The scenario which we presented in Section 6.2 was not a preconceived idea. Indeed, as we presented the scriptures in the New Testament which deal with the second coming of Jesus, we made a number of changes to assure that this scenario is not only totally consistent with scripture, but that it also communicated the essence of the events as they will unfold near or at the end of time as we know it.
At this point we ask you to go back and read all of the scriptural references which we have presented. Or, better yet -- read the entire New Testament through with the sole purpose of identifying every scripture which states anything about the second coming or the judgment. It will not take too long, especially if you are just reading for that purpose. As you read, verify or improve upon the scenario which we proposed, which now we have validated, and present below for your convenience:
1. Jesus second coming could be at any time and we should always be ready for it.
2. Jesus' imminent physical recognition (presence) will be signalled by the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of heaven. It will be an event that is obvious to all people on the earth.
3. Jesus will appear in the clouds.
4. This will be followed almost immediately by a general resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
5. The righteous dead will be caught up with Jesus in the air, after which those saved who are still alive will also be caught up; this, by definition is a separation from the saved from the lost, who will remain on the earth.
6. The righteous will live with Jesus, His father and the Holy Spirit forever in heaven.
7. The lost will be cast alive into the lake of fire where they will ever be doomed with the devil and his angels.
8. This earth will be burned up as part of the process, and God has promised a new heaven and a new earth to those who are saved.
Again, we do not claim that this scenario improves upon the bible's description -- it does not! There is no better way to say it than the way that the bible does. We urge the reader to pick up your bible and assure that the above is consistent with scripture.
If it is consistent, it leaves no room for "the rapture." The bible never speaks of the second coming as "the rapture." Any attempt to furnish a scriptural basis is a play on words, which we discuss in detail in Section 6.6. It is unfortunate that when the denominational organizations might be doing so much to promote a respect for God's word, that they have seen the need to "help God" by adding something that, had He wanted it in His word, He surely would have put it there.
At this point we wish to go into
a little more detail on two points which have confused bible students for
some time. The first of these relates to the chaining of satan, and it
compares two scriptural passages which were discussed independently above.
The comparison gives additional insight into the meaning of the 1000 year
reign. The other subject involves an understanding of just what the New
Testament means when it talks about the "kingdom."
6.4 MORE ON THE CHAINING OF SATAN
Revelation 20:1-10 was written to Christians who were experiencing a great deal of persecution and who needed hope that God would take care of them despite the overwhelming worldly odds that we against them. Like the rest of the Book of Revelation, it was written in figurative language to convey the essence of the message without necessarily revealing the specific events to which these principles and promises applied. Many of the figures used portray the basic principles of human nature as they apply to man's response to a loving God who must allow the horrible consequences of sin to be revealed in this world so that we will not have to experience it throughout eternity. Even if we could definitively pin down the original application, these scriptures still apply to all men everywhere in principle.
Second Thessalonians 2:1-12 was written to Christians who were not under the same degree of persecution. However, they were deceived into thinking that the second coming of Christ was necessarily imminent. Paul addressed their need in a more literal way, although the specific application might still be subjected to argumentation. Since we have given our explanation to both of these scriptures independently above, we will not elaborate further. Instead, we will allow these two passages to provide a commentary on each other. We will do this by interleaving the passages where we believe they have similar application. We start with 2 Thes. 2:1-7:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.
The falling away was allowed by God. It could have been prevented, but to do so would restrict the free will of man. Clearly, however, God will not allow Satan to have the power to exercise this deception until the end of time. Thus, the promise that he will "be taken out of the way," which is described in more detail in Revelation 20:1-3:
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
The chaining of Satan would lead to the revealing of those who are wicked and exercising their control over the nations. This is reflected in 2 Thes. 2:8-10:
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Paul was emphasizing the time frame -- certain things had to happen before the second coming: A falling away -- an apparent triumph of Satan. But it was to be only temporary. On the other hand, John is emphasizing the hope that will still exist as long as we know that God is in total control. We continue in Revelation 20:4-6:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom [is] as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
The battle is for the minds of men; it is not a military battle. Certainly, military battles will result, which will demonstrate the true nature and the ultimate result of the influence of Satan. But without deceit, Satan is powerless. It is man's misperception of reality that causes all of his trouble (Jn. 8:32). The deceit is described by Paul in 2 Thes. 2:11-12:
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
This is attributed to God only because He allows Satan to exercise his deadly powers in His presence. God cannot sin, and He cannot be tempted with sin (James 1:13), but it is clear that as part of His judgmental authority, He will allow men who do not have a love for the truth to be deceived by the strong delusion of Satan. However, even the ultimate deceiver will be destroyed. This judgment of the deceiver, which has already been alluded to by Paul, is described by John (Rev. 20:10):
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The purpose here is not to present a chronology of events -- it is to compare the principles which are being presented in both passages. Both deal with the second coming; both deal with Satan -- his ability to deceive, God's allowing of him to function, and God's limiting and ultimately eliminating his power.
We can understand this even if we
have difficulty in pinning down the specific dates of the 1000-year reign.
In fact, there is no danger at all in presenting all that God has given
us on the subject, and allowing the hearers to draw their own conclusions.
Problems arise when influential teachers add to God's word and become not
only the deceived of Satan, but also deceivers themselves.
6.5 ON THE KINGDOM
Entire books have probably been written on this subject, but our intent here is to limit the discussion to the meaning of the word kingdom in the New Testament, especially as it relates to the second coming of Jesus. These two concepts are interrelated, since some premillinialists believe that Jesus attempted to establish a literal worldly kingdom during His first coming. The implication is that He failed, but he will succeed during the 1000-year reign.
It is difficult for us to see how this can be anything but an insult to God. Reread Revelation 20:1-9. Is there anything there about the establishment of a kingdom? Is there anything there (or anywhere else in the New Testament) about Christ coming to this earth? (We agree that He will be in the new heaven and new earth, but that is clearly after the 1000-year reign.)
But let us get back on the subject. We stated that we could not address the false doctrines, because there are as many of them as there are false teachers. Without scriptural authority, the variations of premillinialism are endless. However, if the nature of God's kingdom is understood, these card houses fall of their own weight. We will attempt to be as brief as possible while presenting the essence of the meaning of this word as it affects the New Testament teachings with regard to Christ's second coming.
The first use of the word kingdom in the New Testament is in Matthew 3:1-2: "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This gives us an immediate insight into the meaning as far as its availability was concerned. Prior to the death of Jesus on the cross the kingdom of heaven was not directly accessible to mankind. There was a general notion of eternal life with God (e.g., see Ecclesiastes 12:7). However, it was clear that the Jews in Jesus' time did not understand the nature of the kingdom which John the Baptist was introducing.
The Jews were a kingdom under the Old Testament. At first God was their king, and then He allowed them in rebellion to appoint Saul, who was succeeded by David and Solomon. Even after the divisions and enslavement which followed, the Jews still understood that they were God's chosen people.
The Old Testament kingdom of Israel, however, could not have been the kingdom of heaven that John the Baptist was talking about. If so, his statement would have been senseless. "At hand" did not infer that it already accessible. Neither did it infer that it was 2000 years off, nor even 10 years off. "At hand" is a term which indicates that we can reach right out and touch it, even though it might not be immediately grasped.
It is very important that we add a qualifier here. The word kingdom is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament. What we are concerned with is the way that it was most commonly used so that we can use it in this same biblical sense today. Otherwise we cannot help but cause misunderstanding. We should answer the question: What did Jesus mean when He used the word? and this should dictate the general meaning for us today. In one sense, the literal kingdom under the Old Testament predated the coming of Jesus to this earth. We see this usage in Matthew 21:42-43:
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Here Jesus uses the word in two different senses: in the Old Testament sense: "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you." In the New Testament sense it would be "given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." We shall see that when Jesus and John the Baptist said it was "at hand," they were not talking about the literal kingdom of Israel.
The teaching on the kingdom was very inviting to the Jews, and many were baptized by John. Their concept, however, was that the messiah would make Israel the central and only world power to dominate all of the other nations. This belief still persists to this day with many Jews. Unfortunately, premillinialists cannot see that they are making the identical mistake.
Lest we think it possible that John the Baptist was mistaken, notice Matthew 4:12-17: "Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison ... From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." So Jesus taught the identical teaching regarding the accessibility of the kingdom of heaven. It was "at hand."
Teaching on the kingdom pervaded Jesus teachings. Sometimes He called it the kingdom of God, at other times the kingdom of heaven, and often just the kingdom. It appears nine times in Matthew's account of the sermon on the mount alone (read Matthew 5, 6 and 7). Most of His parables dealt with matters of the kingdom (see, for example, Mt. 13). It is very clear from the wealth of teaching that Jesus wanted us to know exactly what the kingdom is.
The first mention of the church in the New Testament binds it tightly to the kingdom. When Peter confessed: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16), Jesus responded: "... upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven ..." While this is not definitive proof that the two are one and the same, it begins to add to the weight of evidence in this direction.
The next reference gives us more specifics as to the time when this kingdom would become a reality (Mt. 16:28): "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Thus, we can conclude that this event would have had to occurred sometime in or very shortly after the first century. If it has not yet been established, then someone from the first century is still alive. Common sense tells us that this is not what Jesus was trying to communicate.
The issue of when the kingdom would come was an important one in Jesus day (Luke 17:20-21): "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Clearly they were looking for a physical, political kingdom. Can we understand this today? -- with our grand organizations and large buildings trying to stake our claims to a piece of the kingdom? It is not in organizations and buildings, it "is within you."
A kingdom requires a king, a dominion, and subjects. The King is clearly Jesus. His dominion is heaven and earth -- the entire physical and spiritual universe. His subjects are the saved -- on this earth now: Christians -- but also all of the saved that have gone before. Let us observe this from Hebrews 12:18-24:
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which [voice] they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel.
While the word kingdom is not stated explicitly in this verse, would any deny that we are come unto the eternal kingdom of God?
The most critical aspect of the three aspects of the kingdom (a king, dominion, and citizenship) to us is citizenship. It is essential that recognizing the nature of His kingdom today that we, as His citizens, continue to be faithful in rendering obedience to Him. As we continue to explore scriptures on the subject, let us validate that this is what Jesus had in mind when he said "the kingdom of God is within you."
The confirmation of the saved being the subjects of the kingdom is clearly established by John 3:1-5: "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The terms of entry into the kingdom are identical to those for entry into Christ's body, the church.
John 18:33-37 gives us additional enlightenment:
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
It is not at all strange that Pilate did not understand how anyone could be a king without a visible, worldly, political kingdom. Jesus' communication to Pilate was given much more for our edification than for his. Note the following:
1. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. This does not necessarily mean that it does not include citizens in this world, as we will see. It does mean that it is not the typical "worldly" type political kingdom in which military power is used to enforce its edicts ("my servants fight").
2. Jesus did assert that "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." Clearly Jesus asserted that He was King.
The essence of this kingdom is an accurate perception of reality on the part of both the King and His subjects.
The mistaken belief that the kingdom is of a political, worldly nature persists to this day. This is expected, since even after all of Jesus' teaching on the subject, which were carefully absorbed by His apostles, they were still unclear about its very nature. It is clear that the crucifixion was precipitated by Jesus' unwillingness to meet the demands of the Jews in this regard. However, we would expect that after the resurrection the apostles would have a different view of the kingdom. That this was not the case is heavily inferred by their questioning of Jesus at the very end of the forty-day period after His resurrection and immediately before his ascension into heaven; recall Acts 1:6-9:
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
While not definitively proven, the inference here is that they were still expecting a worldly kingdom. Like many misdirected religious questions today, Jesus could not answer this question "yes" or "no," since each of the simplistic answers would have been misleading. In a sense he was going to establish the spiritual kingdom, His church (Mt. 16:18) imminently (within ten days during Pentecost -- Acts 2). But in the political sense, which is probably the sense in which they were viewing the kingdom, this would not be the case. In fact, there is no evidence in scripture anywhere that Jesus would establish such a political kingdom. (Those teaching this error have the burden of proof in this regard.)
The burden of proof is on us to show the nature of the kingdom that Jesus established in fulfillment of Matthew 16:28: "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." This is not difficult. We merely look at the answer that Jesus gave to the question of "wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" in Acts 1. His response was: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you." This occurred on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit stated things that he obviously did not understand prior to that time. Among them are certain definitive statements with regard to the kingdom (Acts 2:25-28):
For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
(Note: the Greek word interpreted hell in the King James Version is more accurately translated hades by most other versions, indicating that this was the place of waiting of disembodied spirits as opposed to the place of eternal damnation. The King James version makes no distinction between the different Greek words. This detail has no bearing on the subject of the nature or establishment of the kingdom.)
The Jews did not understand this prophecy from the Old Testament, or else they would not have crucified Christ. The fact that the very ones who crucified Christ did understand it after Peter explained it to them (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) is ample proof of the validity of Peter's explanation as well as the demonstration of the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. His explanation follows (Acts 2:29-36):
Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [hades], neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Since we have already discussed this passage, we hesitate to comment further on it. Its teachings are so clear that false teachers will need to write entire books to explain it away. We humbly beg the reader to read it over ten or a hundred times and ponder over it. It was convincing enough to make 3000 of the vilest of sinners -- the very ones who crucified Christ -- to repent and be baptized in that same hour. If this passage will not convince you that Jesus has taken the throne of David by ascending to heaven and sitting at the right hand of God, nothing else that we might write will.
The major point of departure here is between worldliness and spirituality. Are you willing to serve a spiritual king? Are you willing to give your life as a total sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2) to someone who will not come to this earth and establish a political kingdom? Apparently very few are, for without the bait of the rapture and the 1000-year-reign on this earth, they will not worship the king. Can we not see that this is precisely the error of the ones who crucified Christ the first time? Why do we continue to crucify Christ afresh in our hearts (Heb. 6:6)?
We apologize if the paragraph above is offensive to some, for we anticipate that it will be. If so, please read Acts 7. We value your offense so much more than your complacency. Jesus said (Rev. 3:15-16): "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Your aggravation is better than your complacency. Remember, our primary mission is to get you to read and study God's word for yourself, not to formulate your conclusions for you. If what we are saying does not coincide with the word of God, prove it!
But let us get on with our proof. Prior to Pentecost, the kingdom was always spoken of in prospect -- as being "at hand" or to be established. After Pentecost (Acts 2), the kingdom is never spoken of as being at hand -- it is always spoken of as reality. It is a kingdom which we can now become citizens of due to the shedding of the precious blood of Christ. The remainder of this section will present the verses that prove this.
The first of these is given in Acts 14:21-22: "And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and [to] Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." We cannot tell from this verse whether the Apostle is speaking of the present entering in or some future entering. We present this verse merely for completeness. There are several other references in the book of Acts that link the preaching of the gospel with the preaching with regard to the kingdom of God. But, like this one, they shed little light on whether the apostles felt that the kingdom had come, one way or the other. This should not bother us, for the book of Acts is primarily a history, as opposed to a doctrinal exposition.
The next reference is in Romans 14:16-17: "Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." This provides some evidence of a current realization of the kingdom, but we do not feel that it is definitive. Similarly with 1 Corinthians 4:20: "For the kingdom of God [is] not in word, but in power," where the word here is referring to the mere reasoning of men. Both of these references as well as their counterparts in the most of the epistles speak of the kingdom of God as being a reality now, not a prospect for the future.
The next reference indicates that some aspect of the kingdom is still in prospect (1 Cor. 6:9-11): "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." There are many references comparable to this one which talk about the inheritance of the kingdom. It is important to recognize that while Christians are citizens of God's kingdom which exists now, the permanent inheritance of it will not be a reality until after the judgement. Paul was making this point: Although Christians are citizens of the kingdom, they can lose their eternal inheritance if they participate in these vices.
Recognize further that Paul is not teaching on the subject of the establishment of the kingdom here -- he is speaking of their eternal inheritance. The fact that a person is currently in God's kingdom does not assure that he will inherit the kingdom. This is what he is trying to impress upon them. They were washed from these things to enter into the kingdom (John 3:3-5); however, it they go back to these things they will not inherit the kingdom throughout eternity. The kingdom of heaven is also spoken of as an inheritance in 1 Cor. 15:50, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5, and many, many other places. In this regard it is not something which we possess now in the sense that it cannot be lost (reference: Phil. 3:13-14). However, those who are citizens of the kingdom can only be displaced from this inheritance by their own volition (Rom. 8:35-39).
The next reference is in 1 Corinthians 15:24, which we discussed in great detail in Section 6.3.3, above: "Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." This verse very clearly indicates the presence of the kingdom now, since you cannot deliver up something which does not yet exist.
One of the most definitive references on the understanding of the apostles with regard to the existence of the kingdom is given in Colossians 1:12-13: "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." This clearly teaches that Christians are citizens of the kingdom now, and that their entry into the kingdom took place when their sins were forgiven, which is totally consistent with John 3:3-5.
The apostle Peter put it this way (1 Peter 2:9): "But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." The holy King of this "holy nation" is Jesus, and among its subjects were the Christians to whom Peter was writing.
There are many other references to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the New Testament, and we urge the reader to obtain a concordance and look them all up. See if any of them predict the establishment of a kingdom of any type some time in the future. All of the references to the kingdom after the Day of Pentecost either describe the responsibilities of Christians as citizens of the kingdom or else they look forward to our final inheritance of the kingdom after Jesus comes again.
The reason that we have included this subsection is that most premillinialist doctrines use the word kingdom almost exclusively to refer to a political, worldly government that Jesus will establish when He comes again. We have shown that the bible contains no such indication. If we use bible words in bible ways it would be difficult to infer biblical authority for things which are totally foreign to the scriptures.
We have shown the verses that demonstrate
the reality of the kingdom for us today. Those who believe that it has
not yet been established must fly in the face of these clear verses; or
else they must explain that there are really two kingdoms, one which is
now and another which is to come. We do not deny that the word kingdom
is sometimes used in the New Testament in reference to eternity (as opposed
to the current time). However, the false teacher is duty bound to prove
that these are two different kingdoms. They are not since they have the
same King (Jesus), the same dominion (the universe), and the same subjects
(the saved). The burden of proof is upon them. We appeal to the reader
to put them to the same test that you have put us. Let them present evidence
like that presented in this chapter, rather than just writing all of this
off as being divisive and negative. They will not, only because they cannot!
6.6 ON THE RAPTURE
Many use biblical words (such as fellowship, church and Christian) are commonly used by denominational teachers in ways that they are never used in the bible. While not sinful in an of itself, when done to infer biblical authority for worldly practices this is nothing short of being dishonest. Either the false teachers do not recognize that what they are inferring is counter to the truth, or else they are intentionally attempting to mislead. In either case, they should not be teaching things that do not originate from God's word (2 Jn. 9), and followers should insist that they provide the proof or cease such teaching; if not, they share in the guilt (2 Jn. 10-11).
What about the word rapture? We cannot complain about this being a bible word used in an unscriptural way, since the word rapture (as used by denominational teachers) is totally foreign to the bible. The reader is urged to check any complete concordance to confirm this.
The general definition of rapture as we use this word in the English language is very great joy; ecstasy. Absolutely no one that I know disputes the fact that there will be very great joy (rapture, if you will) in heaven. For those who are saved, there will be rapture at the arrival of Jesus to judge the world as described in the scriptures which we have presented above. But does this authorize us to give the second coming of Jesus this name: "the rapture."
The only defense of this term that the author has heard is obtained from 1 Thessalonians 4, which we have already discussed above. Let us consider it again, this time to see how the word rapture might apply (1 Thes. 4:13-18):
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Those who seek biblical authority for the use of the word rapture state that the Latin root for the term caught up is the same as for our word rapture. This is the sum total of their authority.
Is this reasoning valid? Is this the way that we establish authority for the words that we use and the things that we teach?
First, let us admit that this has a shred validity. New Webster's Dictionary indicates that the word rapture is derived from the Latin "rapere, raptum to seize and carry away." We have heard rapture proponents state that the word rapture means to be "caught up, snatched." However, this is the meaning of the Latin root, not our current English word. Several other English words, including the word rape, are also derived from these Latin words, but that does not change their English meanings. No one would dare intimate that "caught up" in 1 Thes. 4:17 would authorize us to substitute the word rape because it is derived from the same Latin root.
If 1 Thes. 4:17 provides the scriptural basis for calling the events which it describes "the rapture," then why would not a Greek word having the meaning of our word rapture (i.e., great joy, ecstasy) be used? Examination of a Greek interlinear bible and Vine's Expository Dictionary show that the Greek words chara, agalliasis, or euphrosune indicate joy. Properly qualified, one of them would come close to the meaning of our English word rapture.
But the Greek word used in 1 Thes 4:17 is harpazo, which means "to snatch or catch away." This has the meaning of physically moving with no reference to emotions whatsoever. It could have a positive sense, such as snatching someone out of the path of a speeding automobile; or it could have a negative implication, such as seizing someone to kidnap them. The word itself has no moral or emotional implications at all.
In their ardor to bring legitimacy
to a term foreign to scripture, false teachers have engaged in religious
double-speak. Why can't we be satisfied with using the words that the Holy
Spirit used in describing Christ's second coming? Our attempts to "help"
God in this regard inevitably mislead and deceive. If it cannot be found
in God's word, then it is not the truth and it should not be taught. If
it is not the truth, then it is of the devil and can only bring the consequences
6.7 IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Once again we anticipate this question. After all, what's the big deal? If people want to believe that Jesus is going to come to this earth and establish a kingdom for a thousand years, what can it hurt?
What can any lie hurt? If we have no regard for reality, then it just does not matter. If religion is just some game that we play, and one belief is just as good as another, then it does not matter. If we really don't believe that the bible is the truth anyway, then it just does not matter. If we think that God does not care, then it just does not matter.
However, if we believe that God is the author of the bible and that He wants us to constrain our teaching to just what he has given us there, then it does matter. If we believe that the word of God is sacred and we dare not pollute it with the teaching of man, then it does matter. If we believe that Jesus is going to judge us by His gospel, then it matters. If we believe that the truth liberates and that falsehood enslaved, then it matters.
If nothing else, it matters because of the attitude toward God's word which any departure creates. If we can make it up as we go along with regard to Christ's second coming, then why can't we make it up as we go along on moral issues? How much of the immorality and disrespect for God's word in denominational churches has been caused by disrespect of God's word on the simplest of doctrinal matters?
The substitution of fairy tales and fables for reality creates the type of mystical approach to religion that pervades the denominations. The gospel of Christ is not a fairy tale. It is an historical and doctrinal presentation that can be validated by secular history, by the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, and by the written testimony of honorable and just men who gave their very lives for the truth. It is the pure and perfect word that God wants us to learn and teach. Why waste time diluting the truth with the contrivances and imaginations of men?
But if all of this does not prove the point, perhaps 2 John 9-11 can: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." If you believe this verse you will not teach anything that cannot be definitively proven from God's word, and you will insist that your teachers give book, chapter and verse for all that they teach.
It does matter that we teach the
truth on all subjects to the utter best of the abilities that God has given
us. To turn our back on the truth for any reason is to exhibit our dissatisfaction
with what God has given to us.
Back to 7 Myths of Denominationalism Table of Contents
Go to the next section of 7 Myths of Denominationalism
Topics Page Home