2. The Rapture: A Message for Controversy - Will the Church go through the Tribulation?Related Media
This article is a lightly edited transcript of Dr. McRae’s audio message on the Rapture. Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
We have been studying in a four-part series on the Rapture of the Church. This morning we come to our second message. We want to consider the Rapture this morning as a subject of controversy or, particularly, to ask ourselves the question, “will the Church go through the Tribulation period?” It will go through the Rapture. Will it go through the Tribulation period?
On thing is absolutely certain. History is rapidly moving toward the greatest of all space flights and that is what we studied together in our first lesson last week. That greatest of all space flights was scheduled by God in a past eternity before time ever began. It was promised by our Lord as He walked upon this earth and just prior to His departure from this earth. It was described by the apostle Paul who received his information concerning it by direct revelation from the ascended Christ. It shall include every believer in Jesus Christ during this age. It is going to be triggered by the shout of our Lord Jesus, the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. At that moment in God’s scheduled time table, Jesus Christ Himself shall descend from heaven into the air. Then, there shall be a miraculous division of persons and bodies in the grave and those who have died believing in Jesus Christ, their bodies will be raised from the dead in one of the most miraculous demonstrations of divine power ever to be demonstrated in all of God’s dealings with mankind. The dead in Christ, their bodies shall be raised. Then, those of us who are alive and are believers in Jesus Christ at that moment shall be spectacularly snatched away. Together joining with the dead who have been raised we shall go into the air for a meeting with the Lord— as we noticed in our exposition of 1 Thessalonians 4 last week. This event will be as an honorary welcoming committee going out for a meeting with the Lord to welcome Him in His return to the earth. He shall ultimately return to the earth to establish His kingdom.
Now, that tremendous moment in the affairs of mankind is described in scripture as the “Rapture of the Church.” It is the seizing off and carrying away of the believers in Jesus Christ, the Rapture of the Church.
We noticed in our message last week that that Rapture contains for the believer a message of hope. That was the entire application of our exposition from 1 Thessalonians 4. That message, that fact—that this revelation is a message of hope to the believer— is also a subject of great controversy today and we are going to enter into the controversy connected with the Rapture of the Church. The controversy essentially revolves around when the Rapture shall take place. Now, in our next two messages, next week and the week after, we shall be studying some more of the signs of the times to try to indicate that we believe that the Rapture is going to take place very, very soon. But, that is not the aspect of when that is before us this morning. It is when in relation to the Tribulation Period. The Tribulation Period is that seven-year period that shall come upon this earth when judgments shall fall upon the earth and the situation shall prevail universally which will surpass anything in troubles, wrath, and trials that this world has ever seen.
Now, our question this morning is “when will the Rapture take place in relation to that Tribulation period— or will the Church go through that Tribulation period?” This is very controversial and I, obviously, am stepping out on the proverbial limb this morning.
What we would like to do though this morning is to consider from the scriptures what we believe to be the answer to the question, “When will the Church be raptured in relation to the Tribulation period”? The popular view, the one that is most widely accepted today is generally called, “The Post-Tribulation View.” The Post-Tribulation View is a view that simply teaches that the church will go through the Tribulation period, that seven-year period. Toward the end of that seven-year period, the Rapture will take place, the Church will be raptured from the earth, go to the air to meet the Lord and immediately return with the Lord to the earth. Now, you can see that the chart we have suggested here pictures that type of situation. It essentially sees the rapture of the church taking place and very shortly afterward, the Lord Jesus returning to the earth to establish His millennial kingdom. With Him at that time will be the Church that has been raptured from the earth. Thus the Church, dead and living, go out as the official welcoming committee to meet the Lord in the air and immediately accompany Him upon His return to the earth. Now, this is certainly the majority view. Amillennialists, postmillennialists, and even some premillennialists view this as a post-Tribulation Rapture.
Historical Argument for the post-Tribulation view
This position, I think, is based upon two or three points which we would like to make briefly. I think the most influential argument in support of the post-Tribulation view is the historical argument. The historical argument simply teaches that the early Church of the second and third century believed this. They believed that they were in the Tribulation period. They believed that the Lord Jesus was coming very soon and upon His return He would establish the millennial kingdom and reign on earth. It is certainly apparent that the early Church— the Church fathers in the second and third centuries— did believe in what is pictured on our chart here as basically a post-Tribulation or an after Tribulation Rapture.
What ought to be said in view of this is that that is an argument that is based on experience, not upon the Word of God. It is true, I think, that generally speaking the early Church did believe in this type of post-Tribulation Rapture, but that argument used today is an argument which is based upon the experience of that Church and not upon the Biblical position of their view at that particular time. All of us will recognize immediately that an argument that is based upon experience is immediately somewhat suspect. So, we would certainly want to base our argument upon something that is more than the experience of the Church of the second and third century.
Actually, we are not surprised from our point of view that the early Church did hold some such view as this. It is obvious, as James Orr makes clear in his consideration of the Progress of Dogma, that during the program of the church period there has been a progression of crystallization of Bible doctrine. In the early centuries of the Christian church, the Bible doctrine that was crystallized and formalized was Bible doctrine in relation to the person of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity and even theology proper or the doctrine of God Himself. Those were the areas of theology that were uppermost in the thinking of the Church at that time. Many areas of other theology were very far from being formulated in a crystallized form. It was not until much later, even perhaps during the Reformation period, that the doctrine of soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, was really formalized and it was with the great teachings of Calvin and Luther that justification by faith and the election of the saints that entire doctrine of soteriology was really crystallized. It was not until later then that in some respects the doctrine of ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church, was again formulated. It is not then, therefore, surprising in the progress of dogma to think of eschatology, which is the doctrine of future things or the doctrine of prophecy, to think of that doctrine as being crystallized at a later stage down the line. As James Orr illustrates in his book, the way every systemic theology is written, moving from theology proper right down to eschatology, is exactly the way those doctrines have developed in their formalization and crystallization during the history of the Church. Now, if that thesis is correct, then we would not be surprised to find in the early days of the Christian church certain aspects of eschatology, or of future things, that have not really been crystallized and formalized into a system. That apparently is true, as I hope I shall be able to show you before our class is over, in relation to when the Rapture takes place in relation to the Tribulation period. The historical argument is certainly the most influential argument. George Ladd in his book on this particular subject devotes one-third of his entire book on this point and our basic response to it would simply be that arguments based upon experience certainly are suspect and are not conclusive. We certainly would not expect to see eschatology and the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church to be crystallized, systematized, and formalized in the early days of Church history wherein there were progressively developed in the progress of dogma through the church era.
Terminology Argument for the post-Tribulation view
The second argument that is frequently used in defense of the post-Tribulation view could be called the “terminology argument.” If you were with us in our lesson last week, you will recall that I pointed out that one of the words used in the New Testament to describe the Second Coming of the Lord is the Greek word, perosea, or the transliteration, the parousia. That word is used in the scriptures to picture both aspects of the Second Coming of our Lord, the Rapture and the Revelation (the coming to the air for His people and the coming to the earth with His people). Perosea is used of both aspects. 1 Thessalonians 4 uses it in relation to the Rapture. 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8 use it in relation to the Revelation.
The position, then, of the post-Tribulationist is simply this: because that terminology is used for both aspects, it certainly implies that both of them take place at virtually the same time. Now, I think there is an obvious weakness in this position. The obvious weakness is that in the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament, there is a phenomenon that brings together two things that oftentimes are separated by a lapse of time and from the perspective of the prophet, the person who foresees something. They appear to be on the same level or the same line or in the same spectrum. That, obviously, is true in the Old Testament in relation to prophesies concerning the coming of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:5-6 speaks of Him, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Now, in those two phrases, you have combined the first coming of Christ, His incarnation, the birth and His second coming to establish His kingdom. Between those two comings, there already has been 1,900 years. Isaiah stood as a prophet and looked into the future and saw the two mountain peaks converging together and did not see the valley of 1,900 years between those two mountain peaks. Now, that is a typical phenomenon of prophesy in the Old and the New Testaments. Exactly the same thing then is true is relation to the Greek word, Parousia, or perosea. That is, as the prophets of the New Testament looked ahead, they saw the coming of our Lord. They saw the two points converging and did not see how long or in the use of the term did not see the distinction between these two. They used a term, then, that brought both aspects of the coming of the Lord together and saw it as one event. We tried to establish that in our class last week. That is, the Second Coming of Christ is one event. It takes place in two aspects: the Rapture and the Revelation. The New Testament prophets see it as one event when they use a word like “parousia” in speaking of the coming of our Lord. That is the terminology argument.
Exegetical Argument for the post-Tribulation view
The third and the last argument that I want to bring up in connection with the post-Tribulation view is the exegetical. Turn to Revelation 20 for what is their key exegetical passage. We are taking more time on this than we shall take on some of the others because, as we suggested, this is certainly the majority view and it is the most popular, widely accepted view today in circles of Christendom. The key exegetical passage, according to their writings, is the verse in Revelation 20:4 where we read,
“and I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God,”
This connects all these people together who had not worshipped the beast (who will be the Anti-Christ of the Tribulation period), neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands and they lived and reigned with Christ 1,000 years. This verse certainly does speak of an event that takes place immediately prior to the revelation of Jesus Christ and His establishment of the kingdom. The event certainly includes the resurrection of the saints who were martyred during this Tribulation period. That is obviously what is described. Those who shall be with Him at that moment this verse says do not take the mark of the beast, they do not bow down and worship the beast, they are martyred because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their stand for the Lord. This verse pictures the resurrection or anticipates, may I say, the resurrection of Tribulation-martyred saints who will be accompanied with Jesus Christ in His return to establish the millennial kingdom. It is on the basis of this verse as their key exegetical passage then that they conclude that the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation period. I would just propose to you that that is not necessarily the conclusion to be drawn from this passage. This passage does not speak of or anticipate at all those who were the dead in Christ during this period of time nor does it certainly speak of the translation of the saints. All it speaks of is the resurrection of Tribulation saints.
So, the verse does not anticipate what 1 Thessalonians 4 speaks of when it talks about the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the translation of the living who are believers in Christ at the moment of the Rapture. Therefore, I conclude that this verse does not clearly and conclusively teach the Rapture of the Church. What it does teach unquestionably, is that at the end of the Tribulation period those who were martyred for the sake of Christ during the Tribulation will be raised from the dead. They will accompany Jesus Christ in His establishment of His kingdom. That is what it does teach, but it does not teach the translation of the living saints nor the resurrection of the saints during this Church period.
Much more could be said in connection with this, but what I have tried to do for your study and your consideration is to pinpoint the three major areas upon which the post-Tribulation Rapture is based primarily upon the history. It is also somewhat involved with the technical terms used in the Greek language and it’s exegetical basis primarily is this verse in Revelation 20:4. It is because of the weaknesses of these three things, as well as other things that could be said, that we are going to this morning categorically reject the post-Tribulation view. What I am saying, then, is I do not believe for a moment, friends, that the Church is going to go through the Tribulation period nor that the Church will be raptured at the end of the Tribulation period.
What are the alternatives? The next alternative we shall mention very briefly, because I think it can be handled rather quickly, the next alternative is a mid-Tribulation Rapture. This is a viewpoint which is held by a few. Normal B. Harrison is the major spokesman for this particular point of view, and the view simply teaches that in the middle of the Tribulation period the Church will be raptured. The Church will experience the beginnings of sorrows, but at the middle of the period, which, according to Daniel 9, will be brought about through the breaking of a covenant between the leader of the Western powers and the Nation of Israel, that breaking of that covenant will precipitate tremendous persecutions upon Israel and worldwide trials and troubles, as we shall note in our study next week. It is at that moment, then, that the Church will be raptured.
Now, this view is based almost exclusively upon two premises: the first premise is that in Revelation 11 the last trumpet, the last of the seven trumpets that are sounded during the Tribulation period, that the last trumpet takes place in the middle of the Tribulation period. Will you notice, please, in Revelation 11:15 the prophet John speaks of the seventh angel sounding and he sounds the seventh trumpet, as the book of Revelation presents these seven trumpets. The seventh and last trumpet is sounded. Mid-Tribulationalism depends upon this seventh trumpet being sounded in the middle of the Tribulation. I do not think the context will support that. May I read the verses?
“And the seventh angel sounded and there were great voices in heaven saying, the kingdom of this kingdom is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever. The 4 and 20 elders who sat before God on their thrones fell upon their faces and worshipped God saying, we give the thanks, oh, Lord God almighty, who aren’t and was and are to come because Thou has taken to Thee thy great power and has reigned.”
We will not read the rest of the chapter, but it substantiates, I believe, the fact that this seventh trumpet is sounded at the end of the Tribulation period. The kingdom is being established. Christ is now reigning, “Thou has reigned.” So, the entire perspective, I believe, of the seventh trumpet anticipates a moment right at the end of the Tribulation period rather than at the middle of the Tribulation period. Its basic premise, then, is that this last trumpet is sounded in the middle of the Tribulation period.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Then, what they do is very neatly tie in the sounding of this last trumpet with the last trump of 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 which says that at the last trump, what shall happen, the resurrection will take place and we who are alive and remain will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye in a moment. It is certainly clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that the Rapture takes place at the last trump. The question is, “is that last trump the same as the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11?” The seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 does not take place in the middle of the Tribulation period. It takes place right at the end of that Tribulation period. I do not think that we are speaking of the same trumpets at all. In 1 Corinthians 15, the trump that is sounded is sounded by God. In Revelation 11 it is a trumpet that is sounded by an angel. In 1 Corinthians 15, it is the trumpet that brings about resurrection and translation or transformation of the bodies of the living saints. In Revelation 11, it is the trumpet that brings out the last great judgments, I believe the seven vials are poured out in the seventh trumpet, it is the last great judgments that precipitate the conclusion of the Tribulation and the establishment of the kingdom.
The last trump in 1 Corinthians 15, according to Dr. A.J. Ironsides, is based upon the typical terminology of Roman army life. When the Roman army was about to move, there were three blasts of the trumpet. The first blast whether it was in daylight or in the middle of the night was strike camp. Break up the tent. The second blast of the trumpet was fall in line. In the third blast, which the Romans called the last trump, the command was forward march. A.J. Ironsides, as well as other expositors, suggest that that is the imagery that is behind the picture of 1 Corinthians 15. The last trump is the command from the Lord forward march. It is the translation of the saints as the living and the dead combine together to go to meet the Lord for a coming or for an official welcome to Him. The mid-Tribulation view, then, is no longer acceptable on the basis of our views of Revelation 11 and 1 Corinthians 15.
What does that leave us with? If the Rapture does not take place at the end of the Tribulation period, if it does not take place in the middle of the Tribulation period, it leaves us then with it taking place before the Tribulation period. That is the position that I take and it is what I believe the Word of God teaches. The teaching then, I believe, is essentially that the next great event in God’s schedule for affairs as far as eschatology is concerned is that the shout, the voice, and the trumpet shall all be heard. Jesus Christ shall descend to the air. The living and dead who are believers in Christ shall combine to go out as an official welcoming committee and they shall meet the Lord in the air. For seven years they shall be with Him in the air. During that seven-year period, the Tribulation shall take place upon this earth (a topic that we are going to study in a few weeks perhaps). At the end of the Tribulation period He shall come from the air with those who are His saints, the Church, to the earth to establish His kingdom. I believe that the Bible teaches that the Church will be raptured prior to the Tribulation period. Now why? What are the bases for the pre-Tribulation view? I will quickly give to you three bases for the pre-Tribulation view.
1. The nature of the Tribulation period point to a pre-Tribulation Rapture
The first is the nature of the Tribulation period I believe indicates it. The nature of the Tribulation period indicates that the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation takes place. There is no question that through the Old and the New Testaments that Tribulation is determined upon the Nation of Israel.
In Daniel 9:24 we read about 70 weeks and the Tribulation is the 70th, the last seven-year period: “70 weeks are determined upon Thy people” (that is Israel) “and upon Thy Holy City” (that is Jerusalem).”
The prophet Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 30:7, “it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble.” It is determined upon Israel, then, and the Gentiles connected with Israel and not upon the Church. Now that is the uniform teaching, I believe, of the Old Testament as well as the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and 25). This is the Tribulation period that is determined primarily upon the Nation of Israel. We know it shall certainly be universal, but the focal point will be upon Israel and the trouble that shall fall upon the face of the earth will be because of Israel.
The second part of the nature of the tribulation period is that it is described in the Bible as a time of wrath and judgment and tremendous sorrows. This is going to be God’s response to the Nation of Israel standing before Pilate and saying 2,000 years ago away with Him. “We will not have this man to reign over us. His blood be upon us and our children.” And the Tribulation period will be God’s response to that cry of Israel. It shall be a time of wrath and judgment poured out by God primarily upon Israel because of their rejection of Jesus Christ. It will be designed to refine Israel. To prepare in Israel a remnant for the moment that our Lord shall return and establish his kingdom. That is what Zechariah prophesied in Zechariah 13:9 when he sees all of the troubles and trials of the Tribulation period coming upon the Nation of Israel, working, as says the prophet speaking for the Lord, as a refiner refines silver. So, I shall refine Israel. God, in the Tribulation period will move with a refining fire to purify out of the ungodly apostate Israel a remnant who will become believers in Jesus Christ and who, as we shall notice next week, will be the propagators of the gospel to the corners of the earth during that Tribulation period.
Again, Malachi anticipates the same moment. He says that the day of the Lord shall be preceded by Elijah the prophet. Elijah’s ministry in the Tribulation period, we know from the gospels, is prefigured by the ministry of John the Baptist. The ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare in Israel a remnant for the coming of Jesus Christ as He was to be born and to present Himself to Israel. What John the Baptist did in preparing Israel for the coming of Jesus in His first coming is what Elijah shall do and the two witnesses and the prophets in the Tribulation period in preparing a remnant in Israel for the Second Coming of our Lord. Then He shall come to that nation and establish His kingdom.
Now, because of the nature of the Tribulation period then, I do not believe that the Church will be in it. I see that the Church will be raptured prior to it because it is determined upon Israel, not the Church. It is described as a time of wrath and judgment because of their rejection of Jesus Christ and it is designed to purify a remnant within that nation for the coming of their Messiah who, indeed, shall appear to them very shortly after these troubles. The nature of the Tribulation period is the first basis for the pre-Tribulation view.
2. Analogies and Inferences suggests a pre-Tribulation Rapture
The second is from the point of view of analogies or inferences, shall we say. The one I would like to choose among many that could be chosen is the structure of the Book of the Revelation. So, the second basis then is the structure of the Book of Revelation suggests it. Now, it does not prove it. This is an inference. It is not an explicit statement. We are inferring at this point from the structure of the revelation, the Book of the Revelation, that the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation. Come with me for a short trip through the Book of the Revelation. In Revelation 2 and 3, you have the seven churches described. They are the seven churches on earth. In Revelation 4 and 5, you have the Church in heaven, around the throne, represented in the elders. In Revelation 6, you have the Tribulation period and from chapter 6 through 19, you have a description of the trials and troubles of the Tribulation period. At the end of Chapter 19, Jesus Christ returns to the earth with His bride, with His saints to establish the kingdom and to celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Now, if that is the structure of the Book of Revelation, it suggests, friends, that the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation period. Chapters 2 and 3, the Church is on earth. Chapters 4 and 5, the Church is on heaven. I propose to you then in the structure that the Rapture of the Church takes place between the end of Chapter 3 and the picture that is presented in Chapter 4. In Chapters 6 through 19, you have the Tribulation period and the Church is never mentioned during those chapters. The Church is absent from the face of the earth and is not involved in the judgments of the seals and of the trumpets and of the vials. The Church is absent until Chapter 19 when our Lord returns to the earth with the Church. Now that is an inference. It is an analogy and that is all it is, but I think it suggests the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church. It shall be in heaven in Chapters 4 and 5 while the Tribulation in Chapters 6-19 shall be taking place upon the face of the earth.
3. The Promises of the New Testament demand a pre-Tribulation Rapture
To give you some Biblical basis and some explicit basis I would like to share the third point. The third basis is that the promises of the New Testament demand it. The promises of the New Testament demand a pre-Tribulation Rapture. Now may I look with you at two such promises. Slip over in your Bible to Revelation 3, please, and notice what it says in Verse 10.
Revelation 3:10 contains a promise that is given to the Church of Philadelphia. Revelation 3:10 says,
“Because thou has kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon the world to try or to test them that dwell upon the earth.”
This is certainly a promise that relates to the hour of temptation. The modern translations oftentimes change the word “temptation” to “testing.” It is exactly the same word for “tribulation.” It is a promise to be delivered from the hour of testing, temptation, or tribulation. I want you to notice that this is the hour of temptation. The prophet John anticipates a specific period of time. It is “the hour of temptation” and may I, because it is exactly the same word, now use the word “tribulation”? It is “the hour of tribulation.” I want you to notice also that it is “The” hour of tribulation. The definite article that is used here is exceedingly significant as we are going to find in the second promise, as well. It is “The Hour of tribulation.”
I want you also to notice that it is “The Hour of tribulation” that is going to come upon all the world. This is then a universal time of tribulation. I do not know of any phrase that more aptly describes what the Bible speaks of as the “Tribulation period” than this phrase. I do not know of any other period of time ever considered through scripture or even through history that fulfills this type situation. This is “The Hour of tribulation” that is going to come upon all the world. I believe that John is speaking here of the “Tribulation period.” The promise is that these shall be, notice it, “keep thee from The Hour of Tribulation” or “The Hour of temptation.” It is not that He will keep them through the Tribulation. That is the post-Tribulation view. It is not that He will take them out of the Tribulation. That is the mid-Tribulation view. It is that He will keep you from that Tribulation period. That is pre-Tribulationism.
The only other place in the New Testament where the verb and the preposition, “keep from,” is used is in John 17:15 where our Lord is praying for His disciples. He says,
“I do not pray that you will take them out of the world but that you will keep them from that evil one,” (Satan himself)
This is in contrast to Judas’ capitulation to Satan and his kingdom. The prayer of the Lord in John 17 is that God will keep those who believe in Him absolutely and completely out of and from the domain and kingdom of Satan into which Judas has fallen.
I think that the verb and the preposition in the analogy from John 17:15, as well as here, gives to us a promise that the ascended Christ will keep us from the Tribulation. The verb could be translated “preserve you from, to keep you absolutely, preserve you absolutely” from the period of tribulation that is going to come upon all of the earth. I think this is a specific promise to preserve them from the Tribulation period. I think also that it is a universal promise. Of course, it is made to the church at Philadelphia, but the promises that are made to these churches are universal promises. We know that clearly from what it says at the end of the passage when it talked about listening to what the Spirit says unto the churches. That is what Revelation 3:13 says,
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.”
So, this is not a promise that is made just to Philadelphia. It is a universal promise that is made to every believer. He will keep us from that hour of tribulation. I believe this promise demands a pre-Tribulation rapture.
The last promise that I can point you to is in 1 Thessalonians. So, will you turn back, please, to 1 Thessalonians 1 and notice that there is a second promise, and several other promises could be mentioned, but I think as I have done a pile of reading on this subject this week that these are the two promises that really consolidated my conviction in this particular subject.
1 Thessalonians 1:9, the apostle Paul says,
“For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you and how ye turn to God from idols. That is their salvation. To serve a living a true God.”
That is, their present occupation here is their expectation to wait for His Son from heaven. Now notice,
“Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus” (now note most carefully) “Who delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Underline that last phrase. The past tense for that word “delivered” is unfortunate because it ought not to be that way. If you have a New American Standard Bible, you will read, “Who delivers us.” The literal translation of the participle with the article here is “our deliverer.” If we were going to translate it that way we could say, “Who raised Him from the dead, even Jesus our deliverer” or “Who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Did you ever know, my Christian friend, that the word “wrath” in the New Testament never applies to eternal judgment, never. I believe with all my heart, as Dr. Johnson has expounded to us this morning in the doctrine of eternal judgment. But, eternal judgment is not the wrath of God. It is not in anger. It is not in wrath that God consigns a person to eternal judgment. It is a righteous act. The word wrath is used through the New Testament to speak of the out-flashing of his indignation upon sin during time and in history. You take that word “wrath” and you will discover as it is used through the New Testament that it speaks of God’s outpoured judgment upon sin during history and in time on the face of this earth. Now, because that is so I see here a promise. The promise is that our Jesus is our deliverer from the wrath to come. Again, the definite article is crucial. We could say from “the well known wrath that is coming, ” or “the well known coming wrath.”There is no better way to describe the Tribulation period which the prophets had anticipated and that Jesus had predicted. The coming wrath. The out-flashing of God’s judgment. We have a deliverer from that wrath. In 1 Thessalonians 4, the Rapture is described in chapter 5. The apostle considers what shall take place after that Rapture. He describes then the Day of the Lord or the beginning of the tribulation period and he talks about it in all of its severity. Notice, He comes down and with a word of consolation He says in 1 Thessalonians 5:8,
“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.”
God has not appointed the Church to the coming wrath. There is a deliverer from that coming wrath. It is Jesus Christ and the Thessalonians, in their expectation, were waiting for the Deliverer to come who was going to deliver them the coming wrath. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 clearly says that we, the Church, have not been appointed unto wrath, “but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us that whether we wait or sleep,” (and that verb does not speak of the sleeping saints who have died in chapter 4, it speaks of those who are sleeping during life and not watching and not waiting, not looking) whether we are awake and watching or whether we are asleep and not watching. Whatever the situation is, “we should live together with him. Wherefore, comfort yourselves together.” This comfort is simply because we have a Deliverer who will deliver us from the coming wrath and the Church shall not go through that Tribulation period.
I believe that is the basis of the entire comfort of the believer today. That is why, my Christian friend, the Rapture of the Church is described as “the blessed hope.” The blessed hope of a believer is that the next moment in God’s scheduled prophetic timetable is the Rapture of the Church. It will take place before the Tribulation period because of the very nature of the Tribulation period. It is certainly because of the promises that we have here and many allusions that we have in the scriptures. Before the floods fell upon the earth, Enoch was translated. Before the fire and brimstone consumed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, the righteous one and his family were delivered. There are many analogies that suggest that this is what God shall do. I believe with all my heart that this is the blessed hope of the Christian. Now, are you ready for it? Are you looking for it? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, my friends, you and I can move through the day today waiting and looking for the Second Coming of our Lord, for the Rapture of the Church. This is what gives to the believer tremendous consolation when he hears of the signs of the times. Dr. Johnson spoke on it this morning and we will be looking at it the next two Sundays in our Sunday School class as we go through some of the other signs of the times. When the believer sees what is happening today as only the precursor of things that are going to happen in greater intensification and greater universality during the Tribulation period, there is a comfort. There is a consolation and it is the Rapture of the Church. We shall not be here. God has for those who believe in Jesus Christ a blessed hope and it is the Rapture prior to the tribulation that shall fall upon the earth.
But, that is no hope for one who has not believed in Jesus Christ. My friend, if you have never personally believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior, if you are not resting upon His work upon the cross alone for your salvation, if there has not been that moment of time in your life when you have come to Him and acknowledged to Him that you are a sinner and that Jesus Christ has died for you and thanked Him for dying for you and accepted Him as your Savior, then there is no blessed hope. This is for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. If you have never believed in Him, if you have never cast the entire future of your life and the destiny of eternity upon the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross, so you are trusting in Him and Him alone for your salvation, we invite you to do so this morning. Then, you may be among those who are watching and waiting for our Deliverer. You will participate in the Rapture of the Church and you will be part of that official welcoming committee that shall go out to meet the Lord and then return with Him to share with Him in His kingdom reign. This is the Rapture of the Church.
May God help each of us to so look for it that it will affect our daily life and to so trust in Jesus Christ that we shall participate in it.
Let’s bow, and have a word of prayer.
Our Father, we are so grateful to Thee this morning for the fact that Jesus is coming again. We believe, Lord, that the signs indicate we are in the very threshold of that climactic, tremendous event. We pray, Lord, that Thou will help us this week to walk as those who are watching for his coming. May we, oh God, so live that we shall not be ashamed before Him at His coming. May we be so grateful for the blessed hope that there will be a response of deep gratitude and loving obedience in our lives day by day. Bless Thy Word, for we ask it for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.