THE MID-TRIBULATION RAPTURE IS NOT BIBLICAL
[Applicable excerpts from a detailed study on the rapture ]
E) "TO GRIEVE LIKE THE REST OF MEN" = CHURCH AGE BELIEVERS SHOULD NOT GRIEVE FOR THEY HAVE THE SURE HOPE OF ESCAPING GOD'S WRATH
"to grieve like the rest of men" = The rest of men, i.e., the unsaved world have no hope of escaping God's wrath. But the believer - one who has trusted alone in Christ's sacrifice on the cross for ones sins - thus Christ subjecting Himself to all the wrath due that individual in his place - that believer can have a sure hope that he will escape God's wrath both on the earth in the final days and for all eternity; and in fact be with God for all eternity.
[Renald E. Showers states, 'MARANATHA, OUR LORD, COME!, Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Bellmawr, N.J., 1995, p. 198]: "The word translated 'sorrow' [= grieve] means 'be sad, be distressed, grieve.' Paul's statement indicates that the Thessalonian believers were distressed over the fact that some of their fellow saints had died.... [and thereby they mistakenly thought they missed the victories and glory of the Lord's return for them in the Rapture].
***We should note two things concerning this distress and Paul's response to it. First, if these church saints had been taught that the church must go through all or any part of the........Tribulation, with its intense outpouring of God's wrath, the logical reaction for them would have been to rejoice that these loved ones had escaped that great period of suffering' through death (cp. Job 3:11-26; Eccl. 4:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). There is, however, no indication that they found any reason to rejoice over the deaths of their fellow saints. This at least implies that they had not been taught that the church must go through all or any part of the Tribulation and experience God's wrath. Second, the only means Paul used to relieve their distress over the deaths of their fellow saints was the truth of the future Rapture of the church. If these distressed saints had been taught that the church must go through all or any part of the Tribulation, why didn't Paul comfort them further with the additional fact that through their deaths, their fellow saints had escaped that future time of God's wrath?"
1) [Compare 1 Thes 1:9-10]:
"For they themselves [believers everywhere] report what kind of reception you gave us [Paul, Silas and Timothy, (v. 1)]. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, (v. 10) and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the deat - Jesus, Who rescues us from the coming wrath."
F) THE WRATH OF GOD IN THE TRIBULATION, DESCRIBED AS BIRTH PANGS ELSEWHERE IN THE BIBLE, IS NOT GOING TO BE WHAT ANYONE IN THE CHURCH EXPERIENCES
1) [Compare 1 Thes 5:1-9]:
(v. 1) "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,
(v. 2) for you do need to write to you,
(v. 3) While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. [Notice that the Tribulation Period of God's wrath is in view]
(v. 4) But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. [And brothers, i.e., believers will thus NOT be surprised by this period of wrath]
(v. 5) You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
(v. 6) So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
(v. 7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
(v. 8) But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
(v. 9) For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." So the Church Age believer will not suffer the Tribulation wrath of God.
2) [Compare Mt 24:3-8]:
(v. 3) '''As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
(v. 4) Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.
(v. 5) For many will come in My name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, and will deceive many.
(v. 6) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
(v. 7) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
(v. 8) All these are the beginning of birth pains." ''' And our Lord continues to describe these birth pangs leading up to His Second Coming, (vv., 30-31), throughout this passage summarizing them as follows below. Such summary clearly indicates a future series of unparalleled events over a very short period of time having no precedence in history so far!!!
3) [Compare Mt 24:21-22]:
(v. 21) "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. (v. 22) If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."
The beginning of the seven year tribulation period is described in Mt 24:3-8 as the beginning of birth pangs. And these birth pangs are characterized as the wrath of God in judgment on mankind which the church will not be subjected to, (1 Thes 5:1-9).
[Showers, op. cit., p. 23]:
"The concept of birth pangs has played a significant role in the content of Scripture as well. The birth pangs (as described in these succeeding quotes from the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament) are 'recurring spasms of pain which are not subject to conscious control, during which the woman in labor writhes - a process that can be accompanied by a sense of fear or anxiety, screams, and groans.' The Scriptures have used this concept to refer to other situations that involve painful experiences comparable to the pains of childbirth. In this usage 'birth pangs' are a favorite metaphor for the tribulations God's judgment brings upon man.
The Bible includes several samples of this metaphoric use. Job declared, 'God distributeth sorrows [a translation of a Hebrew word for birth pangs] in his anger' (Job 21:17). The wicked peoples of Israel and Jerusalem (Isa. 26:17-18; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; Hos. 13:12-13; Mic. 4:9-10), Babylon (Isa. 13:8; Jer. 50:43), Damascus (Jer. 49:24), Moab (Jer. 48:41), Edom (Jer. 49:22), and Nineveh (Hah. 2:10) all experienced birth pangs. (Some Hebrew words for birth pangs have been translated with the English words 'distress' and 'sorrows.') The contexts of these passages indicate that these birth pangs were associated with God's purposed judgment, wrath, and fierce anger on these peoples frequently through other nations warring against them.
The Scriptures describe the physical effects of being seized by birth pangs - the loins are filled with pain, the heart faints, the knees tremble, the face flushes with anxiety (Isa. 13:7-8; Nah 2:10), the hands become helpless (Jer 6:24), and the voice groans and cries (Isa. 26:17; Jer. 4:31; Mic. 4:9). Thus, birth pangs involve a state of 'involuntary and uncontrolled spasmodic movement, to which the body is surrendered, accompanied by a sense of weakness and heat.' 'Such a state can occur in the face of battle, in times of judgment, on the 'day of Yahweh.' Not only for the judgment of events now past, but also for judgment in the future, the Bible makes metaphoric use of birth pangs. In the Old Testament they are associated with the future Time of Jacob's Trouble (Jer. 30:6-7)."
2) CONCLUSION: THE SEVEN YEAR TRIBULATION PERIOD IS FUTURE & THE CHURCH WILL NOT EXPERIENCE IT
So since the Tribulation period is future and will commence with the beginnings of birth pangs, i.e., the wrath of God, and since the Church will not be "appoint[ed]... to suffer wrath", (1 Thes 5:9) then the Church will not experience any part of the tribulation period at all. Thus it is evident that the Rapture will catch up the Church saints into the heavens for further transportation to heaven with our Lord before the seven year Tribulation period begins.)
I) THE SURE HOPE OF THE BELIEVER INCLUDES THE FACT THAT HE WILL NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE WRATH OF THE FUTURE DAY OF THE LORD, I.E., THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
Since 1 Thes 5:9 and Rev 3:10 both state that believers of the church age will not be subject to wrath. (And these passages do state that church age believers will not be subject to wrath) and since Titus 2:13 says: "While we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (And it does) then the doctrine that the church has to go through the tribulation and be decimated by the catastrophes and judgments that occur leaving only a fraction of the world's population surviving with many church age believers martyred is false. It is difficult to support the concept that the CHURCH AGE believer's "blessed hope" is that of being subject to God's wrath while waiting for the Lord's return, thus having to go through the tribulation until He comes at the end. Believers of the church age await the Lord's return for them when He will meet them in the air BEFORE the tribulation begins, (1 Thes 4:13-18; 2 Thes 2:1-4; 5:1-9). This is what Paul refers to as the "blessed hope" of the church age believer, (Titus 2:13)
2) THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE BELIEVER IS THAT HE WILL NOT BE SUBJECT TO THE WRATH OF THE FUTURE DAY OF THE LORD a) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DAY OF THE LORD IN GENERAL
[Showers, op. cit., pp. 30-39]: "The Scriptures teach that God created the universe for His own purposes (Rev 4:11). As a result, the heavenly and earthly realms are owned and ruled by God (1 Chr 29:11-12; 2 Chr 20:6; Ps 47:2; 103:19; 135:6; Isa 40:12-26; Jer 10:1, 10; Dan 4:17, 34-35, 37; Acts 17:24; 1 Tim 1:17; Rev 5:13). As the owner and ruler of the earth, God has His own sovereign purpose for world history and, therefore, for specific events within that history (Isa 14:24-27; 19:12; 23:9; 46:8-11; Jer 4:28; 23:20; 26:3; 30:24; 36:3; 49:20; 50:45; 51:29; Lam 2:8; Rom 8:28; 9:11, 17; Eph 1:9-11; 3:10-11; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Jn 3:8). In the Scriptures the expression 'the Day of the LORD' (together with other synonymous expressions, such as 'that day,' 'the day of God,' etc.) is strongly related to God's rule of the earth and, therefore, to His sovereign purpose for world history and specific events within that history. The Day of the LORD refers to God's special interventions into the course of world events to judge His enemies, accomplish His purpose for history, and thereby demonstrate who He is - the sovereign God of the universe (Isa 2:10-22; Ezek 13:5, 9, 14, 21, 23; 30:3, 8, 19, 25-26).... Evidence for this significance of the Day of the LORD is found in past Days of the Lord referred to in the Scriptures. The Bible indicates that there have been several Days of the Lord in the past in which God demonstrated His sovereign rule by raising up several nations to execute His judgment on other nations. He raised up Assyria to judge the northern kingdom of Israel during the 700s B.C. (Amos 5:18, 20), Babylon to judge the southern kingdom of Judah during the 600s and 500s B.C. (Lam 1:12; 2:1, 21-22; Ezek 7:19; 13:5; Zeph 2:2-3), Babylon to judge Egypt and its allies during the 500s B.C. (Jer 46:10; Ezek 30:3), and Medo-Persia to judge Babylon during the 500s B.C. (Isa 13:6, 9)... In these past Days of the Lord, God used human instruments and activity through war to execute His sovereign purpose against His enemies. b) THE DAY OF THE LORD IN THE FUTURE i) INTRODUCTION [2 Thes 2:1-2]: (v. 1) "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, ["the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him" = the coming of the Lord to gather His church up to Him in the heavens in the Rapture which event precedes the Day of the LORD, the Tribulation period] (v. 2) not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us saying that the Day of the LORD has already come." "the Day of the LORD" = refers to that particular part of the Day of the LORD beginning with the birth pangs of the Tribulation period. [Showers, cont.]: "The Scriptures indicated that the concept of the Day of the LORD is applicable, not only to the past intervention of God in history, but also to the future. Several things in the Bible make this very obvious. First, Isaiah 2:10-22 describes a Day of the LORD that will involve the sixth seal described by the Apostle John in Revelation 6:12-17. Because this sixth seal will take place during the 70th week of Daniel 9, the Day of the LORD that will involve that seal must also take place during that future time period. Second, Isaiah 34:1-8 and Obadiah 15 describe a Day of the LORD when God will judge all nations or Gentiles of the world. None of the past Days of the Lord involved divine judgment of all the nations. Up to this point in history, there has not been a judgment of all nations during the same time period. In light of this, we can conclude that the Day of the LORD of Isaiah 34 and Obadiah must be future. Third, Joel 3:1-13 and Zechariah 14:1-3, 12-15 refer to a Day of the LORD that will involve God's judgment of the armies of all the nations of the world, when those armies gather in Israel to wage war against that nation and the city of Jerusalem and when the Messiah comes to war against them. According to Revelation 16:12-16, those armies will not begin to gather until the sixth bowl is poured out during the 70th week of Daniel 9. In addition, Revelation 19:11-21 indicates that Christ will wage war against them when He comes from heaven to earth. This, too, forces the conclusion that the Day of the LORD of Joel 3 and Zechariah 14 is future. Fourth, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 the Apostle Paul referred to a Day of the LORD that was future beyond the time when he wrote his epistle and that would bring sudden, inescapable destruction upon the unsaved of the world. That Day of the LORD had not taken place before Paul wrote his Thessalonian epistle, and it seems evident that nothing of its nature has transpired since. Thus, the Day of the LORD of 1 Thessalonians 5 is also future." ii) THE FUTURE DAY OF THE LORD: WRATH THEN BLESSING [Showers, cont.]: "The Scriptures indicate that the future Day of the LORD will have at least a twofold nature. First, it will be characterized by darkness and a tremendous outpouring of divine wrath upon the world.... [Joel 2:1-2]: (v. 1) "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand - (v. 2) a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come." [Amos 5:18-20]: (v. 18) "Woe to you who long for the Day of the LORD! Why do you long for the Day of the LORD? That Day will be darkness, not light. (v. 19) It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. (v. 20) Will not the Day of the LORD be darkness, not light - pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?" [Zech 1:14-15]: (v. 14) "Then the angel who was speaking to me said, 'Proclaim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, (v. 15) but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.' "
[1 Thes 5:1-11]:
(v. 1) "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,
(v. 2) for you know very well that the Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night.
(v. 3) While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
(v. 4) But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
(v. 5) You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
(v. 6) So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
(v. 7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
(v. 8) But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (v. 9) For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(v. 10) He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.
(v. 11) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
Amos 5:18-20 emphasizes that this will be the total nature of the Day of the LORD for God's enemies. It will bring no divine light or blessing to them. This will be the nature of the Day of the LORD during the 70th week of Daniel. Second, the Day of the LORD will also be characterized by light, an outpouring of divine blessing, and the administration of God's rule. The Prophet Joel, after talking about the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars and God's Day of the LORD judgment of the armies of the nations gathered in Israel (3:9-16), foretold great divine blessing 'in that day' (vv. 17-21)......
(v. 9) "Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.
(v. 10) Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, 'I am strong!'
(v. 11) Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD!
(v. 12) Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. (v. 13) Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow - so great is their wickedness!
(v. 14) Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the Day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
(v. 15) The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.
(v. 16) The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.
(v. 17) Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, My holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. [Then final restoration. Full kingdom blessing]:
(v. 18) In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias.
(v. 19) But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood.
(v. 20) Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations.
(v. 21) Their blood guilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon. The LORD dwells in Zion!"
In addition, the Prophet Zechariah, after discussing the future Day of the LORD, when all nations will war against Jerusalem and the Messiah will come to the earth part of 'that day' will be characterized by darkness, the latter part will be characterized by light (vv. 6-7), great blessing (v. 8), and God's rule over all the earth (v. 9). This will be the nature of the Day of the LORD during the Millennium.... Thus, the Day of the LORD in the future will be at least twofold in nature. Just as each day of creation and the Jewish day consisted of two phases - a time of darkness ('evening') followed by a time of light ('day') [Gen 1:4-6] - so the future Day of the LORD will consist of two phases, a period of darkness (judgment) followed by a period of light (divine rule and blessing). Since, as noted earlier, the Day of the LORD will demonstrate Who God is, it would seem strange for the God Who is light and in Whom there is no darkness at all (1 Jn 1:5) to have His day consist totally of darkness with no period of light, especially since the present day of Satan and rebellious mankind is characterized by a rule of darkness (Eph 6:12; Col 1:13). In addition, since, as shall be seen later, the present day of Satan and rebellious mankind involves their rule of the world system, the future Day of the LORD would not truly be His day if it did not involve His rule of the world system during the Millennium. How could the Day of the LORD fully demonstrate Who He is - the sovereign God of the universe - without the sovereign exercise of His rule in visible form over the entire world?"
x) THE MAN OF SIN WILL NOT BE REVEALED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 70TH WEEK, RATHER HE WILL MAKE HIMSELF KNOWN AT ITS BEGINNING
[Showers, op. cit., pp. 65-67]:
"Some propose that the revelation of the man of sin will occur in the middle of the 70th week, when he declares himself to be God (Dan 9:27; 11:36-37; 2 Thes 2:4). On the basis of this proposal and Paul's teaching that the Day of the LORD will not come until the man of sin is revealed, some conclude that the Day of the LORD will not start until sometime after the middle of the 70th week. There is a significant problem with this proposal, however. In the Scriptures, God has revealed other activities of the man of sin that will precede his declaration to be God and reveal who he is at least three and one-half years before that declaration. First, the man of sin will rise to power as the 11th ruler within the already formed ten-division confederation that will constitute the revived Roman Empire (Dan 7:7-8, 20, 23-24). Second, as the man of sin rises to power, he will overthrow three of the original ten rulers of the revived Roman Empire (Dan 7:20, 24, 26; Rev 17: 12-13, 16-17). Fourth, as the dominant ruler of the revived Roman Empire, the man of sin will establish a seven-year covenant of peace with the nation of Israel, and the establishment of the covenant will be the historic starting point of the 70th week (Dan 9:27). If the man of sin is not to be revealed until the middle of the 70th week, why did God reveal these specific activities that will occur at least three and one-half years before the middle of the 70th week and will make the man of sin clearly identifiable? Since these divinely foretold activities will reveal who the man of sin is, and since they will be performed by the beginning of the 70th week, we can conclude that the man of sin will be revealed by the beginning of the 70th week. Since the man of sin will be revealed at the time, and since his revelation is the latter of the two things that must occur before the Day of the LORD can begin, we can conclude two things: The Day of the LORD does not have to wait until sometime after the middle of the 70th week to begin; and the Day of the LORD can begin at the start of the 70th week."
xii) SINCE MOST CHURCH AGE BELIEVERS HAVE ALREADY DIED & ARE "PRESENT WITH THE LORD" THEN TO PROPOSE THAT THE REMAINING FEW IN THE LAST DAYS WILL BE PUT THROUGH A PURIFICATION REFINING IN THE TRIBULATION WRATH OF GOD IS NONSENSE
If the church is to be purified by going through the tribulation wrath, what about 95% of the church age believers who lived in earlier times and died beforehand and therefore are already in heaven and have missed the Tribulation? Were they that much better Christians than those 'poor' believers who lived at the end of the Church Age and would face catastrophes, disasters, deprivation, fugitive living and martyrdom such as the world has never seen - for the purpose of purification??? I wouldn't wish or preach or pray or impose that on anyone who has been saved by grace and neither does the Bible!!!
3) OTHER PASSAGES WHICH INDICATE THAT THE CHURCH AGE BELIEVERS WILL NOT BE PRESENT IN THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
a) THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST FOR BELIEVERS TAKES PLACE IN HEAVEN UNLIKE THE EVENTS OF THE SECOND COMING WHICH OCCUR ON THE EARTH
i) [Rev 19:8]:
(v. 7) " 'Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
(v. 8) Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her [the Church = the Bride of Christ, (Eph 5:25-32)] to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"
The Church Age believers will be with our Lord at His Second Coming clothed with part of the rewards they received for their righteous acts - those meted out to them at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Such dispensing of rewards must have occurred while the Church Age believers were with our Lord in heaven after He took them back with Himself to heaven prior to His Second Coming - thus missing the Tribulation on the earth during that time:
ii) [2 Cor 5:10]:
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
iii) [1 Cor 3:11-15]:
(v. 11) "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(v. 12) If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
(v. 13) his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.
(v. 14) If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
(v. 15) If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
Since all Church Age believers have already been rewarded before the Second Coming and are with our Lord coming from heaven at that Second Coming showing evidences of those rewards, ("fine linens"); then the Judgment Seat of Christ must have occurred before the Second Coming - evidently in heaven during the same time period as the earthly Tribulation Period. So the Rapture evidently brings all Church Age believers into heaven before the Tribulation Period begins in order for them to attend the Judgment Seat of Christ. )
THE "RESTRAINER OF SIN", THE HOLY SPIRIT, IS TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY NECESSITATING THE CHURCH TO GO LIKEWISE SINCE IT WAS INDWELT WITH HIM
i) [2 Thes 2:6-7]:
(v. 6) "An now you know what is holding him [the man of lawlessness] back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.
(v. 7) For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the One who now holds it back [God the Holy Spirit] will continue to do so till He is taken out of the way."
2 Thes 2:7 quoted above states that the coming of the man of lawlessness will not occur until after what is holding back or restraining sin "is taken out of the way". That Restrainer is the Holy Spirit Who indwells all Church Age believers. The only agent which can restrain sin is God and historically this has been the Holy Spirit's work. Since He is removed and since all Church Age believers are permanently indwelt by the Spirit, then the church must be removed also - in the rapture!
[Robert L. Thomas states, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol 11, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978, p. 324-5]:
"So he [author Paul] can declare, 'You know what is holding him back.' 'Now' should be connected with 'what is holding him back' to indicate that 'holding back' is a present phenomenon. [i.e, it is evident from the context and directly stipulated in verse 7]. To katechon ('what is holding back') is a neuter title for this restraining force. The word recurs in the masculine in v. 7 where it is translated 'who... holds it back.' Proposed identifications of to katechon have been multiple. Because of inability to explain the neuter-masculine combination, such suggestions as the preaching of the gospel, the Jewish state, the binding of Satan, the church, Gentile world dominion, and human government are improbable. To identify to katechon with a supernatural force or person hostile to God is difficult in a paragraph such as this because the restrainer is limiting Satan (vv. 7-9), not cooperating with him... A popular understanding since early times has been that this is a reference to the Roman Empire (neuter) and its ruler (masc.)... Paul had several times benefited from the intervention of the Roman government (Acts 17:6ff; 18:6ff). In other writings he limits the roll of human government ((Rom 13:1, 3)... Though preferable to some other solutions, this explanation is disappointing in several ways. To predict the demise of the Roman Empire (cf. v. 7) is very uncharacteristic of Paul.... Then too, the Roman Emperor sometimes precipitated anti-Christian activities rahter than restrained them... Elimination of this solution is sealed when we remember that the Roman Empire has long since ceased to exist, and the appearance of Christ or the lawless one has yet to take place... It is evident that the restrainer, to accomplish his mission, must have supernatural power to hold back a supernatural enemy (v. 9). God and the outworking of His providence is the natural answer."
[Compare Gen 6:3]:
"Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
[Compare John 16:7-8]:
(v. 7) "But I [Jesus] tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
(v. 8) When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment."
[Compare 1 Jn 4:3-4]:
(v. 3) "but every spirit [relative to that which is behind the teachings of prophets - true or false, (v. 1)] that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
(v. 4) You, dear children [believers], are from God and have overcome them [them = the false prophets and their false message which is characterized by the "spirit of the antichrist", i.e., you dear children are saved unto eternal life], because the One [Holy Spirit] Who is in you is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world."
[Notice that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and thus is key in the protection of the believer from the effects of the "spirit of the antichrist" via the efforts of false prophets. Thus it is the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit to restrain the spirit of the antichrist from overcoming believers]
[Robert L. Thomas, cont.]:
"Reference to God is favored by the restrainer's harmony with divine purpose and a divine timetable ('at the proper time,' v. 6).... Yet to say that God is the restrainer is not quite enough to explain the variation in gender. To one familiar with the Lord Jesus' Upper Room Discourse, as Paul undoubtedly was, fluctuation between neuter and masculine recalls how the Holy Spirit is spoken of. Either gender is approproate, depending on whether the speaker(or writer) thinks of natural agreement (masc. because of the Spirit's personality) or grammatical (neuter because of the noun pneuma; see John 14:26; 15:26: 16:13, 14)... The special presence of the Spirit as the indweller of saints will terminate abruptly at the parousia [of the Holy Spirit] as it began abruptly at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-21]. Once the body of Christ has been caught away to heaven, the Spirit's ministry will revert back to what he did for believers during the OT period... His function of restraining evil through the body of Christ (John 17:7-11; 1 John 4:4) will cease similarly to the way he terminated his striving in the days of Noah (Gen 6:3). At that point the reins will be removed from lawlessness and the Satanically inspired rebellion will begin. It appears that to katechon ('what is holding back') was well known at Thessalonica as a title for the Holy Spirit on whom the readers had come to depend in their personal attempts to combat lawlessness."
[1 Thess 1:6]:
"You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit."
[Notice that God the Holy Spirit provides information, faith and joy in the face of severe suffering as a result of persecution of the Thessalonian believers - combatting the spirit of the antichrist, resisting sin in the lives of the Thessalonians]
c) THE 24 ELDERS REPRESENTING THE CHURCH ARE IN HEAVEN BEFORE THE TRIBULATION AND SECOND COMING
If the 24 elders in heaven, (Rev 4-5), represent the church as judged for their divine good for rewards and glorified, then a pretribulation rapture is required because chapters 4 & 5 in Revelation relate to the period before the tribulation & Second Coming.
d) THE WEDDING FEAST IN REV 19:7-10 OF OUR LORD & THE CHURCH OCCURS IN HEAVEN BEFORE THE TRIBULATION i) [Rev 19:7-10]:
(v. 7) " 'Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made her self ready.
(v. 8) Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
(v. 9) Then the angel said to me, 'Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' And he added 'These are the true words of God.
(v. 10) At this I fell at His feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' "
The wedding feast announced in Rev 19:7-10 implies that the Groom, Jesus Christ, has already come for His bride, the church , because the feast is on the final stage in the oriental order of marriage and that is portrayed as occurring on earth after the Second Coming during the Millennial Rule. Therefore the church must have been taken out of the earth in order to be in heaven with the Lord before the Tribulation period. Conclusion In light of the parallelism just observed and the fact that... ...Paul exhorted church saints to be continuously alert [1 Thess 5:6] or on the watch for Christ to come at any moment, it appears that it will be through the Rapture that church saints will experience their destiny of living together with Christ and being saved from the Day of the LORD wrath by being removed from the earth in the Rapture before the wrathful first phase of the broad Day of the LORD begins."
3) [Compare Rev 3:9-10]:
(v. 9) "I [Jesus, (v. 7)] will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars - I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you [and continuing the thought]:
(v. 10a) since you have kept My command top endure patiently. [Then a new thought begins which refers to the church saints not being subject to the wrath of the Tribulation period]:
(v. 10b) I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."
[Robert Wilkin, (Grace Evangelical Society, Irving, Tx, states in a 8/18/90 email]:
"The verse is not punctuated properly. (The original Greek had no punctuation at all). The words 'because you have kept My command to persevere' are actually the end of verse 9. Jesus has loved them because they kept His command... Verse 10 should begin with the new thought, 'I also will keep you...' The Rapture is guaranteed of all believers. See 1 Thes 5:10."
A) THE COMING OF THE LORD TO CATCH UP HIS SAINTS IS IMMINENT
[Showers, cont. p. 128-142]:
"In light of the meaning of the term 'imminent' and the fact that the next coming of Christ has not happened yet, we can conclude that the concept of the iminent coming of Christ is that His next coming is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready to befall or overtake us, is always close at hand in the sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things may happen before Christ's coming, but nothing else must happen before it takes place. If something else must happen before it can take place, then it is not imminent. The necessity of something else taking place first destroys the concept of the imminent coming of Christ. Because we do not know exactly when Christ will come, three things are true. First, we cannot count on a certain amount of time transpiring before Christ's coming; therefore we should always be prepared for that event to happen at any moment. Second, we cannot legitmately set a date for Christ's coming. Third, we cannot legitimately say that Christ's coming will happen soon. Again, it may happen soon, but it does not have to in order to be imminent. Christians should have an expectant attitude toward Christ's coming. Since it is imminent and therefore could happen at any moment, believers should constantly look forward to, look out for, or wait for that event.
2) THE NEW TESTAMENT SUPPORTS THE IMMINENT COMING OF CHRIST
a) [1 Cor 1:7]:
"Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed."
Notice that believers are in view - believers of the first century churchwho "eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed", i.e., a concept of our Lord's appearance being eagerly expected at any time being in view.
b) [1 Cor 4:5]:
"Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive His praise from God."
Notice that the Corinthians of the first century church were told to wait till the Lord comes, obviously in their time: an expectation of our Lord coming at anytime, in their time. No other event mentioned as having to occur before this.
c) [1 Cor 15:51-52]:
(v. 51) "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -
(v. 52) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."
Notice again Paul's expectation of the possibility that he would not necessarily die before he is changed into an imperishable being, which necessitates a view of imminency of our Lord's return to do just that at anytime within Paul's lifetime - nothing else thus having to happen before that.
d) [1 Cor 16:22]:
"If anyone does not love the Lord - a curse be on him. Maranatha."
[Showers, op. cit., p. 130]:
"The significant part of this statement in relationship to Christ's coming is the term 'Maranatha,' which was one of several 'eschatolgical statements concerning Christ's coming...within the framework of early Christian tradition.' It was distinctive among these statements because it was an Aramaic expression. It had the form of a petition. The Didache (10.6), an ancient Christian manual of worship, used this petition in statements that were to be made at the end of the communion service. This usage helps to clarify the meaning of this expression, especially in light of Paul's reference to the future coming of Christ in conjunction with the observance of communion:
e) [Compare 1 Cor 11:26]:
"For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
"The term 'Maranatha' consists of three Aramaic words: 'Mar" ('Lord'), 'ana' ('our'), and 'tha' ('come'); thus, the entire term meant 'our Lord, come.' [i.e.,] ....practically equivalent to the expression 'The Lord is at hand'.... The term 'Maranatha' must have expressed a sentiment that the early Church regarded as supremely important, else it would never have been taken over in this way by the Greek-speaking Christians. It would appear, then, that the fixed usage of the term 'Maranatha' by the early Christians was a witness to their strong belief in the imminent return of Christ. If they knew that Christ could not return at any moment because of other events or a time period that had to transpire first, why did they petition Him in a way that implied that He could come at any moment?"
f) [Compare Phil 3:20]:
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ"
[Showers, op. cit., p. 131]:
"The compound word translated 'look for' implies disregard of other things and concentration on one object.' This implies an imminent event - something that is looked to "eagerly".
g) [Compare Phil 4:5]:
"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."
The strongest possibility here would be that the Lord's return is imminent rather than He is always present in the lives of believers The latter possibility is certainly an important point to consider in the daily lives of believers; but it is not immediately in view because the context of our Lord's imminent return has just been developed and expounded upon in 3:20-4:1: The fact that a believer is a citizen of heaven and that he awaits our Lord's imminent return such that the believer's transformation into a body that will "be like His glorious body"is immediately in view. This is carried over to the rest of chapter 4 which continues believers to lead righteous lives in view of our Lord's imminent return just presented.
h) [1 Thes 1:9b-10]:
(v. 9b) "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
(v. 10) And to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead - Jesus, Who rescues us from the coming wrath."
The phrase "to wait for" in this context includes a confidence due to the assumption that those addressed were indeed waiting; and an imminency of such return for the Thessalonicans are told to wait for our Lord's return in their life times - otherwise why wait if you will die beforehand? Note that being rescued from the coming wrath is a benefit of this return. More specifically, being rescued from the coming wrath of the Tribulation via being taken out of the scenario where that wrath occurs is supported here, and certainly not ruled out, i.e., the preTrib rapture into heaven.
"The Thessalonian believers are pictured as waiting for the return of Christ. The clear implication is that they had a hope of His imminent return [in their lifetimes]. If they had been taught that the Great Tribulation, in whole or in part, must first run its course, it is difficult to see how they would be described as expectantly awaiting Christ's return. Then they should rather have been described as bracing themselves for the Great Tribulation and the painful events connected with it. [Some to be martyred, some protected, some to fall prey to it = all to be subjected to it and experience it in some horrible way, if only to view it firsthand, the horrors, deaths, disease, agonies, murders, treachery, deceit, betrayal, unbridled sin, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc., etc.]"
i) [Titus 2:13]:
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ."
"The word translated 'looking' has the sense of 'to await' and is 'used of the subject of Christian expectation.'...
[Note that the word "hope" is translated from the Greek word "Elpida" which means a sure hope, a sure expectation. Such hope is described in this verse as a "blessed" one; one which, by definition, would not have in view the terrible events of the Tribulation such as billions of people dying in violent, diseased or natural disaster deaths; unbridled acts of sin including mass persecution murders and wars such as the world has never seen; unparalleled worldwide natural disasters such as famines, multiple earthquakes, volcanoes, loss of drinking water from corner to corner on the planet, etc. etc.]
In the New Testament hope does not indicate merely what is wished for but what is assured. Paul described this particular hope as 'blessed.' In the New Testament this word 'refers overwhelmingly to the distinctive religious joy which accrues to man from his share in the salvation of the kingdom of God.' According to the Greek text, the expression 'the glorious appearing' should be translated 'appearing of the glory.' The full expression 'the appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ' does not refer to some event separate from the blessed hope. Instead, it describes the event that is that hope. Thus, the Christians' hope is the appearing of the divine glory that belongs to God and Christ. Surely Christians will see that glory in Christ when He comes to rapture the church. In light of these observation, we can conclude that in the context of Titus 1 Paul was saying the following in verse 13: Grace [vv. 11-13] is teaching Christians to live sober, righteous, godly lives in this present age in conjunction with their expectant waiting for the appearing of the divine glory in Christ when He comes to rapture the church. The assurance of that appearing is a source of great joy to Christians because that appearing will bring incredibly happy changes for them, such as the loss of their sin nature and the reception of an immortal body.... Why should Christians always be prepared for Christ's coming, unless that coming could take place at any moment?"
j) [Compare Jas 5:7-9]:
(v. 7) "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
(v. 8) You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming has drawn near.
(v. 9) Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing [lit. has stood, perfect tense, i.e., has been standing] at the door!"
[Zane C. Hodges states, ("The Epistle of James", Grace Evangelical Society, Irving, Texas, 1994, pp. 17-18)]:
"James refers to his readers as his brethren, not because they are fellow Jews but because they have been born from above, brought...forth by the word of truth (1:18; cf. Acts 9:30; 10:23, etc.)... James addresses an audience whom he calls the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad. If we are right in thinking that this epistle was written to Jewish Christians not long after the first persecution of the church in Jerusalem (ca. A.D. 35...), the addressees are the true twelve tribes because their hearts have been circumcised by faith (Col 2:11-12). In this light, the reference to the readers being scattered abroad (Greek: en te diaspora, 'in the dispersion') does not refer to the Diaspora, i.e., to the dispersion of ethnic Jews all over the Roman world that took place centuries earlier. Instead, it refers to the scattering of Jewish believers in the persecution that followed the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1)."
"The Greek verbs translated ['has drawn near'] (v. 8) and ['stands at the door', lit.'has stood', i.e., 'has been standing'] (v. 9) are in the perfect tense and indicative mood, meaning that each of these verbs refers to an action that was completed before James wrote his epistle and that continues on in that completed state. The implication is that Christ's coming drew near before James wrote his epistle, and His coming continues to be near. In addition, Christ as judge began to stand before the door before James wrote his epistle, and Christ as judge continues to stand before the door. In other words, Christ's coming was imminent in New Testament times and continues to be imminent. James wanted to impress his readers with the fact that Christ could come through the door at any moment and cause them as Christians to stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He could do so today."
k) [1 John 2:28]:
"And now, dear children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming."
John is exhorting his 'dear children', i.e., believers to whom he was ministering, to live faithful lives in the Lord. And he commanded them to do this in the light of our Lord's appearance at His coming - in their lifetimes is a possiblity which is in view - so that they may be 'confident and unashamed before Him.' If there were to be events that must occur before this particular Lord's coming such that thousands of years must go by and/or nearly 7 years of unimaginably devastating events - billions dying, often horribly - bodies lying in the streets, blood flowing like rivers do, unparalleled natural disasters, horrifying villainy by mankind to his fellow man, etc. - then this statement would certainly be lacking some kind of qualifying term. But no such statements are in the text, so the possibility of our Lord's return without such notable things must be the foremost possibility of what is meant in this passage.
l) [Rev 3:20; 22:7, 12, 20]:
"I am coming quickly" "quickly" = "tachu" [not soon] Considering the immediate audience who would be hearing the message within the time of its writing, imminency is in view because the message would make no sense, nor be truthful to that audience at that time if our Lord was conveying a message that there was no possibility that He could not come in their lifetimes at any time. He said, "I come quickly" to them at that time with no qualifiers that would indicate the necessity of any intervening events or time. This immineny likewise stands throughout the age also in the absence of any qualifiers that would affect future generations.
VII) CONCLUSION A) A PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE WAS HELD TO BY AT LEAST SOME BELIEVERS DURING THE EARLY CHURCH AGE
[Epharaem the Syrian said in 373 AD, Pseudo-Ephraem (c. 374-627) http://www.according2prophecy.org/ancient.html]:
"For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins."