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THE PRE-WRATH RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH – PART I
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Hymn Sung Before the Sermon: “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing [deceiving] spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1; p. 1276 Scofield).
The verse is clear – “in the latter times” [that is, in our time] “some shall depart from the faith” [that is, “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” Jude 3; p. 1328], “giving heed to seducing spirits, and “doctrines of demons,” that is, they will be deceived by demonic spirits, and “doctrines of devils [demons].”
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In other words the “latter times” will be characterized by demonic spirits and demonic doctrines, which will lead them to depart from the teaching of the Bible. That was made clear by Christ in the Olivet Discourse. The Disciples asked Jesus for a sign, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [age]?” (Matthew 24:3; p. 1032). Jesus began to answer them by saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4). And further on, Christ said, “There shall arise…false prophets…that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24; p. 1033). And in II Timothy 4:4 God says, “they shall turn away their ears from the truth” (II Timothy 4:4; p. 1281). Thus many professing Christians will have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5; p. 1281).
Now turn with me to I Thessalonians 4:16-18 (p. 1269). Please stand as I read it.
“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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:16-18).
Now turn to I Corinthians 15:51-57 (p. 1227). Remain standing.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:51-57).
You may be seated.
Those two paragraphs describe the “rapture” of Christians. “in a moment…the dead shall be raised…and we shall be changed.” The Lord Jesus Christ “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21; p. 1260). “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” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).
But when will the rapture happen? I believe in the rapture. But when will it come? Some say it is imminent – it can come any time. Others say it will come right before the Tribulation. Some say it will come in the middle of the Tribulation. Yet others say it will come after the Tribulation.
The any-moment pre-tribulation rapture is the most common understanding. For many years I believed that the rapture would come right before the seven-year Tribulation.
The idea of the rapture happening before the Tribulation, as an established view, can be traced to John Darby in the year 1830, or to 1828, when a charismatic “visionary” woman named Margaret MacDonald first taught it. In either case the pretribulation view of the rapture cannot be found before 1828 or 1830. (See Henry Hudson, “A Second Look at the Second Coming,” Massillon, OH, Calvary Chapel, 3).
Here is a list of men who did not believe in the pretribulation rapture: John Huss, John Calvin, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Wycliffe, John Bunyan, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, John Knox, Isaac Newton, Dr. Isaac Watts, A. B. Simpson, George Mueller, and many others, like Dr. John Sung or Dr. Timothy Lin.
I. First, how I gave up the pretribulation rapture.
I first became aware of this view as a teenager at the First Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California. One of my Sunday School teachers was very interested in Bible prophecy. He taught Bible prophecy to us instead of using the Southern Baptist material. He taught us the events of the Tribulation, the rapture, the Antichrist, and the Second Coming of Christ.
Not too long after that he made an investment in the stock market. He “hit the jackpot” and became a millionaire overnight! But then he divorced his wife and married a younger woman. And then he made another investment in the stock market and “lost his shirt.” He went a little crazy, bought a pistol and robbed a bank. After he spent time in jail, I saw him again. I said, “What if the rapture had come while you had your gun in hand?” He said, “Oh, the gun would have fallen on the floor and I would have sailed up to meet Christ in the air.”
I realized in that moment that Bible prophecy and the rapture had not changed his worldly, sinful heart one bit! I was not too interested in Bible prophecy after that!
A few years later I came back to Los Angeles from a Baptist seminary up north. I wanted to start a church here in Los Angeles. A friend named Pat Matrisciana told me he knew of a place that needed a church for young people to go on Sundays. It was a combined dormitory and Bible school near the UCLA campus, owned and operated by Hal Lindsey. At the time Lindsey and others were teaching Bible prophecy, with a heavy emphasis on the rapture. Many of them believed that the Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist. So I put up some posters that said I would preach the next Sunday on “Dr. Kissinger and the Antichrist.” I still remember the basic outline of the sermon:
1. Why Henry Kissinger could not be the Antichrist, Revelation 13:1; Daniel 9:27.
2. You are an antichrist, I John 2:18.
It was a good old-fashioned evangelistic sermon, with a clear Gospel presented at the end.
They attacked me vigorously at the end. They called me “a legalist” and a tyrant. But I was right: Dr. Kissinger did not become the Antichrist! I left the Light and Power House that afternoon. I simply could not preach there in good conscience. Dr. A. W. Tozer said,
“Bible exposition without moral application raises no opposition. It is only when the hearer is made to understand that truth is in conflict with his heart that resistance sets in.” (“Exposition Must Have Application”).
That was the second time I realized that the pretribulation rapture did not help most of those who believed in it.
II. Second, how I came to believe that the pretribulation rapture is Satanic in nature.
Please turn in your Bible to Revelation 12:12b (p. 1341).
“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12b).
The Devil knows Bible prophecy better than we do. He knows his evil reign is about over. He knows he “hath but a short time.” That’s why the Devil has brought about such a rush of demonic doctrine in the last days!
Thank God that He led Marvin J. Rosenthal to write “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church.” This man went through hell on earth to write this book. I thank God he did. The back jacket of his book says,
For thirty years a confirmed pretribulationist, he now believes that the Church will have to endure the persecution of the Antichrist: “God never promised His children immunity from the trials of this godless world or the assault of the Antichrist. He did promise, ‘greater is he [the Holy Spirit] that is in you, than he that is in the world’ (I John 4:4).” In view of the fact that Christians will not escape all of the oppression of the “Tribulation” period, Rosenthal urges godly living in light of a clear understanding of the last days so that we will be prepared for Satan’s intense opposition.
Rosenthal does, however, believe that the Church will escape the wrath of God, which will be poured out beginning with the opening of Revelation’s seventh seal sometime during the second half of the “Tribulation” period. “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 5:9).
In a readable, informative style, complete with twenty-five charts, Rosenthal takes a fresh look at the biblical prophecies concerning end-times events and helps us understand what impact they should have on our daily Christian lives.
Order a copy of Marvin Rosenthal’s book, “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church” from Amazon.com. Read it all the way through. Give a copy to your pastor to read also.
The pretribulation rapture is, I believe, Satanic in origin. It is a false doctrine!
If Rosenthal is right, “The church will enter [the Tribulation] period unprepared, spiritually naked, vulnerable, and ripe for the Antichrist’s deception. The psychological implications will be disastrous” (p. 281). I believe nearly all of Waldrip’s and Chan’s people will take the “mark of the beast” and perish!
Please turn to Revelation 12:11 (p. 1341).
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
I was previously confused by the Scofield note on Revelation 4:1 which says, “The word ‘church’ does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled” (Revelation 4:1). I was confused because it was clear that there were obviously great Christians after that in the Tribulation. There will be the 144,000 Jewish believers (Revelation 7:2-8; pp. 1336-1337). There will also be the great multitude of Gentiles that will be saved during the great Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-17; p. 1337). “These are they which came out of [the] great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14; p. 1337). Then the Scofield note says, “The great tribulation will be…a period of salvation” (note on Revelation 7:14). That is obviously the Church in the Tribulation. The word “church” is not mentioned, but the people of the universal church will be here.
The ”church” is therefore present throughout most of the great Tribulation. They will overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11; p. 1341).
This question was resolved for me by Marvin J. Rosenthal’s book, “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church” (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990). I hope you will read the whole book before you criticize it. The Bible says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13; p. 685).
Now turn to Revelation chapter 2 (p. 1332). Here Christ begins His teaching on the seven churches. The Scofield Bible gives a false view of the seven churches. It says they are “the spiritual history of the church…in precise order.” I believed that for a long time. There were many churches in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. The seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were chosen from among many churches for two reasons – (1) The number 7 is the number of completion; (2) Those churches show the strengths and weaknesses of Christendom during the Tribulation. Only this view gives justification for the inclusion of letters to seven first century churches in a book that is wholly prophetic.
There is a promise given to overcomers that is common to all seven churches. Those who are overcomers will be rewarded. Look at Revelation 2:7 (p. 1332).
(1) To the church at Ephesus Christ says,
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7; p. 1332).
Notice that this promise is not to everybody in that church. The promise is only given to the individuals in the church that overcome – He, him, him, not to all but “to him that overcometh.”
To overcome is to triumph over Satan, and the Antichrist, to triumph over difficulties. They are willing to die for Christ, if being an overcomer requires it. As Dr. Timothy Lin pointed out – the overcomers are the personnel of the coming Kingdom. The Bible says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12; p. 1280).
(2) To the church at Smyrna Christ said,
“He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Revelation 2:11; p. 1332).
(3) To the church at Pergamum Christ said,
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone” (Revelation 2:17; p. 1333).
The white stone means that the overcomer will experience acquittal before God when Christ returns.
(4) To the church at Thyatira Christ said,
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26; p. 1333).
(5) To the church at Sardis Christ said,
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5; p. 1333).
(6) To the church at Philadelphia Christ said,
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12; p. 1334).
(7) To the church at Laodicea Christ said,
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21; p. 1334).
The teaching that the rapture occurs at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation is utterly false. Rosenthal says, “The reason for the omission of any pretribulation rapture texts is clear – There are none… There is simply no explicit exegetical evidence for pretribulation rapturism” (Rosenthal, p. 280). If the church must go through the Tribulation, the false teaching of a rapture that supposedly takes selfish American evangelicals up to Heaven before there is any tribulation is, in my judgment, Satanic in origin. Yet Dr. David Jeremiah preaches this false doctrine every week on his television program. Why should selfish Americans be raptured while better Christians than them continue to be persecuted in the “Third World”? I have never heard the answer to that question. Have you?
We must prepare now to reign with Christ as overcomers in His coming Kingdom. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12; p. 1280).
Sing our hymn!
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
(“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts [Dr. Watts did not believe
in the pre-Tribulation rapture!], 1674-1748).