Tag: THE SECOND COMING

RAPTURE 19: WHO ARE “THE HOLY ONES” WHO RETURN WITH CHRIST?

If you’re honestly interested in the timing of the rapture, and if you’re brave enough to face the truth, here are some of the results of years of my own “no nonsense” study on the subject. I was a “pre-trib” believer for twenty-eight years. I now know how misinformed and wrong I was. Get the facts, and stop believing the hype…*

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Are “the holy ones” who return to earth with Jesus Christ the raptured Church, as pre-tribulation preachers claim? This post is related to earlier ones in the series which concern the Bride of Christ.

THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN

At or very near the end of the tribulation Jesus Christ will appear in the sky for the whole world to see. We read in scripture that he will come with a multitude, sometimes described as a “cloud”. Some Christians believe this prophesied multitude is the Church. The Church will have been in heaven with Jesus Christ for at least seven years, they say, and now she’s going to return with him to help defeat his enemies and claim the world.

We read in Revelation chapter 19:11-16 that the “armies of heaven” follow Christ into the skies of earth from heaven. They’re not named or identified, but they’re riding white horses, and they’re dressed in fine white linen, just as the Bride of Christ is given to wear earlier in the chapter (verse 14). I’ve seen numerous paintings or drawings of believers in flowing white robes, riding white horses to the earth for battle. As if to confirm the conviction that this army is the Church, Chapter 17 verse 14 says that when Christ overcomes the Beast, “with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers”. It may seem to be a reasonable and obvious assumption that this is the raptured Church riding from heaven to the earth with Christ. However, it really isn’t that clear-cut, and I offer here some considerable contrary observations to this view.

When the text says that the Lamb’s followers will be “with him” (17:14) it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be a part of what we could call “the Armageddon attack-force” from heaven. It may just mean that Christ’s victory is their victory, and that they’re going to be “with him”, in his presence, for eternity as his bride, because they’ve been faithful to him in the world.

Secondly, even if the Church is to be part of the Armageddon attack force, the attack will occur, according to Revelation,  when the beast and his ten kings are making war against Jesus Christ-and not before (verses 12-14). Therefore this event is not pre-tribulational. It’s not even before the mid-point of the “seven year tribulation”. It’s near the end of the last three and a half years, and probably at the end of them. We know that because this is the allotted time for the beast to hold power over the world:

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months”(Revelation 13:5).

There is therefore no clear reason to assume from chapter 19 that the Church has already been in heaven for seven years. If what we read about is really the Church leaving heaven on white horses with Jesus, it could just as well have been in heaven for a week, a month, or a year or two-there’s no way of knowing from this passage.

Thirdly, we can’t identify the riders just by what they wear. It’s not just the redeemed who wear clean white linen: angels do also:

“Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen” (15:6).

Fourth, when Christ leaves heaven with ‘the armies of heaven’, the words “Church” and “Bride” are not used to describe those armies! (19:14).

PAUL’S CLEAR STATEMENT ON THE MATTER

Fifth, Paul describes Christ’s coming in vengeance, not “with us”, but “with his powerful angels” or “mighty angels” (KJV). We can’t assign these labels to the Church, because Paul makes a clear distinction in his letters between the Church and the angels of heaven. This distinction is first made in his first letter, when he prays that when Jesus comes to bring vengeance, Christ will see the believers of Thessalonica as being blameless:

…so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

In this above verse we have the Thessalonians in clear distinction from the “holy ones” coming with Jesus.

In his second letter, Paul tells believers that they will be avenged and rewarded when Christ and his angels arrive in blazing fire:

He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled…”This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7).

NOT THE CHURCH!

Why did Paul make this distinction if the “attack force” from heaven is the Church? Again, notice what Paul did not say. He did not say “…on the day he comes with his holy people and all of us who have believed”. Paul’s statements demand two different sets of followers-the attack force and the rescued.

Jesus said that when He comes in power and great glory, it will be the angels who will come with him (Matthew 25: 31). He didn’t say “you will come with him” or “the Church will come with him”. Jesus will send his angels to gather his elect (Matthew 24:30-31; 13:40-43). Perhaps the Bride will have made herself ready for the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9) but not to fight the battle of Armageddon! As I asked rhetorically in a previous chapter, how many grooms have wedding celebrations and then immediately take their brides out onto the battlefield?

SAINTS

The KJV speaks of the ‘saints’ coming with Christ (Zechariah 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 5:8). The word translated ‘saints’ can also be translated “holy ones”, or “morally blameless”, so they are not necessarily people: they may be angels who did not fall with Lucifer. But even if we were to understand the word ‘saints’ to mean “believers” or “Church” the pre-tribulaion position gains nothing, because ’saints’ are seen to be persecuted throughout the Tribulation! (Revelation 13:7-10).

*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, is available on Amazon. However, it’s also being published here piece by piece, in an updated and edited form. This post is part 19. Stay tuned or follow me to continue. Thanks for your time.

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.

RAPTURE 6: IMMINENCE

Welcome back to excerpts from my book “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”. I was once a zealous defender of the pre-trib. rapture, but came to see things very differently when I eventually faced up to certain scriptures I had previously ignored, and analysed them more realistically. Here then is installment 6, which considers the doctrine of Imminence.

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Pre-tribulation believers say that Christ’s coming is ‘imminent’. In the context of the rapture those who use the term mean that Jesus could come back secretly at any moment, just for his Church, without any warning or notice; leaving everyone else including nominal believers behind. There’s nothing else which needs to happen “on God’s prophetic clock” before the rapture, they say. Seemingly in support of this view are the words of Jesus who said we cannot know the day or the hour of his coming (Matthew 24:36-42). He said he is coming “quickly (KJV)” or “soon” (NIV, Revelation 22:12).

According to the doctrine of Imminence, if we were to see any of the tribulation signs of his coming we would be able to know he’s coming and when he’s coming. But this cannot happen, since Jesus said he would come “like a thief in the night”. Therefore his secret coming must happen before the “seven year tribulation”. If we saw the “signing of the peace treaty” we would be able to calculate the day and the hour of his coming, but Jesus said we cannot know the day or the hour-therefore we will not see it. Instead the Church will be taken in a surprise rapture before the “peace treaty” is signed and before the tribulation begins. Don’t even question the doctrine of Imminence, they insist: that’s very nearly heresy. Imminence is presented on one web-page in defense of the pre-tribulation rapture as “the grand-daddy of proofs”.

Admittedly, it’s clear from Jesus’ own words that we cannot know the day or the hour of his coming, so it’s inarguable that his coming truly is “imminent”. However, the application of imminence to the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture does not stand up to close scrutiny. 

Pre-tribulation teachers will say, as they must, 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, and not for the Church. Yet it was during that discourse and to those same believers that Jesus said these commonly-quoted lines:

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) and;

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (25:13).

There’s something wrong here. Why would Jesus say “you do not know the day or the hour” to the very people who the pre-tribulation believers say will be around during the tribulation, if that warning is intended to support a pre-tribulation rapture? Pre-tribbers tell us that these quotes mean the rapture is imminent and so before the tribulation, but in fact Jesus is saying these things for the benefit and instruction of the people who will be living on earth during the tribulation! Jesus wasn’t even talking to believers who might be gone before the tribulation when he said, “you do not know the day or the hour”. He was talking to his disciples about his visible, physical coming in power and glory!

If Jesus was talking to early rapture candidates in his Olivet Discourse, wouldn’t he have said something like, “Fear not, because I”ll take you away before such things happen”.

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There’s more. Here’s another quote from the same passage:

So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation…” (24:15).

Jesus was speaking of the abomination of desolation-which is at the mid-point of the expected seven years-to the very same people who he said couldn’t know the day or the hour of his coming, and he said that they would “see” it. If this was intended as a warning, not to the Church but to a Jewish remnant, wouldn’t they be able, upon seeing the “desolation”, to calculate the day and hour of his coming? Why then did he also tell them they could not know the day or the hour of his coming, if seeing the abomination would tell them the exact day and time? How can we take his admonition to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” as an evidence of Imminence doctrine in the form of a pre-tribulation rapture? Jesus is speaking to people living through the tribulation!

By the reckoning of pre-tribulation teachers, the people Jesus was addressing in his Olivet Discourse-the Jewish remnant- should also be aware of the “peace-treaty” they say will be made, and of the rebuilding of the temple. So presumably under the logic of Imminence theory, they would then be able to calculate the day and hour of his coming! But Jesus told them they could not know the day or the hour. It’s faulty logic and just plain wrong to say that if believers were to see any tribulation events occur, they would be breaking the words of Jesus when he said we cannot know the day or the hour.

It’s important to note at this point that Jesus didn’t actually mention any “seven year peace treaty” in his “Olivet Discourse”. Why not? Did he forget? Did he not think it was important? Did the translators leave it out?

When Jesus said “No one knows about that day or hour…” (verse 36) he had, moments before in verses 28-31, been speaking about his physical, visible appearing in power and glory for all the world to see-not about a secret rapture. He was saying this at the time he gave the discourse in the first century, and even in our time now, nobody knows exactly when he’s coming. As we’ve seen, even during the future time of distress he described in Matthew chapter 24, it seems people will still not know “the day or the hour” of his coming. We can look, and we can expect and hope, and we can see certain events which suggest the time is near, but no-one, then or now, or in the future, can know the exact “day or the hour”.

Strangely, the same people who say that “nothing needs to happen before the rapture” will tell you that there are plenty of signs of the coming tribulation to be seen now, and they proceed to publish books and videos and TV shows about those very signs which they are clever enough to divine. They’re the “watchmen on the wall”, and so make a good living telling the rest of us what prophetic signs have been fulfilled, while also telling us that the coming of Jesus is imminent and nothing else needs to happen before the rapture. If it’s imminent to the point of us not having a clue about the time of his coming, and if “nothing else needs to happen before the rapture”, what’s all this talk of signs being fulfilled? Why does the “Imminence” principle have to be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture only?

Thanks for reading. This subject will be continued in a few days.