May 2006


If you have a half-hour check out the BBC interview with Greg Koukl, president of Stand to Reason. The interviewer was pretty fair, although her position on the matter was very clear. Greg, as always, was articulate, thoughtful, kind, and persuasive.

 

One part of the interview that caught my attention was when the interviewer (Carrie Gracie) quickly moved on when Greg started making too sense on the scientific aspect of this debate (9:25 to 13:02). Abortion-choice advocates know that science is the weakest link of their argument because science is clear in its affirmation that the unborn are human beings. That’s why they have to redirect the attention of the debate to a smoke-screen issue like the abstract and generic “choice.”

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What is the one dreaded question you hope no one ever asks you about Christianity and/or the Bible?


While the “What-Would-Jesus-Do?” wristbands are no longer in vogue, the phrase itself has not passed off the scene. People continue to speak of it, and continue to use this question to guide their ethical decision-making process. While the question itself is a good one to ask (it’s good to want to do what Jesus would do), and can be valuable to making difficult ethical decisions, it is too subjective and will not be used properly by most people. I have three reasons for saying so.

 

First, it has been my experience that most people who use “WWJD?” as a guide for making moral decisions know little about Jesus’ ethical teachings and the kind of life He lived. Why? Because they are Biblically illiterate. It’s kind of difficult to know what Jesus would do if you don’t know the kinds of things Jesus did do, and are not familiar with the ethical principles Jesus taught. There is simply no standard by which to make an accurate and adequate evaluation of what Jesus might do.

 

Secondly, we tend to think Jesus would do what we think is the right thing to do. We project onto Jesus our own ethical system. We reason that if Jesus were as smart as people say He is, of course He would agree with me! But by doing so we argue in an ethical circle. While we claim we are being guided by what we think Jesus would do, what we think Jesus would do is determined by what we think is right. So we put into Jesus’ mouth our own words and call that our ethical authority. This is circular reasoning at its best.

 

Both of the above reasons are rooted in an unfamiliarity with Jesus’ moral teachings and way of living. My third reason for doubting the value of the WWJD? principle of ethical decision making, however, applies even to those who are Biblically literate. While I may think I know what Jesus would do based on my knowledge of His life and teachings, the fact of the matter is that I cannot know for certain what Jesus would do in most circumstances. Jesus taught and did some pretty crazy things in His day that surprised even His very morally-minded Jewish followers. What we think Jesus might do in our circumstances based on our knowledge of what He did do in His own circumstances may not be what He would actually do. For these reasons I remain skeptical that WWJD? is a good guide to moral decision-making.

Since I have been posting about the rapture I thought I would repost something I sent out on my old e-blog a year ago concerning the timing of the rapture.


Many of you know I am post-trib when it comes to the timing of the rapture. I consider this to be a secondary, not a primary doctrine in the overall taxonomy of doctrine, and thus I do not believe differences of opinion on eschatological matters such as this should serve as dividing lines for fellowship. Neither do I normally make a point of actively proselytizing pre-trib Pentecostals to the post-trib side. But when the topic comes up I engage the issue thoroughly and with passion. After all, we are talking about our future hope. The subject is definitely an important one, and I take it rather seriously.

I am much more tolerant of my pre-trib brothers than I am of those in the pan-trib camp—you know, those who have resolved that it will “all pan out in the end.” Sure, some of them are well meaning individuals who have heard at least some arguments for all sides and simply remain confused because they don’t have the theological know-how to sort through the competing arguments. Others, however, simply choose not to give the issue much thought. For the latter group pan-trib is justification for intellectually laziness. That is unacceptable for those who claim to love the Lord and His Word. This is a subject we ought to study out. But many believers are of the opinion that we can never know when the rapture will occur because the Bible is not clear on the matter. I beg to differ. Below you will find a link to a very short article written by Greg Koukl entitled “The Rap on the Rapture,” in which he makes a simple case demonstrating that the Bible is clear on the timing of the rapture. I do hope you will read it.

http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/theology/rapture.htm

Koukl provides two clear passages for the timing of the rapture, but I would like to add two more.

II Thessalonians 1:6-10


For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed– for our testimony to you was believed.

Paul makes it clear that the church will receive relief from those who afflict them when Jesus is revealed from heaven and deals out retribution to sinners. Even pre-tribbers agree that Paul is talking about the second coming here. This brings up a question: Wouldn’t the church get relief when they were raptured into heavenly bliss 7 years before this event? Not according to Paul.

Verse 10 is extremely important because Paul connects the day the Lord comes to judge the wicked with the day He will be glorified in His saints. It is on “that day” that the Lord comes to be glorified by His saints. “That day” is used in II Tim 1:12, 18 and 4:8 to refer to the day we end our Christian race.

II Thessalonians 2:14

In II Thessalonians 2:1-4 Paul wrote:

Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you brothers 2 not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until there is a falling away and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God. … 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed [after the restrainer is taken out of the way] whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the appearance of his coming.

What day will not come until there is a falling away and the man of lawlessness is revealed? Paul had just spoken of the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him (a clear reference to the rapture). Which is he referring to? Is he referring to the day on which Christ returns or the day of the rapture? Pre-tribbers say the former, while post-tribbers say he is referring to both; pre-tribbers believe Paul has two different events in mind that are separated from each other by seven years, whereas post-tribbers argue that the two events occur simultaneously at the end of the tribulation period.

If Paul is talking about two separate events in verse one I find it interesting that he only went on to give the details of one event—and all agree that the event he went on to describe is the 2nd coming. If Paul’s stated purpose was to address both the coming of our Lord and our gathering together to him, when did he ever discuss the rapture? If you are in the pre-trib camp you must admit that he didn’t! I guess he was inspired to forget that he brought it up. If, however, Paul understood the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him to take place at the same time, then he discussed the rapture when he discussed the 2nd coming (for that is when our gathering would occur). The fact that Paul only described one event is a clear indication that, for Paul, the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to him are one and the same event.

When does Paul say this coming/gathering event will take place? He says it will occur only after two things have happened: 1. there is a falling away; 2. the antichrist is revealed and sets himself up in the temple as god. After that the Lord will return and destroy the antichrist. Wait a minute! If our gathering together to the Lord will not occur until some time after the antichrist appears and sets himself up in the temple as god (after 3 ½ years), then the doctrine that the church will be raptured prior to the tribulation must be false. Interestingly, the testimony of church history is unanimous that the church will be raptured at the end of the tribulation, at Christ’s 2nd coming. The idea that Christ would rapture the church prior to the tribulation surfaced only 150 years ago.

The occasion for Paul’s writing was a false teaching being spread among the Thessalonians in Paul’s name that the day of the Lord had already come. Paul warned them not to be deceived by this idea. How had they been deceived? They had been deceived because Paul had told them while he was with them (v.5) that certain events must transpire before the coming/gathering. They had bought into the idea that the rapture could happen prior to certain objective events previously named by Paul. This is devastating to the pre-trib understanding of “immanency” in which the rapture can occur at any moment—no prior events being necessary.

If you would like to read more evidence for the post-trib position and against the pre-trib position, see William Arnold’s short book online at http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/post/index.htm.

While we’re on the topic of what “the” rapture is not, it is not secret either. The notion that we will be transported into heaven in the blink of an eye is a misreading of Scripture. Check out my article on the topic on my main website.

I wanted to share with you an observation I think you will find fascinating. (I am indebted to William Arnold for this observation)

The debate over the timing of the rapture in relationship to the second coming of Christ presupposes that the rapture and the second coming are both events, and then seeks to determine when each event will take place in relationship to the other. Is that a valid presupposition? Is it justified by Scripture? Does the Bible describe the rapture as an event?

The only clear passage in Scripture that describes a rapturing of the church is I Thessalonians 4:14-17. Paul wrote:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (NKJV)

The first thing we should notice is that the word “rapture” does not appear in this passage. In fact the word “rapture” is not found anywhere in Scripture (we get it from the Latin Vulgate). The Greek word translated “caught up” in verse 17 is harpadzo. While the word accurately describes a rapturing of the church, it is a verb, not a noun. The importance of this grammatical fact cannot be overstated. As a verb it describes an action, not an event. The only event Paul is discussing in this passage is the coming of the Lord (“coming” is from the Greek word parousia, which is a noun). The action of being caught up will take place at the event of the coming, but it is not an event in itself capable of being separated from the coming. That’s why William Arnold wrote:

When we realize that Scripture does not speak of the rapture but rather says that at the coming of the Lord we will be raptured (caught up), it sheds new light on the discussion. It is misleading to speak of the rapture and then to ask when the rapture will take place. The Bible only mentions the coming of the Lord and says that when he comes we will be caught up together to meet him. But pre-tribulationists start by talking about the rapture and the second coming as if they were two separate events and then claim that post-tribulationists confuse the two. The fact is, however, that the Bible does not make this distinction. Instead, it uses the word “coming” (parousia) when we would expect to see the word “rapture” if indeed this were a different event.

 

Since Scripture never speaks of our being raptured as an event it is absolutely meaningless to ask when the rapture (action) will take place in relationship to the Coming (event), because there is no “the rapture”—only a “be raptured.” I do not oppose the use of the word “rapture” to describe what will happen at the Coming-event, but I do oppose the use of “rapture” as a noun. It is not an event, but a description of what we will be doing at the Coming-event.

I think this little tidbit of knowledge recasts the whole rapture question and makes the post-trib position all the more clear in Scripture. We are looking for the second coming of the Lord—not the rapture—and there can only be one second coming…not two!

Check out William Arnold’s online book The Post-Tribulation Rapture at www.therapture.org for further reading.

Evolutionist, Peter Ward, from Washington University, and Intelligent Design theorist, Stephen Meyer, of the Discovery Institute squared off in debate at Town Hall in Seattle on the topic of intelligent design. You can listen to the audio here. It reveals just how much the theory of evolution relies on dogma rather than empirical evidence. It was Meyer, not Ward who was willing to talk about the empirical science of it all. Check it out.

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