Saturday, May 13, 2006

History Lesson—Ralph E. Woodrow Weighs In

Excerpted from Great Prophecies of The Bible by Ralph E. Woodrow. Copyright © 1971.

George Ladd, seminary professor, after making a survey of church history says: "Every church father who deals with this subject expects the church to suffer at the hands of Antichrist...we can find no trace of pretribulationism in the early church: and no modern pretribulationist has successfully proved that this particular doctrine was held by any of the church fathers or students of the word before the nineteenth century."

This is quite a sweeping statement, but one, which we believe, will stand up under investigation. The Didache, one of the earliest pieces of Christian literature written after the New Testament, stated that Antichrist would come, that many would be offended and lost, and the resurrection of the just would follow this time of woe. The Epistle of Barnabas, written about the same time, says: "When the Son comes, he will destroy the time of the Wicked one and will judge the godless"-thus placing the coming of Christ after the reign of the Wicked one, not before. He did not hold to an any moment return of Christ, for he expected the Roman empire to fall first.

Justin Martyr (100-165) spoke of the coming of the Lord in these words: "He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on earth against us Christians, who, have learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus." Christ "shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by his angelic hosts, when also he shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immorality."

Irenaeus (130-202) spoke of the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist....But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world...then the Lord shall come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom." He spoke of kings whom "shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight. After that the coming of our Lord shall destroy them.... In the end the church shall be suddenly caught up: and, having overcome, will be "crowned with incorruption."

Tertullian (160-240) believed that Antichrist would rise to power and persecute the church. He affirmed it was customary for Christians to pray for a part in the resurrection to meet Christ at the end of the world.

Hippolytus (170-236) spoke of the four empires of Daniel and that the breaking up of the fourth empire (which was then in power) would bring on the dreaded Antichrist who would persecute the church. He believed the second advent would be the time that the dead would be raised, Antichrist destroyed, and the saints glorified. Cyprian (200-258), a Christian bishop and martyr, believed Antichrist would reign, after which Christ would come at the end of the world.

Lactantius (260-330) believed the Antichrist would reign over the world and afflict the righteous, but that God would send a Great King to rescue them, to destroy the wicked with fire and sword, to raise the dead and renew the world.

Cyril (315-386), bishop of Jerusalem, wrote: "We believe in Him, who also ascended into the heavens, and sat down on the right hand of the Father, and shall come in glory to judge the quick and the end of this world, in the last day. For of this world there is to be an end, and this created world is to be re-made anew. It is evident from various statements, that he believed Antichrist would come to power and persecute the church before the second coming of Christ.


Alan Kurschner said...

Dave, thanks for posting that excerpt. These citations demonstrate not only the expectation that the church would encounter the antichrist, but even more telling, it was not even up for debate.

Dave Bussard said...

>it was not even up for debate.<

It would have been hard for it to be up for debate considering nobody had ever heard of it. It's amazing that so few understand this.

Alan Kurschner said...

Exactly. Early Christians (pre-Constantine) believed they were actually experiencing the Great trib and the antichrist's persecution (i.e. Caesar and the Roman Empire).

Barnabas41 said...

Who’s Taken, Who’s Left, At What Rapture?
Joe Ortiz

Before we present biblical evidence as to how God is going to protect His called out ones during the increased times of tribulation that precede the return of Christ, through what we call the End Times Passover, the author finds it necessary to make some critical observations about the language that has been used for many years concerning God’s End Times rescue program, especially the part theorists call The Rapture! The author also wants to clear up, once and for all, the issue of who’s taken and who’s left.

Let’s first examine closely the phrase that most theorists use in connection with what they believe is the ecclesia’s “blessed hope,” which they refer to as The Rapture. What do proponents of a Pre-Tribulation escape from earth to heaven mean when they call the Rapture of His church the “blessed hope?” Do they mean that the “blessed hope” spoken about in Titus 2:13 is The Rapture, that the catching up to heaven assumption is the single most important part of God’s overall redemption program?

Let’s examine the scriptural passage most often referred to by theorists, which they claim is the primary scripture source of this unauthorized coined phrase: The Rapture!

For the Lord himself come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call or God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up 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, (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

John F. Walvoord, in his book The Rapture Question (page 12), states that “The word rapture is from rapere, found in the expression “caught up” in the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.” George Eldon Ladd, in his book The Blessed Hope (page 78), states “The word “Rapture” is derived from the Latin word rapio which is found in the Latin Bible in verse 17 and translated “caught.” Hal Lindsey, in his book The Rapture (page 24), states that “The word rapture comes from a Latin translation of the Greek word harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which is translated in English as “caught up.” It literally means “to seize” or “to snatch.” If I had my way, I would call the rapture “the great snatch.”

Regardless of which rendering you prefer, all three of these gentlemen believe that the so-called “The Rapture” phrase originates from the Greek verb harpazo. The author checked in W. E. Vine’s book, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, for the meaning of the word “rapture,” and the word “rapture” does not appear in his dictionary, whatsoever. Neither does Vine have any category in his Greek Dictionary for the word caught nor caught up, only for the words snatch, pluck, pull and take. This is what Vine states is the definition for the word catch:

Catch: HARPAZO, a verb, to snatch or catch away, is said of the act of the Spirit of the Lord in regard to Philip in Acts 8:39; of Paul in being caught up to Paradise, 2 Cor. 12:2, 4; of the rapture of the saints at the returning of the Lord, l Thess. 4:17; of the rapture of the man child in the vision of Rev. 12:5. This verb conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised, as in Matt. 11:12, “take (it) by force;” 12:29, “spoil” (some mss. have diarpazo here); in 13:19 RV., “snatcheth;” for forceful seizure, see also John 6:15, 10:12, 28, 29; Acts 23:10; in Jude 23, RV. “snatching.” See Pluck, Pull, Snatch, and Take (by force). (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 166) [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Let’s briefly examine the Greek word harpazo and the scriptures where this word is used. Once again, the word harpazo is the Greek verb for pluck, catch, snatch and take, and it is never used as a noun, pronoun or proper noun. The author might add that the word up is not included after the word caught in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. We first find the word harpazo in Matthew 11:12, where it is used about the Kingdom of God, where violent men take by force; in Matthew 12:29, where Jesus, while talking to the Pharisees, states, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? We see harpazo again in Matthew 13:19, in Jesus’ parable of the sower, where He states, When anyone hears the message about the Kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in the heart. The word harpazo is again used in John 6:28, where we see that Jesus knew that the people were going to try to take Him by force and make Him King. Harpazo is again used in John 10:12, where Jesus, referring to Himself as the good shepherd, talks about the wolf who attacks the flock and scatters it, the wolf being an example of the devil and the flock being the example of His sheep (called out ones). Further in John 10:28, 29, we see Jesus proclaiming that His sheep listen to His voice, they follow Him, He gives them eternal life, they will never perish and no one can snatch them out of His hand. Jesus goes on to say, My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

In Acts 8:39, the verb harpazo is found in the original manuscript where we see the apostle Philip being snatched by the Spirit to Azotus; and, in Acts 23:10, it is used again to describe when the apostle Paul is taken by force to the Roman barracks. In 2 Corinthians 12:4, the Greek verb harpazo again is used to describe Paul being caught into paradise (he didn’t know if in spirit or body), but not up to paradise. The word up does not follow the word caught in this verse, but, rather, the preposition into (Gr. eis). The most well known scripture where the Greek verb harpazo is used is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where we see Paul exhorting the believers that they will be caught to meet the Lord in the air. You will notice very carefully though, that this verse doesn’t say they will be caught up to heaven, but rather, caught together to meet the Lord in the air. [There is more to follow on this verse in another chapter]

We see the word harpazo used also in Jude 23, where the author exhorts the saints to be merciful and snatch others from fire; and, in Revelation 12:5, the verb harpazo is used to describe the male child (Jesus) who was snatched to God and His throne. In this verse also we do not see the word up used after caught or snatched.

The question we would pose to theorists, dispensationalists and our readers, too, is this: Would it be proper to say in Matthew 11:12 that the Kingdom of God is raptured by violent men? Would it be proper to say in Matthew 12:29 that someone enters a strong man’s house and raptures what was sown in the heart? Would it be proper to say in John 6:15 that the people were trying to rapture Jesus and make Him King? Would it be proper to say in John 10:12 that the wolf raptures the flock and scatters it? Does it make any sense at all to say in John 10:28 and 29 that no one can rapture the sheep from Jesus’ or the Father’s hand? If we were to accept the theorists’ contention that the word harpazo is to be interpreted as rapture, then we would also have to apply the word rapture to all of the above-mentioned verses that contain the word harpazo.

In Acts 8:39, it describes where the apostle Philip is snatched by the Spirit to Azotus, but does it state that Philip was snatched up to Azotus? Not at all! If we can truly discern the exact rendering of the word harpazo, we can see that it does not convey where a person is snatched to, but rather, the Greek verb harpazo means the manner in which the person was snatched. This verse merely describes the forceful manner in which Philip was transported from his location on the desert road, where he had finished ministering to the Ethiopian eunuch, and then appeared at Azotus. Would it be proper to say that Philip was raptured to Azotus? Of course not! This verse merely tells us that Philip was quickly and forcefully transported by the Spirit from where he was to Azotus! In Jude 23, the word harpazo is used to describe how the Christian should snatch a person from a life of sin and escape the fire of wrath to come. Would it be proper to say we are to rapture them from sin or from fire?

With the exception of Revelation 12:5, where it talks about the male child (Jesus) who was snatched to God and His throne, and possibly in the account where Paul speaks about him being caught into the third heaven (he didn’t know if it was in body or spirit), it appears that when the word harpazo is used, it does not refer to anyone being taken up but merely the forceful manner in which they are transported. Some theorists have argued that Paul definitely entered into heaven, even though Paul himself was not certain whether he was plucked in the body or spirit. However, we can rightly state that Paul did not bodily enter into heaven because 1 Corinthians 15:50 tells us that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We must conclude then that Paul has not seen heaven and is the only person in history who has been allowed to hear (not see) unspeakable words, which is not lawful for man to utter, (2 Corinthians 12:4, KJV).

More importantly, while many theorists believe that the Christian Church will experience a secret catching up to heaven, an event theorists claim will be unseen by those who will supposedly be left behind, nowhere in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 nor any other place in the Bible does it make that specific claim! However it does specifically state that God’s ecclesia will be caught to meet the Lord in the air, but the verse (in the original manuscript) does not say that the Christian Church is caught up to heaven. It merely states that the called out ones will be caught (Gr. harpazo, snatched) together with those who sleep in Christ to have a meeting (Gr. noun apentesis, a meeting, officially greet arriving royalty) with Jesus in the air, and henceforth will be with Him forever. The author might add that this verse does not say at what specific location the ecclesia will be at with Him after it is caught; however, this location will become clearly and abundantly identified later in this book!

In Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the English word rapture is defined as a noun from the Latin raptus, which means “a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion; a mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to acknowledge things; an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion.” Theorists contend that their doctrinal phrase “The Rapture” (which has become predominately accepted, if not wholly adopted, by the dispensational community) is a pronoun that describes the most anticipated special event by many in the Christian community. They believe they have correctly coined this anticipated event, The Rapture (now a proper noun), based solely on their interpretation of the Greek verb harpazo. They now interpret the verb (harpazo) as a noun (rapture), feeling it is derived from the Latinization of the verb to “seize.” The Latin for “seize” is definitely rapere, from whence comes the Latin noun raptus, the past participle of rapere, from the Middle English. However, the Latin noun raptus has more to do with the completed act in where a person has been seized and carried away. It does not imply the manner (as does the verb harpazo) in which a person is carried away. Therefore, the Greek verb harpazo is not to be deciphered as an event that has transpired, but rather, it denotes the manner in which a person is being seized.

In essence, theorists have been using the Greek verb harpazo not only as a noun, but they also have coined a proper noun (The Rapture) for this action, which is truly altering the word of God! The word caught in 1Thessalonians 4:17 is not a noun, but rather, the word caught (Greek verb harpazo) here is describing the rapidity and forceful manner in which a person is lifted or carried off. Theorists continue, as they have for over two hundred years - when the word Rapture was coined to describe the action they believe is being described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, to rest their doctrinal beliefs on this interpretation as being biblical truth. That the verb harpazo is so carelessly used to describe an event rather than the manner in which God’s ecclesia will be caught to have a meeting (Gr. apentesis, official greeting of royalty) with the arriving Christ (the royalty of all royalties) truly boggles the mind!

Without appearing picayune in this matter, myths are too often formed in such a presumptuous and careless manner. This phrase “The Rapture” has gained such worldwide acceptance these last two hundred years, especially by modern-day theorists and evangelists who incessantly infer that “the blessed hope” is the being caught part of God’s overall redemption program. The blessed hope is more than the being caught to meet the Lord in the air portion of God’s overall redemption program; it entails so much more. Matthew Henry, in his commentary on the book of Titus, Chapter 2, elaborates the totality of the blessed hope of God’s called out ones:

There is a common and blessed hope for all true Christians in the other world. If in this life only they had hope in Christ, they were of all men the most miserable, 1 Co. 15:19. By hope is meant the thing hoped for, namely, Christ himself, who is called our hope (1 Tim. 1:1), and blessedness in and through him, even riches of glory (Eph. 1:18), hence fitly termed here that blessed hope. [2.] The design of the gospel is to stir up all to a good life by this blessed hope. Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Pt. 1:13. To the same purport here, Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope; not as mercenaries, but as dutiful and thankful Christian. What manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God! 2 Pt. 3:11, 12. Looking and hastening, that is, expecting and diligently preparing for it. [3.] At, and in, the glorious appearing of Christ will the blessed hope of Christians be attained; for their felicity will be this, to be where he is, and to behold his glory, Jn. 17:24. The glory of the great God and our Saviour will then break out as the sun. Though in the exercise of his judiciary power he will appear as the Son of man, yet will he be mightily declared to be the Son of God too. The divinity, which on earth was much veiled, will shine out then as the sun in its strength. Hence the work and design of the gospel are to raise the heart to wait for this second appearing of Christ. We are begotten again to a lively hope of it (1 Pt. 1:3), turned to serve the living God, and wait for his Son from heaven, 1 Th. 1:9, 10. Christians are marked by this, expecting their Master’s coming (Lu. 12:36), loving his appearance, 2 Tim. 4:8. Let us the look to this hope; let our loins be girt, and our lights burning, and ourselves like those who wait for their Lord; the day or hour we know not, but he that shall come will come, and will not tarry, Heb. 10:37. [4.] The comfort and joy of Christians are that their Saviour is the great God, and will gloriously manifest himself at his second coming. Power and love, majesty and mercy, will then appear together in the highest lustre, to the terror and confusion of the wicked, but to the everlasting triumph and rejoicing of the godly. Were he not thus the great God, and not a mere creature, he could not be their Saviour, nor their hope. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on Titus 2) [Bold and underlines is by the author, solely for emphasis]

No, the blessed hope is not merely the being caught up (or Raptured, as theorists call that act), it is the totality of God’s redemption program, as Matthew Henry so eloquently presents in his commentary. Unfortunately, a myriad of dispensationalists and Rapture theorists continue to present their soothing mythology to hundreds of thousands of Christians, thereby lulling many into a false sense of hope, one that mitigates the impending persecutions Christians will experience before The Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, these theorists have conveniently and cleverly twisted the words of God to infer a pseudo hope for the Christian, by giving new meaning to one single verb in the Bible. Unfortunately, the Rapture has become the mantra for theorists who believe that the (caught) act is the blessed hope spoken of in Titus, Chapter 2. The Greek verb harpazo, which merely describes the rapid and forceful manner that called out ones will be gathered together to have a meeting in the air with Christ, has now become the blessed hope for most Christians; simply by interpreting a verb (harpazo) into a proper noun they call The Rapture!

One graphic example the author often uses to explain the inference we are dealing with here is one where a great rescue of a valiant soldier in a war zone has been planned. Let’s say, for example, the battle-weary soldier is finally going to be reunited with his commander after having served for many years in battle, where for three and a half years he has been involved in hand-to-hand combat. He’s war-torn and weary, a victim of many bayonet and bullets wounds, almost to the point of death. He is now a prisoner of his enemies, a victim of much torture and persecution. But he waits and waits, never losing faith, always praying that soon he will be rescued from this ordeal. Then, lo and behold, he looks up and there he sees a helicopter coming in his direction, armed and loaded with ammunition, and his commander is at the controls. Suddenly, he sees this giant, knotted rope coming down, he reaches up and grabs a hold of it and, within a twinkling of an eye, he is “snatched” and delivered from the horrors he has been experiencing. Allow the author to ask this question. “What is the most important thing the soldier was hoping for? The being snatched up part or the fact that finally he would be going to meet with his commander and never have to experience combat again?” Yes, the “snatching” process was very important because he knew then, at that exact moment he would no longer have to do battle again. However, during his combat period, he was not concerned so much about the specifics of his rescue, but rather, how much longer it would take before his commander came to destroy his enemies and reunite him with his fellow soldiers, family and friends. Unfortunately, too many Christians are more caught up with the process of the rescue than they are in the true blessed hope, which is the glorious appearing, return and being reunited with Jesus Christ!

The point the author is trying to make here is that there are millions of Christians who believe deeply in the so-called Rapture theory and have become so convinced that now that they are “Born Again” Christians, they can continue the remainder of their earthly journey without fear of having to experience great tribulation. However, too many Christians are resting their hopes on an unproven theory that claims they will be secretly “caught up” to heaven at any moment, which the author is convinced that scripture reveals will not be the case. As we will see in later chapters, the phrase The Rapture has lulled many Christians into a wishful thinking state that could very well catch them off guard and, more importantly, impede the growth and maturing process that will be necessary to spiritually deal with the reality of the coming tribulation.

The author believes that scripture clearly spell out the three-step phase of God’s Rescue Program as it relates to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, where the so-called The Rapture theory originates. No scripture in the Bible specifies that the “blessed hope” is fulfilled by being “caught up” to heaven; but, rather, the being “caught” to have a meeting in the air with Jesus is the second part of the overall three-stage rescue process that culminates in our being reunited with Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, who will return to reign on earth, forever!

Let’s look at what the Bible says is the first stage:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immorality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory, (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In these passages, we see a graphic description of The Resurrection, where the main emphasis is solely on the being “changed” phase of God’s rescue process. No mention is made in these verses about being “caught up” to heaven because Paul here is providing discernment pertaining solely to the mystery of the instantaneous transition (in the ‘twinkling of an eye’) phase that precedes the being “caught” described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Paul states that the perishable must put on the imperishable, and the mortal must put on immortality. He states that this will happen at the last trumpet which harmonizes not only with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, but also with Matthew 24:31 and Revelation 11:15-18, which describes the fulfillment of The Resurrection and the subsequent rewarding of the saints (vs. 18). This passage will be discussed later in greater detail, as will other passages pertaining to this subject from the Book of Revelation.

Phase Two of God’s Rescue Program is the part where called out ones will be “caught” together with those that sleep in Christ to have a “meeting” with the Lord in the air! According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word “meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is not the Greek verb apantao, to go to meet, to meet, but it’s the Greek noun apantesis, which is best defined as a meeting where one welcomes another. This is what W. E. Vine says about this Greek noun:

“APANTESIS, a meeting (akin to Apantao, apo, from antao, to meet with, come face to face with), occurs in Mat. 25:6 (in some Mss in verse 2, and in 27:32, in some Mss); Acts 28:1; 1 Thess. 4:17. It is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate. It seems that the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary (Moulton, Greek Test. Gram. Vol. 1, p. 14).” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishing, pages 729,730) [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

According to Vine, the Greek noun apantesis does entail “to meet with, come face to face with;” however, he says that the meaning relates more so with the welcoming of an arriving dignitary. This word apantesis is used only four times in the Bible, and it means the same thing each time: to not only have a face-to-face meeting, but to greet, welcome and then to escort back the persons you had the meeting with! In Acts 28:15, we see the word apantesis used as Paul was talking about fellow Christian brothers who had heard that Paul and 276 of his companions were coming to Rome, and they went outside of the city, as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to have a meeting (apantesis) with them. They met them and then they escorted them back to the city! The same word is used in the parable of the five faithful virgins that went to meet (apantesis) the arriving bridegroom then escorted him back to the wedding banquet, mentioned in Matthew 25: 1 and 6. Many theorists use the parable of the five virgins as proof that they went to meet the bridegroom and then supposedly went up to heaven with Him. However, further in the parable, we see the other five virgins who did not have oil in their lamps knocking on the door where the wedding banquet was being held, pleading for the Lord to open the door. Mere logic dictates that these unprepared virgins could not have been at heaven’s gate. [More on this aspect in another chapter] Nevertheless, in each of the four cases where the word apantesis is used, it always describes a face-to-face meeting, but the greater definition is one that specifically describes a welcome meeting to escort the arriving party back to where the greeters came from!

The best example the author can use of what the word apantesis truly means in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and the other scripture just cited, is comparable to when a group of people gather together at an airport to greet a visiting dignitary. Whenever the President of the United States or the Queen of England visits each other’s country, you will always find a welcoming committee comprised of very special people. You might find some people standing behind the fence trying to get a glimpse of the dignitaries, but only the “chosen ones” are allowed “to meet” with the VIPs, and thereby, share in the glory of the arriving royalty. Therein lays the reason why there cannot be a secret ‘snatching up’ of any believers solely to return to heaven, anywhere from three and a half to seven years. This is so because the returning Christ wants the whole world to see that those who believe in Him will be rewarded for their faith, patience and trust, and consequently share in His Glory! A beautiful example of this truth is found in Colossians 3:4 which states, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” In Philippians 3:20, it explicitly tells us that although our citizenship is in heaven, the verse goes on to state that, we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body, (Philippians 3:20, 21, NIV). [Underline is by the author, solely for emphasis] Also, in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Paul is telling the saints in Thessalonica what the “blessed hope” really is, and when it is fulfilled:

For what is our hope, our joy or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy, (1 Thessalonians 2:19 [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Therefore, is the so-called “The Rapture,” the being caught (Gr. verb harpazo) part of the Lord’s return a special event, unto itself?” No! It is one aspect of God’s rescue plan; however, it is not a specially named event that the Bible identifies, as it enunciates proper pronouns such as the Sabbath Day or the Passover. Theorists foolishly contend and grammatically err that the verb harpazo should now be equated as the Latin noun raptus, and therefore the verb caught should now be viewed as a pronoun: The Rapture!

There are four special aspects to God’s end time rescue plan, and it appears that they are instantaneous to a certain degree; however, there is a procession aspect to the main event which scripture plainly states in harmony with the passages cited. Number one is the change (Gr. allasso, to make other than it is) spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:52, which does not entail nor describes any removal or translation to heaven. This is where the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on the immortal in the twinkling of an eye. The second stage is when the called out ones are caught (Gr. harpazo, snatched), not necessarily in the twinkling of an eye, but forcefully; both those who have already died and are currently asleep in Christ, and those who will be alive and awaiting His return. The next stage is when we will meet (Gr. apantesis, a meeting), the noun for a welcoming face-to-face meeting with the Lord in the air, and then escort Him back to earth as we share in His visible glory, and then to begin the kingdom reign on earth with Him forever! Then there is the fourth phase, where we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad, (2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV). [Detailed discussions on the Judgment Seat of Christ follow in other chapters of this book]

The author understands how convenient it has been these many years for numerous scholars to refer to God’s total rescue plan in the pronoun tense by calling it The Rapture. However, upon close scrutiny of what the scriptures truly say, and how they harmonize with the passages we have cited, it appears to the author that calling this snatching part of God’s rescue program The Blessed Hope certainly detracts from the intent of what God’s Word plainly states. There is no mystery in what He is conveying to us. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, will return to earth to rule and reign in visible glory. There is absolutely no need for the Lord to secretly step down from His heavenly throne to snatch a group of people out of this world and return back to heaven for a period of time unbeknownst to any besides those who wish this were the case. [The author will be dealing with this topic in greater detail in a later chapter.]

The main point we want to make is that to refer to one aspect (the catch part) of God’s rescue program, as being significantly more important than His overall “blessed hope” redemption plan, is harmful to the growth and maturation needed by believers, who must be spiritually ready for the great and increasing times of persecutions that Christians will be experiencing in future times, and the horrific events that must precede His arrival.

Who’s Taken and who’s Left?
Another example of how theorists erroneously use scripture to pad their secret Pre, Mid or Post Tribulation Rapture to heaven theories is found in their interpretation of Luke 17:34, 35. Let’s read these two verses very carefully, but first beginning with the four preceding verses in this chapter. In attempts to validate their left behind schemes, implying called out ones will be taken to heaven while the unjust will remain on earth to suffer God’s wrath, theorists primarily quote Luke 17, verses 30 through 35:

It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed, one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left, (Luke 17:30-35, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Some Bibles have included another verse here, 36, which reads: “Two men shall be in the field; one shall be taken, and the other left.” Nevertheless, the message is clear that regardless of marital status or working relationships of these individuals, when the Son of Man is revealed, these verses clearly state that one person will be punished and the other spared from God’s wrath. If theorists insist on using these verses to describe who is left and who is taken at the so-called Rapture, isn’t it interesting to note verse 30 (above) states this happens on the day the Son of Man is revealed. So much for the “secret” aspect of the Rapture!

The true sadness, however, is the manner in which many in the evangelical and dispensationalist community erroneously interpret these verses to support their secret escape to heaven theories. Too often have preachers and teachers of the Gospel interpreted this verse to read that those taken are the ones that will supposedly be caught up to heaven and the ones left are supposedly those who will be punished and sent to hell! Let’s examine very carefully the exact meaning of these two words: taken and left!

According to W. E. Vine, the word taken (or receive) is the Greek verb paralambano, which means to “receive, to take to (or with) oneself.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Pages 926 and 1117). Vine states that paralambano is used in Matthew 27:27, as we see Jesus being taken into the Praetorium where He was beaten immediately prior to His crucifixion. It is interesting to see that the Greek word paralambano is not used for the word taken in Acts 1:2, where it speaks about Jesus will be taken up to heaven. The word there is analambano (Gr. ana, up, lambano, take). Nor is paralambano used in Acts 1:9 to describe Him being taken up to heaven in Acts 1:9. The Greek word used to describe Jesus being taken up to heaven in Acts 1:9 is epairo (to lift, raise). The word paralambano describes more so a forceful action of taking and receiving unto oneself without asking. Also, paralambano obviously does not convey the rapid manner the Greek word harpazo (catch or snatch) used in the famous verse (1 Thessalonians 4:17) from where theorists’ base most of their secret Pre-Tribulation escape theory.

We also see the word paralambano used in John 19:16 where it speaks about Jesus Christ, when Pilate delivered him over to the Jews: And they took Jesus and led Him away, (John 19:16, KJV). We see paralambano again in Acts 15:39, when Barnabas, after having a sharp disagreement with Paul, took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. We see paralambano again in Acts 16:33, where Silas and Paul’s jailer took them and washed their wounds after the earthquake incident. In Acts 21:24, we again see paralambano used for the word take in the scene where Paul exhorts James and the elders to take the four men among them and join in their purification rites so as not to start rumors that Paul is encouraging Jews to turn away from the Law. In verse 32, the word is again used to describe the Roman commander who took some officers and soldiers to rescue Paul from the aroused crowd in Jerusalem. In Acts 23:18, we also see paralambano used to describe the incident where Paul commanded one of the centurions to take the young man to his commander to relay the message that the Jews were contemplating a plot to kill Paul.

These have been but a few examples where paralambano means to take, took or taken. This Greek word is also used to describe the word receive, or to receive from another. We see the usage in Mark 7:4, where the Pharisees received (from tradition) certain edicts pertaining to the cleansing of cups, pots, pitchers and themselves prior to eating. We see this word in John 1:11, where it speaks about Jesus coming to His own (the Jews) who did not receive Him. In John 14:3, the word is used to describe how Jesus will receive those who are His when He returns at The Second Advent. Some would say this describes the process used at the so-called Rapture; however, the receiving here is not the being caught (harpazo) to have a meeting with the Lord in the air that we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, but rather, what we see is the receiving unto Himself (or to His side) when He sets up His earthly kingdom. The word in this verse (John 14:3) is not analambano (to take up), but paralambano (to take or grasp to Himself). This verse, as we will see later on, is not describing the so-called Rapture-to-heaven scenario. We see the word again in 1 Corinthians 11:23, where Paul, speaking about the manner in which the Lord’s Supper is to be partaken, states that he received instruction from the Lord not to partake the Lord’s Supper unworthily. Moreover, what Paul received was the realization that Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians. 15:1, 3) and that the Lord’s Supper was to be an honored memorial of this fact, not to be desecrated by orgiastic ribaldry, as had become the communion ritual in the Corinthian church. In Galatians 1:9, we see paralambano again as Paul exhorts that specific church to accurse the man who preaches a gospel contrary to the one they had received. This was the true gospel Paul spoke about, because he neither was taught nor received it from man, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ (vs. 12). In Philippians 4:19, Paul once again reiterates the need for Christians to practice the things we have learned, heard, seen and received from Him, another example where paralambano is used.

There are many other instances too numerous to mention where the word paralambano is used and, in each case, like the ones we have examined, none are ever used to describe or picture the catching up of any individual or group to heaven. In other words, paralambano describes a taking unto oneself or receiving unto oneself, as one would forcefully seize hold of something for further action.

Let’s now examine the word left used in Luke 17:34, 35. The Greek word for left is aphiemi and, much to many peoples’ surprise, the word means, to forgive! W. E. Vine states that aphiemi has three chief meanings, but it primarily means to send forth, send away (apo, from, hiemi, to send), besides its other meanings, to remit or forgive (a) debts, Matt. 6:12, 18:27, 32, these being completely canceled; (b) sins, e.g., Matt. 9:2, 5, 6; 12:31, 32; Acts 8:22 (“the thought of thine heart”) Romans 4:7; James 5:15; 1 John 1:9, 1:12. Vine goes on to state that aphiemi, like its corresponding noun (aphesis, a dismissal, release), it “firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offense; such remission is based upon the vicarious and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ.” Obviously, those who are left are the forgiven ones, and those taken are the ones who are bound for punishment. Obviously, those saints are the same ones spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17 who will be alive and awaiting the return of Christ. Vine, speaking about those called out ones who remain (alive) on earth before the Lord returns, also defines the word remain with another Greek word, perileipo He states perileipo means “to leave over,” is used in the Passive Voice in 1Thessalonians 4:15 an 17. He says the RV translates perileipo as they “that are left,” and the King James Version translate perileipo as they “that remain,” literally, “left over,” i.e., “the living believers at the Lord’s return.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary Of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, pages 452, 655, 656, 661, 1103).

It is interesting to note, and extremely important to mention, that the word aphiemi, in Luke 17:34, 35, is the same word used in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4) where it states: “And forgive (aphiemi) us our debts, as we also have forgiven (aphiemi) our debtors.” [Parenthesis by the author, solely for emphasis]

If Luke wanted the disciples to understand that verses 34 and 35 (where the word left (aphiemi) supposedly means to be left behind, stranded, or abandoned, he would have used the more precise Greek word kataleipo. If the reader will examine many other verses where the word kataleipo is used to clearly state someone will be left behind, he or she will realize that kataleipo more precisely means to leave a person stranded, abandoned or left behind (during the Rapture) as opposed to left (aphiemi) alone, which means to forgive, or leave them alone, do not touch them, bypass them. Here are a few verses where the Greek word kataleipo clearly means to leave behind, abandon or forsake:

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left (kataleipo) them, and departed. (Matthew 16:4) And said, for this cause shall a man leave (kataleipo) father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? (Matthew 19:5) And he left (kataleipo) them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. (Matthew 21:17); For this cause shall a man leave (kataleipo) his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; (Mark 10:7); Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave (kataleipo) [his] wife [behind him], and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother (Mark 12:19): And he left (kataleipo) the linen cloth, and fled from them naked (Mark 14:52); And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, follow me. And he left (kataleipo) all, rose up, and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28); And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left (kataleipo) alone, and the woman standing in the midst (John 8:9). What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, doth not leave (kataleipo) the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? (Luke 15:4). [Bold and parenthesis (kataleipo) by the author, solely for emphasis]

There are many other verses that use the word kataleipo to expressly mean to leave something or someone behind, including Acts 2:31; 18:19; 24:27; 25:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:1 and 2 Peter 2:15. This last verse (2 Peter 2:15) uses the word “forsaken” to define kataleipo, which clearly demonstrates the profound meaning that theorists would infer in the verse (Luke 17:34-35) they quote so often in their Left Behind scheme. But kataleipo is not used to define the phrase left in Luke 17:34-35; the Greek word aphiemi is used, and it means to forgive, to pass over, to leave alone, and it’s never used to convey forsaken, stranded, abandoned or Left behind!

Having now seen the precise definition of these two Greek words, can there be any doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is taken (paralambano, taken aside) and who is left (aphiemi, forgiven)? But yet, thousands of preachers and Bible teachers, dispensationalists and Rapture theorists daily use these verses (Luke 17, 34, 35) as depicting those taken as the ones who are secretly caught up to heaven, and those left as the ones who are left behind to suffer the wrath of God for a seven-year period of time. The even sadder commentary on theorists who ignorantly interpret these verses in such a haphazard manner is the fact that the following verse, in Luke 17:37, specifically (and ever so clearly) informs us as to the destination of those who are taken. Verse 37 reads: “Where, Lord?” They asked. He replied: “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” In light of the proper interpretation of the word left (aphiemi, to forgive), it’s obvious that the disciples are asking where will those taken be sent. They couldn’t be asking where those left would be taken. They would already be there!

No! My friends! Christians aren’t taken anywhere! They are left alone, passed over, forgiven. Unbelievers are the ones taken, as they are seized and bound, as the tares apart from God’s wheat spoken of in Matthew 13:30, NIV: Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn! In Matthew 13:40, we see when they (tares) will be burned up: As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age, (Matthew 13:40, NIV). Here we see a perfect picture of Jesus instructing His angels to bind unbelievers in preparation to be burned, while at the same time providing his called out ones protection inside His End Times Passover barn (See Isaiah 26:20) while He pours out His wrath on the unbelievers. And He performs this at the end of the age, (Matthew 13:40, NIV). [Underline by the author, solely for emphasis]

Once again, as has been the case too often, many theorists’ exegesis begins to crumble under extensive examination, due to their lack of knowledge of the precise and true meaning of key words and scriptural verses they use to pad their secret pre-tribulation escape theories.

Even more disconcerting is the pervasive and incessant promulgation of these left behind mythologies that permeate the Christian publishing and video markets of today, which are deluding millions of Christians into a false sense of security, motivated more so by profit and temporal fame. The author makes no apologies to these writers and preachers in regards to this matter. While there exists much love by the author for all those who claim to speak God’s gospel truth about who is taken and who is left, claiming that those taken are Christians and those left behind are the heathen, it is inexcusable to persist in this folly when the word of God clearly states His children of promise are left (Gr. aphiemi, forgiven) alone, passed over, when He returns with great wrath!

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Anonymous said...

I completely affirm what our brother Joe Ortiz has presented. Praise the Lord for his diligence in exhaustively examining the text. The sad truth is I was able to come to that conclusion by simply noticing the "wheat and tares" and the phrase "where the body is...vultures." Brothers and sisters in the Lord aren't heeding our Lord's warnings to not be deceived. Thank you Joe for diligently seeking wisdom from the Holy Spirit. May the Grace of the one and only Yeshua Ha Mashiach be with you! Until then let us ABIDE in Jesus looking for and hastening the blessed hope!

Anonymous said...

This blog is thoroughly outdated in terms of what's being discovered as to what some 16th and 17th century Puritans believed about the rapture etc. See William Watson's work.