by A.E. Knoch

THIS QUESTION would never be asked if God's beloved saints understood the Mystery of the Gospel and its companion truth, the Secret of the Resurrection. Very briefly, therefore, we will consider God's attitude toward the world in this administration, and His gracious dealings with His saints, as well as the special secret connected with our resurrection at His coming. Apart from this we will be sure to confuse the truth of this economy with that of the next. We will fail to correctly partition between this day of salvation and the coming one of God's indignation. We will be misled by the Bible itself, thinking we have its support, when, in reality, we are applying to ourselves what belongs to others. There is no more insidious error for earnest Bible students than the misplacing of His words.

     Paul is the apostle for the nations. He was entrusted with the evangel of the Uncircumcision, as Peter of the Circumcision. Luther's translation of this passage (Gal.2:7) is far from expressing the real truth. Paul was not merely sent to the Uncircumcision with the same evangel as Peter, but he had an evangel of the Uncircumcision which differed in its scope, its contents, and its expectation, from that of the Circumcision. This was unknown to Luther, as his translation shows. The Greek is the genitive, not the dative. It speaks of character, not location. Luther recovered somewhat of the truth of justification, as outlined in the first four chapters of Romans and in Galatians, but he never really entered into the fifth chapter or recovered the great truth for today, the conciliation.



Conciliation and

What is the conciliation? It is a startling commentary on the apostasy of Christendom that few languages even have a word which clearly expresses the peculiar grace of God which is ours today. The Greek words katallasso or katallagˆ are seldom distinguished from apokatallasso. Luther makes no distinction. I feel justified in saying that no point in the theology of the evangel is so tremendously important, yet no item is so little known. No two words will enrich any language as much as the pair which will clearly reveal the meanings of these two Greek words, and definitely define their difference.

     Protracted and exhaustive investigation has shown that the shorter word connotes conciliation, a one-sided amity, the longer denotes reconciliation, the restoration of friendship on both sides of an estrangement. This latter is found only in Ephesians 2:16 and Colossians 1:20,21. It is mutual. Both sides are at peace. This is not true of conciliation. This sets forth God's side. God, in Christ, conciliated the world to Himself (2 Cor.5:19). The casting away of Israel was the conciliation of the world (Rom.11:15). We should pray the offender, "Be conciliated to God!" (2 Cor.5:20). When we believe we obtain the conciliation (Rom.5:11).

     This is that secret evangel (i.e., secret aspect of Paul's evangel), long hushed in times eonian, yet now manifested and made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Rom.16:25,26). You will search in vain for this evangel in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the accounts of our Lord's life, in Acts, in Hebrews, James, Peter, John, and Jude, and it is utterly foreign to the book of Revelation.

The Keynote is Peace

The keynote of this evangel is peace (Rom.5:1). When we were still sinners, Christ died for our sakes. Much rather, then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from indignation through Him. May this truth sink into our hearts! Under no circumstances can we come under the divine indignation. If, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life (Rom.5:8-10). The blood of Christ shed for sinners gives justification and salvation from His indignation. The death of God's Son for His enemies gives salvation in His life. Christ brings us into court and vindicates us. God's Son opens the door of His affections and reconciles us.

     All enmity between us and God is gone. Even the estrangement between us and those of the Circumcision who believe in this economy is gone. Christ, by creating the two into one new humanity, made peace between those far off and those nigh. He is our Peace (Eph.2:14-16). As a result there is not only complete amity between God's saints and Himself, but they also should reflect His attitude toward the unbelieving world. Our feet are sandaled with the evangel of peace (Eph.6:15). We are ambassadors (2 Cor.5:20; Eph.6:20). God is not at war with the world now.


     In startling contrast with the present economy of God's undiluted grace is the succeeding administration of His unrestrained indignation. The true character of this era is seldom clearly apprehended. It is simply set forth as a time of unexampled trouble, especially for the sons of Jacob. Let us distinguish its various aspects.

Affliction on Israel

We, the nations, have no right to intrude ourselves into Israel's affairs, as is the common custom. The "great tribulation' (Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19-24) has absolutely no application to the Gentiles. The sons of Jacob suffer at the hands of the nations. The nations are the persecutors, not the persecuted. Hence the question with which we began is not intelligent. It wrests the Scriptures concerning Israel and seeks to relate them to us. We will therefore restate it, and ask, Will we go through the era of God's indignation against the nations?

     Let one point be clear. The nations will persecute the Jews. God will hurl His thunderbolts against the nations. It is this latter aspect which we should consider. All of God's saints suffer affliction. Some of us are now passing through a "great tribulation" It is our lot, as saints of God. Is this proof of God's indignation against us? Far from it! It is evidence of His fatherly care and discipline. Unbelievers also suffer, but never due to an overt act of divine intervention. God is conciliated now. He refuses to be offended. Then He will be indignant. He will shake the earth and the heavens. He will blow the trumpets of war. He will hurl down the bowls of hoarded wrath. Will He visit His saints of this economy with this wrath or will He withdraw His ambassadors before He declares war upon the apostate nations of the earth?

     This question was one of the earliest to engage the attention of Paul's converts. He did not confine his preaching to the evangel, but taught them concerning the day of the Lord. His earliest letter, to the Thessalonians, is burdened with this inquiry. They knew that the terrors of God's awful wrath would precede the coming of the Messianic kingdom. Had Israel as a nation repented at that time, it would have followed speedily. They were suffering sorely. Were these inflictions from man or God? Was He already dealing out His indignation? Were they to go through that terrible time, before the presence of Christ on the earth? This was especially disturbing when some one, impersonating Paul, assured them that the day of the Lord was present.

on the Nations

Let us not confuse the presence of the day of the Lord with the presence of Christ. For the world and for Israel, the day of Yahweh will be present more than seven years before Christ Himself comes down to earth. The interval between is the time of indignation.

     In the first epistle they were especially concerned as to those of their number who were reposing, that is, who had died. What would become of them? To this the apostle replied that God, through Jesus, will lead them forth with Him. It is not, as in some versions, that they are with Him, and will come down with Him. The Greek does not bear this out, and the following context shows that they rise from below and ascend with those who have survived until that day. We, who live at that time, will not precede them, for they shall be rising first. The dead are roused immediately preceding our snatching away to the air.

     It is generally supposed that there are three distinct personalities engaged in this great event, the Lord, the archangel, and God. This is a serious mistake. It is the Lord Himself Who comes. This is quite emphatic in the original. He needs no assistants for this tryst. He utters the shout of command. His is the voice of the Chief Messenger, for all "angels" are subject to Him. He blows the trumpet of God. These details are important, for many confuse this event with His later advent and suppose that this is the seventh trumpet of Revelation.

     The seventh trumpet (Rev.11:15) is not sounded by our Lord. Its blast is blown by a messenger, or "angel" (Rev.8:2). This trumpet is accompanied by vastly different results. No dead are raised by the seventh trumpet. The "first," or former resurrection is in the era that follows (Rev. 11:18), but does not take place until about seventy-five days later, according to Daniel. The seventh trumpet is followed by judgment and dire calamities on those who are blighting the earth. The nations are angered. None ascend to the air. Living and dead are not united. The trumpets in Paul's epistles (1 Cor.15:52; 1 Thess.4:16) are blown by Christ. They vivify the living, rouse the dead, call them up to Him above, and have nothing in common with the last trumpet in Revelation. In one we see salvation, in the other judgment.



We Shall be Changed

This event is in perfect accord, however, with Paul's later revelation to the Corinthians (1 Cor.15:51). It is a secret. This is most important. This does not mean that it was a "secret rapture." It is not the manner of our resurrection which was concealed. But there is to be a change, which will not only restore the dead to life, but which will radically alter both living and dead. This change is intimated in Thessalonians. We, who are living, could not ascend to Him, or remain with Him in the air, without a celestial body, suited to our new environment. We now wear the image of the soilish. We shall wear the image of the celestial (1 Cor.15:40,49).

     This change shall be made at the last trump, in the half twinkle of an eye, to fit us for our celestial allotment. If we die, our corrupted corpse will put on incorruption. If we are living, our mortal frame will put on immortality. With this there will be a change, which is a secret hitherto unrevealed, which is quite unnecessary for the saints of the Circumcision who will be roused at the beginning of the thousand years.

We Await a

They will live on earth in bodies restored to Adamic perfection, but terrestrial in their constitution and powers. They will not undergo this change. That is reserved for those who have a heavenly destiny. That is for us.

     While the phrase "secret rapture" is unscriptural, let us not confound this event with the coming of the Son of Mankind as the lighting flash (Matt.24:27). The title, Son of Mankind, shows that He is dealing with the race, not with the saints alone, and He comes to earth, and does not call His own to Himself in the air. In harmony with the figure of the lightning, He comes in devastating judgment. We do not look for lightning. We await a Saviour (Phil.3:20,21). Our citizenship belongs to the heavens, where the Son of Mankind has no jurisdiction. At His coming to the earth no saints will be raised from the dead. When our Saviour calls us, He will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to His body glorious, in accord with the operation which enables Him to subject even the universe to Himself.


     When Paul wrote his Ephesian epistle, which first definitely changed the destiny of those under Paul's ministry to a place among the celestials (Eph.1:3), he had to make it clear that it did not apply to the twelve apostles and the Circumcision. Israel's destiny is on earth, and the twelve shall rule them there. Paul was not sent to them. He does not deal with their destiny. His message is for those who are called during Israel's apostasy. But how shall he define these saints? He does this partly by designating them as "those who are also believers in Christ Jesus". This lays emphasis on our relationship to God's Son as He is presently glorified in heaven.

Our Rescuer out of
the Coming Indignation

Another designation is most remarkable. The translators have been unable to make much of it. Literally it is "the ones-having-before-expected in the Messiah" (Eph.1:12). Paul himself was by no means the first who trusted in Christ, nor were those to whom he was writing. That cannot be the meaning. The verb is in the perfect tense, and denotes a state rather than an action. They were in a state of prior expectancy.

     Among the very earliest words to be penned by Paul in his ministry to the nations are these: "to be awaiting His Son out of the heavens, Whom He rouses from among the dead, Jesus, our Rescuer out of the coming indignation" (1 Thess.1:10). The picture is a vivid one. A great storm is brewing. We are not in it, but we can see it coming. Just before it falls on us we are snatched out of its destructive path. Or, to use an illustration which fully accounts for the highly figurative words, out of (which seem to imply that we are in it), let us turn to a later letter. To Timothy Paul writes, "I am rescued out of the mouth of the lions" (2 Tim.2:17). It is not probable that he was actually in the lions maw. His words are true to feeling rather than to fact. Similarly, we are rescued "out of" the coming indignation.

     Later on the apostle elaborates the point. He exhorts them to put on the helmet, the expectation of salvation, "seeing that God did not appoint us to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, the One dying for us that, whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should at the same time be living together with Him" (1 Thess.5:10). This has been mistranslated, as though it was a figure for living or dying. It is a plain statement of the graciousness of our future salvation. In the past it was not by works, and in the future it is not by watching. It is based solely on the death of Christ.


     Dorcas and Eutychus furnished us with good illustrations of the difference between Peter and Paul in the matter of resurrection. Dorcas was a good, deserving woman, like the faithful of Israel who will be raised seventy-five days after Messiah's advent to Israel. But Eutychus' only accomplishment seems to be that he fell asleep when Paul preached. How like the saints today! Paul always puts them to sleep! Dorcas, like the saints she represents, deserved a reward. Eutychus may have merited a rebuke. He carelessly sits where he will fall if he sleeps. He certainly was not watching! Yet such is the grace revealed to the nations through Paul, that he is instantly recalled to life. God grant that we grasp more of His gratuitous grace!

     The Thessalonians had been deceived into the idea that the day of the Lord was present. A careful student of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and the prophet Daniel win note that the day of the Lord commences at least seven years before Christ comes. The seals must be broken, the trumpets must be blown, the bowls must be poured out during this period. The Thessalonians imagined that their afflictions were due to these inflictions. Paul appeals to them through the truth he had taught in his first epistle, and his oral teaching while he was with them. None of the signs of the day of Yahweh were present. The man of lawlessness was not unveiled. Lawlessness was still in its secret phase. So long as they were restraining it by their presence it could not come into the open. They must be removed before the day of Yahweh comes.

     Paul appeals to them by his previous teaching. The day of Yahweh cannot be present because they were not appointed to indignation. Before God unleashes the forces of destruction they will be gathered into Christ's presence in the air. To get these matters clear it is necessary to carefully follow the argument. Paul does not say that our gathering to Christ must be preceded by the apostasy. That is the first feature in the day of Yahweh. Its absence proves that that day is not present. Paul presents our gathering into Christ's presence as an argument that they cannot be in the day of the Lord at all.

The Day of the Lord

The day of Yahweh cannot coincide with the present economy of God's grace. In it Yahweh, as the God of Israel, raises the holy nation to its proper place as priests and kings over all the other nations of the earth. Conciliation vanishes. Jews once more are nigh, while Gentiles are far off. It is all a day of righteousness and judgment, but this is most marked in its first phase. It would be absolutely ridiculous for us to preach conciliation when God Himself is hurling His bolts of vengeance upon Israel's enemies. Every characteristic truth which is ours clashes with conditions which obtain during the first phase of the day of the Lord. If we are here then, waiting for Christ's coming to the earth, it would occasion the utmost confusion and disaster. Instead of imitating God, we would be clashing with Him at every turn. We would be preaching peace while He is waging war. Accustomed to grace, we would be crushed by wrath. It is utterly impossible!

The Former

Let us not be misled by the phrase "first resurrection" in Revelation 20:5,6. The Greek word has the significance of first of a series, not necessarily first absolutely. The scope of the Unveiling is limited. It does not include the present grace. Those who take part in the former resurrection (i.e., the first of the two resurrections in view in the context) become priests and reign with Christ the thousand years on the earth. Our rule will be in the heavens. Paul felt the necessity of distinguishing the resurrection to which he testifies from this "former" resurrection. He called it an out-resurrection, because not all the saints would be raised. Only those within the sphere of his ministry are included in this out-resurrection (cf Phil.3:11), with its secret change and its upward call to the air, and its transfigured body. None of these features is found in the "former" resurrection. Paul desired to attain to this resurrection in his present experience.

     We repeat that those who do go through the "great tribulation" or are martyred in it, receive a reward utterly out of keeping with the destiny which is ours in Christ Jesus. Our blessings are spiritual, among the celestials (Eph.1:3), while theirs are largely soulish and material, among the terrestrials. The thousand years' reign is on the earth. It is characterized by priesthood. The saints shall reign for the eons of the eons, up to the consummation (Rev.22:5), but not as priests. There will be no temple and no priests in the day of God. Christ's Melchisedek reign is limited to the thousand years. Israel's priestly supremacy then comes to an end. Our reign is in the heavens. We are never called priests. Our place and portion is unutterably higher than that of those who go through the "great tribulation."

     The bride of the Lambkin is so often confused with the body of Christ, that a few observations may be timely at this point. The destiny of the bride is the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven to earth (Rev.21:2). It is the destiny of saved Israel, not the body of Christ, which has its place in the heavens, not on earth. Not a single feature of this city harmonizes with the present grace. Paul is our apostle. He is given no place in its foundations. It has a wall, shutting out the nations. We are the nations, and all barriers are broken down. It is Israel's home, and the nations are subordinate (Rev.21:24- 27). This is directly contrary to the mystery, for the body is a joint body, in which the Jew has no preeminence. Israel was the wife of Yahweh. She shall be the bride of the Lambkin. We have a nearer and dearer place. She was once divorced. He cannot divorce His own body!



Ambassadors of Peace

Much of the confusion on this subject has come from failure to see that Paul received it by the word of the Lord. It was a secret, unknown to the Circumcision. It is never referred to before. The coming of the Son of Mankind (Luke 18:8; 21:27,36, etc.) always refers to His coming after the "great tribulation," to the saints of the Circumcision, who go through it or are martyred in it. The name "Paul" means "interval." This economy is a parenthesis in God's dealings. It is set forth only in Paul's epistles.

     To sum up: All saints go through tribulation of some sort, but only Israelites will endure the "great tribulation" of the end time, when the most violent of Jewish pogroms will test their faithfulness to Yahweh Now, God is conciliated to the nations, as such. When the day of Yahweh comes, He will manifest the opposite attitude. We, who have received this conciliation, are at peace with Him and are His ambassadors to the world. Before He can declare war, and vent His indignation on the earth, we must be withdrawn. Hence we are pre-expectants, who await Christ at least seven years before He descends to the earth. Then there will be an eclectic resurrection, leaving the Circumcision saints until later. Both living and dead will be vivified and changed to accord with their celestial destiny and snatched away to the air, before the great affliction of the Jews, and before God's indignation visits the earth, and before the Son of Mankind descends in glory to the earth.

============ QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ============


by James R Coram

Question: "Since the word `rapture' does not appear in the Bible, why do you use it?"

Answer: It is true that the word "rapture" is not a scriptural expression, but only in the same sense that Millennium" is a not a scriptural expression. That is, both terms are close equivalents of scriptural phrases. Just as "millennium" and "the thousand years" (Rev.20:5,6) are synonymous, "rapture" and "snatch away" (cf 1 Thess.4:17) are synonymous.

     Actually, it is not the custom of the Concordant Publishing Concern to use this word ("rapture") in its teaching ministry; the only exception would be in speaking informally, or if we should make reference to the teachings of others, ones who use this term quite freely.

     The word "rapture" itself, however, is a perfectly good English word. Indeed, one of its definitions is in reference to the Pauline prophecy of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 in which the apostle declares that, in that day, the believers will be "snatched away" (or "raptured") to meet the Lord in the air. This is because the English "rapture" is a close derivative of the Latin word for "snatch [away]" (viz., rapere) which was used in the Latin Vulgate translation of the New Testament.

     The question at issue does not at all concern this word itself (much less the popular prejudice of many, ones on both sides of the actual issue), but only whether this "snatching away" (or "rapture") of which Paul speaks is before or after the time of Israel's great affliction ("tribulation," AV). Fundamentally, the question is whether the presence of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a distinct event, an event which is not a phase of or otherwise connected with the presence of Christ as recorded in Matthew 24, at the time of His return to the earth.

Together With the Lord

Concerning this question of the "snatching away" (or "rapture"), some have pointed out that, prior to the early nineteenth century, "church history" does not record the teaching of the pre-tribulational position. While this may well be so, such a consideration cannot be decisive for those who base their faith not upon church history but upon the Scriptures themselves. Much truth was lost very early, and at any given time, simply may not as yet have been recovered. Indeed, this could have easily been so insofar as those groups of believers which are recognized in extant historical works are concerned.

     Over the centuries, the great majority have denied the thousand-year, terrestrial reign of Christ itself. So it is not so surprising that church history would have no record of those who affirmed a pre-tribulational resurrection preceding it.

     In light of these facts, it becomes evident that those who, in their quest to repudiate the pre-tribulational, presence-of- Christ teaching, deride the word "rapture" or make appeals to church history, only expose their own ignorance and bias.

     If we are able to do so, let us by all means decide the question, Shall we go through the great affliction? (see pp.5-16). But in any case, may we freely be anticipating that happy and glorious day--let its relationship to other events be what it will--when we will be "snatched away" (or "raptured") together, to meet the Lord in the air, and thus always to be with Him (1 Thess.4:17). Accordingly, then, we are waiting for God's Son out of the heavens, Whom He rouses from among the dead, Jesus, our Rescuer out of the coming indignation (1 Thess.1:10).

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