Church of God, New World Ministries

A Secret Rapture?

The commonly accepted viewpoint, taught by most Bible scholars today, and illustrated in Hal Lindsey’s book – “The Late Great Planet Earth,” is that the return of Jesus Christ will be in two separate events. First he will come in the rapture and take the Church to heaven; then seven years later (some indicate a three and one-half year period) he will come again, this time in glory and power. The interval between these two events, according to this view, will be the great tribulation period during which the anti-christ will come to power.

There are definite scriptural objections to the idea that Christ will return in two separate comings. One might also note that this idea is of very recent origin. The Holy Scriptures plainly teach that our Lord came the first time and he will “appear the second time” (Heb. 9:28). Nowhere do we read of a third coming of our Lord. Neither does the Bible in any place tell us the second coming will be in two stages!

What we are told is the second coming, the resurrection, and the catching up of believers to meet the Lord in the air will not take place until the end of this age. This is why the Lord gave the promise:  “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age)” (Matt. 28:19-20). This promise would not have been made to be with the Church until the end of the age if seven years before the end of the age they would have already been caught up to be with Him. This very doctrine of the secret rapture may be Satan’s own invention to hide the identity of the false church and the anti-christ; whose powers have been working among us already. Naturally if the power of the anti-christ be among us, he would strive to hide the fact of his identity.

According to Peter, our Lord’s promise to come again, and the time for which, we as Christians are looking, will come “as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (II Peter 3:4-12).

Because some of the Holy Scriptures likens the Lord’s coming as “a thief in the night,” some have supposed this is talking about a secret and quiet coming, as compared with a later coming in open glory and power. Take care to notice that Peter places our Lord’s coming “as a thief in the night” clear at the end; certainly not seven years before the end. It is also clear by his use of this expression that he did not mean a secret and quiet event, for he said the day of the Lord (the Lord’s Day) would come as a thief in the night in which the heavens would pass away with a great noise!

A study of the “thief” passages shows the coming of the Lord would be when the “world” was not expecting Him. The people of God must be awake both to reject anti-Christs, and to accept the real Messiah when he returns. The exact time of His coming is not revealed. But there is nothing to indicate the event itself will be secret or quiet. Notice, for example, the words of Paul when he taught that the day of the Lord would come” as a thief in the night” (as to time), but the event itself is described in the following terms: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” and believers will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess. 4:16-17). Such terminology certainly does not seem to indicate a secret and quiet event.

Our Lord taught that the righteous and evil, the wheat and tares, would not be separated until the end of this age. He said they “both would grow together” until the “end of the world (age)” and then they would be separated (Matt. 13:24-39). We further learn that the dead carcasses of the “tares” will be left to the “eagles,” or vultures (Matt. 24:28; Luke 17:37; Ezek. 39:4). Christ had told His disciples: “Two will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:36). The next verse explains the fate of those who are “taken:” “They answered, saying to him, Our Lord, to what place? He said to them, wherever the carcass is, there will the vultures gathers” (Luke 17:37 Lamsa).These are the birds mentioned in Rev. 19:17-18.

The parable following in the next verses explain that those “taken are the “tares” – they will be killed, and the vultures will feast upon them. This is the vengeance which the Lord takes against those against Him at His return – Armageddon. This death will come upon the “tares” as death came upon Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32).

Those mentioned as being “left” in verses 31-36 are those who “meet the Lord in the air” and return with Him at that time to remain on the earth with Him. “Such will it be in the day when the Son of man appears” (Luke 17:30 Lamsa).

In Matthew 24:27-28 we find that an evidence that Christ has returned will be the vultures gathered around the dead: “For just as the lightening comes out from the east, and is seen even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For wherever the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.”

According to the two-stage teaching, both would not grow together until the end of the age, for in this case the righteous would be separated from the wicked seven years before the end!

Those who uphold the “secret rapture” doctrine support their teachings by saying it is indicated in the Greek. They teach that first there will be the Rapture (the Parousia), a secret coming; then seven (or three and one half) years later will be the Revelation (apokalupsis), His coming in power and glory. But instead of the Greek teaching two separate events by these words, these terms are actually used interchangeably in the Scriptures!

The other Greek word, apokalupsis (revelation), is used in such a way as to show it is not a separate coming from the time when believers are gathered. Peter said to be “sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13). Why would Christians be exhorted to hope for the grace to be brought to them at the revelation of the Lord, if their real hope is a secret rapture seven years before the revelation?

Looking at the following parallel passages clearly shows parousia and apokalupsis refer to the same event. In Matthew 24:3 we read: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming (parousia) of the son of man be.” Luke’s account of the same passage says: “As it was in the days of Noah even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed” (apokalupsis) (Luke 17:26-30). This shows the coming (parousia) of our Lord and His revelation (apokalupsis) are the same event. There is no basis for placing seven or three and one half years between.

    There are those who teach that the rapture is not actually the “coming” of the Lord. His “coming” they say, is when he returns in power seven years after the rapture. This explanation is, however, very weak; because many scriptures show that Christians are to be waiting and watching for the coming of the Lord. James 5:7, for example, says, “Be patient then, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.”

Revelation 3:10 is often quoted in support of an extra coming of our Lord and secret escape rapture: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Compare this verse with the words of our Master in John 17:6, 15. The wording is very similar, yet the passage in John speaks of the Father’s keeping power to those who keep His word – without taking them out of the world! “They have kept thy word, I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

If those who “kept the word” can be “kept from the evil” without being taken out of the world, why should we expect a “secret rapture” before the Lord’s return? The evidence is apparent that things have been read into the Bible which simply are not there.

Luke 21:36 speaks of escaping “all these things.” The Lord said to His disciples “Pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape.” How then may we escape? By a secret rapture to take the saints to heaven seven years before the end of the age? Apparently not, for in the prayer that Jesus prayed He said: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). Would he pray one way and then tell His disciples to pray another way?

You have already seen that the “Beast” has already revealed itself. Today’s “Bible scholars” commonly say that the resurrection and rapture of the saints will occur at the time of the “first resurrection” and will take place before the beast is revealed. This causes these “scholars” quite a problem, explaining how this resurrection includes those who refused to worship the beast! (See Rev. 20:4-6). How could those in the first resurrection be martyrs for refusing to worship the beast if this is a literal resurrection that will occur before the beast is revealed?

Instead of the Holy Scriptures teaching that the Church would be gathered to meet the Lord before the “man of sin” is revealed, Paul made it very clear that the day of the Lord’s coming and “our gathering together unto him will not come, except there comes a falling away first, and that man of sin  revealed” (II Thess 2:1-3). Paul exhorted: “Let no man deceive you!” Each of us, then, should be aware of a teaching which says the saints will be raptured to heaven before the man of sin is revealed in power, for such is the exact opposite of what Paul taught! How else, but through false doctrines (inspired by the “man of sin”), would the world and “Christian” peoples be induced to fight against our Lord at His return (Rev. 16:13-16; Zech. 14:1-3). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4).

 Though the Bible teaches that the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” are one and the same (Matt. 19:23-24), the teaching that Christ will return in two second comings has gone hand in hand with the teaching that there are two kingdoms; or that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are different!

The Bible teaches that Jesus has broken down “the middle wall of partition” between Jew and Gentiles, thus making all saints, regardless of race, one in Christ (Eph. 2:11-19).The teaching that there will be two second comings of our Lord splits the people of God into two different groups with two different gospels, for whom God has two different plans! Thus they say that saints against whom the beast will make war are not “church saints,” but a different kind of saints, a different people. Some even go so far as to say we are saved by the blood of Christ through grace . . . . . but after the rapture men will be saved by giving their own blood in martyrdom!

We need to recognize when and where this doctrine of the “secret rapture” originated. As we evaluate it, we must also evaluate its source. The doctrine is of relatively recent origin. It was in the 16th century that Jesuit Catholic scholars (Joseph Ribera, Cardinals Ballermine and Alcasar) began teaching the secret rapture theory.

More than fifteen hundred years after Jesus Christ ascended into heaven the secret rapture theory was born – brought into the world by the Romish Church. The Protestants learned the theory from them. About 1825 Samuel R. Maitland, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s librarian, accepted aspects of the secret rapture and anti-Christ belief. Soon the belief began to be accepted by protestant churches. “In a church pastored by Edward Irving, a Miss Margaret McDonald gave what was considered at that time to be an inspired utterance. She spoke of the visible, open, and glorious coming of the Lord. But as the utterance continued, she spoke of another coming of the Lord: a secret and special coming in which those that were truly ready would be raptured.

It was soon after this time that William Miller, a Baptist minister, predicted the return of the Lord in 1844.

It was John Nelson Darby, a Brethren minister and writer of the time in England, who was largely responsible for introducing this “secret rapture” doctrine on a large scale. The teaching spread to the United States in the 1850s and 1860s.There it was to receive its biggest boost when Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, a strong believer in Darby’s teachings, incorporated it into the notes of his “Scofield Reference Bible” which was published in 1909.

Since that time the view has been widely accepted, often by people who are completely unaware that this was not the belief held by Christians over the centuries.

Oswald Smith, noted minister and author of Toronto, says in his booklet “Tribulation or Rapture – Which?” that he “once held the two-stage teaching,” but when he began to search the Scriptures for himself, he discovered there is not a single verse in the Bible to uphold this view.  “Naturally I thought of II Thessalonians2:7,” he continues, “but there is no mention of the Holy Spirit at all.  That is a Scofield Bible assumption. The Holy Spirit and the Church remain to the end of the Age. I had been taught that the Greek word ‘parousia’ always referred to the rapture and that other words were used for the coming of Christ in glory, but I found that this is not true. We might go through all the writers of the New Testament, and we would fail to discover any indication of the so-called ‘two-stages’ of our Lord’s coming. That theory had to be invented by man. Search and see. There is no verse in the Bible that even mentions it.”

It should be of interest, and provoke thought, to compare the thinking concerning Jesus’ first coming about 2,000 years ago with that of today dealing with His second coming.

During the era of our Lord’s first appearance there was considerable anxious expectation concerning the Messiah. Among the Hebrews there were those who were looking for the “Promised One.” As to how He would appear, who really understood?

We believe that John the Baptist understood. He said: “There comes One mightier than I after me, the latches of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose” (Mark 1:7) In Matthew 3 John spoke of the Savior as the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Then in the first chapter of John we read: “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” However, in Matthew 11 a question comes up. John the Baptist “sent two of his disciples” to Christ to ask, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Whether John asked this question because he wasn’t sure, or merely for the sake of his disciples who wondered about the Master, is a matter to wonder about.

Going back to the time of Christ’s birth, King Herod heard about it and was troubled. He called a council of the religious leaders and “demanded to them where Christ should be born.” The reply they gave him was correct. “In Bethlehem of Judaea,” they informed him. Yet these same leaders did not recognize the Saviour when He was born. In one sense he came the first time “as a thief in the night” to them. Apparently they did not expect Him to come as he did – from obscurity – “as a root out of the dry ground” (Isa. 53).

It is interesting to note the discussion that is recorded in John 7:40-53. There was a division among the people as to who Jesus was. Some believed Him to be the Prophet that was to come; others didn’t. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I the Son of man am?” The reply was that some thought He was Elias, or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Peter had special information because the heavenly Father had given it to him.

Could it be that the Father will also reveal to “His very own” special understanding of the Scripture so that they will be among the wise of Matthew 25, ready and prepared to meet the Master, not too surprised when He comes?

Returning to Matthew 3, we read of some whom the Bible and history give almost no information, and yet they know far more than the religious leaders of the time about the Saviour’s first appearance. “There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” Who were these men? We don’t know much about them except that they were wise enough to know the times and to understand about the coming of the King of the Jews and recognize Him. That was knowing much.

In Luke 2 we read of the shepherds – just common folk – to whom the angels revealed where to find the long looked for Saviour. They became believers. Simeon and also Anna, by special revelation, recognized the Messiah when they saw Him as a babe.

The Bible states that in the time of the end, “the wise shall understand!” It may be that the “wise men” and those few others – are a special example to us of these last days who are looking for Christ’s second coming. To the humble, dedicated and devoted servants of God – growing in spiritual knowledge: to them it may be that God will give more understanding of the Scriptures concerning our Lord’s return as times goes on.

SUMMARY

  1. Easter is a pagan holiday and was not kept by the early Church.
  2. The Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection theory is false and denies the sign our Lord gave that He was the Messiah (Mat. 12:40).
  3. Easter very slowly replaced Passover observance; which in the early Church was the time designated by the Bible as a memorial of Christ’s death for us when the “Lord’s Supper” was observed.
  4. Our Lord died on Passover, a Wednesday; and rose from the dead at the end of the Sabbath.
  5. By accepting the pagan teaching and rites of the mystery-religions, many church leaders have taken upon themselves the “mark of the beast.”
  6. Those who became thus marked persecuted and martyred those of the early Church
  7. The Pope’s very title means “anti-christ.”
  8. The Catholic Church boasts that the most prominent “mark” of authority is the “change of the Sabbath” in which the protestant churches have followed her.
  9. Christmas, also like Easter and “Sun” day worship are pagan and condemned in the Bible. The Babylonian messiah was born in the winter. The Son of God was born in the early fall of the year.
  10. The early Church believed in “One God, and one mediator between God and men.” The beast power perpetuated the pagan dogma of the “trinity” which had originated in Babylon.
  11. The early Church believed the truth; that ‘the wages of sin is death (not eternal life in “hell-fire”); but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Spiritism entered the Romish Church through the Mysteries.
  12. The idea of two “second comings,” or a “secret” rapture are of Romish origin – not taught by the early Church by the Scriptures.
 
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