How Some Christian Leaders Deceive
The Church About The Rapture
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Exposing Another False Teaching That Attacks
A Major Fulfillment of Christ's Salvation
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the appropriatle link to access
the other parts.
Why We Talk About the Rapture
Eschatology is the study of Bible prophecy involving end-time events, which includes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is estimated that 1 out of every 25 verses in the New Testament is directly related to Christ's promised return. However, when looking at all the Holy Scriptures (both the Old and New Testament), NEARLY ONE THIRD INVOLVES BIBLE PROPHECY. Spiritual leaders that refuse to discuss these issues are avoiding a large and important part of the Bible. Many believe, what is commonly referred to as “the rapture”, falls under this area of “Eschatology”. For that reason many consider it “optional or nonessential”. Yet, we will see that this perspective contains serious flaws.
THE RAPTURE REPRESENTS THE COMPLETION OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER’S SALVATION. It is a major part of the redemptive plan that Jesus sacrificed His life to establish at the cross. Our adversary, the devil, has made it his goal to distort, discredit - and even destroy the supernatural truths that empower our salvation. This agenda of disinformation has existed since the days of the first century Church. It is not something new. Names and labels are constantly changed to keep Biblical truth-seekers off guard. Unfortunately, the religious individuals our enemy chooses have noble ambitions and good intentions – and are unaware of the hidden influence in their teachings. Remember that the religious leaders who claimed to love and serve God were Christ’s most vicious opponents and critics. A popular target is the rapture of Christ’s Church at the end of the age. When you hear church leaders (and their followers) say such things as ;
- There is no such event as the rapture because the word isn't in the Bible.
- The rapture only happens at Christ's physical Second Coming.
- The Church must go through part or all of the Tribulation.
- The pre-tribulational rapture teaching is a myth.
- The rapture is a reward for good works, righteous living and Christian service.
. . . You’re hearing this popular disinformation campaign designed to discredit, not only a major Biblical truth, but also those who correctly teach it. The Apostle Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament canon, considered the rapture (he referred to it as "the translation and ‘catching away’ of the Church") to be a core truth of salvation involving Christ's return at the end of the age. For this reason, it is necessary to shed light on this popular and mainstream disinformation campaign, which has the ability to send inexperienced and uninformed believers astray in their faith.
The source of Confusion About
For many years, the heated debate about when the rapture occurs (or whether it exists at all) is always presented as a simple matter of looking at the teachings of Scripture. Yet, the Bible, particularly the New Testament, warns that things are not that easy. Since the first century, the Church has been embroiled in a fierce behind-the-scenes conflict between two theological belief systems. Both use the Holy Scriptures to support their doctrine - but, only one is correct. The first century apostolic church leadership warns that the doctrine of the opposition is false, even though it ‘appears’ to be based on the fundamental teachings of the Bible. It was this counterfeit theology (or false type of “faith in Christ”) that nearly destroyed the Galatian Church. At Rock of Offence, we repeatedly warn readers (to the point of being redundant) about the religious deception found in this popular doctrine. Despite the warnings, this subject continues to be ignored by the modern-day Christian Church. Acts chapter 15 discusses these two systems of faith. The first one is; the doctrine of the “believing Pharisees” (these were Pharisees that claimed to believe in Jesus Christ). The second one is; the New Covenant Gospel program of Christ, established on God's Grace and preached by Saint Paul.
Why Paul Warned About
The Danger of Deception
Today, a vicious battle exists on the Protestant side of the church between these two faith systems. One is known as “Reformed or Covenant Theology” - and the other is “Dispensationalism”.
(Dispensationalism is a modern theological term that shares the same objective as Paul's command to "rightly divide God's Word" in 2 Timothy 2:15.)
These two "generic" systems of faith divide the Christian Church and exist in countless flavors and variants with different names and extends across all denominational lines. However, only one is correct.
Special Note: Since Reformed theology is closely related to the doctrine of the “believing Pharisees” from Acts chapter 15, we also refer to it in our commentaries as “Pharisaical religion”. Other common names associated with this influence include; the Galatian error, Galatian religion, Calvinism, Holiness theology, Replacement theology, Legalism, various brands of Christian Fundamentalism - and Biblical Christianity. The common practice that ties all of these different religious beliefs together is illegally mixing the Old Testament program of Law (the Mosaic covenant) - with the New Testament program of the Grace of Christ (the New Covenant). The apostolic leadership of the early church condemned this religious practice in Acts chapter 15 and wrote a letter warning all the churches. Yet, many modern-day denominations (including the Roman Catholic Church) have adopted this rejected way of interpreting Scripture and attempt to redefine it as Biblical theology and “God’s original intention”.
Reformed theology uses a misleading method of Bible interpretation called “allegorizing Scripture”, which alters and redefines the Bible’s original intention. Dispensationalism avoids this practice by using a literal interpretation. Contrary to some popular religious beliefs, God designed His Word as “dispensational”. (More information is included under “Closing Thoughts” toward the end of this commentary) When it comes to Bible prophecy, especially discussions about the rapture, Reformed theology and dispensationalism arrive at vastly different conclusions. Yet, both claim to represent the teachings of God’s Word. The side that’s in error insists that their view “is the clear and correct interpretation of Scripture”. This sets the stage for dangerous levels of deception and irreconcilable disputes involving, not only Bible prophecy and the rapture, but also the “truth of the Gospel”. This is why we agree with both Jesus Christ and Saint Paul and repeatedly warn about the dangerous, yet common practice of distorting the context of the Bible and allegorizing Scripture. Why? It changes the truth into a counterfeit teaching that leads believers astray in their faith.
Depending on which position you hold, the question of, when the rapture happens in relation to the Tribulation is different, but continues to look as if it is based on Scripture. The common practice of “allegorizing the original intention of Scripture” (Some call it “Spiritualizing Scripture”) is why the Apostle Paul constantly warned the Church “not to let anyone deceive you”. Why? It’s easy to be deceived when the Bible is misinterpreted by church leadership - and the misinterpretation is presented as God’s original intention.
The Error of Confusing the Roles
Of Israel and the Church
At this point we must ask the all important question:
What kind of deception is Paul is warning about?
Certain prominent leaders in the church attempt to redefine this doctrinal war as a minor difference of opinion that should be set aside to avoid disunity. However, according to the New Testament writings of Jesus, Peter and Paul, it involves the age-old struggle between heresy and truth. Church leaders avoid discussing such things like the plague because it angers some in their congregation and can lower overall attendance at meetings. Yet, many Christians claim that they left institutional churches because the leadership insisted on conducting their ministry on the premise, "Let's just all get along" (also referred to as being "seeker-sensitive"). The first century apostolic leadership did not have this unbiblical mentality. They put truth first and let the congregational membership numbers conform to their teaching priorities. However, today this is called "intolerance" because it isn't sensitive to the beliefs of others. Since when does the "belief of others" take precedent over the truth of Scripture? It’s unfortunate that the word “heresy” is thrown around so carelessly among Christians today. However, like it or not, anything that redefines or distorts the principles that govern our salvation is a heresy that carries eternal consequences. This is why Paul constantly gives a sober warning about being deceived.
The hidden influence (or error) that operates behind nearly all expressions of Reformed theology and its countless variants is the belief that God has permanently rejected the original nation of Israel in the Bible and replaced her with the New Testament Church. They insist that God permanently rejected Israel because they crucified their Messiah. This belief causes its supporters to wrongly conclude that the Church is now, “The New Israel”. FOR THIS REASON, IT TAKES THE FORBIDDEN LIBERTY OF REASSIGNING ORIGINAL ISRAEL’S OLD TESTAMENT SPIRITUAL PROGRAM TO THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH. This toxic, yet popular doctrine is a derivative of “the believing Pharisee’s” doctrine recorded in Acts Chapter 15, WHICH WAS REJECTED BY THE FIRST CENTURY APOSTOLIC LEADERSHIP. However, in order to preserve Christian unity, this theology now goes unchallenged and dominates most of the world-wide Christian Church. It's now infecting the modern church because no one will stand up, as Paul did, and confront it. It is a major understatement to only say that this theology changes God’s intended message in the Bible. Saint Paul said that it “perverts the gospel of Christ” and causes a counterfeit Jesus to be taught. Paul then warns that the preachers of this message are accursed. We must repeat; this is the same theology that nearly destroyed the Galatian Church of the first century. It provoked Saint Paul to write his "Epistle to the Galatians", where he condemned the teachers of this doctrine using offensive terms. To save time and to receive a more detailed explanation of this emotional subject, we wrote several commentaries available below.
Avoiding The Error of Replacement Theology
The Spiritual Revolution of Jesus Christ
Exposing The Error of Redefining God's Grace
Why Do These Things Affect Our
Understanding of the Rapture?
When prominent theologians take the forbidden liberty of redefining the Church as, “The New Israel”, it causes serious distortions in our understanding of end time prophecy. The rapture is a “blessed event” reserved for the entire believing Church, who trusted Christ for salvation. However, there is the unfinished business involving Israel’s sin of rejecting and crucifying their Messiah. God has not forgotten this act committed nearly 2000 years ago. For this reason, the “Tribulation Period” (7 years in length) is God’s appointed time to judge Israel and bring her back into relationship with Himself. THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE TRIBULATION IS TO BRING ABOUT THE SALVATION OF UNBELIEVING ISRAEL AND TO JUDGE ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD FOR REJECTING HIS PLAN OF SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST. Since it is intended as judgment for the rejection of God’s Son – the Tribulation Period holds no purpose for the Church that accepted and believed on Christ.
"I say then, hath God cast away his people (The Jews)? GOD FORBID. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. GOD HATH NOT CAST AWAY HIS PEOPLE WHICH HE FOREKNEW." (Romans 11:1-2)
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. AND SO ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED….” (Romans 11:25-26 -- Emphasis Added)
A Well-Kept Secret
It is estimated that more than 8 out of 10 churches embrace some expression or derivative of Reformed theology and the aberrant belief that the Church is “The New Israel”. This is a bedrock doctrine in many areas of what’s commonly called, Christian Fundamentalism. Since a majority are tricked into believing that God has replaced original Israel with the New Testament Church, THEY CONCLUDE THAT THE CHURCH (NOW CALLED “THE NEW ISRAEL”) HAS ALSO INHERITED THE ROLE OF THE ORIGINAL ISRAEL DURING THE TRIBULATION.
This is why a majority of theologians and preachers, who embrace one of the many variants of Reformed theology, insist that the Church (or the Body of Christ) will go into the tribulation period. Even worse, many teach that the Church will go all the way through this period of God’s judgment, where a large part of the earth’s population is killed. For those who survive, the rapture occurs briefly before Christ’s Second Coming. This kind of doctrine is both dangerous and false (not to mention frightening). The Bible teaches that the tribulation judgment is designed to bring Israel back into God’s salvation. GOD ALSO USES THIS GLOBAL EVENT TO DEAL WITH THE REMAINING UNBELIEVING PEOPLE OF THE EARTH. Yet, these spiritual leaders, blinded by their wrong theology, are convinced that The Church (all true believers in Christ) is now “THE NEW ISRAEL”. This theology also causes them to attack and discredit those who teach “an escape before the tribulation”, which God provides for the ones Jesus Christ made worthy through His redeeming blood.
CHRIST’S BLOOD PAID THE RANSOM PRICE FOR OUR RELEASE (OR ESCAPE).
This is why any teaching that claims the Church (all true Christian believers) must go through the judgments of the tribulation IS A COVERT ATTACK ON OUR BLOOD-BOUGHT REDEMPTION, WHICH "BUYS US BACK FROM JUDGMENT". We can now understand why Paul warned the Church, “Let no man deceive you by any means”. This is not some optional or nonessential teaching of eschatology. It is about the completed salvation of the Christian believer. We might now better understand the offensive warning Peter gave when he said:
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, EVEN DENYING THE LORD WHO BOUGHT THEM, and bring on themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1 -- Emphasis Added)
Saint Paul reinforces this idea by saying…
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: WHO HATH DELIVERED US FROM THE POWER OF DARKNESS, AND HATH TRANSLATED US INTO THE KINGDOM OF HIS DEAR SON: IN WHOM WE HAVE REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD, EVEN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS..." (Note: Redemption means to ransom or "buy back" Colossians 1:12-14 -- Emphasis Added)
Reformed theologians are committing the sin of abusing the context of Scripture, which makes God say something THAT HE DOES NOT SAY. This deceptive theology, which has survived since the first century, is the reason Paul warns the Church about this dangerous counterfeit teaching.
"Let no one deceive you by any means;
FOR THAT DAY WILL NOT COME
UNLESS THE FALLING AWAY
(2 Thessalonians 2:1)
The Apostle Paul sent two letters (epistles) to the Thessalonian Church to repeat what he previously taught about Christ's return. Another reason for writing these epistles was to expose false teaching in a forged letter that someone wrote to terrorize the congregation. This forged letter, supposedly signed by Paul (but wasn't), informed the congregation that the "Day of the Lord" had already come. To the Thessalonians, this meant that they were about to go through the terrible judgments of the Tribulation period. In Paul's epistles, his goal was to expose the false message behind this forged letter and to reassure the congregation that they would not experience this period of judgment. "The Day of the Lord" is another term that refers to a future time of extreme tribulation that Jesus warned would come upon ALL THOSE WHO DWELL ON THE FACE OF THE WHOLE EARTH (Mark 13:19 and Luke 21:25-36). Paul taught the Thessalonian believers that TWO MAJOR EVENTS MUST OCCUR BEFORE THE "DAY OF THE LORD" COULD BEGIN. The first event is “the falling away". The second event is "the revealing of the man of sin", who is commonly known as "the anti-christ" (Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
Some opponents of the rapture inject confusion into the discussion (this is often done deliberately) by claiming that the "falling away" Paul speaks about, is an act of leaving the Christian faith, or a rejection of Christ's salvation. Yet, the theme and context of Paul's epistles to the Thessalonian believers is about "how the Church is caught up (or gathered together) away from the earth AND TAKEN INTO THE CLOUDS TO MEET JESUS IN THE AIR" (Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). Paul is using the word "departure" (or “falling away” from a point of origin – in this case the earth) in a different way and for a particular reason. He is deliberately using the word to describe physical movement or travel from one place to another. In these Scriptures, a derivative of the word “apostasy” is used, which can also mean “a departure (or falling away) from the Christian faith”. This is why critics choose to make the phrase “falling away” conform to this alternate definition. It is designed to generate a very frustrating and on-going argument over the interpretation of a Greek root word that, if interpreted incorrectly, redefines and distorts what Paul is teaching. Yet, the theme of being “caught up (or removed) from the earth” is the correct context for understanding Paul’s teaching. In this case, Paul is defining “apostasy” as a departure (leaving one place and traveling to another) - and not “a departure from the faith”.
According to the Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest, (taken from his “Word Studies of the Greek New Testament”), the phrase “falling away” is understood to mean “the falling away (or departure) of the Church”, as in the rapture.
The Amplified Bible carries the same perspective about 2 Thessalonians 2:3, where it comments;
“A possible rendering of apostasia is departure [of the church]". IN ITS FULL MEANING, THIS VERSE READS:
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the day of the Lord] shall not come, except there come a departing [of the church] first, and that man of sin [the Antichrist] be revealed,
the son of perdition...” (Emphasis Added)
The believer's place in the rapture of the Church
is not dependent upon what they do - BUT ON
WHAT JESUS CHRIST DID FOR THEM
AT THE CROSS. Additional information is
available at the following link:
The Great Divine Exchange
Paul Provides An Important
Clarification of His Comments
In 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul repeats his description of these events using different wording. Good teachers commonly use this method of repetition to reinforce a principle or truth. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Paul talks about departure (falling away) and the revealing of the "man of sin". However, in verses 7 and 8, he repeats things in a different way to add emphasis and clarity. Instead of using the term, "falling away" as he did in verse 3, Paul uses the wording, "He who now restrains will do so UNTIL HE IS TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY -- AND THEN THE LAWLESS ONE (THE MAN OF SIN) WILL BE REVEALED...". If you "take someone out of the way" you are physically moving them from one place to another. Once again, in verses 7 and 8 Paul is talking about departure (someone taken out of the way) and the revealing of the "man of sin". Both the teachings of Jesus Christ and Saint Paul support the physical movement or "departure/travel" aspect of the term "falling away"(covered later in this commentary). Insisting that the term "falling away" in this Scripture means "falling away from the Christian faith" is a distortion that cheats the Christian believer out of a tremendous blessing and changes the original intention of the Scripture.
Redefining terms is a common, yet confusing tactic practiced by critics on inexperienced Christians. However, certain Greek scholars point out that the way Paul used the term "falling away" in the original Greek text means "a departure" -- as when a group leaves (departs) one location and travels to another. In this instance, it doesn't mean leaving or "falling away" from the Christian faith as the critics claim.
If the reader wants an even better understanding of this phrase "falling away", access the link below. This is a YouTube teaching video by Patrick Heron. Normally, we try to avoid the confusion that commonly occurs by sending visitors to another ministry website. Yet, the information Patrick provides in this situation is invaluable. Keep the following in mind: Including this link in our commentary should not be understood as complete agreement with all beliefs of the author, who also may not agree with everything we teach.
No Apostasy or Falling Away
By Patrick Heron (YouTube Video)
Patrick also gives an additional teaching that
answers the question about whether the Bible
teaches about the rapture--or not.
Rapture Vs. No Rapture
By Patrick Heron (YouTube Video)
Bible Teacher and author John Ankerberg hosts a
program that answers some important questions.
Encouraging Words Concerning the Rapture
Bible scholar Dr. Thomas Ice made the following observation about the Greek word "apostasia", which is commonly translated into the English word "apostasy" (or falling away):
"The first seven English translations of apostasia all rendered the noun as either " departure" or " departing." They are as follows: Wycliffe Bible (1384); Tyndale Bible (1526); Coverdale Bible (1535); Cranmer Bible (1539); Breeches Bible (1576); Beza Bible (1583); Geneva Bible (1608). This supports the notion that the word truly means " departure." In fact, Jerome' s Latin translation known as the Vulgate from around the time of A.D. 400 renders apostasia with the word "discessio", meaning 'departure'."
The literal Greek meaning of "a relocation or departure" causes us to ask some very important questions: Who is the group that departs, why are they departing, where are they departing from, and what is their destination?
Another question should also be asked: "Is the idea of "departure (as in travel)" in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 taught by anyone else in the New Testament? The answer is YES, and this important individual sheds a lot more light on why the true intention of this Scripture is "a departure or relocation".
ANOTHER CONFIRMATION: The Amplified Bible contains a special note that more clearly communicates the intention of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, which says:
“A possible rendering of apostasia is departure
[of the church]". IN ITS FULL MEANING,
THIS VERSE READS:
“Let no man deceive you by any means:
for that day [the day of the Lord]
shall not come, except there come a
departing [of the church] first, and that man
of sin [the Antichrist] be revealed,
the son of perdition...” (emphasis is mine)
(Amplified Bible End Quote)
We chose the title of this commentary based on the words Paul used when he condemned the false teaching of the forged letter sent to the Thessalonian Church....
"Let no one deceive you by any means"
As we read the Bible and see the words, "Let no one deceive you" or "don't be deceived" -- it means God is about to give us a stern warning. Unfortunately, people with beliefs like those who wrote this fraudulent letter to the Thessalonian believers also exist in the modern Christian church. Paul emphasized his warning about "not being deceived" by adding the words, "BY ANY MEANS". It's another way of saying that we should make an extraordinary effort to avoid being deceived in this matter. Why? We are about to receive important information about the final fulfillment of our salvation in Christ. I wish it wasn't true, but many modern Christian leaders and their followers are misleading believers about one of the most incredible and important events in the Bible.
In this commentary an attempt is made to address the distortions in various teachings about Christ's promised return. We recognize that churches are struggling during these difficult times. It is also understood that some good pastors and ministers may feel that they have an inadequate knowledge to properly teach topics that involve Bible prophecy, which is why they avoid the subject. Others seek to reject any discussion of end-time events because it might offend some of the more “intellectual” people in their congregation. However, when we understand that one in every 25 verses (on average) in the New Testament addresses, either directly or indirectly, the return of Jesus Christ and our completed redemption, avoiding the subject because it's offensive is unacceptable, especially to our Heavenly Father. Proclaiming the message of salvation is a primary responsibility of any minister or representative of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the topic of the rapture and its direct connection to Christ’s Second Coming is considered by some to be fanaticism and "religious extremism".
For these reasons the subject is conveniently considered to be “non-essential”. It is often omitted from the teachings of the church because of the "unnecessary" controversy it creates. Some church leaders say, “Why risk in-fighting and division in the congregation over a non-essential topic?" Yet, when you study what the Bible teaches about end-time events, it becomes clear that the enemy of the Christian (the devil who operates in darkness) is behind this disinformation effort to label the rapture as religious extremism. Why is he so interested in discrediting those who believe and teach about the departure of the Church and the return of Jesus Christ? Contrary to some popular church teaching, THE RAPTURE (OR THE DEPARTURE OF THE CHURCH) IS THE FULFILLMENT OF CHRIST'S SALVATION FOR THE BELIEVER LIVING IN THE CHURCH AGE. It is not some arbitrary reward given for good behavior, holy living and Christian service; as many teach. Our enemy’s top priority has always been to either destroy or to cast doubt on what Jesus accomplished for us through His sacrificial death at the cross. It represents another aspect of the devil’s relentless campaign to destroy Christ’s great salvation, which, unfortunately, is an effort that originates from inside the world-wide Christian Church.
In the tradition of our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostolic leadership of the first century church, our comments carry an abrasive edge. This is necessary because of the stubborn opposition within the institutional Christian Church that continues to push this unbiblical agenda to distort Christian salvation. When you understand that the climax of most everything taught in the Bible revolves around the Second Coming of Christ and the rapture (departure) of the Church that precedes it, taking a strong stand against the critics is the right thing to do. They must not be allowed to succeed in redefining our great salvation, which is an act that carries unthinkable unintended consequences.
(Saint Peter speaking) “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, KNOWING THIS FIRST: THAT SCOFFERS WILL COME IN THE LAST DAYS, WALKING ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN LUSTS, AND SAYING, “WHERE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS COMING? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4 NKJV -- Emphasis Added)
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; AND UNTO THEM THAT LOOK FOR HIM SHALL HE APPEAR THE SECOND TIME WITHOUT SIN UNTO SALVATION." (Hebrews 9:28 KJV)
Biblical Truth Continues To Be Under
Unfortunately, the institutional Christian Church continues to be plagued with false apostles -- along with preachers and teachers who remove Scripture from its context; a practice which allows them to teach a misleading message from the Bible. During His earthly ministry, Jesus constantly warned about this problem. Many are just good, well-intentioned people who wrongly interpret the Scriptures. Yet, they claim many victims down through church history. Ignoring and abusing the context of Scripture allows them to teach the Bible in a way that leads inexperienced believers into what Paul calls, "a reprobate form of Christian faith". As the Apostle Paul warned his disciple Timothy, many of these spiritual leaders and their followers "have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:1-8). Paul warned Timothy (and all believers living today) to TURN AWAY FROM THESE KINDS OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES. Yet, most leaders today tell their congregations that the problem is just about "a difference of opinion". As a result, it is often subtly suggested that we should ignore Paul's words because they are too controversial or divisive.
Attack From Within The Church
What Paul refers to as "reprobate faith" (a counterfeit form of faith in Christ) is not just a direct attack on God's gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9), BUT IS ALSO AN ATTEMPT TO DISTORT AND DISCREDIT THE COMPLETION OF HIS GIFT OF SALVATION AT THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH. Paul taught the various congregations under his care, to constantly "examine themselves" to guard against falling prey to this dangerous "counterfeit faith in Christ". He gave an offensive and strongly worded directive because of how easy it is to be tricked into thinking that the counterfeit represents the truth.
"EXAMINE YOURSELVES AS TO WHETHER YOU ARE IN THE FAITH. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified." (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Why Is the Subject of the Rapture
Under Such a Vicious Attack
From Within the Church?
We've all heard the accusations at one time or another.
Recently, I read where one popular Christian teacher and author commented on a radio talk show (we're paraphrasing here) -- that the pre-tribulational rapture teaching came from a government misinformation operation to corrupt the teachings of the church. What's even worse is that many Christians actually believed the nonsense this man presented, mainly because of his popularity.
Are the critics right? Or, are they advancing an ungodly agenda, masquerading as fundamental Bible teaching? It's these kinds of practices that lead inexperienced believers astray in their faith. It’s astounding how far some false teachers will go. No wonder Paul constantly warned the early church to be careful not to allow such ministers to cheat you out of the blessings of Christ (Colossians 2:8, 2:18). This is just another way of saying, "LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU BY ANY MEANS". The forged letter sent to the Thessalonian believers (previously discussed) is only one example. God thought the incident was so important that He included it in the canon of Scripture AS A WARNING. What was He warning about? Everyone who teaches in the name of Christ is not necessarily from Christ or speaking for Christ. He is warning us about religious imposters, Christian counterfeits, “wolves in sheep clothing”, false apostles and false Christ’s WHO TEACH FROM THE BIBLE. Paul called them "false brethren" (Galatians 2:4-5), which means that they appear outwardly as Bible-believing Christians and ministers. Paul spent considerable effort to refute the teaching in this forged letter, WRITTEN AND PRESENTED TO THE THESSALONIAN CONGREGATION IN THE NAME OF CHRIST. In other words, THE LETTER CLAIMED THAT GOD SAID SOMETHING THAT HE NEVER SAID -- AND THEY FORGED PAUL'S SIGNATURE TO VALIDATE IT. Yet, a new generation that commit the same dishonest acts operate almost without opposition from inside the institutional Christian Church.
Would it surprise you to learn that our Lord Jesus Christ taught about the rapture, but used different wording to describe it? Stay with us for more information about this amazing and encouraging revelation about the completion of the believer's salvation at the return of Christ.
A Dangerous Hidden Agenda
What many fail to realize is that the Christian Church has been fighting an internal spiritual war since the first century. Rather than a war fought with bullets and bombs, it’s a doctrinal war for the control of the mind of the individual Christian believer. In this case, “control” is exercised through a particular “system of theology” - and both sides in this war insist that they are teaching the truth of God. You could call it, “the battle for your mind”. It’s difficult to identify the participants because there are so many different names and variants. They all claim that their teachings are based on the truth of Scripture. YET, THIS IS TRUE ONLY FOR CERTAIN ONES. It is why Paul constantly warned the Church about being deceived and why Jesus gave the same warning by using the descriptive term "wolves in sheep's clothing".
One of the biggest mistakes made by church-going people is thinking that Christians are just one big family with “different opinions”. We are constantly told by the leaders of the world-wide “unity movement” that we’re all God’s children, who have different (but not necessarily wrong) ideas about what the Bible teaches. This is why we are often told to avoid any form of divisive or offensive speech. Yet, the Bible warns that this popular viewpoint, as good as it sounds, is making God say something that He does not say. Biblical truth always divides between those who want it and those who don’t. Whether we like it or not, there is both a right and wrong side in this internal war. Unfortunately, both sides look and sound godly. Both sides appear loving and have good intentions. HOWEVER, IT IS A SPIRITUALLY LETHAL MISTAKE TO THINK EVERYONE IS RIGHT AND THE WAY GOD INTENDS FOR US TO RECEIVE AND UNDERSTAND HIS SALVATION IS JUST A MATTER OF PERSONAL OPINION. It has everything to do with Biblical truth on which our salvation is based. God repeatedly warns that it is a spiritual life and death issue.
Identifying the Opposition
There are two generic groups involved in this internal struggle. One side chooses to ignore the context of Scripture and mix everything together, which takes the faith of their followers dangerously astray. This group often attacks the other side, which chooses to respect the context of Scripture. It involves recognizing that God divides His Word into two major “covenant administrations” (or dispensations), where each one operates by different spiritual rules. The translators divided the Bible into two parts, which are meant to alert us to the existence of these different administrations: The Old Testament and the New Testament (Note: “Testament” is a word that means “Covenant”). The Apostle Paul refers to this proper Bible interpretation method as, “rightly (or correctly) dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The group that follows Paul’s instructions acknowledges that the death of Jesus Christ at the cross started “a New Covenant”, which changed all the previous rules of the Old Testament program (or the Old Covenant). The book of Hebrews refers to Christ’s New Covenant as; “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-23). The Bible uses the phrase “new and living way” because Christ’s sacrificial death established A NEW WAY THAT SALVATION IS OBTAINED. This NEW WAY didn’t previously exist before the cross and was only made possible by the shedding of Christ's blood. The NEW WAY OF CHRIST (OR THE NEW COVENANT) could only begin after the price was paid at the cross for humanity’s sin debt (the Bible refers to it as “a ransom”). Christ's NEW WAY makes the previous religious program obsolete and describes it as, “a better covenant established on better promises”.
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if that FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought FOR A SECOND." (Hebrews 8:6-7 NKJV)
"IN THAT HE (JESUS CHRIST) SAYS, "A NEW COVENANT," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
The New Covenant is also called "the new and living way of Christ" established on His blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24).
Recognizing The Problem
There are many church leaders (and their devoted followers), who reject Christ’s NEW AND LIVING WAY because it violates their traditional religious beliefs, which are established on out-of-context Scripture. The group's beliefs can simply be understood as a refusal to acknowledge that the cross of Jesus Christ changed all the previous Old Testament rules that govern how salvation is obtained and kept. We find it interesting that Scripture actually refers to this popular brand of "Bible believing" - as unbelief. Paul constantly ran into a first century version of this resistance, when he preached THE NEW COVENANT OF CHRIST to Orthodox Jews (Read Acts 13:44-47). This same resistance to Christ's Grace Gospel also exists in today's modern church under different names and labels.
This “battle for the believer's mind” actually began in the first century. In Acts chapter 15, we read about an official meeting of the entire apostolic leadership of the church, often referred to by theologians as “The First Jerusalem Council”. Some “Christ-believing” Pharisees argued that obtaining and keeping eternal life (salvation) must include obedience to the laws and commandments of Judaism (also called The Law), which is found in the Old Testament section of our Bible. In other words, THEY WANTED TO MERGE THE REQUIREMENTS OF OLD COVENANT JEWISH LAW WITH THE NEW COVENANT GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST. The meeting was convened to consider their grievance and was led by James, our Lord’s half-brother.
It’s important to know that these Pharisees professed to have faith in Jesus Christ and had good intentions. They were not out to deceive anyone and believed their teachings represented God’s original plan. They were not the same Pharisees, who wanted to crucify Christ years earlier.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CONFLICT, the apostle Paul was called by God to preach Christ’s New Covenant Gospel, which taught that Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation at the cross. This “paid-in-full” redemption allowed God to grant eternal life as an unmerited gift, or a spiritual benefit that didn’t require meritorious works or the keeping of the Law (Read Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:20, Romans 3:24-25, Romans 4:1-8, Titus 3:5-7, Galatians 5:4, Galatians 3:1-3, Galatians 3:10-12). After Jesus paid for our redemption at the cross, salvation could no longer be earned through obedience to old covenant Jewish Law, which was now a religious program that was obsolete (according to the epistle of Hebrews). We are simplifying the conflict for the sake of brevity. Yet, these are the general battleground issues.
The apostolic council of Acts chapter 15 decided that Paul's doctrine and message was correct. They wrote an official letter to the churches, which confirmed that the believer's “faith in Christ” is to be established only on the unmerited and undeserved principles of God’s Grace. The letter also warned about the wrong law-based salvation taught by these "believing Pharisees". Obviously, this enraged the Pharisees (and also continues to enrage their modern-day religious counterparts in the Church). By putting their decision in writing, the council also prevented the opposition from distorting their intentions after they adjourned. Thankfully, this official apostolic letter is now recorded in the New Testament canon of Scripture. HOWEVER, IT IS REJECTED OR IGNORED BY MANY IN THE MODERN CHRISTIAN CHURCH THAT QUIETLY AGREE WITH THE PHARISEES AND TEACH THEIR DOCTRINE AS FUNDAMENTAL BIBLE TRUTH.
This is an example of how we can be convinced that our beliefs and teachings come from God, yet be totally wrong.
The Spiritual War Inside
The Church Begins
THE APOSTLIC LEADERSHIP’S ENDORSEMENT OF PAUL’S EVANGELISTIC MESSAGE IGNITED A MAJOR SPIRITUAL INTERNAL WAR THAT CONTINUES TODAY. This struggle travels under countless names and labels. It is between what some call, Pharisaical religion (counterfeit Christianity) and Christ’s New Covenant Gospel (the "new and living way" of true Christianity).
Pharisaical religion mixes Judaism (the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament) and New Covenant Christianity together into one “unified theology”, which is then presented as the original intention of God’s Word. This unholy union creates a confusing doctrine that Paul refers to as a perverted gospel (Galatians 1:6-8). Some preachers call the ministers of this popular, yet false religion, “Judaizers”. It’s the same religious influence that Paul condemned in the Galatian Church because it brings the believer back under the strict rules and principles of Jewish law, which perverts the unmerited characteristic of the Gospel of Christ. He wrote his “epistle (or letter) to the Galatians” to combat this false religion, which the entire congregation had embraced (Galatians 3:1-3). Paul condemned this doctrine as demonically influenced (Read 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 and Galatians 1:6-8), which is why believers should avoid it at all costs. In other words, Paul warned that it was a lethal heresy that carried a curse. Once again, these things do not represent some harmless “difference of opinion”. Unfortunately, Pharisaical religion is now taught by many sectors of the world-wide institutional Christian Church under the generic banner of “Christian Fundamentalism” and the newer label of “Biblical Christianity”. However, there are many other expressions that use different names and labels. It’s widely accepted because it’s marketed to church members as the true teachings of Scripture. However, it’s a dangerous counterfeit that masquerades as God’s Word through the deceptive and popular practice of ignoring and abusing the context of the Bible.
More information is available at the
link below and under the section
heading, "Closing Comments" at the
end of this study.
The Spiritual Revolution of Christ
Jesus Christ Preaches His
"Great Escape" Sermon
We begin this section by listening to the
words of the Old Testament prophets - Micah,
Amos and Isaiah - as they look into the
future and warn about a troubling period
of time. Could they be referring to the
same unique event that Jesus warns about
many years later?
THE GODLY HAVE BEEN SWEPT FROM
THE LAND; NO ONE UPRIGHT MAN
REMAINS. All men lie in wait to shed
blood; each hunts his brother with
a net. Both hands are skilled in doing
evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge
accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what
they desire--they all conspire together.
the best of them is like a brier, the most
upright worse than a thorn hedge. THE DAY
OF YOUR WATCHMEN HAS COME, THE DAY GOD
VISITS YOU. NOW IS THE TIME OF YOUR
CONFUSION. (Micah 7:2-4 -- Emphasis Added)
"Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
THAT DAY WILL BE DARKNESS, NOT LIGHT. It
will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear, as though he entered
his house and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him. WILL NOT THE
DAY OF THE LORD BE DARKNESS, NOT
LIGHT--PITCH-DARK, WITHOUT A RAY OF
(Amos 5:18-20 -- Emphasis Added)
"YOUR DEAD SHALL LIVE; TOGETHER WITH MY
DEAD BODY THEY SHALL ARISE. Awake and sing,
you who dwell in dust; for your dew is
like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall
cast out the dead. COME, MY PEOPLE, ENTER
YOUR CHAMBERS, AND SHUT YOUR DOORS BEHIND
YOU; HIDE YOURSELF, AS IT WERE, FOR A
LITTLE MOMENT, UNTIL THE INDIGNATION IS
PAST. FOR BEHOLD, THE LORD COMES OUT OF
HIS PLACE TO PUNISH THE INHABITANTS OF
THE EARTH FOR THEIR INIQUITY; the earth
will also disclose her blood, And will no
more cover her slain."
(Isaiah 26: 19-21 -- Emphasis Added)
An increasing number of "Christian ministers and evangelists" are attempting to discredit the pre-tribulational rapture (or the "Translation of the Church") as a false, man-made doctrine. They often flaunt their various educational credentials as evidence that what they say comes from God. Some insist that the Bible does not teach about such an event. Misleading comments like these should cause us to wonder, which Bible they're reading. Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke of "AN ESCAPE" from the horrible trials coming upon the earth. God provides this escape for His people. Jesus uses the phrase "in those days there will be tribulation" to describe this future period of time. Students of Bible prophecy often call it, “The Tribulation Period". Jesus said that this time of tribulation . . .
HAS NEVER HAPPENDED BEFORE AND
WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN. IT'S A
ONE TIME EVENT THAT HASN'T
Speaking about the last days, Jesus warned:
"For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be." (Mark 13:19 NKJV)
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, AND THAT DAY COME UPON YOU UNEXPECTEDLY. FOR IT WILL COME AS A SNARE ON ALL THOSE WHO DWELL ON THE FACE OF THE WHOLE EARTH. Watch therefore, and pray always THAT YOU MAY BE COUNTED WORTHY TO ESCAPE ALL THESE THINGS THAT WILL COME TO PASS, AND TO STAND BEFORE THE SON OF MAN." (Luke 21:25-36 NKJV -- Emphsis Added)
(Special Note: In order to communicate in a clearer way we use the phrase "THE WORTHY ONES" to describe the people that Jesus said "should pray to be counted worthy to escape all these things". It's just saying the same thing in a slightly different way. It's also important to remember that how a person becomes "worthy" - radically changed after Jesus purchased our redemption at the cross (discussed later in this commentary). From His words, it's obvious that Jesus isn't just talking about one person, but about a special group of people that Saint Paul covers in more detail in his New Testament epistles to the Church.)
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the appropriatle link to access
the other parts.