“…though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9).
The apostle Paul cursed all those who preach a false gospel, be they men or angels (Gal 1:8-9). One such false gospel is the doctrine of premillennialism in all of its forms and varieties. And one of the foundations of premillennialism is the doctrine of the Rapture, a fictional event which has been inserted into the scriptures and placed between TWO returns of Christ. The Rapture initiates the taking up of the Church into heaven (1 Thess 4:14-17), and the restarting of the so-called prophetic clock, which ceased for Israel when they rejected Christ nationally (Matt 27:25). This restart precedes another fictional event, the future Great Tribulation (Matt 24:21, 29), or “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7), a period of seven years (Dan 9:25-27). Mid-way through this Tribulation the future fictional antichrist or “man of sin” (2 Thess 2:3-10) will turn on Israel and unleash a time of great tribulation upon the nation (Rev Chs 5 to 20). Christ will return with a heavenly army and cast the beast and the false prophet into the lake of fire, and all their followers.
Satan will be imprisoned for the period of the Millennium (Rev 20:1-4), during which time Jesus will reign over a world empire centred in Jerusalem and, at the beginning of this period, the Mosaic law will be re-established, and the Levitical priesthood and a full-blown sacrificial system in a fictional future temple will be reinstituted (Ezek chs 40-48); thus the prophetic clock will begin ticking from the point where it left off when Israel rejected Jesus and had him crucified, and will continue through the Millennium. At the end of the Millennium Satan will bring together all the unbelievers to fight against Christ and the saints but will be defeated at the battle of Armageddon, and Israel will be taken up to be with Christ forever.
This complicated compartmentalised eschatological system of several dispensations has come about because of a wrong application of prophecies made to Israel by the Old Testament prophets and consequently a misunderstanding of Israel and the Church. The apostle Peter shows how all the titles and terms used for Israel have now been transferred to the Church (1 Pet 2:1-10) because God has rejected Israel and given their sonship status to the Church (Matt 21:33-43 and Matt 22:2-7; Eph chs 2 and 3). The Church is thus known as the new Israel and is the fulfilment of the prophecies made to Israel in the OT. This is confirmed in Hebrews chs 8-10 where God abrogated the old covenant with its animal sacrifices and replaced it with a new covenant based on the once-for-all sacrifice offered up by Jesus. And Jesus is the permanent replacement of the Levitical priesthood: “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 7:21). The Levitical priesthood is no more. It is gone forever, along with the whole Old Covenant. Hebrews clearly says that the Old Covenant was temporary and insufficient to satisfy for sins, and that the New Covenant is permanent.
Jesus’ timeline of the last things
Jesus himself gave a concise timeline of what will happen at the end time. And he repeated it so that there can be no confusion. In his timeline there is no room for the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, or the Millennium – these ideas are doctrines invented by men, manufactured by wrong application of various bible passages. It is only when we consider what Jesus taught that we can see why these doctrines are so bizarre, and amount to a false gospel which is foreign to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and his once-for-all sacrifice on behalf of sinners.
In Matthew chapter 13 Jesus gave what are commonly called Parables of the Kingdom. The two of these parables which give a timeline for the end of time are those of the wheat and the tares (Matt
13:24-30 and its explanation in 36-43); and of the dragnet (Matt 13:47-52).
In the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds) Jesus gave the parable which was symbolism for the end time, and later when his disciples asked him to explain it to them, he gave the timeline in a nutshell. The sower of the good seeds is Jesus, and the wheat are believers in him and in the gospel; the tares are unbelievers; the enemy who sowed the tares is Satan; the harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are the angels. The unbelievers will be gathered and cast into the fire of hell – “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:41-43).
The parable of the dragnet tells the same story using a different analogy. As Joseph said to Pharaoh after he had interpreted his dreams of the fat and lean cows and the fat and lean ears of corn: “And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” (Gen 42:32).
The parable of the dragnet is this: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:47-50).
The apostle Paul elaborates on Jesus’ sending forth of his angels (see 1 Thess 4:13-17) in which he describes the return of Jesus in great glory and power. This passage has been hijacked by Premillennialists to teach the Rapture, an event at least a thousand years before Jesus returns to make all things right. However, rather than it being stage one of Jesus’ return, as Premillennialists wistfully imagine, it is a single event foretold by Jesus which will end time and usher in the biblical new age (not the occultic New Age of our present time). Paul charged Timothy with a vital instruction: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick [living] and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Tim 4:1). The KJV in this text fixes the great Day of Judgment as occurring at the time of Jesus’ appearing and his kingdom.
As Paul states it here, it will be an event awesome in the truest and fullest sense of the word, and vast in its proportion, and will be seen by the whole world all at once. It will be no secret, invisible, silent, rapture, an event in which the whole Church will be whisked away and when those who are “left behind” will wake up on the morning after the event and wonder where all the Christians went. Christ himself will descend with a shout; a shout which will shake the earth and wake even the dead! The archangel will blow the trump of God and this, too, will shake the world and every person in it. It will be the final event in time, an event that strikes sheer terror into the hearts of the wicked (i.e. those who refused to believe in Jesus); but believers will be thrilling with joy and excitement as they see their beloved Saviour come to deliver them from “the whole world which lieth in wickedness” (1 Jn 5:19): “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first…”. This is in precise agreement with Jesus’ description in Matthew 13. It is not the Rapture of Premillennialism; it is the end of time. Paul elsewhere describes it as: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:52).
Where, in either Jesus’ or Paul’s accounts, do we find the Great Tribulation or the millennial reign of Jesus? They are not there and cannot be fitted anywhere in there. They are human inventions which, like a spell, have enchanted untold numbers of Christians ever since they were introduced by John Nelson Darby and popularised by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield and his lying Study Bible; and Tim LaHaye has perpetuated the deception and become rich from the sale of his endless number of books on the subject.
As for the passage in Matthew 24:38-41 where “two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken the other left”, the simple explanation is that when Jesus comes at this great event, the world will be engaged in its everyday activities – “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage”, busy at their usual occupations, when Christ shall come unexpectedly; and then the vessels of mercy prepared for glory, the wheat, will be caught up together with him, and the vessels prepared for wrath, the tares, will be gathered by the angels and cast into the lake of fire.
Premillennialism is a false gospel which abrogates the finished work of Christ, nullifies the New Covenant, negates the priesthood of Christ by returning Israel to the Levitical priesthood with its priestly garments, reintroduces temple sacrifices, has Jesus returning to the earth twice instead of the one single time he promised, and a virtual host of other problems and unbiblical notions, all of which give Jew and Gentile sinners false expectation and false hope. Rightly does the apostle Paul condemn and curse it.
Discussion of the doctrine with a pastor
In a discussion I had online concerning the doctrine of the Rapture and future Millennium with an Independent Baptist pastor, who is also a friend, he wrote: “To your next set of bullets, I will answer briefly. Yes, the church will give glory to Christ throughout all ages, world without end. But I wonder if you are assuming WHERE that will take place. It doesn’t say ‘on earth’ yet it sounds like you are adding that. The church will be in heaven giving glory throughout all ages once that rapture takes place. Under this point you also mention that you believe the Rapture is Post-tribulational, if I grasp you correctly”.
In my reply, I wrote: “No, I don’t think you have (grasped me correctly). In my theology there is no Rapture or Great Tribulation. The Rapture, as you call it, is what happens when Jesus returns – ONCE and for all. When Jesus comes back at this time, the dead in Christ arise and the living are both taken up to meet him in the air, and that is the end. The wicked are judged and cast into hell and the righteous go to be with Christ forever”.
The pastor further stated following my interruption: “I would comment that after the Rapture, there will be hundreds of thousands saved, perhaps into the millions, during the Tribulation. The ones who survive the Antichrist’s persecution will be the sheep, the lost survivors of the Tribulation will be the goats – all described in Matthew 25:31ff. If your interpretation were right, how would you fit 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51ff into the dragnet/wheat and tares scenario? I conclude that they have to be describing two separate events. There’s just no way to combine them into one”.
Me: “As I said, there will be no Tribulation or Rapture so there is no such event that has to fit these two passages into the dragnet/wheat and tares scenario. The Rapture is simply the return of Jesus so it all happens together, as one event”.
The pastor: “That turning away from Israel came when He offered Himself to the Jews as King, and they rejected Him by saying, ‘Away with Him! Crucify Him!’. God turned to the ‘nation’ or Gentile churches (which we have over the centuries proved to primarily be. Jews are rarely seen in New Testament assemblies, are they?). This is all true. At the Rapture, however, that Gentile church is removed and taken to heaven for our Judgment Seat of Christ, where rewards will be distributed. Meanwhile on earth, the nation of Israel becomes the primary entity of God again, and the 70th week of Daniel occurs. By the end of it, the remaining nation of Israel is converted. Both the entity of Israel and the entity of the church have a role to play in the Millennium and in the eternal state afterward. This is seen in Revelation 21:12-14 where both Israel and the church are represented”.
Me: “Does this mean that there will be no Jews in the church, seeing the nation of Israel is there and alongside the church as a separate entity? If there are saved Jews in the church during the Millennium, will they be transferred across to Israel so that there are only Gentiles in the church and only physical or national Jews in national Israel? Why would there be a church in the Millennium when the church has already been raptured? And what does this ‘millennial’ church do with regard to the Millennial Temple and the sacrificial system? Do they have separate worship places to Israel, and different ways of doing worship? Why should the church be involved with a Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system in a Millennial Temple anyway? Your description of the Millennium is very confusing. It seems that both Israel and the Church have to do it all over again in the Millennium.
In the current “church age” Pre-Millennium Israel is rejected and the Church is born and becomes the new people of God (according to you). But during this period, you say, Jews can still be saved by faith in Christ and the gospel. They therefore become part of the Church and become one body, and all remember Christ’s sacrifice and atonement together as they take the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper, you say (Eph 2:11-22.)
But then the Church, which consists of saved Gentiles and saved Jews, is raptured away, and all unbelievers are left behind, according to your theology. But through the Tribulation, Jews and Gentiles who were left behind have a second chance to put their faith in Jesus….or whatever. But I don’t know what it is that you say they’re meant to put their trust in – is it in the gospel of Jesus slain for sinners?….or do they look forward to a thousand year reign of Christ centred in Jerusalem on earth, and with a new temple and restored sacrificial system with Levitical priesthood, all of which is identical to the Old Covenant?
If it is in Christ’s atonement, why was the previous church raptured away? Why didn’t Jesus just leave them on earth? What was the point of taking the church away only to start another church from scratch all over again during the Millennium?
And why is Israel restored to its former law and sacrifice obedience and way of atonement and worship, as if nothing had happened in between the OT and the Millennium? Why do they have to have their Old Covenant system with Christ ruling over it, when the Church is there as well, trusting the gospel…?
If what you say is true, Jesus presides over an incomplete salvation for the Jews and a perfect salvation for the church at the same time….? When does Israel get the chance to be free of animal sacrifices, in which God takes no pleasure (Heb 10:8)? The whole of Heb chapters 8-10 speaks of the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, of the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Levitical priesthood, of the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice over that of animals; and that Christ’s perfect sacrifice was once and forever. Why is it shunted aside in the Millennium, and Israel left to obey the law, when Peter in the NT said this was a burden which was too heavy for the Jews to bear (Acts 15:10)? It seems to me, if I’ve understood you correctly, Premillennialism with its focus on Israel is beset with insurmountable problems”.
The temple in Ezekiel’s prophecy cannot be a literal, future, building which houses the holy place from which God rules Israel, and a Levitical priesthood, and in which animal sacrifices for sin take place. This denies the gospel and is therefore a different gospel which is no gospel because it is not good news (Gal 1:6-8). This would be a major backward step by God, and would restore an imperfect sacrificial system of making people right with him. This doctrine has God, who was said to be pleased when Jesus made atonement on the cross, and when he found fault with animal sacrifices (Heb 8:7-9), now reinstating that which Christ died to abrogate. It has him bringing Israel back under the law, a yoke and a burden which they were unable to bear (Acts 15:10); and which they will have to bear for a thousand years. Paul is clear when he writes: “….the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).
Whatever your theology of the end times, you cannot accept the view that there will be a literal millennial temple with a fully restored sacrificial system to atone for sin, and a Levitical priesthood which performs those sacrifices exactly as they did before Christ came to abolish the Old Covenant and to establish the New Covenant. You cannot have a thousand year reign of Christ on earth with him presiding over the reinstated Old Covenant which was insufficient and temporary. You cannot have Christ presiding over a system which brings people into bondage, a system which he gave his life to abolish.
“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matt 9:16-17).