When will the Rapture take place?
or, Does the Church go through the Tribulation?
Biblical Research Monthly — by Dr. David L. Cooper
- The Rapture of the Church
- The Premillennial Position
- A Study of the Olivet Discourse
- The Rapture in Psalm 7
- The Rapture in Isaiah 25:8
- The Rapture of the Saints as presented by Isaiah
- The Rapture according to Joel 2
- The Rapture in the Prophecy of Zephaniah
- The Rapture according to Psalm 50:1-6
The Rapture of the Church
As the days pass by, there seems to be an increasing interest in the subject of the rapture of the church. While this interest is growing, there seems to be a proportionate development of uncertainty in regard to it. The confusion is becoming greater with the discussion of the subject. The point of disagreement is not the fact of the rapture, but rather the time when it will occur. Some brethren believe that it will take place before the beginning of the Tribulation; others, in the middle of that period of judgment; and others, that it will occur at the end of the Tribulation. As a person enters into the investigation of this subject, he can understand clearly why it is that these different positions are taken by earnest, honest, conscientious truth seekers. Another point about which there is quite a bit of discussion is what is known as “a split rapture.” Some brethren believe that the entire church — every born again person — at the time of the rapture will be taken out of the world. There are, on the other hand, those who believe that only the “overcomers” will be taken out of the world; whereas all of the rest of the church who have thus not attained to such perfection in life will be left to pass through the horrors of the Tribulation, which will prove as a purging element to purify them and to prepare them for the presence of the Lord.
In the present discussion we shall look only at the fact of the rapture as it is set forth in the Scriptures and leave these controversial points for a later discussion.
The Translation of Enoch
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 22 and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24)
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, walked with God. It appears from verse 21 that the advent of a little one into his home had a decided effect upon the life of this patriarch. This truth appears from the statement: “... and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years.” Parents' bringing children into the world brings upon themselves responsibilities and duties that should never be shirked, but should be met. The parents are responsible before God for the proper training and rearing of their children. It is unfortunate that at the present time many parents do not seem to realize their responsibilities and obligations for the proper training and rearing of their children — in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. All too frequently is it clear that the parents entirely neglect training and rearing their children in the way in which they should go. The state demands that they put the children in the public schools for their secular education. Sometimes even Christian parents depend upon the church to give all of the training in spiritual matters to their children and neglect the little ones entirely. Their sending the little tots to Sunday School will not meet the obligations that rest upon the parents to train them personally and to give them the individual attention that only a mother and a father can give.
Enoch realized his responsibility keenly and thus walked with God. Walking with God implies trusting Him for everything, looking to Him for guidance in all the affairs of life, and observing whatever instructions or commands that He has given for the regulation of a person's life and activities both secular and spiritual.
Enoch walked with God in this most intimate manner for three hundred years “... and he was not; for God took him.” If the reader will examine the entire fifth chapter of Genesis, he will find that the other eight patriarchs, of whom we read in this chapter, enjoyed longevity and reached the end of their earthly career by dying; for of each one it is said: “... and he died.” But with Enoch this was not true “for God took him.” Concerning the Lord's taking Enoch, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, declared: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him: for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing unto God” (Hebrews 11:5). Enoch's being raptured, or caught away, is spoken of in this passage as God's translating him. Thus he was living a normal life up until a given moment, at which time God took him from all earthly scenes. We may be absolutely certain that at the translation of Enoch a miracle was performed which changed his body from its mortal, physical condition into a spiritual body. Such a transformation prepared him for the heavenly realms, which are not of a material nature, but are of etherial make-up.
The statement, “... for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing unto God,” is quite significant. When we view this statement in the light of all the facts connected with Enoch's translation, we come to the conclusion that God communicated in some way to Enoch that he was in a special manner well-pleasing to Him and that he had been prepared for his translation. This testimony may have been given through some prophet living at the time. Or it may have been made to him by “the still small voice” of the Spirit, speaking to his very soul. That God does, through His Spirit, impress the soul and incline it frequently toward truth and facts is a spiritual phenomenon that cannot be questioned. Having completed his roll call of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the writer declared, “And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, 40 God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:30,40). On account of their faith the witness was given to these, probably the testimony that they were pleasing to God as was Enoch.
The Translation of Elijah
In II Kings, chapter 2, we have the account of the translation of Elijah the prophet. The account tells us that he was in Gilgal, which is in the central part of the mountainous country of Samaria. He left Gilgal with Elisha and came to Bethel, which is around fifteen miles south of Gilgal. Upon their arrival at this place, the sons of the prophets said to Elisha: “Knowest thou that Jehovah will take away thy master from thy head today?” (II Kings 2:5). His reply was in the affirmative. Elijah tried to get Elisha to remain at Bethel while he went to Jericho. But Elisha, having cautioned the students of the theological school of the prophets to be silent concerning the translation of Elijah, went with this great man of God to Jericho.
At this place the sons of the prophets, like those at Bethel, also spoke to Elisha concerning Elijah's being translated that day. They knew it. Elisha, in like manner, urged these students to remain silent on the subject. Elijah insisted that Elisha remain with the sons of the prophets at Jericho, but he would not. He knew what would take place and wanted to be present at the time of the event. When Elijah started to go toward the Jordan, Elisha was at his side. Then they came to the river. They stood on the banks of the Jordan, but the sons of the prophets stood at a great distance, watching expectantly to see what would occur. Elijah smote the waters of the Jordan with his garment. These waters separated and allowed the two prophets to pass over to the east side of the river. As they walked along, Elijah insisted that Elisha ask of him what he desired. His immediate response was, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (II Kings 2:9). Elijah's reply was that he had asked a very hard thing; nevertheless, if he should be with him and see him when he was taken away, his request would be granted. As they continued walking and conversing, there appeared suddenly chariots of fire, to which horses of fire were attached. These came racing between the two prophets, and Elijah was taken up in the chariot of fire into heaven, while Elisha remained upon the earth.
From this account it is clear that God in some way revealed to these students in the schools of Bethel and Jericho that God would take His servant Elijah away from the earth that day. As to how He made this revelation, we are not told. He may have used some prophet — as He did on many occasions — or He may have imparted this knowledge directly by the Spirit to each of these students. It suffices us to know that the knowledge relative to the fact of Elijah's translation was imparted by the Lord to the students of these two schools, to Elisha, and to Elijah himself. This revelation doubtless stirred the souls of all of these servants of God.
The Rapture of the Church
I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11:
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 16 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; 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 5 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: 5 for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11 Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do.”
In this quotation we find a prediction concerning the rapture of the church. It was necessary for me to give this passage in its entirety because to quote only verses 4:13-18 would be to break the thought and to destroy its meaning. This statement is in harmony with the general principle that a text apart from its context is but a pretext.
The Apostle declared that at some future time Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. At that time the dead in Christ will be raised first. Following this glorious event will be the catching up of the saints, those that will be alive at that time. Their bodies will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye — according to I Corinthians 15:50-58.
The believers who are alive at the time of our Lord's coming at the conclusion of this age are assured that they are not appointed unto wrath — to enter into that period of wrath know as “the day of Jehovah,” the Tribulation — but are to obtain salvation, deliverance from, this period of judgments. The way they are to be delivered from it is that the Lord descends from heaven to the air, miraculously transforms their bodies, and removes them from the earth. When they, with the dead in Christ who have been raised, meet the Lord in the air, He will return to glory, escorting them into the presence of God. From that time on these immortalized saints will ever be with the Lord.
We have already seen, in studying the translation of Enoch and that of Elijah, that a revelation was made to them prior to their translation to the effect that the time was at hand for them to be taken out of the world. Is there to be a repetition of this announcement that will be made to the saints in the end of this age immediately prior to their being snatched away from this earth — from the wrath to come? There seems to be such a promise in the following statement:
And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation.” (I Peter 1:19-20)
Until the Lord comes, we are admonished to give heed to “the word of prophecy made more sure” as we do to a lamp that is shining in a dark place. We are thus to study and to give heed to the prophetic word “until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your [our] hearts ...” Just before day there are the gray streaks of the morning painting the eastern skies. In this very early pre-dawn period the morning star arises, the herald of the coming day. With this imagery supplying the thought form, the Apostle thinks of our Lord's appearing in that which is the pre-dawn period. He is the bright and morning Star, but not a literal one that appears in the heavens. But at that time He arises in the hearts of His people. Though this language is figurative — a very beautiful figure it is — it stands for a reality — as all figurative language does. The daystar announces that the morn is right at hand. Thus the Daystar arises in the hearts of believers just before the day comes. It is therefore quite likely that the thing to which the apostle Peter is referring is that of the Lord's bearing witness in the souls of the believers to the fact that they who are thus regenerated and saved are acceptable to God, and that the time is at hand for them to be taken out of this world to be with Him. Thus we may with quite a degree of confidence believe that the Lord will prepare our hearts for that great event by giving us the witness of the Spirit in our souls that we are acceptable to God and are about to be translated.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The Premillennial Position
As I go all over the country and come in contact with thousands of people, I constantly meet this question: “Does the church of Christ go through the Tribulation?” or, “Is it to be raptured from the world before the Tribulation begins?” Often the question is asked if the church does not go to the middle of the Tribulation and then is raptured. At the office we receive hundreds of letters with inquiries concerning this most important question, which is a live issue today. Twenty-five years ago this question was hardly ever raised. It was taken for granted that the church is raptured before the Tribulation begins. Now the picture has largely changed. Earnest souls are seeking for the scriptural answer to this question. It is because of this uncertainty and the many inquiries that come to me that I am writing a series of articles on this question, even though I have touched upon it in former years.
In order that we may have a clear understanding, I shall, in this first Installment of this series, state the premillennial position as clearly as I can in order that we may have before our minds the program that is set forth in the Scriptures. Having, so to speak, a blueprint of the events of the present era with its close and introduction of the new age, we can fit in the various passages of Scripture and see where they come into this prophetic program.
Frequently we hear the expression, “I am a premillennialist without a program.” Such a statement is a contradiction, because premillennialism is essentially a program. Those making this claim evidently mean that they have reduced the details to a minimum and simply believe that Jesus will return before the thousand years of His reign mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6. Thought of in its simplest and briefest manner, premillennialism is indeed a program — it is impossible for anyone to think otherwise. I am a premillenarian with a program and am not ashamed of the fact. We should let the Bible speak where it speaks and should accept any and everything that God has said. Since truth never contradicts itself, we can be certain to find, as a rule, the place wherever any event that is described in the Scriptures fits into the general scheme of things — though there may be times when we cannot be exact and explicit in our location and identification of an event in relation to others. The Scriptures are sufficiently clear to enable us to get a definite program of future events.
The subject which I have outlined for this study falls into eight general sections, with which I shall deal only in a brief manner.
God's Plan for the Gospel during the Present Christian Era
When Jesus arose from the dead, He said that all authority in heaven and in earth was given unto Him. The disciples, therefore, were to go forth and to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those thus accepting Christ were to be taught to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded. This teaching program is to be continued to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19, 20).
In speaking along the line of this program, our Lord in the parable of the sower laid down the basic facts concerning the present age. The Sower, who was in the first place the Son of God himself, went forth to sow seed. Some fell on the roadside and was devoured by the birds of the heavens. Other seed fell on the rocky ground and sprang up, but was scorched by the burning heat, because it had no depth of soil. In the third place, some seed fell among thorns, which choked out the plants, so that they brought forth no fruit to perfection. Finally, certain seed fell upon good ground, yielding some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold. The seed, in each instance, is the Word of God. There are, as we have seen, four types of soul upon which the seed falls. Only in the case of the good ground does the Word become effective. In the three first cases, it is unprofitable. The seed is to be sowed throughout the Christian Dispensation on all four kinds of soil, even though it is productive on only the one type of soil — the good ground.
The parable of the wheat and the tares shows that the tares sowed by the devil after God sows the good seed, will grow along with the wheat until the harvest, which is the end of the age. Thus the two grow together until the consummation of the dispensation.
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 1:5 declared: “... we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nation, for his name's sake ...” James, in his speech at the first church conference ever held (Acts 15) declared:
Brethren, hearken unto me: 14. Symeon hath rehearsed how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written 16. After these things I will return, And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; And I will build again the ruins thereof, And I will set it up: 17. That the residue of men may seek after the Lord, And all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called.” (Acts 15:13-17)
Simon Peter had spoken before James made his speech. This is found in Acts 15:7-11. Following Peter, Paul and Barnabas gave a report of their missionary activities (vss. 12, 13). James made the final speech before the decision was reached concerning the matter which was under consideration. He declared that God, according to Peter's speech, first visits the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. The American Standard Version uses the verb “visited,” which is in the aorist tense in the original, and which has no time element whatsoever. Sometimes this form of the verb refers to the past, sometimes to the present, and in other cases, to the future. The facts of the context are to determine how it is to be translated in a given case. The facts of this context show that Peter was talking about what the Lord is doing at the present time by the preaching of the gospel; namely, He is visiting the Gentiles throughout the Christian Dispensation to take out of them a people for His name. Let us think of the gospel message as a magnet that is passed over some area where there are sawdust and steel filings. As the magnet is passed over the place, its pull will draw the filings to itself, but will have no influence upon the sawdust. Thus it is with the gospel. When it is passed over any area, only the honest-hearted seekers will respond. That is what God is now doing. He is not attempting to convert the world. He is now calling out from among all nations a people whom He will use in the future to demonstrate what His abounding grace can accomplish.
James declared that this program of calling out a people from among the Gentiles for God's name is in perfect accord with the Scriptures of the prophets. This shows the harmonization between the messages of the prophets and the program that Peter outlined. James quoted from Amos 9:11,12, saying, “After these things I will return, And I will build again the tabernacle of David ...” Upon an examination of the context of Amos 9:11,12 a person sees that in Amos 9:10 the prophet spoke of God's destroying all the sinners out of Israel, which event we learn from other passages will occur at the end of the Tribulation, immediately preceding the coming of the Lord and the establishment of the reign of Christ upon the earth. Thus the purging of all sinners out of Israel is after the Christian Dispensation, which culminates with the Tribulation. At the conclusion of the Tribulation, Christ comes visibly and rebuilds the tabernacle of David that is fallen down. The Lord will do this in order that the residue of men may seek after Him.
From the Amos passage and the one in Acts chapter 15, we see the “blueprint of the Christian Dispensation culminating in the Tribulation, the coming of Christ, and the establishment of His reign of righteousness upon the earth. This outline shows Christ's coming as being before His reign of a thousand years upon the earth. Hence these passages teach the premillennial reign of the Lord.
The Christian Dispensation Closing in Apostasy
As we have seen above, the wheat and The tares grow together until the end of the age, until the harvest. This fact shows that there is not a converted world prior to Christ's coming at the harvest. That the Christian Era will end in apostasy from God is seen in the following scripture:
But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come, 2. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3. Without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, 4. Traitors, head-strong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5. Holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away.” (II Timothy 3:1-5)
This is also confirmed by the following statement:
I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2. Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4. And will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.” (II Timothy 4:1-4)
The Tribulation Period
As suggested above, the Age of Grace ends in apostasy and the prevalence of wickedness throughout the world, on account of which conditions the judgments of God will fall upon the earth for a period of seven years — as we learn from Daniel, chapter 9, and other passages. A graphic picture of the Tribulation is set forth in Isaiah 24:1-20. Another very vivid picture of this same period of judgment is seen in Matthew 24:9-28. In this last passage the first half of the seven-year period is covered in verses 9-14. The second half is covered in verses 15-28. From various scriptures we learn that God has different objectives in sending the Tribulation judgments upon the world:
- To bring about the world-wide revival; “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9);
- To destroy all the wicked from the face of the earth (II Peter 3:7);
- To break the power of the holy people (Israel) in pieces (Daniel 12:7) in order to bring them to the point that they will repudiate the national sin of rejecting the Messiah and will plead for Him to return to deliver them.
The Second Coming of Christ
In Revelation 19:11-21 we see a very vivid, graphic, and impressive picture of the Lord Jesus Christ's coming in power and great glory at the end of the Tribulation Period.
Among the several pictures in the Old Testament of His coming may be mentioned the one found in Habakkuk 3:1-15. After having covered the Tribulation, as we have just seen, in Matthew 24:9-28, the Lord Jesus Christ foretold in Matthew 24:29-31 His coming at the end of the Tribulation.
The Establishment of the Kingdom of God in its Visible Form upon the Earth
Having described the Tribulation in a most graphic manner in Isaiah 24:1-20, the prophet gives some very pointed statements concerning the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth in its visible form. First, he informs us that “the host of the high ones on high (Satan and his host of evil spirits), and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:21) shall be gathered together and confined in the pit, where they will be incarcerated for “many days” (the thousand years of Revelation 20:1-4), after which period they will be “visited” — in the sense of being punished. When the host of high ones on high are incarcerated in the pit then Jehovah reigns in Zion as we see in verse 23.
In Isaiah, chapter 11, we see in verses 1 and 2 the first coming of Christ; but in verses 3-5 the second advent. In this instance the entire Christian Dispensation is passed over in silence. This prophecy blends the two comings of the one Messiah into a single picture, which is followed by the prediction of the lifting of the curse from the earth as seen in verses 6-9. Thus the Lord lifts the curse from the earth, which fell upon it when Adam sinned, and establishes His reign of righteousness. In verse 10 we see Jerusalem, the place of His reign, glorified.
When Jesus comes in the glory of the Father with His holy angels, He will sit upon His throne of glory and before Him will be gathered all the nations that have survived the Tribulation Period. He will gather them before Him and separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, allowing those who are represented by the sheep to enter the Millennial Kingdom prepared for them before the foundation of the world. Those put on the left hand are sent off into everlasting punishment in the place prepared for the devil and his angels. Thus in Matthew 25:31-46 we see the establishment of the kingdom upon earth in its visible form.
Again, in Revelation 20:1-3, we see “the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan,” bound for a thousand years — the duration of Christ's reign on the earth — in order that he might not deceive the nations upon the earth any more. Then the saints of the present age are permitted to reign with Christ for a thousand years. There is perfect harmony and congruity in all of these various representations of the setting up of the kingdom upon our Lord's return to this earth.
The Reign of Christ for One-Thousand Years
The Old Testament speaks frequently of Christ's reigning here upon earth in Jerusalem — Jerusalem cleansed, purged, purified, enlarged, created the joy spot of the world. Study carefully Isaiah 33:17-24; Jeremiah 3:16-18; Zephaniah 3:14-17. These Old Testament passages do not tell how long Jehovah in the person of Jesus Christ will reign. They simply foretell that glorious event and touch upon certain aspects of it. It was left to the Apostle John to give the length of the reign, which is one thousand years. This thousand-year period is mentioned six times in Revelation 20:1-6. But frequently men deny the literal interpretation of this scripture because it is the only one in which the length of time of Christ's reign is mentioned. We are often told that we cannot interpret it literally because the passage is highly figurative. It is true that there are figures of speech occurring in the passage, which must be interpreted according to their normal meaning, but there are literal statements likewise in the passage, which must be interpreted accordingly. There is nothing to suggest that the thousand years do not mean exactly what the words connote. We must in order to be true to the text, take these statements at literally what they say, namely, that Christ will reign for a thousand years.
The Judgment of the Great White Throne
Our Lord reigns for one thousand years in purged and cleansed, beautiful and glorified Jerusalem, during which time Satan is bound. At the expiration of our Lord's reign (of this thousand years), “Satan
shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four comers of the earth” (Revelation 20:8). He leads a youth movement against Christ in an
effort to intimidate Him, as we see in Revelation 20:6-9. When this force besieges Jerusalem, fire comes down out of heaven and destroys it (vs. 9).
Immediately after that event the judgment of the great white throne is set. The rest of the dead, the unsaved, are raised and are brought before this throne, upon which Christ is seated, and are judged — sentence is pronounced, and they depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. There they will live forever and ever (Revelation 20:11-15).
When the great white throne judgment is set, the present material order passes out of existence. This passing away will be in fulfillment of our Lord's prediction found in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
The Eternal Order
After the passing away of the present material order and the completion of the judgment of the great white throne, God will put forth his creative activity, the result of which will be the eternal order consisting of the heavens and the earth, and the New Jerusalem that comes down out of the eternal heavens and rests upon the eternal earth. These are described in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, which portion the reader is urged to study very carefully.
NOTE: In the foregoing study we have a figurative blueprint of the order of events as they began at the first coming of Christ, and as they will culminate in the eternal order. There is a program,
unmistakably outlined by the Lord himself. Scriptures referred to thoroughly substantiate the positions taken in this article. It has been noticed by the careful reader that nothing has been said
in this study about the rapture of the church of God. In this investigation we shall study the Scriptures to see where in the scheme of events they place the rapture: whether before, in the middle
of, or at the end of the Tribulation. God's Word alone is to be the final court of appeal on all matters.
A Study of the Olivet Discourse
In the first installment of this series we saw that there is, figuratively speaking, a blueprint of the ages as set forth in various passages of scripture. Thus in looking at several of these scriptures, we saw the clear, definite outline of a real program, or plan of the ages, beginning with the first coming of Christ and culminating in His great millennial reign. In this and subsequent studies it is our object to determine when the rapture of the church takes place. As is well-known, many Bible students are convinced that it will occur before the Tribulation. But others believe it will come to pass in the middle of the Tribulation. Still another group is positive that it will take place at the end of the Tribulation. Since there is such a diversity of opinions, it is impossible for all of them to be right. Can we determine from an examination of the Word of God the exact time of the rapture of the church?
As a basis of our investigation this issue we shall study the Olivet Discourse as recorded by Matthew in chapters 24 and 25. In this connection a word will be helpful: It is well known that Matthew wrote his record of the Gospel for the Jews, presenting Christ to them as their looked-for Messiah. The fact that he gathered, by the Spirit of God, material to establish for the Jewish mind the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world, does not require us to avoid this record, thinking that it was and is for the Jews and the Jews alone. Mark was written to present Christ to the Roman people. That fact does not make Mark without profit and value to us. The message of each of the records is applicable to the ones to whom the various portions were spoken and is true today, even though Matthew was written for the Jews, Mark for the Romans, and Luke for the Greeks. Matthew, in writing his Gospel, simply told the Jews the story concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His teaching. The Sermon on the Mount would have the same force and application if it had been written by Mark that it does have since it was written by Matthew. The Apostle tells us that Jesus opened His mouth and taught His disciples. The message of the Sermon on the Mount is for Christ's disciples throughout the entire dispensation — yes, and for them today. The fact that Matthew told the Jews that this is what Christ said to His disciples does not change the content and import of the teaching one iota. The same thing is true with reference to the Olivet Discourse, or any other portion of Matthew's Gospel. The Olivet Discourse was spoken to the disciples. Matthew simply told the Jews what Christ said on that occasion. It is a prediction and must be studied as a prophecy, which was given by our Lord to His disciples. Had He recorded the same sermon for the Jewish Sanhedrin, or for the Roman Caesar (that He spoke to the disciples), the message would not be changed one particle. There is simply in this discourse an unveiling of the future, viewed from His day and time. With these general and fundamental principles before our minds, let us now approach the analysis of the Olivet Discourse in order to ascertain where our Lord places the rapture.
The Scope of Matthew 24:1-31
According to Matthew 24:1,2, Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple, which prophecy we know was fulfilled in A.D. 70. On the last day of His public ministry He made this prediction as He was going forth from the Temple. When He reached the summit of the Mount of Olives, which is east of Jerusalem, four of the disciples came to Him and asked Him two questions, the second being a double one:
Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming,
and of the end of the world (consummation of the age)?” (Matthew 24:3)
This first question is answered in Luke 21:20-24, but Matthew passed it by. The disciples wanted to know what would be the sign, a specific, definite event or some miraculous occurrence, which would indicate the nearness of the time for the Lord to return and the end of the age to be brought about.
The answer which the Lord Jesus gave (vs. 4,5) was that many would come in His name, claiming to be the Christ, and would lead many astray. But the disciples were warned by Jesus not to be led astray by them.
But since they thought of His coming and of the end of the age when He mentioned the destruction of the Temple, it is quite evident that they were thinking of such predictions as Zechariah, chapter 14, which foretells the destruction of Jerusalem in the day of Jehovah, the second coming of Christ, and of His standing in that day upon the Mount of Olives, the end of this age, and the introduction of the Millennium. Knowing, therefore, that they were thinking of such a prophecy as this; Jesus warned them not to attach any prophetic significance to a war that might break out: And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6) In other words, Jesus foretold that there would be wars throughout the dispensation, during His absence. They were not, therefore, to attach some special meaning to any conflict that might break out — because such wars and political upheavals have no prophetic significance. Thus, in this verse, our Lord traverses the entire Christian Dispensation from His own time until World War I, which He foretells in verse 7: For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom and against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places.” Some good brethren have understood a nation's rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom as being explanatory of “wars and rumors of wars,” all of which occur throughout the dispensation. This is an impossible interpretation, for in verse 8 we read: “But all these things are the beginning of travail.” All of what things? Obviously, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, famines, and great earthquakes in divers places. Luke in his account adds pestilences — a fourth item of the prophecy. It is impossible for the expression “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” to be explanatory of the wars that characterize the entire Christian Age, for Jesus said that all of those things, including nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, are the beginning of travail, the first birth pain. Certainly the first birth pain, that comes upon the world to notify it that it is time for it to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glory of the children of God, will not be occurring throughout the entire age. Such an idea is utterly foreign to this passage. The only possible interpretation of the expression, nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, is that it refers to a conflict that breaks out by one nation's rising against another and another nation's coming in until the situation develops into a war that affects the entire world. This idiom is found in the Old Testament. In each instance of its occurrence it signifies a war that breaks out by one nation's rising against another, followed by another nation's entering the fray until the conflict spreads over and affects all the territory that was before the prophet's mind when he used the idiom. Since Jesus in the Olivet Discourse had a world outlook, and since He used this idiom, it is quite certain that He employed it to refer to an international situation that starts in a small way by one nation's rising up against another; then by other nations coming in until it develops into a world war. This international conflict is to be attended by famines, pestilences, and great earthquakes. When we read verses 6-8 with this understanding, we see clearly what the Lord had in mind:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against Kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of travail.
Jesus, then, in substance said that there would be wars and rumors of wars (local conflicts) all during the time of His absence (the Christian Dispensation). Hence, when one of these breaks out, the disciples are not to attach any prophetic significance to any of them; for there must be an international conflict, a world war, attended by famines, pestilences, and great earthquakes, which things constitute the first birth pain, the warning pain that comes upon the world, letting it know that its time to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glory of the liberty of the children of God is at hand.
The last word in verse 8 is travail: “But all these things are the beginning of travail.” This term is used in its technical sense appearing in the Old Testament. The Tribulation Period is by various prophets called the “period of travail.”
Since the Lord Jesus pointed to a world war — attended by famines, great earthquakes, and pestilences — as the sign of His coming and the end of the age, the question arising here is this: Have we had such a world cataclysm? Some Bible teachers are convinced that World War I (1914-1918) was the fulfillment of our Lord's prediction. There certainly never was a world war until 1914. At the same time there were famines, pestilences, and great earthquakes accompanying it — as Jesus foretold. If language, grammar, and logic are to be relied upon, the world experienced just such a catastrophe in 1914-18.
The Lord Jesus said to the disciples that, when they should see such a world upheaval, it would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age — the first birth pain. We therefore have reason to believe that this sign of the end occurred in 1914-18.
In Matthew 24:9 the sentence begins, “Then shall they....” To what does the “then” refer? Obviously, to the period of travail mentioned in the preceding sentence. A perusal of verses 9-28 shows that our Lord in this passage was speaking of the great Tribulation, which culminates with the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus Christ — as is set forth in verses 29-31:
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the power of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send forth his angles with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
From these hasty remarks one can see that in the first thirty-one verses of Matthew, chapter 24, our Lord has given us a rough sketch of the entire Christian Dispensation, which culminates with the glorious physical, bodily return of our Lord to this earth.
The Scope of Matthew 24:32-25:30
All students of the prophetic word are familiar with what is known as the law of recurrence. Unless a person has a knowledge of this principle, he cannot understand the prophetic word. I frequently illustrate it this way: An artist, when he is painting a portrait, does at the first sitting what he calls “blocking out” the portrait. He makes the general outline of the person with a suitable background. The person is recognizable, even after this first sitting. At the second and subsequent sittings the artist adds details and brings out in bold relief certain features that were not inserted at first. This illustration presents almost perfectly the scriptural literary principle, which is called the law of recurrence. The outline of the Christian Dispensation from the time when Jesus spoke this message to His second coming at the end of the Tribulation is sketched. Then, in 24:32-25:30 our Lord added new features that are compared to the work done by the artist at the second sitting, adding details that He left out of His portrait at first. That these statements are true, we can see by noticing carefully the language of verses 32-34, which brings the reader back from the second coming to the time of World War I:
Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; 33 Even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished.
What is meant by the fig tree? Some tell us that it here refers to the Jewish nation. While it is true that the fig tree does sometimes — when used symbolically as indicated by the facts of the context — refer to the Jewish nation, we are never to say that it, or any word or idea, is used symbolically unless the facts of the immediate context indicate clearly a departure from the literal sense. One will seek in vain for any evidence in this context which indicates a departure from the plain literal sense. In view of this fact I am convinced that Jesus meant by “fig tree” a literal tree.
Thus Jesus used the fig tree — and Luke in his passage adds, “all the trees” — as an object lesson. Whenever it begins to bud and to put forth its leaves, those observing this phenomenon can know that summer is close at hand in the region where the tree is. In a similar manner, declared Jesus, can his disciples know that His coming is right at hand: “... even so ye also, when ye see all these things (a world war, attended by famines, pestilences, and great earthquakes in divers places), know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors.” His disciples had asked for the sign, the infallible, the unmistakable sign of the end of the age. Jesus had told them in verses 7 and 8 what that sign would be — “all these things are the beginning of travail.” When, therefore, you see “all these things” — the sign of the end of the age — you can know that He is nigh, even at the door. As we have already seen in verses 1-31 Jesus gave us the blueprint of the Christian Dispensation up to the time of His glorious coming at the end of the Tribulation. In verses 32-24 He came back in His thinking from the time of His glorious coming at the end of the Tribulation to the time when the unmistakable sign of the end of the age occurs and spoke to that generation which witnesses this sign and foretold that said generation shall in no wise pass away until the whole prophetic program as outlined by Him (Matthew 24:1-31) in this discourse will come to pass. It will come to pass within the lifetime of that generation. The length of a generation, according to Psalm 90:10, is eighty years. Of course, He was talking about the generation that was rising at the time of the sign (World War I and attending calamities) — those who were old enough to understand the passage and to identify current events as being the fulfillment of the prediction.
Following this definite forecast our Lord, in verses 34-39, spoke of the days of the Tribulation and compared them with the days of Noah which were before the Flood. Just as in the days of Noah men were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying and selling, until the Flood came and took them away, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of man. But of what coming is He talking? His coming before the Tribulation, or at the end of the Tribulation? Certainly it is impossible to interpret this passage as referring to His glorious advent at the end of the Tribulation. The reason for my making this observation is clear. Everyone who knows the predictions concerning the terrific devastation that will be wrought by the judgments of the Tribulation knows that it will be impossible for men, in the obvious sense of this passage, to be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, at the end of the Tribulation, when Christ returns in glory (Matthew 24:29-31). But when He comes in fulfillment of this passage, men and women will be engaged in worldly pursuits, having little thought of and giving less attention to the times in which they live. This will be the time when men will be saying. “Peace and safety ...” (I Thessalonians 5:23). In view of these and other facts, it is impossible for us to see in the statement, “... so shall be the coming of the Son of man,” any advent other than the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven in the air to raise the dead in Christ and to catch up the living saints (see I Thessalonians 4:13-5:10). Without a doubt this coming is one that occurs before the Tribulation. This fact is obvious since the coming under consideration cannot be after the Tribulation. This coming is therefore before the Tribulation.
Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left; 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh.” (Matthew 24:40-42)
From the flow of thought of this context it is quite evident that, when Jesus comes in fulfillment of this prediction before the Tribulation, two men will be working in a field; One will be taken and the other left; two women will-be grinding at a mill, One will be taken; the other left. To what can this language refer? There is but one possible answer: That this is a prediction concerning the rapture of the saints of God. The one who is taken is the one who knows Christ and has been born again, regenerated, and is ready to go and be with the Lord. The other one, the unregenerated person, is left to pass into the Tribulation.
In Matthew 24:45-51 our Lord showed the true and a false attitude to be taken toward His return for the saints at the time of the rapture before the Tribulation. The correct attitude is shown by the faithful servant; the false one, by the unfaithful servant, who says that his Lord delays. In Matthew 25:1-13 we again see two possible attitudes towards the Lord's return at the time of the rapture, which are set forth by the parable of the ten virgins. The wise virgins show the right attitude. They are prepared for a good, long, hard pull in the event that the bridegroom does not return early. The foolish virgins show their lack of wisdom by setting a date, practically speaking, in that they take no extra oil with them. By their so doing they are virtually saying that the bridegroom will return soon — a false attitude.
When He comes for His saints before the Tribulation at the time of the rapture, He will take His people to Himself and will reward them according to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). From other passages we see clearly that the people of God, taken up at the rapture, together with those who are raised from the dead, appear before the judgment seat of Christ and receive their rewards at the close of the Tribulation Period. But this point will be brought out in subsequent articles.
The Scope of Matthew 25:31-46
But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
32. And before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats ...” (Matthew 25:31,32)
The coming of the Son of man mentioned in 24:39, as we have already seen, is His coming from heaven in the air for His saints — the rapture of the church. But the coming mentioned in 25:31ff is His coming at the end of the Tribulation, when all the living nations, those surviving the Tribulation, are brought before Him and He separates them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Then He establishes His millennial reign and rules in righteousness over this earth for one thousand years. Earth's golden Era!
When we analyze this passage as has just been done, we are forced to see that the catching away of the saints, the believers in Christ, occurs at the coming of the Lord before the Tribulation. It is Impossible for anyone to give a different interpretation of this passage, if he is willing to let it deliver its message. Of course, if we put forced constructions upon our Lord's language, we can read into the text something that is not there; but if we follow the grammatico-historical method of interpretation — which is the only one recognized by real scholarship — we are forced to the inevitable conclusion that the rapture of the Church of God occurs before the Tribulation, at the coming of the Son of man, as is set forth by our Lord in the Olivet Discourse.
The Rapture in Psalm 7
In our study of the Rapture of the Church and when it occurs, we must examine Psalm 7, for in it appears a unique prophecy, which has generally been overlooked by prophetic students. In this connection may I remind you, dear reader, that it is important for us to see a passage, dealing with any subject, in its own connection. If we do not recognize the context and the setting of a passage, it becomes impossible for us to see the truth and the full force of a given scripture. With this thought in view may I insist that, when a person studies the time of the Rapture of the Church — whether before, in the middle of, or at the end of the Tribulation — he must see the special passages dealing with this point in their connections. Being guided by this principle, we shall study the entire Psalm, which we have for consideration.
Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto Jehovah, concerning the words of Cush a Benjamite. O Jehovah my God, in thee do I take refuge: Save me from all them that pursue me, and deliver me,
7:2 Lest they tear my soul like a lion, Rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
7:3 O Jehovah my God, if I have done this; If there be iniquity in my hands;
7:4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me (Yea, I have delivered him that without cause was mine adversary);
7:5 Let the enemy pursue my soul, and overtake it; Yea, let him tread my life down to the earth, And lay my glory in the dust. Selah.
7:6 Arise, O Jehovah, in thine anger; Lift up thyself against the rage of mine adversaries, And awake for me; thou hast commanded judgment.
7:7 And let the congregation of the peoples compass thee about; And over them return thou on high.
7:8 Jehovah ministereth judgment to the peoples: Judge me, O Jehovah, according to my righteousness, and to mine integrity that is in me.
7:9 O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish thou the righteous: For the righteous God trieth the minds and hearts.
7:10 My shield is with God, Who saveth the upright in heart.
7:11 God is a righteous judge, Yea, a God that hath indignation every day.
7:12 If a man turn not, he will whet his sword; He hath bent his bow, and made it ready.
7:13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; He maketh his arrows fiery shafts.
7:14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity; Yea, he hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
7:15 He hath made a pit, and digged it, And is fallen into the ditch which he made.
7:16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, And his violence shall come down upon his own pate.
7:17 I will give thanks unto Jehovah according to his righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of Jehovah Most High.”
King David avows His Innocency of False Charges made against Him
In the first five verses David presents his case before God and asks for vindication. According to the superscription of this Psalm, Cush, a Benjamite, had been falsely accusing David of something of which he was not guilty. The king realized the dangerous position in which he had been placed by the circulation of lies against him and understood that only God could solve the problem for him. He therefore in faith, doubting nothing, committed his case to Him and declared that he had taken refuge in the Almighty. Having committed his case to the Lord, David prayed to Him to save him from those who were pursuing him and to deliver him. There evidently were others who were conspiring with Cush to accomplish the downfall of David.
David's experience reminds us of similar ones that constantly come into the life of everyone who is a faithful, true Christian. Oftentimes people like Cush, this Benjamite, through jealousy and envy start circulating lies and false reports concerning a true and faithful servant of the Lord. Whenever anyone is the object of vicious jealousy, diabolic envy, and the fiery darts of false reports and misrepresentation, such an one as is being thus attacked should take refuge in the Lord with the perfect assurance that God will solve the problem.
In Psalm 31:19,20 is voiced the hope that each faithful child of God may entertain:
Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that take refuge in thee, before the sons of men! In the covert of thy presence wilt thou hide them from the plottings of man: thou wilt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.”
God has laid up in store with Himself great lovingkindnesses for those who are true worshipers of His, and who in an open and bold manner take refuge in Him before the children of men. The Lord will always cover them by His presence against the plotting of men and will bring complete deliverance at the proper time.
David protested his innocency in Psalm 7:3-5 by stating that, if he were guilty of the things of which he was accused, he wanted the Lord to deal with him accordingly. He was willing to be pursued and persecuted by his worst enemies if he was guilty of the accusation hurled at him. Instead of being guilty, he declared that he had acted exactly opposite to the way in which he had been accused.
Frequently the prophets and the psalmists discussed a local situation in which they were involved or which confronted them. Then they were borne along by the Spirit into the future and saw a situation similar to their own. In other words, oftentimes they were carried forward by the Spirit in vision across the centuries to the end-time, were let down amidst that future environment, and spoke for or to, or identified themselves with, this coming situation. There are numerous examples of this principle appearing throughout the Scriptures. Psalm 7 is no exception to this rule.
The Rapture of the Church of God and its Deliverance from the World
“Arise, O Jehovah, in thine anger; lift up thyself against the rage of mine adversaries, and awake for me; thou hast commanded judgment. And let the congregation of the peoples compass thee about; and over them return thou on high” (Psalm 7:6,7).
In verse 6 Jehovah is addressed by the psalmist and is requested to arise in anger and to lift up Himself against the rage of David's enemies. An interesting study is to be found in the investigation of the petition for Jehovah to arise. In a number of the contexts in which a similar petition appears, an examination of the facts will show that this prayer is offered by downtrodden and persecuted Israel in the latter part of the Tribulation. For example see Psalm 10:12. In Psalm 12:5 is another situation somewhat similar to this case. An examination of its context shows that it is again the persecuted remnant of Israel, praying to God and being assured that deliverance will come. Again in Psalm 17:13 we see the remnant of Israel praying similarly but in Psalm 82:8 we have the petition, “Arise, 0 God, judge the earth for thou shalt inherit all the nations.” The one who is here addressed as God is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who accepted the invitation of God the Father, after He was rejected by the Jews, to ascend to the right hand of the Almighty and to sit there during the time of His rejection. This passage envisages a time when the people of God upon the earth, being hard pressed, will plead for Christ to arise from His seat in glory to come back, and to judge the world as He will do according to Matthew 25:31-46. He is asked to do this because He is the rightful heir to the nations of the world, over whom He will reign according to Psalm 2:7-9.
David in Psalm 7:6,7 was carried forward, as we shall presently see, in vision by the Spirit of God to the time of the Rapture. He identified himself with the suffering servants of God and prayed for Jehovah the Son to arise from His seat at the right hand of the Father and to bring deliverance to His oppressed saints. That this is the correct interpretation of this passage becomes evident by a closer study of verse 7: “And let the congregation of the peoples compass thee about: and over them return thou on high.” Here is mentioned the congregation of the peoples. The psalmist sees a congregation, an assembly, a host of people. They are called the congregation of the peoples, that is, of the nations of earth. Here is seen therefore a great congregation made up of peoples of every race, tribe, tongue and language. When we read this passage in the light of New Testament revelation, we see that God is, during the Christian Dispensation, gathering out from all nations a people for His name. This is asserted in Acts 15:13-18:
...Brethren hearken unto me; Symeon hath rehearsed how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After these things I will return, and I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from of old.”
According to this petition the psalmist sees that this congregation of the peoples will be persecuted and oppressed by the rage and fury of their adversaries. Jesus taught that the world would hate His people. There are indications in the Scriptures that point to the thought that the people of God will be hated, despised, and persecuted the more as we approach the time of the Rapture. The inspired psalmist in this petition, verses 6 and 7, prays for Jehovah, the Son, to allow this congregation of the peoples to compass Him about. When they shall have done that, he prays that the Lord will return over them on high.
When this prayer and prophecy is studied in the light of the New Testament revelation, the student of prophecy cannot avoid the conclusion that the psalmist was given a vision of the Church in the end of the age and of its being persecuted by adversaries. Then prayer is made for the Lord Jesus to arise from His position at the right hand of God and to descend to the air for the purpose of gathering all His saints round about Him and to take them to glory. This prophecy is in perfect accord with the teaching of I Thessalonians 1:9,10 which reads as follows:
For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come.”
It is also in perfect alignment with I Thessalonians 4:13-5:12. In these two passages the facts of each context show that these are prophecies concerning the Lord's arising from His position at the right hand of the Throne of God, of His coming in the air, of His raising the dead in Christ, of His catching up all the living saints and changing their bodies from corruptible to incorruptible, and His returning on high with them. When Psalm 7:6, 7 is compared with the unquestioned passages in the Thessalonian letters, it becomes apparent that the psalmist David saw a vision of the persecuted Church and its praying the Lord to rapture it out of the earth.
The Tribulation Period
In verses 8-13 the psalmist, in vision, is carried forward a little farther by the Spirit of God into the Tribulation proper and is let down in the midst of that environment, Then he makes a statement of what he sees: “Jehovah ministereth judgment to the peoples: Judge me, 0 Jehovah, according to my righteousness, and to mine integrity that is in me ... He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; He maketh his arrows fiery shafts.” The psalmist in these verses identifies himself with the people of God, who will be here upon the earth in the Tribulation. They, too, will be persecuted by the enemies of God and of righteousness. The psalmist sees the Lord ministering judgment to the peoples of earth, that is, he sees Him bringing one judgment after another upon the people of the world in order to break their stubborn wills and in order to purge the world of sin. These strokes of judgment prepare those who want the truth to see it and to accept it. When we note in this prophecy that Jehovah is ministering judgment to the peoples, and study this passage in the light of Revelation, chapters 6 to 19, we see that what John narrates in detail is exactly what the psalmist sees and speaks of in these verses in a sentence or two.
All truth lovers who will be living in the Tribulation and who will turn to God will express their faith in Him and in Christ's coming to their deliverance. Thus they will speak, saying, “My shield is with God, Who saveth the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, Yea, a God that hath indignation every day.” Jehovah will be righteous in all that He does in sending His judgments of the Tribulation upon the world. According to verse 11 God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is a righteous judge who has indignation every day — every day of the Tribulation. The more the injustices and the unrighteous acts of the enemies of God in the Tribulation rise to a new height, the more intense will God's indignation become.
Finally at the end of the Tribulation He will, figuratively speaking, seize His sword and whet it, and taking His arrows, will enter the field of battle. This passage, Psalm 7:12, 13, is based upon the fundamental passage found in Deuteronomy 32:39-43.
The Overthrow of the Antichrist, the Last World Ruler
In verses 14 to 16 we have a picture of the outstanding persecutor of the people of God, namely the antichrist. He is indeed and in truth the man of sin, the son of perdition. He is preeminently the man of sin — deception, persecution, wickedness in the extreme sense of the term. There is nothing that is too diabolical and sinister for him to do. But the psalmist in vision sees him overthrown and falling into the very pit which he digs for others. His diabolical plans and purposes will come back like a boomerang upon himself. He will go down in utter defeat — at the second coming of our Lord.
The Rejoicing of the Righteous
“I will give thanks unto Jehovah according to his righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of Jehovah Most High” (Psalm 7:17).
The psalmist becomes the spokesman for the tribulation saints, both Jews and Gentiles, who accept the salvation of God during the Tribulation. They will come off from the beast victorious in their opposition to him and will give thanks unto Jehovah according to His righteousness and will praise the name of God Most High.
In this hasty glance at psalm 7 we see three distinct pictures or stages of the development of this prediction. First, we see David when he was persecuted by an inveterate enemy, Cush the Benjamite. This picture, found in verses 1 to 5 blends into another one — of the Church or Congregation of the peoples, which is gathered from among all nations. This group of people will be persecuted and will be brought to the point that they pray very earnestly for the Lord Jesus to arise from His seat at the right hand of the Throne of God, to come and gather them out from all over the world, and to take them home to glory. This picture in verses 6 and 7 is blended with another of the tribulation saints, both Jews and Gentiles, who will be persecuted by the antichrist and they, too, will pray for deliverance just as David did and just as the Church will do at the time of the rapture.
The Rapture in Isaiah 25:8
The passage which is of paramount importance in the study of the Rapture of the Saints, and which is generally misunderstood, is Isaiah 25:8. I shall give it in its setting:
And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. 7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)
That this passage is a prediction of the Rapture of the Saints is proved by Paul's use of Isaiah 25:8 in I Corinthians 15:50-58:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 0 death, where is thy victory? 0 death, where is thy sting? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: 57 But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
We are admonished by the axiom, “A text apart from its context is a pretext,” to study both of these passages in the light of the facts of the contexts. As I repeatedly say, we must never take a passage, apart from its context, and attempt to interpret it, for, if we do, we are most apt to misunderstand what is taught.
An Examination of the Context of Isaiah 25:8
Isaiah, chapters 24-27, constitute one literary unit. By Bible scholars it is usually known as the “Little Apocalypse” of Isaiah — a passage which deals with the world situation of the end time. This fact is generally admitted by prophetic students.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. 22 And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall they be visited. 23 Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for Jehovah of hosts will reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem; and before his elders shall be glory.”
0 Jehovah, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, even counsels of old, in faithfulness and truth. 2 For thou hast made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin, a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. 3 Therefore shall a strong people glorify thee; a city of terrible nations shall fear thee. 4 For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is a storm against the wall. 5 As the heat in a dry place wilt thou bring down the noise of strangers; as the heat by the shade of a cloud, the song of the terrible ones shall be brought low. 6 And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. 7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.”
Isaiah 24:1-20 is a prediction concerning the bursting of God's wrath upon the world, which will devastate the earth during the Tribulation. Verses 21-23 constitute a prediction foretelling the incarceration of Satan and his hosts together with the kings of the earth in the pit of the abyss, where they will be held for many days. When they are thus removed from the sphere where they can influence men and women, and when the curse from the earth is lifted by the Lord Jesus Christ, then He, the King of Israel, will mount the Throne of Glory in Jerusalem and will reign there for a thousand years. All these thoughts are inherent in the passage found in the paragraph Isaiah 24:21-23.
Isaiah 25:1-5 is a song, a hymn of praise that will be sung in adoration to the Lord for His overthrowing of the civilization of the world as is set forth in 24:1-20. In the Tribulation all the cities of the world, together with all the works of men will be completely destroyed. A vivid and a graphic picture of a similar scene is found in Jeremiah 4:23-26. Here we learn that all the cities of the world will be broken down at the presence of Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this prediction Jeremiah in a few words foretells what Isaiah pictured in chapter 24:1-20. Some students have thought that Jeremiah in this passage was simply speaking of the destruction of the cities of Palestine. But when his statement is studied in the light of related passages, it is seen that Jeremiah's vision included all the world.
In speaking of these same events the prophet Isaiah, in this hymn which we are studying (Isaiah 25:1-5), discusses the very thing which Jeremiah foretold: “For thou hast made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin, a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built” (Isaiah 25:2). This language should be noted very carefully. We are told in this prediction that God is the one who makes of a city a heap. Concerning the fortified cities, the prophet declares that they will be turned into ruins. There is a difference between a city and a fortified city. One is spoken of in terms of modern military phraseology, an open city, whereas the fortified city is one that is fortified against attack. All the cities, both the open and the fortified, will be completely demolished. Moreover we have the prediction that God will make “a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.” In this statement, the prophet is looking at and speaking of the city of the world, the model one, which is here compared to a palace. It will be built upon the most elaborate scale possible and will be the capital of the world. Hence it is called a palace of strangers, but it is to be completely destroyed so that it will never be built again. When we remember that Isaiah in this section of his book is talking of the judgments of God upon the entire world, and when we study the prophecies which pertain to Babylon (Isaiah chapters 13 and 14; Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51; Revelation chapter 18), we come to the conclusion that this “palace of strangers” is none other than Babylon, the ideal model city of the future. That Babylon will be rebuilt and will be standing in the time of the Great Tribulation and destroyed at the end of it is clear from the prophecies referred to immediately above.
In this song, Isaiah 25:1-5, there is jubilant rejoicing over the fact that the entire civilization of the world is destroyed, and that God is taking a hand in human affairs.
Let us, as we continue studying this passage, always bear in mind that this hymn, Isaiah 25:1-5, was inserted by the prophet in the midst of this prediction to celebrate the overthrow of the civilization which man has built up. When we recognize that these verses are a hymn, we see the verse 6 of chapter 25 in thought follows immediately verse 23 of chapter 24. A glance at verse 23 of chapter 24 shows that Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, “will reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His elders there will be glory.”
In 25:6 we see this prediction, “And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto the peoples a feast of fat things.” “In what mountain?” is the question. When we remember that verse 6 takes up the thread of thought dropped in chapter 24:23, we see that the mountain of which He is speaking is none other than Mount Zion, Jerusalem, where the Lord Jesus Christ will reign for a thousand years on His return to this earth.
In verse 6 we are told that the Lord will make unto the peoples, the nations of the world, those that survive the tribulation, “a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.”
In this connection the question which immediately arises is this, “Is this language to be thought of or interpreted literally or figuratively?” God said in the very beginning when He drove man out of the Garden of Eden that in the sweat of his face he should eat bread all the days of his life. God has always required man, for his good, to toil for his sustenance — except in emergencies as in the case of the Lord's providing manna for Israel in the wilderness. When the Lord Jesus Christ was here upon earth, only twice did He miraculously provide food for the people. Those two occasions were cases of emergency; all other times God and Christ required that men should labor with their own hands to provide food and sustenance for themselves and those dependent upon them. Even in the Millennium men will labor for their food. See Isaiah 65:17-25. To dole out food to the masses is what some of the ambitious conniving politicians in Rome did in their efforts to gain power and to retain it as Emperors of the old Roman world. Such a practice was detrimental to the people, and demoralizing. It therefore stands to reason that this is not a literal feast of which the prophet is speaking. Obviously he is speaking of spiritual things in terms of a banquet.
This conclusion is confirmed by the facts foretold in verse 7 which are: “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” There is a covering that blinds the eyes of peoples. This is set forth in II Corinthians 4:3,4: “And even if our gospel be hid or is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.”
Continuing the prophecy, Isaiah declared in verse 8 of chapter 25: “He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of His people will He take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.” What is meant by this statement, “He hath swallowed up death for ever ...”? When was death swallowed up? or when will it be? Quite obviously this statement is a reference to what was accomplished on the cross. As proof of this fact let us note the Apostle Paul's statement in Hebrews 2:14. “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” At the cross our Lord conquered Satan and the forces of evil and swallowed up death; that is, He gave death a mortal blow. In the victory won at Calvary by our Lord, death was potentially swallowed up. The results of our Lord's conquests will be put into practical effect at the end of the Tribulation and at the beginning of the Millennium when death will be swallowed up of life. Satan, who still has the power of death (according to Hebrews 2:14, marginal reading A.S.V.), will be incarcerated in the pit of the abyss. He will no longer be the administrator of death. When Christ mounts His Throne, there will be no more deaths after that — with one exception, which is found in Isaiah, chapter 65:20: “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed.” Only those people who are born during the millennial reign of our Lord, and who refuse absolutely to accept His atoning work on the cross — upon reaching their one hundredth birthday and still being sinners — will be cut off from the land of the living. They, of course, are the exception. The general rule in the Millennium will be that all people with this one exception will accept Christ and will be regenerated, saved, and will live for ever and ever. Over them death will not have any power whatsoever. Thus at our Lord's return He will put into effect that which was accomplished on the cross. It is because of this fact that Isaiah in chapter 25:8 says that God has swallowed up death in victory.
According to this verse sorrow and sighing and all tears will be a thing of the past. At that time, at the beginning of the Millennium, God takes away the reproach of His people, the Jewish people, from off the face of the earth. The guarantee that these things will be accomplished at that time is this: “For Jehovah hath spoken it.”
What Isaiah says about the swallowing up of death at the time of Christ's beginning His reign upon the earth is in perfect accord with what our Lord said in the Olivet Discourse:
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)
From these verses it is clear that at the end of the Tribulation Christ will come in glory and power. When He does, He will send forth His angels with might and power, and they will gather from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other, all of His people. Who are these people that will be gathered in a moment of time? There is but one possible answer which is that they are the Tribulation saints — those who turn to the Lord during the Tribulation, and who survive the ordeals of the judgments of the Tribulation — to the very end when Christ returns. Then these regenerated saints living at the moment when Christ comes to the earth will be raptured. From the 20th chapter of Revelation we know that the saints who die during the Tribulation will be raised at the revelation of Christ and will reign with Christ (Revelation 20:1-5). In view of all these facts, and many others that could be marshalled, it becomes exceedingly clear that Isaiah 25:8 is a prophecy of the Rapture of the living Tribulation saints at the second coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation and the Resurrection of the Tribulation saints that are slain during that period.
The Apostle Paul's use of Isaiah 25:8
In I Corinthians 15:50-58 Paul speaks of the catching away of the saints at the time of the Rapture of the Church as a fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8. Listen to what he says: “But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is thy victory? 0 death, where is thy sting?” (I Corinthians 15:54,55). Here the inspired Apostle Paul said that the Rapture of the church saints is what Isaiah was talking about in chapter 25:8. Since the Apostle quoted Isaiah 25:8 as being fulfilled in the Rapture of the saints, many earnest Bible students, recognizing the fact that Isaiah 25:8 is talking about the events that occur at the end of the Tribulation, conclude that the Rapture of the church takes place at that time and not before, as has been understood by many godly Bible students. They are, therefore, of the profound conviction that Paul places the Rapture of the Church of God at the end of the Tribulation. Does he actually do this? Let us bear in mind that the Rapture of the tribulation saints who survive the tribulation judgments occurs at the end of the Tribulation. Does Paul say or imply that the church saints are raptured at the end of the Tribulation? What are the facts in the case?
By all prophetic students the law of double reference, or double or manifold fulfillment of prophecy, is recognized as a fundamental basic principle of interpretation. There may be a number of application or fulfillments of a prophecy, but they are limited, incomplete and partial. There can be but one complete fulfillment of any prophecy. As an illustration of this principle, note what is said in Joel 2:28-32 concerning God's pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh and the like, together with a total blackout. On the day of Pentecost Peter quoted this very passage and said to his audience, “This is that which was spoken by Joel the Prophet ...” Peter said that which they were seeing and hearing on that occasion was mentioned in Joel's prophecy. But he did not say that everything that was in the prophecy was fulfilled on that day. To illustrate, I may say that all people who live in Los Angeles live in California. Anyone will admit that this statement is true. I cannot change the proposition and say that all people who live in California live in Los Angeles. This is not true. Peter was very exact and said that which they saw was that which was mentioned by the prophet. Thus the occurrences on the day of Pentecost were only a partial, limited, incomplete fulfillment of the prediction, the prophecy of Joel in his prediction. What Herod and Pilate and a minority of the Sanhedrin did against Jesus was, as interpreted by the Apostles (Acts 4:23-28), a partial and incomplete fulfillment of Psalm 2. This prediction awaits its complete fulfillment in the future.
Paul knew how to interpret the Scriptures. He knew that there would be a partial fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah 25:8 in the Rapture of the church before the Tribulation takes place. The prophecy will find its full and complete fulfillment at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord Jesus comes back to the earth and binds Satan, swallows up death, and establishes His reign of righteousness. When Paul therefore applied Isaiah 25:8 to the Rapture of the church before the Tribulation, he implied that that event will be a limited, partial, incomplete fulfillment of this prophecy, and that it will be completely fulfilled at the end of the Tribulation. This interpretation is the only one that will accord with all the facts stated in related passages.
The Rapture of the Saints as presented by Isaiah
Isaiah, chapters 56 and 57, constitutes a literary unit, a single sermon. In order to see any of the verses in their proper setting, a person should read both chapters at one sitting.
The verses which deal with the subject of the rapture are Isaiah 57:1,2:
The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away,
none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He entereth into peace;
they rest in their beds, each one that walketh in his uprightness.”
It is clear from the reading of these verses that the prophet was talking about a time when the righteous people of the world are perishing. This prophecy doubtless is a reference to the dying off and the passing away of the godly from this life. The prophet follows this prediction by telling us that merciful men are taken away. When this event occurs, there will be no one who understands God's gracious plan and purposes in removing the righteous from the earth. Isaiah, however, explains that these righteous ones are gathered and taken away from the evil to come, from some great impending devastating calamity.
In order, then, to see what the prophet had in mind, a person must look at the facts of the context.
An Examination of the Setting of the Passage
The prophet begins his discourse with the following commands (Isaiah 56:1,2):
Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for my salvation is yet to come, and my righteousness is to be revealed.
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that holdeth it fast; that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it,
and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.”
It is quite evident that the prophet saw the time when God's salvation is at hand and His righteousness is about to be revealed to the world. When this language is studied in the light of such passages as Isaiah 40:3-5, it is clear that he was speaking of the second coming of Christ, when “the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
In view of this fact it is quite evident that Isaiah was carried forward in vision by the Spirit of God across the centuries to the end of this age, when the glory of God shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. Certain promises are held out to the foreigners and to the eunuchs who are faithful and true to God and to their conscientious convictions. To them the promise is made that they shall have a place in the house of God which will be called “a house of prayer for all peoples.” The prophet in his vision was standing in the early glow of the dawning of that great era of peace and of righteousness when the glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The following paragraph, verses 9-12, is a scathing condemnation of the irresponsible leaders of Israel, both political and religious, of the end time. According to Isaiah's prediction they will be seeking their own pleasure and satisfaction and not taking the duties and the responsibilities of their offices seriously. They, of course, come in for a scathing rebuke by the prophet.
In this same paragraph Israel is pictured as a flock of sheep in their own land. Their shepherds and watchmen, officials, not being interested in the people at large, but only concerned with carnal, fleshly pleasures, pay no attention to the welfare of the people in general. Thus the prophet calls to the nations of the world, that are here presented symbolically as beasts, to leap upon the defenseless flock of Israel and to destroy it.
At the time when these things are transpiring, the prophet utters the prediction which is under consideration, and which deals with the snatching away of the people of God from the earth.
Following this prediction is an address by the prophet to certain ones to whom he speaks: “But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the harlot” (Isaiah 57:3). This language is very peculiar. Certain ones are spoken of as being the offspring, the progeny, of “the sorceress” and of their being “the seed of the adulterer and the harlot.” According to this verse there is something or someone who is called the adulterer and another who is called the harlot. This harlot is called the sorceress. When this verse is studied in the light of the unveiling found in the Book of Revelation, chapter 17, concerning “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH,” it becomes clear that Isaiah was speaking of this same religious system of the end time. In Revelation, chapter 17, John the apostle saw the scarlet-colored beast, the symbol of the world political organization of the end time. Riding upon this beast is a woman upon whose forehead is “a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and of the abomination of the earth” (Revelation 17:5). A pure chaste virgin is the symbol of the true Church of Jesus Christ. A wicked harlot, an adulteress, is the symbol of the false religious system of that time. We have every reason to believe that this woman who rides upon the symbolic beast is the great religious octopus that extends its tentacles out to the ends of the earth, embraces all nations, and brings under its control all phases of the religious life of that day and time. She is the mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth. She will be the mistress of all the various cults, philosophies, and theosophies of that day.
That this conclusion is correct is seen by an examination of the verses that follow, Isaiah 57:4-8, which speak of the rapid rise, the unhindered spread, and the temporary triumph of idolatry. According to several predictions there will be a resurgence of idolatry in the very end of the age.
Finally, according to Isaiah 57:9,10, all idolatry and religious sects and organizations will be suppressed. Then will be substituted in their place the worship and the adoration of the king, who can be none other than the antichrist. As we learn from related passages, this one will oppose all that is called God or that is worshipped as God, will sit in the Temple of God, that will be rebuilt at Jerusalem, and will set himself up before the world as God. His dictatorial usurpation of authority in all realms of life and activity is set forth in verses 9 and 10:
And thou wentest to the king with oil, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy ambassadors far off, and didst debase thyself even unto Sheol. Thou wast wearied with the length of thy way; yet saidst thou not, It is in vain: thou didst find a quickening of thy strength; therefore thou wast not faint.”
In the middle of the Tribulation the king assumes dictatorial powers over every phase of life throughout the world. When we examine the Book of Revelation, we find that Idolatry will spread all over the world in the beginning of the Tribulation, but in the middle of it the antichrist will become so very egotistical and spiritually blind that he will think that he is God and will demand the service and adoration of all men.
But we know, from other passages which speak of the same times, that there will be a mighty revival that will break out and that, like a prairie fire, will envelop the globe and bring hundreds of millions of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Following this prophecy concerning the temporary triumph of Idolatry in its different phases is a paragraph addressed to the honest, conscientious, sincere souls in Israel who will be searching for the truth (Isaiah 57:11-13).
The next item in this unfolding drama of the end time is a command that the Lord gives to those who are able to carry out His instructions: “Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people” (verse 14). When this language is studied in the light of the fuller statement found in Isaiah 62:10-12, it becomes apparent that God wants his people, who now have the message of grace and comfort, to give it to His Chosen People, Israel. By so doing, they who carry out this command will be casting the stones out of the path of Israel so that the remnant can come to the Redeemer and be saved.
Thus the message closes with the following words in Isaiah 57:18-21:
I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near, saith Jehovah; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
To all Israel who turn to the Lord, He will bring healing and comfort — yes, to all who are real mourners because of their sins. But to the wicked there will be no peace. They will be like the troubled sea.
The Rapture of the Church
We have gone through Isaiah's entire sermon, noting the time elements of its setting and have found that it deals with the end time, prior to and during the Tribulation. The judgments of that period of wrath will be threatening to fall upon an unrepentant world.
With the scene of the end time before the prophet's mind, he declared, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He entereth into peace; they rest in their beds, each one that walketh in his uprightness” (Isaiah 57:1, 2). The first statement of this prediction is that the righteous are perishing. The word righteous, though used in the singular number, stands for the entire class of righteous people the world over. Doubtless this sentence refers to the dying of those who have been made righteous by accepting and clothing themselves with the righteousness of God in Christ. When the Son of Man returns, as is foretold in Luke 18, shall He find faith upon the earth? By this rhetorical question Christ meant to imply that there will be very little faith, comparatively speaking, upon the earth when the Lord returns; moreover, the prophet stated that no one will be laying that situation to heart; in other words, the people of the world will not become alarmed when they see that the number of outstanding Christian people is being constantly decreased daily by death. Following this statement, Isaiah declared, “and merciful men are taken away.” The word loving kindness in the Old Testament is the term which corresponds to the New Testament word grace. We could just as appropriately render this expression, “men of grace are taken away.” It cannot possibly refer to men who are gracious and kind, and who, on account of that characteristic, are taken away. When this passage and its expression are read in the light of the teaching of both the Old and New Testaments, it becomes evident that they refer to men who have accepted God's grace and love. We may be certain that Isaiah was speaking about the people who by faith have accepted the gospel of the grace of God, and salvation through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah tells us that these men, saved by grace, are taken away. The word rendered taken away means primarily to gather or to remove. The form of the verb appearing in this text is in the passive voice and means either that they are gathered together or that they are removed or taken away. This form of the verb frequently occurs in the Old Testament and is often applied to the death of some one who is said to “have been gathered to his fathers.” In our passage Isaiah speaks of these men of grace and of their being taken away from the evil to come.
What is meant by the term evil? This word may refer to moral evil or it may be used in the literal sense of judgments and calamities, wars, pestilences, earthquakes, and the like are called evil — things that plague the human family.
Isaiah sees these men of grace removed from the evil of the Tribulation. The translators of the American Standard Version have added the infinitive to come to the noun evil. From the facts of the context it is quite evident that they were correct in inserting this added phrase.
The prophets constantly spoke of a time of wrath when God will pour out His judgments upon the world. These evils will be of various kinds. God in His wrath must send this punishment upon the world. He did it once by sending the Flood upon the antediluvians. It was an expression of His anger at sin, unrighteousness, and wickedness. In the Prophets, and in the Book of Revelation especially, do we learn about this period of wrath, of judgment, and of evil to come, which will continue for seven long years. By this wrath the wicked ones who refuse stubbornly to accept the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ will be liquidated. Israel will be brought to his senses and will repudiate the national sin of rejecting Christ. Countless hundreds of people, when this wrath is upon the world, will see their need of the Savior, will turn to Him, and be gloriously and eternally saved.
When we take all the facts of the passage into consideration, it becomes quite evident that Isaiah saw the rapture of the Church of God which occurs before the day of Jehovah, before the Tribulation begins.
The Rapture according to Joel 2
A Possible hint of the rapture of the Church saints before the Tribulation appears in the following passage (Joel 2:32):
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered;
for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah doth call.”
This verse must be studied in the light of its immediate context in order that it might be properly evaluated. All Bible students realize the importance of this rule of logic, for a text apart from its context is simply a pretext. I shall therefore present it in its proper setting.
Fear not, 0 land, be glad and rejoice; for Jehovah hath done great things. 22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth its fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in Jehovah your God; for he giveth you the former rain in just measure, and he causeth to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first month. 24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. 25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the canker-worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer-worm, my great army which I sent among you. 26 And ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and shall praise the name of Jehovah your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame. 27 And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am Jehovah your God, and there is none else; and my people shall never be put to shame. 28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. But your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit 30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call.”
I wish that my readers would compare this quotation from Joel, chapter 2:21-32, with the same passage in the American Standard Version in the 1901 edition — since I have rearranged one verse.
In the 1901 edition, a new paragraph begins with verse 28; but, in the quotation above, I have taken the first part of verse 28 and have made it the last part of the paragraph consisting of verses
21-28. Moreover I have started a new paragraph with the Hebrew word which may be translated either “and” or “but.” A new thought, and something very definite, is begun in
the statement “and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” A careful perusal of verses 21-27 shows that the lifting of the curse from the ground and the restoration of Edenic
conditions to the world are the things discussed. Moreover we see in verse 27 that Jehovah will at that time dwell in Jerusalem as the King of the Jews.
Let us briefly look at verse 28. The first statement, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,” refers to a converted world, the world of the millennial age. But with 28b — “and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions ...” — a new subject is introduced, a promise connected indissolubly with the rest of the chapter. Hence this statement is the introduction to the following prophecy.
Someone who does not understand the technique of translating and editing said translation, however, might think that, by doing as I have done, I have tampered with the Word of God. But I have not. All the punctuation, and the paragraphing of the American Standard Version, 1901 edition, were done by the men who translated the Scriptures, and who edited their translation. There was no paragraphing of the original text; neither was there any punctuation. These aids are modem devices that enable us to express ourselves in writing more clearly and accurately than the ancients were able to do. From my analysis of the two paragraphs, I am convinced that I am correct in changing the place where the paragraph starts.
Having called attention to these facts, we are now ready to start an investigation of the development of the thought in the part of Scriptures now before us for consideration. These two paragraphs have to be taken together because they are vitally connected, the one with the other. This fact becomes obvious immediately when we study carefully verse 28a: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” Here we are told that God will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh after a certain event has occurred. “After what event?” one asks. We must study verses 21-28a in order to see and understand everything that is implied and included in the adverb afterward.
The Lifting of the Curse and Establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth
In verse 21, the land of Palestine is addressed as if it were a person and is admonished to fear not, but to rejoice. The occasion for its rejoicing is that “Jehovah hath done great things.” If the oracle stopped there, we would not know the things to which he refers. We would, however, gather from that statement that he is talking about some mighty, marvelous, stupendous works of God, which would be the occasion of rejoicing for the land of Palestine. But, when we read verses 23-25, we learn some of the things concerning which the prophet is speaking.
In verse 22 the prophet speaks to the beasts of the field as though they were intelligent and could understand his message. Hence he says, “Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth its fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength.” In this address to the animals, the prophet simply is announcing for our benefit what God will have done at that time, namely, that He will have lifted the curse from the earth. Here the prophet sees green pastures covering the waste places of the wilderness. The fruit trees are yielding their full strength. Before the fall of man, all vegetation was bringing forth its full strength. Never since the time that sin entered the world and the curse fell has anything yielded its full strength. Here then is implied a prophecy that the curse will be lifted from the earth at the time which the prophet foresaw in vision.
In verse 23, moreover, he tells us that the climatic conditions of the land will be perfect and ideal. The seasons will be in their own time, and there will be the proper amount of rain and moisture to grow and mature the crops. Hence the Jewish people of those days are called upon to rejoice in Jehovah their God, who will be giving them “the former rain in just measure, and he causeth to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first month.” Early rains occur in the fall; the latter in the late spring. Here is a prediction that God will restore the ideal normal rainfall and will send it at its proper time — when it is needed most for the production of the right kind of crops. (I am aware that this passage has been interpreted figuratively and has been understood to refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit. In regard to this position, let me say that we are never to interpret a passage figuratively unless the factors of the context indicate such a meaning — a departure from the literal significance of the words. There is nothing in this context to indicate a departure from the literal meaning. We, therefore, cannot afford to force upon this passage a figurative meaning.)
Next, in making this revelation, the prophet promises the Jewish people that God will restore to them the years that the locust, the cankerworm, the caterpillar, and the palmer worm ate. He will also restore that which was devastated by His great army. The army here referred to was probably the Assyrian forces that devastated the country far and wide in the days of Hezekiah.
When God does all of these things, His people will eat in plenty and be satisfied. This fact is shown in verse 26. Moreover they will praise the name of Jehovah their God, who will have dealt with them most wondrously. From that time onward, the Jewish people will never be put to shame. They will be in fellowship with God. All their expectations will be in Him, and He will never disappoint them. In other words, their land will be “Paradise Regained.” It will be a modem Utopia.
Why will it be “Paradise Regained”? That question is answered in verse 27: “And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am Jehovah your God, and there is none else.” According to this promise Jehovah, the God of Israel, will be dwelling in the midst of His people. That the God of Israel in the person of King Messiah will dwell in the midst of His people is asserted by practically all the prophets. For instance, in Zephaniah 3:14-16, we have words to this effect:
Sing, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, 0 daughter of Jerusalem. 15 Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more. 16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; 0 Zion, let not thy hands be slack.”
When we interpret these verses in the light of related passages, we see that what is implied in this passage is the lifting of the curse from the material universe and the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness by King Messiah, who will reign in Mt. Zion.
When Messiah returns at the request of Israel, who will acknowledge the national sin, will repudiate their iniquity, and plead for Him to return, He will do so. Hosea, on one occasion impersonated the Messiah at His first coming, and speaking for Him, said:
For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and there shall be none to deliver. 15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me earnestly.” (Hosea 5:14,15)
When Messiah comes at first, Israel rejects Him. Then like a lion He tears the nation limb from limb, figuratively speaking. The prophet continues his prediction by quoting the Messiah as saying, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face ...” This confession they will make in the time of their affliction, the time of Jacob's trouble — that is the Tribulation period. In Zechariah 12:10 we see the nation of Israel under deepest conviction looking to Him, Jehovah, whom their ancestors pierced, confessing their national sin, and pleading for Him to return and to bring deliverance. The Apostle Peter in his second recorded sermon, found in Acts, chapter 3, called upon the nation of Israel to:
Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: 21 whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets that have been from of old.” (Acts 3:19-21)
When Israel sees the facts and are brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit regarding the national sin, the entire remnant of the nation will at that time plead for Messiah to return and to save them. Thus, as Paul tells us in Romans 11, all Israel at that future time will be saved, because they will turn to their Redeemer, and then He will come to Zion and turn ungodliness away from Jacob (Romans 11:25-27).
When Israel is thus converted, he will evangelize the tattered remnants of the nations that survive the Tribulation and will lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When these Gentiles are converted, the Lord will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in their hearts, for God gives the Holy Spirit to those that obey Him (Acts 5:32). This experience is that which Joel, in 2:28a is talking about and is that which will take place after Messiah has returned, has taken up His abode in Zion, and is reigning over the world. Converted Israel leads all the nations to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and these nations are then filled with the Spirit of God.
First Installment of Conversion of Israel
As stated before, the Hebrew conjunction translated in the American Standard Version, 1901 edition, as “and” means also “but” and is translated in hundreds of instances by this disjunctive conjunction. Moreover when we see and use the word but as introducing the second part of this block of Scripture under consideration, we see that the prophet is talking about something entirely different from what he has been talking about and discussing in the verses already examined. Since the prophet was talking to the Hebrew people, the sons and daughters and old men and young men are Hebrews. To put a different construction upon these words is to do violence to the language of the prophet.
According to verses 28b and 29 there is to be a revival in the ranks of Israel. It will break out in connection with the working of great miracles and wonders in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, for the prophet declares:
And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh.” (Joel 2:30, 31)
According to this prophecy the sun will be darkened and the moon will become as blood. There will be blood and fire and pillars of smoke. When we read in Exodus that Moses turned the waters of Egypt into blood, we believe the account literally. Why not put the same construction on the same words in this prophecy? Especially should we take this prediction literally when we read the Book of Revelation, chapter 16, and see the duplication of the same miracles that will be performed in the Tribulation. Thus, according to 28b-31, there will be a mighty revival in Israel in connection with God's performing mighty wonders in the heavens above and in the earth beneath.
When will this revival occur? Verse 31 gives the desired information. These miracles will be wrought “before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh.” The great and terrible day of Jehovah is none other than the great Tribulation, a period of seven years' duration, during which God is pouring out His judgments upon the world in punishment of its sin and wickedness. Since this revival in Israel breaks out in connection with the supernatural wonders in the heavens above and on the earth beneath and occurs before the Tribulation, the great and terrible day of the Lord, we may be certain that this entire prediction of these unusual events will transpire before the Tribulation. This interpretation is beyond all contradiction.
The Deliverance of the Believers
According to verse 32, “it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call” (Joel 2:32). Since this verse is connected with the mighty movements in the spiritual realm as well as in the physical sphere, all of which occur before the great and terrible day of the Lord, before the Tribulation, it is quite evident that whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord will be delivered — from what? From the dangers which are confronting them, the Judgments of the great and terrible day of Jehovah. Here is therefore a definite promise that the Lord will deliver all who believe before the great and terrible day of the Tribulation begins.
When we read this passage in the light of the teaching of the New Testament, we see that it is in perfect alignment with the doctrine set forth that the Church will be raptured before the wrath of God is poured out upon the world. A passage which clearly teaches this doctrine is I Thessalonians 1:9,10:
For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come.”
In the light of all the facts of this context, we come to the conclusion that all who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ before the Tribulation begins will be delivered — delivered out of this present evil world — by means of the rapture. Praise God for such a wonderful promise as this one.
The Partial Fulfillment of Joel's Prophecy
As we see in Acts, chapter 2, the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost explained to the audience the unusual spiritual phenomena which were in evidence on every hand. The Holy Spirit came upon
the twelve apostles in fulfillment of the promise that Jesus had made to them. When the Spirit came upon them, there was the sound of the rushing of a mighty wind. Then tongues parting asunder
like as of fire sat upon each of the apostles, and they, the apostles, began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The people soon gathered in great excitement and wanted to know what was the cause of all these unusual phenomena. Some in mockery said that the apostles were drunk with new wine. Peter showed that this opinion was untrue and then made a striking declaration: “... but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel ...” (Acts 2:16). Following this statement Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32, which appears in Acts 2:17-21. Peter made this observation, “This is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel.” In other words all that the people saw and heard was mentioned in Joel's prophecy. But Peter did not say that they were experiencing on this occasion all that was mentioned in the prophecy. May I illustrate the case this way? We say that all people who live in Los Angeles live in California. This statement is true. But this proposition is not a convertible declaration. I cannot say that all people who live in California live in Los Angeles. Peter declared to his audience that what they were seeing and hearing was mentioned in the prophecy, but he did not say that all which was in the prophecy was being fulfilled on that occasion.
Thus we see that the events on the day of Pentecost were only a partial, limited, incomplete fulfillment of the prediction. We may be certain that, since God carries out every utterance that He makes, He will at the proper time fulfill this prophecy exactly as it is written. According to the original prophecy, when will this prediction be completely fulfilled? The answer is, “Before the day of the Lord come, that great and notable day.”
As an illustration of another partial, incomplete fulfillment of prophecy, note that in Acts 4:25, 26 we have the first part of Psalm 2 quoted. When we look at the original text of the Psalm, we see that it foretells an international, atheistic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, politico-religious convention — a world convention of atheists, anti-Semites, and anti-Christian people. Nevertheless the apostle, guided by the Spirit, used that passage and applied it to what was done by Herod, Pontius Pilate, and a minority of the Jewish leaders. Thus there was a partial, incomplete fulfillment of Psalm 2:1-3 in the case of the action taken by Herod and Pilate and the Jewish minority against Christ. They did not take any action against God, as the psalmist foretold. The prophecy was only partially fulfilled. It therefore awaits its complete fulfillment.
In our study of fulfilled prophecy, we must look carefully at all the elements of a given context, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, and interpret the prediction according to the facts of both contexts.
Joel's prophecy will be completely fulfilled both as to the spiritual revival in Israel and as to the blackout with accompanying wonders in the material realm before the great and terrible day of the Lord come — before the Tribulation — as stated by the prophet.
The Rapture in the Prophecy of Zephaniah
This issue our study of the rapture of the saints is based upon an investigation of a statement by Zephaniah, the prophet, who lived in Judah, during the declining days of the kingdom — more specifically, in the days of Josiah. We cannot be dogmatic in asserting that Habakkuk and Zephaniah lived at the same time. It is true that they engaged in their special ministry to Judah.
Visual aid is one of the modem methods of teaching truth. If I can see a picture of some scene or a drawing of some mechanism, showing the relation of the various parts, I receive a clearer idea of the material presented than I can if the subject in question is described in words only. All builders have a blue-print and plans and specifications drawn up by the architect for their guidance. In Zephaniah 1:14 through 2:3 we have a blueprint of the closing scenes of this present age. In order that the reader may see things clearly and have the facts in mind, I shall quote this passage.
The great day of Jehovah is near, it is near and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of Jehovah; the mighty man crieth there bitterly. 15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 A day of the trumpet and alarm, against the fortified cities, and against the high battlements. 17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men because they have sinned against Jehovah; and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he will make an end, yea, a terrible end, of all them that dwell in the land.”
Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, 0 nation that hath no shame; 2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah's anger come upon you. 3 Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger.”
This oracle naturally falls into two divisions: first the graphic, vivid, description of the day of Jehovah, the Tribulation (1:14-18); the second, a special call to Israel to gather together into their own land before the day of Jehovah begins, before the Tribulation starts (2:1-3). The natural break in thought of this passage is reflected by the chapter division. In this instance the chapter division is put at the proper place, whereas in many instances the chapter division is not placed properly, according to the drift of the thought.
The Great Day of Jehovah a Period of Seven Years of Judgment
Frequently we read in the prophets of the day of Jehovah, which expression always refers to the Tribulation Period. On occasions, the prophet used the stereotyped phrase “in that day” in referring to the day of Jehovah. In a few instances, the expression “the great day of Jehovah” is used. This form of expression is found in Joel 2:31, “the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh.” Malachi also used this same expression. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come” (Malachi 4:5). Zephaniah, the prophet, was carried forward in vision from his day and time across the centuries by the Spirit of God and was brought to a period in the future immediately before the great Tribulation starts (II Peter 1:21; Zephaniah 1:14). Zephaniah therefore said, “the great day of Jehovah is near, it is near and hasteth greatly ...” In the closing scenes of this age there will be an acceleration of the speed of events and a rapid changing of the scenes.
When we compare various statements regarding the day of Jehovah, we learn that it is a period of judgment lasting for seven years. This thought will come out more clearly in our study of the Book of Revelation in connection with certain statements from Daniel's prophecy.
One of the outstanding features of that time is that “the mighty man crieth there bitterly” (Zephaniah 1:14). Men who under ordinary circumstances of life apparently have nerves of steel will break down and will at that time literally weep and cry bitterly. As a rule, by the judgments of the Tribulation men will be brought to their extremity. Then they will throw themselves upon the mercy of God. This truth we learn from related passages.
This Tribulation is characterized as “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm, against the fortified cities, and against the high battlements” (Zephaniah 1:15,16). We must remember what God says concerning His character as stated in Exodus 34:6,7. There God speaks of Himself as one who “will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.” By Moses the Lord declared. “Vengence is mine, and recompense.” This statement is found in Deuteronomy 32:35.
Isaiah foretold the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ in which He engages, when He appears on earth the first time (Isaiah 61:1). At the beginning of His ministry He is anointed “to proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God ...” (Isaiah 61:2). When the Lord Jesus was here, He foretold the Christian Dispensation, which by Isaiah is compared to a year and is designated as “the year of Jehovah's favor.” This period of grace is to be followed by “the day of vengeance of our God.” Thus the period of grace is thought of as a year, whereas that of wrath or vengeance is compared to a day. As we shall see by a further study of the rapture, the period of wrath is one of seven years, during which God pours out His wrath upon the world. Since this day of wrath is compared to a day, and since the period of grace preceding it is compared to a year of Jehovah's favor, we have a logical reason for believing that an approximation of the ratio existing between a year and day likewise obtains between this year of Jehovah's favor, the Christian Dispensation, and the day of vengeance, the Tribulation Period. It is to be noted that the period of grace runs its course and is followed by the day of vengeance, or wrath. Abundant are the statements scattered throughout the Word which speak of this period of judgment and wrath. This day of Jehovah will be a time of special trouble and distress to all people who live upon the earth. Moreover it will be a day of wasteness and desolation. These words are to be taken literally because there is nothing indicating a departure from their ordinary meaning. Thus we may expect the earth to be made waste and desolate during this period of wrath. On this point the reader will do well if he will study carefully Isaiah 24:1-20. Isaiah had a vision of this same day of wrath, when the civilization built up by man will be completely destroyed.
Another characteristic of that time is expressed by these words, “a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” There will be several occasions when there will bea complete black-out of the sun, moon and stars. For instance, this thought is attested by Joel in chapter 2 and verse 31. It is also mentioned by our Lord in Matthew 24:29,30. Another reference to a black-out at this period is found in Revelation 6:12-17. Zephaniah therefore is right in calling this period of wrath a time of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. The first black-out, according to Joel, chapter 2, will occur before the great and terrible day of Jehovah comes — before the Tribulation begins — but this condition will clear up and the sun will shine again normally. Then there will be a second black-out in the latter part of the first quarter of the Tribulation as we shall see in a subsequent article in this series. These various black-outs will last for some time and then will clear up. In no period of the world's history have there been any such things. Hence Zephaniah characterizes this period of wrath as a time of special black-outs, gloominess, clouds, and thick darkness.
This great day of Jehovah is also spoken of as “a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high battlements.” In Israel during ancient times the trumpet was sounded to give the people warning that an enemy was approaching. Hence the words, “trumpet and alarm,” indicate war. When will wars cease? They will continue until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation and stops all conflicts and wars. From a study of the prophetic word, we learn that there are to be four wars during the Tribulation. The first, the third, and the fourth are to be world wars; the second will be a local one, which affects only one fourth of the world's surface. The world wars which we have had, we may believe, were nothing but sham battles in comparison with these three mighty sanguinary wars that will devastate and wreck the civilization of the globe. Who will stop wars? Can the United Nations? Can the good men who are backing the U.N. program, and who are sponsoring the idea of establishing peace in our day — can these good men stop wars? The answer is a most emphatic denial. Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone, can stop wars and establish a period of peace, plenty, and prosperity. According to Zephaniah 1:17 God declares that He “will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against Jehovah; and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung.” According to this statement the period of the Tribulation will be a time of distress for men, that is, upon man in general. They will be stunned, figuratively speaking, by the terrific judgments so that they will stagger like blind men. Many of them will be killed and their blood will be poured out as dust and their flesh as dung.
At that time their money, gold and silver, and their possessions will avail nothing — “in the day of Jehovah's wrath.” The whole land of Israel and of the world will be devoured by the jealousy of God's wrath.
In the Book of Revelation, the great Tribulation, or period of wrath, is described in chapters 6 through 19. The chronological order of events as they will occur during the Tribulation is set forth in chapters 6, 8, 9 and 16. These chapters give us the three series of judgments: Chapter 6, the seal judgments; The seventh seal develops into the seven trumpet judgments; The seventh trumpet likewise develops into the seven bowl judgments. When the bowl judgments will have spent their force on the world, the wrath of God will be finished, will be completed. Since the bowls are symbols of judgments, the finishing of them, together with the preceding trumpets out of which the bowls come, and the seals, out of which the trumpets come, are certainly all symbols of judgments.
The Tribulation will be brought to a close by the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory, who will come as a warrior, Jehovah the Warrior. He will then conquer the world and set up His regime of righteousness.
The Regathering of Israel — a Process, or an Advancement
Too often, students of the prophetic word assume that the regathering of Israel in the end time is simply one event. They see various statements about the regathering of Israel. Since they see that the Jews are returning to their own land now, they jump to the hasty conclusion that the present return of a portion of the nation to the land of their fathers is the fulfillment of those predictions which foretell the return and the restoration to Jehovah's favor to the nation of Israel. This interpretation is an unfortunate one because it is a deduction made from too narrow a study of the prophecies that deal with the regathering of Israel.
That the regathering of Israel is a process, a development, is very clear from Ezekiel 37:1-14. In this chapter we have a record of the vision which God granted to Ezekiel. In it he saw a very dry valley which was covered with bones, exceedingly dry. The Lord asked the prophet if these bones could live. In reply, the prophet said that the Lord knew, implying that he himself did not. Then the Lord instructed him to utter an oracle over these dry bones and to command them to be gathered together, which thing the prophet did. When he did so, the bones (scattered over a vast area) began to move, bone to its bone, moving as if by some magical power. When each bone took its position in its proper relation to other bones, they began to form skeletons. Then skeletons were scattered over the valley. The next thing occurring was that sinews began to appear upon these bones, uniting them. The next step in the process was the appearance of flesh upon the bones. Next, skin appeared, covering the flesh. Thus the valley was covered with lifeless bodies. The final step in the process was the operation of the Spirit of God in breathing life into these lifeless bodies. Then they arose, a mighty army of the Lord. What is the significance of all this vision?
According to verse 11, these bones (explained the Lord), are the whole house of Israel, that say “our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” Thus we see that this vision is a symbolic representation of scattered Israel's being brought back into the land and into right relationship with God and Messiah. Everyone paying casual attention to the prophecy notes that in this regathering and restoration of Israel, there are stages, or that there is a growth, a development of Israel nationally.
The initial stage of the restoration of Israel to the land is set forth in Zephaniah 2:1,2. Note the language:
Gather yourselves together, yea gather together, 0 nation that hath no shame;
Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you,
before the day of Jehovah's anger come upon you.”
It is obvious that the prophet is here addressing the people of Israel. They are the nation that has no shame nor longing. The longing to which he refers is the longing and thirsting for God, the fountain of all life. The present motivating objective of Israel's movement back to Palestine is to build up a national home. It is not primarily, as it should be, to do the will of God. Zephaniah implies that they do not have a hungering and thirsting for God.
Today there are approximately twelve million Jews in the world. According to various reports which I have received, there are approximately 1,700,000 who have returned to the land. In other words, approximately one out of every seven Jews today is in the land of the fathers.
The initial gathering together of Israel is to be “before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah's anger come upon you.” This statement is equivalent to an affirmation — put in the form of a command — that Israel begins to gather back to their own land before the Tribulation starts. The inference is that they are to gather back there immediately before the Tribulation begins, before the decree of Almighty God is set into motion, in the pouring out of His wrath upon the world.
After Israel is restored to the land by this initial regathering, he is to be scattered or driven out again:
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will execute judgment upon them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations: and they have parted my land, 3 And have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.” (Joel 3:1-3)
This prediction is also set forth in such passages as Revelation, chapter 12. The woman mentioned in this prophecy is a symbol of Israel, as is proved by the context. In the middle of the Tribulation the woman flees from the land to a place prepared of God for her and is there protected for 1260 days.
In Deuteronomy 29:22-29 is an unusual and rather enigmatic prophecy regarding Israel's being cast out of the land and of its being overthrown with fire and brimstone, as was Sodom and Gomorrah. Just where to locate this prediction in the unfolding of the plan of the end time is a difficult thing to do. It may refer to the raining down of fire and brimstone upon Palestine when the forces of Russia and the nations behind the iron curtain invade the Holy Land — according to Ezekiel 38:1 — 39:16. The prophet knew that fire and brimstone will rain down upon the land together with other judgments of the Lord at that time. The invasion of the land of Israel by Russia and her satellites occurs before the Tribulation. The prophecy of Deuteronomy, chapter 29, therefore may refer to that event, or it may refer to some other episode in the middle of the Tribulation. It is impossible, for me at least, to locate this prediction. I therefore shall pass it by.
At the very end of the Tribulation Israel will be largely in the Fertile Crescent, in the land extending from Egypt to old Assyria. This prophecy is shown in Isaiah 27:12,13:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will beat off his fruit from the flood of the River unto the brook of Egypt; and ye shall be gathered one by one, 0 ye children of Israel. 13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great trumpet shall be blown; and they shall come that were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and they that were outcast in the land of Egypt; and they shall worship Jehovah in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”
The only fruit that is beaten off by rods is the olive. Thus God thinks of the Jewish people as His olive grove, which will be located in Egypt, Palestine, and Assyria (modern Iraq). God beats off the fruit from His grove and gathers it, “one by one, 0 ye children of Israel.”
Thus at the end of the Tribulation Israel will be largely gathered out of those nations, which are known as the Fertile Crescent and will be brought back into their own land. But from other passages we see that there will be Jews, though small in numbers, scattered all over the world.
The final restoration of Israel at the end of the Tribulation is seen in Isaiah, 49:8-26, a vivid, graphic prophecy of Israel's being regathered at the end of the Tribulation. Still another prophecy is set forth in Isaiah 60:1-22. Once again, in Isaiah 66:15-17 we see the second coming of Christ in glory and power at the end of the Tribulation. Then we see in verses 18-21 the final regathering of the nation into their own land.
The conversion of Israel, or the spiritual regeneration of the nation, occurs at the second coming of Christ, as in indicated by Ezekiel 37:1-14. In our looking at this passage, we have seen that the restoration of Israel to the land and to fellowship with God is a process, or a development. The last item of this development is the spiritual regeneration of the nation, when the Spirit of God breathes life into the bodies and they arise a mighty army for God. Numerous are the passages to deal with this final act in the drama of Israel's restoration to God.
God's Special Call to Israel Before the Tribulation
Let us now come back to the concluding verse of the prophecy under consideration, namely, Zephaniah 2:3: “Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger:” But let us examine it in its connection:
Gather yourselves together, yea gather together, 0 nation that hath no shame; 2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah's anger come upon you. 3 Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger.” (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
In connection with the call of God to Israel to gather together into the land before the Tribulation, the Lord also gives the people of Israel an invitation to seek “Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger.” The connection shows positively that the invitation is given in connection with the prophecy regarding Israel's regathering before the Tribulation. The people addressed are the ones who are urged at that time — at the time of the initial regathering of Israel to the land — to seek Jehovah, their God. Having seen that this seeking is in connection with the regathering before the Tribulation, we are now in a position to go forward with this investigation.
Those who are urged to seek the Lord are “all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances ...” Only the meek and humble ones are really eager for truth. The prophet therefore is addressing particularly those who are the meek of the household of Israel. The reason for this statement is that these meek ones of the earth, who are invited to come, are the ones who “have kept his ordinances.” The ordinances here referred to doubtless are the regulations and commands that God through Moses gave to Israel. The Jews were given the ordinances of God and accepted the law and are still under it (Romans 2:12-16). Those who are under the law shall be judged by the law. The law of Moses is still in effect in so far as those who have accepted it and received it are concerned. Thus there is a clarion call for the earnest honest truth seekers among Israel to seek Jehovah in dead earnest. They are endeavoring to keep the law of Moses and the commandments the best they can. They are sincere in what they are trying to do — to please the Lord. God recognizes that fact and therefore addresses them and pleads with them to make a special effort to find Him, Jehovah.
They are urged not simply to seek Jehovah, but to seek in righteousness and meekness. God loves righteousness and meekness, but resists those who are proud and haughty. When Christ comes, as we see in Psalm 45:3-5, He will champion the cause of those whose lives are the very embodiment of truth, meekness and righteousness.
According to Joel's prophecy, chapter 2:28b-32, there will be a revival bursting forth in Israel, which will result in the first installment of his national conversion. This turning to God will occur in connection with the miraculous signs and wonders which will occur before the great and terrible day of Jehovah comes. In view of this fact, it is quite evident that Joel was speaking of this same movement back to God in Israel as that mentioned by Zephaniah, the prophet, in chapter 2:1-3.
The Promise of Being Hid During the Tribulation
To those who are of Israel, and who seek the Lord before the Tribulation begins, is promised the hope of their being hid in the day of Jehovah's anger. This promise implies that there is something that will protect them from the judgments of that day of Jehovah's anger. Of course, this hiding is spoken of in terms of a material place. When, however, we read in the New Testament that the people of God will not go into the period of His wrath, we are convinced that the ones who are addressed and are promised escape from the wrath threatened are those who accept His grace and are beloved in the Lord. This promise is given us in I Thessalonians 1:9.10:
For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come.”
Then again the Apostle Paul foretold the coming of the Lord for His saints before the Tribulation begins (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). This promise assures us Christians, the saved ones, the born-again ones, that we are not appointed unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Saved people are thus assured that they are not appointed unto wrath but unto the obtaining of salvation — that is a salvation deliverance from this wrath, which is coming upon the world.
Thus when we study Zephaniah's prophecy, we see a clear reference to the rapture of Jewish believers before the Tribulation bursts forth upon the world. Hence the idea of being delivered from the coming wrath is clearly set forth in the Scriptures and is an Old Testament expression indicating what is given in the New Testament by the passages that deal with the rapture of believers.
We have therefore the profound conviction that the rapture of the saints of God will occur before the Tribulation begins.
The Rapture according to Psalm 50:1-6
Two Phases of the Rapture of the Saints of God
Biblical Research Monthly, October 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
God the Judge of the Righteous and the Wicked
50:1 A Psalm of Asaph. The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, hath spoken, And called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.
50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth.
50:3 Our God cometh, and doth not keep silence: A fire devoureth before him, And it is very tempestuous round about him.
50:4 He calleth to the heavens above, And to the earth, that he may judge his people:
50:5 Gather my saints together unto me, Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
50:6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness; For God is judge himself. Selah ”
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church
The Apostle Paul, in I Thessalonians 1:9,10, taught that the church will be raptured before the Tribulation: “For they themselves report concerning what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come. To the Thessalonian Christians Paul said that they had turned from idols for two purposes: (1) To serve the true and living God; (2) to wait for His (God's Son) from heaven, “who delivereth us from the wrath to come,” the wrath frequently mentioned in the Old Testament by the prophets, which God will pour out upon the earth at the conclusion of this age. Thus the Lord Jesus delivers the people of God from the Tribulation to come. It is clear from these and similar statements that the church of Jesus Christ will be raptured out of this world before the Tribulation judgments begin.
The Rapture of the Tribulation Saints
Psalm 50:1-6 sets forth the two different phases of the rapture of the saints of God: (1) The rapture of the church before the Tribulation; and (2) the rapture of the Tribulation saints at the end of that period of wrath. In order, however, that we may see these things, we must pay close attention to what is said in these six verses.
In verses 1 and 2 of this psalm we see a beautiful picture of our Lord and His reigning in Zion. These verses present a vision of the millennial Jerusalem. The words rendered in verse 1, “The Mighty One, God, Jehovah,” are quite significant. That which is translated “The Mighty One” is in the plural number and is doubtless an echo of the doctrine of the Trinity, which was set forth by Moses and the prophets, as well as by the writers of the New Testament. The word rendered “God” is in the singular. That which is rendered “Jehovah” is the sacred name of the Eternal. But this memorial name has four significations in the Old Testament: In certain contexts it refers to the Holy Trinity; in other connections, to God the Father; in still other passages it refers to God the Son; and in yet other connections it designates the Holy Spirit. One must determine from the context its meaning in a given case.
When we take all the facts of this passage into consideration and read them in the light of related passages, we come to the conclusion that the one referred to here by the term God is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity. The reason for my making that statement is this: Here is a picture of God's reigning in Zion. Other passages show that God in the person of the Messiah is the one who is scheduled to reign there in glory and in power. He is therefore spoken of by the word God in the singular number. At the same time He is Jehovah who caused all things to come into existence, and who maintains all things by His omnipotence. But, as we have seen, the word rendered “Mighty God” is in the plural. This probably points to the significant fact that in Him, that is, in His flesh, dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
The Lord has called, through His ministers preaching His Word, all nations “from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.” Throughout the Christian centuries He has sent forth this call; He is sending it forth today; and we trust that it will continue to go forth until He comes in fulfillment of this passage and reigns in Zion. In fact, according to the prophetic word, there will arise a mighty army of 144,000 Hebrews who will bring about the mightiest revival of all the ages (see Revelation, chapter 7). Thus in a peculiar and effective manner the Messiah will have called the whole world by and through these future Jewish evangelists.
But this language, while it includes all that I have just said, goes far beyond the callings which I have just mentioned. When He leaves glory, He will come with a shout and utter His voice so that it will be heard resounding throughout the entire world. This seems to be the significance of Jeremiah's statement: “Jehovah will roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation ...” (Jeremiah 25:30). When He comes to Mount Zion, He again will utter His voice and the heavens above and the earth beneath will reverberate with its echoes (Joel 3:16). It is probably to those utterances that our psalmist in 50:1 refers.
At that future time Zion, Jerusalem in Palestine, will be the perfection of beauty. It will be the joy spot of the whole earth. From it Jehovah the Messiah will shine forth in glory and splendor.
Having seen the glorious picture of King Messiah as He will reign in Mount Zion, in verse 3 the prophet goes back and describes the actual coming of Messiah to Mount Zion. In doing this, he is following what is recognized by all Bible students as the “law of recurrence.” Having painted a beautiful word picture, the prophets frequently went back and enlarged or embellished the picture by further statements. In verse 3, therefore, the psalmist adds new information concerning the manner in which Jehovah Messiah will come to Zion. Throughout the whole Christian Dispensation, during which He has been seated at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven, He has kept silent. But when He leaves glory, He will break that silence and will come in flaming fire. Thus a fire will devour before Him and there will be a great tempest round about Him. The sacred writer in Psalm 97 foretold the same thing. So did the prophet Isaiah. The Apostle Paul likewise foretold the coming of the Lord in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon all who know not God and who obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians, chapter 1).
The Lord's coming in flaming fire with a tempest of wrath round about Him is His coming to the earth at the end of the Tribulation. About this proposition there can be no question — in the mind of the one who is well informed in the prophetic word. The coming mentioned in verse 3 of our psalm is therefore the coming of our Lord at the end of the Tribulation. With this thought firmly in mind, we are now ready to proceed to the next verse.
When He thus comes at the end of the Tribulation to establish His reign of righteousness upon the earth, He issues a twofold call: one to those in the heavens above; and the other to those in the earth beneath.
He calleth to the heavens above,
And to the earth, that he may judge his people.” (vs. 4)
This call to the heavens above and to the earth beneath is sounded forth in order that the Lord may judge His people. From this fact we conclude that some of His people will be in the heavens above, whereas others will be in the earth beneath. Who are those in the heavens above? Doubtless all who have died in Christ and all of those saints who will be raptured when the Lord descends from heaven to the air and raises the dead in Christ and catches up the living saints out of the world before the Tribulation begins. This psalm therefore presupposes the catching up of the saints, the church — the body of Christ — out of the world before the Tribulation. Thus the Lord gives the call to the celestial beings, doubtless commanding them to bring forth these who are in the heavens.
At the same time He issues the call with reference to the earth. Both calls are: “Gather my saints together unto me ...” The saints in the heavens above and those upon the earth beneath are to be gathered into one great place in order that the Lord may judge them.
Who are the saints upon the earth at the time of the coming of the Lord to the earth to set up His reign? There can be but one answer which is this: They are those who turn to the Lord after the rapture of the church and during the Tribulation. We call them the “Tribulation saints” because of the fact that they turn to the Lord and accept Christ under the influence of the preaching of the gospel by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will carry forward the work of Christ after the church has been removed. That there is to be a mighty host of people who will turn to the Lord during the Tribulation is foretold by different prophets and is assumed by the Apostle Paul, especially in Second Thessalonians, and is declared, in so many words, by John in the seventh chapter of the Book of Revelations.
We are told by the Lord that those who believe on Him shall not come into judgment but have passed out of death into life. Their judgment occurred at the cross. The stroke that was due to fall upon them fell upon Him. They therefore do not come into the judgment of the world, which occurs after the thousand years' reign of our Lord (Revelation 20:11-15).
Into what judgment do they come? There can be but one answer, which is that they come before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body according to that which they have done, whether it be good or bad (II Corinthians 5:10). Men are saved by the grace of God through faith. Saved people are to work for the Lord, who will reward them according to their works when they appear before the judgment seat of Christ. In view of all these facts and many others that could be mentioned, we must conclude that the Lord calls together all His saints — those in the heavens above and those in the earth beneath — and brings them before His judgment seat, where He rewards them for the services which they have rendered in His cause.
The saints who are thus to be rewarded at the time of this great assize of the saints are “Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Psalm 50:5b). Friends, there is but one approach to God. Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He is the one sufficient and acceptable sacrifice that the sinner must bring to God by faith. Everyone who comes unto God through Him by faith is acceptable, not upon the basis of any merit of his own, but upon the worth and merit of the blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. Nothing that man can do or say can add in anywise to the merit and the efficacy of the sacrifice of the all-sufficient Lamb of God.
All of us who have thus accepted the atonement of Christ have entered into covenant relationship with God by the blood of His sacrifice. We may be certain that, when the call comes that is set forth in this passage, we shall be gathered before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged in the sense of being judged as to the rewards which we are to receive for the things done in the body. May we, during our short sojourn here, give ourselves in full surrender to the Lord and to His service and thus lay up our treasures in heaven where moth does not corrupt nor thieves break through and steal.