In my first book on Prophecy I asked the questions: "Will the Church
pass through the Tribulation or be raptured out of it?" In answering I
made this statement: "I have always held the view that the Rapture
precedes the Revelation by some seven years, and that the Church,
therefore, will not go through the Tribulation, but I do not want to be
dogmatic about it and, if God should reveal the contrary to me, I will
gladly accept it". Hence, you see, I did not approach the subject with
my mind closed to new light and my heart already prejudiced. I was open
to whatever God might reveal.
- Why did the Lord Jesus conceal the Secret Rapture in Matthew
- How are we to explain the silence of the Church for centuries
- What about the passages that have been used to support it?
- Have we been lulling the Church into a false security?
- Are there any outstanding Christian leaders who believe that the
Church will go through the Great Tribulation?
Now, after years of study and prayer, I am absolutely convinced that
there will be no rapture before the Tribulation, but that the Church
will undoubtedly be called upon to face the Antichrist, and that Christ
will come at the close and not at the beginning of that awful period. I
believed the other theory simply because I was taught it by W. E.
Blackstone in his book "Jesus is Coming," the Scofield Reference Bible
and Prophetic Conferences and Bible Schools; but when I began to search
the Scriptures for myself I discovered that there is not a single verse
in the Bible that upholds the pre-tribulation theory, but that the
uniform teaching of the Word of God is of a post-tribulation Rapture:
pre-millennial always, everywhere pre-millennial, but post-tribulation.
My First Awakening
My first awakening to this important truth came one day in 1925, when I
was spending a few days in a cottage at Stoney Lake, Ontario. One of my
neighbors, Frank Edmonds by name, simply made the suggestion to me. I
opposed it at once. "Why," I exclaimed, "however could that be? What
about the Scriptures? The teaching of a pre-tribulation Rapture is
clear and indisputable." But he quietly affirmed that I was wrong and
emphasized the truth concerning the Last Trump. Of course, I was not
convinced. I almost ridiculed the very idea of such a possibility. And
there the matter rested.
One day, in the early twenties, I began preaching on Prophecy. I had
taken my people through Daniel without difficulty. Then came Mark 13.
Luke 21, and Matthew 24 and 25. But. lo and behold, no sooner had I
started on Matthew 24 than I got into trouble. I had announced that I
would deal with Matthew 24 at the next service. Hundreds had gathered.
I was in a maze, for I was perplexed. So I took a verse here and there
through the chapter and thus satisfied the people for that hour at
least. But now the next meeting was coming. What was I to say?
I need not point out that there is no pretribulation Rapture in Matthew
24. The Second Coming is unmistakably placed "immediately after the
Tribulation" (verse 29), and I was forced to the conclusion that if the
Rapture was to be ‘before" the Tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ would
certainly have given some hint of it at least. He was dealing with the
End-Time of the Age. It is unthinkable that He would have spoken so
minutely of the Tribulation without stating that the Church would
escape. Instead, He purposely led His hearers to the belief that His
followers would be in it. Hence, I was staggered, nor could I honestly
defend my previous position.
So, when I again faced the people, I said sufficient to let them know
that I questioned my former stand and saw evidence of a
post-tribulation Rapture. For, as I read Matthew 24 and 25, I saw that
many things, as prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ, simply had to take
place before Jesus could come, namely: "All these things" (verse 33),
especially the prediction regarding the preaching of the Gospel. See
Mark 13:10, and note the significance of the word "first". Thus, since
God’s future program could not be set aside, there could be no "any
moment expectation" of Christ’s Return. We are to watch, watch as
prophecy after prophecy is fulfilled, ever looking forward to His
Appearing; and, in the End-Time, to watch as never before, and to
always be ready, for none can ever know how quickly the events
predicted might come to pass and Christ return.
My "Any Moment"
Then followed the next step. There came into my hands a copy of a book
by Dr. Henry W. Frost, then the Home Director of the China Inland
Mission. It was entitled "Matthew 24 and the Revelation," a volume of
over 300 pages. I fairly devoured it. Portions of it I read through
twice. It was most conclusive in its arguments for a post-tribulation
Rapture. About the same time I got hold of a book by James H. McConkey,
called "The Book of Revelation," and another—perhaps the best of all—by
Edmund Shackleton (England), entitled "Will the Church Escape the Great
Tribulation?" Before I had read them through I was firmly convinced
that there would be no Rapture before the Tribulation, and that I had
done wrong in promising the Church an escape instead of preparing her
for the terrible ordeal that must most surely be awaited. My "any
moment" theory could not be sustained. In fact, the very first
statement in the latter book, which was written about 1890, amazed me
beyond measure and I was fairly staggered as I grasped its
significance. Let me quote it verbatim:
All who held the pre-millennial Coming of Christ were, till about sixty
years ago, of one mind on the subject. About that time a new view was
promulgated that the Coming of Christ was not one event, but that it
was divided into stages, in fact, that Christ comes twice from heaven
to earth, but the first time only as far as the air. This first
descent, it is said, will be for the purpose of removing the Church
from the world, and will occur before the Great Tribulation under
Antichrist. This they call "The coming for His saints" or "Secret
Rapture." The second part of the Coming is said to take place when
Christ appears in glory and destroys the Antichrist. This they call
"The coming with His saints."
Apart from the test of the Word, which is the only final one, there are
certain reasons why this doctrine should be viewed with suspicion. It
appears to be little more than sixty years old; and it seems highly
improbable that. if scriptural it could have escaped the scrutiny of
the many devoted Bible students whose writings have been preserved to
us from the past. More especially in the writings of the early
Christian fathers would we expect to find some notice of this doctrine,
if it had been taught by the Apostles; but those who have their works
declare that they betray no knowledge of a theory that the Church would
escape the Tribulation under Antichrist, or that there would be any
"coming" except that spoken of in Matthew 24, as occurring in manifest
glory "after the Tribulation." This is all the more significant,
because these writers bestowed much attention upon the subject of the
Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. Augustine, referring to Daniel 7,
wrote: "But he who reads this passage even half asleep cannot fail to
see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short
time, assail the Church."
Then when I remembered that the death of Peter, his prediction of
corruption and apostasy after his decease, the death of Paul, and many
other events had to occur before the Rapture—especially the
evangelization of the world (Mark 13:10 and Matt. 24:14)—my "any
moment" theory took wings and fled.
Last of all, I ran across "The Great Tribulation—The Church’s Supreme
Test" by John B. Scruby, the most convincing; the most unanswerable of
all. It deals with every point minutely and proves conclusively that
the Tribulation precedes the Rapture.
Recently I got hold of that remarkable book "Tribulation to Glory" by
H. A. Baker. in which he wrote: "For eighteen centuries the fundamental
principle of tribulation to glory was the universal belief of the truly
born-again members of the Church", and then he goes on to show that the
new pre-tribulation rapture teaching was first proclaimed as a direct
revelation by a woman in Edward Irving’s church, and then taken up by
John Nelson Darby (and the Scofield Reference Bible) in direct
contradiction to the teaching of the Church for eighteen hundred years.
"Beginning with the Irvingite woman, then propagated by John N. Darby
about 1830, this new ‘spirit-inspired’ doctrine during the last century
has come down to us until it has become popular. George Muller opposed
it; so did Benjamin Wills Newton; so did Dr. S. P. Tregelles and other
Brethren, but all in vain." But now, thank God, large numbers of our
leading Bible Teachers are coming back to the original position.
I discovered that no time element is ever mentioned so far as the
Rapture is concerned, except as it is related to the Resurrection. And
that the Resurrection is always placed at the time of the sounding of
the Last Trump (1 Cor. 15:51-54). This Trump, without doubt, closes the
Tribulation. There is no eighth. The saints are rewarded (Rev. 11:18).
The "mystery of God", is then finished, there is time (delay) no longer
(Rev. 10:6 and 7), and the Resurrection, of course, immediately
precedes the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16).
Naturally, I thought of 2 Thessalonians 2:7: "he who now letteth will
let, until he be taken out of the way". But then I learned from the
Greek that the second "he" is the Antichrist, and that the Greek does
not say "taken out of the way," but "revealed in the midst," or, "born
out of the midst." In other words, lawlessness will be restrained until
the appointed time for the lawless one, the Antichrist, to appear.
There is no mention of the Holy Spirit at all. That is a Scofield Bible
assumption. The Holy Spirit and the Church remain to the end of the Age.
Then, too. I thought of Luke 21:36 and of Revelation 3:10. But Noah, I
remembered, "escaped" by preservation. Daniel "was kept" and protected
in the lion’s den. The three Hebrew children were "kept" though in a
burning fiery furnace. None of them were taken out. Rather they were
kept, preserved, protected while in, and thus they escaped. Why not the
Church? Note that 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 finds the saints in trouble,
in tribulation, and resting only at the close. In fact the first two
chapters of 2 Thessalonians cannot be interpreted in any other way.
Chapter two, verse one, is most explicit. "Now we beseech you,
brethren", writes Paul, "by the coming (Revelation) of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and by our gathering together (the Rapture) unto Him". There is
here no separation between the Rapture and the Revelation. The Coming
is the one and only Coming spoken of throughout the two chapters, the
Coming described in chapter one, verses seven and eight.
I learned, too, that the word for "meet" in 1 Thessalonians 4: was only
used in two other places, and, in both cases, it meant "returning with"
and not "remaining at" the place of meeting. When the brethren from
Rome met Paul, they immediately returned to the city with him. When the
Virgins met the Bridegroom they accompanied Him back to the wedding.
When the saints meet Christ in the Air, as He comes to judge the
nations and establish His Kingdom on earth, they will return with Him.
There is no Scripture that says they will remain for some seven years
in the Air.
In 1 Thessalonians each chapter closes with a reference to the Second
Coming, but no distinction is made. As Christ descends with His angels
after the Tribulation, the saints ascend, and, meeting Him in the Air,
turn and continue with Him back to the earth. How long He remains in
the Air, following the meeting with the Church is nowhere revealed.
"The Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Thess.
3:13), is unquestionably the Revelation, after the Tribulation, simply
because the words, "with all His saints" are added. But why infer
another, a previous Coming, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 1:10, or 5:23?
It is all one and the same. There is no Secret Rapture. That theory
must be deliberately read into the passage. There is no Rapture in
Revelation until chapter nineteen is reached.
I had been taught that the Greek word "parousia" always referred to the
Rapture and that other words were used for the Coming of Christ in
glory after the Tribulation. But I found that this is not true.
Parousia is used for the latter, too. See 2 Thessalonians 2:1.
While it is clear that the Church must endure the wrath of the
Antichrist, it is certain that the Church will not have to endure the
wrath of God. When His judgments are poured out on the Antichrist and
his followers, the Church will be divinely protected by God even as the
Israelites were protected when His wrath was poured upon the
Egyptians—not by being raptured, but by being kept.
We might go through all the writers of the New Testament, and we would
fail to discover any indication of the so-called "two-stages" of our
Lord’s Coming. Peter, James and John tell the same story. There is no
Scripture for a pre-tribulation rapture. That theory had to be invented
by man. Search and see. There is no verse in the Bible that even
I discovered that nearly all evangelical missionary leaders believe
that there must be representatives in the Church of Christ from every
tribe, kindred, tongue and nation, and not just from the so-called
civilized world, and that, therefore, the only way to hasten the Coming
of Christ is by evangelizing the remaining unreached peoples of earth.
Jesus made it perfectly clear when He said, "the gospel must first be
published among all nations" (Mark 13:10) "and then shall the end come"
(Matt. 24:14). Hence, the greatest incentive to missionary work is the
Second Coming of Christ.
I am sure that with the true child of God it is not a question of
preference but of truth. Does God’s Word say so? Why then rebel? Is not
His plan best? Besides, what difference does it make so long as we are
ready? "Spiritual Preparedness" is the only important factor after all.
I wonder if we have been lulling the Church into a false security? Can
it be that we have been preaching an easy escape? Ought we to prepare
the Church for the greatest of all ordeals? Should not our teaching
harden her for the fires of the Tribulation? What kind of soldiers are
we training? I am afraid that we have been very guilty and that God
will certainly hold us responsible for the type of Christian our
preaching is producing. We need men and women today of the martyr
spirit. The test of the Inquisition is coming again and woe betide the
pre-millennialists who are not ready. The Church must be purified in
the fires of persecution.
Voices of Others
Now if I were to go into the subject in detail and attempt to deal with
the numerous passages, both for and against, I would simply be
overlapping. Others have already done this most ably, far better than I
can, and so, if you are really interested, I would suggest that you
secure the books that have been written on the subject and study them
prayerfully and with an open mind before taking sides. A great many
have been written by men on both sides of the Atlantic. The following
are among the best that have been published in Great Britain and you
may procure most of them from The Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, I
Donald Way, Chelmsford, Essex, Cm2 9jb, the organization that publishes
the Post-Tribulation magazine Watching
and Waiting, edited by James Payne. Send for their
Here are the books:
the Church Escape the Great Tribulation? (by Edmund Shackleton);
Christ’s Second Coming (by S.
Our Lord Cometh (by W. J.
The Coming of the Son of Man
(by Rev. E. J. Poole-Connor);
The Second Advent of our Lord, Not
Secret, but in Manifested Glory (by B. W. Newton);
One Second Coming of Christ
(by W. J. Rowlands);
The First Resurrection (by S.
Touching the Coming of the Lord
(by Dan Crawford);
The Saints’ Rest and Rapture
(by Frank H. White);
The Second Coming of Christ
(by George Muller).
The following have
been published in North America:
Blessed Hope (by Professor
George E. Ladd). Dr. Ladd teaches in Fuller Theological Seminary,
Pasadena. It is a masterly volume and it goes into both the history and
doctrine of both the Pre-Tribulation and the Post-Tribulation Advent.
Will Christ’s Coming be in two stages?
(by Norman F. Douty).
I have a list of nearly seventy Bible Teachers who have proclaimed this
view of the Return of Christ. Among them, in addition to those who have
written the above books, there are such names as W. J. Erdman, Charles
R. Erdman. Dr. Campbell Morgan, Bishop Frank Houghton, Dr. A. B.
Simpson, Dr. J. W. Thirtle, Dr. Charles T. Cook, Alexander Reese, Dr.
Horatius Bonar, Dr. Adolph Saphir, Henry Varley, Dr. Nathaniel West,
David Baron, H. W. Soltau, Dr. Bergin, Dr. Harold J. Ockenga, and many
others. To ignore the convictions of such spiritual leaders is
impossible. Deference must be given to their views.
These views I would sum up by quoting from Watching and Waiting—"We
believe that this was the teaching of our Lord and His Apostles. We
believe it was held by the Early Church and by all in the Middle Ages
who had any light on the Second Advent. We believe, too, that it was
the teaching of the Early Brethren and that no other view was generally
accepted among them until the Any Moment. Secret Rapture,
Pre-Tribulation, or Two-Stage Coming theory was taught by Edward
Irving, as a result of a vision received by a woman in his church. Thus
Any Moment teaching is a ‘novel’ doctrine".
My Final Appeal
Beloved, the shadows are darkening. The day is drawing to a close. It
is now Saturday night in the history of the Church. The times of the
Gentiles have almost run their course. Events are fast shaping for the
end. The Antichrist will soon be here.
One fact and one only is important—Christ is coming. Of that there can
be no doubt. One question and one only is vital—Are we ready?
We may differ on minor details of prophecy. We may disagree as to the
time of His Appearing. We may not see eye to eye regarding the order of
prophetic events. But one thing is certain—He is coming. We will be
with Him. The Millennium is at hand and soon now we shall know all.
Therefore, let us love one another sincerely and labour together "till
If I am mistaken I will know it then. Hence, let us agree to disagree
agreeably. God knows our hearts. He knows that we love Him and that is
all that really matters. If I love Him and you love Him, we will love
each other. Soon the day will break and all the shadows flee away.
Meanwhile I am "looking for that blessed hope and the glorious
appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2 :13).
Oswald J. Smith