February 15, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
I am taking a break from our series on shedding light on difficult prophetic passages to look at a very important subject. People are looking for hope in our world today. This fact was no more clearly illustrated than in our recent Presidential election. Illinois Senator Barack Obama ran on a platform of hope. Soon multitudes from around the world were singing his praises, as it were, as the thought of hope resonated with the masses.
Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama, made what turned out to be a very controversial statement when she intoned, “For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my Country. It seems that hope is making a comeback!” With all due respect to President Obama, he is not our hope! I do believe that, in a sense, hope is making a comeback though. President Obama also ran on a platform of change. I find that interesting. Why? Because Bible hope is, earnest, intense, expectation of there being a change! Beloved, I want to announce to you that we have hope! Irrespective of your present circumstances you have hope! Change is on the way!
What is our hope in the midst of all of the confusion, chaos, and fear that grips our world today? The Apostle Paul wrote of this hope in his letter to Pastor Titus. He stated, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. [Titus 2:13 NKJV] This is a comforting hope. After delivering what is the premiere teaching on the blessed hope of the believer Paul concluded by saying, 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. [1 Thess. 4:18 NKJV] The teaching of the blessed hope is not a troubling message, a fear inducing message, or a message of doom and gloom. It is a comforting message! I want to obey the Holy Spirit then and comfort you with these words.
The blessed hope is the soon Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Second Coming is one event, but it comes in two phases. There will come first the harpazo, or “catching away”, and then secondly the Parousia or appearance when our Lord returns with the saints to rule and reign. The next event on the prophetic calendar is the “catching away”, or as we typically say in English, the rapture. Surprisingly, in many segments of the Christian Church the word rapture is very controversial. Why is this? I think there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the Christian Church is divided into three basic eschatological schools with respect to the doctrine of the Second Coming. These schools of thought are centered on the timing of the Return of Christ. They are referred to as, Pre-tribulation, Mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation. Just as the name would imply, the pre-trib school believes that Jesus will return for His Church prior to the events of the seven-year Great Tribulation period. The mid-trib group believes Jesus will return for His Church at the mid-way point of the Great Tribulation, and of course the post-trib school believes that the Church will go through all seven years of the Tribulation period, meet Jesus in the air as He returns to reign, and then come back to the earth to reign with Him.
I identify and line up with the pre-tribulation school. I am also a literalist and a futurist with regard to Bible prophecy. I believe that there will be a future tribulation period, a literal man of sin, or ant-Christ, a future third Temple erected in Jerusalem, and a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ after which time Christ’s Kingdom will be established on the earth for all eternity. In short, I believe what the Bible says! I am not looking for some deep, dark, esoteric message hidden in the Bible. I read God’s Word and believe that it is indeed, “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” [See Ps. 119:105] I believe that, The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. [Ps. 119:130] I believe that we should always apply a literal interpretation to scripture, unless the context suggests otherwise, and even then we should look for the literal meaning.
Why is the pre-tribulation rapture position so controversial in some circles? First, some object to this teaching because they say that the word, rapture, is not in the Bible. I would certainly agree that the word does not appear in any of our English translations. However, is there any basis for using this word to describe a definite Bible experience? There certainly is. The word rapture is a transliteration of the Latin word, rapere, it means to be” snatched away” suddenly or to be “caught up”; and was first used by the early church writer Jerome (385) in his Latin translation of the phrase, “caught up” as it appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. [1 Thess. 4:17 NKJV emphasis added]
The phrase, caught up is from the Greek Harpazo – to “snatch away, seize, or catch away suddenly”, and as we have already stated, is from the Latin rapere; from which of course we get the English, rapture. To say the word, rapture it is not in the English translations is correct. To say it is not in the Bible is incorrect, as it appeared in the Latin Vulgate, as we have already stated. The word rapture of course has been popularized in recent decades by books and films. The most popular of these of course is the popular, Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
Make no mistake about it, Jesus will descend and “catch away” or rapture His saints. You and I are on solid scriptural ground in holding to the literal, pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture of the Church! I have in my library, The New Testament an expanded translation by Kenneth Wuest. Dr. Wuest was an instructor at the Moody Bible Institute many years ago. The late J. Leslie Black, with whom I had the privilege of serving several years ago, attended Moody back in the 40’s during the time Dr. Wuest was an instructor of Greek at Moody. The Wuest New Testament in my library came from Brother Black. At any rate, Dr. Wuest rendered 1 Thessalonians 4:17, snatched away suddenly, which is a spot on translation of the Greek harpazo.
Many object to the teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture because they say it is fairly recent. They say it came about as the result of the teachings of John Nelson Darby, the Anglo-Irish evangelist who was of the original Plymouth Brethren. The critics of the pre-trib rapture then say Darby’s teachings were popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in 1907. They claim that no one from the early church, that is the first three centuries of the Christian Church, believed this. Is that true? Absolutely not! We will examine this next time.
The Weekly Word is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 – 18. Here the Bible says,
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. [1 Thess. 4:16 – 18 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson