His Voice Today

The Rapture Controversy

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Steve Wohlberg


Series Code: HVT

Program Code: HVT000019A

00:09 Will Christians disappear around the world
00:11 before a seven-year period of tribulation hits this planet?
00:15 That's our topic on His Voice Today.
00:21 Welcome to another His Voice Today
00:23 with Steve Wohlberg.
00:29 Our message today is called, "The Rapture Controversy"
00:32 and with a title like that
00:34 we can expect that this is going to be
00:35 a controversial half hour that we spend together.
00:38 First of all I want to say
00:40 that I am one of the millions of Christians around this world
00:45 who strongly believe that Jesus Christ is coming again.
00:48 We believe that we're living in the final days,
00:51 that we are in the time of the Book of Revelation
00:55 that the apocalypse is ahead of us... not far away,
00:58 and that these are the last days of the earth's history.
01:02 I believe that because the Bible teaches that
01:05 when you carefully study God's book.
01:08 And along with millions of other
01:10 Bible-believing Christians in many different denominations,
01:13 I also am longing... I'm looking forward to the day
01:17 when Jesus Christ will come down from heaven
01:20 and catch up His people and take us home.
01:24 Paul talks about that in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
01:27 verse 17 which we'll look at shortly
01:29 and I believe that this event is often referred to
01:34 as "The Rapture"
01:36 and again, I can't wait to get off this planet,
01:38 and to go up to see my Savior and to look into His eyes
01:42 into the face of the one who died on the cross for me.
01:47 But when it comes to the timing of this event,
01:51 that is really the issue,
01:54 that's where the controversy comes in.
01:56 Exactly when is Jesus going to come down
01:58 and pick us up and take us up there?
02:01 There are many different views, a lot of different options,
02:04 and I'll show you... to start out...
02:06 one of the options,
02:08 and that has been
02:09 very appropriately or at least skillfully presented
02:15 in a best-selling series of novels
02:17 and some movies called the "Left Behind" series
02:20 co-authored by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
02:23 published by Tyndale Publishers.
02:26 The "Left Behind" series basically teaches
02:29 that at some point in the future,
02:30 and here's a video jacket
02:32 on my screen in front of me and I'll read this to you,
02:35 it says, "In an instant, millions of people will vanish.
02:38 For those who are left behind, the apocalypse has just begun. "
02:42 The "Left Behind" series of novels,
02:45 basically presents a sequence of end-time events.
02:49 Yes, it's a novel but it presents
02:52 what millions of people sincerely believe,
02:54 and the idea is that the rapture will take place first
02:58 and that will be followed by a period of seven years
03:03 of tribulation and that will be followed
03:05 by the visible second-coming of Jesus Christ.
03:08 So, it's rapture first, then... seven years...
03:11 then the second coming of Christ.
03:14 Now, I don't know if you remember this or not
03:18 but in the year 2004 and 2005...
03:22 "Left Behind" readers were absolutely shocked
03:25 when the Publisher of the "Left Behind" series
03:29 Tyndale Publishing, came out with another series
03:33 of novels about Bible Prophecy
03:35 that took a completely different position than "Left Behind. "
03:40 And here I've got, on my screen in front of me,
03:43 an advertisement for the book called "The Last Disciple"
03:47 written by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer
03:51 and here's a... an editorial or a review
03:56 from "Publishers Weekly,"
03:57 "Tyndale House, the Publisher of the 'Left Behind' books,
04:00 the mega-selling Christian series
04:01 about the end of times,
04:03 now presents a new series,
04:04 with a very different interpretation
04:07 of Biblical prophecy.
04:08 Christian radio show host, Hank Hanegraaff,
04:11 and best-selling CBA novelist Sigmund Brouwer,
04:14 take readers back to the time of Nero in the first century
04:18 and it goes on and on describing the view of this book
04:22 "The Last Disciple"
04:23 so you've got "The Last Disciple"
04:26 on the one side, and you've got "Left Behind"
04:28 on the other side.
04:29 Here is an article that came out in The Dallas Morning News,
04:33 November 6, 2004,
04:36 and the title was pretty interesting
04:38 it says, "New take on Rapture
04:42 puts Authors in Apocalyptic Feud"
04:46 the "Left Behind" series basically
04:48 says that Christians will disappear
04:51 and then there'll be seven years of tribulation
04:52 and that's when the antichrist will come.
04:54 "The Last Disciple" doesn't accept that at all.
04:57 "The Last Disciple" says that
04:59 the antichrist was a long time ago,
05:01 it was actually Nero,
05:03 and they don't believe
05:04 in a disappearing event
05:06 where Christians just are gone with a poof
05:09 before seven years of tribulation.
05:11 So, here's "Left Behind," and here's "The Last Disciple"
05:15 published by the same Publisher
05:17 creating a controversy over what is the truth in this area.
05:22 And then there's Billy Graham,
05:24 I'm sure you know who Billy Graham is.
05:25 He wrote a book called, "Answers to Life's Problems"
05:29 and Billy, in his book,
05:32 actually takes
05:34 a different view from both of them.
05:36 He doesn't believe... or at least, in his book
05:38 he shows he believes something different
05:41 than "Left Behind" and he certainly didn't believe
05:43 in "The Last Disciple. "
05:45 All right, here is a quote from his book, page 300 and 301.
05:50 Billy is asked a question which he lists in the book.
05:53 "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is going to make
05:56 a visible, physical return to this earth?"
05:58 And Billy answers in his book,
06:00 "Yes, I believe this with all my heart,
06:02 not because of the opinions of others,
06:04 but based solely on what the Bible plainly teaches... "
06:08 "In the New Testament," Pastor Graham continues,
06:11 "... we find more than 300 references to the Second Coming.
06:14 For instance... " and then he quotes John 14
06:18 verses 2 and 3, and Matthew 24 verse 30,
06:21 and then Billy Graham said, "... in 1 Thessalonians 4:16"
06:26 which we'll look at soon, which describes
06:28 Jesus coming down from heaven and us being caught up.
06:31 "Paul wrote:
06:48 That's: Answers to Life's Problems,
06:50 pages 300 and 301.
06:53 And basically what Billy is saying in his quote...
06:55 he's quoting
06:56 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17
06:58 that talks about Jesus coming down
07:00 and believers being caught up,
07:01 and he applies that to the visible
07:03 second coming of Jesus Christ.
07:06 He does not apply it to a rapture
07:09 where Christians disappear
07:10 prior to a seven-year tribulation,
07:13 which is then followed by the second coming of Christ
07:17 and Billy said that we'll be caught up
07:19 at the second coming of Christ which will be a visible event.
07:23 So, as you can see,
07:25 there is a controversy
07:28 and that's why this message is called,
07:30 "The Rapture Controversy" you know...
07:32 which one is it of these different options?
07:34 Is it what "Left Behind" says,
07:37 that we'll be caught up that we'll disappear,
07:39 that people will just vanish around the world,
07:41 before the seven years,
07:42 at the end of which we have the second coming
07:44 or is it what "The Last Disciple" says
07:48 that there isn't even going to be a seven years
07:51 and that the antichrist was a long time ago...
07:54 at the time of Nero... or is it what Billy Graham
07:57 taught in his book, "Answers to Life's Problems"
08:01 that 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 really describes
08:06 the visible-loud-command second coming of Jesus Christ?
08:10 Are you confused? Well, I hope not,
08:14 my goal is not to confuse you but ultimately
08:17 to shed light on this subject and to do it
08:19 not with my own opinion, but to do it with the Bible.
08:23 This Program is called His Voice Today...
08:25 and my goal in every presentation
08:28 is to stick to Scripture and to look at the Bible
08:31 very, very carefully to find out what it really says.
08:34 So, let's go to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
08:38 and let's take a close look at what Paul actually said
08:43 and this is probably the "mother text"
08:45 that is at the heart of the controversy
08:47 about the timing of the rapture.
08:49 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
08:51 verses 16 and 17
08:55 and these verses are extremely important
08:57 and let me preface the reading of these verses
09:01 with a little illustration.
09:02 Have you ever been driving down the highway in your car
09:07 and not realized how fast you were going?
09:11 I won't tell you how many times this has happened to me
09:15 and then you happen to glance down at the speedometer
09:18 in front of you and you realize,
09:21 "Whoa, I am going too fast, I'm going to get a ticket,
09:25 unless I slow down and line up with the speed limit. "
09:29 Well the fact is that my conviction is
09:33 that too many times, and this is a fact,
09:37 too many times people read 1 Thessalonians
09:41 chapter 4 verses 16 and 17 too quickly.
09:45 They're just moving too fast
09:48 and it is time for us
09:50 to slow down, to take a very, very careful look
09:54 at these verses and to find out
09:56 what the Bible... and what the Bible really says
09:59 and what Paul actually wrote.
10:02 So, if you're ready, let's go... 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
10:09 verse 16, Paul wrote:
10:34 Now before we even get to verse 17,
10:36 let's just notice,
10:38 clearly how Paul is describing this event.
10:42 He wrote that Jesus Himself is going to come down,
10:46 He's going to descend from heaven
10:48 with three things, the first one is a shout...
10:51 the second one is a voice... and the third one...
10:54 is with the 'trump' or trumpet of God...
10:57 and the trumpet is going to be so loud
11:01 that the dead in Christ are going to rise first,
11:04 even the dead around the world are going to hear
11:07 that trumpet.
11:09 Now if you think about it, just look at the text
11:11 it just sure seems like Paul is describing
11:16 a very noisy event.
11:18 In fact, this is one of the noisiest verses in the Bible.
11:23 Jesus is coming down, not quietly,
11:25 He's not just slipping down from heaven so that nobody sees Him,
11:29 He's coming down with a shout, with a voice and with a trumpet
11:33 and then the dead in Christ are rising from their graves
11:38 all around the world.
11:39 Now, let's go to the key text, verse 17...
11:44 what happens at that time? In verse 17, Paul wrote,
11:49 "Then... " "then" meaning at the same time,
11:52 "we which are alive and remain,
11:56 we shall be... "
11:58 and the words there are: "we shall be caught up...
12:01 caught up to meet them in the clouds...
12:05 caught up together with them in the clouds"
12:08 and "together" means, those that have been resurrected
12:11 where then being "caught up together with them"
12:14 and we're going up... literally we're going up...
12:18 "with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air:
12:21 and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
12:24 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. "
12:27 So, Paul describes Jesus coming down
12:30 and we're going up and it is at that time
12:33 when there's a shout, a voice and a trumpet.
12:36 A very, very loud event.
12:38 Now, if you keep reading in chapter 5,
12:41 Paul continues right on,
12:42 "But of the times and the seasons, brethren,
12:44 you have no need that I write to you. "
12:46 In other words, we don't know exactly
12:48 when this is going to happen,
12:49 whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall,
12:51 we just don't know... we don't know what time of the day,
12:53 or what season of the year it will be,
12:55 but verse 2 says, but we do know something,
12:57 "For yourselves do know perfectly
12:59 that the day of the Lord... "
13:01 this day when Jesus comes down and we are caught up,
13:03 "will come as a thief in the night. "
13:05 Now, this expression, "thief in the night"
13:08 when we look at the context,
13:10 doesn't mean that it's going to be a "quiet return of Christ"
13:13 it means that it's going to be a sudden event
13:16 because verse 3 says, "For when they shall say,
13:19 'Peace and safety!'"
13:20 those are the people of the world who aren't ready,
13:22 "then sudden destruction shall come upon them,
13:29 as travail upon a woman with child
13:31 and they will not escape. "
13:33 So, when you look at the whole context,
13:35 there are really two groups.
13:37 Jesus comes down from heaven with a shout
13:39 and with a voice with a trumpet,
13:41 the dead in Christ rise,
13:42 and believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
13:45 Those that are not ready for this event,
13:47 they will experience this "Day of the Lord"
13:51 that will come like a thief in the night
13:54 and they will experience it in a very sudden and tragic way.
13:58 Verse 3 again says,
13:59 "for when they say 'Peace and safety'
14:00 then, sudden destruction will come upon them
14:03 as labor pains upon a woman with child
14:05 and they will not escape. "
14:08 So one group goes up
14:10 and one group doesn't escape "the Day of the Lord,"
14:15 that's what the Bible says.
14:17 As we look at these verses, there really is no hint
14:20 that this is a quiet return of Christ,
14:23 there's no hint that believers just disappear,
14:27 it says, "we're going to be caught up"
14:28 In Acts chapter 1, the Bible says that Jesus was taken up
14:32 but He didn't disappear, He was taken up literally
14:34 and the disciples who watched Him go up into the clouds
14:37 and then two angels that were standing by the disciples said,
14:41 "Ye men of Galilee, why are you looking up into heaven?
14:44 this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven... "
14:47 and they saw Him go up...
14:48 the angel said that the same Jesus will come back down
14:52 in the same way that you have seen Him go into heaven
14:55 and I believe those angels have their theology straight
14:58 that Jesus was taken up literally
15:00 visibly... they saw Him go up...
15:01 and they said that He's going to come down
15:04 in the same way,
15:05 and that's what the Bible is teaching in 1 Thessalonians
15:09 chapter 4 verses 16 and 17 and there really is no hint
15:13 at least from the text that this "catching up"
15:17 is the beginning of a seven-year period of tribulation
15:20 for those who are left behind.
15:23 We don't see that in the text.
15:26 I've got a very interesting article in front of me
15:30 that came out in Time Magazine,
15:32 see the date here is July 1, 2002,
15:36 it's called, "The Bible and the Apocalypse
15:38 why more Americans are reading and talking about...
15:41 about the end of the world. "
15:43 Here is the front cover, it's a rather old edition,
15:45 I've used it many times and in a heart of this...
15:47 this particular issue of Time Magazine,
15:50 there's a whole article dealing with the "Left Behind" series.
15:54 You can see all the different books,
15:55 and they're analyzing the different interpretations
15:59 and the view that "Left Behind" is teaching
16:01 and on the next page after all those books are listed
16:04 there's an article by a man named David Van Biema
16:08 and it's called, "The End: How It Got That Way"
16:11 and right in the middle of this article,
16:12 you see a picture there, if you can see it,
16:15 and there's Billy Graham and
16:17 a little younger Billy Graham and he's preaching,
16:19 and this article is called, "The End: How It Got That Way,"
16:21 it's written by a journalist named David Van Biema
16:25 and I read this with great interest
16:27 and he talks about 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
16:31 verses 16 and 17 that we just read
16:34 and then he talks about a man named John Nelson Darby
16:37 who lived in the 1800s
16:38 there's a picture of Darby over on the side here
16:41 and it talks about his preaching and his teaching
16:45 and then it talks about Darby's most striking innovation
16:49 and I'll read it to you right here.
16:51 It says that Darby's most striking innovation was
16:55 the timing of a concept called,
16:57 "The Rapture drawn from the Apostle Paul's prediction
16:59 that believers would fly up to meet Christ in heaven"
17:02 which we just read from our Bibles.
17:04 "Most theologians... " listen to this...
17:07 "Most theologians understood that event
17:10 as part of the resurrection at time's very end"
17:13 which is what Billy Graham believed
17:15 and I trust... still believes,
17:19 but Darby repositioned that event
17:22 at the apocalypse's very beginning...
17:25 a small shift... with large implications
17:27 it spared true believers the tribulation
17:29 leaving the horror
17:31 to non-believers and the doctrinally misled
17:34 which is basically what the "Left Behind" series teaches,
17:36 that we go up and then everybody left behind
17:38 has to go through this period.
17:39 Now, David Van Biema, with the picture of Billy Graham
17:42 right in the middle of the article,
17:43 says that most theologians,
17:45 down throughout the history of Christianity,
17:46 they didn't believe that,
17:48 most theologians including Billy Graham
17:50 have interpreted 1st Thessalonians 4
17:53 verses 16 and 17 as applying to time's very end
17:57 and the final resurrection when Jesus comes in the clouds
18:00 with power and great glory
18:01 and it's going to be a loud event
18:03 which is referred to as "The Second Coming. "
18:08 So, these are... these are some of the issues...
18:13 that we need to unravel...
18:14 now there are a couple of other texts
18:16 I want to look at in the time that we've got left,
18:19 1st Corinthians 15 verse 52, let's take a look at that
18:22 1st Corinthians 15:52
18:25 is probably the second most quoted passage
18:28 about the rapture and it's used to support the idea
18:34 that Christians are going to disappear before the tribulation
18:37 In 1st Corinthians 15 verse 52, Paul wrote,
18:42 "... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye"
18:44 in the moment... in the moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
18:47 and people interpret that and they say,
18:49 "See, people are going to blink and all of a sudden,
18:52 all the Christians are going to be gone,"
18:54 but is that what Paul is really saying?
18:56 Is he describing a disappearing moment
18:59 that the world then wakes up and wonders, "What happened?"
19:03 And seven years have begun...
19:06 well, let's look at the whole verse...
19:08 Verse 52 says, "... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
19:12 at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound,
19:16 and the dead will be raised incorruptible,
19:19 and we shall be changed. "
19:21 So, Paul says, "this moment"
19:23 that takes place in the twinkling of an eye
19:25 is actually at the "last trumpet. "
19:27 and there are seven trumpets in the book of Revelation
19:30 and the last trumpet is at the very end
19:32 when Jesus Christ comes... His visible second coming.
19:36 So, when Paul talks about,
19:38 "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye"
19:41 he's not talking about Christians just disappearing
19:43 he's actually talking about how instantly our bodies
19:46 are going to be changed to have new bodies
19:49 at the return of Jesus Christ, so, let's look at one more...
19:54 the third text which is so often used... is in Matthew chapter 24
20:00 where Jesus talked about one being taken
20:03 and one being left.
20:04 One taken... one left... Matthew 24,
20:10 At the end of the world... at the end of time...
20:13 Jesus said:
20:19 I want you to know that I believe this.
20:22 I believe the Bible, not a liberal...
20:25 but the question is: "When is then...?"
20:28 When will one be taken and one be left?
20:31 Will it be when Christians just disappear
20:34 seven years before the second coming,
20:37 or will it be at the time of the second coming
20:40 at the end of the world?
20:42 That's the issue. Well, I think the answer...
20:44 I know the answer is in the context.
20:47 In verse 27 just backing up, Jesus said,
20:57 So, here He describes a visible coming
21:00 that's going to be just like
21:01 lightning flashing around the world.
21:03 Verse 30... He describes what it will be like when He comes...
21:14 they will see... " even unbelievers will see...
21:21 And He will send His angels with a great sound of the trumpet"
21:23 there's that trumpet again,
21:25 "and they will gather together His elect from the four winds,
21:28 from one end of heaven to the other. "
21:29 This is definitely the second coming,
21:31 no question about it, verse 36...
21:38 Verse 37...
21:43 "For as the days that were before the flood,
21:46 they were eating and drinking marrying and giving in marriage
21:48 until the day that Noah entered into the ark
21:51 and they knew not" the world knew not...
21:53 "until the flood came and took them all away. "
21:55 "... so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. "
22:00 So when Jesus comes,
22:01 it's just like the sudden destruction
22:03 that hit the people in Noah's day
22:05 around the world, when the water came down
22:08 and then Jesus said,
22:09 "... so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. "
22:17 the one shall be taken and the other left.
22:19 Two women shall be grinding at the mill;
22:21 one shall be taken and the other left.
22:23 Watch, therefore, for you know not what hour
22:26 your Lord doth come. "
22:28 So, when He said, "Then... two are in the field,
22:31 one's taken, one's left... "
22:32 the context is verse 27
22:34 just like... lightning flashes from the east to the west,
22:37 so shall His coming be.
22:39 Just like Noah's day when the water came down
22:41 and the people didn't know about it,
22:43 until the flood came and took them all away.
22:45 So shall His coming be when He comes in the clouds
22:49 with power and great glory and the trumpet sounds
22:52 and Jesus gathers His people from around the world.
22:55 Verse 40 says, "Then shall two be in the field
22:58 one shall be taken and the other left. "
23:00 So, based upon the context, based upon the clear evidence
23:05 as I read my Bible, it's very obvious to me
23:09 that the "then"
23:12 "when two are in the field,
23:14 and one's taken and one is left... "
23:16 that "then" is at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
23:20 That's visible... that's like lightening
23:23 or the trumpet sounds and billions of angels
23:26 come down from the sky at the end of the world.
23:29 The Rapture Controversy...
23:35 I'm a strong believer in the Bible,
23:39 I'm a strong believer in the Book.
23:43 I strongly believe that Jesus Christ came once
23:48 2,000 years ago, that He was born in Bethlehem,
23:52 that He lived a quiet, humble life,
23:55 for 33 years,
23:57 in the Land of Israel,
23:59 He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane,
24:02 and He died a cruel death on a cross
24:05 for your sins and for mine and then He rose from the dead.
24:08 And it's a sad fact that one of the reasons
24:11 why so many of God's people...
24:14 so many of God's professed people...
24:15 Jewish people... had turned away from Jesus
24:18 was because their understanding of prophecy
24:21 was that when the Messiah came,
24:23 He was going to conquer the Romans
24:27 and be a victorious, loud leader.
24:29 But Jesus didn't come to do that.
24:32 He came in a quiet way, in a humble way,
24:34 as the lamb of God to die on a cross
24:36 and because they misunderstood the nature of His coming,
24:41 many of them rejected their Messiah which is tragic.
24:45 The New Testament also teaches
24:48 that Jesus is going to come back again
24:50 and I believe that with all my heart.
24:52 I believe He's coming back very soon
24:54 to take His people home and as I read my Bible,
25:00 I don't believe that Jesus is coming quietly
25:05 the second time around.
25:06 Many Jewish people, in the days of Christ,
25:09 believed that He was coming loudly... but He came quietly
25:13 and they missed the truth of who He was
25:17 and we can make a similar mistake,
25:20 we can believe that at his second coming
25:23 He's coming... or at least at the end of the world,
25:25 He's going to come quietly.
25:26 Well, now it's not time for Him to come quietly,
25:29 it's time for Him to come loudly and visibly
25:32 as a triumphant warrior to pick up His people
25:36 and to take us home.
25:37 There's a man named Tom York who once made a statement.
25:40 He said, "Someone needs to tell the truth
25:41 but it shouldn't be my job. "
25:44 Well, I don't feel that way about my calling.
25:48 My calling is to tell the truth, it is my job
25:53 and that's what I'm doing the best I can
25:55 to do with you right now.
25:58 I'll close with 1st Thessalonians
26:00 chapter 4 verse 16 and 17,
26:01 the Bible says, "That the Lord Himself
26:04 will descend from heaven with a shout,
26:06 with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God,
26:09 and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
26:12 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up... "
26:16 we're going to be caught up when He comes down
26:17 with a shout, a voice and a trumpet,
26:19 "we'll be caught up together with them in the clouds
26:22 to meet the Lord in the air,
26:24 and so shall we ever be with the Lord. "
26:27 Hallelujah, may that day come soon.
26:29 "Wherefore... " Paul said,
26:31 "comfort one another with
26:33 these words. "
26:35 These are God's words for you and me.
26:37 You have just heard His Voice Today.
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26:43 from Pastor Steve Wohlberg and we want you to know
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27:20 into two 13-part DVD series for only $34.95 each set,
27:25 plus shipping and handling.
27:27 To order, call 1-800-78-Bible,
27:30 or order online at whitehorsemedia. com
27:32 or write to White Horse Media, PO Box 1139, Newport, WA 99156.
27:38 If you've been blessed by today's program,
27:41 and would like to help White Horse Media
27:43 with your financial support,
27:45 you can call our toll-free number listed on the screen,
27:48 or donate online at whitehorsemedia. com
27:51 We solicit your prayers for our ministry
27:53 and we thank you for any gift, large or small
27:57 to help us reach people with the gospel.


Revised 2015-09-09