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WHEN IS JESUS RETURNING?

 

By Dr. Richard B. W. Ing

April 17, 2002

In preparing some materials for our Spiritual Warfare Manual, I decided to publish some of the doctrines this church believes in and why.  It struck me that it would be beneficial to print a few copies so members of this church can understand our position and ponder over it.  It would also be valuable to have everyone agree, if possible.  I understand that pre-tribulation rapture has been accepted by about half the churches and the other half disagree.  What do you think?

PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE DOCTRINE

There is no doubt that Jesus will return to earth in a second coming at the end of the age.  I Thessalonians 4:16-17 says:

         For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:52 says, “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.”  Every “rapture” doctrine hangs on these two passages.  These two scriptures, however, say nothing about when Jesus will return.

HISTORY OF THE RAPTURE DOCTRINE

The idea that Jesus will return before tribulation was derived from a vision given to a Margaret MacDonald in 1830.  It was a complex vision and some individuals promoted the idea that the vision means that the Lord would take His people out of the world to escape tribulation.  It is not a doctrine of the early church. The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, but is immaterial.  Is it true that Jesus will return to take His people out of the world before tribulation?

HERMENEUTICS

Hermeneutics is the science or art of interpreting the Bible.  There are at least several accepted methods: Literal, conservative, allegorical, etc.  However, we do not need to explore any of these if we can agree to the following: 

            1.  A direct scripture is one intended by the writer to answer the particular issue at hand.  It is the strongest evidence and inviolate unless there is another direct scripture that contradicts it. 

            2.  An indirect scripture is a scripture not intended by the writer to answer that particular question.  No indirect scripture can overturn or neutralize a direct scripture.  It is “out of context” and therefore, inapplicable.

The same rule is used in every court of law in order to determine truth.  No direct evidence can be overturned by indirect or circumstantial evidence.  For instance, if a witness at the scene of a murder saw A shoot B, no testimony that A was a good guy or gentle or kind or that A couldn’t hurt a fly can overturn the direct testimony.  It doesn’t apply.  Scriptures do not apply if they do not specifically address the question being asked, or was not intended to.

DIRECT SCRIPTURES

There are at least three direct scriptures and one close to being direct, that say that Jesus is coming after tribulation. Matthew 24:29-31 says,

         Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun 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: 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 in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And He shall send 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.  (Underlining added)

Matthew 13:39 (parable of the wheat and tares) says, “...the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”  The gathering of His elect comes after tribulation.      

Mark 13:24-27 says,

         But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the heaven.  (Underlining added)

Luke 23:25-27 says,

        And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  (Underlining added)

These are direct scriptures intended to tell us when Jesus will return - after tribulation.  The powers of heaven shall be shaken after the tribulation according to Matthew 24:29 and Mark 13:24.

There is one other passage which directly implies that Jesus will return after the tribulation. Revelation 20:4 says, 

        And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Underlining added)

John saw those who had been beheaded by Satan’s beast during tribulation.  They had come back to life and were sitting on thrones.  Verse 5 then says, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.”  (Underlining added)

We know that when Jesus comes back the graves will be opened “... and the dead in Christ will rise first....”  I Thessalonians 4:16.  If the resurrection of the martyrs who died during tribulation is the first resurrection, then Jesus could not come back before tribulation because the martyrs in Revelation 20 would not have been killed yet.

All the above scriptures are direct scriptures that were intended to answer the question: When will Jesus come back?  Unless there are direct scriptures that say, “Before the tribulation, shall the Son of man appear in the clouds....,” or words to that effect, the above scriptures cannot be overturned.  No logic, reasoning or implications can overrule those scriptures.  We have found absolutely no direct scriptures that say that Jesus is coming back before tribulation.

OTHER DIRECT SCRIPTURES

There are other scriptures that speak of the time when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth. Although direct scriptures, they do not refer specifically to tribulation; that is, before or after tribulation.  But, they do address the question of when Jesus will come from heaven back to earth.  Those scriptures all say that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven where He will reign until all His enemies are made His footstool (destroyed).  Then He will return.  Hebrews 10:12,13 says, “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting til His enemies be made His footstool.”  The Amplified Bible puts it this way, “...Then to wait until His enemies should be made a stool beneath His feet.”   Jesus will sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven until all His enemies are destroyed.  I Corinthians 15:25,26 says, “For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”   See also, Ac. 2:34; Heb. 1:13; Mt. 22:44; Lk. 20:42 and Mk. 12:36. The reference to “footstool” refers to the custom of placing one’s feet on the necks of your foes to signify victory over them.  Jos. 10:24.

Jesus will not return until His people on earth have conquered His enemies - Satan’s demonic kingdom.  It is not to say that Satan’s kingdom must be totally annihilated first, but that there is a people of God who have grown into such spiritual maturity that they are able to and will destroy Satan’s kingdom.  Revelation 19:14-21 speaks of Jesus coming back with His armies to destroy all evil on earth.  This is the man-child army that stands with Jesus on Mount Sion, a people redeemed from the earth and made perfect in the sight of God.  Rev. 12:5; Rev. 14:1-5.

DANGER OF THE NEW DOCTRINE

The danger of the pre-tribulation rapture theory is that the church will be unprepared for tribulation.  Why prepare all-out for a race that will never take place?  That is exactly what Satan wants.  People who say, “Well, we will just be prepared for either case.  If Jesus does not come back before tribulation, we will be ready any way,” are kidding themselves.  When I was taking martial arts in my youth, we always talked about being prepared for challenges from outsiders.  Only when someone did, in fact, issue a challenge to me did I actually prepare with all my heart.  At all other times, I was just cruising, not really believing that it would happen.

Many Christians say that pre-tribulation rapture is the hope of the Church.  That’s not true.  Christ in you is the hope of glory.  Col. 1:27.

REJECT ANY DIFFERENT JESUS OR DOCTRINE

We repeat what we said in our newsletter entitled “The Great Apostasy:”

Paul says,

        I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . preach the word;  be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  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 truth, and shall be turned into fables.” 2 Ti. 4:1.

“Reprove” means to refute, admonish, convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke.  “Rebuke” means to censure, admonish, forbid, charge or accuse.  “Exhort” means to beseech, entreat.  (Strong’s Concordance)  We are to be guardians of the truth and watchmen on the wall.  We are not to smile and say, “I love you brother.  I accept what you say for the sake of unity and I will not judge you.”  In instructing elders, Paul says,

         . . . Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers . . . for there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers . . . whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake . . . Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.  Titus 1:9,10,11,13.  (Underlining added)

We are to challenge for the truth and rebuke, refute, reprove, tell a fault, censure, forbid, charge and accuse, so that others will be saved from deception and destruction.  We speak in love, but earnestly contend for the faith.  Jude says, “. . .  ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”  Jude 3.  We are not to compromise the truth that God entrusted to us, especially the elders.  Titus 2:15 says, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.  Let no man despise thee.”  (Underlining added) Let no person find fault with you for earnestly contending for the faith. 


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