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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: July 24, 2020
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
We covered a lot of material last week and I ask that you review it at your leisure in preparation for studying this Bible lesson.
I ended the previous lesson at 1 Thessalonians 1:10, so we’ll start there. If you recall, this is where Paul mentioned the third wonderful grace virtue “hope.” But what were the Thessalonians hoping for? The answer lies just ahead.
Please open your Bible at 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols (this is faith) to serve the living and true God (this is love); And to wait for his Son from heaven (this is hope), whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Here again we find the three grace virtues Paul refers to as, faith, love, and hope and they appear several times in his writings in this same manner or a combination of the three (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 5:8). When the saints at Thessalonica “turned to God from idols,” they demonstrated faith. When they considered God’s great love for them and His saving grace, the natural response was, “to serve the living and true God” and that’s love. When they chose to patiently wait for His Son from heaven, they demonstrated “hope.”
From a chronological perspective this is the first written statement from our apostle Paul re: the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds (the first heaven) for the Body of Christ. It demonstrates the fact that the Rapture of the Church is part of the special message committed to him by the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) and proclaimed by him only during his earlier ministry.
The O.T. prophets predicted the return of Christ to judge and then to reign on earth as Israel’s King. His coming for the Body of Christ, however, will not be associated with judgment, but with God’s amazing grace. The Church will not be here when the bowls of God’s righteous wrath are poured out upon the ungodly, for before that time arrives we will be “caught up” to be with Christ for He has “…delivered us from the wrath to come.” It is this “blessed hope” we are told to “wait for” (1 Thessalonians 1:10), and to “look for” (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13), while we continue “serving the living and true God.”
There’s a flip-side to almost every topic and the Rapture is no exception to this rule. Although, you’d be hard-pressed to find this term in the KJ Bible, Paul clearly teaches the catching-away of the Body of Christ will take place in accordance with God the Father’s purpose and plan for His Church, but many people in the church oppose this teaching. Please know the hostility toward the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture is increasing. Some of the resistance comes from non-Christians, which is understandable. But sadly, most of the opposition to this divine truth comes from those who claim to be Christians. When all is said and done, ultimately, the source of this hostility is Satan - the father of lies. Increased antagonism to this key church doctrine indicates the Lord’s return grows nearer for Satan’s purpose is to confound, sow discord, and deny Believers of their blessed hope.
The fact that some of the Christian churches teach something other than the Pre-Tribulational Rapture is largely the result of a misinterpretation and misapplication of certain Bible verses from the gospels and the Book of Acts, particularly the following:
”…the one shall be taken and the other left.” (Matthew 24:40-42)
The parable of the Ten Virgins (See Matthew 25:1-13)
“If I go… I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3)
“This same Jesus… shall come again…” (Acts 1:11)
But as you’ll soon see these folks have taken their arguments and beliefs for the Rapture from the wrong part of Scripture, meaning, they have failed to rightly divide the Scriptures, for Paul distinctly declared the truth of the Rapture was a “mystery,” (secret is a better term for God is not mysterious), until revealed through him.
First we should note that it is in connection with the Rapture that Paul refers to our Lord as the One who has, “delivered us from the wrath to come.” Next, we should determine what “the wrath to come” truly is. I mention this because I know a pastor or two who won’t even venture into the Book of Revelation. One said he didn’t think this book should be in the Bible. Another called it, “sheer fantasy.” So, let’s be clear “the wrath to come” is not the Great White Thone Judgement or the Lake of Fire, and we know this because of what Revelation 20:11-15 says: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Reading that Bible passage carefully, it’s clear the emphasis is not upon “God’s wrath” but upon prophecy being fulfilled re: punitive justice toward the ungodly .i.e., the unsaved. The Tribulation and the Great Tribulation (the final 3.5 years of this period) are consistently associated with “the wrath of God” in such phrases as, “the day of his wrath,” “the time of his wrath,” “his fierceness and wrath,” and “the wrath to come.” (See also Psalm 2:5; Isaiah 9:19, 13:9; Jeremiah 10:10; Zephaniah 1:14-15; Revelation 6:15-17, 14:10, 15:1, 16:1, 19:15). Therefore, the members of the Body of Christ will be “caught up” in the clouds to be with the Lord Jesus Christ before the prophesied Tribulation take place, and it is with this fact in mind our apostle Paul wrote: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1:10).
For those of you who still think this subject is as clear as mud, I offer the following.
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture is as sound a doctrine as Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The Scriptures provide overwhelming evidence of it. The reason for opposition centers around: 1) ignorance of the Scriptures (particularly Paul’s letters) and 2) a lack of faith, i.e., unbelief. Most refuse to accept it because they do not want to. For them, tradition and religion is dearer than the Scriptures. I know this to be true because I’ve met more than a few of these people over the years and they are adamant re: what they choose to believe. Because of this they could be likened to the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 10:11, 14-45) who refused to enter Canaan, i.e., the promised land or “God’s rest” (Hebrews 3:11, 4:3). In like manner these folks refuse God’s rest of the Rapture.
While many verses affirm the Pre-Tribulational Rapture, only a couple are needed to prove it: 1 Corinthians 15:51 and our present verse, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, will suffice. 1 Corinthians 15:51 proves the fact of the Rapture. Paul stated the Lord’s return and our resurrection (the Rapture) was a “mystery” from the Greek word musterion; Strong’s Greek #3466, or a secret. In contrast, the birth of Christ was not a secret. Throughout the O.T. the Jewish prophets taught it. What’s more, the Lord taught it in His earthly ministry (Matthew 24:30, 44). His resurrection was not a secret. Jesus taught it and the Pharisees believed it. Martha knew about it and believed it (John 11:23-25). If Paul declared the Lord’s return and our resurrection was a “secret,” it can mean but one thing: it was a secret kept hidden in the mind of God since before the foundation of the earth. In other words, Paul’s teaching revealed something new, something God had kept hidden until He revealed it to Paul. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 provides the timing of the Rapture: it occurs before the Tribulation.
What did Jews understand theologically? Jewish theology was based upon two great revelations proclaimed by the prophets. One was the earthly Messianic kingdom God promised to the nation of Israel. Most Christians pray for it (whether they realize it or not) every Sunday when they recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10). The other was “the Day of the Lord.”
The Day of the Lord
Technically, the Day of the Lord is composed of three elements:
1) God’s wrath upon the whole earth
2) The Coming One Thousand Year Messianic kingdom on the earth
3) The creation of a new heavens and earth
However, God’s wrath is the subject most associated with the Day of the Lord. God revealed to David (circa 1,000 BC) that He would pour His wrath out upon Israel and the nations (Psalm 2:5, 9). Notice Israel and the Gentile nations were the subjects of God’s wrath the Church. There is not one Bible verse that teaches God will in righteous anger pour out His wrath on the Body of Christ; not one!
Every Jew knew the prophecies related to the Day of the Lord and Israel’s kingdom. The apostle Peter proclaimed them on the day of Pentecost. He recognized that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit was a sign of the long awaited kingdom. He fully expected of Joel’s prophecy to be fulfilled shortly which included God’s wrath also known as “the time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30; Matthew 24:15-31). This is why he quoted the prophecy from Joel to the men of Israel on the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21; Luke 3:16-17).
The Day of the Lord (the Tribulation and God’s wrath) is something no Believer of Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15.1-4) will experience. Paul stated clearly that the Lord will rescue Believers from God’s wrath. The Lord’s return that Paul taught was not the Lord’s advent revealed by the prophets of Israel. It was a new and previously unknown event, which was why he called it a “mystery.”
The purpose of the Rapture is twofold:
1) The salvation of the Believer’s body with a new resurrection body or the Believer’s glorification (Philippians 3:20-21).
2) To rescue those Believers who are still alive at that time.
Perhaps you’re beginning to understand why Paul referred to this event as the Body of Christ’s “blessed hope.”
Therefore, all those who errantly use certain scripture passages from the four gospels and early Acts to teach the Rapture have failed to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (Romans 2:15). Whether knowingly or unknowingly they have played a prominent role in bringing about the Post-Tribulation theory and in turn have frightened sincere Christians instead of “comforting” them with the blessed truth that the Body of Christ will be “delivered from the wrath to come” by the coming of Christ Jesus in the first heaven to catch-away the members of the Body of Christ before God pours out His wrath on this unbelieving, lost world (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 4:16-18, 5:9-11).
(To be Continued)
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