March 3, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
When one begins to teach on the imminent Return of Christ to “catch away”, or rapture His Church; many different emotions arise in people. For those of us who believe that Jesus could return at any moment, we are filled with joy and excitement! We reads the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 3:2,
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. [1 John 3:2 NKJV]; and we grow very excited!
Others however feel very strongly that the teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture is false doctrine. Just last week someone read my blog at, https://pastorkj.wordpress.com and took great exception to my teaching that the rapture is indeed the blessed hope of the saints. They began to attack the character of some of the chief proponents of pre-millennial theology in the Church today. Men such as Grant Jeffrey, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and others. Strangely absent from this individuals disjointed diatribe, as I pointed out to them, was even one verse of scripture to refute my position! It was all emotion. That is not to say that there aren’t excellent Bible scholars who hold to the Mid-trib and post-trib positions.
Why do many feel so strongly that the idea of immanency with respect to the Coming of the Lord is false? As we pointed out last time, the primary objection of the rapture critics is that it is a relatively new teaching. The individual who commented on my blog last week pointed me to a gentleman by the name of Dave Macpherson, who along with writing many anti-rapture articles on the Internet; is the author of the book, The Rapture Plot. He has developed what he refers to as a, pre-tribulation rapture time linee, in which he ties the beginning of dispensational teaching first toBritishh preacher Edward Irving in 1825. Then in 1830, according to MacPherson, a young woman in Scotland by the name of Margaret Macdonald received a “revelation” that no one had ever seen before, a rapture of church members “pre-Antichrist”, or pre-tribulation.
As the time line goes, this revelation was later picked up by Anglo-Irish evangelist John Nelson Darby, and then adopted by C.I. Scofield, who in turn began to teach dispensational theology in his Scofield Reference Bible. According to Mr. MacPherson, no one in the Church had ever believed in pre-millennialism, or in a pre-tribulation rapture prior to the 1800’s. I want to give Mr. MacPherson the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that he is motivated by a sincere love of the truth. However, as you begin to look at Mr. MacPherson’s background, you find what very possibly could be a personal “Axe to grind” with respect to the teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture. Back in the 1940’s Mr. MacPherson’s father was a Pastor. Sometime during that period of time his father changed his rapture positionnn from pre-trib to post trib, and began to preach this change in conviction from the pulpit.
As a result, the church rose up against the Rev. MacPherson and removed him from the church. One church member reportedly stated, “How dare he teach prophecy contrary to Scofield!” It was at about this time that the younger MacPherson set out on a quest to uncover the alleged “rapture plot.” Of course as you read his writings, he attemptss to do this by discrediting ministers and Bible teachers who preach dispensationalism, and specifically the pre-tribulation rapture. In all fairness, if indeed the teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture were indeed a doctrine of recent origin, he, as well as every believer; would be correct in rejecting it as false doctrine. If one could not connect it to Apostolic doctrine, it should not be taught anywhere in the Christian Church. However, I submit to you that it can indeed be found in Apostolic teaching, and in the teaching of their disciples and those who knew them in the first three centuries of the Church; i.e. the early Church. You can trace back to the “early church” a doctrinal division, two schools of thought: 1) The preterist school, 2) The futurist school. These two schools are in the Church today. The preterist believes that all prophecy was pretty much fulfilled in 70 AD. The futurist of course sees a future anti-christ, future third temple, future great tribulation period, and future literal Return of Christ, first in the rapture; then in the revelation or glorious appearing.
Irenaeus (A.D. 120 – 202), whom we quoted last time, who died as a martyr to the faith; wrote Against Heresies, one of the most important prophetic writings of the primitive church. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp (A.D. 69 – 155), who was personally taught by the Apostle John. Therefore he knew that John’s prophecies in Revelation were not fulfilled decades earlier during the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Irenaus writes, “In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord’s disciples what shall happen in the last times, and concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, among whom the empire (Rome) which now rules (the earth) shall be partitioned….It is manifest, therefore that of these (potentates), he who is to come shall slay three, and subject the remainder to his power, and that he shall be himself the eighth among them. And they shall Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight. After that, they shall be destroyed b the Coming of the Lord.” Irenaeus obviously expected the fulfillment of this prophecy to occur at some point in the future, although he knew that the Roman army had destroyed the city of Jerusalem eighty-five years before he wrote the book Against Heresies.
He also understood that the apostle John taught about a final future apostasy of the Church that would lead to its prophetic and symbolic designation as “Mystery Babylon” and the ultimate destruction of this false church by the Anti-Christ’s tenfold kingdom at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation. [See Rev. 17:16 – 18]
Well, I have given you enough to ponder for this time. We will look more into early Christian history next time, and I believe further show that you and I are on solid historical and Biblical ground holding to the pre-tribulation rapture teaching.
The Weekly Word is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 11. Here the Bible says,
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. [1 Thess. 5:1 – 11 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson