The Forum

The Forum

This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.

The Church and the Tribulation

Dear Brother G.

I know that you are a very busy man, but feel that I should write the following thoughts. As the Lord gives you time perhaps you could give them some consideration. If they were exclusively my own thoughts, I would not bother you…

I am troubled to some extent by the teaching that the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation. Do we have much Scripture to prove otherwise? Surely Revelation 4:1 seems to be a weak support for the pre-tribulation rapture. Sometimes I think that the rapture will occur in the middle of the tribulation, and sometimes at the end of this awful seven year period. Frankly, I am puzzled. If the Church is to go through the tribulation, or even the half of it, surely she is not ready for such persecution. Some say that perhaps persecution will bring revival; maybe it will, I do not know. Perhaps past Church history will confirm this. Even so, we do not seem to be ready doctrinally, and by this I mean, we do not hear much teaching today on such subjects as: “Reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin,” “I am crucified with Christ,” and other Scriptures teaching our high position in Christ Jesus.

Relative to the possibility of the Church going through the tribulation, I was thinking of Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb.” Would we not have to know this experimentally now, to put it into good use were we to undergo persecution? …

This is something that has caused me much thought for quite a while, and felt the weight of expressing them to someone who might be able to do something about it…

Thank you for inviting letters from your readers.

Sincerely by His grace,
H. A. H.

Dear Brother H.

I am sure that you are not the only one confused by the many conflicting opinions in regard to prophetical subjects. With some teaching pre-millennialism, others post-millennialism, and still others a-millennialism, it is really no wonder that God’s people are perplexed. As you mention in your letter, there are also some teaching a pre-tribulation rapture; others, a mid-tribulation rapture; and still others, a post-tribulation rapture. To this sorry complexity we can now add another disconcerting speculation that is being revived in some areas, the partial rapture theory.

The Apostle Peter says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy (the prophetic word made sure); whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). In the light of such a statement, it becomes obvious that the Lord did not intend the interpretation of the prophetic word to cause disordered thinking and teaching, the confusion is not of God.

The second coming of Christ is presented in the New Testament as a living hope because it is based upon the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet. 1:3); as a good hope because it is given by grace along with everlasting consolation (2 Thess. 2:16); and as a blessed hope because of the resulting joy and glory (Tit. 2:13). Surely the realization of this living, good, and blessed hope ought to be anticipated with delight. Teaching regarding it, if it leaves God’s people bewildered, cannot be sound. The babel of opinions must result from adverse influences which would rob the Christian of the personal joy of anticipation, would divert his mind from the attitude of watchfulness, and would direct his attention to certain events rather than to the advent of our Lord.

To discuss this problem in The Forum in its many aspects and details would be impossible; nevertheless, a few remarks might help you. These remarks will centre upon the need of a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, the need of logical thinking, the value of scriptural statements, and the attitude of the Church in the first century of her existence.

Literal interpretation: The practice of allegorizing (also called spiritualizing) the Scriptures might well be blamed for much of the confusion in the subject of prophecy as well as in other fields of Bible study. By such means the Bible can be made to mean almost anything. Allegorizing frequently is the result of a fertile imagination rather than the product of the Holy Spirit. The Amillennialist and the Post-millennialist both alike adopt this approach to Bible study.

By literal interpretation is meant the process of interpreting the Bible. First, by considering its grammar. The meaning of each word according to its usage and connection must be thoroughly understood. In second place, by examining every detail in accordance with the immediate and the general context. The context of any statement of Scripture is one of the surest sources of necessary information. Finally, by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Since the structure of the Word of God is that of a divine unity, there is throughout its entire revelation an inerrant consistency; no one passage contradicts another. Dr. Charles L. Feinberg in his excellent work, Premillennialism or Amillennialism? cites the testimony of Dr. Horatius Bonar. Speaking of the results of fifty years of the study of prophecy, he concluded with the statement that, first of all, he had gained assurance as to the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures. Secondly, he felt more certain than ever that the literal interpretation of the Word is best. Said he: “Literal, if possible, is, I believe the only maxim that will carry you right through the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.”

It is now clear that space forbids further discussion on this subject in this issue. Inasmuch as four necessary points were mentioned, we shall reserve these until the next issue. I trust that you will be patient and follow the remarks which we specified as brief. In proportion to the importance of the subject, they are indeed very brief.

May the Lord richly bless you in your studies of His Holy Word.

Sincerely in Christ,
J. G.