Doctrines of Division
Vol: 26 Issue: 18 Wednesday, July 18, 2018
It is difficult to say for certain which doctrine generates the most heat in my inbox; eternal security or the Rapture. If I had to guess, I think I’d have to give it to eternal security by a nose.
That’s odd, really, when you consider the stakes involved. In eternal terms, it doesn’t much matter what you believe about the Rapture. Nobody is saved by their faith in the timing of the Rapture.
There are at least five different views, if one includes the ‘no Rapture at all’ view. Only one will be correct. And nobody will know which one until it actually happens. But the important thing to know is that one’s interpretation plays no role in one’s participation.
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1st Thessalonians 4:14)
Notice there is only one conditional premise; if we believe. Once that condition is met, the rest is automatic. If you are saved by grace through faith, then you will go in the Rapture no matter how you interpret the timing.
So it is exceedingly odd that the timing of the Rapture should generate almost as much controversy as a bedrock doctrinal issue like eternal security. Yet it does.
The timing of the Rapture is important to the understanding of unfolding Bible prophecy in the way that punctuation is important in a paragraph.
The Age of Grace is often referred to as the “Parenthetical Period” between the close of Daniel’s sixty-ninth week when the Messiah was “cut off” — and Daniel’s seventieth week when the antichrist confirms, and then breaks a covenant with Israel. (Daniel 9:26-27)
With this understanding as a foundation, the flow of Bible prophecy harmonizes the prophecies of the Old Testament with the promises of the New without contradiction. Removing this Dispensational framework is like trying to understand the nuances of a paragraph without the benefit of punctuation.
All kinds of interpretations become possible and the overriding purposes are obscured. The outline of all Bible prophecy could be summarized this way: Believers are convicted under the OT Law, pardoned under NT grace, and the rest are judged after the grace period expires during the Tribulation.
Acts 1:11 both opens and closes the brackets around the Age of Grace with Jesus in the air.
“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;”
“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”
The Age of Grace begins with Jesus being taken up into Heaven and it concludes with His return “in like manner” as they saw Him go. Jesus is received up into heaven quietly, with two angels standing by as witnesses.
Acts doesn’t record Jesus ascending into Heaven in full view of all mankind astride a white horse accompanied by ten thousands of His saints and wielding a sharp two-edged sword. But that is how He returns at His Second Coming.
The Age of Grace concludes with the Rapture of the Church, which is also described as a secret, signless event, witnessed only by the Church and the angels, in like manner as they (the Church) saw Him go.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)
If one were to move the parentheses backward or forward then the harmony of Daniel’s 70 Weeks is broken. Daniel’s 70th week can’t be a ‘week’ anymore, its a half a week, or a part of a week, or its a symbolic week, so Daniel 9:24-27 must be completely reinterpreted.
The division between the letters to the 7 Churches and the onset of judgment is obscured. The New Testament promise that; “He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world” must now be reconciled with the antichrist’s power to overcome the saints in Revelation 13.
Some other explanation must be found for the meaning of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, some other explanation for the Restrainer must be formulated, and some other identification for “that Wicked” must be found.
And finally, some loophole must be found to explain why one generation of believers will face Divine justice for the sins of the generations that came before. The Bible says that for believers, Jesus already did that.
And that brings us full circle back to the doctrine of eternal security.
I believe that the Bible teaches that, after God’s extension of grace, salvation is conditional on two things. Faith and trust.
God’s grace is self-evident. Without God’s grace, there would be no security to discuss, eternal or otherwise.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The Bible defines faith as the expectation of things hoped for and the substance of things not seen. My faith is not in my ability to live a Christ-like life. If it is, then I will be judged according to my faith, the Scriptures promise.
I don’t want that. I never wanted that. That’s why I came to Christ in the first place. Because I did NOT want to be judged by my own standard.
Instead, I have faith that I was already judged at the moment I trusted Christ. Do you recall that moment in your own salvation? The first moment when you knew you were clean, washed, forgiven and loved?
Do you recall how secure you felt? I knew that had I died at that moment, I would have stood before the Lord as clean and pure as the driven snow.
That was many years ago. I don’t feel as clean and pure as the driven snow, anymore. I often try to recapture that first, fresh, brand-new feeling of cleanliness I felt then — I rarely, if ever, have even come close.
I received an email along those lines the other day.
“I used to feel so fresh and clean. But then I fell back into old habits and old sins. I don’t feel clean anymore. Does that mean I have lost my salvation? Maybe I was never really saved at all?”
The answer to these questions are always found in the questions themselves. If you are worrying about your salvation, you obviously had it. And if you think you lost it, ask yourself where you left it last. In His hands? Or in yours?
These two doctrines — the pre-trib Rapture and that of eternal security — go hand in hand because if you have one, you don’t have to worry about the other.
If you are eternally secure, then you needn’t worry about the Tribulation judgments. The Mark of the Beast can pose no threat to your standing as a believer because you won’t be here when it is.
Either Jesus did it all, or Jesus did some of it and I have to do some of it. Only one can be true.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)
It’s either faith or works. It has to be one or the other. Because if it must be both, then it can be neither.