Thirteen Scholars Answer Tough Questions about the Rapture, Tribulation and the Second Coming – Program 1
|By: Dr. John Walvoord, Hal Lindsey, Dr. Zola Levitt, Peter LaLonde, Dr. David Breese, Dr. Renald Showers, Dr. John Feinberg, Dr. Paul Feinberg, Dr. Earl Radmacher, Dr. Randall Price, Dave Hunt, Dr. Elwood McQuaid, Dr. Jimmy DeYoung; ©1996|
|The Bible contains many prophecies and many promises from God. Why is it important for us to study the prophetic passages?|
Important Prophetic Promises
Dr. John Ankerberg: As we reach the end of this century, people want to know more about biblical prophecy, especially the sequence of the many important events that the Bible says will occur during the end times. Today and in the weeks to come, you will meet and hear thirteen of the most respected and knowledgeable professors and teachers of biblical prophecy in the United States. They will explain in depth some of the key passages concerning end-time events. My guests will be: Professor Dr. John Walvoord, Dr. Zola Levitt, Dr. David Breese, Dr. Earl Radmacher, Dr. Randall Price, Dr. Elwood McQuaid, Peter Lalonde, Dr. Jimmy DeYoung, Dr. Renald Showers, Dr. Paul Feinberg, Dr. John Feinberg, and best-selling author Dave Hunt. We invite you to join us.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. If you’ve been watching the last few weeks, you’ve seen “Current World Events and Biblical Prophecy” with my three guests, Dr. Elwood McQuaid, Dr. Jimmy DeYoung, and Dr. Renald Showers. And off of that series of programs, many of you have written and asked a lot of questions about biblical prophecy. Now we’re going to try to answer them with 13 of the best professors, the most respected and knowledgeable men that I know in this country that can teach on biblical prophecy. They’re going to help answer your questions.
- Let me start off by saying that when I go into a lot of churches, there are two topics that they ask me not to speak about. One happens to be the Masonic Lodge. Now the question is, why is it they don’t want me to teach on these? Well, the Masonic Lodge is a controversial program and many of their members are Masons. They don’t want to hit that topic. The other one is prophecy. The reason they usually give for saying, “John, please don’t preach on that,” is because they say, “It’s too complicated. There are too many verses, too many different views. We don’t want to split the people in our church.”
- But if you do that, I think you’re dishonoring the Word of God. For example, did you know that approximately 27 percent of the entire Bible contains prophetic material? Half of that has already come true; half remains to be fulfilled. That means that of the Bible’s 31,124 Bible verses, 8,352 contain prophetic material. Also, did you know that 1,800 verses in the Bible deal with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? In the New Testament, approximately one out of 25 Bible verses refers to the Second Coming. Would anyone dare to say to God that what He wrote in Scripture is worthless, unimportant, and shouldn’t be studied? In fact, God brags about His prophetic statements as being proof that He exists. Have you ever read Isaiah 46:9,10 where He says, “I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say my purpose will stand and I will do all that I please. What I have said, that I will bring about, and what I have planned, that I will do.” Jesus in Matthew 13:23 said, “So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. When you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. What I say to you, I say to everyone, Watch!” Jesus in John 13:19 said, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that I am He,” that is, God.
- So prophetic statements in the Bible prove that God exists, prove that Jesus is God, and as we’ll see, they are there to warn those without Christ and to comfort those who have believed in Christ. Now, what we want to look at is, where did Jesus say that He would return someday? And then we want to look at where does the Bible teach the doctrine of the Rapture?
- First of all, let’s turn to John 14:1-3. It reads this way: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
- Now here Jesus makes six promises. Number 1, He says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Notice, He mentions a specific location around which this whole prophecy revolves. Let me ask you, “Where is the Father’s house?” In Boston? No. The Father’s house is in Heaven. Number two, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Where is that place? Boston again? No, that place is in Heaven. And number three, Jesus said, “I will come again.” Here’s the Rapture. Jesus said that He will come again to get us. Number four, He says, “And I will receive you unto myself.” When He comes again, where do you think He’s going to take us? He said, “I will take you unto myself, that where I am”—Heaven—”there you may be also.”
- Now, when will Jesus take us to Heaven to be in the Father’s house? Well, at the time that He returns for us. If that’s not what these verses are saying, then these words are nonsense. The post-tribulationists say that when Christ comes, believers will be raptured off of the earth, they’ll meet Christ in the air, and immediately they’ll return directly to earth. We will not go to Heaven; rather, we will stay on earth when Jesus establishes His thousand-year reign on earth. But if they’re right, then what is Jesus encouraging us about in this passage? He must be involved in a futile building program because how long has Jesus been gone? He’s been gone for 1900 years. That’s some building program. Now keep in mind that Jesus is saying that when He comes back for us, He’s going to receive us unto Himself that where He is, in Heaven and that’s where we’re going to be, He’s going to take us to the Father’s house and the place He’s been preparing for us.
- Now, look back to 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 where it reads, “Behold,” Paul says, “I show you a mystery.” Put that down as number one—”mystery.” Number two, “We shall not all sleep.” What does that mean? That’s number two. Number three, “We shall all be changed.” “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”—that’s how fast—number four. “At the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
- Paul says, “Behold, I show you a mystery.” What is a mystery? An Agatha Christie novel? No. It’s the Greek word mysterion which means “something not previously known.” This is something that God reveals to us and without God revealing it to us, we wouldn’t know. It’s revealed to the true believer. Paul is going to reveal a new truth that was not known before. Well, what is it? The mystery was not that the Lord would return to earth. The Apostles already knew this. Remember, Jesus had told them He would return in Acts 1:9-11. He said, “And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel which also said, ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.'”
- Now, this mystery also could not be the Resurrection. Why? Those in the Old Testament already knew and expected the Resurrection. Where do we find that? Daniel Chapter 12, verse 2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” So the mystery was not that the Lord would return to earth again—the disciples knew that. And the mystery was not that there would be a resurrection of believers and unbelievers someday in the future. The Old Testament folks knew that. Well, what was this mystery? Paul tells us. He said, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” What is the new truth, the mystery previously not known but now revealed? It’s this: Not all Christians are going to die.
- This is a totally new concept. Paul is teaching that a whole generation of future believers on planet earth will be taken en masse into God’s presence at the time of the Rapture. We’ll never know what it is to die physically. Let me ask you, I’ve got aches and pains. Probably you’ve got aches and pains, too. Right? If you had your choice of going to Heaven in one of two different ways, one by getting cancer or getting some other disease and suffering and then dying and going to Heaven; or number two, for you to be living and all of a sudden, boom, zap, you’re out of here! The Rapture comes and you go to Heaven that way, which way would you choose? I’d like the “boom” way. I’d like to have the Rapture happen any moment. Paul says, up ahead, the new truth is that some generation of Christians all over planet earth in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they’re going to be gone.
- I’d like you to listen as Dr. John Walvoord, a distinguished professor of Bible prophecy that’s taught many students down through the years, talks about this wonderful promise:
- Dr. John Walvoord: In connection with the Rapture of the Church in I Thessalonians 4, he indicates that Christians who are living will be caught up to meet the Lord. And this, of course is taught in I Corinthians Chapter 15. In this chapter he is dealing with the subject of resurrection and he deals with this matter of the Rapture of the Church and he brings out in verses 51 and following these wonderful truths: “Behold I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the at the last trump; for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
- Now, those of us who are living as Christians in the world recognize we have some problems. First of all, we have a body that is given to us by our parents and it’s a sinful body. It’s able to sin. In fact, every Christian sins. It’s also a body that grows older, and whether you resist it or not, eventually you grow older. And finally, it’s mortal; that is, it can die.
- Now, these three things have to be changed. And I believe when the Rapture of the Church occurs, instantly we are going to be changed and given bodies patterned after the resurrection body of Christ and this will make us suitable for being in the Lord’s presence in heaven. You see, we couldn’t stand it to be in the presence of a holy God in our present bodies. We need an entirely different body and that will be given to us at the Rapture of the Church. So a whole generation of Christians would go to heaven without dying.
- In the Old Testament you have the illustration of Enoch and Elijah who went to heaven without dying, but they’re the only exceptions. Everybody else is born, raised, and dies in history. But now here’s a whole generation that’s going to be changed and this is our wonderful prospect. And so whether we’re young Christians or middle age or older, we have this wonderful hope that if Christ comes any day, that we’ll be raptured and our bodies will be instantly changed.
- Ankerberg: So in 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 Paul is saying here is a new truth, great hope. We’re not all going to sleep. We’re not all going to die. There’s a future generation of Christians who are all going to be changed.
- What does the word “changed” mean? The Greek word allasso is translated “to be changed” or it literally means “to be transformed.” Believers who are alive will instantly be given new bodies, that is, spiritual bodies like the Lord Jesus. How long will it take? The Bible says “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” How long will the Rapture event take? Well, we’re going to be changed instantaneously. Someone has said that the blinking of an eye is about one-thousandth of a second. But that’s too long. The Greek word is atomos from which we get the word atom. It actually means something that is so small, it’s a period of time that cannot be divided any further. The Rapture will occur so quickly and suddenly that the time frame in which it occurs cannot be humanly divided. In a flash of a second, every living believer on earth will be gone. Suddenly, without warning, only unbelievers will be populating planet earth because of the Rapture.
- Now, where does the Bible actually teach about the Rapture? Where do you find the word Rapture? I want you to turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Here is what it says. Paul says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren.” Hold it right there. A lot of churches will read that verse, “I want you to be ignorant, brethren,” because they don’t want to tell you about the Rapture; they don’t want to tell you about the Second Coming; they don’t want to tell you about the one-third of the Bible verses in the Bible that contain prophetic material.
- That was not true of the Apostle Paul. They had some questions. Number one was, they were expecting the Rapture. We know that from 1 Thessalonians 1:10 where it says they had turned from their idols to the living God and they were “waiting for God’s Son to come from Heaven.” What was their question? As they were waiting for God’s Son to come, the Rapture, some of their fellow Christians died. Mamma died. Daddy died. Or one of the sons or daughters died. And they got to thinking about the fact, well, why is it they died? Are they going to miss out on the Rapture? Will they not have glorified bodies to be translated in a moment and meet us in the air with Christ? No, they didn’t know what the answers were to those questions. They were afraid. Maybe they even thought, you know, I might not ever see Mom or Dad ever again because I’m going and for some reason they’re staying.
- So they asked these questions to Paul via Timothy and so he’s addressing their questions. He said, “I don’t want you to be ignorant about these things and specifically about those which are asleep.” He says, “That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Well, we as Christians do sorrow. I buried my dad this last summer and the fact is, we sorrowed but we’re going to see him again. So we don’t sorrow as those that have no hope. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,” the foundation for anybody going in the Rapture is to believe that Jesus died for our sins, paid for them on the cross. He paid a debt we could never pay. He was put into the ground. He rose again and is living now.
- That’s the foundation. Those who believe that, he says, “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” What does he mean there? If you die before the Rapture of the Church, the body goes into the ground. Dr. Walvoord says, “Your spirit goes to be with the Lord.” When the Lord comes out of Heaven, he says he’s going to bring our spiritual bodies with Him. We’re going to be reunited with our physical bodies at the Rapture. He says, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord.” This isn’t something that Paul made up. This is “by the word of the Lord.” “That we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.” You’ve got the two groups. Those that they were concerned about that had already passed on, that were asleep, that is, to hide in the Lord. And then those that were living. He said, “We which are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not prevent” or precede “them which are asleep. 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.”
- So here are these two groups again. What happens to them? Mamma died. Daddy died. Son or daughter died. If they knew the Lord, then the Lord’s going to bring their spiritual soul with Him and reunite that with their physical bodies. The fact is, they will be brought up first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them. That word “caught up together” comes from the Greek word harpazo. It literally means “to snatch out” or “to seize.” It’s like a thief grabbing a purse. He seizes it. The word Rapture comes from the Latin Vulgate which is the Latin Bible rendering of raptus from which we get the popular term Rapture. So if you were reading your Latin Bible and you got down to verse 17 you would see raptus, rapture. That’s where the Bible teaches the Rapture. It means we have been snatched out; we’ve been caught up by a mighty act of power by the Lord. This is where the Bible teaches the Rapture of all believers. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them.”
- You talk about party time! “Together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord” where? In Boston? No, “in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Now look what it says. “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” Now, if you hook that up with John 14 where Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Where is He now? Where is He preparing a place for us? In Heaven. We meet the Lord in the air. We put these two passages together and the fact is, we meet the Lord in the air and He takes us to the Father’s house.
- Now listen to Dr. David Breese and Dr. Randall Price as they talk about these same truths at a conference that we had in Dallas, Texas:
- Dr. David Breese: The Bible teaches that Christ is coming at the end of the age—that’s at the end of the Tribulation—”in power and great glory” and He’s coming with “ten thousands of His saints.” And that will be the great denouement of history whereby He establishes His Kingdom. But the Scripture then teaches that preceding that glorious return of Christ there will be a seven-year period called “The Tribulation,” but it’s about the Tribulation the Scripture says to Christians: “…because you have kept the word of my patience, I will keep you from that hour of trial”—temptation, tribulation—”that will come upon the whole world to try them that dwell on the earth.” Therefore, we see in Scripture that the Bible says that Christ will come for His saints before the beginning of the Tribulation and take all believing Christians up to be with Him in Heaven. Perhaps in short we might say that Christ is coming at the end of the Tribulation with His saints but before that He is coming for His saints. We will then be formed into that army that shall return with Him to the conquest of earth.
- Dr. Randall Price: Well, when you say “the whole Church believes in the Rapture,” we have to understand that the Church is divided in different views concerning when the Rapture will take place. When we talk about the Tribulation period, that time of wrath of which God pours out upon this earth, that view of “catching up” or “carrying away” takes place in relationship to that span of time.
- There are those who believe that it will take place before that time of wrath comes, and those are called pretribulationists because they believe the Rapture takes place “before” that Tribulation. And they believe that is a removal from all of that period of Tribulation—the entire seven years.
- Then there are those who are considered midtribulationists who believe that the Rapture will be a catching away at the midpoint—3-1/2 years into that Tribulation period. There’s some variations on these. There are those who believe that a partial Rapture—those who are extremely faithful will be rewarded by being taken up or snatched in bunches at different times at the beginning of the Tribulation. Then there are those who believe in a pre-wrath Rapture, that three-fourths of the way through the Tribulation there will be a taking up of the Church.
- And then, finally, there are those who are post-tribulationists who believe that the Church will go through that entire period of time but be preserved from the wrath of God, the divine wrath, only to be taken up very quickly prior to the second coming of Christ to the earth and to meet Him in the air and come back to the earth with Him.
- Ankerberg: Now, concerning those that believe in a sense that at the time Christ comes to establish His Millennial Kingdom and rescue Israel and establish His righteousness on earth, if that was true, and we were to meet Christ in the air, make a “U” turn and come down, why is it that at that point John 14:1-2 enters into our discussion?
- Price: Because in John 14:1-2 Jesus is giving a word of assurance to His disciples. He’s saying, “I’m not going to leave you alone as orphans in this world. If I go, I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” And so there is a place prepared to which believers on this earth, the Church, the Body of Christ, must be taken. He will come and take them to that place. There’s no sense in which they will meet Him and then come to the earth first and then go to that place. The next promise that He has made for His Church is that He will take them personally Himself to that place of promise.
- Ankerberg: Now, these are great truths and I want you to know where they are in your own Bible. Next week we’re going to look at the concept of imminency. Where does the Bible teach that Christ’s coming is imminent and it could happen at any moment? Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Dr. Renald Showers:
- Dr. Renald Showers: The idea is, the Lord could come as the Judge of Heaven through that door of Heaven at any moment and then immediately, Christians would stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They have their works as believers evaluated by the Lord. It’s imminency that he’s talking about here. And I’m convinced that just as it was imminent back then, the Lord could have stepped through the door of Heaven at any time; the same is true today—that Christ could step through the door of Heaven at any moment and we who are believers in Jesus Christ would be ushered into His presence and then would stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ to have our works evaluated by the Lord.