The Seven Trumpets of Revelation-Conclusion
Let me say from the beginning of this study that the following material is meant for serious Bible study. It is not intended for casual reading, but instead, an intense study for those individuals who are sincerely interested in the Word of God and are willing wrestle with its profound contents. In last monthís issue, I presented and explained a few reasons why I find the historical view of the seven trumpets to be unacceptable. After a brief review, I will present an explanation of why I cannot accept the idea that a pre-Second Coming rapture of the saints occurs before the seven trumpets. I use the inclusive term "pre-Second Coming rapture" because certain Christians believe the saints are gathered up to Heaven in a pre-trib, mid-trib or pre-wrath rapture. Since my understanding of the seven trumpets is not embraced by any church or denomination that I know of, the reader may wonder why I continue to insist that this subject is of utmost importance. Here are three reasons:
1.I believe that every person will soon experience a number of distressing manifestations displaying Godís wrath. To love God and have a meaningful relationship with Him, understanding something about Godís ways is necessary. An enduring faith in God isnecessary, especially when God does "strange" or unusual things.
2.To understand the entire end-time drama presented in Revelation, it is necessary to understand the nature and integral purpose of the seven trumpets properly.
3.The fulfillment of the seven trumpets will be catastrophically overwhelming Ė both physically and spiritually. Except for Noahís flood, no parallel in world history exists for such dishevelment.
Is Understanding Necessary for Salvation?
Many people have scolded me by saying that an understanding of the seven trumpets is not necessary for salvation. On a superficial level, such a statement could seem true because the topic of the seven trumpets does not affect our need for a personal Savior right now, this very day. Butdo not forget, years before Noah entered the ark, no one needed the ark. However, when the appointed day arrived, the ark and its warning message became essential to a personís salvation. The same is true concerning the seven trumpets of Revelation. At the appointed time, a correct understanding of Revelationís story (including the mark of the beast and the seven trumpets) will become essential for salvation. Why is the mark of the beast explained in Revelation if it is not a necessary aspect regarding salvation for those people who live during the time of the test?
A Brief Review
For the sake of review and for new readers, I will list three objections (from the least to the most important), presenting why I believe the historical view of the seven trumpets (trumpet events happened in the past) is unsatisfactory.
1. A continuing disagreement among historicists exists over which historical events satisfy the specifications given in Revelation concerning the seven trumpets. This demonstrates an inherent deficiency with the historical approach. Here is why: If scholars defending the historical school of thought cannot agree on which event is the singular and unique fulfillment of the specifications describing a particular trumpet, to the exclusion of all other events in history, then it seems fair to conclude that this method of interpretation is unsafe. I use the word "unsafe" because a false conclusion on this topic could be disastrous. Conversely, I believe the coming fulfillment of the seven trumpets will be so clear that every child of God will be able to easily identify the fulfillment of each trumpet as it occurs.
2. My second objection to the historical approach is based on relevancy. Simply put, the historicists rob the seven trumpets of their relevancy. The same is also true of futurists (those holding to the pre-trib approach). Both schools of thought place the timing of the seven trumpet events at a time that has no significance to this current generation. This is distressing because I believe the seven trumpets will begin imminently and be directed at this current generation. This is the generation that either (a) believes the seven trumpets are not important, or (b) is totally ignorant of the seven trumpets.
3.Finally, the most important reason I cannot accept the historical approach to the seven trumpets is because it creates far more complexity and frustration than necessary. Historicists and futurists alike have many predispositions which need to be defended before their views can be seen as plausible. Unfortunately, in order to do this, they often insert a layer of explanation between the Bible text and its intended meaning to defend these predispositions. For example, historicists cannot accept the possibility that the fifth trumpet is in the future because the fifth trumpet involves a time-period of five months. (Revelation 9:5) Many historicists defend the predisposition that in Bible prophecy, a day always equals a year, therefore, five prophetic months would equal 150 years (5 x 30). So, even if the fifth trumpet event began today, it would still delay the Lordís appearing for more than 150 years from now! Although the Bible does not indicate that all prophetic time-periods should be reckoned as day/year units, historicists believe otherwise and insist on a consistent use of the day/year method of reckoning. This predisposition forces a wrong conclusion. Consequently, they place the fifth trumpet in the past and to justify or defend this predisposition, they insert a confusing "layer of explanation" so the specifications of the fifth trumpet "fit" with some arbitrary historical fulfillment. This creates a host of unnecessary problems. Historicists have to define a precise 150-year time-period that can be defended as a fulfillment for the fifth trumpet. Since there is none (at least no unanimity among historicists exists regarding one), they try to explain away the obvious inconsistencies and then obfuscate whatever remains of the specifications in the fifth trumpet. This method of interpretation isdangerous, unwarranted and illogical. I believe the Bible should be as free as possible from layers of explanation. Is there something wrong with taking the Bible as it reads? For example, the Bible states that the people who do not have the seal of God will be tortured for five months during the fifth trumpet. (Revelation 9:10) Therefore, we can be sure five months of torture (not 150 years) will occur during a time-period when people receive the seal of God ! Historicists cannot explain how people living during the fifth trumpet (which they understand to be a historical event) could have the seal of God when the Bible obviously states that the placement of His seal on the 144,000 is a future event. (Revelation 7:1-4)
Looking to the Future
Let us turn our attention to prophetic ideas about the future. Even though most Protestants believe the seven trumpets are in the future, they eliminate the relevancy of the trumpets by placing them after a pre-trib rapture. Understand the excellent logic, but fatal consequences that follow: If one accepts the pre-trib rapture doctrine, this logically eliminates the need to consider the seriousness of the seven trumpets personally. As one man told me, "To fret and fuss over the seven trumpets would be like Noah and his family worrying about how deep the water might get during the flood. What difference does it make if you are taken in the rapture?" This attitude is potentially dangerous because the seven trumpets will occur, but the question remains: What if there is not a pre-trib rapture? If not, what prophetic support will disappointed rapture believers cling to as they experience the trumpet events? When rapture believers finally realize no pre-Second Coming rapture is forthcoming, I am fearful that many of them will become very bitter at God because their leaders misled them.
It is well known that there is much resistence toward changing prophetic views. Why? Because a significant change in understanding apocalyptic prophecy requires a significant paradigm shift. It is that simple. It is that painful. A paradigm is a pattern or orderly way of thinking. With time, every Bible student uses a set of thought patterns and organization of data. Consequently, our ability to understand prophecy is determined by what we believe to be true. A paradigm shift occurs when concepts we thought to be true prove to be wrong. When confronted with this information, we have two options. We can admit our error and start again, using a new approach as we search for understanding, or we can avoid further study and investigation altogether. As you might guess, paradigm shifts rarely occur, especially in religious matters. This is demonstrated by the fact that less than 5% of the worldís population change religious systems. Usually, whatever a person is "born into" is what he or she usually "dies out of."
I am convinced that religion produces stronger paradigms than any other form of education, so religious paradigms produce very powerful corporate cultures. A "corporate culture" is a type of "dictator." Corporate culture determines how a body of people approach and view truth and how they go about fulfilling their mission. Just as ethnic culture and language is unique to each nation, corporate culture is unique to each group of people, both at work and at church. Have you heard it said, "We just do not do things that way around here ?" This statement is a declaration that corporate culture is alive and it is dictating how things are done " around here ." With the passage of time, corporate culture develops within every institution and the longer the institution exists and the "old guard" remains in control, the less likely new ideas or views will surface and change the direction of that corporation. History confirms this truth: Those individuals who have power, prefer to maintain power Ė it is basic human nature. To let go of power and control is almost impossible. Fortunately, change does not happen until people move, retire or die. For example,consider the Chrysler corporation. When Lee Iacocca became CEO in 1978, a dramatic change took place at Chrysler. A transformation was urgently needed because Chrysler was about to go bankrupt. To keep that from happening, the U.S. Congress guaranteed enormous loans to Chrysler. Chrysler nearly went bankrupt because consumers stopped buying the clunky automobiles that Chrysler designers insisted on producing although sales, year after year, continued to decline. The corporate culture "dictator" at Chrysler was unable to tolerate new ideas and changes. So, new leaders were chosen and the "old guard" was terminated Ė only then did Chrysler sales begin to improve. Today, Chrysler produces some of the nicest looking automobiles on Earth and their financial success reflects it!
My point in the previous illustration is that churches are not much different from corporations. Churches usually promote people as leaders who will (a) conform to the culture values of that organization (respect the old guard), and are (b) unlikely to make fundamental changes (respect prior thinking). After all, church leaders see themselves as "defenders of the faith," protecting the church against encroachment and change! How ironic! It explains, in part, how all churches eventually end in darkness. The flashlight of truth continues to move forward toward a perfect understanding of Godís Word. Regrettably, churches and people cannot corporately follow because of dictating paradigms. As a result, new churches are established. (This does not categorically mean that every new church is walking in advancing light.) Whether we like it or not, we have to accept the fact that corporate culture and religion are very powerful forces in our lives.
I have explained paradigms and corporate culture, hoping people will understand why change for some people and organizations seem so insurmountable. Unfortunately, I really do not believe this presentation will change the minds of those people who believe in a pre-Second Coming rapture. No human argument is powerful enough to compel a believerís firm faith in the rapture to change Ė only the Holy Spirit can do that. At best, I hope this study will prompt believers in a pre-Second Coming rapture to consider several issues. I also hope this study will benefit those people who are still trying to sort out the importance of the seven trumpets.
Protestants basically support one of four views about the gathering of the saints. Many Protestants believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. A smaller, but significant number, believe in a mid-tribulation rapture (e.g., Christians are taken to Heaven midway through the 70 th week of seven years). Third, a number of Protestants believe in a pre-wrath rapture (e.g.. Christians are taken to Heaven just before the outpouring of the seven last plagues). Last, a minority of Protestants believes in a post-trib gathering of the saints at the Second Coming. The concept of a pre-Second Coming rapture (regardless of timing) is a complicated study because so many ideas are involved. In fact, a study of Bible prophecy is a lot like weaving a potholder out of many pieces of colored yarn. Small pieces of yarn are not very strong or important by themselves. However, if one weaves them together just right, an attractive and durable potholder will be created. The same is true with the study of prophecy. Eventually, every student of prophecy ends up creating his own "prophetic potholder" out of his own yarn or the yarn given to him! (Sorry for the pun.) As so often happens, many rush out to assure others about the superiority of their potholder and the weakness of all others. (If this topic was not so serious, I would find this entire process, which also includes me, to be amusing.) The object of owning a potholder is to keep from getting burned and a parallel can be drawn for a prophetic potholder as well. Each week I receive multi-paged letters from people who assure me that I am totally wrong because my prophetic potholder couldnot possibly come from a logical study of Godís Word, (i.e., the loom.) My standard response (defense?) is that nothing is wrong with the loom. Instead, it is the quality and arrangement of the yarn that makes the difference! Be assured, time will confirm all that God has said. Nothing but the passage of time can confirm how close or how far we are from reaching the intended meaning of Godís Word.
A Pre-Second Coming Rapture?
Let us consider six concepts that are intimately woven into to the "potholder" of a pre-Second Coming rapture doctrine. At the end, I will give a brief summary from each point, showing why I cannot accept a pre-Second Coming rapture of the saints.
1.My first concern with the fallacy of the pre-Second Coming rapture doctrine concerns the dead. Why are the righteous dead excluded from the benefit of a pre-Second Coming rapture? Why is the rapture limited to those people living on Earth at the time of the rapture? The Bible shows that the dead are a priority to God! Notice how the Apostle Paul describes the resurrection of the righteous dead occurring before the living are gathered to the Lord at the Second Coming:"For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first . After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air . And so we will be with the Lord forever."(1 Thessalonians 4:16,17, italics mine)
This verse clearly bonds three items together. First, Jesus Himself will come down from Heaven with great authority and power to gather up His children Ė both the dead and living. Next, since Jesus holds the key to the grave (or hades, Revelation 1:18, KJV) because He is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18), He alone has the authority to resurrect the righteous. The righteous dead are those people who were judged to be "in Christ" at the time of their death. Last, Paul says,"after that, we who are still alive and are left"will join with the resurrected saints to meet the Lord in the air. The order of events is very clearly stated in this text.
Yes, some people who support the rapture doctrine believe that Paul mentioned in this verse "those who were left," as though they were left behind after a pre-trib rapture. I believe this imposition on the text distorts the intended meaning of the verse. Consider the preceding verse: "According to the Lordís own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep."(1 Thessalonians 4:15) Paul clearly states two things: First, the living will not precede the dead to Heaven. Second, he refers to those "left till the coming of the Lord" in the sense that they remain alive until the Lord appears. This idea is quite different than being "left behind after a rapture." Read all three verses without imposing any preconceptions on them. Notice that Paul uses the pronoun "we" in these verses. Look this sentence, "After that, we who are still alive and are left...." Why does Paul use the inclusive pronoun "we" in these texts? The reason is that Paul thought he, along with other living believers, would see Christ return without seeing death! In other words, Paul did not believe in or teach a pre-Second Coming rapture. Paul thought that he and the other believers would live to see Christ return and the dead raised from their graves. After the resurrection of the righteous dead, Paul concludes," we who are alive and left"upon Earth will be"caught up together" with the resurrected saints to meet Jesus in the air! Notice that Paul said "together" because he did not know anything about a pre-tribulation rapture. To impose this idea on Paul is inappropriate. Notice this supporting text written a few years later to the Church at Corinth:"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed Ė in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."(1 Corinthians 15:51,52, italics mine) Again, the Apostle Paul includes himself. He uses the third person plural pronoun we to make the point that Jesus will imminently return before we all die!
To give a fair rendering of these texts, we need to put a time-stamp on Paulís comments. He was not writing to Christians living in 1999. He had no idea time would last so long. Instead, he waswriting to believers in Thessalonica and Corinth around A.D. 51 and A.D. 57 respectively. To verify Paulís thoughts on the nearness of Christís return, please review each of the following texts. These verses clearly demonstrate that Paul thought he was living at or near the time of the Second Coming. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Romans 13:11-14; Hebrews 1:1,2 and Hebrews 9:25,26.)
Another interesting point. The sounding of the "last" trumpet mentioned in this text is not the seventh trumpet of Revelation, as some claim. The sounding of the trumpet mentioned by Paul is "the trumpet call," the loud and piercing command of Jesus calling the righteous dead to life! Compare 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and notice how the seventh trumpet sounds in Heaven (Revelation 11:15) just before the seven bowls of wrath begin.
2.The second problem I have with the concept of a pre-trib rapture concerns the judgment of the living. A pre-trib rapture mandates that Jesus (John 5:22) pronounce judgment upon each living person before the rapture takes place. Obviously, He has to decide who can be raptured and who cannot. The fact that Jesus judges people before the Second Coming is well supported in Scripture, but no Scriptural support exists for the judgment of the living before the commencement of the Great Tribulation. In fact, I find just the opposite to be true. Jesus judges the living during the Great Tribulation, then at the Second Coming He separates the sheep from the goats. Notice what He says about the Second Coming:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left . . . "Then he will say to those on his left, ĎDepart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.í "They also will answer, ĎLord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?í "He will reply, ĎI tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.íThen they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."(Matthew 25:31-46)
In these verses, Jesus clearly establishes when the sheep are separated from the goats. Nothing is said about gathering His sheep before the Second Coming. Why this silence? Could it be there is no pre-Second Coming rapture? Let us notice other comments by Jesus:
[Jesus said]"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day . For my Fatherís will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day ."(John 6: 38-40, italics mine)
Here, Jesus says that eternal life will be granted to those people who believe in Him at the last day. He also associates the resurrection of the righteous dead with "the last day." If we integrate these points with the texts reviewed in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, we must conclude that the Lord Himself comes down from Heaven to raise the righteous dead at "the last day." Consider this text:
[Jesus said]"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come[this time]to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge forthe one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day ."(John 12:47-48)
Jesus makes another interesting point about the last day in these verses. We know from earlier comments by Jesus that the last day occurs at the Second Coming. Therefore, no one knows whether he or she is saved or condemned until the Second Coming or the last day. Keep in mind that I am speaking of knowing , not about believing. You may believe you are saved or even lost, but faith is not the same thing as knowledge. Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) says,"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . "Knowledge, on the other hand, is a matter of fact. This is why the tree in Genesis was called "the knowledge of good and evil." Humankind had no knowledge of sin until sin occurred. God gave instructions about sin (Genesis 2:17) and Adam and Eve knew that sin could occur, but they did not know what sin was. However, once sin was experienced, it became a matter of fact. The point here is timing: First, according to Jesus, no one can know whether he is saved or condemned until the last day that occurs at the resurrection. So how can certain living people be raptured to Heaven (saved), if the rest of the living have not been condemned? Logically, if a pre-Second Coming rapture takes place, everyone else would be condemned to eternal death. So, what would be the point of having a pre-Second Coming rapture in the first place? My statement aligns with two other texts. Notice what Jesus said:
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done . . . Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."(Revelation 22:12-15)
These verses indicate that when Jesus returns, His reward of salvation or condemnation is with Him. When He arrives, everyone will have been judged according to their deeds (works, KJV) and Jesus Himself will physically distribute everyoneís reward at His appearing. Those individuals condemned (the goats, the wicked) will be given the penalty of death by a command from Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:21), the righteous dead will come to life and rise from the Earth upon command (Revelation 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and the righteous living will join the resurrected saints and "fly away" to meet the Lord in the air "at the last day." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Let us confirm the point that judgment does take place before rewards are handed out at the last day:"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
This verse confirms that God will judge each person that lives on the face of the Earth. He will review every deed during the judgment process and make a determination regarding each person, whether for salvation or condemnation. If a person lives by faith, then his deeds or works will confirm his faith. (James 2:17) This is why we are judged by our works. Notice this confirming verse:"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."(2 Corinthians 5:10)
Did you notice that Paul uses the inclusive pronoun again?"For we must all appear . . . "Paul knew that he too must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So everyone , good and bad, including Protestants believing in a pre-trib rapture, have to stand before the judgment seat ofChrist. When does the judgment of the living occur? Answer: During the Great Tribulation. God is going to test the faith and loyalty of the living with tribulation! (Revelation 3:10) In fact, this is why God permits the worldwide mark of the beast test to be established Ė to see who will obey Him and live by faith to the point of death. (See the April and August 98 back issues of Day Star and also "The Sanctuary" Ė Study # 5 from The Five Essential Bible Truths series for further discussion on this matter.)
"I Will Keep You From the Hour of Trial . . . ?"
3.Revelation 3:10 is often used by pre-Second Coming rapture believers to defend their escape from the Great Tribulation. So, let us carefully examine this text. To be fair, if the book of Revelation had only one verse in it, and this was the only verse, I could be persuaded that Revelation supported the idea that the saints will escape the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world. However, this is not true. Revelation has a lot more to say about this subject and the notion that the Church of Philadelphia is the only church to escape the hour of trial because of a pre-Second Coming rapture is not supported in Revelation! People, who use this text to support the rapture, fail to identify who the remaining six churches represent and what happens to them during the Great Tribulation? Revelation 3:10 states (italics mine):"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."
Notice two points within this verse: First, Jesus says an hour of trial is going to come upon the whole world to test the living . For reasons beyond the scope of this study, I agree with pre-trib rapture believers that the Great Tribulation is imminently before us! I believe this verse points to a final tribulation that has no equal in world history. (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1,2) When a person first reads this text it may appear that the Church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7) will be kept from experiencing the hour of trial, that is, they will escape this testing time. Unfortunately, many Christians have come to regard this single verse as proof that Christians will escape the suffering that will overcome the world during the Tribulation. Actually, this verse does not teach that Christians will be taken to Heaven before the Tribulation begins, but instead indicates that believers will be sustained beginning from the hour of trial until Jesus appears. I will try to show why this is true.
My conclusions are based on my study of Greek and the reference book, A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, 1952, Fourth Ed.) This lexicon is recognized as one of the worldís best on early Christian use of the Greek language. The Greek preposition Ďek used in this verse is translated "from" both in the NIV and KJV. Therefore, the phrase reads," . . . I will keep you from the hour of trial . . . "However, this tiny preposition is also translated in a variety of other ways in both versions of the Bible and has more than a dozen different English equivalents in meaning. For example, it can mean "from, out of, away from, coming out of, descending from, by, because of, beginning from, begins from, for," etc. On page 235, the authors indicate that when the preposition is followed by a measurement of time Ė as in "the hour of trial," Ďek can convey the meaning "beginning from." In other words, a person is justified in reading this verse as follows: "I [Jesus] will also keep you beginning from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world . . . "
When one word, especially a preposition, determines the meaning of a highly pivotal verse, we must be very careful in our research. We can and should turn to additional lexicons and other word study helps for insight. Although this effort may be valuable, it is not the highest authority regarding the intended meaning of the verse. Higher and more weighty evidence must come fromthe Bible itself. So, let me present three points for your consideration about why this verse should be understood as "beginning from the hour of trial":
a.Jesus told His disciples," . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age[world(KJV)]." (Matthew 28:20) I take this verse at face value. Jesus plainly said He will be with His disciples to the very end. I take the very end to be "the last day" when He physically and gloriously appears in the clouds. Jesus did not say His disciples would be with Him, but instead He is with them. If the saints were with Jesus before the very end of the age, He would have said something different. Notice these supporting words: [Jesus said,]"In my Fatherís house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."(John 14:2,3) These two texts and the texts we discussed earlier cause me to conclude that:
(1.) Jesus has gone to Heaven to prepare a place for His children.
(2.) Jesus is coming back at the last day to gather up all of His children so that we may live where He lives.
(3.) When He comes, He will first call the righteous dead to life
(4.) Then, those people who remain alive will be caught up together with them in the air to meet our Lord.
(5.) However, until He returns, He lives within us to the very end of the world through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:20, Galatians 2:20)
b.The second reason I believe Revelation 3:10 does not imply a pre-trib rapture is this: Several verses in Revelation indicate that the saints are on Earth during the Great Tribulation. The word "saints" is mentioned 12 times in the NIV and 13 times in the KJV. Except for the 144,000 servants who are taken to Heaven after the trumpets and the 24 elders, not once does Revelation placelivingsaints in Heaven before the Second Coming. (See back issues of Day Star, February 98, April and May 97.) Notice what happens to the saints in these verses:
"Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest [remnant,(KJV)] of her offspring Ė those who obey Godís commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus . . . He[the beast]was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation . . . If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. "(Revelation 12:17; 13:7; 13:10, italics mine.)
These three verses are intimately related to the saints. First, the saints that live on Earth during its final days are called the last of the womanís seed (KJV) or offspring (NIV). The devil is about to make war against them. The woman in Revelation 12 represents the bride of Christ Ė His people. (Revelation 19:7-9) The whore in chapter 17 represents world leaders who will direct the nations to obey the devil who is masquerading as God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 17:1,6,15) The contrast between the two women is obvious. One woman is loyal and pure, while the other is disgusting and corrupt. The last of the womanís offspring in Revelation 12 are the last generation of saints who live upon Earth. The word translated "offspring" (NIV) or "seed" (KJV) comes from the Greek word sperma. It is the same word from which we derive the English word sperm. These saints will be the objects of the dragonís wrath. (Revelation 12:17) The devil, operating through ten kings and seven religious systems (the beast) will persecute the saints for a miserable 42 months. This intense persecution calls for patient endurance and faithfulness. I do not findsupport in Scripture for the idea that some saints are enjoying the bliss of Heaven while others are living through a hellish nightmare on Earth. No, the purpose of the Great Tribulation is to test those people who live on Earth and to expose who the saints really are! Revelation 14:12 confirms that the saints will suffer because they chose to follow truth. It says, "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who[suffer because they]obey Godís commandments and remain faithful to Jesus."For a more comprehensive discussion on this topic, please see the March 1998 Day Star issue, "The Four Beasts of Revelation Exposed."
c. Let us step back for a moment "from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world" and review the comments Jesus made to all seven Churches. The meaning of Revelation 3:10 becomes clear when placed within its larger context. Does Jesus intend to honor the people in the Philadelphia Church with a pre-trib rapture and simultaneously, dishonor the other churches by putting them through the Great Tribulation? Who belongs to the Church of Philadelphia today? How can we tell? Notice the chart on the following page to see what Jesus says to each church.
Taken as a whole, this writer regards the seven messages to the seven churches as local and timely messages. This means that when these messages were given, they were directed at seven specific churches that existed in Johnís day. Therefore, we have to understand these messages within their local situation, their day and time. (Similarly, we have to treat the two epistles of Paul to the Church at Thessalonica in the same manner.)
To appreciate the meaning of these messages, we have to put on Johnís sandals and stand where he stood. I do not find any justification from Scripture to say that the seven churches represent seven phases of historical development within the Christian Church over the past 2,000 years as historicists claim. Neither do I find the message given to the first century Church of Philadelphia uniquely applicable to those people who believe in a pre-trib rapture today . I do find these seven churches in Asia Minor to be essentially typical of Christians during all ages. Therefore, the messages should not be promoted as apocalyptic prophecy, but as warning and edifying messages for all Christian churches. Jesus sent timely messages to seven Christian churches that had problems in Johnís day, so that Christians everywhere could see that Jesus closely observes those people who proclaim His Name. (Incidently, more than seven Christian churches existed in Johnís day, but Jesus chose these seven because their corporate behavior represented Christian churches everywhere. The number seven is often used as a number of "completeness" and therefore, seven messages to seven churches suggest Jesusí comprehensive analysis of Christian behavior.)
|| You have lost your first love for the gospel
|| The removal of you lampstand
|| Overcomers will have the right to eat from the tree of life
|| You are about to suffer persecution for 10 days
|| Overcomers will not be frightened by the second death
|| You are eating food offered to idols and sexual immorality
|| I will destroy you with the sword that comes out of my mouth
|| Overcomers will receive hidden manna and a white stone
|| You are eating food offered to idols and sexual immorality
|| I will fully repay you according to your evil deeds
|| Overcomers will be given authority over the nations
|| Your deeds indicate you are alive, but you are spiritually dead
|| Wake up or I will come upon you like a thief
|| Overcomers will never be blotted out of the Book of Life
|| You are weak, but you have been loyal and faithful to me
|| Overcomers will be like pillars in the temple of my God
|| You are compromising and lukewarm
|| I am about to spew you out of my mouth
|| Overcomers will sit with me on my throne
Specific to Smyrna
Notice how the message to Smyrna is limited to their time-period and locale:"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."(Revelation 2:10) The ten days of persecution and the circumstances remain a mystery today. However, the essential question we should ask is why would Jesus allow those people in this church to suffer, even to the point of death, yet spare members in the Church at Philadelphia? Today, if people belong to the Church of Philadelphia, who belongs to the Church of Smyrna? If we apply the same interpretative logic in Revelation2:10 as many do in Revelation 3:10, then who would want to belong to the Church of Smyrna?
Specific to Philadelphia
In A.D. 95, Christians were suffering from both the Romans, as well as the Jews. The individuals who accepted Jesus as The Son of God were severely persecuted. The Jews hated the Christians because Christians proclaimed all over the world that Judaism was a false religion. The Romans hated the Christians because Christians would not worship the man-god, Caesar. The Church at Philadelphia had suffered great losses. John himself was on the isle of Patmos because of His faith that prevented him from submitting to the demands of Rome. It was not a good time to be a Christian. Notice how tenderly Jesus spoke to the suffering people in Philadelphia:"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."(Revelation 3:10) In effect, Jesus was commending that local church for their patient endurance as they suffered because of the gospel. He further assured them that He would continue to sustain them during the hour of trial that would be coming upon the whole world (not just their city). No doubt, the Philadelphians were wondering how they could continue to endure additional suffering on a longer or even larger scale. No doubt they knew about the predicted Great Tribulation mentioned in Daniel, Matthew and Luke, but like us, did not know exactly the hour of commencement. Just like citizens of the world today, they were asking themselves how things could be any worse! I am sure they took the words of Jesus to mean: Hang on! I will continue to sustain you during the hour of trial that will come upon the Earth to test the whole world.
Summary on Revelation 3:10
Tradition teaches that nine or ten of Christís disciples were martyrs for their faith. History confirms that millions died for their faith during the Dark Ages. If this is true, then we need to ask ourselves why our generation, out of all generations, should be spared from the Great Tribulation? Further, the use of Revelation 3:10 support a pre-trib rapture of the entire Christian church is simply not justified when we consider the following issues: the timing surrounding the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of the living, the many uses of the Greek preposition Ďek , Jesusí promise to be with His disciples until the very end of the age, the Earthly location of the saints during the Great Tribulation mentioned in Revelation, and the messages given to the seven churches that were timely and local (especially as related to the Church of Philadelphia).
The Rapture Doctrine is Not a Testing Doctrine
4.I have a problem with those individuals who make the pre-Second Coming rapture a testing doctrine. Many Protestants are threatened with eternal loss by their pastors if they refuse to believe in a pre-Second Coming rapture. Some pastors say the crucial point is this, "If you do not believe there is a rapture, you cannot be saved after it happens Ė there is no second chance." These are very strong words and no scriptural support can be found for this conclusion. When did the rapture doctrine become a testing truth for salvation and who had the authority to make it so?
The Bible identifies only one unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31,32) and that sin is not the denial of a pre-Second Coming rapture. This type of threat regarding eternal loss is a form of manipulation. Doctrines that trap and hold uninformed people in a prison of toxic faith should be openly refuted. We are not living in the Dark Ages. In most countries today, anyone who wants to own and read a Bible can easily obtain one. As the reader may surmise, I give no credence to the concept that a person could be lost simply because they refuse to believe in the doctrine of the rapture. On the contrary, we receive the assurance of salvation (1 John 5:12) when we surrender our life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Master. He is my Shepherd (Psalm 23). He guides me into alltruth through the ministry of the Holy Spirit! (John 16:13)I do not trust any pastor, priest or rabbi to tell me what I must believe or what I must do in order to be saved.I listen to the Holy Spirit.(John 3:8) He brings enlightenment and conviction as I study Godís Word for myself. Yes, I enjoy listening to religious speakers for study and investigation, but when I study, I follow and obey Jesus as the Spirit convicts me. Let no one deceive you in this: Salvation is a personal matter between you and Jesus. (John 14:21-24; Phillipians 2:12,13)
Rapturists claim that Jesus must bring an end to the "church age" by rapturing the church from Earth so that God can fulfill His promises to Israel. Notice how the circular logic works:
1. The need for a rapture is based on the idea that God must remove all believers from the Earth so 144,000 Jews will become Christians and fulfill all that God wants from the nation of Israel.
2. Since the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, God temporarily gave the gospel commission to believers in Jesus. Since the time of Jesus we have been living in the "church age."
3. When the "church age" ends, the 70 th week begins. This week of seven years is known as the time-period of the Great Tribulation or the Day of the Lord.
4. The claim that the 70 th week is still in the future is based on a distortion of Daniel 9.
5. The meaning of Daniel 9 is distorted because some pastors believe that God still considers the nation of Israel to be His chosen people. Therefore, all of the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament still await fulfillment. However, until Israel converts, the fulfillment cannot occur.
6. When the rapture occurs, it will cause 144,000 Jews to be converted to Christianity. Then, God will accomplish, through the nation of Israel, all that He intended centuries ago.
7. Which returns us to the need for a rapture Ė the circle is complete.
As I said earlier, the topic of the rapture qualifies as "a prophetic potholder." Discussing it in an article of this length is difficult because it has so many pieces of yarn involved. The essential problem with rapture, as I see it, are the underlying concepts. The whole idea of dispensationalism and its mechanical need for a pre-Second Coming rapture is seriously flawed. Therefore, we really cannot discuss the logic of the rapture without questioning the foundations of dispensationalism, which will be addressed later.
For now, let us consider the Christians that are not taken in the rapture for a moment. Most rapturists believe they cannot be subsequently saved." Why canít they be saved? I have been told, "Because they refused to believe the "truth" and so be saved." (This quotation is borrowed from 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, which has nothing to do with believing in the rapture.) Demanding or believing that salvation hinges on believing in the rapture is wrong. If I did believe in the rapture, the following question would bother me: "If God gives unbelieving Jews another chance for salvation during the 70 th week, why doesnít God give unbelieving Christians another chance at the same time?" Does God save people based on their faith in Him or based on their faith in the rapture?
In closing this section, let me summarize the three deficiencies I find in all of the presentations I have seen or read on the doctrine of the rapture. The first deficiency deals with the state of man in death. Most rapture believers do not understand why the resurrection at the end is necessary. The second deficiency concerns the nature of the judgment of humankind. A proper understanding about when the dead and the living are judged and how the Old Testament sanctuary service illuminates this interesting process is necessary. Last, a correct understanding of the timing and purpose of the Great White Throne judgment scene in Revelation 20 is also necessary. For a deeper study on these topics, I have written a series of brochures titled, " The Five Essential BibleTruths " that may be of interest to Bible students.
"One Will be Taken and the Other Left"
5.One of the favorite texts used by people who believe in a pre-Second Coming rapture is found in Matthew 24:40-42.[Jesus said] "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. ĎTherefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.í"
This verse understandably makes many people nervous. It seems to suggest that the coming of Jesus will be a sudden and totally unexpected event. On the surface these verses appear to say that two people will be working side by side and poof Ė one is taken and the other is left. This conclusion is based on a superficial treatment of these verses. Sometimes people who support the pre-trib rapture use these verses to make a sharp distinction between a sudden, "thief in the night" kind of gathering of the saints, and the glorious resurrection/ascension of the remaining saints mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Revelation 1:7. Do these verses really teach a secret gathering of the saints before the Second Coming? It is possible, but only if the context in which these words were spoken is totally ignored. So, let us take a close look at the context of these comments:
The record begins with Jesus leaving the temple. His disciples catch up with Him and draw His attention to the magnificent buildings that make up the temple complex. This temple was the pride of the Jews. It was their most sacred religious shrine. Herod had expanded and adorned it with much gold and cedar in an attempt to win the respect and cooperation of the Jews. Jewish leaders believed and taught that God would not allow the temple to be desecrated again. The Pharisees were determined Ė "never again" would Israel apostatize. To accomplish this, they used the club of legalism to keep the common people in line. Using the weapon of fear, they threatened the people that they would be "cut off" from citizenship in Israel. Jesus looked upon the gleaming walls of the temple with deep sadness. Then, He softly uttered this prophecy:"I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."His words, no doubt, stunned the disciples. These were outrageous words! Jesus was predicting that something very BIG was going to happen in Jerusalem!
A short time later, while sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came privately to Jesus. Jesusí previous remarks had raised both concern and curiosity within them."Tell us," they said, "when will this[destruction of the temple]happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"Jesusí response to His disciples is recorded by Matthew and Luke. In both gospels one compelling point surfaces: Jesus consistently speaks of one return or one coming. He does not allude to a pre-Second Coming rapture. Notice these seven highlights from Matthew (italics mine):
1. "...he who stands firm to the end will be saved."(24:13)
2. "...this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."(24:14)
3. "...as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."(24:27)
4. "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky , and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky , with power and great glory."(24:30)
5. "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man."(24:37)
6. ". . . they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took themall away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man."(24:39)
7. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come ."(24:42)
These seven statements and a host of others within the context of Matthew 24 and 25 are directed at one coming of the Son of Man. To insist that Jesus also talks about a pre-Second Coming rapture in two verses is to frustrate everything else He says in the other 95 verses of these two chapters. Let us focus on the immediate context of verses 36-43 where the statement is made, "one will be taken, the other left."
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into."(Matthew 24:36-43)
Three phrases from these verses deserve emphasis:
1."No one knows about that day or hour . . . but only the Father."
2."As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man."
3. "...and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field . . . "
These verses are obviously concerned with the coming of the Son of Man. This point is stated twice. Further, no one but the Father knows the date of Christís coming (a singular coming). Second, Jesus says there will be a parallel between Noahís day and His coming. The parallel is twofold: First, most people will be surprised, and second, many will be lost because of willful ignorance. I believe most people will agree that two people can work side-by-side every day and yet, one will be saved and the other will be lost. This is the meaning and emphasis of these two verses. In other words, it boils down to personal preparation. You cannot depend on the crowd or the charismatic oratory of popular Christian preachers. When end-time events unfold, the people who prepared spiritually will be saved, while many unprepared will be lost. This point is confirmed again in the parable of the ten virgins, which is the last part of this sermon. No doubt, the wise and the foolish virgins were close friends. The only difference between the wise and the foolish was the issue of preparation. When the foolish saw that they were without oil, they went to search for it. Meanwhile, the bridegroom arrived and the wise virgins followed Him through the door and into the banquet. Later, the foolish virgins showed up, but they were rejected. (See Matthew 25:1-13.) The key thought that Jesus emphasized throughout this parable is preparedness.
Let us consider three comments Jesus made in this sermon:"So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."(Matthew 24:44)"The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of."(Matthew 24:30)"Therefore keep watch, because you do notknow the day or the hour."(Matthew 25:13)
The meaning of these verses is beyond controversy. The issue is readiness. The coming of the Son of Man will be a surprise to nominal Christians! How do I know that Jesus is talking about nominal Christians? Notice this verse:"But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."(1 Thessalonians 5:4-6) I understand these verses to mean that there is no need to be surprised if we are awake, alert and prepared. Centuries earlier the prophet Amos wrote,"Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets."(Amos 3:7) Therefore, if we correctly understand the prophecies contained in Daniel and Revelation, we will not be surprised like the thief scenario. Although we do not know the day or hour of Christís return, we can know the timing of events in relation to Godís prophetic clock. This is why I am so concerned about the imminent commencement of the seven trumpets. I believe they will soon begin. We should be living in anticipation because the fulfillment of Godís Word is at hand!
The big surprise that Jesus continues to warn us about is not the Second Coming, but the commencement of the sequence of events leading up to His physical appearing. How does the surprise occur? Jesus offers this parallel:"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left . . . "(Matthew 24:37-39) From these verses (and others) I deduce the following: Before the flood, life went on as usual. People were not fasting and praying for understanding or preparation. Instead, they were eating and drinking, planning weddings, and living as if the end of the world was only a figment of someoneís imagination. (See 1 Corinthians 7:27.) Were the antediluvians warned of impending disaster? Oh, Yes! For 120 years the work and message of faithful Noah irritated the antediluvians. (Genesis 6:3; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5) Were the antediluvians busy with lifeís activities? Yes! They went about their daily routines with little concern. Did the antediluvians know the end was coming? Yes, they were warned, but none believed.
So, what did Jesus mean when He said:". . . and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away."In their wildest imagination, the antediluvians did not conceive the enormity or the process of what lay ahead. In the busy and active lifestyles that existed before the flood, the antediluvians did not intimately concern themselves with Noahís message or his "crazy" activities out on the hill side. I am sure Noahís peers considered him a "kook." When the animals came in an orderly fashion to enter the ark, few, if any, spectators were present. Noahís folly had been on the outskirts of town for more than a hundred years Ė it was "old hat." Then one day, without further notice or television announcement, Noah and his family went quietly inside the ark. The Lord Himself closed the great door while the rest of the world was totally unaware of the significance of what had just happened. (Genesis 7:16) Everyone outside the ark was doomed and they did not know it! Everyone inside the ark was "sealed in" and they knew it. For days, townsfolk did not even notice that the work outside the great boat had stopped. The noisy hill side had become quiet. Excessbuilding materials and other construction items were laying around the perimeter of the big boat, just as they had been for years. Things looked pretty much the same. No doubt, intoxicated revelers went out to jeer or mock Noah at times, but no one was disturbed or worried that last night on Earth. Jesus said, "They were eating and drinking" and planning for another day. What they did not know was that there were no more tomorrows.
Suddenly, in the middle of the night, a blast of light streamed down from the sky followed by calamitous heaves of Earth and ocean. These were followed in quick succession by sonic booms and catastrophic crashes. The grumble of a great earthquake could be heard from deep within the Earth. The ground began to rise in places, buildings began to fall and the air was suddenly filled with hot moist vapor. The sky was literally falling! A steady sequence of crashes was heard as fiery meteors and asteroids impacted planet Earth and the fountains of the deep were blown open. Although the impacts were some distance away, the sounds of doom were everywhere. Every eye was wide open. Every pulse was racing. Suddenly, as if on a cue, everyone remembered Noah! " So this is how it happens, " they thought as they grabbed as many precious items as they could carry and fled outside their trembling houses.
The ark, undisturbed and motionless, was spotlighted by the bursts of lightning illuminated the sky Ė it stood as a monument for truth. The tall, smooth sides of the ark prevented anyone from climbing aboard. The size and weight of the arkís only door was more than a hundred men could move. Frantic pleading could be heard. "Noah! Noah! Noah!!!" Let us in! Please, let us in. Please!!!" Within minutes of the meteoric impacts, torrents of water converged on the hillside where a crowd had gathered. Then, a great tsunami, rushing in from the ocean pushed inland, followed by rivers of water pouring from the sky. The foolish antediluvians were swept to their deaths within minutes. They knew nothing about what would happen because they had refused to listen.
Jesus makes it quite clear:"As it was in the days before the flood, so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of Man."Noah and his family did not escape the flood, but they did escape the destruction because of their faith. (Hebrews 11:7) Likewise, the saints will not escape the tribulation, but they do have the assurance that Jesus is with them until the very end. After comparing Noahís day with His Second Coming, Jesus brings His remarks into sharp focus. Two people will be working side by side, one will be saved, the other left behind. Was he alluding to a pre-trib rapture? No. He is speaking about the qualifying experience of faith. Faith in God is not something that can be developed within 30 minutes of terror. Faith in God is something that develops through testing and trials. As Jesus considered the time of His return, He saw many parallels between Noahís day and ours. The Great Tribulation will burst upon the world with a violence unseen since the days of Noah. Again, there will be powerful earthquakes, meteors and asteroid impacts. (The first four trumpets consist of great physical harm to this planet.) And yes, there will be enormous terror and death. Of course, the destruction caused by the seven trumpet events will not be global, as in Noahís day, or no one could live. Although three quarters of the Earthís population will survive, still the time of the seven trumpets will be filled with gloom, darkness and despair. Instead of water destroying the Earth, it will be fire! (Revelation 8:7)
Nothing has changed much. Just as in Noahís day, most of the world still refuses to listen. Even devout, religious people refuse to hear. They have created and trust sweet prophetic concepts, counting themselves worthy of escaping the events that will soon occur. Many good people are fatally deluded and an overwhelming disappointment is coming. Who is to blame for all this misinformation? Everyone Ė everyone who owns a Bible. God has given a translation of HisWord in almost every language of the world, making sure that everyone who wants to know the truth may have the opportunity. Therefore, no one can escape with claims of ignorance. I can confidently say that if there were more fasting and prayer for truth, more open discussion and research in the prophecies, the worldís population would be much better prepared for what is coming. How tragic it is that historicists and pre-Second Coming rapture believers have eliminated the importance of the seven trumpets!
The Apostle Peter sums it up saying,"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare . . . That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat."(1 Peter 3:9-12)
Let me repeat it again! The commencement of the seven trumpets (the day of the Lord) will come like a thief. These trumpet events mark the commencement of a time-period that is 1,335 days in length. (Daniel 12:11,12) For most of Earthís inhabitants, the sounding of the seven trumpets will come without knowledge or warning Ė just like a thief! Even if the entire human race were told, few would believe. What makes this so sad is that this ignorance is totally unnecessary!"But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."(1 Thessalonians 5:4-6) This you can count on! When the seven trumpets begin, those who have made a habit of studying Godís Word and daily listening to His Spirit, will be ready. The survivors who "played church" will be left . . . left wondering what hit them.
Israel and the 70 th Week
My last argument in this presentation against a pre-Second Coming rapture relates to Israel and the 70 th week. The doctrine and necessity of a pre-trib rapture are based, in part, on the concept that all of the promises God made to the ancient nation of Israel must be fulfilled before the Second Coming can take place. In other words, pre-Second Coming rapture believers maintain that Godís promises to ancient Israel are non-conditional. (Romans 11:29) Because Israel did not accomplish all that God intended for the first 1,400 years of existence and has refused to accept Jesus as Messiah for another 2,000 years, they believe God temporarily raised up Christians at the time of Christ to carry the gospel to the world. The pre-trib rapture becomes a mechanical necessity because the "Church age" is temporary and God has to remove all Christians from Earth so Jews can (a) be converted, and (b) fulfill all that was promised to them. Many popular Christian authors believe that the sudden absence of Christians from all over the world (as in a pre-trib or mid-trib rapture) will cause the sudden conversion of 144,000 Jews. These Jewish converts, they predict, will ultimately evangelize the world for Jesus with the same enthusiasm demonstrated by the Apostle Paul. According to the pre-trib theory, Jesus will come to Earth (Second Coming) at the end of the 70 th week, set up His kingdom and then the Jews will be foremost in Godís kingdom as priests and kings (Revelation 1:6). When Jesus returns to Earth at the Second Coming, believers in the pre-trib theory believe the raptured saints will accompany Jesus when He appears in the clouds to gather up a great host of new converts and the righteous dead. For reasons beyond the scope of this study, I disagree with these concepts completely. (The reader may want to examine Day Star back issues printed in October and March 98; February 97; March, April and May 96 and November 94, to see how a very different propheticscheme is set forth in the Bible.)
I find in the Bible a very different schematic and here are ten salient points to be considered:
1. Israel corporately broke the covenant that God made with them. (Jeremiah 11:10,11; Hosea 8:1)
2. God granted Israel a period of grace. (2 Chronicles 36:21-23; Jeremiah 31:16,17; Daniel 9:24-27)
3. The appearing of Messiah was prophesied in advance Ė 483 years (69 Jubilee weeks) after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:24-27)
4. The only decree to occur in a Jubilee year was in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7) Exactly 483 years later, at the beginning of the 70 th week, Jesus stood on the shore of the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. (Luke 3)
5. In the middle year of the 70 th week (A.D. 30), Jesus was unjustly "cut off" (crucified) and He brought sacrifices and ceremonial offerings to an end. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
6. Just before Jesus died, He declared the covenant between Himself and Israel forever void. (Matthew 23:37-39)
7. With His death on the cross, Jesus abolished all distinctions between Jew and Gentile. (Ephesians 2; Romans 9:6; 10:12; Galatians 3:28,29; Colossians 3:11; Acts 11:9-18)
8. Salvation has always been based on faith in God. (Hebrews 11) There is no Scriptural justification for different dispensations of salvation. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
9. The "Israel" referred to in Revelation is the same "Israel" referred to in James 1:1 and James 2:1. Since the cross, Israel is the people of God who believe in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; 6:47)
10. The necessity of a rapture simply to remove Christians from Earth so that Israel can fulfill Godís plan is unfounded. Again, the Israel that constitutes the people of God are believers in Christ. Just as John the Baptist was the promised "Elijah" in Christís day (Matthew 11:14), so believers in Jesus Christ are the seed of Abraham. (Galatians 3:29) God will fulfill everything He promised to Israel and more. The essential difference is that Israel is not just national. Godís true Israel is much larger; it is global! (Revelation 7:9,10)
I believe the seven trumpets are imminently forthcoming. I believe they are directed at this current generation, although most Christians are convinced otherwise. Of course, time will fully reveal the truth on this matter. While we wait for the truth to unfold, you may want to consider the following. I find that the seven trumpets have three basic purposes when they occur:
1. Godís wrath is coming in two phases: (a) redemptive, and (b) totally destructive. The seven trumpets are first Ė this is the redemptive phase. During a time-period of 1,260 days, the gospel will be boldly presented around the world by Godís servants (the 144,000). In response to this Spirit-filled message, a numberless multitude will submit to the authority of Jesus as their Savior and be saved. The second or final phase of Godís wrath is the seven bowls (75 days) Ė this is the destructive phase. The seven bowls occur after the seven trumpets. At the end of this second phase of wrath, Jesus will gloriously appear in the clouds (the Second Coming). Then, He will gather up the righteous (both dead and living) and destroy the wicked who are alive at the Second Coming. (Revelation 19:19-21; Revelation 6:12-17) The Earth remains in a desolate condition for 1,000 years. The saints are caught up in the air to meet the Lord because the Lord does not intend to place His kingdom on Earth until it is purified. All the wicked people that ever lived will be resurrected at the end of the 1,000 years to face their Maker, and then the Earth will finally be purified. (Revelation 20:5,11-15)
2. The swift destruction by the first four trumpets of Earthís infrastructures (communication, manufacturing, commerce and travel) will quickly generate a host of serious questions in every survivorís mind about the will and authority of the Living God. The first four trumpets will serve as a "wake up" call Ė man is accountable to the Most High. Into the din and bedlam of global destruction, God will send three clarion messages. (Revelation 14:6-11) The events surrounding these three messages are powerful and will be enough to separate Godís people from the wicked. (See Day Star , April 98.)
3. The coming destruction of one and a half billion people (25% of Earthís population) will shatter corporate cultures and all religious paradigms. This will allow God to communicate with His people in every religious body directly. Incredibly, the religions of the world have done nothing to prepare their members for these seven trumpet judgments. God will show humankind how foolish it was to place their confidence in the religious leaders of the churches. Currently, this realization is not possible yet, because people continue to foolishly depend upon their religious authorities for guidance and direction rather than studying their own Bibles. How sad that it takes this kind of devastation before God has our complete attention. Yes, God has people in every religious body, but He is going to separate them from their darkened religions through the presentation of truth. Likewise, Satan will present many marvelous lies, and the wicked will make their choice to follow his deceptions. In this way, God will separate the wheat from the tares, the righteous from the wicked. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 14:17-20; Matthew 13:30)
The Casting Down of the Censer
I have said much about the seven trumpets in this series. A few remarks about the casting down of the censer are necessary in closing. The casting down of the censer takes place before the trumpets begin to sound. This scene is of utmost importance. Consider the text:"And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angelís hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them."(Revelation 8:2-6)
What is the meaning of this scene? Notice that the censer is cast down just before the first trumpet occurs. The throwing down of the censer and the commotion that immediately follows on Earth marks thecommencementof the Great Tribulation. It also marks theterminationof an intercessory process in Heaven. Most readers understand the commencement of the seven trumpet sequence, but what does the casting down of the censer have to do with the termination of an intercessory process?
The intercessory process began the day that Adam and Eve sinned. Adam and Eve were to be executed the very day they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:17) However, when they sinned, Jesus stepped "in the way" and became manís intercessor. Ever since that day, Jesus has "stood between" God and sinners as intercessor. Notice how this works: Godís justice rightfully demands death. Godís willingness to allow Jesus to "stand in the way" is also described as unmerited favor or grace toward man. Jesus chose to "stand in the way" and be sinful manís substitute for death Ė this is divine love.
The reader needs to understand that with God, there is a perfect balance between justice and mercy. Further, Godís justice and mercy were not only extended to Adam and Eve, but to theiroffspring Ė available to a whole world of people. No doubt you have heard this text:"For God so loved the world , that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."(John 3:16, italics mine) The point often overlooked in this wonderful verse is that it is a corporate statement."God so loved the world . . ."
For some of you, this may be a new thought. However, an important difference exists between God dealing with corporate groups, such as cities or nations, and God dealing with individuals. For example, consider Sodom and Gomorrah. When these two cities became vile beyond recovery, He destroyed them for their degeneracy Ė while preserving a few individuals, namely Lot and his daughters. Get the point? When the two citizens of these cities filled their cup of sin, God exercised wrath corporately against those cities, but God did extend mercy to Lot and his family. This event shows that God deals with corporate sin separately from individual sin. In a similar way God destroyed the inhabitants of the world in Noahís day, but He saved a few individuals. At the Second Coming He will again destroy the whole world and rescue the righteous. Godís mercy with the world in general and Godís mercy for individuals is represented in Heavenís temple by the administration of mercy at two different altars in Heavenís court. The altar of incense was used for corporate intercession. The altar of burnt offering was used for individual atonement. (For more information on this subject, you may want to obtain my study on The Sanctuary Ė Part 5 from the series The Five Essential Bible Truths .)
In ancient times, a sacrifice was presented on the altar of incense each morning and each evening. This sacrifice was offered for the nation of Israel and not for any particular individual. In other words, this sacrifice was a corporate sacrifice. (See Numbers 15:22-31 and Leviticus 4 for a clear distinction between corporate and individual sacrifices.) The sacrifices for the sins of individuals were presented on the altar of burnt offering. Knowing the difference is important. The casting down of the censer at the altar of incense in Heaven marks the end of Christís intercession for the world in general, but His mercy for individuals remains available. Therefore, just before the seven trumpets begin (the commencement of the first phase of Godís wrath), the censer at the altar of incense in Heaven is "thrown down," indicating the sudden end of Christís corporate intercession. A sinful and defiled world will suddenly and unexpectedly receive the deserving wrath of God. As in the days of Noah, the world will reach a point where sacrifice will end (intercession or atonement) for sin. When this happens, the censer is cast down, a global earthquake and other signs occur and the trumpets soon commence. These events mark the commencement of the Great Tribulation which is the first phase of Godís wrath.
The angel at Heavenís golden altar of incense was given much incense to put on the altar before the seven trumpets sound. The fragrance of the incense, along with the prayers of the saints, goes up before God. What does this mean? In the wilderness sanctuary, a sacred incense was offered before the Lord each morning and evening as the daily sacrifice was being applied. (Exodus 30:7,8,37) On the Day of Atonement, the high priest carried a censer full of burning coals along with two handfuls of incense into the Most Holy Place. Jesus said,"He (the high priest) is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony (the mercy seat on top of the ark), so that he will not die."(Leviticus 16:13) The purpose of the savory incense was atmosphere and disposition. In other words, sinners are vile and unclean (they stink) when compared with the holiness and righteousness of God. Therefore, just before the final great harvest of repentant sinners begins,Heavenís court room will be filled with a sweet fragrance to mask the offensiveness of the people He loves. How wonderful of God. The point here is that we cannot make ourselves clean or accep table in His sight, but through Jesus, God will accept us as sons and daughters!
Consider this: Just before the trumpets begin, Heavenís court is filled with a sweet fragrance because God is about to gather in every sinner (stinker) that will live by faith Ė no matter how vile or evil his past. Jesus has paid the price for our sins. Jesus has died the second death for everyone that will submit to Him and obey His commandments. Jesus offers salvation full and free if only a sinner will turn from his sins and do what is right through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit!
From Revelation 8:5, I conclude that the censer is thrown down (discarded) because its usefulness has ended. The daily intercession conducted at this altar with this censer is finished. The prayers of waiting saints come up before the Lord with the fragrance of incense because they are knowledgeable, ready and prepared for the hour of trial that is about to occur. In other words, a group of people on Earth will be anticipating the trumpets before they begin. They know that time for the judgment day of God has come. Appropriately, the first people to be tested during the time-period of the trumpets will be those individuals who have had an opportunity to know and prepare for these things! (1 Peter 4:17) The 144,000 are among this group. (Revelation 7:1-4)
In conclusion, I cannot accept the doctrine of a pre-Second Coming rapture because the Bible does not confirm such ideas. I believe the rapture doctrine is a fatal illusion and it has snared many good people. God understands and in days to come, He will tenderly extend mercy to those who have been misled. A wake-up call is coming Ė it is called the seven trumpets. Many people will be bitterly disappointed. They will become irrational and angry. In this setting many will curse God rather than submit to the terms and conditions of salvation. The problem though, is not with Godís mercy, but with human nature. Unfortunately, once a personís faith has been shattered, recovering it is difficult. I feel very sad about the bitter experience that awaits many people.
In review, these are the concerns about the rapture doctrine I would like you to consider.
1. Resurrection of the Dead: The Apostle Paul does not teach a pre-trib rapture. On the contrary, he thought he would be alive to see the saints resurrected and together with them, he would meet the Lord in the air.
2. Judgement of the Living: A pre-trib rapture mandates a judgment of each living person before the rapture takes place. The Bible does not support a pre-trib judgment of the living. It does support a testing time for all people who live during the Great Tribulation. The mark of the beast test is the final vortex that forces everyone into a decision.
3. Church at Philadelphia: This "church" is not raptured to Heaven before the hour of trial begins. The translation of the Greek preposition, Ďek, throughout the Bible is varied. To insist that the Church at Philadelphia is going to escape the hour of trial is to ignore the weighty evidence of Scripture in other places. If you are going to promote this concept, you must answer the following questions: Why are not all seven churches granted the same privilege? Who belongs to the Church at Philadelphia? How can we tell?
4. No second chance to be saved: The Bible does not teach a second chance to be saved. In other words, if there was a rapture and you and I were left behind, there is no second chance to be saved. Today is the day of salvation. If there is a second chance, then why worry about being a Christian right now? If there is a pre-trib rapture, why should those left behind be given another chance? The antediluvians certainly did not get a second chance, did they?
5. Preparation is the key: The statement by Jesus that "two will be working together and one is left" does not imply a pre-Second Coming rapture. In its context His statement means that readiness and preparation is a personal work. No one else can do it for you. The antediluvians were caught by total surprise because they did not prayerfully consider the testimony and actions of Noah. They were consumed with the cares of this life, so when the flood came, they were left "outside the ark."
6. Prophetic Manipulation: I do not believe the Bible supports a "church age gap" of almost 2,000 years between the 69 th and 70 th week, as many popular preachers teach. Instead, the 70 th week was fulfilled long ago, just as God declared. Further, in Galatians 3:28,29 Paul tells us that being an heir of Abraham has nothing to do with biological lineage. In other words, everything promised to Abraham will be fulfilled by spiritual Israel. Abrahamís offspring are not reckoned through the flesh, but through faith. (Romans 9:6; Galatians 4)
If you have come this far in the article, my prayer is that you are left with no other option than to consider this topic seriously. As I said at the beginning of this study, the seven trumpets of Revelation are one of the most compelling subjects in the Bible and I find them to be highly relevant to our current generation. Reread this booklet. Prayerfully compare my findings with what you read in your Bible and see where the Holy Spirit leads you. I believe time is very short. Soon, overwhelming events of global proportion will commence. The Y2K problem and all of Earthís other concerns dim in comparison to what this is all about. You cannot afford to postpone a decision on this matter indefinitely. Today, we have an opportunity to study and prepare. Take advantage of Godís mercy! James 1:12 says,"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."