Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rapture of the Church: Pre-Tribulational and Pre-Millennial

Wayne Livesay is my dad. He spent a number of years as a pastor, and he is a retired employee of the State of California Department of Corrections. During World War II, he flew twenty-nine bombing missions over Germany as a B-17 navigator. On his last mission, he was shot down and spent nine months as a prisoner of war before being liberated by General Patton’s Third Army. He is a real American hero, and he is one of my heroes. (Ron Livesay)

Rapture of the Church:
Pre-Tribulation and Pre-Millennial
by Wayne W. Livesay

Rapture – The catching up of believers by Christ at the time of His return is a derivation of the Latin "rapio" used to translate the Greek term "harpagesometha" in I Thessalonians 4:17.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent 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: 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.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-17)

The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is a prophesied fact that keenly challenges the interest of Christendom all over the world. The greatest number of predictions in the Old Testament prophecy concerning Christ are connected with His second coming. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, all except four refer to it, and the Lord Jesus taught in clear language that He would again return.

Three basic events are connected with His return – The Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the Millennial Kingdom. Although most would agree that these are coming realities, there is much controversy concerning the chronological order of their revelation. The pre-millennialists see the Rapture taking place prior to the Tribulation, mid-tribulationists place the home-going at the mid-point of the seven year Tribulation, while post-millennialists teach that the church will remain on earth during the entire tribulation period. All three advocate that the Millennial Kingdom will come into focus after the Tribulation.

Another group which gained popularity during the nineteenth century is known as amillennialists. They express the conviction that the Biblically prophesied Kingdom will never exist upon this earth.

The erroneous teaching of the mid-tribulationists and post-millennialists results from the fact that they refuse to accept the truth that the Great Tribulation is fulfillment of Jehovah's final chastisement of His earthly people, the nation of Israel. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord speak of this time as a judgment against the church. The words of Christ in Matthew 24 as He sat upon the mount of Olives are entirely concerning Israel. When preachers today apply the words "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (verse 14), they openly pervert the Word of God as they profess to perform the miracles which accompany the Kingdom Gospel.

When the true Kingdom emissaries again come on the scene, they will be able to perform all the miracles assigned to them in Matthew 10:8. They will heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Although there are many impostors attempting to perform some facets of this commission, there are no empty graveyards to verify their authority.

The key to understanding the seven-year Tribulation period is an acceptance of Daniel 9:24-27 as a literal decree. These "weeks" are prophetically seventy weeks of years wherein God is providing Israel with national return, blessing, and final chastisement. Sixty-nine of those weeks are past, with the final week awaiting the wrath of God as outlined in chapters 4-18 of the Book of Revelation. The 69th week ended when Messiah was cut off (Christ crucified), and with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church Age began. This day of grace will close when the Holy Spirit leaves the scene and the Anti-Christ is revealed. (II Thessalonians. 2:7-8)

During the first part of Daniel's 70th week, this Man of Sin will confirm a covenant with Israel which will stand for 3½ years. Everything will give an outward picture of harmony, as Israel will restore the Temple worship and no outward persecution will take place. At the mid-point of the 70th week, the Anti-Christ will break the covenant and the period known as the "time of Jacob's trouble" will take place.

Added emphasis to the pre-tribulation Rapture is set forth in John's revelation from the Isle of Patmos. The seven churches mentioned were existing assemblies during the first century. These churches, from Ephesus to Laodicea, are distinct types of stages within the Church Age from the initial zeal of the first century to the lukewarm satisfaction of his present age. It is interesting to note that after revealing the final stage of church apostasy in Laodicea, no further mention is made concerning the church.

Instead, we see a perfect pictured of the Rapture in the first verse of chapter four, "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter."

This is comparable to Paul's words in I Corinthians 15:51-53 as the trumpet sounds to call the church to glory. Christ will certainly remove His bride from this earth before He pours out His wrath during the Tribulation period. This is the "blessed hope" of every believer as we constantly await His call.

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