I wrote this article in February 2016, and am reintroducing it after a question recently posed about the Rapture of the Church.  I have corrected the ‘typos’ made the first time round, and have rewritten parts.  Just as there is confusion in the nation (some would say, chaos), so there is much confusion in the Church in this nation.  This article covers [in part] two popular, but often misunderstood teachings; in doing so, we will visit some of the consequences of misinterpreting God’s word.  I have changed the title from “Keeping it Simple” to “The Church & The Rapture – Keeping it Simple”.  My prayer is that you will (1) read the content with open hearts and minds, (2) that you will be stimulated to study God’s Word, (3) that the Lord will lead you into His truth, not mine, and not anyone else’s. [12.01.2019]

After a week of half-term and more than a week of being a full-time granddad to our grandchildren, my offering this week is a brief sketch on two words.  My hope is that anyone reading this article will go to the Word of God, and not the thoughts of man.  The subjects we are touching on are the words “Church” and “Rapture”.  The word translated Church is a corruption by man, but has become common usage when referring to the ‘called-out ones.’  The teachings on the Rapture are for the most part, man-induced.

It would appear that the word Church was translated from the Greek for a purpose, and that purpose was not for us to understand Scripture better, but that we understand the doctrine being presented to us from the mind of man.  Something similar happened with the word “Rapture” as we will see.  The word Church was used, and sadly, still is used to distinguish the new people of God from the ‘rejected’ people of God; the new people of God being the Christians/Church.  According to this teaching, the rejected people of God are the Jews.  God, they say, rejected the Jews and replaced them with the new people of God, namely the Church.

A Burning Issue

According to the writings of Bishop Tunstall (1474-1559), and Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), William Tyndale (1494–1536) translated the word ekklesia, as congregation.  Because of this, his Bibles were burnt and, more to the point, so was he.  Tyndale’s Martyrdom was not simply down to him having translated the Bible into English.  That was upsetting, but more so was the fact that the sacrilegious scoundrel didn’t use the terminology of the established State Religion; especially his use of the word Congregation instead of the Ecclesiastical word Church.

For a Jew to become part of the new people of God – the Church, the Jew had to give up attending synagogue, and he had to renounce his life as a Jew, including the Jewish Feasts and the Sabbath etc.  Supersessionism or Replacement Theology are theological terms meaning the Church has replaced Israel.

Church as Bride

Looking briefly at the word Church, we will need to touch on the expression “the Bride of Christ.”  You will not find “the Bride of Christ” anywhere in Scripture.  That might surprise some because the term is used with such regularity.  If you follow the doctrine of Replacement Theology through to its natural conclusion you come up with the Church being the Bride of Christ.

According to translation and Christian teaching that developed over the centuries, as we have seen, the ekklesia morphed into the Church, a gentile or non-Jewish entity.  One cannot be a Jew and a Christian; therefore, Messianic Jew, in this context, is a contradiction in terms.  When someone asks if Messianics are part of the Church, according to this doctrine, no, they are not; simply because one cannot be a Jew and a Christian.  To labour the point, the Church, according to this misinterpretation of Scripture, is the new people of God, who are non-Jewish believers in Jesus (The Jewish Messiah and King of the Jews!).

In considering the word ‘Church’ we will have to look briefly at the word ‘Bride’.  We have seen that the term ‘Bride of Christ’ does not exist in Scripture.  What is in Scripture is “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 13:8; 21:9).  The Bride, the wife of the Lamb – according to Scripture, the Lamb is the Lamb that has been slain (Revelation 5:12); and the Lamb that has been slain is the Jewish Lamb of God.  The Lamb of God is Jesus, and Jesus has never stopped being a Jew.  He says in the very last chapter of the Book of Revelation on the last page of the Bible, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I am the Root of the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).  To remain true to Scripture, He, as a Jewish Bridegroom will have a Jewish Bride.  What does Scripture say about all of this?  Continue reading from Chapter 21:9. John is shown “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb”.  What John saw was the Holy City, Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is a Jewish City; it is not the Vatican or Westminster Cathedral or Canterbury Cathedral. The wall of the city – Jerusalem – had twelve foundations, and on them were the names…not of Popes, nor of the early Church Fathers, and not even one of the Reformers.  They were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; and they were and are all Jews! (Revelation 21:14).  In the Old Testament there are a number of Scriptures referring to God’s relationship with Israel.  I give reference to just a few here (Hosea 2:7; Joel 1:8; Isaiah 54:5).

The gentile or non-Jewish Church has not replaced the Jews as the people of God.  The wild olive shoots (Gentiles) have been grafted into the olive root, and because the olive root (Israel) is holy, non-Jewish believers are holy too. (Romans 11:17).

Although the Jewish believers were the first ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26), Jews becoming believers in Jesus/Yeshua today refuse to be called Christians, generally speaking.  That is because ‘Christian’ has to do with Gentile Christianity, and Gentile Christianity has a bad track record for all kinds of atrocities throughout its history, including atrocities against the Jews themselves.  There is a difference between the disciples of Jesus and Christendom, but that obviously hasn’t been as apparent as we would have liked it to be.  Messianic reticence does not seem to be of a theological nature, and they don’t appear to object to being part of the Church, something created effectively for non-Jews. Christians that have seen the light concerning God’s love for the Jews and for Israel don’t appear to understand the contradiction or problem.  Because of the history, believing Jews refer to themselves as Messianic Jews.  Sometimes the people of God, Jew and Gentile, are now referred to as ‘One New Man’ (Ephesians 2:15).  That is quite a mouthful and still does not deal with the correct translation of the Greek word and concept in question in this verse; but as I have said before, in Genesis God made two from one (Genesis 2:22).  Here in Ephesians 2:15, in the New Creation, God created one from two.  With that thought in mind, how could God make One New Man out of two if He had already rejected one (the Jews) of the two?  I caution, what God has made ‘One’, ‘let no man put asunder’.  Replacement theology is extraordinarily perverse!  It denies the power, work, and purpose of the Cross!  Read Ephesians 2:14-16 asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you.  Replacement theology is a satanic repudiation of God’s truth.

When the translators use the word ‘church’ instead of ekklesia in the New Testament writings, and consistently use the word ‘kahal’ (qahal) in the Tanakh, it gives the impression that the ‘Church’ is something new and exclusive to believers in Jesus/Yeshua.  Qahal (קהל), means “to assemble”.  The Tanakh often refers to the people participating in the Temple service as “the assembly.”  The “assembly of Israel” is a common Bible phrase denoting all Israel.  In its noun form, the word qahal typically passes into the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible as the Greek word ekklesia.  One can appreciate how the wrong translation brings about an unnecessary division between the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament, and gives a false impression and added weight to the claim that the Church has replaced Israel.

The translation “Church” is the cause of a great deal of confusion, even those that do want to understand can’t because of the blockage to their minds that this word, and centuries old dogma has created.  Surely it is time for change, and for our Bible scholars and Bible translators to give the correct translation and explanation, if we are serious about wanting Christians to see the error of Replacement Theology, and to replace error with God’s truth.  Both Christians and Jews might benefit from such a translating transformation.  Until that happens and while we continue to use the word ‘Church’, we must be mindful of the history.

The Rapture

We move now from “called out ones” to “caught up” ones.

There are leaders and lay people that say the evidence offered below is a lie.  The Internet gives arguments for both sides.  It is for you to search the Scriptures and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

I have mentioned the Rapture a couple of times during the last few years in the hope that some will reconsider their position, and seek out what the Bible actually says, rather than follow some system in a book, or someone’s teaching.  There is much controversy and conjecture about when the rapture will take place, with many believing there will be a secret rapture before the Great Tribulation begins.

If there are any Christians today that will be alive at the time of the Great Tribulation, hopefully, having studied God’s Word, they will understand that they will not be raptured, but will be ready to go through that period of history; not losing faith, but remembering that God is in control and has prewarned us of the big trouble coming upon the world.  Christians will be raptured when Jesus returns, and not before.  It is then that we shall meet Him in the air.  The dead in Christ first, then those that are still alive and remain (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Although the pretribulation rapture is the most popular view of the rapture, it was not taught as doctrine in the Church before 1830.  Some authors have claimed that Victorinus, who lived in the third century, hinted at a secret rapture, but there is little if any evidence.  The pretribulation view developed in what is known as Dispensationalism, a very different way of interpreting Scripture to that of the early Church.  Dispensationalists make much of 2 Timothy 2:15, particularly the word “dividing”.  The word in this verse should be translated as “ploughing”, not dividing – “rightly ploughing the word of truth”.  Sure enough, their system of interpretation has caused much division!  By ‘rightly dividing’ instead of the biblical ‘rightly ploughing’, they have wrongly divided history into different dispensations – history, according to their system, is divided into seven dispensations or periods.  It teaches that the Jews future is divided from the Christians future, and that there are two second-comings.  Nobody, as far as I know has actually learned the pretribulation rapture from their own study of Scripture.  Rather, it has been taught to them by someone else; or they have found the teaching in a book, TV programme, or a teaching on the Internet, or something.  It hasn’t come from Scripture even though Scriptures are quoted in support of this view.  It is a false teaching and a dangerous deception that has deceived many, and is continuing to do so.  A bible was produced by C I Scofield after he met with J N Darby in America.  Darby convinced Schofield to adopt his position on the rapture etc.  Scofield then went on to produce his ‘Scofield Bible’.  Added to the Bible are his notes containing his Dispensational interpretation of the Scriptures.  The Scofield Bible became very popular.  Unfortunately, people reading his notes appear to have taken them as the Word of God, instead of the thoughts of man.  So, Dispensationalism including the rapture in all its “comings” was accepted as truth.  Scofield died in 1921, but the Scofield Reference Bible lives on.  This led to bible colleges being built that taught the Dispensational view alone, with the result that this teaching spread and is still extremely popular in the USA.

A woman and three men

It was somewhere between the 1st February and the 14th April 1830, that a woman named Margaret MacDonald, a disciple of Edward Irving, who lived in Port Glasgow, Scotland, gave her pretribulation prophecy stating that Christians would not have to go through the ‘big trouble’.  Her utterance was given during a meeting in a church which was part of the “Closed Brethren”, and was “received as the voice of the Spirit.”  The prophecy was not of God, it was her own fleshly spirit and teaching.  John Nelson Darby, a Church of Ireland curate who founded the Brethren movement, popularized the prophecy and teaching after discussing it at a meeting with Dr Henry Drummond.  Margaret’s pretribulation views were circulated at numerous prayer and praise meetings in various towns in Western Scotland, from late spring and the summer months of 1830.  Other well-known, popular preachers and Christian authors through the years since, have continued to teach and preach the ‘pre-trib’ rapture – but this does not make it true, even as Replacement Theology is not true.  Edward Irving, a Church of Scotland minister, sometimes referred to as the “father of Pentecostalism”, accepted the prophecy given by Margaret.  ‘The Morning Watch’ was an Irvingite prophetic journal.  They published an article in 1830 which made a distinction between the epiphany and the Parousia, making the epiphany the first stage of the Lord’s Second Coming, with the Parousia being the second stage.  The ‘Irvingites’ became known as the Catholic Apostolic Church, and continued to teach a split-rapture which includes a pretribulation rapture first stage.  Interestingly, later Brethren writers took a different perspective.  They completely reversed the terms made in the Morning Watch article.  To these writers the Parousia was the rapture and the epiphany Christ’s return to earth.  This begs the question, if there are really two stages to the Lord’s return, why are such terms so evidently interchangeable?  The split-rapture, in effect, is a series of raptures, and is not grounded in God’s Word.

While I by no means believe that Christians who don’t agree with my position are fools, some do sometimes say foolish things.  An American preacher said, “I want to ask everyone who has an IQ of over 3; when you see this (he points to his massive wall chart and to the area of the great tribulation), don’t you want to miss it?  And for all you sadomasochistic Christians who say you want to enjoy it; you enjoy going to the dentist and having root canals without no cocaine, be my guest!  But I’m out of here!” (ripples of laughter through the congregation).  I don’t know anybody that wants to go through the great tribulation, but not wanting to go through it will not cause the pre-tribulation rapture.  For some of us it is God’s truth that is comforting – even when it is uncomfortable.

The same American preacher said, In Revelation 2 and 3 God has the Church going up (the rapture) before God says, ‘I will show you what’s coming.’  John was still on earth, the Church was still on earth, one would have thought that if God was going to show what is coming, the rapture would have been part of that showing, but it is not mentioned.  The preacher assumed the Church had been raptured.  He made other assumptions that I will not go into here.  In this man’s interpretation of the Book of Revelation he states that because the Church is not mentioned between Revelation 2 and 3 and the marriage supper of the Lamb, it is because the Church is not going through the great tribulation.  ‘We are leaving here!’ he proclaimed in a loud bellow.  He teaches that, when the Church has gone, the angels will take over the duty of preaching the gospel, and they will preach the everlasting gospel to the earth (Revelation 14).  People will hear the preaching and be saved, and as soon as they are saved they will be beheaded by the antichrist and they will then go into heaven.  There are various takes on who will do the preaching when the Church has been raptured, but that is his version.

The Gap Theory

If you read up on the different teachings on the rapture you will read that the pre-tribulation option is the best one because there are so many ‘gaps’ in the other theories   This was pointed out to me again recently by a friend in Australia.  Because the gaps are filled-in somewhat (though by no means completely) in the pre-tribulation position, it does not make it right.  These theories have developed from a Greek mind-set that wants everything perfectly boxed and labelled.  Filling the spaces in is exactly what the Greek mind-set does.  It doesn’t like anything that appears untidy.  Nevertheless, the theories are just theories; but like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, they are taught by their various adherents as fact.  These theories have not come from Scripture or the Holy Spirit.  The rapture has been made far more complicated than it really is.  Hold fast to God’s Word and you will discover it is not nearly as difficult to understand.  The Holy Spirit is our Teacher; it is He that guides us into all truth (John 16:13).  If anyone is willing to do God’s will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether it is of man (John 7:17).  As you study, you will be enraptured to discover that the rapture takes place at the Second Coming of Jesus.  This is what 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is about.  It might be advisable for me to add caution at this point.  We can become so concerned with the detail of the Second Coming and the Rapture that we lose sight of the One who is coming.

Blessings and shalom,

Malcolm

(24.02.2016)

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