5.14 Supplement 1
Could the rapture occur either before or after the end times?
1. If deliverance comes after the close of the age.
In this category there are at least 2 different theories on when the rapture will occur:
We begin with arguments for "after", since the arguments for "before" then follow in a more natural way. The doctrine that the Bride would not be delivered until after the judgments of wrath goes against what Paul himself taught in I Thessalonians. He begins there by saying, "All report…how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven…Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (I Thess.1:9-10) A little later he clarifies the deliverance by writing, "God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ," (I Thess.5:9)
- The oldest and perhaps the most popular theory implies that Jesus will return visibly to the earth in connection with the war of Armageddon. At that time he will save both the Jewish nation and the Bride from annihilation. The Bride therefore remains on the earth until the end of the judgments of wrath.
- In a more recent theory, the end times would optimistically transition into the Millennium, and the judgments of wrath would be delayed until the end of the Millennium. (This complicated theory is discussed more in depth in supplement 2.)
Through communion, it is intended that we confess our sins in order to then receive forgiveness and new power for a victorious life. In this way we don't risk being condemned along with the world in the judgments of wrath. "But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world." (ICor.11:32)
2. If deliverance comes before the end times begin.
According to Peter, Paul was known for expressing himself in a way which could be misunderstood. This is precisely what happened when he wrote I Thess.4.
The congregation in Thessaloniki became subject to a severe persecution. They then believed that the rapture of the Bride had already happened, and that they had been left behind in the middle of the judgments of wrath. In his clarification, Paul therefore writes the following: "If you hear that anyone has seen a vision, and received a special message from God about this see to it that you are not taken in and deceived, no matter what they say."
Therefore, he was later forced to explain himself more clearly in the second chapter of his next letter, II Thess. 2. This Bible passage is either completely left out, or is passed by without comment by those who hold to a deliverance before the beginning of the end times.
According to Paul in 2 Thess. 2, the rapture must be preceded by:
- The Antichrist must first be revealed. He will not only deceive many who had refused to believe the truth by remarkable signs and wonders, but he will eventually also demand divine worship, and he will begin to persecute anyone who does not submit to him.
- Additionally, a great apostasy and rebellion against God will take place.
Therefore, the Bride is not delivered from the wrath of the devil, but is certainly saved from God's judgment wrath on the day of the Lord, which comes upon the unrepentant wicked. (Read further all of 2Peter 3, and Rev.15, which show that the Bride's entrance into heaven occurs just before the judgments of wrath begin on earth in chapter 16).
Finally, it is stated as clear as day that the first resurrection from the dead and the rapture of the Bride occur simultaneously (I Thess.4:16-17), and that both of these events occur at the sound of the last trumpet (ICor.15:51-53), which also signals the beginning of the judgments of wrath (Rev.11:15-19, esp. vs.18).
Unfortunately, the history of Christianity offers all too many examples of how revival movements have been deceived by allowing a hopeful and unfruitful expectation of the rapture of the Bride. We would therefore be wise to remind ourselves of Luther's sound attitude towards the question. Loosely stated, Luther maintained, "that even if I knew that the judgment day was coming tomorrow, I would nevertheless plant an apple tree today."
3. Darby's theory on deliverance before the beginning of the end times.
The Apostle John, while in the Spirit, is called by himself up for a visit to heaven in order to receive his revelation. "The voice spoke to me and said: come up here, and I will show you what must happen hereafter. At once I was caught up by the Spirit. There in heaven stood a throne"...(Rev.4:1-2)
God did a similar thing with Paul some years earlier when he received his revelation (compare 2Cor.12:7). Darby, on the other hand, asserted that the expression, "come up here", should be applied to the entire church in the endtime.
This teaching that the Bride is delivered before the end times, or at least before the tribulation begins, is quite new in church history. It was mostly not embraced by either the church fathers or the reformers. It apparently arose again in the beginning of the 1800's through a vision of angels in a Brethren congregation.
Since then, the teaching has primarily become known through Darby's English translation of the Bible, with accompanying commentaries. The teaching supports itself from just a few Bible passages, and primarily from a misunderstanding of I Thess 4. This is countered, however, as we have shown, by other Bible passages, and by the comprehensive biblical view of the end times.
Despite the fact that even Paul's own clarification contradicts Darby's theory, it has received a strong following, particularly in parts of the English-speaking world. Those who spread this teaching would be wise to consider Paul's stern judgment upon false doctrines. "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed." (Gal.1:8) It is dangerous to promise more than the Bible does, for we then harm both ourselves and others.
For deceived people might then fall away from the faith after the last revival, when they experience unexpected persecution. (More on this in the following section, and in the Maxi text, section 8,- will be released later.)