When IS the Rapture?
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #24
September 9, 2014
"Our Father, it is a great privilege we have to serve You. It is a great privilege we have to come together to study your Word, and Father, it is encouraging when we see young men like John and like Harold and Matt Hagemeier and others that are willing to take the time to focus their lives upon the study of Your Word, and taking the time to get trained, to go to Bible college, to go to seminary, and to spend a lifetime serving You, whether that is in a fulltime professional capacity or whether their training just ends up improving their study of Your Word so they can have a significant ministry in the local church. Father, we also pray for students as the semester is begun at Would God Bible College in Kiev, and for Jim Myers, for all the students there, we pray for them. Father, challenge us with what we study this evening as we continue to understand Your plan for us, Your plan through the Church Age. Help us to put the pieces together and understand that just as there is a plan on a large macro scale, that there is a plan on a micro scale for us in terms of our own spiritual life. We have to understand how that fits in especially in the coming lessons as we focus on future things; that what we are doing today in our spiritual life will have a tremendous impact on our participation and our role in future events. We pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."
Last time we finished up looking at when the Rapture occurs. So that is the title for tonight's lesson. "When IS the Rapture?" It is next week! Get ready! No. That is not what I mean. I mean, when it is in relation to other events, especially in terms of that debate that goes on all the time. Is the Rapture before the Tribulation, after the Tribulation, in the middle of the Tribulation, or do we have a partial Tribulation where different members of the church go up at different times through the Tribulation period? In one sense we talk about the issues related to the pre-Tribulation Rapture. It boils down to understanding the distinctiveness of the church. It may surprise you a little bit, but in a technical sense, dispensationalism, because of its emphasis on the church, is sort of a subcategory almost of ecclesiology. Ecclesiology is that category of systematic theology that relates to the study of the doctrines in the Scripture related to the church. So as we look at the church and the Church Age, and we are all members of the Church Age, the question that people ask is related to our future destiny, the future destiny of the church, and people want to know: Are we going to go through the Tribulation?
Often when you read critics of dispensationalism they act as if they can't read. I am just amazed at how these people can't read. We aren't asking if we go through tribulation. We're asking if we go through "the Tribulation." We are not looking for some sort of panacea, so that we can go through life without having to go through difficulty, adversity, challenges, or heartaches. That is going to be true for every believer in every generation. Job wrote that a man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Trouble and adversity is going to be part of everyone's life. The doctrine of the pre-Tribulation Rapture is not some sort of escape clause so that we can avoid tribulation. If you just look at the history of the Church Age, you realize that there are so many believers down through the ages that have gone through untold misery and suffering and persecution for their faith in Christ that have been martyred in horrible, horrible ways for their faith in Christ. That is in one sense relating to those who are being attacked by those who are outside of the church, then when you go back and you study some of the things that have taken place in terms of Christian-to-Christian persecution. Things that occurred during the Middle Ages, things that are occurred during the Reformation period, and the post-Reformation period, and some of the religious wars that took place during the 16th century and into the 17th century.
There has been a tremendous amount of tribulation. The Greek word is THLIPSIS. And a tremendous amount of adversity that Christians have gone through because of their stand for the truth and the stand for the Bible. But when we talk about the Rapture and the fact that the Church Age believers don't go through "the" Tribulation has to do with an understanding of God's plan and purposes for the church. So when we ask this question: "When is the Rapture?" We are asking this in relation to future events, things that have not happened yet, and whether or not we as Church Age believers might go through "the" Tribulation. We may go through a lot of persecution. We may go through a lot of hostility. We have no idea what the pre-Rapture circumstances are going to be on the earth leading up to, as the stage is set for the Tribulation itself.
Here is our chart (slide 3). We are down here at the end. We've gone through the Old Testament (OT) Age of the Gentiles and the Age of Israel, the transitional dispensation, the hinge dispensation of the Messianic Age. Now we are in the Church Age somewhere near the end of the Church Age, and the Church Age ends, as we've seen, with the Rapture, when our Lord Jesus Christ returns in the air with a command, with a shout of the archangel and the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ rise first. That is technically a resurrection; "then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with Him in the clouds." The Greek word is HARPAZO. The Latin word that was used to translate that is RAPIO where we get our word "rapture," and that shows that it is indeed a biblical term. Sometime, and we will study this, sometime after the Rapture itself occurs, the Tribulation will begin. The Rapture doesn't have anything to do with when the Tribulation begins. The Tribulation begins when the Antichrist signs a peace treaty with Israel. That kicks off what is called Daniel's 70th week. We may get there tonight. I am not sure.
We are looking at the broad category I have been talking about for the last two or three lessons (slide 4): "Why I Believe in the Pre-Trib Rapture." We have looked at what the Rapture is in terms of defining it; and now we are looking at the second question, which is (slide 5) "When is the Rapture?" Now last time, you may remember, that I did sort of a little demonstration up here in front and some of you may not have been here, but that was really important; a good graphic demonstration why the Church Age believers will be raptured before the Tribulation. They won't go through the Tribulation. Now that works just for people who are Premillennial. We'll get into the issues about Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism when we get there after we've studied the Tribulation. There is another view called the pan-millennialism. That is for people who just don't want to study anything and they just through up their hands and say, "It will all pan out in the end." (Laughter.) So, within a Premillennial view, which is the view that is most consistent with a literal interpretation of Scripture when you go to Revelation 20 talking about a thousand-year period. Jesus returns at the end of Revelation 19. There are judgments that occur at the end of Revelation 19, then Jesus establishes His kingdom in Revelation 20 that will lasts for a thousand years upon the earth and then at the conclusion of that chapter we have the great white throne judgment.
If you believe that that is literal, that there is a future kingdom, then the issue becomes what's the role of the church prior to that? It is immediately preceded by the Tribulation. All Premillennialists believe in a literal future seven-year Tribulation. But if you are an Amillennialist, you don't believe that. If you are a Postmillennialist, you don't believe that. Therefore they are not concerned at all with these issues related to the Rapture. If you believe in Premillennialism, then the issue becomes "When is the Rapture?" What I pointed out last time through that little skit, that little exercise, is to show that the Millennium is populated by the offspring of the survivors of the Tribulation. They will inherit from their parents a sin nature. Many of them will believe and many will also reject the gospel. And when Satan is released at the end of the thousand-year period there will be just a horde, a host of people who will follow him in a rebellion against the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called the Gog and Magog revolution and God will destroy them.
Now in order for there to be mortals living at the beginning of the Millennium who can have children that means they had to have survived. There are Tribulation saints who survive the Tribulation with their mortal bodies intact. Under a post-Tribulation scenario all living believers are immediately translated at the Rapture as Jesus comes to the earth, so they all have resurrection bodies. Under a post-Tribulation scenario there's no one, no believers with mortal bodies to go into the Millennial Kingdom. That is just a simple logical observation that I think is devastating to the whole position of the post-Tribulation (Trib) Rapture. Let's look at the different views:
1. The pre-Trib Rapture (slide 6). The Rapture occurs before the Tribulation. We always shorten that. Tribulation is such a long word that fall trippingly off of people's tongues, so it helps to just call it the "pre-Trib Rapture." The Rapture occurs before the Tribulation. It ends the Church Age, so no Church Age believer will go through the Tribulation. We can graph it out like this: the Church Age ends with the Rapture. Sometime after the Rapture the Tribulation begins.
2. A second view that developed in the mid-19th century. Now remember, it was in the middle of the 19th century that you have the systematic development of dispensational thought. Now we know from numerous studies and more and more evidence is surfacing now, especially due to the research of several people. In the last 20 years or so we have discovered evidence in ancient documents and especially more recently documents from England and the Colonies that show that John Nelson Darby, the systematizer of dispensationalism, did not originate the idea of a pre-Tribulation Rapture. That has been used by post-Tribs and amils (Amillennialists) for decades to try to impugn the integrity of dispensationalism. Well, it is just the new kid on the block. It is so new. John Nelson Darby, in fact, was listening to the charismatic utterances of a woman named Margaret McDonald; and that is where you got this false teaching of dispensationalism. Well, it has been proven to be false:
(1) If you read and study Margaret McDonald's utterance, it took place in a somewhat semi-charismatic revival type meeting in England in the 1830s. It was actually a post-Trib statement, not pre-Trib.
(2) The idea of a pre-Trib Rapture was around long before Darby was ever born. In fact, the earliest we've found is a statement by a writer who is referred to as Pseudo-Ephraem. He wrote after the death of an early church father by the name of Ephraem the Syrian, and he wrote under his name as a pseudonym. This was not uncommon in the early church. It was common both inside the church and outside the church, for somebody to write under someone else's name, and so he is referred to as Pseudo-Ephraem the Syrian.
So it takes us all the way back to about the 4th or 5th century that we know someone clearly articulated a pre-Trib Rapture. But as they're working through this, especially among a certain Plymouth Brethren group in the mid-19th century, they came up to this view of Partial Rapture (slide 7.) This is another problem that a lot of Christians have had is "What do you do with Christians who are sinners?" What do you do about Christians that are antinomian? What do you do about Christians that they trusted in Christ but they live like the devil? So one of the solutions that came out of the Plymouth Brethren movement and there were some in the Plymouth Brethren that to be nice (let's say they had a trend toward legalism) said, well, if you are not a Christian who is walking with Christ then you won't get raptured. You'll get raptured along the way sometime during the Tribulation. See, there is always this tendency among some because they do not fully fathom grace. They've just got to punish sinful believers and that is one of them. So the Partial Rapture view is that at the Rapture only those faithful totally dedicated Christians will be caught up leaving carnal Christians behind to be chastened by the Tribulation. So spiritual Christians would go up before the Tribulation, carnal Christians would go up later on. I have even seen some who say that there will be multiple raptures through the Tribulation period. One rapture after the seal judgments, another rapture after the trumpet judgments, and another rapture later on. So that is the Partial Rapture and that is not a very popular view.
3. Then there was the mid-Trib Rapture view (slide 8) that the Rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation; that the Rapture would occur in the middle of the Tribulation, thus believers would endure the first half. So this view actually in its purest form has the Rapture at the halfway point. The Tribulation period is divided according to Scripture into two periods of three and a half years each. So at the end of the first half, at the time the Antichrist desecrates the temple in what is called the abomination of desolation that is when you would have the mid-Trib Rapture. Now there is a new view that is sort of a spinoff on this. In fact, most of the arguments, not all, but most of the arguments that work against the mid-Trib view would also work against what is called the pre-wrath Rapture view.
Now I understand that there are a lot of differences and I am really summarizing this in a basic way, but the pre-wrath Rapture view would put the Rapture about three-quarters of the way through the Tribulation. In the pre-wrath Rapture view, which was developed and started to be taught about twenty years ago by a man who was a well-known dispensationalist; in fact, he was the head of a Jewish evangelistic ministry and he was well known and well trained in dispensationalism, but he saw the "wrath of God," the term "wrath of God" as a technical term for those final bowl judgments. He would put those just in the last year or so of the Tribulation period. So he invented this view called the pre-wrath Rapture. And every now and then I run into somebody who gets caught up with this. It was kind of a trendy thing for a lot of people as a new view back in the 90s. But a number of really excellent studies have been done showing the exegetical errors of this view.
4. Then we have the post-Trib Rapture view (slide 9). A post-Trib view says that the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, and thus all Church Age believers are forced to endure the entire seven-year period. So that just gives us our basic definitions of pre-Trib Rapture, partial Rapture, mid-Trib Rapture, and pre-wrath Rapture, as we go forward talking about the Rapture.
Now when we look at this there are basically seven reasons that I am going to give you for why the Rapture should be before the Tribulation. I am going to say my favorite reason has to do with understanding Daniel's 70th week, but that is the first point in what comes next, so I am going to wait until we get there. But actually, that is one of my favorite views because as we'll look at Daniel's 70th week, God told Daniel that a certain amount of time was charted for His people: "For your people and your city." Obviously talking about the Jewish people. And that 483 years would go by before the Messiah would be cutoff. And then there was a pause, and then there would be the last seven years. It is that last seven years period that applies to Israel, not to the church
1. So really, the basic reason that we have for understanding a pre-Trib Rapture is a distinction between Israel and the church (slide 10).
If we have a consistent hermeneutic we are going to understand that God has a plan for Israel and a separate plan for the church that they are not equal. We have seen this in some way already that God has a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the church. Israel is Israel. Israel is composed of believers, OT saints, as well as future Tribulation saints who are believers in God's promise of the Messiah. In the future Tribulation there will be believers in Jesus Christ. In the body of Christ in the Church Age their ethnic Jewishness and their traditions in history are still theirs, but they are part of the church. Now there's a lot of confusion on that and some people within the Messianic Jewish movement, but that is a totally different issue. We understand that God has a plan for the church and God has a plan for Israel, and in the Church Age all Jews who become believers become a part of the church. They become part of the church because of the baptism by God the Holy Spirit. And so that sets them apart from Jewish believers of the OT or Jewish believers in the future Tribulation period.
Now we see that Paul makes this distinction in Romans 11:25-27 (slide 11). In this passage he is talking about the distinction between Gentiles and Jews but he is applying it to the present age, which of course is the Church Age. So it applies to our topic here. Paul says to the Roman church, "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery;" once again, mystery being a previously unrevealed doctrine. This was never taught before and so he tells the believers in Rome. Remember there were both Jews and Christians there. This is a section, Romans 9-11, where Paul is still talking about God's faithfulness to the Jewish people. He says, "I don't want you to be uniformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own your own understanding (wise in your own estimation) that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." And once that comes in then there is going to be a shift when that fullness of the Gentiles comes in.
Then he says in Romans 11:26-27 "and thus." That word "thus" is an important technical word in the Greek and here it means "in this manner I am about to tell you; in this way." Then he tells them "in this way all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." 27 "This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." So it is that future time when God applies that redemptive promise to Israel. But the point I am making is that there is a clear distinction in this passage between God's plan for Gentiles and God's plan for Israel, and that also relates to God's plan for the church, which is what is happening in the context of Romans 11 because Paul is addressing the church in Rome.
2. The second reason that we believe in a pre-Trib Rapture is because of the purposes for the Tribulation; they don't relate to the church. God has certain purposes He is going to accomplish in the Tribulation that are related to Israel and related to the world, but they are not related to the church. So because of these four purposes we know that the church is not going to be present or involved (slide 12).
- The first purpose is that God intends to execute judgment on the wicked nations who have rejected Christ, on the wicked Gentiles that have rejected Christ during this dispensation.
So the Church Age ends with the Rapture and then there is going to be this horrendous period of divine judgment on "the kings of the earth." That is that phrase. For those of you who made it through the Revelation series with me that was the key term that was used throughout Revelation, "the kings of the earth." And so they are the ones who are depicted, like David did in Psalm 2, as being united together antagonistic to and making war against God and His Anointed.
So the church is going to be removed so that God can then pour out judgment upon the nations; otherwise, you have God being guilty of basically wife abuse because He is going to let His bride go through seven years of abuse before the marriage to the bride. That just doesn't fit the pattern. So the bride is going to be removed from the earth for purification, which is what takes place at the judgment seat of Christ, and then returns as the bride of Christ at the end of the Tribulation.
- The second purpose is to demonstrate the inability of Satan to rule the planet.
When we get into that period in Revelation, you can go back and I did a lengthy series at the beginning of Revelation 5 to set the stage, we have all these things happening in both the angelic realm and the physical visible realm upon the earth. In fact, I believe at the midpoint of the Tribulation, at the time of the abomination of desolation, that is when Satan and his angels, the demons, the fallen angels, are cast out of heaven and cast to the earth. At this point the angelic hosts, both the elect angels and demons, become visible. You have these scenarios later on where angels flying through the heavens are making announcements of the gospel to mankind upon the earth. That implies that they must be seen and heard by the people on the earth that they could respond to these gospel announcements; they are literal angels. You have this depiction of demons on the earth. The reason for this is that in bringing everything to a close at the end of the Tribulation period, what God is doing is that He is finally bringing judgment upon all of His intelligent creatures, all of His Scythian beings. He judges the angels; the angels are judged; the fallen angels are judged at the end of the Tribulation. He judges the kings of the earth who have been in rebellion against Him. He judges all the unbelievers. Everything gets brought to a head.
So angels who have fallen and rebelled against God, as well as humans who have rebelled against God are all brought to this horrific judgment by the end of the Tribulation period. So during this period God sort of pulls back the restraint. 2 Thessalonians 2:6 says the Restrainer is removed, God the Holy Spirit, and He is going to, as it were, to take the governor off the engine so that Satan's engine of evil can just run full speed to see what he can do to bring in his own kingdom. And it all just falls apart. One of the great quotes from Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his Systematic Theology, was that one of the evidences that Satan can't do what he wants to do (he can't be God; he can't control history) is all of the horrors in the world, all of the wars, all of the horrible things that take place, the famines, everything else. Satan can't control the world that he is in charge of; he is the god of this age. He's the prince of the power of the air, but he can't control it. So what God is going to do is that He is going to give him even more freedom during this period and all the wheels come off and everything goes into a chaotic mess, which is the final judgment upon the rebellious beings.
- Third it is going to provide time for millions to be saved.
Every now and then I get this question raised as to well, are many people saved during the Tribulation? And it is interesting if you think about the numbers that are used in Revelation. There are a lot of big numbers that are used. The angels are said to be myriads upon myriads, which is a huge number. You have a 144,000 who are saved out of Israel, who go forth as evangelists. Now that does not mean there are only 144,000 Jews that are saved, but there are 144,000 that are saved immediately near the beginning of the Tribulation and go out as evangelists. But if you look at all of these large numbers that we have in Revelation 7, all these numbers that are present there, it also talks about this huge multitude that appears before the throne of God. And in Revelation 7:9 John says, "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number." Now he has been numbering a lot of big crowds all through Revelation, but here he says there is a number that cannot be numbered "of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues." That pretty much covers the gamut.
"Standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands." These are the martyrs that have come out of the first part of the Tribulation. There have been that many who have been martyred, who have died under all these initial judgments, and they are before the throne of God. So, yes there will be millions who will be saved.
- Then fourth to prepare the nation Israel for the Messiah and His kingdom.
So these are the four purposes for the Tribulation. He is preparing the nation Israel. This brings to bear all of these OT prophecies; passages like Joel 2:28 to the first part of Joel 3, numerous passages in Isaiah, as well as in Jeremiah, numerous passages in Daniel that talk about what happens to Israel bringing them back to a point of repentance toward God, when God will recover them from the four corners of the earth fulfilling the promise of the first part of Deuteronomy 30:1-3, and will restore them to the land and establish His kingdom. And so that final seven years in God's plan for Israel is designed to bring them to this point, a preparation for the Messiah and His kingdom.
So what do we see here in terms of these four purposes of the Tribulation (slide 13)?
(1) We see that it is a time of preparation for Israel's restoration and conversion, Deuteronomy 4:29-30; Jeremiah 30:3-11; Zechariah 12:10.
(2) It is called the "time of Jacob's trouble" in Jeremiah 30:7.
Some translations use "tribulation;" some translations use a time of Jacob's "distress" because it is Jacob's distress. Jacob is a term that describes the grandson of Abraham. You have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob is resistant. He is the conniver, the manipulator. He is the heel grabber. He is the deceiver. He is always trying to manipulate things to his advantage. Jacob became a term Yaakov meaning heel grabber or the grasping one. That was his name and it tends to be used when he is not walking with the Lord. Later on, after he has spent his years working for his uncle Laban and getting his wives Leah and Rachel and when he finally comes back to the land he wrestles with God at a place called Peniel, which is over on the Transjordan side of the Jordan. He loses his wrestling match with God and God gives him a new name, Israel. This is a name that is often used to speak of Israel, his descendants, in a positive sense. But when they are referred to as Jacob that sort of emphasizes that sin nature control side. So this is a time of Jacob's trouble, not the time of Israel's trouble. Jacob's trouble is emphasizing that Israel as a Jewish people go into the Tribulation period and they are still primarily in a state of rebellion against God and rejection of the Messiah.
(3) The church currently experiences tribulations as per John 16:33, but the church will not experience "the" Tribulation.
(4) We see that the church, the term church EKKLESIA, is mentioned 19 times in Revelation 1-3, but the term is not used at all between Revelation 4:1-Revelation 19. There is no mention of the church. The only time we see the church in Revelation 19 is when you see this cloud of people who are coming with the Lord when He returns. So there is no mention of the church. There is a gap there. That shows that the church is not present during that particular time.
Now just to show what some of these passages emphasize in terms of Israel's distress during this period, that this is for Israel, I want to briefly look at some of these passages I just quoted. In Deuteronomy 4:30 (slide 14) there is a promise, a prophecy type promise from Moses of what will come in the future. It says, "When you were in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days," that is all the judgments that are spelled out in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. "When you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice." That is in the future, after all these things have happened to them. So at the end, in the latter days of Israel, they will be in distress.
In Jeremiah 30:7 (slide 15), talking about the same period it says, "Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it."
And in Ezekiel 20:37 (slide 16), there is the prediction. God says, "I will make you pass under the rod…" This is an imagery of judgment. "…and I will bring you into the bond of covenant."
And then in Daniel 12:1 (slide 17) we know that this is for Daniel and his people. Daniel says, "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book." So this emphasizes this future time is for Israel. It is specifically focused upon Israel. The Tribulation period is for Israel.
3. The church is never the object of the wrath of God (slide 19).
This is an answer to this pre-wrath Rapture view. The Scripture never says that the church, the bride of Christ, is the object of God's wrath. That would be an image of God abusing the bride of Christ. The first thing we need to look at is an understanding of this term "wrath." Wrath is a technical term for the execution of the judgment of God. It is always used for the execution of God's judgment in time. Romans 1 talks about the wrath of God being revealed today against those who are in rebellion against Him, those who reject Him. So it is always used as a term for wrath in time. In contrast, it is not talking about the lake of fire. It is not talking about eternal punishment. It is talking about some kind of judgment either now or during the Tribulation when God is pouring out His judgment upon the earth.
- In Revelation the word is first used in Revelation 6 in talking about the 6th seal judgment. In Revelation 6:16 there is this great earthquake upon the earth and then in Revelation 6:14 it says that the sky receded as a "scroll when it is rolled up and every mountain and island was moved out of its place." This is a massive worldwide earthquake that is going to create geological trauma on the earth. There are going to be rock slides and mountain slides, all these cosmic disturbances that take place. The sun will turn black like sackcloth and the moon like blood. That is the real blood moon, not what we're seeing right now. I believe there are two more blood moons. We talked about that; it is on the website. Some people are making an issue out of this blood moon thing. It has nothing to do with prophecy. This has to do with a specific event, specific times in the end times in the Tribulation period. But in Revelation 6:15-16 the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every freeman will hide themselves in the caves and the rocks and the mountains; and say to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne." That is God the Father. "And from the wrath of the Lamb." This is the first time this is used. It is talking about the wrath of the Lamb. So the wrath of God doesn't come at the end of the Tribulation period. It begins with the first set of seal judgments that occurs during the first part, probably the first two years in the Tribulation period.
- That "wrath" is worldwide in scope.
- "Wrath" involves supernatural judgments and signs and wonders, various cosmological and astrological judgments and events that take place on the earth, and it results in the deaths of billions.
- Billions of people are going to die during these first six judgments.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (slide 20) are great promises. 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation."
In this sense I don't think this is talking about phase one. This is talking about ultimate deliverance from eschatological wrath during the Tribulation. God is going to obtain deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 introduced that concept where Paul said we are "to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come."
So the "wrath to come" is talking about this future Tribulation period. And we are delivered from that completely and totally. We're not going to go into some pre-wrath period that is preceded by five or six years of the Tribulation and then we are raptured just before the final stage. We are delivered totally from the "wrath to come."
Another great verse for this is in Revelation 3:9-10 (slide 21). Now if you look in your Bible in Revelation 3:9-10, you will see that I have re-punctuated this verse. We went through this, if you want to hear the details go back to listen to the lessons on Revelation 3, but this is very important. One of the things you should understand about this is that every English translation has certain idiosyncrasies, certain characteristics. And when the translators of the King James Bible were doing it they tried to break down every Greek sentence so that every sentence in English would be a sentence. If they couldn't do that, then they would make two verses, break them down so that two verses would be a sentence.
John Niemela did a tremendous study some years ago tracing all of these, what is called in the Greek a HOTI clause, because the Greek word translated "because" is the word HOTI. And he demonstrated that about 80% or 90% of the time that a HOTI clause comes at the end of a statement, not at the beginning. It doesn't introduce a concept. If you look at Revelation 3:9-10, Revelation 3:10 begins where I put that asterisk by "Because" (on the slide). The King James translators broke it at the end of Revelation 3:9 were it would read, "behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie --- behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you." They stopped it there.
The next verse said (Revelation 3:10) "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing." If that is the way it should be read, then the promise of being kept "from the hour of testing" would be predicated upon keeping the word of God's perseverance in obedience. Well there is something wrong with it. That is basing it on works for one thing. But grammatically John did a great job really drilling down, looking at every single use, hundreds of uses of HOTI in the Greek NT. It demonstrates that the way it should be punctuated is that this causal statement at the end belongs to Revelation 3:9, "I will make them to come and bow down at your feet and to know that I have loved you because you have kept the word of My perseverance."
Revelation 3:9 is talking about a reward. It is not talking about salvation. And then Revelation 3:10, the latter part of verse 10, remember the Greek text did not have verses. The latter part is an independent statement where God promises in addition, "I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth." So that shows the purpose. What is the purpose of the Tribulation? To test, to judge the earth dwellers, the kings of the earth. That is stated in Revelation 3:10. So the point I am making here is that this emphasizes God will remove the church before this hour of Tribulation.
Matthew 24:21 (slide 22), "then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of" time. Now what these set of verses that I am talking about here takes us to the next point I am making. And that is that the judgments of the Tribulation are unique in all of human history. We can't mistake it. Somebody recently asked me a question and I am going to go back. I covered it in detail when we covered Revelation, but it needs to be reiterated again and again because it is a common misunderstanding. It is so common that people like Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord and several others made this mistake.
In Matthew 24, you can turn with me in your Bible and we will look at this a little bit. Matthew 24, Jesus is answering a question from His disciples related to the timing of His return. Jesus has just made a statement about Jerusalem. At the end of Matthew 23 (verses 37-39) He said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. See, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will see Me no more until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' " So Jesus is saying He is pronouncing a judgment on Jerusalem and saying because you have rejected Me I am not going to come back to you until you invite Me, until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" That won't occur until the end of the Tribulation period.
Then Jesus leaves that location, Matthew 24:1ff at the temple. If you have been to Israel the temple is on the west side of the Kidron Valley. And then He walks with His disciples down away from the temple. And He is walking down across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. Let's look at Matthew 24:1, "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple and his disciples came up showing Him the buildings of the temple." He is just looking at the buildings and the temple, the temple itself, the HEIROS. He says, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, that shall not be torn down." Somebody asked me a long time ago, well what about the Wailing Wall, more accurately called the Western Wall? The Western Wall wasn't part of the temple. It wasn't a part of the temple buildings. The Western Wall was simply a restraining wall that when Herod the Great was rebuilding the temple, was basically remodeling the temple, he had to level the top of that mountain. Apparently, before that it was still somewhat rugged, and he needed to level this and bring in all of this dirt to establish a foundation for this enormous structure that he was going to build; something that would hold the weight. And so he built all the way around the Temple Mount a restraining wall to hold all of this dirt and all these rocks and everything that they brought in to level that mount. That is what is left; what is referred to as the "Western Wall." It is that western retaining wall. It is not a part of the temple buildings at all.
So Jesus said, "not one stone" talking about the buildings. Not one stone will be left upon another; they shall be thrown down. Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, so He has walked across the Kidron Valley, He is up on the Mount of Olives, and He is looking back at the temple. And "the disciples came to Him privately saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be?' " When is Israel going to say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'? When is the temple going to be torn down? When is this going to happen? And second, "what will be the sign of Your coming?" This is not talking about the Rapture. That hasn't been revealed yet. It is talking about His coming. "What will be the signs of Your coming and of the end of the age?" What is the question? The question is not what are the signs before the Rapture? The question is what are the signs of Your coming at the end of the seven-year Tribulation? Jesus' answers are going to be related to the things that are signs of His coming at the end of the Tribulation. He is not talking about things that are going on in the Church Age. He goes on to say a warning of false teachers, "See to it that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
How many times have we heard false messiahs since AD 70? How many false prophets were there in the OT? There were a lot. There is a huge number. But what Jesus is talking about is something different from what happened in the OT or what happened in the Church Age. These are significantly different because these will be signs of His Coming. It will indicate that He is coming, the Second Coming. The false prophets that we see in the Tribulation period operate on an order of power because of their demonic and satanic empowerment in the last half of the Tribulation. It far exceeds anybody on the present stage, whoever you might think of, whether it is a Benny Hinn or it is Mohammed or whoever you think of; there are false prophets that occur all through OT period, NT period. Jesus is talking about something that is particularly significant. It is a sign of His Coming. That means it is not like every other false prophet. These are going to be false prophets of a totally different order.
Jesus says, "many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars." There have been wars and rumors of wars since before the Flood. The wars and rumors of wars we hear now aren't any different from the wars and rumors of wars of two hundred years ago or five hundred years ago or a thousand or two thousand or three thousand years ago. They may be a little more horrendous because of technology, but they are basically the same order. Jesus is talking about wars and rumors of wars that are going to be significantly and categorically different than what we have today, because they are going to so different that they are going to be signs of His Coming. And when you look at the seal judgments, those six seal judgments that are described in Revelation 6, they line up perfectly with what Jesus says in this part of this section. What He is talking about here is not wars and rumors of wars that are trends of the Church Age; He is talking about these world wars that take place during the first part of the Tribulation that make World War I and World War II pale in comparison. They are of a much more intense order.
It goes on to say, "when you hear of wars and rumors of wars see that you are not troubled, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." See they are taking place in the first half of the Tribulation, but it is going to get worse. "For nation will rise against nation," that is the second seal judgment. "and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places." Famines that is the third seal judgment. Pestilences that is the fifth seal judgment. Earthquakes in various places that is the sixth seal judgment. In Matthew 24:8 it says, "All these are the beginning of sorrows." They are birth pains. That occurs within Daniels 70th week, not before it. It says, "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." That is the fifth seal judgment of martyrs. "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." See, that follows those famines and pestilences and earthquakes. There have always been earthquakes. We report them more now.
There was a study that was presented by Dr. Steve Austin and is available on the ICR website at http://www.icr.org/research/index/researchp_sa_r06/. Y'all know Steve; Steve spoke here four years ago at the Chafer Conference on creation (2010). He is a geologist. He did a study on the distribution spread and the frequency of earthquakes. His conclusion was that they are not any more frequent today than they were many hundreds of years ago. They're reported more. We have instruments that identify these things now that we couldn't before, but the frequency isn't any greater.
Now the final thing that I want to say about this is that, go to Matthew 24:15, "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation…' " When does the abomination of desolation take place? Midpoint of the Tribulation. So Jesus is totally logical and consistent that from Matthew 24:4-14 Jesus is talking about what happens before the midpoint. What happens in the first age? That means I hate to tell you this that means that Walvoord was dead wrong; Chafer was dead wrong; most of the pastors you ever heard were dead wrong. Sure there are famines and earthquakes and pestilences and wars. They were there in the OT; they are there in the NT; they are there all throughout the Church Age. But what Jesus is talking about is that these are going to be of such a higher order in intensity that they will rise to the level of signifying the proximity of the Second Coming. Okay, that is different. All of this is within Daniel's 70th week. All of this he is describing here is within that period of time. Those signs are very important.
The second half, when He gets to describing the second half, it gets even more intense. In Matthew 24:21 He (Jesus) says, "For then there will be great tribulation." Now this term "great tribulation" isn't a technical term for the second half. He is just saying then it is really going to get bad. I've just described that it is bad to an order that you can't imagine in the first half, but then after the abomination of desolation it is going to get even worse. And that is exactly what we see in the book of Revelation. That in the first half of the Tribulation, when you have the seal judgments and then the trumpet judgments, that they are incredible! They are horrible! We've never seen anything like this on planet earth! But after the midpoint, after Revelation 11, it really gets bad! The "great tribulation" is not a technical term for the second half; it is just a term for the intensity of the infliction that will occur that has not occurred. When? Since the beginning of the world until now! There has never been anything that even remotely resembles what is going to happen. And that is directly out of the OT, Jeremiah 30:7 (slide 23), and "Alas! For that day is great, There is none like it." It is not like anything we have ever seen before or ever even imagined.
Daniel 12:1 (slide 24) says, "… And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation." When were there nations? After the tower of Babel. What happened two hundred years before the tower of Babel? The Flood. There was a massive judgment, so He is not saying that it has never occurred ever before, but this is the worse judgment that has ever occurred since the tower of Babel, since there were nations, until that time. Joel 2:2 (slide 25) ends by saying, "There has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it to the years of many generations." So talking about the Tribulation and the Tribulation judgments, these are more incredible than anything that has ever been seen before!
Now I am going to stop here because the next point is imminency and this is a very important understanding for the doctrine of the pre-Trib Rapture. The coming of Christ for the church could be at any moment. There is no prophecy that must be fulfilled before Jesus returns for the church. It could happen at any moment. Paul expected it during his lifetime. Now there are prophecies related to setting the stage and preparing things but what will happen after the Rapture that may be fulfilled before the Rapture but they have nothing to do with the timing of the Rapture. They just have to do with stage setting for what comes after the Rapture. So that doesn't affect imminency. So we can say see, this is part of the final return of Israel to the land. That is fulfillment of prophecy. But that doesn't have anything to do with the Rapture because hundreds of years could go by still before the Rapture occurs. It just has to do with stage setting. Prophecy is fulfilled in relation to what comes after the Rapture. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the timing of the Rapture. The Rapture can occur at any moment. So we will look at imminency next time. We will stop here and come back and finish this up with imminency next time.
Let's close in prayer.
"Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening and to work our way through these great passages that comfort us. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4, "comfort one another with these things." They comfort us not because we are going to avoid the difficulties and adversities in life, but because we know that You have a plan that eventually things will come to a horrendous end and if we are alive at that time we won't be there. We will be taken to be with the Lord in the air, the purpose that You have for the church. We need to be prepared for that time because once that occurs then the judgment for Church Age believers at the judgment seat of Christ. And what we are doing today prepares us for that time and for what comes after. And Father, we need to focus on living today in light of eternity. We pray that You will keep us mindful of that. In Christ's Name, Amen."