Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Return of Christ

Anyone who accepts the pre-tribulation return of Christ should think again about this subject.

Those who believe that the Bible must be accepted literally, whenever possible, are, of course, constrained to believe that Jesus will be coming back for The Church.  The question here is not, will He be coming back, but when will He be coming back. 

First, it needs to be stated that, according to Christ, no one, not even the angels in heaven, know the time of Christ’s return.  Setting dates for His return or even for the end of this era is at best funny and at its worst, it is stating that we do not believe that Christ knew what He was talking about!  By asking the question, when, in this case, is meant, according to the Bible will He be coming before or after the great tribulation.

Dr Findley writes, When we begin to investigate the matter, we soon come realise that the theologians who crafted the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine have done some rather wild and woolly things with the Holy Scriptures. 

The fact is there is not one single passage of scripture that gives sound and convincing proof of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  Not one!  The doctrine sounds nice and it goes down well with the middle of the road Christian crowds.  And it sells well in the religious marketplaces.  Indeed the Pre-Tribulation doctrine has become entertainment for the masses.  It is a huge multi-billion dollar a year religi-business.

But here is the question. Can the idea of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture stand up to faithful (Bible) scrutiny? Or is the doctrine emotionally driven by wishful thinking? Quite obviously it is a soothing melodramatic eschatology. Has it been crafted by men to keep the masses amused, - and "quiet"? 

The pre-tribulation rapture theory 
  • is not plainly taught or directly stated in any place in Scripture, 
  • cannot be deduced from biblical teaching, 
  • contradicts the general teaching of the Bible regarding Christ’s second coming and 
  • was never taught in any branch of the church prior to 1830.
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), who was the leader of the Brethren movement and the “father of modern Dispensationalism,” took Margaret Macdonald’s new teaching on the rapture, made some changes … and incorporated it into his Dispensational understanding of Scripture and prophecy. 

Mr Thiessen writes, Jewish teachers held that the period would come between the present age and the age to come … they were commonly agreed what the passage from the one age to the other would be through a period of intense sorrow and anguish. … We have shown…that this period of sorrow and anguish will end with the coming of Christ to the earth.  He is trying to establish the idea that Christ will be coming back before the period of sorrow and anguish by using a quotation, which states the exact opposite.

Mr Thiessen also quotes from The Shepherd of Hermas which is a fairy tale, complete with talking animals, dating from the second century AD.  Rightly, the church usually ignores this writing, but on the chance that it might add weight to one's conviction, it is used as evidence. 

In the story, after Hermas relates his experience, of meeting a horrible beast, to a lady, she replies, this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming.  If you turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it.  Mr Thiessen continues, This surely shows that there was teaching to the effect that the church would escape the great tribulation.  

To claim Hermas as an authority, on anything spiritual, is highly questionable.  Hermas also believed that “the Son of God was distinguished from Jesus” and he calls The Holy Spirit “God’s Primary Son” so that God ends up with two sons. Bible teachers would do well not to use Hermas as a witness, but when they cannot find the evidence they need, in the Bible, for their theories they grasp for anything that they hope will lend some support.

Let's look at what the Bible says about this subject.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days… the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Mat. 24:29-31

It seems strange that the “pre-trib” and the “post-trib” issue has even become a serious question because Christ plainly said, Immediately after the tribulation … they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. and … gather together His elect.  Does Christ need to hit us on the head with a two by four before we will listen to what He is saying?

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations. Mat. 25:31-32

About this verse, David Stewart writes, Carefully notice that Jesus is going to sit upon His throne in Jerusalem when He returns.  He then goes on to say that this is an impossible situation unless the rapture happens before the great tribulation.  What makes him think this would be an impossible situation?  Why could Christ not come back after the tribulation and still sit on the throne in Jerusalem?  This verse adds no credence to the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture.

Matthew Henry writes, the Lord Jesus will come down from heaven in all the pomp and power of the upper world … he will come again, and appear in his glory. He will descend from heaven into this our air. The appearance will be with pomp and power, with a shout—the shout of a king, and the power and authority of a mighty king and conqueror. Christ will be sitting on a throne allright, but not an earthly throne.  

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world....’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels....’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:31-46 

Christ, in this speech, made it very clear that the sheep and the goats would both be at the judgement seat at the same time.  The sheep, the Christians, will be on the right side of the judge and the goats, the non-Christians, will be on the left side.  The Bible does not teach two separate judgment sessions; one for Christians and another for non-Christians.   

Where did our religious teachers ever get the idea that we would spend some time in heaven before we stand before The Judge?  What if, at the judgement seat, the verdict declares a person not to be valid for heaven?  That person will have shared the glories he did not have coming.

The next post will continue this theme.