WHERE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS COMING?
A Review and Defense of the Pre-Tribulation
Resurrection of the Church
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming?... II Peter 3:3-4
As a reminder to believers of the Scriptures dealing with the subject of the pre-Tribulation bodily translation (aka the Rapture*) of the true church, in order to equip them to defend the faith when they are challenged by unbelievers. Jude 3 ~ "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." ~ reveals that God has charged us with the command to earnestly contend for the faith -- and that includes this most relevant topic, simply because it is Biblical doctrine and a foundation which Paul himself addressed in 2 Tim 2:17-18 ~ "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some."
And we were also commanded by Christ to watch and pray. "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." 2 Peter 3:17
This report was motivated by the problem of the church falling from it's steadfastness due to the widespread mockery and outright rejection of the doctrine of the rapture. Moreover it is grievous to see those who are supposedly God's people listening to and echoing the words of the unsaved in this regard rather than the Word of God. Instead of looking for and hasting unto the day of God (2 Peter 3:12 ~ Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat...), the church has become threatened by it, or is succumbing to the "new" doctrine of a Pre-Wrath/Post-Wrath rapture, or ignoring the rapture completely.
Instead of looking for the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13 ~ Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.), many Christians are encumbered with the cares, riches and pleasures of this life.
"And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Luke 8:14
"And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful." Mark 4:17-19
Instead of warning those who are unsaved of the approaching Great Tribulation and using this opportunity to present the gospel -- so that by receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior they can be saved from this terrible period of time and the coming wrath of Almighty God -- the Church has become lukewarm in proclaiming the message of the Blessed Hope.
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Hebrews 9:28
Those who belong to Jesus Christ must rise to the occasion when God gives the opportunity to defend the faith and the doctrine of the resurrection of the saints. Let us not be intimidated by those who mock our Lord, our Scriptures and our Faith.
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us." 2 Timothy 2:12
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude 3,4
We should speak these truths with the love of Christ, rather than being contentious, even knowing that our words may not received.
"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." 2 Timothy 2:24-26
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;" 2 Timothy 1:7-8
There are many who would have us believe that the doctrine of the Rapture is a minor issue in comparison with other doctrines of Scripture. However, all of Scripture is inspired and profitable for reproof, correction and instruction; God will use the doctrine of the rapture to bring people to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3: 12-17
If you are uncertain whether you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, please read the God's Plan of Salvation which explains the "good news" of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
*The term "rapture" is not found in Scripture, and it would probably be more appropriate to use the terms "resurrection" and "translation" when referring to the catching away of the Bride of Christ; however, due to its colloquial usage, we will use the term the "rapture" when referring to this event. It is also important to distinguish between the occult's counterfeit of the rapture, which is an out-of-body experience, and the Scriptural doctrine of the rapture of the saints, which is bodily resurrection.
A campaign is being conducted on a grand scale to debunk the pre-Tribulation rapture as a hoax and a false doctrine that appeals to those who have a cowardly, escapist mentality. This in spite of the fact that the apostle Paul encouraged the Church to yearn for the appearing of Jesus Christ: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (II Tim. 4:8) There is a reason for the current movement to discredit belief in the pre-Tribulation rapture of the saints, for it will be necessary to assuage the distress of the apostate Church after the rapture of the true Church, and to prepare these lost religious people for a counterfeit rapture at mid-Tribulation.
The Rapture Plot by Dave MacPherson misrepresents the doctrine of the pre-Tribulation rapture as a recent development and attributes its formulation and propagation to certain characters of doubtful reputation, notably Edward Irving (c.1830) and a prophetess named Margaret McDonald who, we are told, received this revelation in a trance. However, as with all sound doctrine, the pre-Tribulation resurrection of the Church has its basis in Scripture rather than in the teachings of men. Proving the pre-Tribulation rapture, chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation present the apostle John's prophetic vision of "redeemed men" in heaven before the seals of the Tribulation are even opened in chapter 6. Rev. 5:9,10 states in the King James Version:
"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed US to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made US unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."
The twenty-four elders, who worship Jesus Christ as He is preparing to open the seals of the Tribulation judgments, state that they were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb *from every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation*. If these elders were Old Testament patriarchs or saints who were resurrected between the crucifixion and resurrection, they would be only Jews. But they are a mixed multitude representing a cross section of humanity from every kindred, tongue, people and nation.
If there will be no pre-Tribulation rapture, how does one explain the presence of redeemed Gentiles from every tongue and nation in heaven before the Tribulation even begins? Who are these men if not the saints who are raptured at the end the Church Age? Remember, Paul said in I Thess. 4:16 that the dead in Christ would precede the living saints in the resurrection and would not be resurrected until then.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. I Thes. 4:15-17
Since there can be no redeemed Gentiles in heaven before the rapture, this resurrection must occur before Revelation 4 and, therefore, before the Tribulation starts in Revelation 6. It should be noted that modern versions of the Bible have revised the wording of Rev. 5:9,10 so that the twenty-four elders do not refer to themselves as the redeemed, but to the people who are still on the earth. So this is where the mischief began to dispense with the pre-Tribulation rapture and why so many fail to understand that the rapture of the Church occurs prior to the Tribulation period.
NIV - You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.
NASV - Worthy are Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou has made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.
Also, those who do not interpret the book of Revelation literally and chronologically would fail to see that the rapture is pre-Tribulation. (Yet many of these same people use the Tribulation chronology to locate the rapture at the 7th Trumpet or end-Tribulation.) Our report, Heeding Bible Prophecy demonstrates how the literal fulfillment of end-time prophecies will take place within the dispensational framework, which is really the only way to make sense of Bible prophecy.
The assault on the pre-Tribulation rapture is part and parcel of a larger attack on the dispensational divisions of Scripture. Within this doctrinal framework, God's dealings with Israel were interrupted by the Church Age and will resume for seven years following the removal of the Church from earth. This doctrine is foundational to classic Pauline Dispensationalism, which was expounded by early Church fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202 A.D.) in Book V of his treatise Against Heresies:
"For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: 'Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.' This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year...
"Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons 'as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance--in fact, as nothing;') so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, 'There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.' For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption...
"But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that 'many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.'
"For as the Lord 'went away in the midst of the shadow of death,' where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up [into heaven], it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God. 'For no disciple is above the Master, but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master. As our Master, therefore, did not at once depart, taking flight [to heaven], but awaited the time of His resurrection prescribed by the Father, which had been also shown forth through Jonas, and rising again after three days was taken up [to heaven]; so ought we also to await the time of our resurrection prescribed by God and foretold by the prophets, and so, rising, be taken up, as many as the Lord shall account worthy of this [privilege]...
"And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled ... by him. And he says in addition, 'Now these things are credible to believers.' And he says that, 'when the traitor Judas did not give credit to them, and put the question, `How then can things about to bring forth so abundantly be wrought by the Lord?' the Lord declared, `They who shall come to these [times] shall see.' When prophesying of these times, therefore, Esaias says: 'The wolf also shall feed with the lamb, and the leopard shall take his rest with the kid; the calf also, and the bull, and the lion shall eat together; and a little boy shall lead them. The ox and the bear shall feed together, and their young ones shall agree together; and the lion shall eat straw as well as the ox. And the infant boy shall thrust his hand into the asp's den, into the nest also of the adder's brood; and they shall do no harm, nor have power to hurt anything in my holy mountain.' And again he says, in recapitulation, 'Wolves and lambs shall then browse together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the serpent earth as if it were bread; and they shall neither hurt nor annoy anything in my holy mountain, saith the Lord...
"1. Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God's dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum ); and it is necessary to tell them respecting those things, that it behoves the righteous first to receive the promise of the inheritance which God promised to the fathers, and to reign in it, when they rise again to behold God in this creation which is renovated, and that the judgment should take place afterwards. For it is just that in that very creation in which they toiled or were afflicted, being proved in every way by suffering, they should receive the reward of their suffering; and that in the creation in which they were slain because of their love to God, in that they should be revived again; and that in the creation in which they endured servitude, in that they should reign. For God is rich in all things, and all things are His. It is fitting, therefore, that the creation itself, being restored to its primeval condition, should without restraint be under the dominion of the righteous; and the apostle has made this plain in the Epistle to the Romans, when he thus speaks: "For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature has been subjected to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope; since the creature itself shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
"2. Thus, then, the promise of God, which He gave to Abraham, remains stedfast. For thus He said: 'Lift up thine eyes, and look from this place where now thou art, towards the north and south, and east and west. For all the earth which thou seest, I will give to thee and to thy seed, even for ever.' And again He says, 'Arise, and go through the length and breadth of the land, since I will give it unto thee; 'and [yet] he did not receive an inheritance in it, not even a footstep, but was always a stranger and a pilgrim therein.
"And in the Apocalypse John saw this new [Jerusalem] descending upon the new earth. For after the times of the kingdom, he says, "I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat upon it, from whose face the earth fled away, and the heavens; and there was no more place for them." And he sets forth, too, the things connected with the general resurrection and the judgment, mentioning "the dead, great and small." "The sea," he says, "gave up the dead which it had in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead that they contained; and the books were opened. Moreover," he says, "the book of life was opened, and the dead were judged out of those things that were written in the books, according to their works; and death and hell were sent into the lake of fire, the second death." Now this is what is called Gehenna, which the Lord styled eternal fire. "And if any one," it is said, "was not found written in the book of life, he was sent into the lake of fire." And after this, he says, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth have passed away; also there was no more sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, as a bride adorned for her husband." "And I heard," it is said, "a great voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them; and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them as their God. And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, because the former things have passed away." Isaiah also declares the very same: 'For there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and there shall be no remembrance of the former, neither shall the heart think about them, but they shall find in it joy and exultation." Now this is what has been said by the apostle: "For the fashion of this world passeth away." To the same purpose did the Lord also declare, "Heaven and earth shall pass away.' When these things, therefore, pass away above the earth, John, the Lord's disciple, says that the new Jerusalem above shall [then] descend, as a bride adorned for her husband; and that this is the tabernacle of God, in which God will dwell with men. Of this Jerusalem the former one is an image-that Jerusalem of the former earth in which the righteous are disciplined beforehand for incorruption and prepared for salvation."
Against Heresies, written in the 2nd century A.D., demonstrates that dispensational eschatology was taught by Church fathers such as Irenaeus, Papias and Polycarp and was accepted as sound doctrine by Christians of the early Church period. Irenaeus wrote, "And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled ... by him. And he says in addition, 'Now these things are credible to believers.'" (5.30.4)
On the contrary, wrote Irenaeus, those Christians whose theology was informed by heretical sources were ignorant of God's dispensations and of Christ's earthly millennial kingdom:
"Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God's dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum ); and it is necessary to tell them respecting those things, that it behoves the righteous first to receive the promise of the inheritance which God promised to the fathers, and to reign in it, when they rise again to behold God in this creation which is renovated, and that the judgment should take place afterwards." (5.32.1)
Since Against Heresies was written to refute the Gnostic heresies that had infiltrated the early Church, primarily those of Marcion (c.85-c.160) and Valentinus (c.100-c.160), it is reasonable to assume that Irenaeus was referring to "heretical discourses" written by these arch heretics. According to Harold O. J. Brown's Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, "The first known opponent of Christian chiliasm [Gr. for millenialism] was Marcion, in the 2nd century,..." (Millennialism)
"The first great heretic broke drastically with the faith of the early church in abandoning the doctrine of the imminent, personal return of Christ. Like the doctrines of the incarnation and the resurrection, the doctrine of the Second Coming places the spiritual and divine in direct, intimate contact with the human and fleshly. Marcion did not believe in a real incarnation, and consequently there was no logical place in his system for a real Second Coming...
"...Unlike Marcion, who rejected the Second Coming, and most Lutherans, who place it in a nonmillennial context, dispensationalism teaches that the Second Coming will initiate an earthly thousand-year reign of Christ, the millennium." (Heresies, p. 65)
In his book, From the Lost Teachings of Polycarp: Identifying Irenaeus' Apostolic Presbyter and the Author of Ad Diognetum, Charles Evan Hill presents evidence that Irenaeus was, in fact, refuting the heretical doctrines of Marcion and Valentinus taught by Florinus who was a bishop in Rome:
"One of the intriguing aspects to this is the question of whether the controversy with Florinus possibly resurfaces in book 5 and whether it might even have contributed something to the development of Irenaeus’ chiliastic eschatology as expressed there. Florinus, we recall, had strayed from the fold by adopting first the arguments of Marcionism and later was persuaded by some form of Valentinianism, or perhaps his system was an attempt to fuse elements from both. Irenaeus’ letter, On the Ogdoad, was occasioned by Florinus’ later position. ‘The Ogdoad’ refers to the primary eight aeons in the Valentinian pleroma (AH 1.1.1, 3), and so the title of the letter could designate a focus on the nature of God and the errors of Valentinian polytheism. But the word Ogdoad carries other meanings in the Valentinian system. According to the Valentinian myth, the Demiurge created seven heavens, over which he presided (1.5.2). He is thus styled Hebdomas, and his mother Achamoth, who dwelt above him in an ‘intermediate realm,’ is also called Ogdoad, ‘preserving the number of the first-begotten and primary Ogdoad as the Pleroma’ (1.5.2). ‘Her place of habitation is an intermediate one, above the Demiurge indeed, but below and outside of the Pleroma, even to the end’ (1.5.3). But at the time of ‘the end,’ the followers of Valentinus believed they would join Achamoth, who would then ascend into the Pleroma, the true Ogdoad or Eighth place.
‘When all the seed shall have come to perfection, they state that then their mother Achamoth shall pass from the intermediate place, and enter in within the Pleroma, and shall receive as her spouse the Saviour… The spiritual seed, again, being divested of the animal souls, and becoming intelligent spirits, shall in an irresistible and invisible manner enter in within the Pleroma, and be bestowed as brides on those angels who wait upon the Saviour. (1.7.1)'
"’This eschatology assumes that the Valentinian believer ascends directly to Achamoth in the intermediate place immediately upon death. We know that when writing the last chapters of AH 5 Irenaeus was concerned with this false eschatology, which emphatically denied the resurrection of the flesh and taught also the final and complete annihilation of the material world, 14 for, he thought, it was making some inroads among the orthodox.
‘Since, again, some who are reckoned among the orthodox (putantur recte credidisse) to beyond the pre-arranged plan for the exaltation of the just, and are ignorant of the methods by which they are disciplined beforehand for incorruption, they thus entertain heretical opinions. For the heretics, despising the handiwork of God, and not admitting the salvation of their flesh, while they also treat the promise of God contemptuously, and pass beyond God altogether in the sentiments they form, affirm that immediately upon their death they shall pass above the heavens and the Demiurge, and go to the Mother (Achamoth) or to that Father whom they have feigned. (5.31.1).'
"It is for this reason that such persons need to be taught about the millennial kingdom. ‘Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God’s dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption…’ (5.32.1).
"We also know that book 5 was written around the time Irenaeus wrote the letter, On the Ogdoad. In this letter to Victor of Rome, Irenaeus complains of the books of Florinus, that ‘they constitute a stumbling-block to many, who simply and unreservedly receive, as coming from a presbyter, the blasphemy which they utter against God. Just [consider] the writer of these things, how by means of them he does not injure assistants [in the divine service] only…but also damages those among us, since by his books he imbues their minds with false doctrines concerning God’ (Fragm. 51). We commented above that this looks very much like it reflects the concern Irenaeus had in 4.26-32 when he wrote about the necessity of following the faithful presbyters, and then delivered anti Marcionite teaching from an apostolic presbyter he had known. The focus of that teaching was the doctrine of God, which was also his chief concern in the letter to Victor. In the last chapters of AH 5 the subject is eschatology. But this eschatology has everything to do with the doctrine of God, for it has to do with the redemption of his good creation and ‘his handiwork.’ 15 Could the ‘heretical discourses’ mentioned in AH 5.31.1 have been those of Florinus, and could the certain persons influenced by them be those who were put in danger by reading Florinus’ books? Alternatively, the ‘heretical discourses’ might be those of the major Valentinian teachers and the ‘certain persons’ whose opinions had been shaped by heretics could have still included Florinus, if he were still ‘reckoned among the orthodox.’ In other worlds, it would not be entirely clear in which category Irenaeus might have placed Florinus at this time.
"At about the time of the controversy with Florinus, Irenaeus seems also to have become reacquainted with the books of Papias. Perhaps after writing book 4 of Against Heresies and having expressed himself so forcefully on the necessity of following faithful elders, Irenaeus began to pay more attention to the books of Papias, who had a claim to being just such a presbyter, who had contact (so Irenaeus believed) with at least one apostle (John). In these books Irenaeus rediscovered the traditions Papias had himself collected from early presbyters, including some which instanced a chiliastic eschatology among some early Asian Christians. One was even attributed to John (AH 5.33.2). These traditions did not entirely comport with the non-chiliastic eschatology Irenaeus had grown up with and which characterized the first four books of Against Heresies. 16 But they did offer Irenaeus one significant, even massive, argument for a doctrine which had always been important to him, the doctrine of the goodness of creation, good because created by the only true and sovereign God. Chiliasm was ‘tailor made’ for supporting this doctrine and for refuting those who opposed it. Very probably, Florinus himself was one such teacher, who had attained a following in Rome and by his books was even making inroads among Christians in other places, probably Gaul. It is possible that Florinus’ views on eschatological issues played a part in Irenaeus’ own evolution on the millennium.
14. ‘When those things have taken place as described, then shall that fire which lies hidden in the world blaze forth and burn; and while destroying all matter, shall also be extinguished along with it, and have no further existence’ (1.7.1).
15. ‘For the heretics, despising the handiwork of God, and not admitting the salvation of their flesh, while they also treat the promise of God contemptuously...’ (5.31.1); ‘It is fitting, therefore, that the creation itself, being restored to its primeval condition, should without restraint be under the dominion of the righteous’ (5.32.1)
16. See Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 254-59
Valentinus’ heresy nearly prevailed in the Roman Church and, after his death, Valentinus’ disciples developed his ideas into a system which they spread throughout the Roman Empire. From Marcion and Valentinus onward, the Gnostics succeeded in supplanting the Scriptural doctrine of a thousand year earthly reign of Jesus Christ with Amillennial decrees:
"The Catholic Encyclopedia noted that in the 2nd century proponents of 'Gnosticism rejected millenarianism'. (Vol. X) Chiliasm was, however, according to the interpretation of non-chiliasts, condemned as a heresy in the 4th century by the Church, which included the phrase whose Kingdom shall have no end in the Nicene Creed in order to rule out the idea of a Kingdom of God which would last for only 1000 literal years. Despite some writers' belief in millennialism, it was a decided minority view, as expressed in the nearly universal condemnation of the doctrine over a gradual period of time, beginning with Augustine of Hippo." (Millennialism)
Concurrent with the rise to power of the Roman Catholic Church in the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo wrote The City of God which proposed a new interpretation of Bible prophecy. To facilitate the transition from dispensational truth to Augustine’s private interpretation--which advanced the earthly kingdom theology of the Catholic Church--the prophetic chapters of Irenaeus’ treatise were duly suppressed by Rome. In his book, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn attributes Augustine’s false teaching to the Gnostic tradition propagated by Origen, a student of Clement in the Gnostic school at Alexandria, Egypt. It was also during this period that the Gnostic manuscripts of Origen were used to produce the ecumenical Bible commissioned by Constantine to facilitate the merger of paganism and Christianity:
"The third century saw the first attempt to discredit millenarianism, when Origen, perhaps the most influential of all the theologians of the ancient Church, began to present the Kingdom as an event which would take place not in space or time but only in the souls of believers. For a collective, millenarian eschatology Origen substituted an eschatology of the individual soul. What stirred his profoundly Hellenic imagination was the prospect of spiritual progress begun in this world and continued in the next; and to this theme theologians were henceforth to give increasing attention. Such a shift in interest was indeed admirably suited to what was now an organized Church, enjoying almost uninterrupted peace and acknowledged position in the world. When in the fourth century Christianity attained a position of supremacy in the Mediterranean world and became the official religion of the Empire, ecclesiastical disapproval of millenarianism became emphatic. The Catholic Church was now a powerful and prosperous institution, functioning according to a well-established routine; and the men responsible for governing it had no wish to see Christians clinging to out-dated and inappropriate dreams of a new earthly Paradise. Early in the fifth century St Augustine propounded the doctrine which the new conditions demanded. According to The City of God the Book of Revelation was to be understood as a spiritual allegory; as for the Millennium, that had begun with the birth of Christianity and was fully realized in the Church. This at once became orthodox doctrine. Now the very fact that the eminently respectable Irenaeus could have regarded such a belief as an indispensable part of orthodoxy was felt to be intolerable. Determined efforts were made to suppress the millenarian chapters of his treatise Against Heresies, and to such good effect that it was only in 1575 that they were rediscovered in a manuscript which the expurgators happened to have overlooked." (Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, NY: Oxford University Press, 1961, p. 30.)
The end result of discrediting the pre-Tribulation rapture will be to assure apostates who are left behind that they have not missed the coming of Jesus Christ for his bride, which (they will be told) will be a pre-Wrath /post-Tribulation event. Adding to their deception, the movie, Left Behind, which is based on a series of books written by Tim LaHaye, presents a false gospel: that one must simply *believe in God* to be saved. Prior to release of this movie in theatres on February 2, 2001, which is the Druidic feast of Imbolc, the Left Behind series and video presentation were heavily promoted in Christian churches. At the close of this video, Christian audiences heard a pitch by the lead actor urging them to promote the Left Behind movie among their friends and acquaintances. Using Christians to promote this movie will cause many who are left behind to accept the false gospel presentation contained in the movie as the true gospel.
False teachings concerning the doctrine of the Rapture will facilitate belief in a multitude of counterfeits that will be staged during the Tribulation Period. For there will be an elaborate system of counterfeits -- of the Antichrist, False Prophet, Mystery Babylon, the Mark of the Beast -- and many other counterfeits that will prevent the Apostate Church from recognizing the true Antichrist, False Prophet, Mystery Babylon and Mark of the Beast. It was for this reason that Jesus warned his disciples in Matt. 24:24, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." "If it were possible" suggests that God will remove his "very elect" from this world prior to the Tribulation to protect them from the deception of this very sophisticated conspiracy.
Those who scoff at the pre-Tribulation Rapture in particular deride the "escapist mentality" of those who hold fast to the Blessed Hope of the Rapture. However, Jesus advised His disciples to "pray always" that they would "escape" the Tribulation period:
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36)
Those who are "accounted worthy to escape" that day, which will fall as a snare upon all who dwell on the earth, will also be spared being deceived by the strong delusion of II Thessalonians 2:11. Jesus prophesied to these, His elect:
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. " (Rev. 3:10)
The elders of these elect are seen in the next chapter of Revelation, casting their crowns of gold before the throne of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, before the Tribulation begins in Revelation 6.
"After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.... And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold...
"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created...
"And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;... (Revelation 4 & 5)
WHERE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS COMING?
THE IDENTITY OF THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS
THE TWO RESURRECTIONS BY LEHMAN STRAUSS
The Gnostic Roots of Amillennialism
The Problem With Covenant Theology
The Biblical Basis of Premillennialism
THE RAPTURE ON ROSH HASHANA?
THE SEVEN FEASTS & THEIR MEANINGS