Prophecy Article
Expanded Internet Edition  November 16, 1997 

The Place of Safety

By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1997

 

 

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Jesus gave a major prophecy about the EndTime on the Mount of Olives just before his crucifixion. He presented the apostles with a prophetic rundown of events regarding the activities of the Antichristís empire that will prevail at the Time of the End. He also revealed how Christians who will be living at that climactic period in the history of the world will be able to escape the ravages of those judgments that will engulf the whole world. As a part of that EndTime assessment, Jesus told us that there would occur a period of Great Tribulation that would be so severe that nothing in past history could equal it (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21).

What most people do not understand, though, is the fact that the Great Tribulation itself is NOT a trial that is inspired by Satan the Devil. This period is actually a judgment on evil humanity engendered by the wrath of Christ Jesus. That's right. The Tribulation is not the anger of Satan. In Revelation 6:1217, under the events of the sixth seal, is described the prophetic occurrences to happen in the period of the seventh seal (which includes the seven trumpet woes plus the seven last plagues). Those events are depicted as being "the wrath of the Lamb [Christ Jesus]" (verse 16) and "the great day of his [Christís] wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand" (verse 17). The bulk of the prophecy of the Book of Revelation (all of the historical events of the seventh seal) represents Christís wrath against the world, NOT Satanís persecution of the saints or anyone else.

This is a significant teaching that is paramount in comprehending the judgmental events associated with the Time of the End. This fact is a fundamental doctrine that will help to explain why Christ promised Christians a Place of Safety during this catastrophic time of judgment on the world. The truth is, Christ at the time of his judgment will have no quarrel with members of his divine community of saints (often called the "church," but I prefer the New Testament word ekklesia which means an "assembly" or "congregation" of peoples). Why should Christians be judged when they are not the objects of Godís wrath? True, Christians will experience the events of the Great Tribulation because they will be living at the time the world is being judged (Romans 8:23), but those occurrences will be in the fashion of an inconvenience rather than a severe judgment of retaliation from Christ for any wrongdoing that we may have done. This is an important point to remember and to understand. We as mature Christians are not judged for any wrongdoing that we may have done. We are judged by God's application of grace. If you do not understand this principle of grace, then you should read my research titled "The Biblical Manual" and "The ABC's of the Gospel."

When will the Great Tribulation Occur?

This spate of judgment executed by Christ Jesus is destined to occur on earth just before the Second Advent of Christ. This happens just after some Christians will be put under trial at a preliminary period to the Great Tribulation. We are informed of this phase of persecution in the message of the fifth seal (Revelation 6:911). The opening of that fifth seal describes certain Christians undergoing persecution "for a little season." These are a minority of Christians in strategic levels of society who will pay the supreme price for their faith in Christ, but these individuals in no way represent the majority of the faithful. These are the ones referred to when Christ said the time is coming when specific Jewish Christians will be challenged in their beliefs by the society that will then exist in Palestine. This will be especially true of those saints who live in the environment of Jerusalem.

Christ said that they would be delivered "up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my nameís sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved [alive]" (Matthew 10:1622).

Regarding this time, the teachings of Christ are clear. He said: "But he [who is a Christian, and one who lives in the Jerusalem area] that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). This endurance is something that requires personal patience and fortitude during this prophesied period of persecution. Those Jewish Christians who "endure," will be saved alive and also receive as a reward their glorious spiritual salvation promised to them before the worldís foundation (II Timothy 1:9).

After the events of the fifth seal, the time of Christís wrath on the world will then arrive. This is the period for the Great Tribulation that is described in the remaining part of the Book of Revelation. Speaking of the Philadelphia congregation of the Book of Revelation (which will be in existence at the End-Time, as will all the other six congregations mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3), we read:

"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I [Christ] also will keep thee from [Greek: ek, which means "out of"] the hour of temptation [trial], which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."

Note carefully the Greek preposition in the above verse. It is "ek" which means that the subject of the preposition indicates a position of being within or inside the particular experience and then to be exited (or removed) from it. It signifies that those of Philadelphia (those of the symbolic type of the original city in Asia Minor) will emerge (or, come out) of this prophesied trial victoriously. The context of Revelation 3:10 makes it clear that this symbolic Philadelphia congregation of the prophecy will experience the Time of Trial [the Great Tribulation], and that they were within and inside it, but that the congregation will still come out of it triumphantly. Indeed, those people should have no fear because Christ will "come quickly" and rescue them out of this period of Trial.

An Important Point to Remember

Though it is clear that God's people on earth will experience the period of the Great Tribulation, this does not mean that they will suffer for it in the same manner as other people who do not comprehend or practice the truths of the Holy Scriptures. But because all Christians on earth at the time will live alongside their non-Christian neighbors, they will undergo the inconvenience of the period known as the time of Christís wrath. That is because all Christians will then be on earth (not up in heaven as those who recklessly teach the erroneous doctrine known as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture).

The "Rapture" (or the ascent of Christians to meet Christ in the clouds after the Great Tribulation) occurs precisely at the Second Advent of Christ. The Great Tribulation will have been completed by the time of the Second Advent. The Scriptures show that real Christians will remain on earth through the entire period of the seventh seal (with its seven trumpets and seven last plagues). Christians do not ascend into the clouds to meet Christ until the time of the first resurrection shown in Revelation 20:5.

The word "first" in Revelation 20:5 is the normal Greek word that describes the ordinal number representing the first digit, such as in the numerical sequence first, second, third, etc. The word does not mean "former" in this context as some translations force it to mean (notably the erroneous translation of the Concordant Version) which falsely renders the word as "former" in order to support the translatorís bias who accepted the theory of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Mr. A.E. Knoch (a man and scholar whom I greatly respect ó who, when I visited him in 1955 at his home, went to his garage/warehouse on 6th Street in Los Angeles to give me his last copy of the original Concordant Version) violated his own translation principles by allowing his doctrinal beliefs on the Rapture (as wrong as they were) to influence his translation.

Though Mr. Knoch was wrong on this point, the outward honesty and Christian kindness that Mr. Knoch expressed to me personally when I visited him in 1955 and in 1960, makes me believe he would change the CV back to the proper "first," if he were alive today. We are hopeful that the new version of the Bible produced by the "Original Bible Project" will not have doctrinal bias creeping into the translation like this of the CV. Dr. James Tabor agrees with me concerning this principle of proper translation. The fact is, the word "first" in the Book of Revelation 20:5 is an ordinal number that means "first," not "former."

The Error of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

The "Rapture" is a Post-Tribulation event, not a Pre-Tribulation occurrence. One factor that is correct about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory (which has been taught in some circles for about 170 years) is the fact that its supporters properly acknowledge that the saints of God will not suffer from Christ's judgment during the Great Tribulation. This is true. But in order for the saints to be free of judgmental influence that will involve a profound trial for those to whom it is intended, the Pre-Tribulation theorists have invented a secret coming of Christ to earth before the Great Tribulation to whisk all the saints to heaven. That secret coming will (according to them) free the saints from undergoing the period of Great Tribulation. True enough, that would perform the task, but this is NOT what the Holy Scriptures teach. It is true that Christ will not judge the saints as he does the rebellious as revealed in the seventh seal of the Book of Revelation, but Christ does not take the saints to heaven. The Place of Safety for the saints will be on earth! They will not be transported bodily to the celestial throne of God in this Pre-Tribulation period. This is where the main error of the Pre-Tribulation Rapturists rests. The Bible shows plainly that the Place of Safety (better yet, there will be Places [plural] of Safety) will be on earth, while the Pre-Tribulation Rapturists believe the saints will be taken to heaven.

Saints on Earth During the Great Tribulation

First of all, note Revelation 12 where we read of Satan being thrown out of heaven to this earth. Once Satan and his angels arrive on earth, they begin to persecute the woman that brought forth the man-child (Revelation 12:13). But once this initial persecution commences, God then does something with that symbolic woman.

"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place [into a Place of Safety], where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time [three and a half years], from the face of the serpent. And the serpent [Satan] cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood [note that this flood intending to kill the woman will be on earth, not in heaven] which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

What makes Godís people to be His special group is the fact that they are always trying to "keep the commandments of God." In other words, they seriously attempt to obey God in all that God requires of them. At certain times in the history of the earth, God has commanded males of a particular family (such as the family of Abraham) to be circumcised and to offer animal sacrifices for their sins. Of course, God can (and did) rescind such "commandments" at later times when Christ Jesus established a spiritually based set of doctrines that excluded the need to physically circumcise males or to offer animal sacrifices or to abide by laws that were meant for ancient Israel.

To be specific, "the commandments for Christians today" are very different "commandments" from those that God demanded of ancient Israel. We have other kinds of "commandments" to obey. We are now expected to do "good works" (Ephesians 2:10) and especially to practice "the fruit of the Spirit" in our lives (Galatians 5:22-25). Our present "commandments" have nothing to do with the former "commandments" that God gave to Israel in their infancy concerning circumcision and animal sacrifices (and other national and religious laws) before people were graced with the blessing of the Holy Spirit as a part of their nature and attitude.

In the above section of the Book of Revelation, Satan starts persecuting the saints of God when he is expelled from heaven and finds himself on earth where he will have full sway of influence for three and a half years (Revelation 13:5). The initial activity that Satan inspires to persecute the ekklesia produces a flood of water that pursues after them as they flee to a place [a Place of Safety] that is in the wilderness [a desert-type area] on this earth. Note carefully, that those who flee to this wilderness area, do not represent the totality of the saints of God. This is because Satan is frustrated in his original scheme to destroy the "woman" and he begins to concentrate on "the remnant of her [the womanís] seed" (Revelation 12:17) who are in other areas of earth. (I will mention these "other areas" shortly.)

There is another section of prophetic scripture that speaks about this "fleeing" of the saints of God just before the time of the Great Tribulation. That is found in the predictions of Christ himself in his Olivet Prophecy. Christ informed these saints who would be in Jerusalem and Judaea:

"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand): then let them which be in Judaea flee unto the mountains [not up to heaven, but to a mountainous region on earth]: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the electís sake those days shall be shortened."

Where is the Place of Safety?

Note that in the above prophecy of Christ, the saints are told to flee hurriedly unto the mountains. This means the Place is close enough to Jerusalem and Judaea that no provisions for food and shelter for their journey need be taken into consideration. Christ also said to pray that their exodus from Jerusalem and Judaea would not occur on the Sabbath day (the seventh day of the week). This means the saints by walking could reach the Place of Safety within six days or less. And remember, in the Book of Revelation we have the added geographical feature that this Place of Safety was in the wilderness (or a desertlike area). In Luke 17, where Christ told the disciples about this "fleeing" for safety, the apostles even asked Christ "Where, Lord?" (Luke 17:37). They wanted to know where the Place would be. Then Christ said: "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together" (verse 37). Remember, it was by "eagleís wings that the woman was transported to the Place of Safety on earth (Revelation 12:14).

There is even more to identify where the Place of Safety will be for the saints who then live in Jerusalem and in Judaea. It is well described in the Bible. But before I present this evidence, a warning would be appropriate. Let us not think for a moment that this Place of Safety is where all the saints around the globe will flee. These prophecies I have so far mentioned apply only for those who will then be living in the Jerusalem and Judaean regions. It is the height of ridiculousness to think that this mountainous and desertlike area near Jerusalem and Judaea is where all Christians on earth will be taken to escape the Great Tribulation. This is not the case! Such an absurdity was actually believed by the hierarchy of my former denomination. In the last years of my tenure in that denomination (when I was their Chairman of the Department of Theology), I tried desperately to get the hierarchy to see the folly of their reasoning, but to no avail. The fact is, the Bible shows that there are Places [plural] of Safety on earth, not a simple Place [singular]. However, for those saints in the Jerusalem and Judaean areas, there will be a nearby Place that God has prepared for them to flee. Let us observe more about this particular locality in the Middle East.

When the apostles queried Jesus about the Place where the saints would flee, he gave a cryptic type of answer. It was plain enough, however, to anyone who lived in the area of Palestine and who knew the Holy Scriptures very well. This is when Christ (in Luke 17:37) spoke about carnivorous birds gathering at a place where a slain body would be found. He was quoting Job 39:30. Look at the context of this verse.

"Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the Rock [Sela in Hebrew or Petra in Greek], upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place [a Place of Safety]. From thence [from the Rock] she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she"

When the disciples asked, "Where, Lord" will the saints be taken, he answered by giving them this cryptic section of the Book of Job. The Place would be in a remote area where eagles nested and reared their young. It was in a mountainous region that encompasses a wilderness [desert-like] environment. It will be also within a short distance from Jerusalem or Judaea enabling people to flee with little food in their possession or within a period of six (or fewer) days in order not to travel on the weekly Sabbath. This will be an area where other "outcasts" will also find protection. In Isaiah 16:14, we read that there is a place called Sela [Petra, Greek] that is in the wilderness that will take "outcasts" like those of "a wandering bird cast out of the nest" (verse 2). This section of Isaiah applies particularly to those fleeing Moab directly east of Jerusalem and across the Jordan River on the banks of a southern river (the Arnon) that exits into the eastern part of the Dead Sea (verse 2). But it also involves those who abide in the direction of "the mount of the daughter of Zion" (verse 1). This refers to those who have residence in Jerusalem and in Judaea.

This special area being discussed is the region now called Petra in the southern area of the Kingdom of Jordan that is southeast of Jerusalem. But it involves an area larger than just that of the City of Petra. Christ said it embraces a region where the eagles go to search for food (Luke 17:37). In the Scripture, Christ referred to in the Book of Job, we read that from Sela (or Petra) the eagles "seek the prey, and her eyes behold afar off" (Job 39:30). Isaiah said these flying creatures were like "a wandering bird cast out of the nest" (Isaiah 16:2).

This geographical description embraces a large area ó an area of safety that an eagle in search of food for its young might fly. Though the nest of the eagle is in Sela (which was technically in the eastern sector of Edom in ancient times), the eagle flies to all areas surrounding such a Place of Safety. Recall that King David in his times of trial in Jerusalem and Judaea pined for a place in Edom to which he might retreat in order to have safety from his enemies.

"Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom? Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? And thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies."

To David, the strong city in Edom had to be what we call Petra today. That is where he wished to be as a Place of Safety from his enemies. It was nearby to Jerusalem and Judaea. This site also fits all the geographical parameters mentioned by Christ where a great number of his saints who live in the Jerusalem area and within the general region of Judaea could flee to escape the ravages of the Great Tribulation. Note carefully that there is nothing in these verses to suggest that saints of God would be whisked up to heaven by a secret coming of Christ to hide his people before the Tribulation.

What About People in Other Areas on Earth?

The only people we have been discussing up to now are those people who will live in Judaea at the Time of the End. What about others in different areas of the earth because we know from various scriptures that the influence of the Antichrist will be worldwide and the Tribulation will also have a worldwide effect? They canít possibly flee to Petra in the fashion of those in Jerusalem and Judaea.

First, let us deal with the time of the fifth seal when there will indeed be a persecution of saints on this earth (this is before the time of the Great Tribulation). This is when the Man of Sin (also called the Son of Perdition) with all the power of Satan the Devil exercises his power to establish a world rule on earth (II Thessalonians 2:312). The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians (who lived in Northern Greece, and over a thousand miles from Jerusalem) that they would have protection (in the main) from the evils of Satan during this time. This is the period when "a great falling away" from the truth of God will take place all over the earth (II Thessalonians 2:3).

And though the whole world (except the select saints of God) will lapse into a belief in the falsity of this system established by the Antichrist (verses 812), the saints of God who truly believe in Christ and his teachings will not be swayed or conquered by this evil society at the End-Time.

Paul said: "Because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation [in this particular context, the salvation has to do with being saved alive in a physical sense from a period of trial and delivered from accepting the false teaching promoted by the Antichrist]." Paul went on to say that then deliverance will come "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (II Thessalonians 2:13). Paul then stated in the same context concerning protection (though his promise is at the beginning of the next chapter) "that we may be delivered" (II Thessalonians 3:2).

Indeed, our protection is guaranteed during this time (except for the few mentioned in Revelation 6:11). This is because in the next verse Paul states: "but the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil [actually, Paul said: "keep you from the evil one [Antichrist]" (II Thessalonians 3:3). Note that Paul says nothing about these people in Northern Greece having to flee to Petra in the Middle East. Of course not. It would never have entered his mind to make such an unreasonable assessment.

Places of Safety in Other Areas

There is a general (but highly important and appropriate) scripture that God gives to people who find themselves in the midst of trials and troubles, whether they are of Satan the Devil and his evil forces or even from God and Christ when they perform their judgments on earth. This applies to any of Godís people no matter where they dwell on earth. See Isaiah 26:20.

"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."

Note that the context of the above verse involves the whole earth. Its application for protection reaches out to all areas of the globe. God says His people can be hidden until the indignation is removed. Indeed, why should God and Christ punish you and the other saints of God who trust in Christ and his teachings? Why should God chastise those who know who they are and rely on their divine position as members of the Family of God? The saints are the very Children of God and part of the divine Family. God does not arbitrarily punish his own people. True, we can suffer along with the world in certain aspects when the world experiences judgments (Romans 8:22,23), but God's people are not the object of God's wrath that causes God to bring on the Great Tribulation (or even to allow Satan to have sway over the earth).

How to Survive in the Rule of the Antichrist

A great counterfeit system that will resemble the prophesied Kingdom of God under the authority of Jesus Christ is soon to emerge on the political scene. It will counterfeit so closely the millennial kingdom of Christ that people on earth will come to appraise it as indeed the very kingdom of Jesus Christ and that the person heading it is no less than Christ himself returned to earth. What a shock will be in store for all people in the world when they finally discover that this End-Time Empire is really that of Satan the Devil and his evil angels.

The Bible makes it clear that Satan the Devil appears to mankind as being the very epitome of righteousness and goodness. The apostle Paul under divine inspiration from Christ said that Satan appears with his ministers as righteous and holy people. "For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (II Corinthians 11:14,15). The Bible reveals that Satan is really an "old serpent" (very wise and cagey) who is "called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). He has effectively deceived the totality of this world.

Let's face it. What would the apostles think if this human ruler called the Antichrist (the False Christ) would come to earth looking like some Babylonian Gentile priest with a mitre of Dagon the fish-god on his head, demanding Sunday worship, the observance of pagan holy days associated with the Spring Equinox or the Winter Solstice, and teaching that all should come under the authority of the Gentile city of Rome? Would there be any apostle of Christ (who lived in the first century) that would accept this man as the supposed Christ? Of course not! But Christ said the Antichrist would be so clever at the Time of the End that even the very apostles themselves would be close to believing he was indeed the real Christ if they did not know better (Matthew 24:24,25).

Indeed, there will even be a fake "Second Advent" that the world will witness and mistake as that of the true Christ. Recall that Satan and his angels will be thrown out of heaven (Revelation 12:717). These angels of Satan will even appear to some people disguised as departed loved ones who recently died or other prominent individuals that all people knew had died. People will mistake these appearances for the resurrection of the dead that is prophesied to occur at Christ's true advent. This will be just like the familiar spirit who came to Saul disguised as Samuel, though the real Samuel was dead in his grave and no longer alive (I Samuel 28:11,14). When Satan is expelled from heaven, the majority of people in the world will actually believe that Satan and his angels are Christ and his angels returning to earth at the Second Advent. They will falsely believe that Christ has caused the resurrection from the dead for the "righteous." The world will believe this false Advent because the apostle Paul said, "God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie" (II Thessalonians 2:11 Greek, emphasis mine).

When the Antichrist appears on earth, he will look so much like the prophesied Christ that he will put into force Sabbath observance (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset), along with the biblical Holy Days, and he will make his capital at Jerusalem. Remember, the word "anti" in the word "Antichrist," actually means in these prophetic contexts "in place of," not simply the meaning "against" as the word can signify in other contexts. True, the Antichrist will indeed be "against" the true Christ, but his appearance as the "AntiChrist" means he takes the place of Christ and falsely states that he is the Christ. That is why the Antichrist will reintroduce the Sabbath and the Holy Days of Moses for all people on earth to observe because that is what the true Christ is prophesied to do when he returns to earth (Isaiah 66:23). The Antichrist will also "change the times and the seasons" (Daniel 7:25). He will alter the world's system for counting "time" from the Julian Solar Calendar that the world uses today, back to the Hebrew Calendar which is a Lunar/Solar calendar that is dominated by the Mosaic holy days that God once ordained for Israel.

The Antichrist will use the restrictions prohibiting work and worship associated with the Mosaic Sabbath and the Holy Days of God in order to control completely the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activities of the people of the world. So strict will he make the observance of the weekly Sabbath that if anyone tries to flee to a Place of Safety on the Sabbath, he or she will be easily spotted and rounded up for punishment (Matthew 24:20).

While the Sabbath and holy day laws of themselves were good and proper as long as righteous and holy kings supervised them, they can be a great burden on people if the political and religious authorities demanding them are severe and unholy. Take for example the period of Herod the Great. This ruler was so "righteous" and basically obedient in the outward religious requirements of God that he built the Temple and tried to supervise a Mosaic society with the Old Testament laws in force.

The truth is, however, Herod was an evil man. Recall that Christ was born at the time Herod ruled. And what did Herod do (who headed a Sabbath-keeping and Holyday-keeping society with the Mosaic Sanhedrin in office as the Supreme Court of Israel)? He tried to slay Christ Jesus as a newborn child. Indeed, John the Baptist was slain by a son of Herod who also ruled over a Mosaic society in Palestine. And don't forget that Christ was also crucified by the religious Sanhedrin. That particular Mosaic institution (the Sanhedrin) gave the orders for the crucifixion to be done (with Pilateís approval). Even the first apostle to be killed (James, the brother of John) was also slain by a descendant of Herod the Great, who also persecuted and imprisoned the apostle Peter (Acts 12:17). Peter said such a Mosaic society ruled by man was arduous and almost intolerable to live within (Acts 15:10).

Have you ever lived in such a Mosaic society dominated by men who rule from the top down? Believe me, I have. I subjected myself and my family to such a society (called a "church denomination") for eighteen years, and I can assure you that the whole religious society was dominated by the whims and desires of one man who sat in the top seat of authority. He used (or rather, abused) God's holy laws and commandments to give him such authority. Those in the denomination called that authority "Moses' Seat." And believe me, that religious society was a dictatorship in every aspect of its government. The only difference between that church government and that of Herod the Great is the fact that Herod had an army (backed up by the authority of Rome) to enforce his governmental rule on all his subjects. Again, believe me, it would not have been pleasant to live under such controls demanded by Herod but they were accepted by the populace because they respected God and all they knew was the Mosaic form of government to which they submitted.

Indeed, every time the apostle Paul (or any Christian) went to Judaea in the early first century, such Christians found themselves under the authority of the Mosaic system, which was supervised by people who were extremely "religious" but equally carnal and authoritarian. They were keen in putting into effect the Mosaic legislation, as they understood it to be enforced. There is not a bit of difference within authoritarian churches today who demand the Mosaic legislation (or something similar) to be a part of their societal requirements (along with their Christian teachings). The men in charge can be (and often are) tyrants. The top minister almost always lives as a king and "high on the hog," while the laity pay, pray and stay while they are preyed upon by the hierarchy.

Many of us have experienced such a system of Mosaic government in our daily lives for years. I actually appreciate having lived such a way for a short time because it taught me the elementary teachings of the Mosaic dictatorial system in a precise way. It was good for Israel at one time, but it is no longer needed now in this age of enlightenment when all the members of the Body of Christ have the Holy Spirit to guide them in all matters of life. That is why Paul told the Gentiles that they were no longer under the rule of a schoolmaster with laws and commandments intended for those who were spiritual infants. All Christians are now "free in Christ" (Galatians 5:1,2). But to exercise that "freedom," one must be willing to leave the infant stage of spiritual development (that the Mosaic system was intended to promote) and to accept the personal responsibility that God expects adult and mature Christians to live within. We are told to be mature "in Christ."

In no way do I want to go back to being under such an infantile and arduous society ruled by men who live like "kings" (that is, who live like "Christ" is imagined to live when he rules with a rod of iron to straighten up the world at the beginning of the Millennium). This is the very type of government that the prophesied Antichrist will adopt when he appears on the scene in the few years ahead of us. It will be arduous and full of many inconveniences for us.

The prophecies of the Bible state that a supreme Antichrist system (which will have the Mosaic legislation as its basis of religious and political government) will exist just prior to the Second Advent. You and I (if alive) will be subject to it. It will be a time of "Law" and "Commandment" enforcement by men (and especially by one man, the Antichrist who will rule in the place of Christ). While Christís rule, after he puts down rebellion with a rod of iron, will be of mercy and kindness, this Antichrist will use Godís laws and commandments given to Moses as a means to bring mankind into slavery to him and to his henchmen. It will be like Herod the Great all over again.

Can you and I live in such an environment? We are told that there will be a time at the period of the End when there will be "a famineÖof hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). At that time, we will not be allowed (in this case, by orders from Christ) to teach the truth openly during that time of famine that is prophesied. We will then enter into our houses and shut the doors and hide ourselves until the indignation is overpast (Isaiah 26:20). At that time we are commanded by Christ not to try to overthrow the system by force. If you or any Christian tries to thwart that Mosaic government of the Antichrist, Christ tells us in Revelation 13:10: "He that leads [the system] into captivity shall [himself] go into captivity. He that killeth with the sword [in trying to overcome the system], must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." In other words, the saints are to be patient and express faith in God at this time of trial and not try to overthrow that Mosaic government of the Antichrist. Why? Because Christ tells us: "Who is like unto the Beast [the Antichrist]? Who is able to make war with him?" (Revelation 13:4). The fact is, Christ will allow the Antichrist to become invincible in power for three and a half years.

Christ tells us (and all Christians will be on earth at the time) to have patience and faith and not to attempt to destroy that power. What God is actually doing, is to teach mankind (and also us), that when man tries to enforce God's laws and commandments on other men, the attempt always ends up in tyranny and a dictatorship being established on earth. God wants all of us to get our belly full of such governments of men who misuse God's laws and commandments to live like kings and to force the laity to bow in servitude to them. So, God will subject mankind to such a government (which many people erroneously today believe is the best kind of governmental system), so that they will learn by hard experience the evils of such a man-ruled system.

Christians Can Be Protected During This Time

Christ tells those who live at the time to be patient and have faith while Christ allows the world to experience what it is like to live under the Mosaic system that will dominated by the Antichrist and his henchmen. Isaiah says to enter our houses and hide until the indignation be over-past (Isaiah 26:20,21). Of course, Christians will have to leave their houses and buy food, etc. But when this happens, make sure that you do not do it on the Sabbath or Holy Days as required by the Mosaic legislation or you will be rounded up as heretics and dealt with severely.

This condition, thankfully, will not last more than three and a half years. I can assure you that I personally have kept such legislation for eighteen years in the church with which I was formerly a member, and I managed to survive. It was not a pleasant experience (because I had no "freedom" to express my own opinions or beliefs ó nor will anyone in the period of the Antichrist), but the Mosaic government with its religious and political laws and commandments taught me some vital lessons that have helped me to truly appreciate what it means to be "free" in Christ. I intend to enjoy such freedom as long as I can, and I encourage all of you to do the same. The apostle Paul commanded us all to: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).

So, is it possible for you to observe carefully and with extreme caution the weekly Sabbath (the seventh day of the week, not the pagan Sunday) and the Holy Days of the Mosaic legislation, along with tithing and a host of other physical laws? Yes, it is. Many of you have already done so, and though (as I have said) the experience is an exercise in inconvenience and frustration because of the intense restrictions that the authorities will impose, you and I can live through it triumphantly. I intend at that time to enjoy the rest I can have on the Sabbath day, but I will hate having to attend those services conducted by the henchmen of the Antichrist and to hear their boring and non-biblical sermons extolling the merits and high position of the Antichrist and his Sanhedrin and the human priesthood that supports him.

Indeed, just as some of the apostles and others suffered under the rule of the Herodís and the Sanhedrin and the human priesthood that strongly enforced the Mosaic commandments and laws in their time, so there will be Christians who will undergo the same thing in the future. But God will protect us through that whole period and we will come out of it (Greek: ek) and live to see Christ come in the heavens to rescue us at his Second Advent.

The Antichrist Will Re-Introduce Mosesí Law

It is most important that we realize that the prophecies of the Scriptures show that the Antichrist will adopt the Mosaic religious days as well as the systematic principles and teachings advocated by Moses (with Christian interpretations) to control the affairs of all mankind throughout the earth. He will not establish pagan days such as Sunday, Easter, Christmas and other heathen days as many people expect the Antichrist to do. The Antichrist (who deceptively appears like most people feel Christ will appear at his Second Advent) will hold such pagan days in disdain and he will abolish them throughout the earth. As stated before, he will reestablish the Mosaic calendar as the official calendar for all the world to heed. He will abandon our Solar calendar.

Indeed, the procedures of the Antichrist will look so much like people expect Christ to introduce at the Millennium that even the very elect people of God would be close to accepting him as the true Christ returned from heaven if they did not know better ó and this would even include the apostles of Christ (Matthew 24:23-25).

In order to deceive the world (and even the very elect if that were possible), the Antichrist will force into action (in a wrong way) the very laws of God in order to put yokes of subservience on the people just as the Jewish authorities demanded of the Jews in the time of the apostles (e.g. Acts 15:10). Just because a man establishes such Mosaic laws and commandments for world observance does not make the person or his kingdom righteous and holy. After all, the Jewish society in the early first century was the most rigorous in demanding Sabbath observance, holy day keeping and adhering to the principal laws of Moses, yet Christ called that society a "generation of vipers" (Matthew 23:33). That generation of Sabbath keepers (who were also "vipers") wound up crucifying Christ and killing most of the apostles of Christ.

What is the Mark of the Beast?

Once it is understood that the World Empire of the Antichrist will be a counterfeit of Christ's millennial kingdom (and that the Man of Sin inspired by Satan will misuse the Mosaic legislation with Christian overtones to control the world), it will be easy to recognize what the Mark of the Beast really is. In fact, any Jewish person reading the Book of Revelation in the first century would have had no difficulty in comprehending what the "mark" was. Let us notice the factors that identify the "mark."

"And he caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark."

One of the cardinal rules for properly interpreting the Scriptures is to let the teachings in other sections of the Bible (which use the same terms or principles in other contexts) to be the guide to understanding the more obscure sections. In the Bible there is only one other usage of the phrases "in the hand" and "in the foreheads." These are all in the Law of Moses and they refer to keeping the commandments, statutes, judgments and holy seasons or days given to the Israelites in the time of Moses. The first reference is Exodus 13:9 where it states that the Days of Unleavened Bread associated with the Passover were given "for a SIGN unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes [in the forehead]."

The word "sign" in the above verse is translated "mark" in its second occurrence in the Bible and it is the same word in Hebrew as the "mark" given to Cain (Genesis 4:15). The biblical definition of the "mark" (or "sign") in the hand and forehead is associated with holy days on the Mosaic calendar. The next usage of these wellknown phrases is recorded in Deuteronomy 6:8. There it refers to the commandments, statutes and judgments that the Israelites were to perform when they entered the land of Canaan. "Thou shalt bind them for a sign [or MARK] upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes [in the forehead]." The third reference is similar and is given in Deuteronomy 11:18. Even the weekly Sabbath is described as such a "sign" [or MARK] in Exodus 31:1217. Yes, Sabbath-keeping is part of the "Mark of the Beast."

It may be difficult for some people to believe and to accept, but the Mark of the Beast is having to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days of Moses (and the other commandments associated with them). These days will be put into effect. If you fail to keep them on a weekly or daily basis, the Antichrist will easily know you are rebellious to his system of government. Keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days will become the "Mark of the Beast" (the Sign that the Antichrist will use to prove to people that he is the "Christ." He will NOT be the true Christ Jesus. Get ready for this great deception. This time of diabolical falsehood will come to the earth just before the Second Advent. The Antichrist will do this dastardly thing of using God's holy and righteous laws to control and make slaves of all people on earth. Satan is most clever. "Behold, I have told you before" (Matthew 24:25).

So, if we thus let the Bible interpret the Bible then the MARK [or sign] in the hand and in the forehead refers to the keeping of the Mosaic legislation (its holy day system and regulations meant for the people of Israel in the land of Canaan. And this is precisely what the Antichrist will subject the world to perform when he commences his reign in Jerusalem just before the Second Advent. He will display to the world his supposed divinity (and the world will accept it) and then he will sit himself with great ceremony in the Temple at Jerusalem. He will then proclaim himself to be the true divinity who has come from heaven to live with men (II Thessalonians 2:4).

The Image of the Beast

This Beast (called the Antichrist) will then set up a single molded image of two cherubs in the Temple at Jerusalem. He will place the image in the Temple so that when he is in other areas of the earth people will not forget him or his authority. He will claim the authority of Moses to erect this image in the Temple (Exodus 25:18-22) and the whole world will observe this command of Moses and accept it. Many people are unaware of this fact, but making an image (or statue) of a cherub (or two cherubim) and placing the image in the Holy Temple is completely legal in the Mosaic legislation. There is a problem with this, however. What is that problem?

The difficulty is: one of those cherubs (the King of Tyre ó see Ezekiel 28) is disqualified and should not be replaced in the Temple. But the Antichrist will place the disqualified cherub back in the Temple in spite of his disqualification. The Antichrist will also show the world that Ezekiel also prophesied that other cherubs would be depicted on some walls in the millennial Temple (Ezekiel 41:17-26). This main image of a cherub (or cherubim) could well be a resemblance of the Antichrist in a symbolic manner. Ezekiel even showed that a lion depicts a part of a cherubic image (verse 19) and this could well be the reason why the Book of Revelation refers to the Antichrist as a "Beast" ó a wild beast! It should be remembered that cherubs in symbolic form have the appearance (in part) of a wild beast (a lion) in association with them (Ezekiel 1:10; Revelation 4:7).

These actions of the Antichrist will all be legal and in accordance with the Mosaic legislation. These maneuvers of the Antichrist will be accepted by the world as in agreement with Mosaic law. So clever will the Antichrist be in this regard that even the apostles themselves would be within a hair's breath of accepting his credentials as the true Christ if they did not know better. Even the very elect will also be close to accepting him and his commands ó and that means you and me (Matthew 24:24,25). This is because the Antichrist (before Christ's Second Advent) will deceptively mimic and put into action many things that are prophesied in the Holy Scriptures that Christ is predicted to do when he returns from heaven with His holy angels.

Note this. The Antichrist will not set up an idol of Zeus (or some other pagan deity) in the Holy Place at Jerusalem. He will not establish Sunday, Easter, Christmas or any other pagan holy day for all the world to observe. He is out to deceive the world. He will teach that Satan (in the guise of himself) is the returned Christ and that Satan's angels (expelled with Satan from heaven) are "Christ's" angels. Of course, no apostle or elect person of God (or even the Jewish or Moslem people) would accept the sacrilege of placing a pagan idol into the Temple of God. But to erect an image (molded together as one piece) of two cherubs with a human and lion motif (which is the beast part) would be allowed because such a requirement is called for in the Law of Moses and even the millennial Temple of Ezekiel displays such cherubs.

The Holy Scriptures are warning us that the Antichrist will use the Law of Moses in an unlawful way to bring the world under his religious slavery. But Christís real kingdom will be different. He will loose us from slavery, make us to be the kings, and come down from his throne and he will gladly serve us at table (Psalm 23:5; Luke 12:37; 22:24-30). In Christís real kingdom, it is the King (Christ Jesus) who leaves his divine throne and serves his own people. He will serve us at table and exalt us as his brothers and sisters. The Antichrist and his lieutenants, on the other hand, do just the opposite. They have the laity serve them and they rule the laity often with great authority. They feel they have a right to live as kings.

Such false rule is soon to come to an end. Remember, the first world rule that will be governed from Jerusalem and have the Mosaic legislation as its basis of religious government, will be that of the Antichrist. We can know it will be the Antichrist's reign because when the true Christ comes, he will change us from being mortal into an immortality and we will then reflect his glory, or if we are dead, Christ will resurrect us from the dead and then glorify us.

Conclusion

The best historical period that all of us can study to see what it will be like for the world during the time of the Antichrist is that of Herod the Great in the time Jesus was born. The regimes will be very similar, but with two major exceptions. Those two exceptions will make the experience of the Antichrist far more severe and arduous than even living under Herod the Great. What are those two differences?

There was an advantage living under Herod the Great because he did not have the body of the priesthood or the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court) completely under his domination. These two bodies were still able to exercise power from time to time to keep Herod from becoming such an autocrat that he would have reduced the whole nation of the Jews to complete and thorough servitude. On the other hand, Herod did have a weapon at his beck and call that allowed him to twist the arms of the priesthood and the Sanhedrin from time to time. That was his control over the army. The armed forces of the nation were under the complete control of Herod and this gave him a large measure of leverage in getting his own way in ruling over Judaic society at the time. The difference with the Antichrist from the rule of Herod the Great, however, is the fact that the Antichrist will not only have the army in his control, he will also dominate the priesthood and the Sanhedrin. This will provide the Antichrist with an abundance of more power and authority than Herod the Great.

There is also a second difference between Herod the Great's rule and that of the Antichrist. With Herod, he was limited in his political activities because (as powerful as he was in Judaea) he was actually controlled by the power of Rome. It was Augustus Caesar who had supreme command over the activities of Herod. Herod was only a client king among other such kings within the Roman Empire. So, in effect, Herod could do nothing on his own without the express approval and approbation of Augustus and the Senate at Rome.

With the Antichrist, however, it will be different. When the Beast of Revelation appears on earth in the few years ahead of us, he will come in the full power of Satan the Devil (II Thessalonians 2:811). The Antichrist will NOT have to answer to Rome, or to any other government of men that will then be on the earth. He will have FULL POWER to accomplish his ends. The Antichrist will not only have the priesthood who rule the Temple in his full power, but he will possess the complete authority of the Sanhedrin and he will control all the kings of the earth (Revelation 13:37). He will have domination over every religious and political power on earth. Even the Pope who will exist at the time will be subject to him and his authorities who will rule the earth from Jerusalem (which is "Mystery Babylon"). The Pope and the Orthodox archbishop will be ordered to give up telling their members to meet on Sunday, Easter, Christmas and all the other pagan holydays that now masquerade as "Christian." All the world will come to the place of keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days as prescribed in the Law of Moses. The Antichrist will mimic the true Christ at this time as best he can, and God will allow him to succeed for the space of three and a half years. And you will be subject to it. So, for all of you who still want to observe the Law of Moses (along with your Christianity), get ready for a big dosage of it. By the time it is over, you will wish that you never had to endure such hardship again. We humans, however, best learn by experience. We seem never to listen to the written words of God and to adopt his ways that are motivated by an appeal to the "fruit of the Holy Spirit" (Galatians 5:2225). We humans have to learn by experience the hard way.

As for us who can understand the real truths of God today, we can all take comfort to know that God is watching over those whom He has called at this period of time. We need to realize that God does care for each of us with a care of a Father and the care and concern of Christ as an Elder Brother. They can (and will) provide Places of Safety through all these times on the horizon. Remember the apostle Peterís words for your comfort and for your certain security as we get closer to the prophesied events of the fifth seal and the seventh seal. Peter said: "Casting all your care upon him [God]; for he careth for you" (I Peter 5:7).

Appendix One

 

THE RAPTURE THEORY ó ITS SURPRISING ORIGIN

Almost all Christians are interested in prophecy. This is especially so if the prophecies show what will happen to Christians themselves. There is nothing wrong in desiring such personal knowledge. Even our Lord gave a considerable amount of teaching about the circumstances to befall his people at the end of the age (Matthew 24:22-25). All of us share a common concern in wanting to know about the participants, the chronology, and the geography of those prophecies. To comprehend the full knowledge of them it is obvious that all relevant statements of our Lord and his apostles must be properly interpreted and placed into a coherent order.

Many Christians have attempted to do this. As a consequence, the doctrine of the Rapture has arisen. So important has it become to many that the teaching is now sanctioned in some circles as the prime revelation from God to show what will happen to members of his ekklesia just before and during the Second Coming of Christ. Some of the greatest friends of the Holy Scriptures have accepted this teaching (and they mean well in their ways by even mistranslating a word in the Book of Revelation to support their bias). Some even look on the doctrine as the heart and core of present Christian expectations! Because of this, it will pay us to review what the doctrine is all about.

The word "Rapture" is not found in the King James translation. There is also no single word used by the biblical authors to describe the prophetic factors that comprise the doctrine. Its formulation has come about by means of induction. Certain biblical passages concerning the Second Coming (and the role that Christians will play in that event) have been inductively blended together to establish the teaching.

The modern expression "Rapture" has been invented to explain the overall teaching and the term suits the subject well. The basic tenets of the doctrine are uninvolved. Simply put, it purports that Christ will come back to this earth in two phases. He will first return secretly to rapture His church away from this world so that they might escape the Great Tribulation to occur at the end of the age. Christ then returns in a visible advent to dispense his wrath on the world's nations. This is the general teaching.

Many details concerning these prime factors are hotly debated. There is especially much argument over the chronological features associated with it. Some think the time lapse between the two phases will be 3 1/2 years, others say 7 years. Some feel that the Rapture of the ekklesia occurs before the Tribulation, others about midway through, Many suggest that the saints of God will be taken to heaven for protection, and others throughout history have suggested a geographical area on this earth (as I have shown in various articles). There are those who feel that only part of the ekklesia will escape, while others say all will be rescued.

These variations, along with others, have multiplied the interpretations to such an extent that many diverse secondary opinions exist among those holding the belief. But all are unanimous on one point: the central theme of the "Rapture Theory" (as it is normally called in the theological world) shows that Christ will return to earth in two phases. One secretly for his saints, and one visibly with his saints returning with him from heaven at the actual Second Advent. In this article, when I use the term "Rapture" standing alone, I always mean the new "Rapture Theory" of the dispensational theologians.

The Newness of the Doctrine

It may come as a surprise to many Christians, but the doctrine of the Rapture is not mentioned in any Christian writings, of which we have knowledge, until after the year A.D.1830. Whether the early writers were Greek or Latin, Armenian or Coptic, Syrian or Ethiopian, English or German, orthodox or heretic, no one mentioned a syllable about it before 1830. Of course, those who feel the origin of the teaching is in the Bible would say that it only ceased being taught (for some unknown reason) at the close of the apostolic age only to reappear in 1830. But if the doctrine were so clearly stated in Scripture, it seems incredible that no one should have referred to it before the 19th century.

The lateness of the doctrine of itself does not necessarily mean that the teaching is wrong (only the plain statements of the Bible can reveal that), but it does show that thousands of eminent scholars who lived over a span of seventeen centuries (including some of the most astute of the "Christian Fathers" and those of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods) must be considered as prophetic dunces for not having understood so fundamental a teaching. This lapse of seventeen centuries when no one mentioned anything about the doctrine must be a serious obstacle to accepting its reliability.

The Beginnings of the Doctrine

The result of a careful investigation into the origin of the Rapture has been published as early as twenty years ago, in 1976. This was in an excellent research book. It deserves to be read by all people interested in the subject. Its title: "The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin" by Dave MacPherson. He catalogs a great deal of historical material that answers the doctrine's mysterious derivation. I wish to review the results of his research.

In the middle 1820's a religious environment began to be established among a few Christians in London, England which proved to be the catalyst around which the doctrine of the Rapture emerged. Expectations of the soon coming of our Lord were being voiced. This was no new thing, but what was unusual was the teaching by a Presbyterian minister named Edward Irving that there had to be a restoration of the spiritual gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 1214 just before Christ's Second Advent. To Irving, the time had come for those spiritual manifestations to occur. Among the expected gifts was the renewal of speaking in tongues and of spirit-motivated prophetic utterances.

Irving began to propagate his beliefs. His oratorical skills and enthusiasm caused his congregation in London to grow. Then a number of people began to experience the "gifts." Once this happened, opposition from the organized churches set in. It resulted in Irving's dismissal from the Presbyterian Church in 1832. His group then established themselves as the Catholic Apostolic Church and continued the teachings of Irving. These events were the beginnings of what some call present day Pentecostalism. Indeed Irving has been called by some church historians "the father of modern Pentecostalism."

What does all this have to do with the origin of the Rapture doctrine? Let us look at what happened in the year 1830 ó two years before Irving's dismissal from the Presbyterian Church. In that year a revival of the "gifts" began to be manifested among a few people living in the lowlands of Scotland. They experienced what they called the outpouring of the Spirit. It was accompanied with speaking in "tongues" and other charismatic phenomena. Irving had been preaching these things must occur, and now they were.

On one particular evening, the power of the Holy Spirit was said to have rested on a Miss Margaret Macdonald while she was in a state of illness at home. She was dangerously sick and thought she was dying. In spite of this (or perhaps because she is supposed to have come under "power" of the spirit) for several successive hours she experienced the manifestations of "mingled prophecy and vision." She found her mind in an altered state. She began to experience considerable visionary activity.

The message she received during this prophetic vision convinced her that Christ was going to appear in two stages at his Second Advent, and not a single occasion as almost all people had formerly believed the Scriptures taught. The spirit emanation revealed that Christ would first come in glory to them who look for him and again in a final stage when every eye would see him. It was this visionary experience of Miss Macdonald that represents the prime source of the modern Rapture doctrine as the historical evidence compiled by Mr. MacPherson reveals.

The Influence of John Darby

Many people have thought that John Darby, the founder of the Plymouth Brethren, was the originator of the Rapture doctrine. This is not the case. Darby was a brilliant theologian with outstanding scholarly abilities. Even those who have disagreed with his teachings admit that he, and many associated with him, helped to cause a revival in biblical learning throughout the evangelical world (which has been perpetuated down to our own present day). All who love biblical research ought to be thankful for what Darby and especially his associates accomplished for biblical scholarship. These early men particularly helped pave the way for the renewal of modern lexical studies in the biblical languages.

This renewal of language studies was not the only thing they produced. The doctrine of "dispensationalism" was also a teaching they brought to the attention of the Protestant world. And then, there was this new doctrine which began to be termed the "Rapture." Many Christians had long thought that the Rapture doctrine originated with John Darby. It is now known that this is not true. Darby did popularize it. Scofield and others also took it over. But Darby provided the intellectual mantle that helped to make it respectable. Today, many of those in the evangelical sphere of Christianity are so certain of its veracity that it is accepted as the absolute truth of God. The fact is, however, John Darby received the knowledge of the doctrine from someone else. His source was Margaret Macdonald.

The studies of Mr. MacPherson show that her sickness during which she received her visions and revelations occurred sometime between February 1 and April 14, 1830. By late spring and early summer of 1830, her belief in the two phases of Christ's coming was being mentioned in praise and prayer meetings in several towns of western Scotland. In these meetings some people were speaking in "tongues" and other charismatic occurrences were in evidence. Modern "Pentecostalism" had its birth.

These extraordinary and strange events so attracted John Darby that he made a trip to the area to witness what was going on. Though he did not approve of the ecstatic episodes that he witnessed, it is nonetheless significant that Darby, after returning from Scotland, began to teach that Christ's Advent would occur in two phases. MacPherson shows good evidence that Darby had even visited Miss Macdonald in her home. There can hardly be any doubt that the visions and spiritual experiences of Miss Macdonald are the source of the modern doctrine. But belief in such paranormal experiences are dangerous, especially when they are contrary to scriptural teachings.

Visions and Dreams

While it is possible that visionary revelations can come from God, it is always prudent to be cautious in such matters. Near the same time that Miss Macdonald was receiving her visions, Joseph Smith in America was experiencing his apparitions that brought Mormon doctrines to the world. John Wilson also had his dreams that were the spark that started the false teaching of British-Israelism. Not long afterwards, Ellen G. White received her visions that resulted in many Seventh Day Adventist teachings. And remarkably, all these individuals received revelations of doctrines supposedly from God that were much at variance with one another and contrary to biblical teachings. Such incidents bring to mind the warning that God gave to Moses.

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee, saying, let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul."

In regard to the teachings of visionaries, recall what the apostle John commanded Christians.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

And though some refer to the prophecy of Daniel that "knowledge shall be increased" (Daniel 12:4) as a proof that the revival of doctrinal truths will occur at the end of the age, this is not what Daniel meant. If you read the prophet carefully, you will find that Daniel was speaking about the knowledge of his prophecies will be increased, not the revival of general doctrines. In the original text of Daniel, the definite article occurs before the word "knowledge." Daniel said "THE knowledge will be increased," and the text shows he meant "the knowledge of his prophecies." Daniel was in no way speaking about renewing of doctrines at the Time of the End. A further admonition is necessary concerning the origins of visionary teachings that might emerge near our own time. It is by the apostle Paul.

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."

These warnings from God's word are given as a reminder that we ought to exercise caution in accepting the truthfulness of visionary revelations especially those that happen near the end of the age and are contradictory with one another and especially to the Bible. The doctrine of the Rapture is such a teaching that has no scriptural warrant. And though a number of people within the Body of Christ have taken up with the doctrine, it is now time to jettison it from Christian belief. The truth is, we will be protected from the evils of the Antichrist system (and the judgments of the Great Tribulation) by a mantle of safety from God that will protect us on earth. There is only one Second Advent of Christ and that is the time (for all of us who will then be living) we will be changed into immortality and the resurrection of the dead takes place. That is when all of us will meet Christ in the clouds (I Thessalonians 4:1318). We can believe this teaching with full assurance and faith. And remember, God cares for you.

Ernest L. Martin

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