by Paul Benson
(This is part 2 of a series on the timing of the catching-away of the Church to meet Jesus. You can find part 1 HERE.)
For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. Psalms 33:4
All who claim to be Christians operate under the assumption that the various facets of their belief system come from the teachings of the Bible. We all claim to be ‘Bible-believers’! But I like to ask people the following:
Are you basing your beliefs upon what the Bible actually says, or upon what man says about the Bible?
The former is trustworthy; the latter is a good way to get full of erroneous notions about God and his dealings with us. This holds true to the question of the timing of the catching-away of the Church to meet Christ in the latter days. We can either base our beliefs about the Return of Christ and the catching-away of the Church on what the Bible really has to say, or upon what some man says the Bible teaches on this timing issue.
As we saw in the last article that timing is clearly shown in many passages of Scripture. Let’s look at some more places we see that timing expressed.
The Resurrection Chapter
Isaiah called our Resurrection the day when ‘death is swallowed up in victory’ and that we will declare ‘this is the day we have been waiting for!’ ( Isaiah 25:8-9). Amen to that! The fifteenth chapter of 1Corinthians is commonly called ‘the ‘Resurrection Chapter’ for good reason. It is the most precise and detailed description of the Resurrection of the Just that we find in the entire Bible.
There are MANY clues as to the timing of the resurrection and catching-away of the believers to be found in this chapter; particularly if you examine certain quotes in this text in the Old Testament prophecies from which those quotes originated.
Also the allegorical references to certain types and shadows Paul used in this discussion give additional light as to the timing of the resurrection. And, as the Resurrection of the Righteous and the catching-away are so closely related one to the other, any indication of the timing of one would truly also apply to the other.
Paul begins with a discussion on the reality of the Resurrection and the futility of a faith that holds no promise of being raised from the dead unto eternal glory. He then speaks forth some very revealing statements.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1Corinthians 15:20
Though we do not see any indication of timing in this verse we do see a pattern in the types/shadows reference here of Christ being called the ‘firstfruits’. In the Old Testament a husbandman would harvest a small portion of his crop and take it to the priest who would then offer it up to God as a ‘firstfruits’ sacrifice that would then sanctify the remaining crop. The husbandman would then return and harvest the entire crop.
Christ is the firstfruit of God’s harvest of mankind! That firstfruit offering sanctified the remainder God’s harvest, which is in fact our resurrection at the end of days.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end… 1Corinthians 15:21-24
One resurrection at one time: the Return of Jesus Christ! The harvest of the Righteous will take place at Christ’s Return at the end of this age. Though many attempt to place this event seven years earlier there is no such timing detailed anywhere in the pages of the Bible. As we shall see further on in this chapter, quite the contrary!
But first please allow me to rabbit-trail a bit and qualify a statement I made in the previous article about the judgment of the believers. For many years I held on to the idea of a latter day (after the ‘catching-away’) when we will all ‘go to court’ and get judged and rewarded for our efforts as believers. There are many theories afoot about just when and where this Judgment will transpire.
I have always felt a bit unsettled over this issue until recently. Even though I sensed most preaching (particularly pre-trib) concerning the judgment and reward of the believer placed the cart before the horse (reward before judgment), I could not get clarity on the matter of just when this Judgment Seat takes place.
I now have that clarity!
Some place it in Heaven after the Church has been supposedly instantaneously transported there in a ‘poof we are gone’ rapture event. Others place it on Earth after the Battle of Armageddon. And still others have differing scenarios they propose on how this (supposedly) later Judgment takes place. But I believe they are all mistaken because of what the following verses (and some from Daniel) tell us.
All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead… 1Corinthians 15:39-42
In Paul’s efforts to show us that our resurrected body will be quite different from the mortal one we now inhabit he makes an amazing statement. As resurrected believers we will not all look the same! Some will shine in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:43) with a much greater glory than others! And in Daniel’s end-time prophecies we see a very similar statement.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:2-3
If, at the Resurrection, some are given a greater measure of Christ’s glory to cloak them than others that would necessitate a judgment having to take place to determine who would receive what measure. See where I am going with this?
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Revelation 22:12
Jesus clearly said he was bringing our reward with him at his Return. We are awaiting our reward from heaven (1Peter 1:4). A Bible study of just this concept of reward in regard to timing is in itself enough to put to flight any idea of a pre-trib rapture. For example does the following sound like a pre-trib vanishing or the Coming of Christ to judge the wicked?
Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. Isaiah 40:10
Or how about this one we discussed in the last article?
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. 5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. 6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah. Psalms 50:3-6
Pre-tribbers try to get around the way this passage ties the catching away to the Second Coming by claiming this is some ‘later’ gathering of God’s people for judgment of their works. But that could not be so. It would contradict Jesus’ words that we will be recompensed at the Resurrection of the Just (Luke 14:12-14), as well as many other places where our reward is promised at Christ’s Coming.
There is no place the Bible details the judgment and reward of the believer taking place apart from the Resurrection at Christ’s Coming. Though this concept of a ‘later-on’ (Bema Seat) Judgment has been drilled into us for years by completely misguided preaching, I no longer see any reason to cling to that idea.
I believe we are to be judged and rewarded at the Resurrection of the Righteous. The day of our Resurrection is the day of the Judgment Seat of Christ! And what timing do we receive from the Scriptures as to this judgment and reward of the Righteous?
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. … …because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. Revelation 11:15-18
According to this passage it is the 7th trump Return of Christ that brings the reward of the Righteous in the same time-frame that the wrath of God falls upon the wicked. Why then are so many trying to convince us that Christ will come with our reward seven years earlier in a pre-trib rapture? That timing may be firmly entrenched in their theoretical ramblings, but it has absolutely no accord with the Scriptures! The Bible clearly ties the reward of the Righteous to the Second Coming in many places. Let’s go on with the chapter:
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1Corinthians 15:51
Here again, as in 1Thess. 4:16, Matt. 24:31 and Rev. 11:15, we see the trumpet sounded in association with the Return of Christ for his Church. The key timing factor this passage gives us is that this trump associated with the Resurrection is the LAST trump. It is called so for good reason. It is the last trumpet call of this age. It signals the Return of Jesus and the beginning of a new age. With his Bride at his side, and his enemies vanquished, he will now rule this world according to his desire.
How anyone could place this ‘last trump’ resurrection before the time of tribulation is beyond me. But then these are the same folks preaching a scenario that mistakenly has us entering into the Year of Jubilee at the Feast of Trumpets rather than on the Day of Atonement (when the last great trumpet is sounded) as expressly show in the Scriptures! I discuss that major error in timing in this article.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1Corinthians 15:54-55
There are some timing issues raised in the above passage that I have never heard discussed before. Paul says that when our Resurrection transpires it will fulfill Old Testament prophecies. He then quotes from Isaiah 25:8. And he then adds additional witness with a quote from Hosea. Let’s look at those quoted words in their contexts, and see what timing is expressed concerning our Resurrection. First Isaiah 25:
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. 9 And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:8-9
Isaiah clearly ties two things to ‘that day’ of our Resurrection: 1). the Lord wiping away the tears from off all faces, and 2). the end of the persecution of his people. Let me ask you:
Would a pre-trib resurrection and catching-away END the persecution of God’s people?
NO! But the Second Coming sure will. We clearly see the persecution of God’s elect during the final years expressed in a number of places in the Bible! And according to 2Thessalonians chapter one this persecution will be put to an end by the Second Coming of Christ.
And as for the wiping away of tears from all faces this also cannot be a pre-trib event! I have never seen one place the Bible describes any such removal of sorrow from the world prior to the time of tribulation. But the Second Coming of Christ will certainly bring that to pass as Jesus deals with the wickedness and rebellion of this world that causes such sorrow!
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:14-17
I’ll leave it to you to discern what timing is expressed in the passage above as to ‘that day’ when God will wipe away the tears from the eyes of his people. (Hint: these folks are the persecuted ones who had come out of the tribulation!)
Since Isaiah ties both the end of the persecution of God’s elect and the wiping away of the tears of all to our Resurrection (which must precede our catching-away), how could we envision this as anything other than the time of the Second Coming?
If we are going to call ourselves ‘Bible Believers’ then let’s believe what the Bible has to say!
Now let’s look at the words in Hosea from which Paul quoted to the Corinthians in his discourse on our Resurrection:
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Hosea 13:14
Repentance shall be hid from God’s eyes in the day he ransoms us from the power of the grave? Does that fit pre-trib timing in any fashion? Gee! Let me think for a minute!
NO, it does not!
One of the greatest problems I see with pre-trib preaching is that it fails to properly distinguish between the expression (and purpose) of God’s wrath and his mighty judgments which call mankind to repentance. This distinction is crucial to a proper view of end-time prophecy. Let’s get this right:
God’s judgments upon mankind are redemptive in nature, and carry a call to repentance.
God’s wrath offers no such opportunity for repentance, it is strictly punitive in nature. Its purpose is the eradication and punishment of evil.
The events of the time of great tribulation will be one last clarion call to mankind to turn from their sin and rebellion and embrace faith in the Savior sent to redeem us. The day Christ appears in the sky that opportunity for repentance will be replaced with an outpouring of wrath.
Read again the verse above from Hosea that Paul quotes in regard to our resurrection. The day of our transformation will also be a day when repentance shall be hid from God’s eyes. The offer of salvation by grace through faith will be rescinded.
One place the pre-trib crowd has it right is where they say the Age of Grace comes to an end at the rapture. This is a firm tenant of Dispensational Theology! What they have completely wrong it the timing.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14
The Lord Jesus Christ said his Gospel will be preached right up until the end of this world. Any response to that Gospel call would necessitate both an offer of repentance and the grace to respond.
Something that really amazes me is the way those who hold to a pre-trib theology cannot see the conundrum they create by on the one hand saying the ‘age of grace’ comes to a close at the supposed pre-trib rapture, but then on the other hand they go on and teach there are those who find salvation during the tribulation!
I truly believe this is one area where pre-trib theory turns absolutely heretical! Salvation during the tribulation apart from grace through faith? Come on people!
If there is no Grace available then all that is left is Works. If works could save during the tribulation then they could save anyone at anytime; and that would render the Cross unnecessary! Is that not heresy?
I have Dispensationalists vehemently rebuke my claim they teach a heretical alternative means of salvation (for their so-called tribulation Saints) apart from grace through faith in the work Jesus did on that Cross. But when they tell us the Age of Grace concludes prior to the tribulation what other conclusion could a person with reasonable cognitive function come to? If it’s not grace then it’s works!
Again: Come on people!
To sum it up, we can clearly see when examining Paul’s words in 1Cor. 15:54-55, and the O.T. passages he was quoting from, the timing the Scriptures give concerning our Resurrection could not possibly be prior to the time of tribulation. It has to be the Second Coming!
I have detailed elsewhere how the phrase ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ has been hijacked from its context and misapplied to the catching-away aspect of Christ’s Coming. There is NO biblical foundation for believing the Body of Christ will disappear in an instant rather than rise visibly into the clouds as Jesus did (nor that this event transports the Church to Heaven)!
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Romans 6:5
Isn’t our experience supposed to be in the likeness (look-like) that of our Forerunner? Jesus’ resurrection and ascension were two separate events! Did he have a ‘poof we are gone’ catching away? No, he did not. And since Christ’s visible ascension into the clouds didn’t happen in the twinkling of an eye, why should we think ours will?
And what is there to be found in this entire chapter (or anywhere else in the Bible) that would cause one to think this catching away would happen before and apart from the Second Coming? NOTHING! Instead, what we see gives clear indication the resurrection and catching-away does take place at that Second Coming!
Any attempt to use this 15th chapter of 1Corinthians as confirmation of a pre-trib rapture is misuse and even abuse!
For the umpteenth time could we please base our end-time teachings upon what the Bible itself really says, and NOT upon what man theorizes about the Bible?
This was part 2 of a series. You can find part 3 HERE.
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