Forget Darby and Miss McDonald and listen to what the apostle’s teach us about the church being snatched out before God’s wrath falls on the wicked.
When some Bible teachers want to cast a shadow of doubt over a teaching of the Bible different than their view of the matter, they will often begin by assuring the reader that what these people are teaching comes in a doctrine from the past being repeated. By doing this they imply that anyone who believes the church is not going through the tribulation is picking up on an old doctrine made popular by a John Darby or a Margaret McDonald. They will then assure the reader that the early church did not have this doctrine, nor was it taught by any of the early church Fathers. I would point out that the writings of the disciples who were taught by the Lord and recorded His teaching supersedes any later church Father and superior to all other authority. I had never heard of Darby nor did I ever know of a Miss McDonald’s vision when I became a Christian and started reading my Bible studying the promise of His return. My conclusions come directly from my contact with the Bible, only. If my comments correspond with another writing it is either a coincidence or I will refer to my source. The discourse I give in the pages of The Wrath of the Lamb come from my personal Bible studies. In fact, this is bore out in the fact that I do not follow the teaching of any of these teachers in many instances. However, at this point in time I feel the evidence is stronger in favor of the pre tribulation catching up of the church.
In one of the chapters in the book we cover statements made by the post tribulation teachers (that believe the church will go through the tribulation) and give answers that offer alternative explanations just as logical and Biblical as their interpretation. In that section we also explain the weaknesses, inaccuracies and lack of Biblical accuracy in their statements. In recent times there has been a strong verbal attack against the pre tribulation return of Christ with very little defense of it, at least in the corner of the church where I circulate. Here are some excerpt pages from the books content to give you a peek into our study on The Wrath of the Lamb.
Is the Word Rapture in the Bible?
In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Paul wrote, Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up with them. There are some who deny there is a snatching out of the church, or as it is commonly referred to, a rapture of the church, until the end of the seven year tribulation period. One quite well known radio preacher denounces those who believe in a pre tribulation rapture as heretics who will go to hell for believing and teaching the Lord’s return at the beginning of the tribulation. We will test such dogmatism by the Word of God and not be intimidated by this man’s dogmatism. There are many Biblical reasons why we each hold our views and they are all valid. So, let’s just respect each other and when we get to heaven we will know who taught it correctly – if any!
The word rapture does not convey the true meaning of what actually happens when God catches away the church as Paul’s inspired word describes it in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and other related verses. The Greek word used here is harpazo, actually, a much stronger word than the English word rapture! The difference between the Greek word harpazo and the English term rapture is the difference between a water pistol and an atom bomb.
The noun, rapture, means to be carried away into a state of bliss and blessing, to have some kind of sublime, ecstatic experience. The dictionaries define rapture as meaning to be translated from one place to another, and especially to heaven. This word (rapture) leaves the impression that Jesus is returning the second time to catch the church away in ecstasy. There is an element of truth to this meaning but leaves many elements of truth not mentioned.
The verb form of rapture gets a little closer to the meaning of the Greek word harpazo. It is from an obsolete French word, rapture, to be abducted, or carried away. That’s more like it but still far from the meaning as God’s Word teaches in the word harpazo.
But now look at the original text and consider the actual word used in the Bible which speaks of the church being snatched away at His coming. The term rapture tends to soften the true purpose and meaning of the Lord’s return at the end of the gentile church age. Most Christians think of the Lord’s return as when Jesus returns to whisk us (Christians) out of this world to heaven leaving little piles of clothing behind everywhere. The second idea is that the Lord is returning suddenly to save the church from the tribulation. These are both good thoughts (with the exception of the little piles of clothing doctrine) but avoid all mention of the sudden destruction that will accompany His return. According to the Word of God His primary reason for returning in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: is never mentioned in conjunction with the Lord’s return. Jesus is returning to pour out His wrath upon the wicked of the world and to bring God’s judgment on those who refused to obey the gospel. This fact is well established in the Bible as we explain in this book.
The Greek word harpazo is a word often used to indicate force implying that the church is not only caught away by the power of God, (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17) but it will be seized by God and snatched out with a sudden violent force! Other Scriptures where this word harpazo (har-pod-zoe) is used will help us understand the power in the words, caught up (harpazo).
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force [harpazo] to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. John 6:15.
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out [harpazo] of my hand. John 10:28.
When the Bible says the church will be caught up it used a much stronger word than “rapture.” The hand of God will snatch the church out of the world with force as something seized. So, those who insist the word rapture is not in the Bible are right but the word seized up, or snatched up IS in the Bible.
What happens is just before and at the instant we are glorified?
According to the Word of God the world will not be a blissful state at the moment of the church’s glorification. But, the moment after our glorification we will be whisked into a celestial world far beyond all our mortal minds had ever imagined! We will find ourselves enveloped by the wonders of new bodily powers including amazing new dimensions of sight, new mental faculties with extended functions and all of this with new body energies that knows no depravity! The light of seven suns will fill our sight, a brightness and color spectrum that would have blinded our mortal eyes just moments before! New visions of panoramic beauty, distance and splendor will fill our powers of celestial vision. But with all of these powers our new vision will be fixed on Him who stands amidst an angelic host above us in the heavens, the one who was dead but behold, He is alive forever more!
According to many Scriptures which we treat in a separate chapter, the church will be caught away quickly and violently as Jesus taught using Noah and Lot as illustrations of that deliverance. Luke 17:26-30.
Jesus said of that day, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged [burdened down] with surfeiting [headache, hangover, over indulgence], and drunkenness [intoxication], and cares [distractions] of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares [unexpectedly]. (35) For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Luke 21:34-35. Here, in this text Jesus uses the word snare to describe the sudden destruction (1 Thessalonians 5:3) that strikes the world at His coming. It is the a word in Greek (Pagece) meaning, as out of a noose, a trap, or a stratagem. When the snare slams shut on its victim, the world, it will be too late to save themselves – they have been caught unaware. But when God sets the trap for his enemies it will NOT snare the righteous.
Then in the next verse Jesus states, Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke 21:36.
By reading the context of this chapter, isn’t it quite clear according to the Lord’s teaching that someone escapes from a snare like cataclysm that it shall come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Pray tell, what would they be escaping from if this was happening after they had gone through the tribulation?
Making Distinctions Between Key Words
We will add here that many brethren believe the church must go through the tribulation because, “The church came in under persecution and the church MUST go out under persecution.” Or, “Its only right that we suffer persecution as many other Christians before us such as in the time of the inquisition – why should God let us off when others have suffered such awful persecutions?” The answer to this logic is very simple.
(1) Persecution and Judgment. There is a difference between the persecution of the wicked against the church and the judgment of God upon the wicked. May we point out that the seven years is a time when God brings untold judgments against a rebellious world system to bring men to repentance. If the purpose of God’s judgment is redemptive then He would not bring that judgment upon those who have indeed repented from their sins and ceased their rebellion against God. The Bible is clear, when God’s judgments are upon the wicked the righteous are delivered as it was in Noah’s generation and Lot’s generation. The reason Noah and Lot were delivered out of the water and fire is because this was the judgment of God upon the wicked. Noah and Lot were delivered because they were righteous. They were delivered out of judgment, NOT persecution.
There may be another deliverance of a righteous remnant from God’s wrath in the middle of the tribulation just as the seven angels appear with the seven vials of God’s wrath. (Revelation 15:7) It is never implied in Revelation that there will be no church during the tribulation of those days. The persecution of the Antichrist against the church is mentioned as a war he will declare against the saints. (Revelation 12:17; 13:7) There will be many believers in the time of the tribulation making up a formidable movement far from being few in number or almost non-existent. Many of these will be believers left behind who made up the apostate church under Grace and were not accounted worthy (Luke 21:36) to be included in the rapture (snatching up) of the righteous from the wrath of the Lamb. The translation of the group of overcomes we see on the sea of glass are described as those who had gotten the victory over the beast and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name (Revelation 15:2) after the trumpets and prior to the vials at about mid tribulation. Note also that these overcomes in Revelation 15 sang the song of Moses and the Lamb. This indicates they bore a Judeo-Christian message of salvation which may be the message of the remnant church joined to the witness of those Jews sealed as witnesses in Revelation 7:2-8. And then we know and agree there is a final resurrection which includes all of the wicked which is called the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5) If there is a rapture at the beginning of the tribulation then this would be three times the Lord would translate men from mortality to immortality.
(2) Rapture and Resurrection. Just the difference in the words rapture and resurrection tell us they are not the same nor do they mean the same thing. Someone raptured may be resurrected but not all who are resurrected are raptured. The word resurrection is Anastasis in the original, while the word caught up is harpazo. These two words are as different in the Greek language as they are in the English language.
So, we should make a distinction between the rapture and the first resurrection. In a rapture (harpazo) God delivers the righteous from judgments He is pouring out on the wicked. In the first resurrection the wicked are raised with all men after the millennial period to stand at the great throne and be judged according to their works being given a just trial based on the laws of the kingdom that will condemn them. In the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5) the nations and the wicked will be judged and by due process of divine law will have all evidence presented before them to prove their guilt and receive the final eternal verdict that will send them into fiery oblivion for just and proven reasons. This is not and must not be considered a “rapture” as it applies to the righteous being delivered out of judgment as it applies to the righteous who make up the church.
I am running the great risk of being misquoted when I say this; but for the sake of provoking an interesting thought, wouldn’t it be divine irony if there are actually three translations of the righteous from God’s judgments through the tribulation period? The irony of a triple deliverance is that it corresponds to the three great doctrines men have taken positions on opposing each other about for over a century. If three resurrections prove to be true when all of the smoke settles – all three of the views would prove to be right! IF this proves true, it would be the reason why all three have Scriptural logic when explaining their position. I want to reiterate that I am not teaching this as my doctrine but only making an allusion to this as a possibility making fools out of all those who hugged their pet doctrine while rejecting the others. If this be true, then how shocked those will be who radically taught the mid-trib and post-trib rapture angrily denouncing the other raptures as false doctrine.
I have always said that Jesus is not going to come at any of the three times men have said He is coming. For some think He’s coming at the beginning of the tribulation, some think He’s coming at the middle of the tribulation and others think He is coming at the end of the tribulation. But He surely will not come at any of these three times because He said, For in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh. Matthew 24:44b.
These are two difference kinds of affliction from two different sources! God does not persecute, nor has He ever put His judgments upon His righteous servants. If you, as a Christian, are learning survival and preparing to suffer privation it will come from the hands of wicked, Bible despising persecutors but it will NOT be God’s judgment and wrath if you are living a pure and holy life without hypocrisy.
(2) There is now persecution upon the church in many quarters of the world, in China, in Latin countries under Catholicism and in all of the middle eastern nations under Muslim governments. In the United States and Canada as well as in Europe Bible believing Christians are being more and more singled out as holding values contrary to the new world order and unable to fit into the world of the next millennium and the New World Order. But the judgment the world receives when the trumpets begin to sound, the church will not taste! We must make a difference between “Persecution” and “Judgment.” While Bible believing Christians in western cultures are not being openly martyred, the denomination of fundamentalism is being perpetrated by exploiting the failures of men the church also condemned and punished. The good deeds of the godly parent and humane missions works of great people have never been “news” for the secular press. They only sensationalize those who fail treating the godly with only silence. While martyrdom is not tolerated in western cultures now it will be practiced by the Antichrist after the beginning of the tribulation upon those Christians and believers who attempt to preach redemption in the wake of the great destruction.
In Muslim and Communist societies local groups were the murderers of Christians. Under these circumstances the government denies responsibility while at the same time refusing to prosecute the murderers. This could very well develop in western cultures incited with hatred by national leaders and policies. It is this writers belief that just prior to the Lord’s return, which is now, there will be a wave of martyrdom upon the church as indicated by those under the altar crying out to God for vengeance upon the enemies of God for their deaths. Revelation 6:10-11 According to Scripture both persecution and judgment are true but come under very different circumstances.
We conclude that while the church will never be exempt from the purifying persecution from its many enemies, judgment from God is NOT, has NEVER and will NOT bring suffering to His righteous children. We carefully use the word righteous here because those who will escape the judgment will only be the righteous as the Lord’s discourse on Noah and Lot also reveal to us.
The faith teachers will scream insisting it was their faith and faith alone that saved Noah and Lot from the disaster of flood and fire! But these people do not read the text carefully.
Noah: In Genesis 6:8 it says that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God’s eyes saw something in Noah that made him different from all of the others in the known world. What was it that God’s eyes saw in Noah? Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
Lot: And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly. 2 Peter 2:6-7. Then in verse 9 Peter by the Holy Spirit reveals the character of Lot; and delivered just Lot vexed with the filthy conversation (conduct) of the wicked. The issue in both cases was morals! The character and holiness of these men – that is why they were delivered out of judgment and it will take the same to be accounted worthy of escaping the Wrath of the Lamb at His soon return with fiery indignation. (Luke 20:35)
When we speak of righteousness in men accounted worthy we include both dimensions of righteousness as the Scriptural qualities produced by Grace. We mean that righteous that comes only by His blood being applied when we acknowledge Him as our substitute provided by the perfect justice of God, and then that righteousness that His teaching Grace instills into our lives as His disciples producing purity of heart and godly demeanor. (Titus 2:11-14.)
A Million Shades of Gray
Between pure black and pure white there are a million shades of gray. How will God sort out all of the great multitudes of people with mixtures of good and bad in them? Will all of the shades of gray make it into the kingdom of God? Where will God draw the line in the vast range of grays that stretch from white to black? Let’s consider Lot’s generation to shed some light on this question. Jesus described in some detail the life style of the people who lived in Sodom making up Lot’s environment. Then there is another picture painted by Moses in Genesis record. So we have two good descriptions of Lot’s generation. In Luke 17:28-30 Jesus makes several very plain statements.
He stated that everyone in all the cities of the plains died in the fiery judgment of God. None escaped. This included an eruption that sank the five cities of the plains that archeologists have found at the bottom of what we know today as the Dead Sea. Archeologists are today digging up the remains of those cities from the bottom of the Dead Sea. The Bible tells us that out of thousands of inhabitants in at least five cities across the plains only three people finally escaped, Lot and his two daughters. Lot’s wife apparently lagged behind looking back in yearning for Sodom and was covered by the phosphoric ash. Jesus stated, “Do you suppose there were any good people among the Sodomites?” Of course there were some ordinary people but they did stand with Lot against the evil but insisted that these homosexuals simply have another life style and should be tolerated. The shades of gray chose to remain politically correct and not rock the boat. They perished with the wicked!
But as amazing as it seems, Jesus never mentioned the vile homosexuals that roamed the streets of Sodom and brutalizing, raping and ravaging who they chose. (Genesis 19:4-13) These perverted renegades came out of the shadows as the sun set over the cities of the plains like demons of the night ravaging the people locked up in their houses for fear of what would happen to their children and wives. But Jesus never mentioned these vile and wicked given to their twisted lusts. He only mentioned the conditions of the land as far as the every day life of people doing very legitimate things with their times such as planting vineyards, having weddings and building new homes. Why did He mention only the general condition of the public and not the homosexual bands marauding in the night? Because it was the great multitude of average people who lived in Sodom and Gomorra who tolerated the wickedness of the homosexuals and rapist. They had the philosophy, “Oh, well its just a different life style and they have a right to it.” It was these average, decent, indifferent, amoral generic do-gooders who made up the thousands of shades of gray that would do nothing to stop the immorality that Jesus counted as wicked as the wicked they tolerated! The Bible is clear, isn’t it?
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith (faithfulness) on the earth? Luke 18:8.
Read the book
There is strong Scriptural evidence that the church will be caught up at the beginning of the wrath of God which we cover more thoroughly in the chapter entitled Home Before Dark and in the exposition of Luke 21. Where you place the time of the Lord’s return is not a matter of destiny but rather a personal persuasion. To place the Lord’s return where you feel Scriptural comfortable will in no way cancel your blood redemption! When a man starts condemning those who do not teach his position it is a strong indication that he cannot convince you intelligently so he must do it by intimidation. The subject of the Lord’s return is not intended by God to cause his children to damn each other. His return for the church is a doctrine of hope. I am ready to go through the tribulation if that should be His plan – and we are soon to find out – and if I do then I know His grace will keep me where His will takes me.
Those brethren who believe the church is going through the tribulation and lash out at their brothers for believing in the Lord’s return at the beginning of the tribulation should be very sure they know everything there is to know on the subject or be able to say without any reservation that they have received a revelation from God as to the time of the Lord’s return. I will be very quick to acknowledge I do not know the subject of prophecy perfectly. He who thinks that he does reflects badly upon himself.
From the very beginning the church has been preoccupied with wonderment as to the time of the Lord’s return. In the very opening verses of Luke 21 the disciples were asking the Lord what would be the sign of His return. Since that time the church has sought to know this. But until now, at the end of this church age there have been many views and speculations on this wonderful subject. Let us sit together and discuss this great event that will soon be upon us and learn from each other as we do so.
It is foolish of any brother to make the Lord’s return and any point of prophetic teach a bone of contention. If there is a denial or a twisting of Scripture then censure is sometimes necessary. But if it is a differing view, be careful, because all of us are going to be wrong about some things. It is not a sin to be passively wrong, but it is a sin to aggressively rail on a brother over the matter of the time of the Lord’s returns.
But, he who claims to be a brother and denies the second coming of Christ is a heretic and we (2 Timothy 2:18.) are commanded to condemn wrong doctrine and expose the false teacher, but not to condemn the man to hell who teaches it. That authority belongs to God alone. In some cases where a person, for example, curses God and advocates open sin and rebellion against Christ we have the right to declare that it is obvious God has turned them over to a reprobate mind. But let us be very careful in condemning a brother for such a thing as a differing view on the time of the Lord’s return.
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 1 Timothy 1:5-7