Category: BIBLE PROPHECY

RAPTURE 24: WHICH LAST TRUMPET IS THE LAST LAST TRUMPET?

Not only do to teachers of the pre-tribulation rapture theory insist, without scriptural statements, that the first of two resurrections is in stages, but they also have to resort to claiming that there is more than one “last trumpet”. This is the subject of excerpt twenty-four of my book*

Paul, when telling the Corinthians that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51) speaking of the resurrection and the rapture, said that “the last trumpet” will sound (verse 52). Then, when writing to the Thessalonians on the same topic he mentioned “the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-19, esp. verse 16). Jesus, when speaking of his physical and visible return to the earth, said that he would send his angels “with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Since there will be a “last trumpet” according to Paul, at which the rapture will take place, there must be previous trumpets, or a series of trumpets. We know from Revelation that there are trumpets sounded as a part of the final judgments on the earth. However, pre-tribulationists claim that the loud trumpet call which Jesus said will be sounded upon his glorious return at the end of the tribulation is a different trumpet call, or part of a different set of trumpet blasts entirely to the trumpet call Paul spoke of. They say that there is more than one series of trumpet calls, and so Jesus’ trumpet call announcing the gathering of his elect at the end of the tribulation has nothing to do with the trumpet sounded at the rapture. This has to be their claim to avoid the otherwise clear fact that Christ will return for his bride and his elect at or near the end of the tribulation.

Do they know that to be so, or is it necessary for them to invoke different trumpets or series of trumpets in order to preserve their theory? If there are other trumpets or series of trumpet blasts, and since “the”, or “a” “last trumpet” heralds the resurrection and the rapture of the living, we could rightfully ask when these other trumpet blasts or series of trumpets were or will be heard, what did or will they announce, and…which last trumpet is the last last trumpet?

Trumpets are heard from time to time throughout the Bible. However, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find any other series of trumpets related to end times events, other than the one found in Revelation, which announces a final series of judgments. There are only two other trumpet sounds mentioned in Revelation. One is the voice of Jesus in the first chapter when he spoke to John, which sounds like a trumpet, and the second is speaking of the fact that musicians will no longer be heard in Babylon when it is destroyed (18:22). These are clearly not related to the rapture.

Zechariah tells us that “…the Lord God will sound the trumpet”, in a prophecy sounding very much like an end-times deliverance of his people Israel (Zechariah 9:14). This does nothing to alleviate the pre-tribulationist’s problem, but only adds to it, because it fits with the principle of Christ appearing in power and glory to deliver Jerusalem, to bring judgment, and to gather his people. And the fact that God was only speaking of the deliverance of Israel in Zechariah’s prophecy does not mean that the return of Christ is only to deliver Jews. This could simply be a part, a detail of the bigger picture.

Exactly what happens at the seventh trumpet judgment of Revelation anyway-is it at all relevant to this question? An angel gives us the answer in chapter 10:

…in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished…” (10:7).

Didn’t Paul also call the resurrection and the rapture a “mystery”? (1 Corinthians 15:51). Hmm, that’s quite a coincidence isn’t it? Perhaps that’s a different mystery…

Here in chapter 10 of Revelation we’re told what will happen when the seventh-and last-trumpet is about to be blown, but in the next chapter it is actually blown, and this is the result of it:

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

The seventh trumpet announces that God and his Christ have taken over the world and have begun to reign. Another outcome of this seventh trumpet follows:

The nations were angry and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name…” (11:18).

Believers, according to Paul, will appear at “the judgment seat of Christ”, and will be rewarded or shamed for what we have done while alive in the world (2 Corinthians 5:10). I wrote about this in my chapter on the resurrection.

The seventh and last trumpet of Revelation has delivered “the kingdom of the world” into the hands of God and of his Christ (11:15), and at the same time set up the judging of the dead and the rewarding of God’s people (11:18). Can it really be coincidence that Paul wrote how, upon Christ’s return in “blazing fire” and not before, that the persecutors of God’s people (and here he was referring to Church age saints) will be judged, and the persecuted rewarded (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)? There is just too much agreement with these two accounts for them to be unrelated.

The seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last. To the unbiased this is at least reminiscent of the “last trumpet” and the “trumpet call of God” spoken of by Paul as a herald of the resurrection and the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). It’s also undeniably similar to the return Jesus spoke of, when, in the space of two verses, he described both his return to the earth in power and glory, and the “loud trumpet call” upon which the angels will gather his elect (Matthew 24:30-31). At this point, the kingdom of earth will have become the kingdom of God and of his Christ.

IMMINENCE THEORY AND LAST TRUMPETS DON’T FIT TOGETHER

Warning and announcement is the purpose of trumpet blasts in Biblical and secular history. But if, as pre-tribulation believers say, the rapture and the coming of Jesus Christ is ‘imminent’, so that there is nothing to occur before it in terms of last days events, what were the previous trumpets for, and when did they sound, according to scripture? If the rapture is imminent, what could any previous trumpets possibly mean to us: surely we cannot know them or recognize them-we aren’t supposed to. And if we could, why is there nothing in scripture about them? Where are the previous trumpets described in Bible prophecy? Jesus said nothing about them in his Olivet Discourse. Paul said nothing about any trumpets previous to the “last trumpet” heard in the resurrection and rapture. In truth, they’re absent from scripture, and the only series of trumpets we’re told about is the seven trumpets in Revelation which lead up to the transfer of earth’s kingdom to our God. Some pre-tribulation teachers have attempted to attach trumpets to past events in history, such as the First World War, but this is simply guesswork and not supported by scripture. No-one can confirm such things, so how are such “trumpet” blasts of any use at all?

So then, the last trumpet spoken of by Paul when referring to the resurrection and rapture of believers could easily match the seventh trumpet- the last trumpet- described in Revelation chapters 10 and 11, which will occur at the end of the tribulation, not before it.

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

RAPTURE 23: RESURRECTION AND PAUL’S ORDER OF EVENTS

Last time I wrote that Revelation provides for only two resurrections: one at the return of Jesus Christ, and the other a thousand years later after the Millennial reign of Christ. Pre-tribulation rapture theory has to assert that the first resurrection is in stages separated by years of time, because the first resurrection in Revelation includes those who will be martyred during the tribulation. See part 22. Today I will continue the theme of resurrection in relation to the rapture. The fact that Paul listed the order of resurrection events is usually overlooked, but not here!

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I apologize once more that this is a long post. It’s also a little bit involved, and not an “easy” read. It is, therefore, helpful only for those who strongly want to know what the rapture is about Biblically-the intention of my book*. 

Before Paul told the Corinthians that they would be changed in the twinkling of an eye, he discussed the resurrection and the necessity of faith in it. Here Paul laid out an order of resurrection events in plain terms for us. He introduced his order of events by saying that as in Adam all die (speaking of the result of the Fall of man) so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, he wrote, there is an order of resurrection:

…each in his own turn” (verse 23).

Is this perhaps evidence of a “staged” first resurrection? Paul is enlightening us on the subject of “turns” here, including who will be raised first and second. He’s going to tell us in what order these fundamental happenings take place.

FIRST: “Christ the firstfruits” (verse 23a). Paul had already clarified that Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (v 20). He was the first to be raised permanently.

SECOND: “Then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (23b).

THIRD: “Then the end will come” (24a).

A shallow understanding of this order of events may suggest that the pre-tribulation position is the right one, so that the “end” is considered to be the tribulation and its culmination, which will happen after the rapture when Christ will come for believers. Is this correct?

To help us draw some conclusions about Paul’s “turns”, we need to ask some questions. In which of these three steps is the rapture? Which “coming” is Paul speaking of in the second step: a pre or mid-tribulation rapture, or his visible return in power and glory? Is this resurrection perhaps in “stages”? What does Paul mean by “those who belong to him”? Are those who belong to him just the people who are ready for the rapture while nominal believers have to be “left behind”? If so, where is the turn of those left behind? Which “end” is Paul speaking of? If it’s the end of the tribulation, then the second step could be speaking of an early or pre-tribulation rapture.

THE “COMING” OF CHRIST IS SINGULAR IN PAUL’S NARRATIVE

Why is it that here, where Paul is speaking of the order of events-particularly the resurrection, is there only one coming of Jesus for those who belong to him? This chapter-1 Corinthians 15- is the same chapter in which we read about resurrection and rapture, and that “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (verse 51-52). Paul is sharing the “mystery” of resurrection and rapture with us in the second half of the chapter-and we all see him as being privy to the facts. And yet when he gives us the order of resurrection in the first part of the chapter, there’s only one coming of Jesus mentioned. He said nothing about a split or a staged return, or a split or a staged resurrection. All he tells us is that Christ will come for those who belong to him. Surely, those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus” during the tribulation also belong to him? Surely, they will also be raised to live and to reign with him? The remarkable answer to this question is “Yes”- the saints martyred during the tribulation will be raised and will reign with Christ during the Millennium:

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6 NKJV). 

Significantly, neither is there any split or distinction later in the chapter when Paul discusses the “mystery”. There he’s telling us that for the dead and the living believer there will be instantaneous change from mortality to immortality. But gives no hint that this transformation is for “some” while the rest get left behind for a later, subsequent event in his order of things.

It’s no use saying that the coming of Jesus in Paul’s second event is a pre-tribulation rapture, because Paul says that he is coming for “those who belong to him”. Surely, at Jesus’ return in power and glory when he commands the angels to gather his elect, the elect “belong to him” (Matthew 24:31). And surely, those resurrected martyrs of Revelation chapter twenty also “belong to him” (Revelation 20:4). There cannot be several single comings of Jesus.

Pre-tribulation teachers speak of an in-the-clouds secret coming for the Church and later a visible coming in power and glory. Though Paul in his own words is laying out his meaning of “each in his own turn”– the “turns” of resurrection-he only speaks of one coming of Jesus Christ. There is no step between Paul’s second and third step. There are no “stages”. Paul said nothing like “then it will be the turn of true believers” or “then will come the turn of those who were left behind the first time”, or “then the turn of those martyred for Christ”. If the “coming” of Jesus is in two stages or more, why didn’t Paul say so here, in this chapter about resurrection and rapture?

We’re told in Revelation chapter 20 that all those who belong to Jesus will be raised before the millennial reign of Christ. There will not be any held back from resurrection until after the millennium:

This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them…they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:5-6).

Remember that those who are martyred during the tribulation are considered by Christ himself to be blessed. He isn’t going to count such people out of his first resurrection. And you will recall that in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus commands his angels at the end of the tribulation to gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus isn’t going to leave any of his people out of his Millennial kingdom.

So the most obvious reading of Christ’s coming in part 2 of Paul’s list of events which is in singular terms, is that there’s an all-inclusive coming for all believers in Christ, with no mention of a staged resurrection. But even if this resurrection Paul described in 1 Corinthians is a single reference to a staged or split resurrection, there is still no guarantee that the first stage of the first resurrection will be before the tribulation.

Further, it’s difficult to conclude from Daniel’s book, with any honest conviction, that the resurrection will take place before the work of Antichrist begins. The last five verses of Daniel’s 11th chapter describe Antichrist’s movements in the middle east, saying that “He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain” (11:45). We know that the “beautiful holy mountain” must be the temple mount in Jerusalem, and we know that both Jesus and Paul spoke of Antichrist’s revealing upon his temple mount appearance. It is after Daniel’s prophecy tells us this that it then speaks of the resurrection.

We know that Antichrist is not even revealed until the mid-point of the tribulation, when he enters the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), and we know that Antichrist is given just forty-two months of power on the earth (Revelation 13:5) before Christ returns and throws him into the lake of fire (19:20). Remember that a pre-tribulation rapture necessitates the resurrection of the dead occurring before any sign of Antichrist appearing or fulfilling any prophecy. This would be contrary to Daniel’s view of things, and Paul’s.

WHICH “END” IS PAUL SPEAKING OF?

We’re looking at Paul’s discussion of resurrection, and the order of events around the resurrection of those who belong to Jesus. Now we want to look at Paul’s third point of order. After Jesus comes and the dead are raised, Paul says, “the end will come” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Which “end” is Paul speaking of here? This is a vital question. Is he speaking of the tribulation, transpiring after our second step in which Christ comes for “those who belong to him”? This would signify a pre-tribulation rapture. Or is he thinking of a different “end”? Paul gives us the clear answer himself, in the following verses:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (15:24-26).

Revelation makes clear for us that Jesus Christ will reign on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6b). The last rebellion against God will be put down at the end of that thousand years (verses 9-10) and then death itself-the “last enemy” will be destroyed. This is the “second death (20:14). Then Christ will hand over the kingdom to the Father, as Paul said (Revelation 21:1-4 with 1 Corinthians 15:24). Paul is saying, then, that “the end” is when Jesus has put all his enemies down at the close of the thousand year reign: the final rebellion of Satan, and death itself. Then he will hand over the kingdom to the Father.

The “end” which Paul was saying would come after Christ returns for those who belong to him is not the tribulation, but the end of the millennium -a thousand years after Christ’s glorious appearing for every eye to see; the end of Satan, and the end of death.

In summary Paul’s sequence of resurrection events in his letter to the Corinthians only includes one “coming” of Jesus Christ and one resurrection of believers.

Scriptures about the resurrection do not favor a pre-tribulation rapture. The best we can say about them in this regard is that any proposed first “stage” of the first resurrection would have to be after the revealing of Antichrist.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. Available on Amazon in paperback and digital form.

RAPTURE 22: THE FIRST RESURRECTION

I was a pre-tribulation believer and proponent for twenty-eight years. Therefore I am, I  believe, well qualified to critique this mistaken position. Open your minds to reality, dear Christian brothers and sisters…

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Today’s excerpt from my book* is taken from chapter 14. The chapter is rather long, so today’s post contains a part and the rest will appear next week.

Paul, writing primarily about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, wrote that the dead will be raised “imperishable”, and that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). He gave us more detail of these events in his letter to the Thessalonians. Here he made clear that the resurrection will occur first, and then, “after that” those who are still alive will be taken up to meet the resurrected and the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Therefore, if the rapture were to occur before the tribulation, the resurrection would have to also occur before the tribulation. Conversely, of course, if the resurrection were to be at some time later, say, during or after the tribulation, then the rapture would have to be even later than that. So is it possible to pinpoint the time of the resurrection in relation to the tribulation using scripture?

Pre-tribulation believers have to assert that the resurrection will be in stages, because when we read of a resurrection of martyred believers at the end of the tribulation, occurring after the victorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, it is called in Revelation, “The first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5). There are only two resurrections in total, according to Revelation, and John informs us that if you miss the first resurrection, there’s a long wait until the second:

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (verse 5).

If it were to be the first “first” resurrection (intentional repeat) in which martyrs of Revelation are raised in chapter 20, then the rapture has to be at the end of the tribulation. So pre-tribulation theory has no choice but to say that the resurrection is in stages, that the resurrection of the martyrs is a second or even a third stage, and that the first stage, taking place with the rapture, occurred at least seven years earlier than chapter 20. Are pre-tribulation believers correct in invoking stages for the first resurrection? Or instead, could this resurrection of martyred believers in Revelation chapter 20, labeled by John “the first resurrection” actually be the same event as the resurrection Paul talked about to Corinthians and Thessalonians, which he associated with the rapture?

There’s no doubt that only the martyred are mentioned at this point in Revelation, giving the distinct impression that they’re the last ones left to be raised, and other believers must have been raised at some time before this. However, the fact that they’re the only ones mentioned here doesn’t exclude the possibility that their resurrection is actually just a featured detail; a part of the simultaneous resurrection of all believers. In that case the focus here, as it has been for several chapters of Revelation, is the persecution of all ages under the Harlot, and more specifically during the tribulation, where those living through it- the “saints who hold to the testimony to Jesus”-have been harassed and persecuted by the Beast. In this case their resurrection is most relevant to the account of tribulation events, and so the one in focus at this point.

WHERE ARE THE OTHER STAGES OF RESURRECTION?

Even though Paul had revealed the “mystery” of Christ’s return; the resurrection and the rapture, many years before the writing of Revelation, there’s no other reference in Revelation to the first resurrection before this one in chapter 20. Why not? It’s not at the beginning, or in any of the letters to the churches, or in the account of John being taken up to heaven. There’s no mention in heaven of resurrection before any seals are opened, or during or after them, until this talk of the “first” resurrection in chapter 20, after Christ’s return with his angels in chapter 19.

Verse 4 of chapter twenty, in which we see the martyrs raised, and before the martyrs are mentioned, speaks of “thrones, on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge”. We normally associate judgment with the physical return of Jesus to the earth. Indeed, how can anyone be judged without him? We, even as Christians, are going to receive a form of judgment, without condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:10 with Romans 8:1). So if the “judgment seat of Christ” is going to occur at the time of the resurrection of the martyrs, either the resurrection of the martyrs is a part of the general resurrection occurring simultaneously, or if the rapture occurred years earlier, the raptured have had to wait seven years to by judged. The other unlikely alternative is that Christ keeps getting out his judgment seat for each proposed phase of the resurrection. Why are seats of judgment being brought into view now for the first time in chapter 20? There’s no mention anywhere of any judgment occurring seven years before or at any previous point in Revelation.

Note, again, what Paul didn’t say to the Thessalonians or the Corinthians in the very scriptures we use as evidence of the resurrection and the rapture. He didn’t say, “some” of the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52). He didn’t say that those who are “ready” for the rapture will be taken and the others left. He didn’t say “some” of the dead will rise first and the rest later (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He said nothing in these passages about a two or three-staged resurrection, or a two-staged rapture, or for that matter a two or three-staged return of Jesus.

DANIEL’S RESURRECTION

Daniel’s prophetic book gives us an early, Old Testament glimpse of the resurrection. Chapter 11 first foretells some narrative of military and political struggles in the Middle-East in a chronological order, and then, by the end of chapter 11, we’re brought all the way up to the actual time and location of last-days tribulation events. There we learn a little about the movement of Antichrist and his forces in the Middle East.

Chapter 12 continues the order of events Daniel was shown, speaking of a time of “great distress” for the nation of Israel. This description closely resembles Jesus’ remarks in his Olivet Discourse, in which he speaks of the appearance of Antichrist, and the time of “great distress”, unequaled at no time past or future (Matthew 24:15-22). It also evokes Paul’s description of the time of Antichrist’s revealing which will release all sorts of evil on the world (2 Thessalonians 2).

It’s at the end of the succession of events Daniel is told about, and not at the beginning, that the angel talking to him speaks of the resurrection. First comes the warning of “a time of great distress, such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then”. Then the resurrection is described:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

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

WILL JESUS KEEP US FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL? (RAPTURE 21)

Will Jesus Christ keep true believers from the coming “hour of trial”, meaning the tribulation? That’s the claim of many people who teach an early rapture. This phrase is taken from a verse in Christ’s letter  to the church in Philadelphia, and the promise applied to believers in our age:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

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I have to wonder just how the Philadelphian church received the benefit of this promise, because if you think about it, they, being first-century Christians, didn’t get raptured before they died. Their bodies still sleep even now while their souls are “present with the Lord”. In the pre-tribulation rapture sense which people now hope for, that is, going to heaven while alive and so escaping persecution and death, there was no fulfillment for the Philadephians. Why would Jesus make a promise of rapture, if that’s what this is, to a first century church?

Could it be instead that the promise is being misinterpreted? Perhaps we could look at it in a different way. And the way I”m going to suggest isn’t going to be popular with some of you: the natural death of those in the first century church was their escape from trial. Isaiah wrote:

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find their rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57: 1-2).

Being human in the twenty-first century West we think that escape from trial should mean instant transport to heaven. But perhaps God has a different idea. Jesus told the Philadelphians that as they’d patiently endured they would be kept from trial, and we think that we deserve the same treatment-that is, rapture-while those “left behind” to live through the tribulation don’t. This attitude isn’t borne out in scripture. Even those who will bravely live through the tribulation, and refuse the mark of the beast, are said to “patiently endure” and remain faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12). At this very point in John’s book we’re told that those who die in the Lord at this time are “blessed”. And in language very reminiscent of the Isaiah quote above, we’re told that their deaths are their “rest”:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”…”Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them” (verse 13).

Here, we’re told what we cannot grasp in our relatively free and safe Western culture-that escape from trial does not have to entail rapture. And the obvious observation must be made that millions of believers through the centuries, and even today in many parts of the world, have not been delivered from persecution by being raptured. Jesus said,  No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:20).

PATIENT ENDURANCE

Here’s that quote from Jesus’ letter again:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

It seems easy to apply this phrase to the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t it? And yet there isn’t really any mention of “rapture” or of being changed and transported to heaven. Perhaps we should look at the context of this phrase before we make a decision. With the first part of the verse in place, it reads like this:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…I will keep you from the hour of trial…” (etc).

The reward of the Philadelphians was in return for their patient endurance. What does Jesus mean by “patient endurance”? When I was first a Christian I was waiting for the rapture to happen any day. I thought I didn’t need to get a job because I would be zipping off to heaven before I’d even signed the application form. I had told my unbelieving family members where I would be when I disappeared along with millions of others around the world, and I’d written out a large “Where I’ve Gone” note for them to find. Is that what Jesus meant by “patient endurance”, or was I missing something? We can get a good idea of what the Philadelphian church was patiently enduring, and what other churches were patiently enduring, by reading through Revelation, particularly the letters. In John’s opening testimony, he wrote:

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

John was suffering persecution because of his testimony-the testimony of Jesus. Because of this suffering he was “patiently enduring”, just as the Philadelphian church was (3:10).

Interestingly, Jesus also expected the Philadelphians to “hold on” to what they had, and he said to them (and to us) “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God” (3:11-12). Despite the fact that they were going to be kept from the world-wide trial which we may see as the tribulation, they were still expected to endure and to overcome. Their lives were not trouble free. They were not delivered from all trouble, and they were not raptured.

Overcoming is a common theme in the letters to the churches. It speaks of enduring persecution (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:21). The Olivet Discourse includes a very relevant passage in which Jesus speaks of those living in those future, last-days times of “distress”. Speaking about all the trials they will experience, he said:

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

These words, “stands firm” are translated from the very same word which is also translated “patient endurance”. The first-century church in Philadelphia lived through their own trials and patiently endured, just as the tribulation saints will be expected to patiently endure, because they will be the ones living at that time. The Philadelphians died nineteen hundred years ago and so by natural death were kept from the future hour of trial which will affect the whole world, if that’s the trial Jesus was speaking of. He may have been speaking about judgment instead.

Again, the “hour of trial”, if it is the tribulation, is not necessarily seven years long. The world will be in some sort of relative peace and security before Antichrist is revealed three and a half years before the return of Jesus, not seven years (Revelation 13:5). Therefore, even if Jesus had meant in his letter to the Philadelphians that we, in our time, will escape the tribulation, there is no guarantee that the rapture will occur seven or more years before the visible return of Christ.

Thanks for reading. This post is the twenty-first edited excerpt from my book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. It’s available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon.

RAPTURE 20: HOW TO BE READY

I was a pre-tribulation rapture believer for twenty-eight years: I finally saw the light. This series on the rapture is designed to present the alternative to anyone who really wants to know. You can search for other parts of this series in the box above, or you could get my book*

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HOW TO BE READY FOR THE RAPTURE

In Revelation chapter 19 we read that the bride-the Church-has made herself ready for the wedding of the Lamb (Revelation  19:7). In what way has the bride “made herself ready” before Christ returns to the earth? Has she been in heaven for seven years or more, getting those linen robes fitted, and practicing for the wedding? I think we’re given a strong clue as to the answer in the following two verses, though they’re often conveniently overlooked:

Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)”.

As I’ve pointed out, not only the bride of chapter 19 wears fine linen but angels do too. However, those saints who are martyred during the tribulation-and possibly before it- also seem to be wearing something very similar:

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained…then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer…” (6:9 and 11).

In chapter 19 fine linen is given to the bride seemingly as a gift, just as salvation is a gift of God. Salvation is by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, we’re told in chapter 19 of Revelation that the Church’s fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Doesn’t that sound a little like works?

There’s precedence to this imagery, in Jesus’ letter to the church in Sardis. Jesus speaks there of the deeds of those in the church (Revelation 3:1). They had a reputation for being alive in Christ, but they were not. He told them to repent and “wake up”. He acknowledges that there are a few people in Sardis, “who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white…” (verses 4-5).

Similarly, the church in Laodicea is accused by Christ of being “lukewarm” in their love for him. He tells them that they are “wretched, pitiful, poor blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). They have no robes on. Clearly he means the kind of robes we’ve already discussed. So among other things he counsels them to buy “white clothes to wear” from him (verse 18).

Therefore, considering our opening verse, ” …his bride has made herself ready”, along with the references above, being ready does not at all have to relate to being raptured. As with the bride in Revelation, so with these churches in existence well before the tribulation, and by extension anyone who wants to walk with Christ in white, we must live out the “deeds” expected of us (verse 1). As Christians we do not believe in salvation by works, but we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). We can’t live the way we did before our profession of faith, or else our profession is not genuine. At least some of those deeds expected of the church in Sardis included being spiritually awake and attentive to their Lord. Perhaps that’s the entire requirement. Clearly a vital theme, Jesus Christ reiterates it after the penultimate bowl judgment on the earth and before the final one:

Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed” (Revelation 16:15).

Getting to the point of this observation, it seems clear that the bride mentioned in chapter 19 “makes herself ready” by her deeds. The bride has not made herself ready for the wedding by being raptured or by getting used to being in heaven for seven years, or by spending seven years putting robes and make-up on: she’s made herself ready by the deeds done in her lifetime on the earth. She doesn’t have to be raptured before the tribulation in order to make herself ready. And those saints still struggling against the Antichrist on earth can be just as ready for the groom as those who may be in heaven. John gave counsel in this regard in his first epistle:

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

In short, the bride, conspicuously intangible, along with the wedding supper in the chapter 19 scene in heaven, usually described as the bride’s preparation for the attack force, does not even have to be in heaven to be ready for her groom.

*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, is available on Amazon. Alternatively, the entire book is being published here in an updated and edited form. This is part 20. More to come next week.