Tom and guest Paul Wilkinson discuss the Rapture of the church and Israel in prophecy.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could be here. In today’s program, Tom continues his special four-part series with guest Paul Wilkinson, author of For Zion’s Sake, Prophets who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and Christian Palestinianism. Now, with his guest, here’s TBC Executive Director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. My guest for today’s program and for, well, this week—hopefully maybe the next couple of weeks, we’ll see how that goes—is Paul Wilkinson, who is—well, he’s speaking to us from England, actually Oldham, which is near Manchester, England. We’re just about 5,000 miles away. And he’s the author of For Zion’s Sake, and he has some booklets we—not only that book, but the booklets that we offer at The Berean Call, Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and another one titled Christian Palestinianism, and we’re really thankful that Paul and his pastor are co-authoring a book—they’re in process now of putting it together—called Israel Betrayed. I think we got a first chapter just recently that Barb is editing, right, Paul?
Paul: That’s right, yeah.
Tom: Yeah. Now, last week I mentioned that we wanted to talk about, in this program, we want to start out with something—a huge controversy and, for the life of me, I can’t understand why, but it’s a doctrine—and I mean a doctrine—a biblical doctrine teaching called "the Rapture.” Now, Paul, as I mentioned last week, growing up in Roman Catholicism for thirty-some years…
Tom: …if somebody would have mentioned that to me, I would have thought, What are you talking about? Obviously, the Roman Catholic Church has a different view of eschatology, a different view of prophecy, and when it comes to something like the Rapture of the church, I was clueless.
Tom: You know, and the interesting thing about that is when I got saved and people started telling me about the Rapture and about prophecy, I couldn’t get more excited!
Tom: And I’m, you know, this is 35 years later, and I’m more excited about it now than I was at the beginning. But that’s not the case in the church, which really grieves me. So, explain the Rapture.
Paul: Well, the Rapture, the clearest statement on the Rapture, was made by the Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 4, referring to the time when the Lord Jesus would descend from heaven through the clouds, and He would do so with the cry of command that would be given, and there would be the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet call of God. And then as Paul says in that passage, when He does [descend], the dead in Christ, those asleep in Jesus, will rise first. They’ll be resurrected from the grave. And then we who are alive, who are left alive on planet Earth when Jesus comes from His heavenly throne, Paul says, “We will be caught up together with them”-- those who have been resurrected, their bodies resurrected -- and we’ll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. And those English words in our Bibles, “caught up,” they come from a Greek word harpazo, and that can be translated to “snatch away,” “to catch away,” “to take somebody from one place to another,” “to seize suddenly,” and in the Latin translation of the Bible, we have a word—I forget whether it’s rapere or rapturo—but that’s the word from which we derive our English word “Rapture.” It’s being caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air, and there’s nothing that has to happen. There are no prophecies that have to be fulfilled for the Lord Jesus to come and—not come to planet Earth, not to return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem—but to come into the clouds in the air to take His bride, the true church, and to take us, the true bride, to the Father’s house, and to the Judgment Seat of Christ, and to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and that’s the Rapture. That’s the blessed hope that Paul talks about in Titus 2 as well.
Tom: And there’s so many verses that support that. And the thing that shocks me, Paul, is that people are saying, “Oh no, this is some kind of esoteric, secret…you know, this isn’t there, they’re making it up,” and so on. it’s as clear as it can be. But aside from being clear, it’s the most exciting thing that any believer could think about.
Paul: Absolutely, and I think for the believer who has come to the cross of Christ and understood that salvation is through what the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross—that once and for all atoning sacrifice for our sin—for the believer, the doctrine of the Rapture is the most important, most urgent doctrine. And the enemy knows this; Satan knows this, and so his task is to rob the church, rob believers of the blessedness of the blessed hope by getting them distracted, by telling them that “No, you’ve got to go through the period of the great tribulation that is to come. You’ve got to face the antichrist, the mark of the beast,” and all of that that you read about in the book of Revelation, when what the Lord said through the Apostle Paul when he was talking about the Rapture was, “Encourage one another with these words.” That is what the message of the Rapture should do! It should encourage us to look up, to keep trusting in our Savior no matter what we go through in our lives, because Jesus is coming, and that’s the message He gave throughout His ministry…
Paul: …that’s the message right throughout the New Testament: “Behold, I am coming soon.”
Tom: Yeah. And, Paul, when you hear some of these—I can’t say it another way, there’s condescending remarks that supposedly have merit, which—they’re just stupid. For example, you’ve heard them, you’ve heard them all: “Well, it’s a helicopter theory. It’s a bailout. It’s a— you know, we’re not going to be ready to face this,” and so on. Anybody who reads the verses—you gave a number of them, but there are a number more—it talks about how it is a cleansing thing.
Tom: Let me give you an example, and you know my wife, Peggy—when Peg goes away, you know, she says, “Well, I don’t know exactly when I’m going to be back, but it could be at anytime.” Paul, what do you think about my house cleaning? Am I going to really keep up with all those things if I don’t know when she’s going to return? You better believe it! On the other hand, if I know when she’s going to return, then when do I start cleaning the house? It’s like the day before, correct?
Paul: Yup, yup, correct.
Tom: So, I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Tom: And that’s what—again, aside from my, you know, silly illustration, it is a cleansing thing. I look up, I’m waiting for the Lord, and He could return at any time, and I want my life and what I’m doing to please Him when I see Him. Anyway…
Paul: Yeah. Yeah, we don’t want to shrink back; we don’t want to shrink back in shame. We don’t want to have that regret, thinking, I didn’t know, I didn’t realize the urgency. I mean, that urgency you’re talking about comes all the way through the Scripture. I mean, the Apostle Paul himself, when he was writing to the Corinthians, spoke of feeling “a divine jealousy…”
Paul: …for the Corinthian church, because he as the apostle had betrothed them to one Husband. He was called to present the church in Corinth as a pure virgin to Christ, so that’s why, you know, he had to be very strong at times and say, “Look, that’s not right. This doctrine is wrong. Your practices, the way you’re living your lives—it’s not honoring to the Lord Jesus. You’re not ready to meet the Bridegroom.” And any true pastor will feel that divine jealousy for the flock of Christ, the congregation under their care, because they know Jesus could come back at any time. A true pastor will know that, and the flock that’s been entrusted to their care is the flock of Christ. We belong to Jesus. And that urgency is something that’s lacking in many parts of the church, they’re just asleep…
Paul: …feeling, “Well, we’ve got plenty of time…”
Paul: “…We’ve got to change society and we’ve got to build the kingdom,” when the message is clear: we’ve got to get ready, because Jesus is coming back.
Tom: And a major part of this: doctrine is so important. What am I talking about doctrine? Doctrine just means the teachings of our Lord.
Tom: But these doctrines that we’re addressing are so critically important. As I mentioned, I grew up Roman Catholic, and where I’m going with this is what I understood about the Church and what it was doing and so forth—and I want to get at replacement theology. As you know, I wrote an article called, “Is Your Eschatology Showing?”, eschatology meaning, “What are you thinking about with regard to the last days, the end times, the return of the Lord, or not the return of the Lord?” whatever it might be, and these things, especially today—we talked last week about John Nelson Darby, what he was up against…
Tom: …but it’s the same today. The prevailing view in Christianity, professing Christianity, is not just amillennialism, post-millennialism, these things that really mitigate against things like the Rapture of the church, or what the eschatology that the Scripture clearly lays out, and they are more than—I want to say vile, but it almost goes beyond that. And one of the things we need to talk about right now is replacement theology. Address that for a second.
Paul: Well, those who are propagating, teaching, writing from that theological position that we’re referring to as replacement theology, many of them—in the same breath—they are scoffing at the doctrine of the Rapture. They’re saying that the doctrine of the Rapture was the invention of John Nelson Darby. Nobody had ever even heard of the Rapture until the 19th century. Well, if that was the case, you could say, “Well, nobody had ever heard of justification by faith in Christ alone until Calvin and Luther came onto the scene.” No, these doctrines were recovered at certain times by men that the Lord raised up, and the Lord certainly raised up John Nelson Darby and the Brethren. Now, those who are advocating a replacementist or supersessionist position, they are saying that because Israel as a nation rejected their Messiah, the Lord Jesus, that God in turn rejected or cast off the nation of Israel and replaced that nation with a new people of God, the “true Israel,” as they refer to it, as the spiritual Israel, the new Israel, namely the church. And so all the promises, all the prophecies you read about in the Old Testament whereby God says He’s going to re-gather His people to the land and He’s going to rebuild the walls of Zion and Israel will become chief among the nations, all these promises and prophecies have to now be reinterpreted and applied to the church. And so the church becomes the inheritor of promises that relate to this earth, that relate to the land of Israel, that relate to the nations roundabout Israel. And so what it does, it actually roots the church in this world, when in fact, as Paul says, “We are seated with Christ Jesus in heavenly places.”
Paul: We’re a heavenly people; we’re a spiritual people. We live on this earth, but we’re just passing through. This earth is today; this isn’t our final home, our final destiny. We are going to be taken to the Father’s house. So those who are saying, “Well, we are the true Israel and there’s no further significance whatsoever in the Jewish nation or in the land of Israel or the city of Jerusalem,” they’re saying that simply has historic importance. It has no prophetic significance whatsoever, and Israel today is no longer significant in terms of what the Bible says. They are not only robbing Israel of Israel’s rightful inheritance, but they are robbing the church. They are exchanging our inheritance in Christ for the inheritance that has been given to Israel, and that’s one of the tragedies of this doctrine. And it’s been in the church for the best part of 2,000 years.
Tom: And, Paul, we talked about this last week, they’re making God out to be a liar! You know, I hope our listeners understand what we’re trying to do here, last week, this week, is set a foundation for some of the people that our listeners may have heard of, may know, but there is something going on that is—it’s just vicious in terms of its attack on God’s Word, on the Scriptures, and has come into the church that—we’re talking about subversives within the church, and they are out to destroy Israel; they’re out to destroy biblical Christianity by what they’re saying, what they’re teaching, and so on. It’s pretty complicated, but I think by us laying out Christian Zionism, the Rapture, defining those things according to the Scriptures, we’re going to be able to deal with a term that you’ve coined “Christian Palestinianism.”
Paul: Well, the thing is, Tom, it’s important to say that many people that hold to replacement theology that don’t see Israel today as having any significance prophetically, biblically; they say 1948, when Israel was reestablished was a political accident that needs to be reversed: it was a tragedy, a catastrophe for the Palestinian people. They claim that they are actually extolling Christ, that they’re elevating Jesus, and the way they do this, they say, “Well, look, we don’t actually believe in replacement theology, we believe in fulfillment theology. We believe that the church has fulfilled those promises and prophecies given to Israel. And, you know, men like Stephen Sizer, and Gary Burge, and Tony Campolo, and Hank Hanegraaff and many others that are in this—what I’ve called the Christian Palestinianist Camp—they’re actually saying, “Look, Jesus is Israel. Jesus is the land. Jesus is Jerusalem. Jesus is the temple. God is not interested anymore in one ethnic nation, one piece of land in the Middle East. He’s interested in all peoples, and He wants all people to become part of the people of God.” Well, that’s absolutely true. That’s what the church is: it’s Jew and Gentile, one new man in Christ Jesus, but not at the expense of the one nation which God chose out of all the nations of the earth to be His treasured possession.
Paul: We read that in Exodus:19:5, Deuteronomy:7:6, Amos:3:2, and a host of other places: God made a sovereign choice that through the nation of those Hebrew slaves that came out of Egypt, He would bring salvation to the world, light to the Gentiles. And what many who are calling themselves evangelicals today, what they are doing is they are robbing God of His glory, and they are actually striking at the very heart of who He is as a faithful, covenant-keeping God.
Tom: Paul, this whole process, what you’ve just articulated, you can’t come up with these things unless you move away from understanding the things that need to be taken literally in the Scriptures need to be taken literally. And the opposite of that is to spiritualize all those things. So we’ve moved from an objective understanding of God’s Word—it says what it means, it means what it says—listen, we know the difference between something figurative and something literal. Well, you know, it’s a little difficult sometimes, but I wouldn’t think that God’s a chicken because, you know, He covers us with His feathers.
Tom: On the other hand, when you begin to interpret the Bible spiritually, you end up with an incredibly subjective realm that anything goes! You can say whatever you want, and you can’t argue with it…
Tom: …so, we’ve got to come back to the plain, the simple, the clear teaching of Scripture, what it says, and understand it. The issue of not being able to recognize the difference between something, or taking something literally and figuratively—well, as I mentioned, growing up in Roman Catholicism, the Catholics say, “Well, you evangelicals, you take everything literally in the Bible.” No, we don’t. But on the other hand, the Catholics take one item, you know, one teaching literally that’s figurative, and that is the Eucharist.
Tom: The Eucharist is communion for the Catholics, and it says that what they are eating, what they are ingesting, is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Well, folks, I don’t want to offend here, but if that were the case, the Bible condemns it, because basically it’s cannibalism, all right, which the Bible speaks against. But the point is is that this is John 6 primarily, they go through those verses and they say, “Oh, no, Jesus was speaking literally.” No, He’s not speaking literally, and He makes that clear in John:6:63. It says, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” I mean, that’s what that whole dissertation of the Lord is about. He’s the bread of life.
Well, anyway, Paul, as we can see, when you begin to interpret the Bible, and I think we’re going to talk about this more to show how these folks who are contrary, who are against, really, the sound doctrine—Scripture says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine—” they’re against sound doctrine, well, they have to have some way of dealing with it, and it’s through spiritualizing the Scriptures, which is really deadly.
Paul: Yeah, and that method of interpreting the Bible, that came into the church at a very early age, at the very early stage after the apostles had gone to glory. I mean, there’s one man in particular, a man by the name of Origen based in Alexandria in Egypt, and he taught allegory. He said that Christians had to dig deep into the Scriptures and find the deeper, higher spiritual meaning, so you couldn’t take the Word of God literally, you couldn’t take Bible prophecy literally when God was referring to the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, because God was only interested in spiritual things. This is the difference that Jesus made; and so Origen was tremendously influential in the early church. He greatly impacted Augustine, who we mentioned in the last program. Nobody more significant than Augustine, because he’s one of the theological doctors of the Roman Catholic church.
Paul: The Roman Catholic church dogmas are heavily rooted in Augustine, but so are the creeds and catechisms of the Protestant church. John Calvin [and] Martin Luther were Augustinian through and through, and they spiritualized the Scriptures. And so today, we’ve got a whole host of people in the church in their pulpits, you know, writing their books, their websites, their blogs, their facebook pages, and these men who are denying Israel’s place, who are applying Israel’s promises and prophecies to the church, they almost, to a man, go back to John Calvin.
Paul: The Lord Jesus in His time, didn’t He contend against the traditions of the elders? It wasn’t the teaching of God’s Word anymore, it was the teachings of the Pharisees and the rabbis of that day, and they were putting a yoke upon the people, the Jewish people that Jesus was trying to set them free from. And nothing has changed; it’s happened in the church…
Paul: …a yoke has been put upon the minds of believers so that they have to interpret Scripture according to what a particular figure from church history or a particular tradition of church teaching has said.
Tom: You know, it destroys—I think about Paul’s missionary journey when he came to the Greek city of Berea. He went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now, I’d like our listeners to think about what you’ve just described, the reaction of these Jews in the synagogue, which they are commended by Luke in the book of Acts—this is Acts:17:10,11 basically—it says that, “They listened to what the apostle Paul had to say, but then they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Well, that can’t happen if somebody’s spiritualizing the Scriptures, because there’s no way to check it out.
Paul: No, you have to learn, you have to be taught, you have to have this theology imposed upon you. It’s like being given a pair of spectacles with which you read the Scriptures. God hasn’t given us those lenses, you know, He’s given us His Spirit so that we can all understand His Word. You know, He’s put teachers and pastors to help us along the way, but this doctrine, whether you call it amillennialism, replacement theology, fulfillment theology, whatever label we give to it, it is a doctrine of demons; it’s not the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it’s not the doctrine of Jesus Christ, it is something that’s been imposed upon the minds of believers throughout the generations, and we’re called to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ and say, “Go back to the Scriptures! Let the Lord cleanse your mind of these doctrines so that you can see clearly what He has said, what He has declared in His Word.”
Tom: Right. Paul, we’re out of time for this segment, but the Lord willing, next week we’re really going to be jumping into the swamp that’s filled with alligators. You know, I say that sort of tongue in cheek, but honestly, when our listeners hear what you—(chuckles) now listen, I don’t want to embarrass you here, but you’re one of the kindest, gentlest people that I know—but you are among those who are addressing these things that we’re talking about viciously. And I think our listeners will get a sense of that as we talk about Christian Palestinianism, the anti-Israel crusade, how the church, professing church, organizations, things like World Vision, individuals who many evangelicals in this country have come to respect—they are anti-Semitic, and whether they know it or not, in their approach to the Scriptures, in their approach to Israel, and it is a tragedy in the church, and the Lord willing, we’ll cover that next week. So, in the meantime Paul, God bless you, and Lord willing, we’ll see you next week.
Paul: Thank you, Tom. God bless you too.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, OR, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at the bereancall.org. In our next program, Tom will continue his four-part series with Paul Wilkinson, author of For Zion’s Sake, Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and Christian Palestinianism. We hope you can be here. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.