A Frank Appraisal Of Twenty Arguments That The Church Will Not Pass Through The Tribulation
Dr. Norman Spurgeon MacPherson(1)
day when a stronger
welding together of all of God’s own is much to be desired, the writer
not care to divide the brethren by dealing with a subject about which
good men differ. However, one who is familiar with the great variety of
prophetic views could hardly hope to add to the division that already
If the writer succeeds in challenging his readers to an earnest and
re-examination of the fully authoritative Word of God he believes his
will have been achieved. Such is the best course open to those who
discover the unifying mind of the Lord.
better than to sincerely seek to heed the apostolic injunction in 1
“Now 1 beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that ye all
speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but
that ye be
perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
through a portion of the New York Congress on Prophecy in 1942, the
conscious of the effort that had been made to achieve a unity of
testimony. In spite of this, however, there emerged a
diversity of opinion. For example, some speakers said the Church is not
for signs. On the other hand, one affirmed that the wars and social
of the present are significant signs.
which some of us desired light were either largely sidestepped or
with some glib generalization. For example, one speaker said that some
friends believe that the Church will pass through the Great Tribulation
believed the Tribulation to be not a “blessed hope” but a “black
Where is the person who believes that the Tribulation is a “blessed
compliments one’s friends to attribute to them a position that neither
any sane person holds. Setting up a dummy for the fun of knocking it
down is a
common dialectic device but it deserves no place in the armory of the
Christian. So far from the Tribulation being a “blessed hope,” I am
the hope of the coming Deliverer will shine with more luster then than
now in the hearts of millions of believers who know little of suffering.
fair to ask:
“Why do so many preach the Church will not go into the Great
doubt they are quite sincere in their belief. However, I am convinced
a number of factors, apart from exegetical, that have made a subtle
contribution to their faith and testimony. Allow me to mention four.
of all, I am
convinced that in many a case a minister has found little time in the
a busy ministry for the detailed study of prophetic truth. Consequently
taught what is to be found in the prophetic literature at hand.
why many have taught the Church will not pass through the Tribulation
excessive desire to meet a popular demand for the most comforting type
teaching. For example Dr. H. C. Thiessen closes his book, Will
hesitate to say this although I believe it is true--I am convinced
some who are being led to question what they have taught about the
for years but who hesitate to make any admission they have been wrong,
false belief it would weaken the faith of people in them as
teachers and thus restrict their ministry. It is not often that one
refreshing a confession as is to be found in the late James M. Gray’s Christian
Workers’ Commentary, where he deals with the question of the
the man on the white horse of Rev. 6:2. He says: “The rider on the
was identified with Christ in Synthetic Bible Studies, but the
now considers it more consistent to identify him with ‘the man of sin.’”
be no question that some men are characterized by an inordinate lust
novelty of interpretation whether it has any solid Biblical basis or
example, at the above-mentioned prophetic congress some, perhaps most,
speakers referred to the coming of Christ for His Church as the second
of Christ. One speaker, however, apparently echoing C. F. Hogg,
the coming of Christ for the Church is not the second coming of Christ
because He does not quite come to the earth. He said the second coming
Christ is His coming in glory and power to establish His Kingdom. Dr.
Barnhouse, in an article in Revelation, Nov. 1942, says that
these positions is correct. The correct position, he affirms, is that
second coming of Christ is not an event at all but rather “a series of
distributed through “an indeterminate period of years.”
sympathize with the lament of C.H.M. (CHARLES H. MCINTOSH). in his
the Lord’s Coming, p. 33: “It is wonderful how speedily the human mind
away into the wildest and grossest confusion and error.”
comes to this study with the deepest sense of unworthiness, making no
profession of being either a scholar or theologian. His preparation for
task may be epitomized by saying that after receiving degrees from
easy for him to come to his present position inasmuch as he has for
accepted without question the popular view that the Church will escape
Tribulation by being raptured to heaven. It was during preparation for
of addresses on the Apocalypse that the light began to dawn. While
6300 pages of comments on the Book of Revelation he was disturbed by
such a diversity of Opinion amongst trusted premillennialists. While
differences of view concerning many of the minor details is of such a
hardly to be wondered at, the dogmatism with which many of these
expressed considerably distressed the writer and drove him more than
the Word itself. For example, one writer makes what appears an
and arbitrary distinction and then adds: “We must not confound things
in His infinite wisdom has made to differ!” When men claim for their
“the infinite wisdom of God,” it is not surprising that many of their
not wishing to oppose the “infinite wisdom of God,” swallow everything
propounded, hook, line, and sinker.
however, finally lost faith in the ipse dixit of many a Bible
and re-examined the prophetic Word, with the result that many of his
cherished views had to be jettisoned. He has come to believe that the
the Church will not pass into or through the Great Tribulation is based
upon arbitrary interpretations of obscure passages. And it has been of
encouragement to know that the writer finds himself in essential
many of the greatest premillennial teachers of all time.
Bishop Handley Moule for reminding us that Paul wanted his converts,
Spirit’s guidance, to think for themselves. “Brethren, be not children
understanding,” wrote Paul to the Corinthians. Again, he tells the
that the five-fold gift of Christ to His Church (apostles, prophets,
evangelists, pastors, and teachers) has a five-fold purpose. It is for
perfecting of the saints (literally “the repairing of the saints!”),
work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ, that all
in unity of faith and knowledge to a perfect man, and that we no longer
children be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of
but speaking the truth in love, may grow up.
may appear rather straight-forward and severe in some of the things he
say, he does not want to be known as a theological iconoclast but one
desires to help others
into the light he now enjoys.
plan is very
simple. First, an examination of what the New Testament has to say in
passages in which are found the words which are the English equivalents
Greek word that is rendered tribulation. Second, a brief view of the
familiar Old Testament passages that are referred to the Great
finally, an attempted evaluation of the commonest arguments in favor of
proposition that the Church will not pass through the period of trial.
arguments for the positive side will be brought out in the examination
arguments for the negative position.
tribulation translates a Greek word, thlibo (verb) or thlipsis
(noun). This Greek word occurs fifty-five times in the New Testament.
translates the verb “to press” (as grapes), “to press hard upon,” from
have the thought of oppression, distress, affliction, and
words are used in the Authorized Version to translate this Greek word
fifty-five occurrences. They are: tribulation, anguish, burdened,
persecution, throng, trouble, and affliction. We shall do well to
each passage to discover whether the word has reference to the present
to which the Church is subjected or whether the reference is to the
period of suffering yet to take place which is called the Great
whether the suffering is the divine retribution to be visited upon an
world after Christ returns in glory.
instances we find that in twenty-two the word is rendered tribulation.
Let us first of all look at these.
13:21 “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for
when tribulation or persecution
ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”
the parable of the soils is to the trouble that comes to one who
Word. The affliction has its source in the enemies of God and of His
There is no reference to a future Great Tribulation
21.21 For then shall
be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world
time, no, nor ever shall be.’’
points to the Great Tribulation, a period of unprecedented suffering in
future. From the immediate context we learn that it will take place
abomination spoken of by Daniel stands in the holy place, or, to be
accurate, the appearing of this abomination will be the signal that the
Tribulation is soon to break upon the scene. Those living in Palestine
time, who have any familiarity with this prophecy, will see in the
a warning to flee to the mountains before the fury--very likely of a
character-- is let loose.
suffering will be shortened for the purpose of manifesting to the elect
may be called survival grace. There is nothing here to indicate
elect are, although there is every likelihood the term refers to the
inasmuch as of the fifteen other occurrences of the word elect
New Testament, one refers to Christ, another to certain angels, and
there is no
sound reason for supposing the other thirteen do not refer to the
individual members of the Church.
refers to the same Great Tribulation and fixes the time of it as
before the coming of Christ in power and glory, or, more accurately,
immediately before the cosmic signs that herald the early arrival of
From this context we learn that at least one purpose of His coming is
His elect. The elect here are the same as the ones for whom the
will be shortened. The most natural reference is to the Church. Just as
description of the gathering of the elect in 1 Thes. 4, there is the
of a trumpet.
this passage in
Matthew our Lord goes on to show what should be the two-fold attitude
followers (the “ye” of v. 42). It should be one of watchfulness (v. 42)
readiness (v. 44). The watchfulness undoubtedly refers to “these
of v. 33, that is, the signs of Christ’s coming. The readiness speaks
heart attitude and faithfulness that characterize those who “love His
appearing.” Watchfulness helps to produce the readiness. There is thus
intellectual and a moral preparation for His coming.
refers to the
suffering which is the lot of all who are identified with Him who was
of Sorrows. There is nothing here to indicate that the suffering Church
not go on into the Great Tribulation. Christ’s followers are to be of
cheer, not because He will come and remove them from a sphere of
because He will enable them to be overcomers in the midst of it,
inasmuch as He
has already overcome the evil world system. This promise is
illuminating as we look at it in the light of the much-debated Rev. 3:
following which is the promise to the overcomer which promise
can have no meaning if one is previously removed from the sphere of
Crawford of Africa has distinguished between the poets and the Bible.
says: “Cheer up! The best is yet to be!” The Bible says: “Cheer up! The
is yet to come!” There is cheer for believers because our Lord has
overcome the world which is the source of our sorrows.
here should be “many tribulations.” These words epitomize the message
in the very city of
If we read thus in the light of its context, particularly verses 5--8, 16 it will be clear that Paul is referring to the divine judgment that will fall upon the ungodly in the “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” This day cannot be held to refer to the Great Tribulation but, as Canon Moule has well said, to “the definite time of the Lord’s appearing” to raise the dead and judge the world. This is confirmed in 2 Thes. 1:6--9 where Paul affirms that Christ’s coming in flaming fire introduces the day of wrath against all who have been against God and Christ.
In the following verses the reference is so clearly to the sufferings of the present that I shall be content to merely enumerate the verses: Rom. 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; 2 Cor. 1:4; 7:4; Eph. 3:13; 1 Thes. 3:4; 2 Thes. 1:4,6; Rev. 1:9; 2:9.
Rev. 2:10 “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
This promise of suffering for ten days has been thought to refer to the ten major persecutions of the Church in early times. There is no clear reference to the Great Tribulation. Even if some should think there is, the principle of a Church removed from a sphere of suffering is not illustrated here but the very opposite, and a reward is promised to the overcomers.
Rev. 2:22 “Behold, I will cast her into a bed and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.”
is no clear
reference here to the Great Tribulation. If any of the pre-Tribulation
Rev. 7:14 “ These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
is the only
New Testament passage in which the definite article is used, in the
before Great Tribulation, and therefore there is no doubt of
here. It is a picture of a great company of people who have come out of
Great Tribulation. They have been drawn from all nations and tribes and
before the heavenly throne cleansed by the blood of Christ. God Himself
away the tears of tribulation. No clearer picture in the Bible can be
that we have
examined the passages in which thlibo, thlipsis is translated tribulation,
we shall briefly notice those in which it is translated by the seven
words already referred to. On twenty-one occasions it is rendered
one of its derivatives. In but one of these is the reference clearly to
future Great Tribulation, namely in Mark 13:19, and this corresponds to
upon which we have already commented.
Seven times the word is rendered trouble or one of its derivatives. In no instance is there any reference to the Great Tribulation. Thlipsis is rendered but once in each of the following anguish, burdened. narrow, persecution, and throng. In each instance there is no clear connection with the Great Tribulation. The interpretation is so obvious that I omit the references, which, if one cares to examine them, can readily be found in an analytical concordance.
Of the fifty-five occurrences of the word thlibo, thlipsis, there are but three passages that clearly refer to the Great Tribulation, namely Matt. 24:21 (Mark 13:19), Matt. 24:29 (Mark 13:24), and Rev. 7:14. Most of the other passages relate to the sufferings of the Church in this present age.
This Great Tribulation is described as a time of unprecedented suffering to come upon the world. It will begin soon after the abomination, predicted by Daniel, stands in the holy place of the restored Jewish temple. It will be followed by the glorious appearing of Christ who comes for the purpose of gathering out of the world His elect. This period will be shortened as a manifestation of His grace. To prepare the elect for Christ’s coming, certain signs of His near advent will be given. The elect are to watch for the signs and be ready for the coming. After the Great Tribulation is past, a great multitude of blood-washed from all the nations and tribes appears before the throne of God who wipes away the tears occasioned by their tribulation.
In each of these three passages that speak clearly of the Great Tribulation, there are indications that point to the Church passing through the period. In Matt. 24:21 we find the period shortened for the elect, a term that in the New Testament always refers to the Church or individual Christians, except in two instances where the reference is to Christ and to certain angels. In Matt. 21:29 we learn that the Great Tribulation is just before Christ returns for the purpose of gathering His elect. In Rev. 7:14 we see a great blood-washed throng before the throne, the description of which fits the Church perfectly.
Therefore it would seem that the conclusion is inevitable that, so far as these three clear passages are concerned, we are fully justified in believing the Church will pass through the Great Tribulation. At least, there is nothing in these passages that teaches the contrary and much that argues for it.
an exhaustive survey of Old Testament passages that speak of the Great
Tribulation, I would mention a few that are said to refer to it.
It is said that this is the first clear delineation of the coming Great Tribulation to be found in the Old Testament. The words, “in the latter days,” serve to identify it.
Jer. 30:7 “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”
Many have identified this passage with the Great Tribulation and with good reason, for the unparalleled degree of suffering ties in with our Lord’s description of the Tribulation as a time when suffering will be at its zenith. It is instructive to note in v. 24 that “in the latter days” the suffering of the Jews will provoke deep thought.
It would seem that at the end of the age there will be an unequaled attempt to exterminate the Jews but, as Jeremiah says, it will prove abortive, for Israel will be saved out of this time of trouble. God will preserve a remnant that will come through the fire unscathed, even as the three Hebrews went through the fiery trial of Nebuchadnezzar. We find confirmation of this in Rev. 7:1--8 where we are told that destructive forces are to be held in check until God has sealed 144,000 (very likely a symbolical number) from the twelve tribes of Israel. Dr. Harry Ironside in his Not Wrath But Rapture says in this connection that this period is the time of Jacob’s trouble, not the time of the Church’s trouble. He says the Church is having its time of trouble now. But, let us ask, what is there to hinder both the Church and Israel being in trouble at the same time? If Jacob is not having trouble now, as we think of the millions of Jews in Europe that are being slowly or suddenly exterminated, who knows what trouble is?
Dan. 12:1 “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
character of the trial here set forth clearly identifies this with the
Tribulation. As in Jer. 30:7 it is said that Israel will be saved or
out of it.
mentions Isa. 13:6-13 as a passage that refers to the Great
events in that passage are said to take place at the Day of the Lord,
believe can be proved to be not the Tribulation at all but rather the
the manifestation of divine wrath at the coming of Christ. This passage
of certain cosmic signs in sun, moon, and stars, and if one reads this
light of Matt. 24:29 which says that these take place “immediately
tribulation,” one will not be likely to confound Isa. 13:6-13 with the
Tribulation. Scofield confirms this by referring to Rev. 19:11--21 as a
is the claim
of Dr. C. I. Scofield in a special pamphlet on the subject. He says
that in the
“new promise” of John 14:1--3 there is no hint of such a thing. Not a
given, he says, in contrast to the signs given to Israel in the Olivet
Discourse. He affirms that in that discourse all the signs except the
ones precede the Tribulation and “are markedly Jewish in character.”
from the silences of Scripture may sometimes be permissible, it needs
used with great caution. Because our Lord had no desire to mention
John 14 does not imply that He is describing an entirely different
that of Matthew 24. It is passing strange that anyone would infer that
words concerning our Lord’s coming in John 14 were intended to
detailed and complete description of the Second Coming in all its
Some of the signs in Matthew 24 are obviously Jewish in character. Still it is far from true to affirm that all of them are “markedly Jewish in character.” One of the signs is that of wars and rumors of wars. Anyone who would say that such a sign is distinctively Jewish is not only unfamiliar with the stormy history of the Gentile nations but lays himself open to the charge of anti-Semitic bias. Of course no one who knew Dr. Scofield would say for a moment that such a picture of ignorance and racial bias characterized him, but such could be a logical implication of his broad statement concerning the signs of Matthew 24.
As I shall hope to point out later, there is no justification for limiting the message of Matthew to the Jews any more than we are justified in saying that the Great Commission and promise of Christ’s presence of Matthew 28:18--20 are not for the Church. It is strange that, if Jesus was addressing the disciples in the upper room as representatives of His Church that would soon be baptized into existence, a few hours later on the other side of the Kidron He would be addressing them exclusively as representatives of the Jewish nation! I do not say that He could not have done so but the burden of proof is with those who would make such a distinction.
The only passage that clearly sets forth the time-relation of the Tribulation to the coming of Christ is in Matt. 24:29 where we are told the coming of Christ will be “immediately after the Tribulation.” If there is another coming of Christ before the Tribulation, why is there not somewhere in the Scriptures an equally unambiguous statement to that effect? Why is it necessary to defend the position by elaborate reasonings based upon obscure passages?
This is another of the arguments of Dr. Scofield and others. “Is the Great Tribulation a kind of purgatory?” he asks. Allowing the Church to pass through the Tribulation no more reflects on the character of God as a God of grace than the suffering of believers all through the present age is a reflection on God. The present Christian course is described in the Scriptures as a “straight and narrow way,” and that word narrow means literally tribulatory. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Church will suffer any more during the Tribulation than it has suffered on many occasions since the day of Pentecost.
W. R. Newell in his commentary on the Apocalypse, p. 382, argues that since the great majority of the Church already has escaped the Tribulation period by dying and going to heaven, why suppose that a relatively small segment of the Church at the end will be subjected to a trial the others escaped? Would this not be a reflection on the character of God?
this I would
reply that the Church is not the object of divine wrath during the
nor any other time, but only the object of Satanic wrath, and we do not
how severe that will be. Certainly we have no assurance it will be
worse than much
of the suffering already experienced. Furthermore, who are we to judge
saying He should see to it that no Christian suffers more than another?
that in the present some Christians have far more of suffering than do
and this is all within the inscrutable and all-wise and loving purpose
Our confidence in Him as a God of justice and mercy is not thereby
we are men of genuine faith in God.
condemn God unless every Christian’s suffering is equated to that of
other’s, may we not argue: why should present-day Christians escape
since thousands have had to face it in bygone ages?
The Approaching Advent of Christ, makes some weighty remarks in
connection. He says that men argue: “‘The Church is a heavenly people
with Christ; how horrible and unfitting, therefore, that she should be
to the dreadful hour of trial under the Devil.’
horrible and unfitting’ that the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of
Body, should have been spat upon, nailed to the gibbet as a malefactor,
have suffered at the hands of the Devil! . . . Moreover, all the
that Darbyists urge as necessitating the exemption of the Church from
Tribulation apply with equal force to securing the exemption of the
Rev. 7:9--17 from the same trial. They are a heavenly people, an
Jews and Gentiles out of all tribes and nations, redeemed by the blood
Christ, and saved by grace; they, too, are precious to the
Saviour. If it
is too horrible to think of the Church in the last crisis, then why is
too horrible to conceive of the multitude of Rev. 7:9--17 in the same
cannot theorists spare some pity for the martyrs of the End-time, and
also from affliction?
the Lord have a tender regard for His Church? If there was some
reason why His people should be exempt from the last fiery trial, why
He convey some indication of it? Instead, in a long discourse to the
on the consummation of this evil Age He used language that not only
that His beloved saints would be in that trial, but He actually gave
instructions concerning their conduct in it. He even promised the
spiritual presence until the End of the Age of which the Great
Tribulation is a
consummation (Matt. 28:20). Yet it is this very teaching that is cast
‘Jewish’ and ‘unsuitable’ for the Church. Darbyists, I am very sure,
knowingly say one word derogatory to Christ, yet their devotion to a
often leads them to say unwittingly things that are terribly
And so we must admit that God is still a God of grace when He permits His Church to enter the Tribulation. God has no favorites amongst His saints but is gracious to them all.
Tribulation is defined as a time of unprecedented suffering which is
of an outpouring of divine wrath, and this wrath has Israel in
definition contains some truth, we do well to look into the question of
of the wrath, for it is at just this point that some misapprehensions
arisen. Scofield and others rightly point to the apocalyptic vials as
judgments. Some forget that some of the suffering of that period stems
wicked men. Many of the trials of God’s people in that period arise
blasphemous claims and demand of the Beast that his image be worshiped
mark be inscribed.
trying to prove
that the Church will not be on earth during the Tribulation, Dr.
draws a false antithesis. He says the source now of the Church’s
the enemies of God. But the source of suffering in the Tribulation is
the suffering falls upon the enemies of God. Because the enemies of God
during the Tribulation, therefore the Church will not be on earth.
course is very obviously a non sequitur. He seems to overlook the fact
has a people on earth during the Tribulation, Satanic wrath is
While I would not draw upon Old Testament analogies for proof, we at least find the principle illustrated by Israel during the Egyptian plagues. God’s wrath was manifested against His enemies, the Egyptians, but God’s earthly people were not removed entirely from the sphere of suffering. Therefore we must conclude that the question as to whether the Church will be in the Tribulation or not is not affected by the question of the source of the wrath to he manifested at that time. Why cannot it be consistent with the divine purpose for the Church to go through the Tribulation without being compelled to feel the full force of it, even as the Israelites went through the plague-period in Egypt? Surely the Church has been permitted to pass through many other periods of suffering and anguish so acute that if those who went through them should have to go through the Tribulation, they would not feel they had missed anything during their first period of trial.
To be sure it may be said that while God is the ultimate source of all the wrath manifested in the Tribulation He may channel some of it through evil men as He has done down through the years. But the moment we make that admission, the force of Pettingill’s distinction is destroyed. To-day evil men are permitted of God to both punish themselves and chasten believers.
We would conclude then that all questions of the source, purpose, and channel of the wrath manifested during the Tribulation have nothing to do with the question whether the Church will be on earth at that time. If the Church is here, we may possess an unwavering confidence that God will deal with His own in absolute wisdom and grace, whether they suffer to greater or less degree or are kept unscathed through the period.
My personal conviction is that the Church will be here and will suffer to some extent “for a testimony.” Still we are permitted to recall the comforting principle enunciated in 1 Cor. 10:13 (which of course is not limited in its application to God’s people now) that God will not permit His own to be tested above that they are able but will with the testing open some way of escape. The way of escape will not necessarily be a rapture out of the world but may very well be a divine preservation through the period of trial. Paul indicates that the purpose of the way to escape is “that ye may be able to bear it.” If we were removed from the scene we would not be bearing the testing.
says the way to escape is with the testing. The way to escape might
form of a partial exemption from suffering, or a leading of believers
more complete appropriation of their resources in Christ, the faithful
sympathetic High Priest and coming Deliverer. If the principles in 1
Cor. 10:13 are applicable to-day, we may be sure they will be to-morrow.
argued that since Scripture plainly teaches that believers will not
judgment (John 5:24 ) , therefore the Church will not enter
error in that conclusion is found in the assumption (drawn upon only
sake of this argument) that the only wrath the death of Christ exempts
believer from is the wrath that is manifested during the Tribulation
But the Word of God is very clear that there are at least two other
when divine wrath will be manifested. There is the wrath that will be
out after the Tribulation when Christ returns in glory, as is
in Rev. 6:15--17 and 2 Thes. 1:8. There is also the everlasting wrath
be experienced in hell.
points out the importance of distinguishing between the trials of the
God and the judgments upon an unbelieving world. In his comments on
he makes it clear that the 144,000 are sealed for purposes of exempting
from the judgments that are to fall upon unbelievers. To be sure,
particular case, the reference is to a certain body of Jews. But the
principle naturally applies to all of God’s own. Every
a divine seal guaranteeing that he will not come into divine
thus is not to say that he will not witness the manifestation of divine
upon an unbelieving world during the Tribulation. We must be quite
one thing. Deliverance from divine wrath does not necessarily imply
from the sphere of that wrath. The sealed ones of Rev. 9:4 are not
from the sphere of wrath but the locusts are forbidden to touch those
seal of God in their forehead.
have yet to
consider the third portion of the definition of the Tribulation,
claim that Israel is the particular object of the divine wrath to be
then. While it is true that in Jer. 30:7 this period is called “the
Jacob’s trouble,” this is not to say that unbelieving Jews in that
be any more the objects of the wrath of God than unbelieving Gentiles.
cannot agree with one who says that the Great Tribulation is a
national and Jewish calamity, in the light of the universal terms used
book of Revelation to describe those who must suffer. For example:
dwell on the earth,” “all, both small and great,” “the kings of the
“the hour of temptation which shall come on all the world.”
same the we
shall not overlook the possibility that the Jew will be the storm
reason of the abomination that maketh desolate being in the restored
H. Cohn in
his booklet, Will the Church Escape the Tribulation? says: “The
God refers to this period specifically as the ‘time of Jacob’s
Therefore how incongruous and inconsistent it is to inject the Church
By the same reasoning we could conclude that there will be no unsaved
in the world at that time. If the Church is permitted to remain in the
to-day while Jewry is undergoing a terrible tribulation in Europe and
elsewhere, why is there any incongruity in the thought of the Church
the world during the Tribulation when Israel will suffer again?
to observe the frequent emphasis men lay upon the first portion of Jer.
“the time of Jacob’s trouble,” while the latter part of the verse is
soft-pedaled, “but he shall be saved out of it.” If a Jewish rabbi took
liberties with this verse that many a prophetic student takes with Rev.
insisting that it can only mean deliverance by rapture, these Christian
prophetic students would disagree with him. And to prove their belief
Jew will not be raptured away from the Tribulation, they would point to
30:11 where we learn that Israel, so far from being removed by rapture
the Tribulation, will be saved out of it in the sense of being left in
it to be
preserved by the Lord from complete destruction. The purpose is
the words, “Yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct
measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” And they would
this by referring to the sealed of Israel in Rev. 7, and rightly so.
it comes to the Church, they somehow believe that God would not let it
to any degree, in spite of the fact that He has permitted it all down
concerning the promise of deliverance in Jer. 30:7. Israel’s
be two-fold. She will be saved from this hour in the sense of being
from annihilation. She will also be saved at the end of the period by
appearance of her heavenly Deliverer. As Paul says: “And so all Israel
shall be saved, As it is written, There shall come out of
illustration of this is seen in the experience of the three Hebrews in
fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. They said to the king: “Our God whom
is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will
out of thine hand, O king.” However, they went into the furnace and
preserved through it and delivered from it in the sense of not being
annihilated. They came out alive, and the king, after it was over, made
significant admission: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and
who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in
whether they would worship an image set up by this heathen king or
to God. Will not this be the issue in the day of Tribulation when the
Antichrist demands the worship of an image? Perhaps these three Hebrews
are intended to be a comfort to the faithful remnant of Israel that
true through the Tribulation as well as to all of God’s faithful ones
there will be
people of God in the Tribulation disproves the argument of J. H.
the Church Escape the Tribulation?, p. 14, that the Church will not
the Tribulation because “full corruption cannot set in until all the
been removed.” There is nothing to indicate that “full corruption” will
characterize life on the earth in the Great Tribulation, for there will
elect on earth at that time. The great multitude of the redeemed of
who emerge from the Great Tribulation hardly permits the thought of a
It would seem, therefore, that a careful examination of the testimony of Scripture concerning the nature of the Tribulation does not give any warrant for the supposition that the Church must of necessity be excluded from that period.
Ironside’s Introduction to Dr. H. C. Thiessen’s Will the Church
the Tribulation?, we read: “Through infinite grace, we who belong
Body of Christ are not earth-dwellers, but our citizenship is in
Consequently, we have no part in the wrath that is to be poured out
apostate Christendom and Judaism.”
there is, of
course, the fullest recognition of the blessed truth of the Church’s
citizenship and character as the Body of Christ, we need to use great
we draw from this affirmation some unwarranted inferences. What is
meant by “We
. . . are not earth-dwellers?” I realize that some interpreters of the
Revelation have given the term “earth-dwellers” a technical meaning
may or may not bear. Whatever one’s attitude on this question, we must
sober reality that the Church does actually dwell on the earth now, and
her heavenly citizenship which is a present fact confers upon her no
from suffering to-day. Why should it to-morrow? Immunity from divine
the Tribulation confers no immunity from Satanic wrath.
is a heavenly people in possession of a heavenly hope, it does not
the Church’s hope consists primarily in the desire to escape suffering
earth. I know of no passage in Scripture that encourages believers to
may escape the horrors of the Tribulation. On the contrary, with many a
that speaks of the Christian’s hope we find linked the thought of
endurance. In Rom. 5:3--4 we read:
citizenship does not absolve us from civic responsibility to-day, we
are to “Render
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, nor will it immunize us
sorrows of to-morrow.
An argument that is hardly worth noticing is that of Sir Robert Anderson. He says that the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, has no corporate existence on the earth. Therefore it cannot as such pass through the Tribulation. I say this is hardly worth noticing because nobody contends that the Church that passes through the Tribulation is the final, complete, corporate entity which has no existence until the last person is added to it that God has called. To claim that one cannot properly speak of the “Church” except in the final corporate sense is an absurd quibbling over terms. When people speak of the Church passing through the Tribulation they naturally mean that part of the Church which is living on earth at that time.
generally admitted that the Holy Spirit was in the world before
will be in the world after the Rapture of the Church, it is maintained
Holy Spirit is now in the world in a peculiar sense and is the
referred to by Paul in 2 Thes. 2:6--7 which restrains the manifestation
Man of Sin. We are told that the taking away of this hindering
influence is at
the alleged pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Spirit indwelt Church.
In the first place it is well to issue a warning concerning the peril of building a doctrine on such an obscure passage. It is far from a general consensus of opinion that the influence Paul refers to is that of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Ironside has no uncertainty about it and thinks that every Christian, in reading 2 Thes. 2:6, would say:
is only one
answer possible and that is, of course, the Holy Spirit.” (Not Wrath
Rapture--p. 27.) C.H.M. (CHARLES H. MCINTOSH). on the other hand
is not so
dogmatic and says: “Some have considered that the hinderer or hindrance
was the Roman Empire; others that it is the Holy Ghost in the
Church. To this
latter we have inclined for many years; though it may be there is a
truth in the former.” (Papers on the Lord’s Coming, p. 49, footnote.)
that his conviction is that other Scriptures sufficiently establish the
pre-Tribulation rapture, even if this one does not.
that the hindering influence is that of law and order as embodied in
the Roman Empire. It is argued, and with considerable cogency, that
Paul was purposely
enigmatic and merely reminded the Thessalonians that they knew very
previous instruction he had given them, just what the restraining
in their day, namely, the Roman Empire. Paul naturally refrained from
specific on paper because he did not wish to endanger the Christian
laying it open to charges of sedition through teaching that the system
law and order would some day break down.
Some might ask: “What of the fact that Christ did not return and destroy Antichrist when the Roman Empire disintegrated? Does this not empty this theory of any value?” Not necessarily, for it is true that Roman law lives on as the foundation of modern European jurisprudence which has served as a great bulwark against lawlessness. It is not difficult to believe that in the light of present-day world chaos the day may soon come when war and apostasy will unite in destroying the last vestiges of Roman law and order and thus ripen the world for an antichristian world federation under the Man of Sin.
two of these as of “special significance,” namely, the translation of
before the judgment of the Flood, and the deliverance of Lot before the
find other analogies to prove the Church will be preserved through the
Tribulation. For example, the Israelites in their marvelous
through the plagues of Egypt, and the three Hebrews who were brought
through Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace.
The fact is that it is purely arbitrary to try to prove anything by such analogies. One imagines he can easily prove to his own satisfaction anything one wishes to. When will men cease carrying their little trays through the cafeteria of Scripture, picking and choosing whatever strikes their fancy? The chief value of such comparisons lies in the revelation of the variety of ways in which God works and cares for His own. God refuses to be forced into a groove.
reiteration of an unproved theory soon transforms it into an unshakable
conviction, then we can understand the huge vogue that the theory of
coming of Christ now enjoys in premillennial circles. It is commonly
that Christ’s coming is in two phases. First He comes secretly for His
before the Tribulation, and a number of years later, perhaps seven, He
publicly for purposes of judgment and the establishment of His Kingdom.
I once held to this theory myself until I painstakingly examined the Scriptural basis for it. Now I am convinced it has no solid Scriptural foundation whatever.Let us look at a number of instances that illustrate how men unwittingly twist Scripture in order to get proof texts for their theory. A favorite proof text is Acts 1:11
C.H.M. (CHARLES H. MCINTOSH)., for example, gets out of this verse in
on the Lord’s Coming, pp. 16, 17, 23. He claims that the as and so
that, as Jesus was last seen only by His own followers, so He will next
to be seen by His own followers alone. “All this, blessed be God, is
in the two little words as and so.”
possibly see more in these words than a description of the manner of
return is a striking illustration of what false doctrine does to one’s
and spiritual discernment. It would almost seem that the angelic
a premonition that the day would come when men would fail to see that
as and so
are only words of manner and so they added the words “in like manner”
there might be no misunderstanding! This passage has nothing whatever
about the spectators at Christ’s return. If it does have anything to do
the spectators, then perhaps we should be consistent and say that as
left from the presence of His eleven disciples, so we may expect that
those eleven disciples will witness His return.
such treatment of
Scripture as is here exemplified by C.H.M. (CHARLES H. MCINTOSH). can
called exegesis but rather eisegesis. While we may have no exegetical
that the curse of Rev. 22:18 applies to more than the book of
Revelation, or to
other than those who with deliberation add to Holy Writ, the desire to
by Him who is the Spirit of Truth should lead one to treat the Word of
eisegesis is to be found in the treatment accorded 1 Cor. 15:51--52 by
Albert Lindsey at the New York Prophetic Congress of 1942, as recorded
book of addresses, The Sure Word of Prophecy, p. 269. He claims
secrecy of Christ’s coming for His Church is proved by the words “in
twinkling of an eye.” If one reads the passage unhampered by any
notions, one will clearly see that it says nothing whatever about the
secrecy of Christ’s advent. Paul is not discussing the speed or
secrecy of Christ’s coming. He is simply saying that the transformation
saints from a corruptible to an incorruptible state at Christ’s coming
practically instantaneous. “We shall all be changed in a moment.” This
nothing whatever to do with the question concerning the publicity of
coming--the question whether the unbelieving world will see Christ come
Church. We know from Rev. 1:7 that “Every eye shall see Him,”
have no Scriptural warrant for saying that that refers to a second
phase of His
coming. Furthermore, if the coming in 1 Cor. 15 is the first phase of
Second Coming, how account for the phrase, “the last trump”? Should it
“the next to the last trump”?
proof of a
secret coming of Christ that Mr. Lindsey adduces is 1 Thes. 5:2 “For
know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the
It is strange that he would choose a passage that practically all of
distinguish two second comings of Christ apply to the second phase, in
proof that His coming in the first phase for the Church will be in
adds: “Just as a thief does not warn you as to the hour of his coming,
will the Lord Jesus.”
let us ask:
“Is Paul teaching that Christ’s coming will be as a thief, so far as
are concerned?” No, he is emphasizing the very opposite. He clearly
ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as
thief!” Could language be more explicit? The reason believers are
darkness is because they have been given the light of the prophetic
for nothing has God given them a revelation concerning the harbingers
coming of His Son.
to note that Dr. L. S. Bauman in his Light from Bible Prophecy,
sees a different significance in the coming of Christ as a thief. He
Christ coming in the role of a kidnapper who will quietly spirit away
Church, unseen by the ungodly world. Otherwise he finds this passage
reconcile with the words, “Every eye shall see Him” of Rev. 1:7.
It would seem that Paul’s crystal clear words, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness . . . ,“ would forever shut out this interpretation that makes the coming of Christ as a thief or kidnapper apply to the Church! Analogies like illustrations should not be forced to go on all fours. Perhaps before long someone will come out with another novelty of interpretation emphasizing the fact that thieves usually come in disguise and will give this some spiritual application.
Another so-called proof of the double coming of Christ is found in the passages that describe our Lord’s activities when He returns, activities that concern both the Church and the unbelieving world. It is thought that His gracious receiving of His Church and His treading the winepress of divine wrath in relation to His enemies are so incompatible that one must assume they set forth two different comings. Such a theory, however, is not only wholly unnecessary but it introduces untold confusion into the study of eschatology. The principle of God acting in grace and in judgment at practically the same time is illustrated in the story of Lot. We find that judgment fell the same day that Lot was graciously delivered from the doomed city. Why cannot Christ gather up His own when He appears in the clouds and return with no great delay “with all His saints” in judgment upon a world that has rejected Him? I am not unmindful of the argument that there are said to be a number of events that must take place between Christ’s taking up the Church and His return in judgment and that these imply a considerable lapse of time. It is my intention to consider this argument in another place.
who tell us that Jesus in Matthew 24 and Paul in 1 Thes. 4 are “in
contradiction” unless we assume two distinct comings of Christ, one
the other after the Tribulation. If one, whose mind has not been
this contradiction-theory, makes a simple study of each passage, one
impressed by the factors that they have in common--the appearing of
clouds, the sounding of a trumpet, the gathering of the elect. The
Matthew differs mainly in giving the relation of this event to other
events, indicating that the Rapture of the elect takes place after the
Tribulation. Because there is no reference to the Tribulation or other
events in I Thes. 4 in no sense sets up a contradiction between the two
We are often told that Christ comes the first time for His saints and the second time with His saints. For example, they point to such differing passages as 1 Thes. 4:17 that speaks of His coming for His saints, and 1 Thes. 3:13 that speaks of His coming with them. Why cannot men see that both can occur at the same coming?
that when Paul speaks of His coming with His saints, he means that all
saints who have died and gone on to heaven will come hack with Him in a
disembodied state in order to enter their bodies at the resurrection
place before the living are transfigured? If this is so, then we can
fit 1 Thes
3:13 into the picture in 1 Thes. 4, for does it not say in 4:14 that
those who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him? We must not press the
literalness of the all
of 1 Thes. 3:13, as if it presupposes a prior rapture to heaven of all
because Paul in that verse makes the coming of Christ with all His
saints the terminus
ad quem for a practical exhortation to increase their love toward
Their love is to increase until the very moment when Christ returns
His saints. Very obviously, those whose love is increasing are not part
all saints who return. The all can only refer to the disembodied saints
return with Christ. Therefore there is here no ground whatever for
second coming of Christ as two distinct events.
advanced by Dr. Scofield is that the epistles reveal a coming day of
Old Testament and the four Gospels say nothing. That day, he says, is
day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16) and “the day of our Lord Jesus
Cor. 1:8). “This new day is the end of the pilgrim pathway. No place
for such a
day can be found in or after the Great Tribulation.”
it is of interest to observe that Dr. Scofield is not in agreement with
those who hold to his general position regarding the relation of the
the Tribulation. For example, C.H.M. (CHARLES H. MCINTOSH). (CHARLES H.
MCINTOSH). in Papers on the Lord’s Coming, p. 47, says that
“the day of
our Lord Jesus Christ” of 1 Cor. 1:8 refers to “the Day of the Lord,”
the second phase of Christ’s coming. He would distinguish the two
saying that the term “coming” refers to the first phase when He returns
up His Church, whereas the terms “appearing” and “day” refer to the
emphasizes the arbitrariness of men who have a bent for distinction
difference. Why limit God in His statements concerning an event, which
admittedly has many aspects, by certain rigid rhetorical formulas? It
a very dangerous tendency in wrongly
“dividing the Word of
truth.” In fact, it is of similar stripe to the habit of
critics who would divide the Pentateuch into several documents on the
the use of different names for God, on the assumption that there must
a multiple authorship of the Pentateuch since no man would be likely to
of God having more than one name. And yet most of those critics
who teach a
double coming of Christ and that the Church must be raptured to heaven
the Tribulation are forced into weird exegetical vagaries as they seek
explain many passages. For example, J. H. Cohn, in The Sure Word of
p. 218, attempts to explain the meaning of Rom. 11:26--27. He affirms
Paul says “All Israel shall be saved” Paul does not mean anything more
mere preservation from physical annihilation at the hands of the
How can one possibly handle the Word of God in this fashion, for the
contains two expressions that compel one to see a spiritual
involved? (“Turn away ungodliness” and “Take away their sins.”)
trap into which men fall is illustrated by a statement by Dr. B. B.
in The Sure Word of Prophecy, p. 92, where he says: “The hope
Church is the coming of the Lord, or the ‘blessed hope’; the second
Christ is the ‘glorious appearing’ of our Savior.” He makes it clear
Church is not to look for the second coming or “glorious appearing” but
for the first “coming.” The amazing fact is that both of these terms,
“blessed hope” and the “glorious appearing,” between which it
appear in one verse of Scripture, Titus 2:13, where they are very
synonymous. And as a further embarrassment, whether they are synonymous
they both follow the expression “Looking for!”
a double coming of Christ appears so unlikely is that in passage after
practical exhortations to Christian faithfulness are connected with
which are said to refer to the second stage of the Second Coming. One
hardly think that if the Church will be in heaven for at least seven
before the glorious advent, these exhortations would be connected with
on the time of the first resurrection throws much light on this theory
double coming of Christ. Alexander Reese in his study, The
Advent of Christ, has devoted sixty pages to elaborating this
which seems well-nigh unanswerable. He presents evidence from the Old
Testament, the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the Apocalypse. The
in brief is this.
of the holy dead takes place at the Rapture of the Church (1 Thes.
4:16). Therefore, “wheresoever the resurrection is, there will the
Rapture be also.” Upon
examining passages that speak of the resurrection of the holy dead,
the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5--6), we find that this first
associated with the coming of the Lord (Isa. 26:19), the conversion of
(Rom. 11:15), the inauguration of the Kingdom (Luke 14:14--15; Rev.
giving of rewards (Rev. 11:15--18), the Great Tribulation coming before
logically urged against this view by the late Charles G. Trumbull in
Advent Herald, July 15, 1938, that it is not necessarily true that
two events are mentioned together they therefore occur simultaneously
close proximity (as the two resurrections in Dan. 12:2 are 1000 years
nevertheless there are so many passages of Scripture that associate the
resurrection with the events that are connected with Christ’s glorious
to set up His Kingdom, that it would seem more than strange, if there
“first” resurrection at least seven years before the “first
Scripture, that God did not give us a clear revelation to that effect.
there can be a “first” before the “first” is a riddle which finds a
solution in the mathematical nightmare of some that the “first
began with that of Lazarus, included Christ’s resurrection, and
resurrection of the just when Christ returns!
who hold to
the double coming of Christ have long associated the term parousia
the coming of Christ for His Church. This Greek word is translated
1 Thes. 4:15 which all agree refers to the Rapture of the Church.
light has been
thrown on the meaning of this word by the archeologists. Deissmann in
from the Ancient East says that the word has been found in scores
documents, and it is “a technical expression for the arrival or the
the king or the emperor.”
word translated shout in 1 Thes. 4:16 occurs only at this point in the
Testament and means, according to the Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, a
military command. “Christ will come as conqueror,” he adds. Therefore
passage in 1 Thes. 4, which has been regarded as a proof of a secret
the Church before Christ comes as King to set up His Kingdom, is a
of the very same event that will occur after the Tribulation when
in power and great glory like a conquering general. How can one expect
triumph of the Antichrist to follow this glorious coming?
to note that the term parousia is used in Matt. 24:3, although
inconsistently the advocates of the pre-Tribulation rapture assure us
coming in Matt. 24 is not for the Church. The same term is used in 2
of the coming of Christ in power and glory to destroy the power of the
Antichrist or Lawless One “with the brightness of His coming”
Furthermore, John in 1 John 2:28 associates the parousia with
manifestation of Christ. Alexander Reese in The Approaching Advent
has a very helpful chapter on the significance of this term.
proof that there will not be a double coming of Christ revolves about
meaning of the word “end” as used in the New Testament. In my judgment,
G. Trumbull’s review of the hook by Reese, The Approaching Advent
which appeared in The Advent Herald of July 15, 1938, is unfair
when it says: “The word ‘end’ does not always have the technical
meaning which Reese
ascribes to it.” And he gives five references in which the word is used
the end of the age is not in question (e. g. Malt. 26:58). The natural
inference is that Reese ascribes to the word an unvarying technical
Reese actually says is: “There is another word used in the Gospels for
it is telos, which, when used of the Last Things, means simply
or close of the present world-period; the Day of the appearing of the
Man, our Lord and Savior.”
Reese proceeds to cite a number of passages which show that the end when used in the eschatological sense is associated with the Church’s hope of Christ’s coming. For example, 1 Cor. 1:7--8; Heb. 3:6, 14; 6:11; Rev. 2:25--26. In the light of these passages, we may fairly conclude that the end in Matt. 24:14 is the same end. If this is so, we shall believe that this preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom in all the world is proclaimed by the Church and not merely by a Jewish Tribulation remnant.
we encounter again
the dangerous argument based on the silences of Scripture. Since “all
is given by inspiration of God and is profitable,” and since portions
than the “Church epistles” seem to be clear in their testimony to the
of the Church in the Tribulation, this argument appears to have a very
one exponent of this argument and he says in his commentary on the book
Revelation, p. 389: “The Great Tribulation is not once mentioned by
Paul in his
epistles which govern the churches (Romans to Philemon), nor in
are the saints warned of it.”
does not once mention the Tribulation when he does deal in some detail
chief figure of the Tribulation, the Antichrist, in 2 Thes. 2, is to
statement that is not quite true. Furthermore, would W. R. Newell
because certain “Church epistles” fail to teach the virgin birth of
therefore it is no part of the Christian faith? God evidently knew what
doing when He failed to incorporate in the “Church epistles” detailed
information about the Tribulation, for we find this in other portions
Word which are intended to deal with matters of prophecy such as
Revelation, and Matthew 24. God wastes no words in needless repetition.
It is also not quite accurate to affirm that the saints are not warned of a coming Tribulation, for we find many a passage in these epistles written for the express purpose of preparing the saints for times of great suffering. To be sure, suffering has been their lot through the ages, but there is nothing to indicate the saints will be exempt from the last great trial. We must not suppose that the revelation concerning the Antichrist in 2 Thes. 2 was incorporated in a “Church epistle” merely to satisfy intellectual curiosity. The whole setting reveals a practical purpose to encourage believers, and in 2 Thes. 3:5 we find the apostle praying that the Lord may direct their hearts into a patient waiting for Christ.
Thiessen in Will the Church
Pass Through the Tribulation?, pp. 18--19, writing of the 70 weeks
9:24-27), says: “The entire period has to do with Daniel’s people and
holy city … the Church is not at all in view in that prophecy… Between
and 70th weeks there is a long interval… The seventieth week is still
If the Church did not exist during the weeks that are past, how can we
it to be on earth during the week that is yet to come? We must always
that all these weeks are Jewish in nature.”
Daniel’s seventieth week comprehends the Great Tribulation, why must we
that Dan. 9:24-27 is an exhaustive description of that period? Dr.
statement carries that implication. He assumes that because the Church
mentioned in this passage, it cannot be present in this period. True,
no mention of the Church in Dan. 9 nor is it the clear subject of
all in the Old Testament.
silence can easily be used to prove anything one wishes. If Thiessen
that the Church will not be on earth because not mentioned in Dan.
since he says that “all these weeks are Jewish in nature,” what right
to believe that there will be any but Jews on earth during the Great
Tribulation? If the Church will not be on earth then because not
so many words, why may we suppose there will be Gentiles on the earth
day? This simply indicates the reductio ad absurdum to which
argument from the silences of Scripture passages leads.
not at all
difficult to imagine how the Church can be on earth during the 70th
it was not on earth during the 69 weeks. For, according to Thiessen
the Church came into existence in the interval preceding the 70th week,
should not be difficult to account for its existence on earth during
week, inasmuch as there is absolutely no clear Scriptural proof that it
removed before the 70th week.
should not be overlooked that in other descriptions of the Tribulation
found in Daniel, it is explicitly said that there will be elect on
the Tribulation and, as I have already pointed out, there is no reason
denying that these elect are the
is the claim
of Dr. C. I. Scofield. While it is true that there is much in the book
Revelation that is clear, the order of events in the book is not so
Scofield claims. For example, take the supposedly elementary question
as to how
much of that book is represented by the Great Tribulation. Scofield
Tribulation comprises chapters 11-18 (p. 1337, Scofield Bible).
R. Newell (p. 403, Exposition of Revelation) says it begins at
While Thiessen in his book on the Tribulation, p. 20 claims the period
comprises chapters 6-19.
taught that the command to John the seer to “Come up hither” (Rev. 4:1)
to the catching up of the Church at the Rapture. Nothing could be more
arbitrary than to read the Rapture of the Church into the simple
John was caught up to heaven for the specific purpose of being given a
revelation of the heavenly scene.
Even if we recognize that the words “After this” should be translated “After these things,” there is absolutely no proof that these words point to more than the sequence in which John received these revelations. After the revelations concerning the seven churches God gave him a revelation of the heavenly scene.
Scofield and others that the twenty-four elders of Rev. 4--S represent
Church in heaven which presupposes a prior rapture of the Church to
Scofield sees “five inerrant marks” identifying them as representatives
Church. He says that of all the redeemed, only the Church is said to be
priesthood, although he refers to the interesting parallel between
elders and the 24 courses of the Levitical priesthood. If the elders
any group at all, it would seem more logical to have them represent the
“inerrant marks” is their testimony in Rev. 5:9--10. This helps his
only if we accept the first person pronouns. But these are changed to
person in the more correct Revised Version, and therefore his “inerrant
becomes considerably errant, for this testimony becomes simply a
ascription of praise to Christ the Lamb of God as the One who alone is
to open the seven-sealed book.
others believe the twenty-four elders are representative not alone of
Church but of the Church plus the saints of the Old Testament period.
it could be proved that the 24 elders are to be regarded in a
capacity--which it cannot--why is it necessary to suppose that, if they
the Church, they represent more than the saints who through death have
to be with the Lord? Why is it necessary to suppose the entire
must be represented? Furthermore, why must one assume that a
taken place? Visibility in John’s vision is not at all dependent on
being clothed with bodies, else how could he have seen angels?
Finally, there is no evidence to prove that they are human beings at all. Many of the greatest exegetes hold that they are angelic beings who lead in the praise and worship of heaven.
11. Since the coming of Christ is imminent, in the sense that no predicted event is first to take place, therefore the Tribulation will not take place before Christ comes and the Church will not pass through the period of trial
there is any
one argument that is regarded as sufficient in itself to prove, to the
satisfaction of many, that the Church will have no experience of the
Tribulation trials, this is the one. It is practically taken for
granted that the
Scriptures teach the imminent, any-moment return of Christ.
us look at two testimonies in recent literature on the subject.
Thiessen in his
book on the Tribulation, p. 40, says of the term “imminency”: “This
not mean of a certainty that He will come at once, (of course not!) but
constant expectation of Him, on the ground that there is no revealed
must precede His return.” Again, W. M. Robertson in The Sure Word
Prophecy, p. 257, says: “When we turn to the Pauline epistles we
apostle urging the saints to look for the Lord Jesus the Savior without
signs preceding His coming.” All of which is quite in line with the
the older commentator, Joseph Seiss, that the Second Coming is “pledged
moment, possible at any.”
spite of the
popularity of this view, I do not think it is the teaching of
Scripture, and I
propose to demonstrate this by the thirteen considerations that follow.
A. IMPLICATIONS OF THE GREAT COMMISSION
The commission to “teach all nations” and to witness to Christ “unto the uttermost parts of the earth” of necessity implies a very considerable lapse of time, nor does this implication hinge on the unscriptural notion held by many that the Church is commanded to convert the world. Thiessen reminds us that according to Col. 1:6, 23 Paul claims the Gospel had been preached in all the world in his day. However, according to Bishop H. C. G. Moule in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Paul is using a perfectly natural hyperbole to say that wherever the Gospel had gone it had always proved its proper power. “The readers would well understand that Paul meant not that the Gospel had reached every spot of Europe, Asia, and Africa.”
Not only does the Great Commission imply a long period of time for its accomplishment, but the promise of the continuing presence of Christ is valid, not until the Tribulation but “even unto the consummation of the age” which takes place when Christ comes in glory to establish His Kingdom, as Matt. 24:3 implies. Therefore we shall have to conclude that a proper understanding of the historic fulfillment of the Great Commission gives scant justification for the imminent, any-moment theory of the Second Coming.
B. THE PARABLES OF MATTHEW 13
Here again we find the implication of a very considerable passage of time. The growth of seeds to maturity suggests a time-consuming process. In the parable of the tares, it is particularly significant that the harvest takes place at the end of the age when true believers and unsaved professors will be separated, the true believers shining forth in the Kingdom. Apparently the Rapture of believers takes place at the time of the setting up of the Kingdom, not seven years before.
Furthermore, the Antichrist can hardly he thought of as exercising his power after the harvest, after the end of the age, and therefore his power will be manifested before the end of the age and the gathering of the wheat. Since this is so, obviously Christ’s coming hinges upon the prior manifestation of the Antichrist and therefore is not “imminent.”
C. PAUL’S EXPECTATION OF EXECUTION
According to 2 Tim. 4:6-8 Paul came to believe that not the second coming of Christ but death was the event he should anticipate. True, he said in 1 Thes. 4:17 “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up,” but this “we” does not necessarily imply that he felt sure he himself would be alive at the Second Advent. He was simply referring to the portion of the Christian Church, of which he was a member, that would be alive at that time. However, I would not expect this argument to carry a disproportionate amount of weight.
D. JESUS’ PREDICTION OF PETER’S MARTYRDOM
Jesus predicted that when Peter became old another would gird him and
whither he would not. How can one say, then, that Peter believed in the
imminent, any-moment view of the return of Christ? Dr. Thiessen faces
problem, pp. 40-41, and gives a two-fold reply. First he says: “It is
that Peter understood this saying. It was many years after Peter’s
when John made this statement and applied it to Peter’s method of exit
reply to Dr.
Thiessen, I would remind the reader that Godet and others have not
so low a view of Peter’s mentality, fully believing he understood what
said. But whether Peter understood the nature of what would happen to
quite beside the point. Peter must have been bright enough to know that
Jesus said “when thou shalt be old” Jesus meant that Peter would live
age. Peter evidently was not already old and therefore had many years
live. How could he have held the imminent theory of Christ’s return?
Thiessen, apparently sensing the flimsy basis for his argument, seeks
apparent desperation for some passage that would seem to teach that
taught the coming of Christ as imminent, and he chooses, of all
3:19-21, a citation that proves the very opposite of what he wants it
Says he: “However it may be as to Peter’s understanding of the Master’s
him, we find that he preached the return of Christ as an imminent
right after the day of Pentecost.”
considerations will show that Thiessen is even more involved in error
First, let me ask, which of the alleged two comings of Christ do
Premillennialists hold to be imminent? The Rapture, of course, for that
to be the next event on the prophetic calendar. But which coming of
Peter referring to in this passage? Certainly not the Rapture.
that so far from this being the Rapture, Peter at that time was wholly
that there was to be a Rapture of the Church. This coming, then, says
Gaebelein, is the glorious advent of Christ to establish His Kingdom.
Gaebelein is obviously right, for Peter goes on to say that this advent
predicted “by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world
you cannot find a Premillennialist who teaches the Rapture of the
Church is in
Old Testament prophecy. Obviously then Peter was not teaching the
coming of Christ here.
Another matter of interest in this connection is that Acts 3:21 which speaks of heaven receiving Christ until the restitution of all things absolutely forbids the thought of His leaving heaven for earth until that time. In other words, there is no room whatever for a coming of Christ at least seven years before His leaving heaven to restore all things!
E. THE SINGLE OBJECT OF THE BELIEVER’S EXPECTATION
39, says that when Paul in Ti. 2:13 urges us to look for the “blessed
did not ask us to look for the Tribulation and the Antichrist. Of
might mention any number of doctrines that Paul did not refer to in any
particular verse or passage. That Paul said nothing in Ti. 2:13 of the
Supper of the Lamb in no way invalidates that truth which remains as a
the hope of believers in spite of the fact that other predicted events
constituting part of the expectation of believers will transpire first.
Thiessen asks: “How can we wait for One who cannot come until several
momentous things have taken place?” Why we cannot anticipate the coming
events that serve as signs of Christ’s advent as well as anticipate
advent I cannot understand. Many could profit by meditating on the
of the words in Matt. 24:33, “when ye shall see all these things.” In
connection should be read Luke 21:28, “And when these things begin to
pass, then look up! . . .“ “These things” include the signs of Christ’s
that He has just mentioned, including the Tribulation.
have told His followers of the signs of His advent if He had believed
mental outlook could hold but one anticipation of a future event! So
far as the
expectation of passing through a period of trial before Christ returns
weakening our hold on the “blessed hope” and watering it down to a
general expectation, as Thiessen intimates, it would serve the very
purpose of strengthening our desire to welcome Him whose presence alone
banish the sorrows of the present.
looking for the
signs of Christ’s coming would tend to divert the gaze from the
and if, as Thiessen claims, “Such signs as Scripture lists all have to
the Revelation and not with the Rapture” (p. 45), then the very
against the substitution of signs for the hope of Christ’s coming would
with equal force to the Tribulation saints. Is it likely that the
saints of the
Tribulation time will become so engrossed in looking for the cosmic
the returning Christ (the darkened sun and moon, etc.) that they will
sight of Christ’s coming which those signs will quickly introduce?
signs only serve to divert attention from our Lord’s coming or cool our
for it bears very serious implications concerning our Lord’s wisdom in
given any revelation concerning signs. Tregelles, as quoted by Reese,
well says: “He who looks for promised events as indications of the
advent, will not rest for a moment in the events themselves; their
that they lead on the thoughts and affections to Him for whom the
called to watch and wait, and who has Himself promised these signs to
Surely few of the pre-Tribulation Rapturists would allow themselves to go so far as Dr. A. C. Gaebelein who charges that those who look for signs are to be likened to the drunken servant of the parable in Matt. 24:45-51. A cursory examination of this parable will reveal that it was not the view that his Lord would delay his coming but the uses to which he put his time that merited rebuke and proved he deserved the sad end of the hypocrite. Surely it is far from true and charitable to classify with that evil servant the many sincere and mighty men of God who have looked for signs. Dr. Gaebelein would do well to recall that W. J. Erdman, one of God’s spiritual giants, did not believe in the imminent, any-moment view of Christ’s coming, and, so far from being in the class of the evil servant of Matt. 24, served along with Dr. Gaebelein himself as a consulting editor of the Scofield Reference Bible.
F. THE SCRIPTURES INDICATE A CONSIDERABLE INTERVAL BETWEEN JESUS’ ASCENSION AND HIS RETURN
Thiessen and others who have dealt with the question of the Church in
Tribulation recognize these scriptures as a real difficulty that their
imminent-theory must face. For example, Dr. Ironside in his Not
Rapture, p. 17, truly states: “In Luke 21 it is evident that
time must elapse between the overthrow of
his brochure, p. 43, refers to the parable of the nobleman who went
into a “far
country” as an illustration of the difficulty facing his any-moment
says: “There is no need to think that the disciples understood the Lord
speak of any long interval.”
True, the particular length of the interval is of no significance. Whether the interval be relatively long or short, one cannot say that those to whom was given this parabolic message were led to believe in an any-moment return of Christ. The fact of there being an interval at all rules out the imminency of His return for a time.
G. THE PREDICTIONS OF APOSTASY
Those familiar with historical processes know that it takes time for apostasy to develop. Both Peter and Paul predicted the professing Church would be characterized in the last days by a marked falling away from the faith. As Dr. Charles R. Erdman says in his Pastoral Epistles, p. 76: “Paul never affirms that the event is near. In his earliest letters he specifically taught that an apostasy would first develop and a ‘man of sin’ appear. 2 Thes. 2:3. How long the delay may be is never foretold.” This fact of a developing apostasy hardly comports with the imminent, any-moment theory of Christ’s coming.
H. PARABLES OF THE VIRGINS AND THE TALENTS
parables in Matt. 25 are concerned to show how believers are to use the
intervening time before the return of Christ. In v. 5 we are told the
Bridegroom tarried. How long He would tarry is beside the point. The
is that an interval between the Lord’s departure and return would take
In the parable of the talents we find in v. 19 the significant words:
long time the lord of those servants cometh.” They are so significant
(CHARLES H. MCINTOSH). in his exposition of this
that occupies ten pages in his Papers on the Lord’s Coming completely
Thiessen, however, does not sidestep the issue but says, p. 19: “This, too, does not imply more than the lifetime of the apostles, although we now know that the time is much longer.” If imminency may be so defined that it does not necessarily mean an any-moment return but sometime within one’s lifetime, one can readily subscribe to that, for the fulfillment of the signs of Christ’s coming could easily take place within the lifetime of all people except the most advanced in age. But this is quite a different position from what Thiessen elsewhere seems to teach.
I. PAUL IN THE PASTORAL EPISTLES MAKES PROVISION FOR THE PERMANENT ORGANIZATION AND CONTINUING MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH
This point is emphasized by Dr. Charles R. Erdman in his Pastoral Epistles, p. 113. He reminds us that Paul did not consider Christ’s coming as imminent. In 2 Tim. 2:2 Paul encourages Timothy to arrange to educate other men in the faith so that they will be able to pass on the good news. All this, of course, involves time.
J. PAUL EXPLICITLY TEACHES CHRIST’S COMING IS NOT IMMINENT, IN 2 THES. 2:1--3 AND HE PROCEEDS TO PROVE IT
Paul urges that we should let no man deceive us by any means. Why? There must transpire two events before Christ comes, namely, the apostasy and the manifestation of the Man of Sin. I realize that “the day of Christ” here is translated “the Day of the Lord” in the Revised Version. But if we should grant that “the Day of the Lord” represents the second phase of Christ’s coming which has nothing to do with the blessed hope of the Church, why should Paul be so greatly concerned that no man deceive the Church concerning an event that allegedly has nothing to do with the Church? Surely the theory that would divide the Lord’s coming into two distinct events separated by a period of at least seven years is a man-made notion that has caused infinite confusion of thought. Paul elsewhere is greatly concerned lest men be drawn away from the simplicity that is in Christ.
K. THE MESSAGES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
It is a widely accepted view that the messages to the seven churches of Revelation are a prophetic fore view of the seven phases of the spiritual history of the Church from A.D. 96 to the end of the age. Such a view involves quite a considerable lapse of time. It is obviously utterly impossible to reconcile this historical view of the seven churches with the imminent, any-moment view of Christ’s return.
L. EXHORTATIONS TO CONSTANT EXPECTATION AND WATCHFULNESS
is one of the
strongest proofs, says Dr. Thiessen, p. 38, that the Rapture of the
take place before the Tribulation. I would remind the reader that the
chapter in which these exhortations are so prominent, Matt. 24, tells
coming of Christ, not for the Church but in judgment and glory to set
Kingdom. At least, this is the claim of the pre-Tribulation Rapturists.
following that picture of Christ’s coming we find the exhortations to
be ready. If Thiessen and his school would be consistent, they would
that these exhortations have no relevancy for the Church, since it is
Church’s hope to which these exhortations are tied. But Thiessen
claims, p. 38: “They belong to the Church as well as to Israel.” It is
true that they do but very unbecoming for him to make such a claim.
know they are also intended for the Church because they are repeated in
Epistles. And he gives 1 Thes. 5:6 as an illustration, again proving
inconsistency, for Paul in that chapter has just predicted the coming
the Lord” which we are told is the second stage of the Lord’s coming,
in relation to which Christians, according to Thiessen’s theory, need
he cites is Rev. 3:3 “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on
a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” But
we do watch? What then? Surely the conclusion is warranted: “You will
hour I will come!” That is to say, not literally the hour, of course,
the signs appear the conviction will deepen that Christ’s coming is
let me emphasize at this point that watchfulness is something more than
vague, sentimental longing for Christ. It implies watching for the
signs of His appearing. Thank God! We need not be in darkness so that
of Christ’s coming will overtake us as a thief!
told by Dr.
Scofield that the personal coming of Christ in fulfillment of the upper
promise is made the ground of many exhortations to holy living. The
deprived of that motive, he says, if the coming of the Lord is so
other prophetic events as to deprive the believer of a personal
Among other passages Scofield cites 1 Pet. 1:13. Here the word describing the Second Advent is “revelation,” a word which Dr. Scofield, in his Bible Correspondence Course, p. 619, says always refers to the second stage of Christ’s Second Advent, when He comes, not to catch up the Church, but to establish His Kingdom. If the Second Advent is to be distinguished as two events, as Scofield maintains, and the first part of the advent is the Church’s hope, why does not Peter tie his practical exhortation to the first phase and not to the second? The answer is very simple. Peter knows of no double coming of Christ. And so we are forced to conclude that the post-tribulation rapture doctrine, so far from depriving the believer of a personal expectation, preserves the force of the practical exhortations based upon the promises of Christ’s coming to establish His Kingdom, saving them from being rendered nugatory by a false theory of our Lord’s advent.
M. THE MORAL VALUE OF THE IMMINENT HOPE
the any-moment doctrine of Christ’s coming tends to keep the believer
and spiritual tip-toe. I would not care to deny the psychological value
teaching. However, the question of value has no place in a discussion
whether a theory is true or not, and I beg leave to introduce it merely
those with whom I disagree do so.
Christian would think for a moment of seeking to improve on God’s
awakening love for the appearing of Christ. Furthermore, no instructed
doubts for a moment that our Lord’s eye is continually upon us, that
escapes Him, and that our sense of shame at being found doing anything
keeping with His will should be quite as sharp the moment the
wrought in our hearts by His Spirit as it would be by the thought of
returning at any moment.
young or healthy we may be, we never know when death may overtake us,
thought can serve quite as effectively as a psychological check, if
need. And certainly no honest Christian would cling to a doctrine that
clearly taught in the Word simply because he fancies it may have a good
upon people, any more than he would be willing from a noble motive to
child a “white lie.”
Reese, in this connection, well says, p. 231: “Certain it is, therefore, that the Lord Jesus did not think that the moral influence of His coming was in any way impaired by the instruction that He Himself gave concerning events that would intervene; for He, in answer to the question of the apostles, taught that such events would intervene before He returned.”
tell us that
the last state of the Church will be one of lukewarmness and ease and
declension. While this is a true statement, we need to keep in mind
question at issue is not whether the professing Church will pass
Tribulation but whether the true Body of Christ will pass through it.
even if the true Church is rather
lukewarm in the last days, in the message to the
we find in
Rev. 3:21 a promise to the overcomer, which of course implies exposure
trial or testing. The way to warm a lukewarm church and stir into fresh
those within its ranks who truly belong to Christ may be to subject it
sharp test of its faith.
Furthermore, most expositors who make the claim that we have just noticed regard the epistles to the Seven Churches as not only a fore view of the historic development of the Church through the centuries but as a picture of seven types of churches that can be found in any age. If this is true, it is hardly consistent to base an argument for the exemption of the Church from the Tribulation Period on but one of the seven types of churches that will be found in the last days.
13. Two predicted events must take place between Christ’s coming for the Church and His coming in judgment--the marriage supper of the Lamb, and the judgment of the believer’s works for rewards. These must occupy a considerable period of time, thus disproving the belief Christ’s coming is a single undivided event.
As we have already seen, the belief that Christ’s coming consists of two events separated by a period of years is not susceptible of proof in the Scriptures.
us look at the only passage that speaks of the marriage supper of the
Rev. 19:7-9, to see if we can discover when it will take place. It is
heavenly beings rejoice that divine justice has disposed of
Now as to the judgment of the believer’s works, we know that this takes place at the coming of Christ. The works will be revealed by fire (1 Cor. 3:15) and subjected to a test to discover which works will abide. This takes place at the resurrection of the just according to Rev. 11: 15--18 at which time Christ sets up His Kingdom. There is no indication of the amount of time required. Certainly the whole process could be accomplished in a moment of time. Who would care to limit our infinite God? Sad indeed is the anthropomorphism that argues that such an enormous task as that of giving rewards to the righteous must occupy a very considerable amount of time!
14. The completion of the Church coincides with the completion of the fullness of the Gentiles. The fullness of the Gentiles is followed by the fullness of Israel. In this sequence is a proof the Church will be exempt from the Tribulation.
argument that presupposes a double coming of Christ. Let us ask: When
fullness of Israel take place? According to Rom. 11:26 it takes place
coming of Christ as the Deliverer and at that time “all Israel shall be
saved.” This is confirmed in Zech. 12 which says the Jews will look
Christ whom they have pierced and their hearts will be overwhelmed with
mourning, and a fountain will be opened to them for sin and uncleanness
(13:1). This coming of Christ is, to those who hold to the double
of Christ, the second aspect of His advent when He comes to destroy the
nations that are massed about
This is the very time, however, when the first resurrection takes place and the Rapture of the Church happens, so that we must conclude that the completion of the Church takes place at the same crisis as the conversion and fullness of Israel. Therefore there is here no argument for a rapture of the Church before the Tribulation.
15. The “Son of Man” is a title used of our Lord in relation to Israel, the earthly people. Therefore wherever it is used in connection with the coming of Christ, it can have no reference to the Church, as in Matt. 24:30. Therefore the coming for the Church is a separate event from Christ’s glorious coming to Israel and to set up His Kingdom.
study of the Word of God we learn that the title “Son of Man” is not
used of Christ in relation to Israel and therefore the line of
ends in the conclusion that there is a coming of Christ before His
coming to Israel is invalid.
why Jesus used the title “Son of Man” has perplexed the greatest
the theological world. In an article in the International Standard
Encyclopedia on the subject, Dr. James Stalker gives his opinion
the term, as used in such passages as Dan. 7:13--14; Matt. 24:30;
especially frequent in passages referring to His future coming in
term finds its greatest significance as an expression of Christ’s
with all men in sympathy, fortunes, and destiny. “He felt Himself to be
identified with all as their brother, their fellow-sufferer, their
representative. and champion, and, in some respects, the deepest word
spake was ‘For the Son of Man also came not to be ministered unto, but
minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:45.)
From this we can hardly conclude that the title has reference only to Israel. In fact, in a passage that clearly refers to the Church, the term is used, namely, in Rev. 1 where the “Son of Man” is seen standing in the midst of the seven candlesticks which are representative of the Churches.
terminology are not confined to the Modernists who have often been
emptying evangelical terms of their traditional, evangelical content!
told that the coming of Christ as described in Matthew 24 is not for
Church. And yet our Lord plainly says in vv. 22, 24, 31 that the
will be shortened for the sake of the elect, the elect will almost be
by false prophets, and Christ comes in glory to gather His elect. As it
known, the term elect is used of the Church. But the theory of a
pre-Tribulation rapture must be saved at all costs and therefore this
elect is given a meaning which it nowhere else bears in the New
is made to refer to a Jewish elect.
Hooton in The
Life of Faith (London), June 14, 1939, well says: “The view that
two aspects of the Second Coming, not two stages, avoids the necessity
special pleading, in attributing to the word ‘elect’ in Matt. 24:22,
24, 31 a
different meaning from that which it ordinarily bears.”
occurrences of the term elect in the New Testament, one refers
certain angels, another refers to Christ, and the other fourteen very
refer to the Church or Christians. To make the term refer to any others
requires “special pleading,” as Hooton points out.
pleaders is Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse who in an article in Revelation,
Nov. 1942, says: “Any attempt to make the phrase ‘the elect’ in Matthew
refer to the Church in the present age leads to a confusion that is
chaotic. Words no longer have meaning in Bible study.
let us ask,
introduces confusion, who empties words of their meaning? The one who
the word to retain its usual meaning in the New Testament, or the one
arbitrarily assigns it a meaning that is nowhere else found in the New
we ask Dr.
Barnhouse who the elect of Matthew 24 are, if they are not the Church,
his answer in the above-mentioned article. He says these elect are the
“the great multitude which no man could number” of Rev. 7:9. But let us
how did they hear the truth that saved them? Through the preaching of
144,000 Jews, mentioned earlier in that chapter. “These all go out
the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ,” says Barnhouse.
us ask, how were the 144,000 saved? He says they were saved as a result
preaching of Moses and Elijah whom Barnhouse may be right in
the two witnesses of Rev. 11.
take the time to read Rev. 11:3---12 and Rev. 7 he will very likely
that Dr. Barnhouse has taken very great liberties with the actual
record, but quite unintentionally of course. In the first place, he
that there is absolutely nothing to indicate that the message of the
witnesses was a gospel of salvation. So far from words of grace
their mouths, fire will proceed from their mouths if any dare hurt
Furthermore, they will be given power to smite the earth with plagues.
is true we are not told they exercise that power, still it hardly reads
preparation for an evangelistic in gathering!
careful reader will note that the passage, so far from indicating that
person was saved as a result of their preaching, indicates that their
antagonized the people who heard it to such an extent that “they that
upon the earth” rejoice and make merry when they learn of the death of
witnesses! Again, there is absolutely nothing to indicate that the
the great multitude of Rev. 7:9 is to be attributed to the preaching of
144,000. The fact is, it nowhere says the 144,000 preached the Gospel,
preached anything for that matter! Surely the Word of God deserves
treatment in the house of its friends!
Barnhouse closes this article, which is a masterpiece of confused
quite unworthy of his extraordinary endowments, by assuming the term
applied to the Tribulation can be interpreted only in a qualitative
referring to the intensity of the suffering when a simple reading of
passages that speak of a Great Tribulation points to an emphasis on the
quantitative sense. It is to affect the whole world. The great saved
of Rev. 7:14 that comes out of Great Tribulation is said to come out of
nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues.” Nor will the suffering
such severity as to prevent the period of Tribulation being a time of
salvation. While I have no desire to minimize the severity of the
that period, it is to be remembered that the vials of divine wrath
the unsaved, whether Jews or Gentiles, while it is true that the saved
refuse allegiance to the Antichrist will be subject to persecution and
will be martyred.
quite unfair for Dr. Barnhouse to close his article with the words: “If
Church is to pass through the Tribulation, then farewell blessed hope,
welcome the coffin, then thrice welcome the undertaker!” The book of
Revelation, after describing the trials of the last Tribulation, closes
appeal, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”--words that will unquestionably be
redeemed lip in that day. Then the blessed hope will shine with new
will awaken a lyric joy in the breast of every born-again soul! It will
“Farewell, blessed hope!” but “Welcome, blessed hope!”
We have still to consider another term that is applied to sufferers in the Tribulation which is also applicable to the Church--the term saints, as found in the book of Revelation. In Rev. 8:3-4 we read of the prayers of the saints. In 13:7 the beast makes war against the saints. In 13:10 the saints patiently await the time of divine retribution against their enemies. The same is found in 14:12. Some of the saints are martyred in 16:6; 17:6, and 18:24. The saints are rewarded at the last trumpet in 11:18. Who are all these saints? We know that saints is the common New Testament term for the Church or members of the Body of Christ. If these are not the Church saints, then surely John would have plainly said so, for he very well knew that to use the term without qualification would be tantamount to saying it is the Church of Christ to which he was referring.
this verse teaches the Church will escape the trials of the Tribulation
means of a prior rapture to heaven. Reese, p. 213, calls the use of
for such a purpose a “mockery of consistency, I had almost said, of
moment ago they were all affirming that ‘the Son of Man’ was a title
when Christ’s relation to the Church was in view; it was a finger-post
us that Israel or the world was under consideration. Yet here they are
their short memories demanding that this time we should see the Church
will oblige them: the Church is in view here, but not in the sense, nor
time, the theorists wish. They who ‘stand before the Son of Man’ are
raptured saints, the Elect, gathered on the Day of the Son of Man, as
24:31, 41 and Luke 17:30--36 conclusively prove.”
escape, we are told by Dr. A. T. Robertson in his Word Studies
verb means to escape out.
Therefore we may say that it refers to those
Christ’s own who will at the end of the Tribulation escape out of that
being raptured up to meet Christ in the air while the others remain to
engulfed in the judgment that the soon returning Son of Man will
Dr Thiessen, p. 6, takes the extraordinary view that the “these things that shall come to pass” is synonymous with the words “that day” of v. 34. In other words, “that day” of v. 34 refers to the Great Tribulation. The context clearly shows the day referred to is that of the Lord’s return, mentioned in v. 27. Scofield rightly confirms this in his paragraph heading in his reference Bible, “Warnings in view of the Lord’s return.” It is described as a day that will come without warning and as a snare or trap to those who are not prepared. This clearly points to the aspect of our Lord’s coming as a thief, and Scofield rightly refers, in the margin of his Bible, to 1 Thes. 5:2 in confirmation of this. Nowhere does the Bible speak of the coming of the Tribulation as a sudden surprise, nor does it enjoin watchfulness and prayer and preparation for the Tribulation.
is the proof
text that is quoted most frequently in support of the contention that
Church will be raptured away before the Tribulation. We shall want to
it with considerable attention.
hinges on the
meaning of the preposition from (Greek ek). Alford is a
grammatical authority often quoted at this point. He says the word
of the midst of’: but whether by immunity from, or by being brought
through, the preposition does not clearly define.”
relates to the meaning of the phrase “them that dwell upon the earth”
“earth-dwellers.” It is claimed that this is a technical expression for
who are not believers, who settle down in this world, in contrast to
whose citizenship is in heaven. Thiessen reminds us of Thayer’s opinion
the word “dwell” in the original is a specially strong word, having the
permanence. And Thiessen adds, p. 22: “Thus the judgment referred to in
is directed against the earth-dwellers of that day, against those who
settled down in the earth as their real home, who have identified
with the earth’s commerce and religion.”
if we grant
this technical meaning of the word, it does not follow that everyone
the earth at that time will be an “earth-dweller” any more than it is
to-day. Those who say the Church will go through the Tribulation do not
the Church will be the object of the divine wrath that will be poured
the “earth-dwellers.” Furthermore, it is rather dangerous to base an
on an alleged specialized meaning of a word, for we may easily prove
Dr. Thiessen conveniently fails to mention that the same Greek word for
is used of our Lord dwelling in
Let us look beyond the grammar of this verse, which admittedly is inconclusive, and examine the context. “Behold, I come quickly” is the word of encouragement that immediately follows the reference to the hour of trial. What greater encouragement to a Church that is being severely tested?
Furthermore, we must not overlook the significance of the words, “Him that overcometh,” in v. 12. Do they not imply that God’s people will be subjected to some kind of severe test, even the tribulatory test that was mentioned but two verses before? It is a Christian Church that is being addressed in these verses and it is in the Church that the overcomers appear.
Reese, p. 200, well says that it is a mere assumption that the only way God can preserve His Church from the Great Tribulation is by rapturing her to heaven above. He says: “As a matter of fact, the Rapture is not so much as mentioned or hinted at; so long, therefore, as another possible means of preservation out of the hour of Tribulation exists, it is a mere assumption that the Church must be raptured away in order to fulfill this promise of Christ. This very book of Revelation reveals the possibility and certainty of a people in relationship with God being thus preserved from the Great Tribulation. We are told that the Sun-clad Woman flees to the wilderness, and is there protected by God from precisely the hour of the last Great Tribulation--’a thousand and two hundred and three-score days’ (12:6, 14). Not all the power of the dragon can avail to reach or touch her. Not a word is said about her being raptured out of the world, yet the Woman is untouched by the final persecution under Antichrist.”
This verse is another alleged proof of a rapture of the Church before the Tribulation. First, let us ask what Paul means by the words, “the wrath to come?” We know that “wrath” may be used in any one of three senses. It may refer to the divine wrath manifested during the Tribulation; it may refer to the divine wrath against the ungodly at Christ’s coming in glory; or it may refer to the unending wrath of God as known in hell.
Which is the meaning in Paul’s mind in this verse? Very obviously it is the wrath that is manifested at the coming of Christ, for His coming has just been mentioned in this verse! Therefore, the wrath referred to has nothing whatever to do with tribulational judgments but rather with the coming of Him who will tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God. From this latter wrath the Church will of course be exempt.
20. 1 Thes. 5:1-9 “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
often invoked to prove the Church will not come into the wrath that
manifested during the Tribulation. Much confusion has been caused by
unjustified assumption that Paul is dealing in this chapter with a
subject from that discussed in chapter four. We are told that in
he was dealing with the Rapture of the Church, but in chapter five he
speaking, not of believers, but of unbelievers, not of the Rapture of
Church but of the glorious coming of Christ in judgment upon an
due partly to the unfortunate chapter division. In chapter four Paul
described the “blessed hope” of the Church, the gathering of the saints
Lord at His coming. A natural question arises in the minds of His
“When will this take place?” And so he proceeds, without the slightest
in the subject, to answer the question “when?” The words of v. 1, “But
times and seasons,” clearly link the two chapters. Paul says they had
of his elaborating on the question of the time because he had already
Christ “so cometh as a thief.” The “so” is a term indicating manner. It
speaks of the unexpectedness of His coming. It does not refer to the
purpose to destroy, as Newell and others affirm. It simply means His
However, he makes it plain
that that aspect of His coming is true only
those who are in spiritual darkness, as we indicated earlier in this
ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as
thief!” He does not say that that day will not overtake the brethren.
says it will not overtake them as a thief. Those who anticipate His
not be caught napping!
Paul gives an
earnest exhortation to watchfulness and sobriety which would be utterly
meaning if Paul intended to say that the Church to which this
addressed will have been out of the world several years before the
of this Day which is surely coming to believers as well as to
Lord’s own should “be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and
for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” The salvation here referred to
salvation from the penalty of sin, for they already were “children of
It is the salvation that consists of the final redemption of the body,
deliverance from the very presence of sin which is assured the believer
Christ’s return. In the Day of the Lord the believer is not the object
divine wrath but experiences the finishing touches of God’s salvation.
Therefore we shall not misunderstand v. 9, “For God hath not appointed
wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” It does not
Church will be raptured away before that Day, but the very opposite is
The Church will be here and “obtain salvation”--in the final and
there is a
secret rapture of the Church some years before the Day of the Lord, we
not find Christians looking for that Day, nor should we find practical
exhortations given to Christians in view of the coming Day of the Lord.
since we do find believers looking for that Day and that they are given
and spiritual advice in view of the coming of that Day, we may be sure
will be on earth when that Day comes.
Therefore, we do well to read
God’s Word with discernment and with the
continual prayer on our lips that we may be so filled with His love and
faithful in His service that that Day will not overtake us as a thief.
day I was
meditating on Rev. 22 and apparently the words, “Behold, I come
been especially fastened in my consciousness. Some time during the
night I heard our baby boy crying apparently in great terror as he
awoke from a
nightmare. As I, half awake, leaped from bed and drew on my slippers I
myself saying audibly, “Behold, I come quickly!” A few moments later,
fully conscious, I recalled the exclamation that had been uttered in my
to hurry to the little one and comfort him. In this experience I find a
parable. When our Lord hears His Church crying to Him in great
so, come, Lord Jesus!”, will He not reply, “Behold, I come quickly!”?
answer may not be in an audible voice but in a deepening consciousness
shadows of earth’s darkest night will soon give way to the dawning of
final plea to
the reader is that he not rest his convictions upon anything in this
is of human authorship, and therefore subject to error, but that like
Bereans of old he will search the Scriptures daily to see whether these
are so. Dr. R. C. McQuilkin well says in the introduction to one of his
booklets on the parables: “Second-hand Bible study is the bane of many
Christians to-day and leaves them dependent on some human teacher whose
interpretations come to have for them the authority of infallible
I can do no better than to close with a quotation from Nathaniel West who has been called the most learned of American students of unfulfilled prophecy. “. . . The utterly unscriptural, any-moment theory of our Lord’s second coming: a theory which makes of Christ and His apostles self contradictory teachers, and of the Scriptures wholly unreliable oracles. No delusion more pleasing and sweet on the one hand, or more wild, groundless, and injurious to truth and faith, on the other, has ever captivated the minds of men, than this one of an any-moment, unseen, secret advent, resurrection, and rapture, a delusion condemned and exposed on almost every page of the Word of God. An unconditional, immediate, impending, any-moment imminency of an event, detached from all the signs that herald its approach, and which has lasted 1800 years, is an imminency that may last for 1800 years more. Such is not the believer’s hope! To watch ourselves, to watch against the snares, subterfuges, sins and temptations that beset us, to watch lest our garments be taken from us, to watch for the improvement of our talents, to watch that our vessels have oil in them--and in view of an account when the Lord comes, to watch the signs of the times, the events which are the footsteps of the coming Lord, the spread of the Gospel, the rise of lawlessness, the increase of apostasy, the interest in Israel, the attitude of the nations, our souls ever directed to the realization of His blessed hope, is to watch for the coming of the Lord, and to wait for His appearing. . . . The question is no longer a question of exegesis with such clear light before us. It is simply a question of ethics with every believer. Have we the right moral disposition toward the truth, or will we still cling to error because we have unfortunately defended it too long; shall we act against the Truth or for the Truth? ‘Unto the upright there ariseth light in darkness.’” (Quoted by A. Reese, p. 244)
ALL THESE THINGS
God’s promise is not freedom
From trials in the race;
But power to transcend them
Through His sufficing grace.
Not rest instead of labour,
But in the labour rest;
Not calm instead of tempest,
But calm when sore distressed.
Not light instead of darkness,
Not joy instead of grief;
But brightness in the midnight,
And in the woe relief.
Not gain instead of losses,
Not ease instead of pain;
But balm upon the anguish
And losses bringing gain.
Not strength instead of weakness,
Not smile instead of tears;
Not peace instead of conflict,
Not song instead of fears.
But weakness filled with power,
And tears with radiance spread;
And peace amid the battle
And song e’er fears are fled.
NORMAN F. DOUTY
Conqueror,” Jan. 1941
(1) Copyright 1944, Dr. Norman Spurgeon MacPherson, and is posted on this website with the kind permission of his son Dave MacPherson.
(2) Dr. MacPherson later published some notes to further clarify his
position "More Thoughts
Posttribulationist Author (PDF)".
Formatted for the internet by www.theologue.org