Will the rapture occur before the tribulation?
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“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, `Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, (that is from among the Jewish believers)that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.'”
Now after Peter goes through all his explanation, you come down to verse 12:
“Then all the multitude (that is of these Jewish believers there at Jerusalem) kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, (they finally settled down and listened to some common sense approach to all of this) James (who was moderating the meeting) answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon (or Peter) hath declared how God at the first (that would be at the house of Cornelius) did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them (the Gentiles) a people for his name.”
Now what is that? The Church, which is his Body. So for the last 1900+ years now the Church is being formed mainly by Gentiles who are being called out from among what they are, pagans or whatever, and becoming members of the body of Christ. Now as we’ve already seen then, as soon as that began, the Jews got envious and began to oppose it everywhere that Paul went. And God put a blindness upon the Nation. Remember, I’m always teaching and always reminding people, God deals with the Jew on two levels: National and personal. Now when he blinds them nationally, that does not take away the personal opportunity for Salvation. So don’t ever think that God’s being unfair. A Jew still has every opportunity for Salvation that we do, but it’s on a personal basis and not on a national. So God is now calling out Gentiles as a people for His name, which is what we refer to now from Paul’s epistles, as the Church which is His Body, the Body of Christ.
Now I’d like to use this analogy. I had just read an article, written by a physiologist, or he might have been an embryologist. He dealt with the fetus in the womb. And of course I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t know, but I think it’s such a beautiful analogy. At the beginning of pregnancy, that mother’s body immediately begins to put all kinds of different cells into exactly the right place. And by the time that 9-month period is over, that little fetus has got all of his little fingers, fingernails, the eyes and everything now complete. And isn’t it amazing, as this author pointed out, that the body rarely makes a mistake by making one finger much longer than it should be or making toes longer. But everything stops its cell-making process at exactly the right time. And when it’s all completed and that little baby is complete and the cell-making process stops, then what? Delivery!
Now the Church is the same way. God has been adding individual believers from all around the world; Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Burmans, French, British, Americans, Canadians, whatever. Believers are coming into the Body one at a time. But isn’t it amazing, just like the fetus in the mother’s womb, one day the Body of Christ is finally going to have the last person in place. We don’t know where it will be, but one day the last person is going to be put into the Body of Christ – It’s complete. Now what’s God going to do? He’s going to deliver it from it’s confines here on earth and we’re going to Raptured out, as we saw in our last program, and that then becomes the “until” of Romans 11:25. Because you see, as soon as God has completed His work with the Gentile Body of Christ, where is He going to turn to? The Jew! Now of course, the Jew is going to have to go through those seven years of Tribulation before he enjoys all the blessings of Christ’s return.
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”
But nevertheless, we know from II Thessalonians Chapter 2, that as soon as the Church is gone, the Anti-christ is going to make his appearance and the world is going to go into that seven years, which is predominately the time that God starts dealing with Israel. And so that’s when their blindness is going to fall away. As soon as the Church is gone and the Tribulation begins. Now at the same time, since we have the times or fulness of the Gentiles here in Romans 11, go back with me to Luke 21 and we have the other side of the coin, so far as Gentiles are concerned. And this of course is the unbelieving element. Now the fulness of the Gentiles here in Romans are the Church-Age believers, but Luke 21 speaks of another group of Gentiles who will be the unbelievers. The unsaved world of Gentiledom. Let’s look at verse 23 and Jesus is speaking.
“But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.”
Now he is speaking in Palestine, he’s speaking to Jews, and so this is where all of this is going to take place, isn’t it? But he’s not talking about the end-time, He’s talking about 70 AD here. He’s talking about Titus’ great invasion and destruction of the temple. We pick that up now in verse 24.
“And they (the Jews of Jerusalem) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: (now there’s the clue that this is 70 AD and not the last of the Tribulation, because at the end of the Tribulation the Jews are not going to be led captive into all the nations. They’re going to just survive until their Messiah appears. But here they were and we know they were. They were emptied out of the land and they were dispersed into every nation on the face of the earth.) and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, (what’s the next word?) until (there’s your time word. How long is Jerusalem going to be under the boot of the Gentile armies?) the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.”
Now what are we talking about? Beginning way back here in 606 BC, way back at Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem, is the first time that Jerusalem falls under the complete control of a Gentile empire, Babylon. All the way up through human history. All the way to the time of the Cross and at that time it was the Romans. And even as you come on into modern history, Israel has been under the control of various Gentile nations; the Moors, the Turks, and lastly before Israel finally made her independence, was Great Britain, under mandate. Britain was in charge of the Nation of Israel. Now of course, they’ve had a semblance of sovereignty, but for the most part, Israel is under the heavy hand of the U.N. or all the other nations and so forth.
And so they have been under the control of Gentiles ever since 606 BC and they will be until Christ returns at His Second Coming. Right now, running sort of parallel to that (not totally, but at least since the onset of the Church Age, which of course would be sometime between 30 and 40 AD, when the Church, the Body of Christ, had its beginning). For the last 1900+ years the Church has been accumulating, they’ve been brought into the Body, and it will be filled and Christ will take it out at what we call the Rapture. The Rapture will take place 7 years before the Second Coming. Here’s what I want all of you to see, and even those out in television, that the Rapture will take place just before the Tribulation. All the way back here, we’ve had the out-calling of the Gentiles into the Body of Christ, which is the Church. It will end with the Rapture. These two processes, the times of the Gentiles, during which Jerusalem is under Gentile control, is going to end at the Second Coming. The fulness of the Gentiles will end at the Rapture.
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THE MAIN HARVEST
I CORINTHIANS 15:24-54
I Corinthians 15:23, and we’re using that text as a jumping off place, because we previously asked, “Who are Christ’s at His coming that will be resurrected in the largest part of the resurrection harvest?” Remember from the Old Testament economy we had the firstfruits – the sampling – that’s Christ and those who came out of the graves after He came out in Matthew Chapter 27. Then we have the main harvest, which is the Church resurrection and includes the Rapture. Then we have the gleanings and the corners, and if we have time we’ll go back to Daniel Chapter 12 and we’ll see this is the resurrection of the Old Testament saints shortly after the Kingdom here on earth is established. So I teach the resurrection of the Just (the believers of all the ages) will be in three distinct separate stages.
I Corinthians 15:23
“But every man in his own order: (Or his own company) Christ the firstfruits; afterward (It’s now been almost 2000 years.) they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
That’s not a reference to His Second Coming but since Paul is writing about this he’s talking about Christ’s coming for the Body of Christ, “The Rapture of the Church,” two completely different events that are separated by 7 years. Remember, all the Old Testament promises and programs never considered the out-calling of the Church. It was never in there because God had kept it secret. So all the Old Testament prophecies spoke of the coming of Christ to be their King, and they would have to go through the Tribulation and then they could have the King and the Kingdom. You can find that in Psalm Chapter 2, Joel Chapter 2, and Zechariah Chapter 14. They all speak of this kind of a Biblical timeline. However, Israel rejected the King back at the Cross and the Tribulation did not come in, they did not get the Kingdom. So instead, after having crucified their Messiah, and Peter does not succeed in turning Israel into repentance (Acts 2:38).
God then brings forth the Apostle Paul and this is what we have been looking at for the past three lessons, and it’s the calling out the Body of Christ primarily from the Gentiles. And since it has nothing to do with the Old Testament program or Tribulation, which is also tied to the Old Testament and primarily for the Jew, then we maintain that the Body of Christ is insulated from God’s dealings with Israel either before or after the Cross, and so consequently this is why I teach the Rapture. The Body of Christ has to be off the scene before God can pick up dealing with Israel again. Always remember, if we could just take the Church out, which is in parentheses, then we can place the Tribulation back with the Old Testament economy of the Second Coming of the Messiah, the Tribulation, the King, and the Kingdom. However, when Israel rejected it, God went to Paul and the calling out of the Body of Christ, and it has to be raptured and then He will yet bring in the Tribulation to Israel. Now let’s go back to Romans again. Turn to Chapter 11 verse 25 (that I always I maintain will be the triggering mechanism for Christ coming for the Church). Now we know there is no time element, we can never say that in five years He’s coming. I certainly like to think He is, but we can’t say that. We don’t know if He’s coming in a hundred years, but we do know that He’s coming, and we do know that He’s coming the moment that the Body of Christ is complete. When the last person is saved, and the Body is complete then Christ will come for the Church.
“For I would not, brethren,…” (Remember Paul is writing to the common ordinary believer out there in the pew. Every believer should be aware of these things, and that’s why I teach. I don’t have to teach the preachers and the seminarians, but rather I want to teach the common people out here in the everyday walk of life. Because God wants every one of us to drop our ignorance, and pick up on the wisdom of His Word).
“…that ye should be ignorant of this mystery,…”
Now define the word `ignorant.’ When someone is ignorant it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the brain power. Someone who is ignorant isn’t someone who is incapacitated to a degree, but rather ignorance is simply a lack of being taught. I consider myself ignorant regarding electricity. I know the ramifications of it, but to get right into the details of three-phase electricity, I’m lost, Why? Because I’ve never been taught about it. I’m sure I could learn it if I had to, and it’s the same way with Scripture, most people are ignorant of the Scriptures not because they don’t have the capacity but because no one has taught them. So this is what Paul is constantly advocating; learn, learn, gain knowledge, get wisdom from The Book.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; (And here is the secret) that blindness (A spiritual blindness) in part is happened to Israel,…”
Well, what’s Paul talking about? When Israel rejected the Messiah, why did they reject Him? Ignorance! They didn’t know Who He was. I’ve been telling my classes for 25 years, over and over, Israel should have known Who Jesus was. Israel could have known Who Jesus was because it was in the Old Testament. Why didn’t they? They didn’t bother to study. The priests knew it, and they knew the stuff on the surface, but they didn’t get right down into the nitty-gritty of the Old Testament prophecies. When the wise men came to Herod and asked about the King of Israel, Herod calls up the big-wigs of Judaism, and they had to go search the Scriptures to see where He was to be born. Did they find it? Sure they did. They said “He was to be born in Bethlehem,” so they could have known, but they didn’t. And do you know America is no better right now today? Every last person in these 50 states should know that we are in the end times, that we are approaching the very coming of Christ, and the Tribulation, the appearance of the Anti-christ and world government, but do they? No. Most of them don’t even know what you’re talking about. Why? Because they chose to remain ignorant. They don’t have to be, but they are. Paul is admonishing the believers at Rome, “Don’t be ignorant of this fact that God has literally dropped a spiritual blindness on the Nation of Israel.” Remember the individual Jew can still have his eyes opened and believe, but nationally they are blinded, in fact, here in this chapter look at verse 7.
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; (What were they seeking? The King and the earthly Kingdom! How did they miss it? They were ignorant. How ignorant? Well, they were looking for a King Who would come in with pomp and power and circumstance, at least symbolically riding on a great white Arabian steed. Instead their King came riding in on a lowly donkey. And they missed it. Well, they were ignorant of Who He really was, and so Paul says, `that Israel did not obtain that which they were looking for,’) but the election (Those few Jews who did believe) hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” And that’s the Nation of Israel to this very day. They are still blind to Who Jesus really was. Now coming back to verse 25, Paul says, “That we Gentiles are to understand that this spiritual blindness has fallen on the Nation of Israel, and it will remain on their spiritual eyes”
“…until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
Well, what’s the fulness of the Gentiles? The Body of Christ, the Church. So when the Body of Christ is full then God will take us out of the way and He will start dealing again with the Nation of Israel. Now when I say that the Tribulation is primarily Jewish, here’s where I have to go back with you to Jeremiah Chapter 30, and of course this is just one verse. There are many, many others. However this one is so plain that I think anybody can comprehend it.
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FIRST FRUITS: GLEANINGS: OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS: RESURRECTION
Let’s turn to 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2. Now, just for a little recap from the last lesson. I hope I didn’t leave any questions unanswered. The first resurrection of believers of all ages is really broken down into the three categories as indicated by Israel’s harvest of grain. That is, first there were the ‘first fruits,’ which was of course epitomized by Christ, and those that came out of the graves in Matthew 27.
We have the Main harvest that came from the Church Age and the great resurrection day at the Rapture, or the trumpet sound when Christ shall leave Heaven and meet us in the air. The Old Testament believers as well as the Tribulation Believers who will have been martyred and died, seemingly are represented by the gleanings and the corners that were left in the Jewish harvest, and they will be resurrected shortly after the kingdom has begun.
Then, I hardly had time to explain at the end of the lesson, but you see this is why we have that picture in the parables, and in the Old Testament, that the Jewish believers will be the guests at the wedding feast. We won’t take time to look at that, but if you want to, you can pick that up in Psalms Chapter 45, I think. It’s also alluded to in the Song of Solomon. Lots of people don’t understand the Song of Solomon as being so typical of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Now on our Time Line we’re coming to that next event. The Church Age will have ended with the Rapture, and then we know that the Tribulation will be ushered in next. It will be that seven years not associated with the Church – because the Church Age has ended – it’s gone. Instead, we’ll be coming back to God’s dealing with the Jew once again. I’ll never forget a little lady in one of my classes, all of a sudden she just happened to see it. Then she exclaimed, “In other words God’s going to pick up with the Jews where he left off.” She hit the nail on the head perfectly.
Now, he has taken this Old Testament program, as we saw back in Psalms Chapter 2. God’s time table stopped when He turned to the Gentiles with the Gospel of Grace. When that period has ended you will find Grace and Law cannot mix. Israel is going to have the Temple, she’s going to go back under the Law. If ever I have any argument that we will not go into the Tribulation, it’s that one purpose right there. You can not mix Law and Grace. Therefore, Grace cannot go into the Jewish economy, as it will pick up again in that seven-year Tribulation period. It has to be removed, so they cannot be mixed.
Paul, here in 2 Thessalonians, is coming as close to prophecy, if you want to call it that, as he does in any portion of his writings. He is introducing us to this seven-year period of time which Jesus in Matthew 24 calls the time of Tribulation. Now in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 verse 1 Paul writes to the Thessalonians believers who, believe it or not, had gotten to the place with all the persecution that they were under, and all the pressure, they were afraid that the Rapture had taken place, and they had missed it. So, Paul had to quickly come back with 2 Thessalonians and reassure them that they hadn’t missed the Rapture, that, yes, things were going to get tough, but it wasn’t their situation.
II Thessalonians 2:1,2
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”
Do you see how that little bunch of words sets that completely apart from the second Coming. See, at the second Coming Christ won’t be gathering people unto Himself. He’s coming! But here Paul is referring to an act of Christ where He’s going to gather His own unto himself, and that’s the Rapture. Verse 2: “That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled.” In other words, Paul is setting their mind at ease that they hadn’t missed the Rapture. And he’s going to give them points to look for so that they’ll know that they haven’t missed it. “Neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that day of Christ is at hand.” Here is a time to stop and define. The Day of Christ is referring to that out-calling of the Church, the Rapture. The Day of The Lord, the Day of Jehovah, the Day of God; that is this period of time, including the Tribulation and into the Second Coming and the setting up of the Kingdom. That’s all referred to as the Day of The Lord, etc. But, the day of Christ is that time when Christ will call the Body of Christ unto himself.
II Thessalonians 2:3
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;…”
Let’s look at what he says. “that day”, the day of Christ, the calling out of the body, “shall not come except there come a falling away first.” Now, that word in the Greek is ‘apostasia,’ from which we get the word, apostasy. Now, I’m afraid too many Christians, churchgoers and members, do not know what apostasy is. I can remember when I was young, I thought it had something to do with the Apostles, but I wouldn’t doubt that a lot of other people think the same thing, because it is so close in pronunciation. But apostasy is that turning away from the revealed truth of the Word of God.
Isn’t that exactly where we are today? The churches, for the most part, have apostatized. They have turned their backs on the basic truths of Scripture. And this is why all the false teachings are having such a free run in so many of our main-line denominations. And this is why so many theologians and pastors and preachers are denying the Virgin birth. They are denying the literal, physical, visible Resurrection of Christ as just so much methodology. They have turned their backs on the revealed truth of the Word of God. We’re in it, so now then, what does that tell you and me? We could be expecting the Day of Christ at any time because the apostasy has now come about.
Let’s look further. “..there shall come a falling away first….“ (apostasy). There’s also a second definition of apostasy. We see it here and other places in our New Testament. It is actually translated, “departure,” as a person departing from one place to another. So, you might say that within verse three, you not only have the apostecia of Christendom turning it’s back upon the truth of the Word of God, but also the departure of the Christian himself; we’re going to be taken out. And then, as soon as the apostasy has come on the scene, there shall be the revealing of whom? That ‘man of sin,’ who will be revealed, the son of perdition. Who is that? The Anti-christ.
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