THE PRE-, MID-, AND POST-TRIBULATIONIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-26-84 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy to us unspeakable to welcome the great multitudes of you who share this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor delivering the message, one in a series of doctrinal sermons in this section on eschatology, the doctrine of last things, the teaching of the Scriptures concerning the coming of Christ the second time and the end of the world.
The title of the sermon today is The Pre-, Mid-, and Post-Tribulationist. It is a study from the Holy Scriptures of the coming of our Lord for His people, the rapture of the church. The catching up of the church to the Lord is that rapture, that catching up of the church to Christ. Is it before the great tribulation? Is it in the midst of the great tribulation? Is it after the great tribulation? Is there to be no rapture at all? Or do some of us go through that trial and tribulation, and others are raptured up? This is the study this morning. In order to encompass it in so brief a time as I have to preach—I carefully outlined it, carefully wrote it out, carefully prepared it for presentation at these two morning hours. And after all of my careful preparation, and after all my careful outlining it, and after all of my careful getting ready to encompass it, and in this length of time, at the morning hour I didn’t get through. Oh, I was so disappointed! So you just get you a nice soft stance and you just be quiet in your heart, because I am going to finish this this morning; going to finish it. And that’s the best applause I’ve heard in a generation. God love you real good.
You see, I have to find for myself what to me is the truth of God. I don’t know until I study, and this is a very difficult study. After all, all doctrine—all of it—comes out of the confrontation, and the controversy, and the conflict in the church, all of it. At no time, at no place is doctrine, the truth of God, teaching, the revelation of God—at no time is it ever just somebody sitting down and writing it out. It comes out of confrontation and conflict and controversy.
For example, when I hold in my hand the New Testament Scriptures, I read on the sacred page the marvelous doctrine of salvation by grace, not by the works of the law [Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16]. I am not to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. I am saved by believing in and accepting and trusting in the loving, atoning grace of Jesus my Lord. Now that is the doctrine of the New Testament, but it came after great controversy. Paul was hounded all the days of his life on every journey he ever made by what we call “Judaizers”—by people who taught that you couldn’t be saved by the grace of our Lord, by believing in Jesus. You had to be saved by keeping the law, along with believing in the Lord. Now out of that controversy you have the Scriptures in the New Testament.
As the centuries passed, as the days multiplied, there were great Christological controversies in the New Testament church in the first Christian centuries. There were those heretics Arius and the Arian controversy; Nestorius and the Nestorian controversy; Eutyches and the Eutychean controversy, and a host of others. And out of that came the great orthodox doctrine of the deity as well as the humanity of the Son of God.
Then following that you had the Pelagian controversies, with Pelagius on one side and Augustine on the other side. And out of it came the great doctrine of the original sin and supernatural grace.
Then the days passed, and out of the tremendous confrontation and controversy in the Reformation led by Martin Luther and John Calvin and John Knox and Zwingli, came those great doctrines of the faith that we embrace today, with their marvelous watchword Sola scriptura—the Bible alone, Scripture alone.
Then the days passed, and there were the controversies concerning foreordination, and predestination, and election, and world missions. And out of that controversy with John Ryland and on the other hand William Carey and Andrew Fuller, and in America our great first missionaries Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice, came the modern world mission movement.
Now in our generation, in our time, in this last century has arisen another discussion and theological controversy concerning the second coming of Christ. And there are theologians everywhere who study and who write and who contribute their finest understanding and insight into the Word of God. And out of that study arises this series of sermons the pastor now preaches on eschatology, on the second coming of Christ; and this morning, on whether the Lord raptures His church before the tribulation, or in the midst of the tribulation, or after the tribulation, or is there to be no rapture of the church at all.
Now I have summarized here five differing theological positions concerning the rapture of the church. One is, the church is to be raptured before the tribulation; the pre-tribulation rapture, which doctrine says that the Lord may come at any moment, at any time. There is nothing preventing, there is nothing to be fulfilled between us and the coming of our Lord. His coming is imminent—i-m-m—imminent. After the coming of the Lord for the church, and after we are caught up into the clouds to meet our Lord in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:17], then we stand before Christ at the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, and we are given the rewards that He has in store for us who love and work for Him [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Then we’re seated at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]. Then we come with Him down to this earth again [Revelation 19:11-14]. And after the return of our Lord—the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 19:15-21], in the midst of which we come to earth with Him—then the millennium [Revelation 20:4]. Then after a brief rebellion of Satan [Revelation 20:7-10], we enter into the final heaven and final earth, the final states, the eternal states that God will give to us who find refuge in Him [Revelation 20:1-22:21]. Now that is the first doctrinal presentation, the pre-tribulation rapture of the church.
The second interpretation of these scholars is the mid-tribulation rapture; that is, that the church will go through the first half of the seven-year period of the tribulation, and that in the midst of the tribulation, after the first three and one-half years, they will be raptured to the Lord. In the middle of the tribulation, they the church will be raptured.
The third theological interpretation position concerns the post-tribulation rapture: that the church is going to be here and live through that terrible time of trial and trouble, and after the tribulation the church will be raptured. This is based largely on one great text in the Bible, namely Matthew 24:29. Our Lord says in His apocalyptic discourse in Matthew, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven…and He shall send His angels…and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,” from the four corners of the earth [Matthew 24:29-31]. Now these post-tribulation scholars say that it is very apparent there: the Lord says after the tribulation God will send forth His angels and they shall gather together His elect from the four ends of the earth.
Now to me the answer to that is very simple and very plain. The elect that are spoken of here by our Lord are the tribulation saints; they are the sealed and the saved among the Israelites, the people of God, and their Gentile converts [Revelation 9:4]. They are not the church, for the church has been raptured, caught up, taken out before those terrible days of tribulation. The tribulation concerns Daniel’s seventieth last week [Daniel 9:20-27], in Jeremiah 30:7 referred to as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” out of which he will be saved. After the rapture of the church, these tribulation saints are not forgotten. They will be resurrected from the dead according to Revelation chapter 20:4-5. Not a one of them will be left in a martyr’s grave. There’ll not be a bone in the region of death. There’ll not be a relic for Satan or Antichrist to gloat over. The tribulation saints will also be resurrected from the dead, and that is plainly stated in Revelation 20:4-5. But that is the post-tribulation position: that the church is going through to the tribulation, and after it is over the church is raptured.
The fourth doctrinal position of modern scholars concerns a partial rapture; that is, only deeply spiritual Christians will be raptured, will be caught up, and carnal Christians will be left behind to endure the tragedies of those terrible days. Now there is a verse of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:51 that says, “We shall not all sleep,” we shall not all die, “but we shall all be changed.” Not some of us changed, not some of us caught up, not some of us transfigured and some of us left behind to go through the tribulation, but all of us shall be changed: “but we shall all be changed.” Actually, doctrinally, not one of us is worthy of the loving grace and tender care of our Lord. It is only by the grace of God that any one of us is delivered, and there’s no such thing as some of us going to be left behind to go through those terrible days of judgment, and some of us who we think are more spiritual than others to be caught up with the Lord.
May I pause to say a doctrinal word here? If we go through the tribulation in order to be saved, then salvation is not of grace, but of our works and of our suffering, something we do. We are saved by the grace of our Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Not one of us is worthy, but Christ died for us in our stead, and it is in His love and goodness that we are commended to God and thus are welcomed into the presence of the great Glory.
Now the fifth position is, there’s no rapture at all. There’s no tribulation. There is no Armageddon. There is no millennium. There is no resurrection particularly. I call that “these half-infidels,” who write and teach in the schools and in the churches. They don’t believe anything that I am able to understand. Some of them apparently believe something of the Ten Commandments, maybe. Some of them believe something of the Golden Rule, maybe. But they leave out of their consideration and out of their scholarly study—and they leave out of their belief, certainly—the great mass of Holy Scriptures. Now I don’t pay any attention to them at all, and they certainly don’t pay any attention to me. So we just mutually and exclusively don’t pay attention to each other. If you don’t believe the Word of God then I don’t have anything to say. But if you do believe the Word of the Lord—oh, how much we have in revelation from His blessed Spirit!
Now the position of your pastor: I have here fourteen reasons, fourteen reasons why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, that we are going to be raptured up to the Lord before the great judgments fall upon this earth; fourteen reasons why I believe in the pre-tribulation, in the before-tribulation rapture of the church.
Number one: because of the outline of the Revelation, the Apocalypse, the last book in the Bible. By inspiration, God has given us the outline of the Revelation. It is in the first chapter of Revelation, verse 19: “Write,” said the angel to the apostle John, “write the things which thou hast seen,” that’s number one, “and the things which are,” that’s number two, “and the things which shall be meta tauta, after these things.” That is the great outline of the Revelation. So John sat himself down, and he writes first the things which he had seen; namely, the vision of the glorified Christ, and that is the first chapter of the Revelation. Then he was commanded to write “the things which are,” and John sat himself down and wrote chapters 2 and 3; the things that are, the churches. And he sent those messages to the seven churches of Asia, “the things which are.” Now third, and he is to “write the things which shall be meta tauta, after these things.” So I’m looking for meta tauta, the things after the churches, the things beyond the churches, the things after the churches are gone, after the church age is over. I’m looking for that meta tauta, and I see it in the fourth chapter of the Revelation, the first verse: “After these things—meta tauta—after these things I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and I heard a voice as of a trumpet saying, Come up hither,” after which the church disappears. It is not seen, it is not heard from, and it is not mentioned again until the church comes back with Christ from heaven in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-14]. And between those words in the fourth chapter and the returning of the church in the nineteenth chapter, that is the great tribulation, the day of trial and trouble. That is the first reason I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: because of the outline of the Book of the Revelation, how God said the things were to be.
Number two, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: Daniel’s seventieth week, Daniel’s last week that concludes the history of the chosen people of God, the Israelites. Daniel’s seventieth week is Revelation 4 through 19, that great period of tribulation. The tribulation period concerns Israel and not the church. Daniel 9:24 says, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” Then the prophecy proceeds to speak of Jerusalem, of the cutting off of the Messiah, of the coming of the Antichrist, and the final week of desolation and tragedy [Daniel 9:25-27]. That is exactly what I read in the Revelation, what I have read in the prophecy of Daniel.
The time period called a week by Daniel is divided into two parts: Daniel 9:27, three-and-a-half years this way and three-and-a-half years that way. And in Daniel 7:25 it is called “a time and times and the dividing of times.” In Daniel 12:7 it is called “a time and times and half a time.” Now when I read that in the Book of Daniel concerning Israel and the great judgments of God upon Israel, I read the same thing in the Revelation. In Revelation 11:2, “forty-two months,” three-and-a-half years. In Revelation 11:3, in Revelation 12:6, “one thousand two hundred sixty days,” three-and-a-half years. In Revelation 12:14, “A time, and times, and half a time.” Exactly what I read in the Book of Daniel regarding that final week, that final seven years of tribulation and judgment, exactly that I find in the Revelation, word for word, time for time.
The third reason I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: the rapture is “sign-ified.” Now you pronounce that “sig-nified.” The rapture is “sign-ified,” it is pictured in Revelation 4:1. You know, I think we would have had an altogether different idea and understanding of the Revelation had we pronounced that word as it is written. It is written “sign-ified, sign-ified.” In the first verse of the first chapter of the Revelation, the angel sent and he “sign-ified” the Revelation to the apostle John; that is, it came to him in great panoramic pictures. But we don’t get it because we pronounce the word “sig-nified.” It is “sign-ified.” For example, John sees the Lamb slain [Revelation 5:6]; well, that is a picture of the death, the atoning blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a picture. And the Revelation is a picture. It is a “sign-ified,” panoramic presentation of the times of the end.
Now look at this sign “sign-ified.” In Revelation 4:1, “I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and I heard a voice as it were of a trumpet; which said, Come up hither.” And at that moment when John enters that door into heaven, at that moment the church disappears and is never seen again, never referred to until she comes with [Jesus] in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-14]. There is no rapture mentioned in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation because the church is already with her Lord, and she is coming down to earth with her Savior.
Now the picture of that, the sign of that is in Revelation 4:1 when John says, “Through the open door I saw in heaven, the voice said, Come up hither,” and the saints of God were caught up to Jesus in the air, raptured to the Lord. In this interval between the rapture in Revelation 4:1 and the return with our Lord in Revelation 19:14 is the bema. In that period of time is the bema, when we appear before Christ and receive our rewards for what we’ve done for Him [2 Corinthians 5:10], and the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10], and it closes when we return with Christ. And when we do, in the Book of the Revelation chapter 19, when we return with Christ we have our white robes of reward [Revelation 19:8]. All of that has happened there in heaven with God’s people, and down here in this earth are those seven years of terrible tribulation.
Number four, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: in Revelation 4:4 and 4:10 it says—before the tribulation, it says that John saw the four and twenty elders seated on their thrones robed and crowned. These are the resurrected, raptured saints of God. They are up there in heaven, described at the beginning in the fourth chapter of the Revelation; and after that, through chapter 19, is the great tribulation. So these saints of God, His church, His people are up there in heaven. They are robed. They are crowned. They have their rewards, and they are there with the Lord before the great tribulation.
Number five, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: the tribulation is called in Revelation 6:17 “the great day of His wrath.” That time period of seven years, Daniel’s seventieth week between Revelation 4 and 19, is called in Revelation 6:17 the great day of God’s wrath. But in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul says, “Jesus hath delivered us from the wrath to come.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:9 Paul writes again, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” If the purpose of my salvation is that I go through the fury and the wrath of Almighty God, then I am not saved. I am just like all the other unbelieving world, facing the judgments and the turmoil and trial and tribulation that God shall visit upon those who spurn His offers of grace. But God plainly says to His sainted apostle Paul God hath not appointed us for that wrath,” but God hath delivered us from it in the love and grace of His dear Son and our Savior.
Number six, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: the promise of Christ to the Philadelphian church was a deliverance from the peirasmos. Peirasmos means “tribulation, trial, calamity, adversity.” God promised the church at Philadelphia that it would be delivered from that peirasmos that should come upon the earth. Read it: Revelation 3:7, “And to the angel of the church at Philadelphia write . . . I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door,” there is that open door into heaven, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of peirasmos,” of tribulation, of trial, of adversity, of calamity, “that shall come upon all the world to peirasai,” the verbal form of it, “to try them that dwell upon the earth” [Revelation 3:7-10].
The church of our Lord Jesus Christ is not destined for tribulation but for heaven. That’s the place He has provided for us, is to be with Him in heaven, not down here in this earth to experience and to go through all of the trials and troubles by which God shall judge those who spurn Him.
Number seven, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: the rapture belongs to the believing church as her reward. The tribulation belongs to the unbelieving world as its just retribution. This is our precious and beautiful and saintly reward in Christ, that we’ll be caught up to our Lord into heaven, and the judgments of our Lord are poured out upon an unbelieving world [1 Thessalonians 5:2-11].
Number eight, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: God does not, and God cannot—isn’t that an unusual thing? But according to the Word of the Lord it is true: God cannot begin the terrible plagues of the tribulation until we’re safely out of it and in heaven. He cannot. Well, look at the Word of God. And that is all I am, I am just an echo. I don’t invent this message. I am just a voice crying in the wilderness. This is what God says. In Genesis 7:1, “And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” God did not pour out His wrathful judgment upon the antediluvian civilization until after Noah prepared the ark and was safely in it; it didn’t come until Noah was safely away from the judgment of Almighty God [Genesis 7:23]. Now look again in Genesis 19:22. The Lord—the angel says to Lot, “Haste thou, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither.” God could not rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom until Lot and his family were safely outside the city. As long as that righteous man was in Sodom God could do nothing. So the angel says to him, “Come out, escape out; for I can do nothing until thou be come thither.” Or look again in [Exodus] 11:4:
At the midnight will the Lord go out into the midst of Egypt:
And all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die . . .
And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt . . .
But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog wag his tongue . . . that ye know that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and the Israelites.
God did not send the death angel over Egypt until Israel was safely under the atoning blood [Exodus 12:7, 12, 23]. And then it closes with [Exodus] 12:41: “And it came to pass at the end of four hundred thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” That’s God! Were all of those Israelites worthy? No, some of them were not. But God, because they were His people, and had placed the blood of atonement on the lintel and on the doorpost in the form of a cross, God spared them all, took them all out. That is what He is going to do with us. It may be the feeblest one of us that has found refuge in Jesus Christ, but if we’ve turned to Him He will save us, how ever little our faith and how ever feeble our life and commitment may be. It’s just the grace of God that does that for us. Now to summarize that eighth reason: God cannot rain His judgments upon this earth as long as we’re in it. We’re going to be caught up first, and then the judgment day comes.
Number nine, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: the Holy Spirit, whose temple, whose house is in the hearts of His people [1 Corinthians 6:19], and in the assembly of the church [2 Corinthians 6:16]. There are two places that God says the Holy Spirit of God lives: He lives in my heart, and He lives in the congregation of God’s people. And when I come to church I bring the Holy Spirit of God with me, and you do. And when we are here together, somehow the Holy Spirit is just twice as dear, and near, and felt. The Holy Spirit of God, whose temple is in the heart and in the assembly of His people, must be removed before Antichrist can achieve his goals and purposes. That is plainly said in 2 Thessalonians 2:7: “And now the Restrainer”—ho katechon, from katecho, “the one that holds down, the one that represses, that one that restrains”—“and now the Restrainer is restraining until He be taken out of the way. And then shall he,” called in 2:3 the man of sin or the son of perdition, here called “the lawless one,” ho anomos, the one that is the wicked one, the Antichrist—“then shall he be revealed, whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming,” with the epiphany of His parousia, with His presence [2 Thessalonians 2:7-8].
As long as we are in this world the Holy Ghost is in us. As long as we are in this world the Antichrist cannot take over this earth. Because the church, the temple of the Holy Spirit, is taken away, then and only then will the Antichrist have little trouble setting up his kingdom in the tribulation period. It plainly says that in that same chapter of 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, because the people of unbelief “receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved . . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they shall believe a lie” [2 Thessalonians 2:10-11]. And when Antichrist comes as the great champion of the peace, and sobriety, and prosperity, and future, and destiny of the world—when the Holy Spirit is taken out in the house of His believing church, why, Antichrist will have no trouble at all.
Now let me show that to you in the Holy Scripture. In the sixth chapter of the Revelation begins the opening of the seals. So the first seal is opened, and there is a white horse, and the man who rides on it comes conquering and a conqueror. That is the Antichrist. Then he’s followed by the second seal, the red horse of murder and war. And he’s followed by the third seal, the black horse of famine and destruction. And he’s followed by the fourth seal, the pale horse of death and of the grave [Revelation 6:1-8]. Now when the earth—after the removal of the church—when the earth is filled with despair, there is no hope. There is nothing but murder, and bloodshed, and war, and trouble, and famine, and need on every hand. Every nation of the earth has fallen into the abysmal hopelessness of insoluble problems. There arises a man who says, “I have the answer. Follow me, and I can lead you to peace, and to prosperity, and to affluence, and to food and shelter and clothing,” everything that the nations seek after and that the people desire and want and covet. And the whole world follows him, this man, this “Antichrist” he is called in the Bible.
Now you say, “How could such a thing as that be?” Why, I can tell you exactly how. Dub Jackson, you have a man in your Baptist World Alliance by the name of Reinhold Kerstan. He was here, and he took David Humphrey over into East Germany where our choir is going in May and June. You ought to listen to that man. He belonged to Hitler’s Youth, and was getting ready even as an adolescent to fight in the Nazi army. And that man, that is one of the noblest men I ever met, Dub, and one of the smartest, one of the most gifted. That man believed that Hitler was God! You say such a thing is not possible. My brother, look. Look all around you. When the world comes to final despair, and there’s no way out, there’ll arise a man, the Bible says, who says, “Follow me, and I’ll lead you to victory, and to peace, and to prosperity, and to the solution of all of your problems.” And the Bible says the whole world will follow him. Just the thing that I lived through when I saw Hitler rise to power in the 1930’s and plunge the world into war in 1939, followed by the the red horse of war, the black horse of famine, and the pale horse of death and the grave. That is the tribulation, just as it says in the Bible.
Reckon I’m going to ever get through?
Number ten, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: the coming of the Lord for His church is unknown. The rapture is unannounced and unheralded; only God the Father knows. That is plainly said in Matthew 24:36 by our Lord, and Mark 13:32. The people of Noah’s day didn’t know until the Flood came [Genesis 7:17-23]. The people in Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t know until the brimstone and the fire fell [Genesis 19:24-25]. And the people of the earth will not know until the church is raptured away. The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is constantly presented in the Bible. He is coming as a thief in the night. That’s in Luke 12:39-40. It is in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4. It is in 2 Peter 3:10. It is in Revelation 3:3, and again in Revelation 16:15. He says, “I am coming as a thief in the night.” No one knows. No one suspects. He is coming to steal away His jewels, His pearl of price, you. He paid His life for you [Revelation 5:9], and He is coming to take you away, to steal you away.
Now, you listen to this: if Christ comes after the tribulation for His church, it will be no surprise. Why, the tribulation is a well-defined and definite period of time. Look at the things that are revealed in the tribulation. One, the Jews are regathered to the land of Israel from all over the world, a great persecution, worldwide against the Jew, against Israel. It will be worldwide, and for their lives, the Jews will be regathered into Israel [Isaiah 11:11-12]. That’s the first thing. Second, the temple will be rebuilt. You don’t have any temple over there. It is going to be rebuilt, and when it does, it’ll be in the tribulation [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. Three, Antichrist makes a covenant with the Jewish nation [Daniel 9:27a]. Four, after three-and-a-half years, he breaks that covenant with the Jews [Daniel 9:27b]. Five, he presents himself as God. He sits in the temple of Jerusalem as God; 2 Thessalonians 2:4 says that. Six, this is called the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel in Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11, and by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. He sets himself up in the Holy of Holies as God to be worshipped as God. Seven, he is supported by the world religious system, described in Revelation 17 as the scarlet harlot. The whole religious system supports Antichrist as he sits there in the Holy of Holies as God. Eight, the—by the way, you say, “How could such a thing be?” Look at the people in Germany in the ecclesiastical world who supported him. It’ll surprise you how the church sometimes, the so-called church, the scarlet church, the harlot church, the religious system of the world, how they’ll follow after if they get enough in return. Amaze you. Now he is not only supported by the world religious system described in Revelation 17, but the terrible plagues and judgments of God Almighty fall upon the earth, and if we’re in it, you could easily tell. Number nine, there is the awesome Battle of Armageddon fought [Revelation 19:19]. And number ten, the king of the East is there with two hundred million men [Revelation 9:16]. If the rapture of the church comes after these things, it could not be with any surprise.
Man, all you got to do is read the Bible, and here they are. There they are. Look at this. To us who read the Bible, it’d be impossible to be a surprise that Jesus would come for us as a thief in the night. It is absolutely meaningless to say He comes as a thief in the night if He comes after all of those signs and historical developments. Instead, His coming for us is unknown. Not a single event is required before the rapture of the church. The rapture requires no sign or event to happen before Christ comes for us.
Number eleven, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: we are to live—we are commanded, we are admonished in the Bible to live in the imminency—i-m-m—in the imminency of the coming of our Lord [Philippians 3:20]. He may come a thousand years from now. He may come before I finish this message. The apostles lived like that. The first church were taught to be like that, and we are to accept that as our mode of life, our modus operandi. We are to work and to live in the thought that our precious Lord may come any moment [Titus 2:12].
Number twelve, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: we are to watch expectantly for the coming of our Lord for us [1 Thessalonians 1:10]. We believe the words of Jesus in John 14: “If I go away, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself” [John 14:3]. Our reverential, worshipful attitude toward our Lord is ever one of expectancy. It may be today. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:29 wrote, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoice not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not.” For Jesus may come for us any moment, any day, any time, and we’re to be watchful and expectant, our heads lifted up. As sweet Martha Branham said, “Our redemption draweth nigh.” We are to be ready and prepared and working when He comes; 1 John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear,” the epiphany, phaneroo, “when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His parousia,” at His presence with us.
Now, thirteenth reason, the thirteenth reason why I believe Jesus may come at any time: Titus 2:12-13, “We are to live righteously in the present world; Looking for that blessed hope, the glorious epiphany, epiphaneia, the appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” May I comment on that? My brethren, for what are we looking? Are we looking for the tribulation? Are we looking for the judgments? Are we looking for the Antichrist? No! We are looking for Jesus our Lord, who may come any minute, may come any time! We are looking for Jesus. We are waiting for Him. We are expecting Him. We believe His promise when He said, “If I go away, I will come again” [John 14:3]. And we are not looking for the tribulation. We are looking for Jesus.
Fourteen, the last one, why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church: Christ’s coming does not wait on the great tribulation, but it waits on our soul-winning dedication. Why does the Lord delay His coming? Why is He not here now? Second Peter 3:9 replies, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” That is why He delays His coming, on account of us who haven’t accepted Him as our Savior, because if He came and we were lost. But if He comes and we’re saved, O Lord our time is short. What we do, we must do now. “When the fullness of the Gentiles be come in,” Romans 11:25, when the last Gentile that is to be saved comes down that aisle, then the Lord will come. Then He begins His dealing with Israel, and at the end time, Paul says, “all Israel shall be saved” [Romans 11:26].
Bless God. So now we are watching, and we’re waiting, and we’re looking, and we’re believing in His holy and precious Word.
Written, I suppose, by a tenant cotton farmer:
There’s a king and captain high,
Who’ll be coming by and by,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton
When He comes.
We will hear His legions chargin’
In the thunders of the sky,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton
When He comes.
When He comes,
When He comes,
All the dead will rise
And answer to His drums
While the fires of His encampment
Star the firmament on high,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton
When He comes.
There’s a Man they thrust aside,
Who was tortured
‘Til He died,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton
When He comes.
He was hated and rejected.
He was scorned and crucified.
But He’ll find me hoeing cotton
When He comes.
When He comes,
When He comes,
He’ll be ringed
With saints and angels
When He comes.
They’ll be shouting out Hosannas
To the man that men denied,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton,
When He comes.
[“When He Comes,” French E. Oliver, 1921]
Lord, at my task, I’ll be busy; a woman in her kitchen, a mother with her baby, the man out in the field, the laborer with his hammer, the corporate executive at his desk, the preacher at his study, all of us at our tasks, ready, waiting, expecting, when He comes. It is a glorious way to live. There is no defeat awaiting us, just victory. Everything that God could prepare for those who love Him is ours when He comes, when He comes.
And that is our invitation to you. “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. And in my heart of hearts, I accept the Lord Jesus for all that He said He was, and for all that He promised to do. And when He catches up His saints to glory, I’ll be with you. My family will be included. God be praised, this is the day of salvation for me.” A family you, to come into the church; a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give your life anew to the Lord. As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. In a moment, when we sing our invitation and wait in prayer for you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Down the balcony steps, there is time and to spare; and down one of these aisle seats, “Here, pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m on the way.” May the angels bless you as they rejoice with you in your coming, while we stand and while we sing; while we stand and while we sing.