“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The Church Age
Many Apostolics believe the Church will go through the Tribulation. In fact, those who are promoting so-called “End-Time Revival” in the Church Age are obviously compelled to so teach. However, careful analysis of the Scriptures reveals the untenable nature of such a position. FOR THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, THE MYSTICAL BODY AND BRIDE OF JESUS CHRIST, IS UNEQUIVOCALLY SHOWN BY THE SCRIPTURES TO BELONG TO AN AGE IN WHICH DIVINE WRATH IS KEPT IN ABEYANCE BY ITS VERY PRESENCE IN THE WORLD!
The Church of Jesus Christ, by definition, is an administrative instrument of the Grace of God. And as such, it is a contradiction in terms with the Great Tribulation—a time when this Age of Grace will be but another by-gone era. Those who would place the Church on earth during the Tribulation have not properly discerned the Body of Christ and have misapplied various prophetic passages of Scripture. In short, they are guilty of failing to recognize the true purpose of the Church.
The Purpose of the Church
What is the true purpose of the Church? Simply this: to administer the “economy” or the dispensation of the Grace of God to the world. (Eph. 3:2-7) We are to be “stewards” or administrators of the Grace of God, according to the Apostle Peter: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Pet. 4:10) Likewise, the Apostle Paul concurs: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29)
Therefore, it comes as no surprise whatsoever to discover that anyone who has ever become a part of this glorious Church has done so by the Grace of God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith….” (Eph. 2:8) Moreover, regardless of what we become or what we achieve as a part of the Church, it must surely be attributed to the Grace of God. “But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace, which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Cor. 15:10)
The Arena of Grace
Furthermore, it is only in the confines of this arena of Grace that the “gratuities of Grace” (charismata—commonly called the Gifts of the Spirit) may be found. (I Cor. 12:4) Additionally, the Church is the dispenser of “Grace Lessons” through the offices of the ministry: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us….” (Titus 2:11-12) AND IT IS THE CHURCH ALONE WHOSE PREROGATIVE IT IS TO BOLDLY APPROACH THE THRONE OF GRACE TO FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED! (Heb. 4:16)
Thus, as long as the Church of Jesus Christ is present in this world, the unrestrained wrath of God cannot be poured out upon the earth. Why? Because the Church is the visible representative of the invisible presence of the Spirit of Jesus Christ working on earth to sanctify a People for His Name. The Tribulation, it should be noted, is “the great day of His wrath.” (Rev. 6:17) Thus, THE PURPOSE OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION IS IN DIAMETRIC OPPOSITION TO THE MINISTRY OF GRACE THAT IS INCUMBENT UPON THE CHURCH.
We are not in Darkness
When dealing with the subject of the Tribulation, the Apostle Peter makes it very clear that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Such is the very essence of the message of the Gospel of Christ. Nevertheless, he goes on, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night….” (II Pet. 3:9-10) The Apostle Paul’s words are essentially the same: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” However, we must not fail to notice the important clarification which Divine Inspiration provides us—“BUT YE, BRETHREN, ARE NOT IN DARKNESS, THAT THAT DAY SHOULD OVERTAKE YOU AS A THIEF.” (I Thes. 5:2,4)
Apparently, some have mistaken “persecutions and tribulations”—with which the Church has always had to contend—with the seven-year period of Tribulation known as Jacob’s Trouble, or the Seventieth Week of Daniel. (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1) Yet, although the Lord will allow His People to be tried, it is utterly inconceivable that His Bride would ever be the object of His divine wrath. “For”, says the Apostle, “God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ….” (I Thes. 5:9)
Wrath of God: Comfort?
How tragic it is to consider that the return of Christ for His Saints (which was originally a blessed hope and a source of comfort—Titus 2:13; I Thes. 5:11) has become an event which is anticipated with not a little trepidation by many honest and sincere Apostolics. Interestingly enough, there is not a single shred of Scriptural support for the claim many are making that the Church will be on earth during the Tribulation.
As a matter of fact, quite the opposite is true. Notice carefully the words of the Apostle Paul concerning this matter: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ (i.e., the Lord) is at hand (present). Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a (the) falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…. And now ye know what withholdeth (restraineth) that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth (hindereth) will let (continue to hinder) until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked (one) be revealed….” (II Thes. 2:1-8)
Based on this much maligned and oft misunderstood passage, there are two critical events that must happen before the “day of the Lord” (i.e., the Tribulation) can begin: first, there must come a “falling away”; and then the “man of sin” must be revealed.
Who among us would doubt that the first of these criteria has already been met? That the majority of nominal Christendom possesses only a powerless shell of what the Gospel is supposed to be is an unimpeachable witness to this fact. Every church that claims to be Christian but does not preach and practice the Apostolic message of Acts 2:38 is but another tendril of the vine of Apostasy that began at Babylon and worked its way to Rome.
What, then, can be said about the unveiling of the identity of the anti-Christ? First of all, it should be noted that HE CANNOT BE REVEALED UNTIL A CERTAIN “RESTRAINING FORCE” IS REMOVED. Verses 6, 7 and 8 of II Thessalonians chapter 2 give proof of this fact. This restraining force cannot but be the Body of Christ, which is His Church. Witness the words of the Apostle: “To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (II Cor. 5:19-20) What more evidence could be desired to show that as long as the Church of Jesus Christ is present in it, it would be at least counter-productive for the Lord to dispense His wrath upon this world?!
Thus, it becomes clear that the Tribulation cannot begin until the anti-Christ has been revealed. And the anti-Christ will not be known until the Church is “taken out of the way”. This event, commonly called the “Rapture”, has been imminent ever since the very days of the Apostles. It is obvious, for example, that the Apostle Paul anticipated the return of Christ for the Church in his days. “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them who are asleep….” (I Thes. 4:15-17) The observant reader will notice that NOT A SINGLE PROPHECY EXISTS THAT MUST BE FULFILLED BEFORE THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH!
If, however, the Church must go through the Tribulation before it is raptured, then the rapture has not been imminent since 70 A.D., nor is it imminent now. For if anything at all about the Tribulation is obvious, it is the fact that the anti-Christ is going to cause “the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” in the middle of the week (7-year period) of Jacob’s Trouble. (Dan. 9:27) This is referred to in Scripture as the “abomination of desolation.” (Matt. 24:15)
Unless we are to seriously entertain the unlikely notion that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. fulfilled this prophecy, then Israel must begin the process of animal sacrifices again some time before the middle of the Tribulation. And although virtually everything necessary for the sacrifices and the oblations to resume is in place—indeed, they may already have resumed by now—the fact still remains that for over nineteen centuries there have been no sacrifices and oblations which an anti-Christ could have caused to cease.
Thus, it is certain that the Tribulation could not have reached its mid-point at any time in the history of the Church until now. Therefore, IF, as many are claiming, THE CHURCH MUST GO THROUGH THE TRIBULATION, THE RAPTURE HAS NOT BEEN IMMINENT AT ANY TIME SINCE 70 A.D.!
Why? Simply because the presence of contingent factors destroys the quality of imminency. In other words, if the Tribulation cannot occur without animal sacrifices in Israel, and if the Rapture is to occur after the Tribulation (as some suppose), then the fact that there have been no animal sacrifices in Israel means that the Tribulation could not occur, and as a result the Rapture has not been imminent. How could the Apostle have been so blind?!
Source of Confusion
Perhaps the source of most of the confusion on this subject is the failure to discern between the Scriptures pertaining to the Church (the seed of Abraham by faith), and those which deal exclusively with Israel (the seed of Abraham according to the flesh). It is unquestionably clear from the writings of the Apostle Paul to the Romans that God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew, i.e., the nation of Israel. Furthermore, blindness in part is happened unto Israel—UNTIL THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN. (Rom. 11:2,25)
Tragically, the Gentiles in the Bride of Christ all too often make the same mistake Israel made when it comes to understanding God’s plan for other Ages. Many times in our evangelistic zeal and fervor we make rash statements which cannot be substantiated with Scripture; e.g., “No one will be in Heaven who wasn’t baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.” For such a statement to be accurate it must be altered to indicate that anyone who hasn’t been baptized properly will be excluded from the BRIDE OF CHRIST, THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH. Otherwise, the vast array of Old Testament Saints would be as equally condemned as the unbelievers of this present age. Such, by the way, is the only explanation for the conversion of the penitent thief: like Abraham, he believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. But neither Abraham nor the penitent thief became members of the Bride of Christ!
Gentile Bride Foretold
The words of James, fresh with Holy Ghost anointing, give us a clear picture of God’s plan as he quotes from the ancient scrolls: “…God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up….” (Acts 15:14-16)
The Church, as has been aptly noted by others, was not an afterthought of God. Yet, many believe God turned to the Gentiles for a Church only because Israel had rejected Him. However, careful scrutiny and close analysis of the Scriptures reveal that Israel was a figure of the Church, and the Law of Moses was a “shadow of good things to come.” (I Cor. 10:6,11; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 9:23-24,10:1) And while Israel, as a nation, will not be a part of the Church, neither will the Church preempt the position of Israel as God’s natural people. (Rom. 11:23-24,28-29)
Children of Promise
It should be noted here that Israel’s rejection of the Messiah was largely due to the fact that in their zeal to see the Kingdom set up they had overlooked the sufferings of Messiah that were to precede it. And though literally thousands of the Jews believed, Israel as a nation did not receive the Gospel of Christ.
The explanation given by the Apostle Paul is illustrated by a simple allegory: the nation of Israel corresponds to Ishmael, who was born after the flesh; the Church answers to Isaac, who was the child of promise. (Gal. 4:21-31) Thus Israel remains to this day the “natural” or fleshly people of God—temporarily set aside, but in no wise cast away! And after the Church is taken out, God will once again turn to Israel. For “all Israel shall be saved.” (Rom. 11:1,26)
In the Days of Noah
In Enoch we see a clear type of the Church: “And Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.” (Gen. 5:24) The Church, like Enoch, will be taken out before the storm of the Wrath of God breaks out upon this sin-cursed world. Noah, on the other hand, prefigured Israel. God preserved Noah in the Ark of Safety while the flood with all its ferocity was unleashed around him. In like manner, Israel will be saved “out of Great Tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14)
A Glorious Church
In spite of the fact that part of it is somewhat misinformed—or uninformed—on this subject, the Church is looking for that Blessed Hope, even the appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. If we are to be the Bride of Christ, we must, however, make ourselves ready. (Rev. 19:7-8) Our Lord Jesus Christ so loved us, that He gave Himself for us, THAT HE MIGHT SANCTIFY AND CLEANSE US, AND PRESENT US—THE BRIDE—TO HIMSELF A GLORIOUS CHURCH, NOT HAVING SPOT, OR WRINKLE, OR ANY SUCH THING; BUT THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLEMISH! Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. AND EVERY MAN THAT HAS THIS HOPE IN HIM PURIFIES HIMSELF EVEN AS HE IS PURE! (Eph. 5:25-27; I John 3:2-3)
“Such, then, is the distinctive hope of Christianity: not pardon, not peace, most certainly not death, but the appearing in glory of Him Whom the world last saw as ‘the Crucified Jew’”.
—Sir Robert Anderson,
by Rev. Tim D. Cormier
Reprinted from the Apostolic Standard.
(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.