

Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts…” (Colossians 3:12 ESV).

The Greek word Paul used here, translated “chosen” is the same as that translated “elect” in the Matthew 24 passage. It would be a mistake to miss the fact that the very same Greek word Jesus used to describe the angels gathering the elect from the four corners of the earth (Matthew 24:31) is used by Paul in the verse we looked at from Romans chapter 8. It’s also the same word used to describe the remnant in Romans 9:11 and 11:28, because the Jewish remnant is a part of that elect.

PETER AND THE ELECT

Peter’s first letter begins by addressing “God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia Cappadocia…” and so on. It would be easy to assume that Peter, a Jew, was addressing Jews in this letter, because Jews were scattered throughout the known world even then. But there are several clues to the contrary. For example, Peter wrote:

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God (1 Peter 2:10 NIV).

The sacrifice of Jesus opened wide the door of inclusion of Gentiles into God’s kingdom. The people of God were scattered throughout the known world. Not only had these believers as Gentiles become people of God, but they had been “chosen”. Peter used the same Greek word to say this as the word Jesus used, translated “elect” in the Olivet Discourse:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious… (1 Peter 2:4 ESV);

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

There is unity of application of this word. The elect includes not only a remnant of Jews, but all benefactors of God’s salvation, including Gentile Christians.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the assertion that Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 24 was speaking of Jews only when he referred to the gathering of the elect at the end of the Tribulation is unfounded. It’s an assumption built on other assumptions, including the conviction that the Church will be taken to heaven even before the Tribulation begins, and that the prophecies of Matthew chapter 24 are for Jews only. This is circular reasoning. Instead, Jesus can be just as confidently said to be speaking of the entirety of the elect: both Jewish and Gentile believers, the Church.

Certainly, many of the prophecies are direct warnings to Jews, particularly in relation to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. But we must ask if the tribulation is going to affect Jews only. Is it not going to affect the entire world? Yes, it is, in which case, the verse about the angels gathering God’s elect from the four winds-literally from all over the world-can certainly apply to people other than Jews only.

People will come to salvation during the Tribulation (Revelation 14:6) and they will “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. The fullness of the Gentiles will not be completely grafted into the kingdom until Jesus appears to deliver Jerusalem (see part 13). So how can we arbitrarily put an end to the Church age before that?

Thanks for reading this long post. It’s an excerpt from my book “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon. This post is actually an up-to-date edit. You’re getting a “second edition”, free, on this blog, and in time the entire book will be published here. Follow my blog to get notifications, or get the book to read the whole thing at once. 

TRUSTING IN MAN (OR WOMAN)

I can think of several people within my extended family who are trusting in man. By “man” I mean the philosophies of fallible human beings…

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One is well and truly brainwashed and controlled by a large international cult, so that she has avoided all contact with her family for years, including her own mother. She is, effectively, “gone”, though certainly not unreachable by God himself. The question is, since God has given us free will (right-I’m not a Calvinist) whether she will ever respond.

Another, a born-again Christian for decades, has been following one particular televangelist-a man with a very colored reputation and some very dubious theology for several years, to the point that she now considers him to be infallible, and pressures the rest of her family to do the same. She is, to put it in simple terms, obsessed with him, and has abandoned her local church and her Christian friends. Other family members are ardent followers of other famous televangelists, and refuse to question their wealth-gathering tactics or their banal, un-Biblical theology.

One man who I grew up with, representing perhaps several others in my family, is so convinced of the theory of evolution ex-nihilo that he will not listen to a single word about a loving God. He cannot point to any evidence for his beliefs but he’s immovable anyway.

As I look around at the world, I see literally millions led in their political and religious thought by celebrities, who are now among the high-priests of modern day philosophy, along with angry atheists and a host of other “ists”, whose one common profession is that the God of the Bible is the one which should be ridiculed or ignored completely.

More immediately, many of us have found ourselves on the receiving end of an unfaithful lover or spouse, having once believed them to be the “right” one.

As I wrote in a post titled “Ex-ing the Experts”* my own conviction is that we should question everyone and everything. Yes, we have a lot to learn from others, but no human is infallible, and many are without doubt biased, twisted, or just plain wrong. I’ve been on both sides of faith, and now, certain that the God of the Bible is the One true God and the only One who is true and faithful, I agree with His word and guidance, and His only:

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD (Jeremiah 17:5).

*EX-ING THE EXPERTS:

https://nickyfisher.com/2017/12/30/ex-ing-the-experts/

HOW TO BUILD A REAL AND LASTING YOU

Who’s read C.S.Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce”? In this stimulating novel Lewis sees some people who make it to heaven as being brilliant, vibrant beings, shining as the sun. Others are portrayed as just feint wisps: dim, almost ghost-like forms-the difference being due to the way they had lived their lives on the earth…

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Please don’t mistake my message. I’m not speaking about a gospel of works here: salvation is by faith. However, rewards are conditional.

Socialist-minded readers will automatically recoil from the concept of “inequality” in celestial rewards, as in Lewis’ work. But like it or not, there is considerable Biblical basis for the idea that some will be greater than others in heaven. After all, Jesus said so himself. The parable of the talents is clear on this (Matthew chapter 25). And when it comes to how we act on God’s word or otherwise, Jesus said:

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19 NIV).

Perhaps the verse which inspired Lewis is this one:

…they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).

I’m convinced that Lewis was really onto something profound in his descriptions of post-human beings in heaven-something which we should, perhaps, consider much more than we do.

Have you ever looked at some people and seen them almost as shells only? They’re human, and they’re loved by God, but they have no depth of mind or character. They look only upon mundane, every-day things, like what they will eat for the next meal. There’s no depth of thought or concern for others, or for God, or for anything with any meaning or significance. In some ways they’re almost like animals.

How will God judge the simple and the shallow? Perhaps the first answer is “fairly”, because He’s the righteous judge. It’s not brains or knowledge which endears us to our Creator: He doesn’t look down on them like we do. It’s not material wealth or popularity, or great energy, or success, or imagination or wide experience of life, and it’s not our earthly achievements. What we drive and where we live doesn’t impress our God at all. And it’s not our humanity which God loves in us. After all, “The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4). Those who displease God are of no lasting value.

The route to God’s heart, and to a “greater” you in eternal, lasting terms is through his word, as we read in the Matthew verse. If we consider it highly, and if we seek to live it out, we are then building our own eternal nature-what will remain when the ultimate trial comes, and what will live on for ever. Our faith in God is also of utmost concern to Him. Works born of true faith is what He’s looking for in us. This is what Jesus called “fruit”.

I’m not speaking here about human works. Only what is truly Godly can last through the fire of judgment, and human righteousness without our God is not acceptable to Him. It can’t be done without Jesus Christ. Neither do I subscribe to a common view in some areas of the Church that we can’t do anything-God does it all. That’s a cop-out and it’s not what Scripture says. It’s team-work, where we live in Christ, and we apply ourselves to what we know we must do, and He works in our efforts:

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:4-6).

It’s our Godly character-that which is living in Christ, which will live on. By growing in Him, what grows will be our real, lasting, eternal self: everything else about us will be gone.