THE RAPTURE AND THE COMING OF THE LORD (Feb. 2004)
Matthew 24:27-31 For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even into the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For where ever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
In the last verse of this section, Jesus says.. "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the other." (In scripture, the term "four winds" some believe to describe the heavenly, but in the three uses in the New Testament, it is used to describe all over heaven and earth), and "from one end of heaven to the other" seems to depict some people who are no longer in the world. This is supported by the corresponding verses in Mark 13:27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. This is what Paul also describes...
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. it is also referred to here...
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind...
So there is definitely a day when we will be "gathered together unto him". In Jesus' description, it happens "Immediately after the tribulation of those days", this in itself would lend credence to the belief that it will occur after the tribulation, because it is in fact at the coming of the Lord. In the second set of verses above, the two are spoken together in the same thought: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, the coming of our Lord being mentioned first seems to indicate that a. he comes, and b. we are gathered together unto him. but let's continue...
After describing the things that would be taking place in the world at the time of the end, (Mathew 24: 4-26) Jesus gives specific details surrounding his coming, and the end of the world. The rest of New Testament scripture supports, (of course) Jesus' account of the end of time. There is NO contradiction between the words of Jesus, the teaching of Paul in Thessalonians, and the Revelation, so we must use the words of Jesus, and the rest of New Testament scripture to qualify the proper interpretation of Paul's words. We will also seek some guidance from the book of Revelation to qualify our interpretation of Paul's words in Thessalonians.
In the book of Revelation, this appears to be the order of events at the opening of the seals, which is a series of events unfolding at the end of the age leading into, and during the tribulation. There are items that should be cited in the discussion concerning the end of the world and the rapture. We will discuss the seals individually in another article, but let's stay focused on the departure of the Believers, and the teaching of the Rapture for this article.
Revelation 6:9-11 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice saying, How long O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
After the opening of the 5th seal, the souls of them who were martyred for the faith, (we would assume since the departure of Jesus, at the beginning of the Church up through the tribulation) are "under the alter", asking when they will be avenged, but they are told to wait a bit longer, until the rest of those who would be killed as they were was finished. Then, the 6th seal is opened...
Revelation 6: 12-17 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
After the opening of the 6th seal, are the events Jesus described in Mathew 24, as the events surrounding his coming. These events in Rev. 6 are identified as those events, albeit with a slightly different color, by the last verse: Rev. 6:16 Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? since both Mathew 24 and Rev. 6 both describe the signs, and Revelation 6 identifies them as his coming, This we must understand is the coming of Christ, or at least the signs of his coming. If there are only Martyrs in heaven at the 5th seal, and the 6th seal is the signs of the coming of Jesus, how could one say that anyone in heaven at this point is secretly scooped out of the world without being killed for the faith? No one like that even exists in heaven at that time. especially since the numberless multitude is mentioned AFTER this. Let's read on...
Revelation 7:9-12 After this, I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
So we have both the first mention of those who were martyred "under the alter", asking when their blood would be avenged after the 5th seal, then a numberless multitude clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands, worshiping God, after the signs of coming of The Lamb. (6th Seal) (Revelation 7: 9) "After this I beheld, and lo a great multitude:" Next, an elder explains who they are...
Revelation 7:13-17 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? (speaking of the numberless multitude) And I said unto him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
So what do we have unfolding here? There is an order clearly laid out in ALL of the above scriptures from the Gospels, 1+2 Thessalonians, and Revelation that do not contradict one another when one looks with an open mind, not trying to plug a "secret rapture" before the tribulation into the series of events, and it is as follows...
Yet we see all alive in heaven at this point are indeed martyrs! From the history of the church, martyrs from the tribulation, and those who were alive and remained at the coming of the Lord, who also went through great tribulation. These are "The Dead in Christ", "The Numberless Multitude" and "We which are alive and remain" at the coming of the Lord.
Although we do believe there will be some believers still alive at the time of the Lord's return..
Matthew 24:37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
...We don't feel that it will be a great number, since ALL of the people alive in heaven after the coming of the Lord, (the numberless multitude, souls under the alter, and those who were alive and remained) are killed for the faith, or going through, and alive at the end of the tribulation.
This fact is clearly supported by the book of Revelation. I do not see a "pre-tribulation" rapture in the course of events depicted in The Gospels, 1+2 Thessalonians, or Revelation. However, we do see a significant number of people alive in Heaven that were killed for the word of God and the testimony that they held: (under the Alter, and the numberless multitude). We could also speculate that those who are alive and remain, having been through the great tribulation, are counted among the numberless multitude, and among those who will reign, because they stand before the Lamb before, during and after his coming, (having been "caught up to meet the Lord in the air") wearing white robes. Do we therefore believe that the only people to get into the eternal kingdom of God are those who are Martyred, or alive at the time of his coming? No we do not, as there is mention of others in both Thessalonians and Revelation. But in the "First Resurrection" which is described in Rev 20:5-6, which is at the beginning of the 1000 year reign, there is NO ONE alive in the picture but the numberless multitude, those who were caught up, and the souls under the alter... ALL Martyrs.
QUESTIONS ONE MIGHT ASK...
Because we have to line up our interpretation of the scriptures in Thessalonians with the rest of scripture, we are forced to conclude that the "Dead in Christ" are those "souls under the alter" mentioned at the opening of the 5th seal, since Revelation clearly indicates that those are the only people mentioned just prior to the signs of the coming of the Lord, which is the 6th seal, and then after his coming they, and the Numberless Multitude are all that is alive at this point. We KNOW that the souls under the alter are martyrs, Rev. 6: 9-11, and we are told in Rev. 7: 13-17, that the numberless multitude are those who came through "great tribulation", and that we which are alive and remain also go through the tribulation, and after the Lord's coming, are among the numberless multitude. This is proven at the beginning of the 1000 year reign in Rev. 20: 4-6 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
You can see from this scripture here, that the only ones who are judged here, are the ones who were killed, and were still alive during the tribulation and are the ones that were caught up, by the bolded text. The Souls under the Alter, and the Numberless multitude are the only ones judged here, where they were proven faithful unto death, and "stand before the lamb night and day", it is obvious that their judgment was decided by their death, and their suffering in the tribulation. You see? These folks have already received eternal life even though no judgments had occurred yet up until this time. I think the scripture makes it clear that if you are killed for the faith, its pretty obvious that you were among the faithful. (of course that salvation still being provided by the death of Christ, which they are only conforming to and mimicking).
Yes, that is exactly what the scripture says happens. In Rev. 20:4-5, And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The scripture indicates, that those who are killed for the faith, are the ones that will take part in the first resurrection, and I might add the first judgment, and the 1000 year reign. They are embodied in: "The Souls under the Alter", "The Numberless Multitude", and "Those who were Alive and Remained" at the close of the tribulation, at the Lord's coming.
No where in the Bible are people mentioned in heaven at, before, or around the coming of the Lord, that where not killed for the faith, or having gone through Great Tribulation!
We also feel there is a close relation between 1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. And that scripture regarding the "First resurrection" in Rev. 20: 4-5 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. It is clear here that Martyrs, and tribulation saints rise first, yes, in the "First resurrection"!
Well, look at that last sentence in the verse above: But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished, they are mentioned, but very late in the book of Revelation, in chapter 20, Rev.20:11-15 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Since the Gospel's account, 1+2 Thes., and Revelation make it indisputably clear that the only ones alive in heaven immediately after the coming of the Lord are, "Souls under the Alter", the "Numberless multitude", and those who were "caught up", there is no choice but to conclude that the rest of the Church, and the rest of who will be saved are resurrected at the "Second resurrection" and I might add at the "Second Judgment", at the great white throne judgment, where the "second death" occurs, and are those who are found written in the book of life. There are some found written in the book of life. Not everyone at the Great White Throne is condemned.
I used to assume that it was too, but given the description of who the numberless multitude is in Rev. 7: 13-14 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. There is no possible way to conclude that they are the whole historic Church, since they came through great tribulation, I.E. were killed for the faith.
The explanation for this is found in our Article "The 7 Letters to the Seven Churches". We believe, as do many Christians that the seven letters to the seven Churches represent seven periods of church experience, as well as speaking to seven specific Churches of that day. In this scenario, the last two of the Churches, Philadelphia and the Laodicea Churches are in existence at the time of the end (see the article for more info), The Laodicean Church being an apostate Church in love with its wealth, and Philadelphia being a remnant of believers still proclaiming the truth, at that time. This verse above is in Christ's word to the Philadelphian church, and I believe speaks to those who are "alive and remain", who are "caught up" in the Lord's coming. It also bears to mention that fact that the final days are shortened, so that even the elect won't be lost. OH YEAH, one other thing... Right there in that verse, what does he say? "the hour of temptation, Which shall come on all the world to try them on the earth"
SO LET'S SUM IT UP SHALL WE?
What we set out to establish here is very important in light of the fact that it is the nature of man to need a period of time to focus, prepare, and "psyche" himself for things he must endure, and we believe that due to what is clearly an unscriptural teaching, the majority of the present day Christian church is of the mindset that they will not be present for things that they SURELY WILL endure if they live at the time of the end, as we believe we do. Yes, there are some terrible troubles that we who believe will miss, The wrath of God on the Earth will be missed by Christians, but the tribulation is an event our faith has been teaching us to prepare for for 2000 years now, and we don't think the church is in fact prepared for this event. We think there are three VERY significant dangers facing the Christian who believes the teaching of "the Pre-tribulation Rapture"...
The Christian who believes that he will not face the Great Tribulation will most certainly not be prepared for the life threatening events that will occur during this time. He lives his life in the comfort of the belief that he will be "rescued" from the hard times, and therefore, whatever he sees happening in his world, he will be unwilling to accept that it is in fact the tribulation. Why? "Because I am still here, this can not possibly be that time, because I will be gone". This belief is indefensible in light of the scriptures. The very word Tribulation refers to a time that will be suffered by Christians, and we doubt that a substitute batch of Christians are set to suffer this, as so many suppose. "Those are the ones that get converted during the Tribulation." come on folks, this isn't a football team, the tribulation will not be suffered by "special teams!"
Most people who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture also believe that the "Mark of the Beast" comes during the tribulation as well, and rightly so, but when the Devil comes across with this cunning device, (whatever it may be) even if it seems clear that it could be the mark, people who believe this teaching will deny that it is in fact the mark, and probably accept it, because again, he is not going to be here when that takes place, so how could this be the mark? To go even one step further than that, if a Christian should be living in a set of beliefs that are contrary to scripture in his life and in his opinions and philosophies at the time of the end, thus placing him in a bad place for the coming judgment because he is deceived, and as a result won't be persecuted with the true believers anyway, he could literally stand by and watch the entire tribulation pass by without even knowing it, and because these troubles are happening to someone else, "they must be taken in sin". Given the deceptions that are running rampant in American Christianity today it needs to be considered that this is a real possibility to even those around us, given that it is God's people the devil wishes to deceive rather than the world.
The belief in the "pre-trib" rapture is part of a system of beliefs in the American Christian church today that lends to what we believe to be a flowery kind of Christianity, and that most people living in this system of beliefs, when faced with real hard core opposition and persecution, will find it so distressing, and surprising, that I fear what their REAL reaction to these things will be. The teaching of the pre-trib rapture is attributed to a man named Darby, who lived prior to the turning of the 20th century. (although it is disputed that he stole the idea from a man named Irving). So the teaching of "The Rapture" has only existed in the institutional church's doctrine for the last approximately 100-200 years of history. It was not taught by Jesus, the disciples of Jesus, or by any notable figure throughout the entire life of the church until near the turn of the last century. He told us that the servant is not greater than his Lord, that if they persecuted him, they would persecute us, that we would be hated, cast down, unjustly treated, and possibly even killed for our faith. 2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
The American Christian today does not at all believe that we will face any of that. He lives a sheltered life behind the protection of the mighty American military, and he believes that when it gets hot down here that God is going to scoop him out just in the nick of time so he doesn't have to endure the hardship of tribulation, and that "other" Christians (of course), will endure the tribulation. He passes through life reveling in a cushy set of beliefs, that leave him "blessed by God" with a lifestyle clothed in wealth and excess, living in a system of beliefs that encourage him to support the most deceitful and hypocritical government the world has ever known, because it "protects his blessings". But fear not! For the 21st century Christian is CERTAINLY willing to "give it all up in a heartbeat" for God, who will of course immediately transfer him to his mansion by the crystal sea, where he will continue an even greater version of the life that he has set up for himself in the "Godly Nation" of America!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I know the scenario presented in this article is a very unpleasant and harsh reality. I realize that it sounds like I am "down on" my fellow Christian. I feel that some will feel condemned by the words here in, but let me say with no reservation what so ever, that this is not the spirit in which this article is written! I write these words with my heart being wrenched in my body, and a "spiritual stress" if you will, about the state of beliefs in the church today, and the consequences that they could have on the outcome of a believers life! I WILL NOT stand by and say nothing so that we can all feel comfortable in deception! I will not stand by and watch people that I KNOW AND LOVE, and who truly believe in and love the Lord, be deceived by our enemy! This is the underlining principle of every single article on this site. The Devil is as a roaring lion, roaming about seeking whom he may devour, and the scripture teaches that he will successfully devour an enormous portion of the people living in the last days, including God's elect if possible! By people's succumbing to the pleasures of this world, and living for the deceitfulness of riches, the Devil has been given place to work a number of heresies into mainstream church doctrine, and in spite of being rejected by the people who believe these things, we will not be silent to those teaching's distortion of the word of God.
We do not believe that there is a pre-tribulation rapture. The scriptures do not teach this in any way that could be even remotely considered solid, in light of the weight of New Testament scripture. Remember, we have to qualify that one scripture in Thessalonians, with the rest of the New Testament, and the rest certainly does not support the 20th and 21st Century use of those verses. Scripture clearly teaches that our "gathering together unto him" or "Rapture" if you wish, happens at the second coming of the Lamb, which appears to be "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" and if you are to accept that, even for just a moment for the sake of argument, you would be FORCED to acknowledge how deceptive and dangerous that belief could be to a Christian church that clearly doesn't expect to see a moment of tribulation! The unpreparedness that it will foster and subject a believer to, could be instrumental in causing that believer to end up surprised in the end of time! Remember the parables of Jesus, and how many of them indicated that so many would not be prepared at his coming, and you will begin to realize what a HUGE part of the enemy's scheme it will be, to place doctrines in the church that cause Christians to "drop their guard" so to speak, and thus be unprepared for his arrival. The teachings of the Pre-Trib Rapture, Christian Prosperity, Dominionist Theology, and others do exactly that!
In Christ, F.E.Reilly
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