By Joe Torosian
Picking this up in Part Three, I’ve already established that I don’t believe we are looking at a Rapture, Antichrist, 7-year Tribulation, 666-Mark, Battle of Armageddon…and that Jesus did fulfill all he said he would do in Matthew 24 (and in the Gospels Mark & Luke) regarding “that” generation not passing away.
These beliefs move me from a Dispensational/Premillennial camp (Lindsey, LaHaye, Van Impe, everything we were taught growing up) to a “Partial Preterist” position.
(A Full-Preterist—which I am not—believes that all prophecy has been fulfilled.)
A Partial-Preterist believes that most, but not all, of the prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled.
The key prophecies remaining fulfillment are:
1.) Christ’s physical return
2.) The Resurrection
3.) His judgment of the living and the dead.
The Nicene Creed (325 AD), the most important extra-biblical creed in Christianity, acknowledges this when it says: “And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead…”
Here’s the opening of the Nicene Creed as a refresher:
(Once a year we used to read this in church so it may sound familiar to you.)
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end…
The Council Nicea, where this creed came together, is a huge moment in church history because it defined what we believe. One of the most famous early church fathers present at Nicea was Eusebius. Eusebius makes clear in his writings that all of Jesus’ prophecies related to Matthew 24 were fulfilled (“Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Bk. III, Chpt. V-VIII”).
(By the way, John Wesley agrees that Jesus’ prophecies were fulfilled in 70 AD, but I digress.)
And yet in the creed that was crafted, Eusebius agrees with the words “And he shall come again.”
Meaning he believed that Jesus came in judgment in 70 AD on Jerusalem but that he also believed Jesus was coming again.
***Do you remember last week’s cliffhanger?***
This Scripture has not come to pass…
“‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”—Acts 1:11
I believe Jesus is coming again. While we don’t have a clue as to when that will be, the Scripture in Acts makes clear he is coming back.
“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Our argument is that Jesus did come back—at the end of the Age of the Old Covenant—in judgment of Jerusalem and Israel.
Look at Revelation 19, in particular, Revelation 19:11-16
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
You don’t need a Ph.D. from seminary to know that John is talking about Jesus.
Except…This passage in Revelation is not how his return is described in Acts 1:11.
And again, in the context of Revelation itself—and the language used in Revelation—you realize Revelation 19 is talking about a judgment coming on the Jewish people and Jerusalem. Scholar Dr. Kenneth Gentry describes it as God’s divorce of Israel, and his taking of a new bride the Church.
In Acts, we don’t see Jesus departing on a white horse readying for war…In Revelation we do.
And there are other scriptures to support that these are two distinct events.
“So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”—Hebrews 9:28
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”— John 5:28-29
Revelation 19 does not talk about salvation or resurrection. It talks about judgment and vengeance for the saints.
(You might remember this line from Matthew 27:25— “All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’”)
Revelation 19 is an event different than what we see portrayed in the Scriptures mentioned in Hebrews, John, and Acts.
There is a time in our future when all graves will be emptied out, and the dead will be sorted into those who will live and those who will be condemned. This is the Final Judgment—there’s a lot of stuff to get into on this—but I want to stick to differentiating 70 AD’s judgment to Christ’s return that is still in our future.
The following scripture is a classic go to scripture in talking about a Rapture…but it’s really a description of his Second Coming (not the judgment coming of Matthew 24/Revelation 19) and the end of history.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13.) Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
14.) We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
15.) According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16.) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17.) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
18.) Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Where’s the horse? The sword? The fury? The vengeance?
I plan on talking about the Rapture next week, but because it has been injected into this verse in Thessalonians, it is essential to compare and contrast it to the Second Coming of Christ we’ve been discussing in this column.
The Rapture doctrine was non-existent before the 1830s. All commentaries published before 1830 and the Scofield Bible in 1909 never mention a Rapture event.
Matthew Henry (a classic, well respected Biblical commentary) in 1721 speaks of the Thessalonian passage this way:
They shall be raised up from the dead, and awakened out of their sleep, for God will bring them with him, v 14. They then are with God, and are better where they are than when they were here; and when God comes he will bring them with him. The doctrine of the resurrection and the second coming of Christ is a great antidote against the fear of death and inordinate sorrow for the death of our Christian friends…
Matthew Henry and others saw the purpose of these scriptures as referring to the resurrection of the dead at the final coming of Christ…And not a Rapture event that would kickoff seven years of tribulation prior to Christ’s return.
(Yes, I know, many believe the Rapture will take place 3 1/2 years into the Tribulation)
Paul also talks about this again in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21
If you take a look at the opening of 1 Thessalonians, Paul commends the church there for enduring through severe suffering (V. 6) and is encouraging them with words about those who have died (fallen asleep).
There is no use of the word Rapture in this passage. Or even the Greek word “harpazo” that is thrown around to support the idea of a Rapture. The word Rapture/ekstasis (ek’-stas-is) only appears in the Bible in the context of bewilderment, trance, and ecstasy.
There is no mention of an Antichrist or Tribulation to escape from.
So if we can’t find explicit evidence of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18…Then what we are reading is explicit evidence of Christ’s Second Coming.
How does this…or better…How should this change our view of the future? How should we view the big business that End Times teaching and entertainment have become?
Instead of waiting for the end of the world…Instead of taking every good thing that happens and declaring, “Well, it’s not going to last,” and then go on waiting for something horrible to happen…Or whining about an election outcome…Or fretting about the next ice age or global warming…
How about looking to the future with optimism? How about accepting that the horrors of Revelation have already occurred and that Christ’s kingdom is continuing to advance on the earth?
That as the church—to borrow a popular cultural reference: We are the danger. We are the ones who knock. We are the ones assaulting the Gates of Hell…and not cowering and cringing for a trumpet to sound so we can escape.
(And there is a fascinating discussion to be had about Christ’s kingdom advancing, the breaking down of the “Gates of Hell,” and reclaiming the nations dating all the way back to Babel.)
How about being part of a church that plans on sticking around preaching and teaching the Gospel?…Instead of being a church looking/searching for an exit strategy?
You should also notice in taking this view I have not denied the Virgin Birth, the work of the Cross, the blood of Jesus, the Resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, or the validity of the Scriptures… All I’ve done—and nothing original to me—is cobble together simple Biblical evidence from a first-century reader’s perspective.
So feel free to disagree, but you might want to hesitate on declaring this heresy or invalidating my salvation.
I will close with this…
What has been done to the church and its people in the name of Rapture/Dispensational/Premillennial theology (to the complete exclusion of other views) is an absolute crime. In fact, I’ll go further and say that in the way it’s been taught–as pure non-debatable theological doctrine—it is heresy.
You can subscribe to it as a theory, as a position, but to make it an absolute—a conditional belief in regards to our salvation—is an insult to Christ, the Church, and the Scriptures.
Have you ever read…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, and the Rapture, shall not perish but have eternal life.” …?
Have you ever read…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, and John Wesley, shall not perish but have eternal life.” …?
Have you ever read…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, and John Calvin, shall not perish but have eternal life.” …?
Neither have I…But I have read the following:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life.”—John 3:16
If you’d like to complain about this column, Joe T. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org