End Times Theology


The beloved radio pastor teaches that the wrath to come is a reference to the future Great Tribulation. In this premillennial scenario, the church is raptured then God unleashes His wrath and judgment upon the unbelievers who are left behind. This precedes the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ (with the resurrected saints of God). Our study verses are found in Paul’s letters to the assembly at Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:1

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him …

I was doing a Bible study with an online group who are premillennial (PM). They also associated the wrath to come with the (great) tribulation. So, this is their theology: There is coming a 7-year period of tribulation, and the church will escape this wrath when Christ returns to rapture the elect; but this is not the Second Coming according to the PM doctrine. The wrath to come and the tribulation, by this interpretation, are the same event, but not the second Advent of Christ.

To support this argument they said that the coming of our Lord and being gathered to Him are two separate events. In other words, the Second Coming is disassociated from the rapture of the church.

Folks, the Second Coming is not a two-stage process. Some even teach a three-stage event. Christ returns to rapture His church … He comes again to establish His millennial reign … and yet a third time (at the end of the age) in judgment.

This is all too confusing and at odds with Scripture. Following is the comment I left at the online study:

This argument is very forced and unconvincing; and hinges on inserted suppositions to support a PM bias. (It’s a good example of eisegesis — making the Bible say what we think is true.)

The coming of Christ … and our gathering to Him … are not two separate events. They are one event. At the Second Coming, Christ will call out His church (rapture), execute judgment upon the earth (as described in 2 Peter 3:10), and establish the New Heavens and earth where the resurrected saints will dwell.

In this way the church will escape the wrath to come — not the tribulation, but the judgment of the last day. God’s final judgment upon the earth is the wrath to come spoken of by Paul. Believers will not suffer this judgment.

Jesus tells us several times in John 6 that He will come on the last day to raise up believers unto eternal life; and in John 5:28-29 our Lord said that the hour is coming when all will be resurrected either to life or judgment.

Finally, the 6th Seal in Revelation 6 says absolutely nothing about the rapture. It does speak of the Lamb’s wrath (judgment) upon the world; and I would agree that the church will have already been removed.

So, while the Second Coming and rapture are one event — wrath and tribulation are not. In this world, said Jesus, we will have tribulation (John 16:33); but only by the grace of God shall we escape His judgment … on the last day at the coming of our Lord and Savior.

In summary, there is only one Second Coming at which time the church will be raptured, judgment executed, and the heavens and earth restored. This is the last day, or day of the Lord, spoken of by Messiah.

In Judaism, wrath is understood as God’s judgment in the context of destruction over salvation. Look again at what Paul said:

For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wrath, or salvation is the destiny of all people. You and I are appointed, or predestined, to either destruction or redemption. Wait just a moment. I’m not saying that you were fated at birth to be destroyed or saved in the Calvinist sense of predestination. The Jewish sense of this appointment is that God determined in the beginning that man’s end would either be judgment or salvation. Rest assured that God does not draw straws to determine your fate. John Calvin perverted this ancient Judaic teaching.

May I divert on that point for just a moment? If you take the false teachings of the Catholic Church and stack them up against the heresies of the Protestant Church which stack would be higher?

Jesus, then, is quite clear that the resurrection/rapture will occur at the Second Coming — on the last day. With regards to the other assertion, how do we know that wrath refers to judgment, and not tribulation?

Context.

Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians was in regards to the day of the Lord (or last day). Again, in Judaism this term refers to the day of God’s judgment. The Thessalonians were suffering tribulation, and they thought the Lord had already come — that they were left behind to suffer God’s wrath. This would, indeed, fit the PM scenario.

They were also concerned that the dead would miss the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

The assembly was suffering the trials and sorrows that befall the church in every generation. Paul disassociated their tribulation from the day of the Lord which would come like a thief in the night bringing sudden destruction upon those who are in darkness. But what of the children of God?

As sons of light, Paul wrote, they need not worry about the day of judgment for they are not called to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who will raise the dead and living at His glorious Second Coming.

In the left behind interpretation there will be hellish chaos. Christian pilots will be raptured from commercial airliners, and Christian doctors will be raptured in the middle of an operation — not a problem if the passengers and patients are believers as well. This is fanciful exegesis that serves only to sell books and tickle ears. It is false teaching.

What did Paul say? Like a thief in the night there will be sudden destruction; and Peter concurs as we noted earlier:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

So, wrath and tribulation are not the same thing. One speaks of judgment while the other of trials and sorrows.

Charles Ellicott

The “wrath” is that which is to come upon the “children of wrath” at the Second Advent. [1]

Matthew Poole

Having spoken of two sorts of persons, the children of the day, and children of the night, and the sudden destruction of the one and salvation of the other at the coming of Christ, he here ascends to the first original of both, which is God’s appointment, which is an act of God’s sovereign will, determining men’s final estates. [2]

John Gill

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, to destruction and ruin, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ … The doctrine of predestination does not lead to despair, but encourages the hope of salvation. [3]

The PM contention that wrath refers to the tribulation (from which Christians will be spared), that the day of the Lord and rapture are separate events, that Jesus will remove His church from some future time of trouble, that a thousand years will pass before the actual Second Coming — well, it is all a faulty interpretation of Scripture.

Still, my beloved brothers in Christ, our salvation is not dependent on having a clear understanding of the End Times. We are not saved by our church affiliation or whether we read only the King James Bible.

Ultimately, we are not saved by knowledge (which puffs up), but by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

What is overlooked in these specious interpretations is this: How does it change the way I should live my life today as a child of the Most High God? For 2000 years the church has believed in the imminent return of Christ. If you see an article that reads Ten Things that Must Happen Before the Rapture, you would be better served to put down the article and open your Bible to the parable of the faithful steward (Luke 12:35–48).

Jesus could come tonight. Think about that. Let it sink in. Jesus Christ could return before you finish reading this article. When our Lord returns what will He find you doing? Think about your secret sins. Maybe it’s sexual immorality, pornography, alcohol, drugs … whatever. The servant in the parable was found in gluttony and drunkenness. In what manner will Christ find you?

If you’re waiting for the revelation of the Antichrist, and planes falling out of the sky, then just go on with your life as in the days of Noah; but be forewarned by the words of Messiah:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:36–39).

Notice that He said the wicked would be taken away. The PM doctrine cites this passage to defend their interpretation of the rapture. Sorry, no. Jesus is not speaking of the rapture, but of those taken away in judgment.

To Messiah I give the last word.

Notes:

1. Charles Ellicott, A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.

2. Matthew Poole, English Annotations on the Holy Bible, by Matthew Barker, 1700.

3. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 3 vols., 1746-8.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

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3 thoughts on “End Times Theology”

  1. As usual, you make some excellent points: that Premillennials separate the resurrection and the rapture from the Second Coming, while failing to differentiate tribulation from the wrath of God. But what I appreciate the most, is your observation, “our salvation is not dependent on having a clear understanding of the End Times.” And I believe your question, “How does it change the way I should live my life today as a child of the Most High God?” is what should determine how significant we consider our eschatological positions.

    Something I have noticed when Christians argue End Times is that their own particular understanding of what they consider pivotal Scripture verses seems to to be the most important issue, not the Scripture itself. In other words, they seem to be leaning on their own understanding, not really on the Bible. I love that you closed giving Messiah the last word. That is what we should all do.

    But I think in our human weakness there is a temptation to rely on some pet notion or formula — the simpler it is to state, the easier it is to hold on to, and perhaps the easier it is to believe in. Despite the fact that the LORD’s revelation to us in his word is sufficient for equipping us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) there is an element of mystery that remains. As wise as God helps us to become, we will never completely understand the things of God until we pass from this life on Earth, and he changes us in the twinkling of an eye (at the last trumpet, by the way).

    Until then, I content myself with Paul’s words, that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am troubled by the numbers of Christians (American Christians) who in anticipation of End Times are stocking up on food, water & supplies as if their survival is key. I wonder what Christians in places like Africa and the Middle East think about that kind of fear-based thinking. They already endure (and many have already suffered and died from) lack of basics such as water, shelter, food, medicine, stable economy, civil safety, security and police protection.

    Yes, their tribulations are terrible. So, Christians here in America and elsewhere who are not suffering as they are should be helping our brothers and sisters in Christ — not worrying that the same things might happen to us. We are told that in this world we will have tribulations. But be of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world.

    So to all those who endlessly argue their particular brand of eschatology, “Be of good cheer”. The gospel is the greatest message of hope that ever existed. Let’s share that, instead, and not get bogged down in arguments no more edifying than how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.

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