Thirteen Scholars Answer Tough Questions about the Rapture, Tribulation and the Second Coming – Program 6
|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|
|Even more reasons to believe that the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are two separate events.|
The Rapture and the Second Coming – Part 2
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: The twentieth century has seen an unprecedented amount of change. We’ve seen two world wars, the advent of atomic weapons and warfare via missiles. Internationally, Israel became a nation in 1948. Suddenly, biblical prophecies concerning end-time events started to grab people’s attention. We’ve seen the rise of the United Nations, as well as the formation of the European Union of Nations. In Russia, the iron curtain came down, democracy was born; yet it remains in jeopardy if Boris Yeltsin passes off the scene. In this whole context of world events, the Rapture of the Church looms as an imminent event. I think Jimmy DeYoung, an international journalist who resides in Jerusalem, Israel, was correct when he said:
- Dr. Jimmy DeYoung: The stage is set. Every actor is moving into place and the curtain is about to go up. Like never before in history, the scenario God lays out in His Word is moving into position. You pick up a paper, you tune in a television newscast or a radio news report, it’s giving us continuing evidence. I think I’m listening to prophecy features sometimes when I listen to national news or international news. It’s giving us the evidence of how God is allowing these nations to move into position.
- Ankerberg: In light of these events and what the Bible says, how should Christians live?
- DeYoung: You should live anticipating His coming today. Because there’s not one thing that has to happen before the Rapture of the Church comes to snatch those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior out of this world. Do you know what Jesus said in the Upper Room to His disciples? He said, “I tell you”— He was talking about His crucifixion and resurrection—”I tell you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will know I am who I said I am.” God lays out all this information so that we can know who He is and turn to Him.
- Ankerberg: I agree with Jimmy. Not one thing needs to happen before the Rapture of the Church takes place. But some Christians don’t see it that way, so last week we began to answer the important question, “Does the Rapture of the Church happen at the same time as Christ’s Second Coming?” I believe the answer is no. Rather, the Bible shows us that the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming of Christ to earth.
- Today I want to continue examining the scriptural differences that I believe force us to conclude that the Rapture and Second Coming are not the same event. There are at least eight differences. Let me summarize the first three differences that we have already looked at and then we will continue. First, the Bible indicates there is a difference in the geographical area or place where the Lord will come to meet believers. The Bible indicates that at the Rapture, Christians will meet the Lord in the air. But at the Second Coming, Christ descends to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
- Second, the Bible indicates there is a difference in who removes people from earth at each event. At the Rapture, Christ Himself comes and takes believers out of the world; but at the Second Coming, Jesus sends His angels to gather people from the face of the earth to judgment.
- Third, the Bible indicates there is a difference in each event in who is taken from the earth and who is left. At the Rapture, believers are taken from the earth, while unbelievers are left on the earth. But at the Second Coming, believers are left on the earth to go into the Millennial Kingdom, while unbelievers are taken from the earth to judgment. Now, if these three differences we’ve already mentioned are revealed in the Scripture, it would be contradictory to hold that the Rapture of the church saints occurs at the same time as the Second Coming of Christ to earth. The only conclusion these scriptural differences will allow us to hold is that the Rapture must be a separate event from Christ’s Second Coming to earth.
- But there are at least five additional differences to add to the ones we have already mentioned. Let’s look at the scriptural evidence that undergirds these. Here is the fourth important difference. At the Rapture Jesus comes to rescue Christians before the hour of trial, which I believe is the entire seven-year Tribulation period; whereas, at the Second Coming the Bible teaches Jesus will come after the Tribulation to rule the world. We’ve already devoted two programs to Jesus’ promise to the Church in Revelation 3:10 in which He said, “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.” We saw that when Jesus promises to keep Christians from or out of the hour of trial, the hour of trial is a reference to the entire seven-year Tribulation time period that is going to come upon the whole world to test those that live on the earth. Then there is the promise in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, where Paul teaches Jesus is the One who “rescues us from the coming wrath.” So in these two passages Christ rescues Christians from the wrath said to be coming in the future, and “the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world.”
- Dr. David Breese talked about these scriptural differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming at our television taping in Dallas, Texas. Listen:
- Breese: Well, 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. Spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God: the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who 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” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
- Paul expands on this a little bit in 1 Corinthians 15 saying to the Corinthians, he says, “Behold, I show you a mystery“—something you could not figure out just by Aristotelian syllogism—”I show you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump: the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.” So we can assure every believer within the sound of this voice that there’s coming a moment when they will be caught up in their physical bodies into the presence of Jesus Christ so as to ever be with the Lord. 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.
- Ankerberg: As Dr. Breese just said, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Rapture, when Christ comes to the clouds above the earth and catches up or raptures all living Christians on the earth to meet Him in the air. But there is something else. I want you to notice that in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 Paul talks about the subject of the Rapture. In Chapter 5 he changes topics. This is proven by his use of two little Greek words, peri de. These two words in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 could be translated, “But concerning” or “Now about.” These two words are used nine times by Paul in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians. Every time Paul uses these two words, they always denote a change in subject matter. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 the subject matter is what happens at the Rapture. But in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 he introduces a new subject, a different event, the Day of the Lord. By doing this, Paul indicates that the Day of the Lord and the Rapture are not the same, they are separate events. That is, the events making up the Day of the Lord do not include the Rapture of the Church. But that’s not all.
- There are other reasons Paul gives why the events making up the Day of the Lord do not include the Rapture of the Church. What are they? We know from Zechariah 12 and 14 that the events making up the Day of the Lord include the nations gathering against Israel, great cosmic judgments that God brings, and the Day of the Lord ends with the Second Coming of Christ. But Paul tells Christians that they will not be overtaken by this Day of the Lord, that they are not a part of that day. Where does he say this? In 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 4 he says, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief.” Also, in vs. 9 Paul tells them why they won’t experience any part of the coming Day of the Lord. He says, “For God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Rapture is not part of the Day of the Lord, and takes place before it starts. How do we know this?
- Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For you yourselves have accurate (or perfect) knowledge about the day of the Lord.” In other words, Paul is saying he had already given them full, exact information about the events that would happen during the Day of the Lord.
- But it’s interesting that even though they had perfect, accurate knowledge about the Day of the Lord, they were ignorant about the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul tells them he does not want them to remain ignorant about the Rapture. Well, if they had perfect or accurate knowledge about the Day of the Lord but they were ignorant about the Rapture, then the Rapture must not be a part of the Day of the Lord or they would have known about it. So first, Paul writes about the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4, then he changes topics and writes Chapter 5 to calm their fears about the Day of the Lord. In doing so, he indicates that the Rapture of the Church will take place before the Day of the Lord starts. Since the Rapture is not part of the Day of the Lord, and since the Day of the Lord concludes with Christ’s returning to earth in judgment, the two events, the Rapture and the Second Coming, must be separate events.
- Now I want to add a little more evidence from Scripture concerning the fact that at the Rapture Christ comes before the Tribulation and at the Second Coming, after the Tribulation. Look at Matthew Chapter 24, a clear Second Coming passage. The verses in this chapter clearly teach that Jesus will come to earth after the Tribulation to conquer, judge, and begin ruling. In Matthew Chapter 24 Jesus begins His description of the events leading up to His Second Coming by listing the following. First, he talks about the appearance of false messiahs who will mislead many. Then He says, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” After that, He says, “But all these are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” In the Old Testament the phrase “birth pangs” is used in many places and is a common metaphor that is associated with God’s wrathful judgments.
- In addition, many times the Old Testament Scriptures reveal that God’s wrath is brought through human means, such as war. In Isaiah 26:20 you can see that birth pangs are clearly associated with God’s judgment and wrath. Further, in the Old Testament the phrase “birth pangs” is used in describing the fear and pain associated with the future time of Jacob’s Trouble which will come upon Israel (Jer. 30:6,7). Here in Matthew 24 Jesus uses this phrase, “birth pangs,” to describe the appearances of false messiahs, nation against nation, famines and earthquakes. But He says these terrible events are only the “beginning of birth pangs.”
- Then, Jesus teaches that these beginning birth pangs happen before the midpoint of the Tribulation. How do we know that? It’s because after He describes the events He calls the beginning of birth pangs, a few verses later, in verse 15, He says, “When you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet…. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains.” According to Daniel 9:27, the abomination of desolation by the Antichrist will happen at the midpoint of the Tribulation, or at the three and a half year point of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. But notice, the beginning of birth pangs happens before the midpoint of the Tribulation, the abomination of desolation. Obviously if certain events are described as the beginning of birth pangs, they imply further, more serious, more intense, more painful birth pangs will follow. And that’s exactly what we have here in Matthew 24. After Jesus speaks of the abomination of desolation, the midpoint of the Tribulation, in verse 21 He says, “Then [after the abomination of desolation] there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” From these words I take it that He is saying that the Great Tribulation occurs after the abomination of desolation and lasts the next three and a half years. During this time, the more intense birth pangs will fall upon the earth. Then finally, after the events making up the Great Tribulation, the last 3-1/2 years of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, Jesus’ Second Coming to earth takes place. We read, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days, they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”
- So the order here in Matthew 24 is that first you’ll have the events that Jesus labels the beginning of birth pangs and tribulation; then will come the abomination of desolation, followed by the Great Tribulation, and finally at the end of the Great Tribulation Jesus returns to earth. But this order of events seems to contradict what the Bible teaches in the Rapture passages such as Revelation 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 which suggest Jesus will come before the Tribulation ever starts. The only way these different passages can be harmonized is to conclude that the Bible is teaching the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming of Christ to earth.
- I’d like you to listen to Dr. John Feinberg, Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, talk about the importance of recognizing these differences the Bible has revealed. Listen:
- Dr. John Feinberg: One thing I think is important to note is that every position on the Rapture does agree that there is a distinction between the Rapture and the Second Advent. Even a posttribulationist, who believes that the Rapture is going to be at the end of the Tribulation, still believes that the Rapture just momentarily precedes the Second Advent. So we all do seem to agree that they’re two different events.
- Let me share some things that I think show that they are really quite different in terms of the things that surround them. For one thing, it seems very clear, when you look at passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51ff that talk so clearly about the Rapture, that this coming of the Lord is a coming in blessing for His saints, for the Church. On the other hand, when you look at passages like Matthew 24:31, when you look at other passages such as Zechariah 12, Zechariah 14, Joel Chapter 3, that talk about the end of the Tribulation and the return of the Lord, it is very, very clear that the Lord comes at that time—Revelation 19:11ff also fit in here—the Lord comes at that point not to bring blessing to the members of His body the Church but to mete out judgment upon the enemies of Israel and the enemies of God. So that’s an initial difference. The coming at the Rapture is a coming in blessing; the coming at the Second Advent is a coming in judgment.
- Ankerberg: Next, the fifth difference which reveals the Rapture of the Church is a separate event from the Second Coming of Christ to earth stems from the fact that the Bible teaches there is a difference in that which believers are to look for in each event.
- Concerning the Rapture, there are no signs given in Scripture which must take place before Christ comes and catches up all Christians to meet Him in the air. But concerning the Second Coming, detailed signs are given that must take place before Christ will come to earth to conquer and set up His Millennial Kingdom. What is the scriptural proof? Concerning the Rapture, Christians are only taught to anticipate Christ may come for them at any moment. For example, in Phil. 3:20 believers are told, “For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly await for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 the believers and the Apostle Paul are both said to be “waiting for God’s Son from heaven.” In Titus 2:13 Christians are encouraged to look “for that blessed hope, and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” In Hebrews 9:28 believers are told, “So Christ…will appear a second time…to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” In the Book of Revelation, four times Jesus Himself says, “I am coming quickly.”
- None of these Scriptures teach Christians to look for signs that must take place before the Rapture can occur. We are only to anticipate meeting and seeing Christ who could come for us at any moment. But then, what are we to conclude about such passages as Matthew 24:4-28 and Rev. 19:11-21 that teach detailed signs will occur before Christ comes back to earth? The only thing we can conclude is that the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming of Christ.
- I’d like you to listen as Hal Lindsey talks about this very point. Listen:
- Hal Lindsey: He says, “Even so, when you see all these things”—referring to all the predicted signs He had just given that would immediately precede His coming—He said, “When you see all these things”—the prophetic signs—He said, “recognize.” Now, in the original Greek that’s in the imperative mood which means it is a command. He said, “recognize I am at the door.” And He, of course, was saying that He is ready to return. And then He gives the ultimate punch line of that teaching in verse 34. He says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled.” Now, in context, the generation has to be the one that sees all the signs.
- Ankerberg: Next week we’re going to conclude this series and we’ll look at three more differences in Scripture that reveal the Rapture must be seen as a separate event that occurs before the Second Coming of Christ.
- But before we close, may I ask you, Are you ready to meet Christ if He were to come today? If not, why not invite Him into your life right now? Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and accept Him as your Savior and Lord. The Bible says He desires to have a personal relationship with you if you will come to Him and believe in Him. The biblical promise of the Rapture is meant to be good news to all who know Him.
- If the Lord doesn’t come by next week’s program, I hope that you’ll join me then as we continue to study what the Bible says about the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ to earth.