“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17
The true hope of the Church. The true hope of the Church is the coming of Christ. It is not so much the event that we are waiting for, but the Person who is coming. The Church is so closely identified with Christ, and so closely linked to Him by the Spirit of God, that the Father has given Christ Himself to be the Church's hope. "I will come again and receive you unto myself" (John 14:3). "The Lord Himself shall descend" (1 Thess. 4:16). Sadly, this hope was lost for around 1700 years of the Church's history. The Church lost the hope of the Lord's coming, and began to look for death at the end of the pathway. The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25 traces this out typically, and shows the effect of losing this hope on the state of the Church. In the late 1820’s that the Spirit of God began working through various individuals and aroused the hearts of God’s people to once again await the hope of Christ’s return. It sounded out from Europe to America, and then around the world. This has been likened to the midnight cry, "Behold the Bridegroom!", which woke the sleeping virgins.
- The express statements of scripture. We read of the assembly in Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Rev. 3:10. Surely, the "hour of trial" refers to the judgments of the Tribulation period. The Church will be kept out of it. Then in 2 Thess. 2:1-12 we find that the Day of the Lord (Appearing) cannot come until the great apostasy takes place, and the Antichrist is revealed, and that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth! The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth until the Bride is raptured (Rev. 22:17). Therefore, the Church will not be on earth for the Tribulation! Finally, the we read in 1 Thess. 1:10 that Jesus has "delivered us from the wrath to come", referring to the Tribulation judgments, and in 1 Thess. 5:9 that "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ".
- The absence of the Church in Tribulation Passages. The scriptures that deal with the Tribulation either state that the Church will be kept out of it (Rev. 3:10), or they connect the Tribulation with Israel (Jer. 30:4-7; Dan. 12:1), the Gentiles (Rev. 7:9), or the faithful Remnant of the Jews (Matt. 24:3-29). The book of Revelation is primarily a book of judgment which foretells the judgments that God will pour out upon the earth in the tribulation period. It is written to "the seven Churches of Asia", in order that they should know what was coming on this world, and that the light of prophecy would have a moral effect on their conduct. The book is divided into three parts; "the things which thou hast seen" (Rev. 1), "the things that are" (Rev. 2-3), and "the things which shall be hereafter" (Rev. 4-22). Rev. 1-3 directly apply to the "churches". Within the third section, the chapters that deal with judgment falling on the earth are ch.6-19... not once do we read of the Church on earth in those chapters! We see the same thing with Daniel's seventy weeks; the Church was not on earth during the first 69 weeks, and neither will she be during the 70th week. She is only on earth in a parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks!
- The heavenly calling and hope of the Church as distinct from Israel. Believing that the Church will endure the tribulation comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about the Church, and how the Church is distinct from Israel. Israel was an earthly people, with an earthly calling, earthly hopes, and earthly blessings. The Church has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), heavenly hopes (1 Thess. 1:10), and heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3). By mixing up the Church and Israel (a fundamental error of Covenant Theology), and by confusing verses that apply to Israel with the Church, many well-meaning believers have come to the erroneous conclusion that the Church will endure the Tribulation judgments. We must see from books like Ephesians and Colossians that the Church is the unique companion of Christ, His body and His bride, whom He will have by His side for all eternity. The Tribulation judgments are the wrath of God. A man might punish his disobedient child, but it would not be fitting for him to discipline his bride! It is a totally different relationship. Apostate Israel is like a disobedient child. Apostate Christendom is like a immoral woman making false claims of relationship with Christ. They will be judged in the Tribulation... not the true Church of God.
|The Rapture||The Appearing|
|His coming for His saints (John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-17)||His coming with His saints (1 Thess. 3:13; Jude 14)|
|Could take place at any moment (1 Thess. 1:10; Matt. 25:13)||Will not take place for at least 7 years (Rev. 11:15)|
|He comes in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-18)||He comes to the earth (Zech. 14:4-5)|
|He delivers the Church (Rev. 3:10)||He delivers Israel (Isaiah 9:1-2)|
|A private reception (Christ hidden) (1 Cor. 15:52)||A public appearance (every eye will see) (Rev. 1:7)|
|The gathering of the co-heirs||The taking of the inheritance (Eph. 1:18)|
|A special revelation in the New Testament||Prophesied in Old and New Testaments|
- The Gospel of the Grace of God. The "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) which promises justification from all things and presents the Person of Christ, as a glorified man in heaven, as the object for faith will give way to a different message. What Paul calls "my gospel" (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8), "our gospel" (2 Cor. 4:3; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Thess. 2:14), and "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) will be replaced by the tidings of the imminent appearing of Christ and the setting up of His kingdom, which is called in scripture "the gospel of the kingdom".
- The Gospel of the Kingdom.
The "gospel of the kingdom" is the presentation of good news based on Christ’s glory as king (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). It is connected with earthly hopes and deliverance rather than heavenly hopes. It announces the coming of the kingdom of Christ, and demands that men repent because the Messiah is coming. Everyone is to get ready; i.e. "prepare the way before him". This gospel began to be preached in the days of John the Baptist, and will go out in great power during the prophetic week, preached up to the establishment of the kingdom of Christ in manifest power (Psa. 95-96). This gospel will be especially carried through evangelists of the Jewish remnant. We find in Mark 16:15 that this gospel will be preached “to every creature” in “all the world.” We know that multitudes will be saved in that time, both of Jews and Gentiles - a mass conversion such as the world has never seen (Rev. 7)!
- The Everlasting Gospel. In Revelation 14:6-7 we see that in the great tribulation the "everlasting gospel" will spread over the whole earth, to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people”.
The "everlasting gospel" warns of coming judgment based on God’s power and majesty as Creator, and therefore man's responsibility to Him as Judge (Psa. 19:1-3, Psa. 96, Rom. 1:19-20). God will at last intervene to deliver a world fallen into Satan’s hands through man's sin. It demands that men recognize and glorify God as Creator. It is called "everlasting" because it is a gospel that transcends dispensations. The witness of God's deity and power in creation has been witnessed from the beginning of man's time on earth, but there will be a special emphasis or broadcast of this gospel before the Lord appears. It could be that the reason God will allow this is because of the vast confederacies of men from many places including heathen lands that will join themselves together in the battles of the indignation, and the mass death that will follow.1
- Does the everlasting gospel require human preachers as do the gospel of the kingdom and the Christian gospel? Rev. 14:6 says that the everlasting gospel is something that an angel, flying in mid-heaven, will preach to the whole earth. Perhaps this means that the everlasting gospel, which has been preached since the fall of man, can be preached through the witness of creation. Romans 1:20 makes it clear that "from the world's creation the invisible things of him are perceived, being apprehended by the mind through the things that are made, both his eternal power and divinity". The Word of God is required for new birth according to John 3, but it may not necessarily be the written word; it may be through theophanies (like Cornelius, Acts 10:3, or this angel, Rev. 14:6), or possibly even the witness of creation. This gives us reason to hope for the millions who have lived in millennia past without access to the written Word of God.