Tom and his guest, Dr. Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, discuss the Rapture of the Church from a biblical perspective.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could be here. In today’s program, Tom is joined by Tommy Ice, Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC Executive Director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. The topic for this program and our next one is the doctrine of the Rapture of the church, and our guest is Tommy Ice. Now, I don’t know of anyone I could have interviewed who would be better suited to inform us biblically about this very significant topic. He is the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, which he will tell us about. But first, Tommy, thanks for joining us on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Tommy: Well, thank you! It’s good to be with you. You must have a small circle of friends.
Tom: [laughs] I don’t think so, Tommy, but I’ll tell you, you’re one of the goodies. Now, Tommy, again, before you tell us about—well, actually, the why and how of the Pre-Trib Research Center and the Study Group conferences got started, I want you to give our listeners a basic definition of the biblical doctrine of the Rapture. Now, before you go there, I think back to when I became a born-again Christian after 30 years a Roman Catholic—well, I had never heard of the Rapture, and then, as a new believer, I had an insatiable appetite for the Bible and the things that my new evangelical friends were reading, and somebody gave me a copy of a book, very popular at the time, called The Late, Great Planet Earth, and that’s when I first heard of the Rapture, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I got about the teaching And I’m even more excited about it today some 35 years later. So, give us a biblical definition of the doctrine of the Rapture.
Tommy: Well, let me just say, I grew up Southern Baptist in Austin, Texas, and I, till I was 19 years old, don’t ever remember hearing about the Rapture myself. I mean, we were in church—I was there nine months before I was born, and we were there for every service. And it wasn’t until I went to Glorietta when I was 19 years old in New Mexico, a Southern Baptist camp, I heard a preacher from Hollywood, CA, from the First Baptist Church of Hollywood named Barry Woods speak on the Rapture.
Tommy: I was fascinated. I went up afterwards and talked to him and said, “Where can I learn more about this?” And he said—this was in 1970, and The Late Great Planet Earth had just come out, and he recommended that book, and that was my first exposure, as well…
Tommy: …to the Pre-Trib Rapture.
Tommy: And the Pre-Trib Rapture is the teaching in Scripture that Christ is going to rapture, or snatch up, or take up into heaven—into the clouds—believers before the 70th week of Daniel, or the Tribulation, begins. And it’s not two second comings, as some try to say, instead; it is a meeting in the air where the Lord returns [for] us without [our] facing death, and gives us our glorified resurrection bodies, and we return to the Father’s house. And I believe during the Tribulation period we experience the Bema Judgment of Christ where we are evaluated, and so the Bride has made herself ready as Revelation 19 talks about—the Bride being the church— and we return with Jesus Christ at the Second Coming. And so that’s the Second Coming, where He comes all the way down with us and puts His foot on the Mount of Olives, returns to earth, and that’s the Second Coming, and so these are two separate events.
Tommy: And the reason for the Rapture, the pre-trib Rapture, is to end the Church Age so that God can return, as Acts 15 says, and rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David—in other words, deal with the nation of Israel—and so that’s why the Rapture is needed is to remove the church so that Israel can be the instrument through which He works during the Tribulation that leads up to the Second Coming.
Tom: Yeah. And as Dave, my buddy Dave Hunt, who now is with the Lord, but as he says, in order for the Lord to bring us back, we’ve got to be there. [laughs] We’ve got to get there, and that’s certainly…
Tommy: That’s right!
Tom: …as you said, Tommy, that’s what the Rapture is about. It’s the time of the Bride, it’s getting ready for the wedding feast, to be there. We’re the Bride, and you know, Dave would love to say, “Are you ready for the wedding?” [laughs]
Tommy: Yes! [laughs]
Tom: Well, we need that blessed hope, first, of His return. Well, Tommy, now tell us about the Pre-Trib Research Center and Study Group. How and why did that get started?
Tommy: Well, Tim LaHaye contacted me because he had read a book I had written and some journal articles I had written and told me about his concern about—and this was in the early 90s, around ‘91, ‘92—about the beginning of the decline of people’s belief in the pre-trib Rapture. And so I met him at CBA Christian Booksellers, and we got together and wondered what we could do. Now, Tim LaHaye is the kind of guy—he’s started all kinds of organizations over the years…
Tommy: …and so that’s his natural instinct is to start an organization, and so that’s what we did: the Pre-Trib Research Center, where it was his idea to bring together the older veteran scholars, you know, like Dave Hunt or John Walvoord or Dwight Pentecost or Charles Ryrie, those kind of guys, and then bring in younger guys, hopefully, for them to pass the torch on to. And so we met the first year in ‘92 in the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, [Hilton?] and had about 35 people there, and we delivered papers and things like that in order to begin bolstering the doctrine of the pre-trib Rapture. And so then, I was hired full-time in ’94, and we are about this year going to have our 22nd annual meeting of the Pre-Trib Research Center, which is now open to the public—Pre-Trib Study Group—and so we’re going to be focusing on Israel this year. I know that was one of Dave Hunt’s loves, as well.
Tom: Exactly. Exactly, and, Tommy, the times that I’ve been there, they’re kind of exciting, because as you say, when you bring together the academics and those who are writing popularly on these doctrines, and to hear the exchanges, and [chuckles] they’re just great! You know, iron sharpens iron, and to see things that are being fleshed out and in some cases corrected, because, you know, we all don’t take the same perspective on some of these things, but to have the Word of God be a—listen, that’s our reference, that’s what we go to, and that’s certainly what you guys have done over the years from my experience with you.
Tommy, going back to some of the things that you’ve written—I’m thinking about Dominion Theology, which you wrote with Wayne House. Now, give us a little bit of background of that, because in our discussion here, in talking about the Rapture, we’re going to talk about people who have been antagonistic to the teaching of the Rapture and certainly your time with— involvement with— Christian Reconstructionism, with those who hold to an eschatology that would be contrary to what you wrote about in Dominion Theology—tell us about that.
Tommy: Well, back as early as the '70s, I started reading Christian Reconstructionists like Gary North and R.J. Rushdoony…
Tommy: …and I especially was interested in what North called “Christian economics.” And in the early days, you knew in the back of your mind that there were post-millennial…
Tom: Let’s define that for our listeners, post-millennial.
Tommy: Okay, okay. Yeah. There’s three views related to the Millennium, or the thousand-year reign of Christ, and of course the biblical view is the pre-millennial view which we hold, and that is that in Revelation 19 Jesus returns to Planet Earth; in Revelation 20, He sets up the Millennium, or the thousand-year reign, on earth. So that’s—Christ returns before the Millennium. And amillennialism is a view that was developed by Augustine, because in the early church, you had anti-millennialism, but before that, even, the earliest view was pre-millennialism. And so there were people from North Africa almost exclusively who were influenced by great philosophy, who didn’t want to take the thousand years literally…
Tommy: …and so they believed that the current age in which we lived was the Millennium, the church age.
Tom: Tommy, just to interject this, as I mentioned at the beginning, I grew up Roman Catholic.
Tom: We did not believe in the thousand-year reign of Christ. We believed that we were in the Millennium and some of the Reformers held to that kind of position, so this post-millennialism isn’t something new or [that] just came up, it is the part of amillennialism.
Tommy: Yeah, and they believed that Christ was—they’re basically like amillennialists, except they believe that through the preaching of the gospel, Christ is going to convert virtually the whole world to Christ, and before Christ returns, the world will willingly submit to the “law of Christ,” they call it, and to Jesus Christ Himself, and that period will go on for a long time, a thousand years or more…
Tommy: …and then after that, there’ll be a slight apostasy, and then Jesus will return and end history. And so post-millennialists believe that Christ returns after the Millennium. And so, it was very popular in the 1800s, late 1700s—actually, I think it was a product of the Enlightenment. That’s because man was getting a little better and all of this kind of stuff, the Reformation had…
Tom: Or so they thought. [laughs] Right?
Tommy: …done a lot in Europe. Yes! And so, up until, in the United States, the time of the Civil War, most Protestants were post-millennial, and for about 150 years there. And so pre-millennialism began to really catch on after the Civil War in the United States. Now, in Great Britain, it was more like the early 1800s that they experienced a shift…
Tommy: …and that led in Great Britain, and then the United States after the Civil War, to probably the greatest time of Bible exposition in the history of Christianity.
Tommy: And that’s what resulted in a renewed study of Bible prophecy, and the pre-trib Rapture. And, to kind of get ahead of things for just a moment, that’s why we’re seeing a decline of pre-tribulationalism, of pre-millennialism, and [the reason] everybody’s going back to the social gospel and all of these kinds of things is because they’re abandoning Bible exposition.
Tommy: They’re abandoning the Bible. So naturally pre-tribulationalism declines when that happens.
Tom: Exactly. And you know, we mentioned earlier before we started recording this that the Scripture—“The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” and we’re seeing this across the board. So, Christian Reconstructionism—that would be a latter day kind of Christian Reconstructionism, which we’re talking about here, that doesn’t go back to the 1800s that’s something that’s latter day. That’s something—what, the 70s, the 80s and so on, Tommy?
Tommy: The Father of the Christian Reconstruction Movement is R.J. Rushdoony who I believe in the 60s came out with Institutes of Biblical Law in which he showed that the American law was derived from the 10 Commandments from the Mosaic Law, and I think that’s right. But he argued that God is going to use this movement to revive Christianity, and the whole world’s going to be converted. And therefore the way of gauging how the church is doing is the extent to which they would follow the law, the Mosaic law, and all of this kind of stuff. Now, I bought into—that’s called theonomy, also means, “God’s law”— and I bought into that. I did not buy into the post-millennialism and then the preterism that came out in the 80s, but I considered it strongly.
Tommy: In fact, for about a day and a half I had decided to convert to post-millennial and preterism, and then I…
Tom: Preterism being what?
Tommy: The view that the book of Revelation and most prophecy was fulfilled in the 1st century around the events of the destruction of the temple in AD 70. So they don’t believe the book of Revelation is about the Second Coming, or—Matthew 24 is not. And for about a day and half, I believed that, and I realized when I was driving home from visiting them in Tyler, Texas that I could not really at the end of the day believe that, because I would have to throw under the bus, so to speak, Israel…
Tommy: …and I couldn’t—a literal Israel.
Tommy: Because the church replaces Israel within that theology, and about that time is when I met Dave Hunt…
Tommy: …and I was telling him about my forays into this, and of course he encouraged me to continue to pursue literal interpretation of Scripture. And even though I was a Dallas Seminary graduate, I realized I really hadn’t read a lot of our own people, like Ryrie and Walvoord. I went back and read them, because I had been reading the other side all this time, and I began to realize—I said, “You know, this stuff is really crazy.” So I ended up writing an article in Bibliotheca Sacra against the Reconstructionist Movement, and—that’s Dallas Seminary’s journal—and I ended up writing that book with Wayne House, because I had been reading them for fifteen years, or at least ten years, and I knew them inside and out.
Tommy: And that’s what launched me into becoming a specialist in the area of Bible prophecy, because of my near-disaster of converting to post-millennialism and preterism and coming back from the dark side, so to speak…
Tom: [laughing] Yeah.
Tommy: …into the light. That motivated me. And now we see that things like preterism and all this kind of stuff have had a tremendous impact…
Tommy: …you know, 25 years later.
Tom: Right. Well, Tommy, going back 25 years, people say, “Well, I’ve never heard of Christian Reconstructionism.” Let me tell you folks, this was no small movement. It also out of that—I believe, and you correct me, Tommy—came the Coalition on Revival, a kind of a political approach to all of this, which influenced many within the moral majority, the Christian Right and so on. Also, and you pick up on this, Tommy, there was an attempt, especially by Gary North, to combine with the Kingdom Dominionists of the Charismatic Pentecostal Movement and so on. So this was no small item back in the, you know, in the 70s and 80s.
Tommy: Right. Elements of the Christian Reconstruction Movement splintered off and impacted other movements, as you just said. Jay Grimstead, who was the head of the Coalition on Revival, was a clear reconstructionist. It’s when he converted to reconstructionism that he started COR, Coalition on Revival. And you’re right, there are in a sense two aspects of dominionism…
Tommy: …and one is the Reformed Movement, mainly Presbyterians, and all of them are not involved in this…
Tommy: …many are not, but you have that, being Rushdoony and North and many others like Greg Bahnsen, Gary DeMar, Ken Gentry, and others involved in it. But you also had the Pentecostal side that adopted a lot of this stuff, and they, of course, blended their Pentecostal mysticism with certain aspects of this, but intellectually they got a lot of their ideas, you know, for reconstructing America from the Reconstructionist Movement.
Tom: Right. Now, we’re talking about, if you just joined us, we’re talking about the Rapture here, and some of you may think, Well, what does this have to do with the Rapture? Well, Tommy has described both from the Reformed side, and again, as he said, not the eschatology, you know—you have to look at a person’s eschatology. There are some who would consider them to be Reformed theologians, but they don’t buy the eschatology of amillennialism. They would be pre-millennial, right, Tommy?
Tommy: Let me just say, yeah, the dispensational, pre-millennial, pre-tribulational view was developed by Reformed theologians. Everybody used to be Reformed at one time pretty much till the Methodists came along in 1789, but nevertheless, the early founders of dispensationalism and of the Brethren Movement, etc., and the Father of Pre-Tribulationalism in the United States, James Hall Brooks, was a Presbyterian minister, a graduate of Princeton Seminary, and he’s considered the Father of Pre-Tribulationalism. Darby was very reformed; he was a very strong Calvinist. So it was within that movement that our own views were developed as well, so it’s not…
Tom: But wouldn’t you say, Tommy, that that’s kind of the exception today? That wouldn’t be the case…
Tommy: Today it is.
Tom: Yeah, today it is. See, again, the other point about the Rapture is these views, Christian Reconstructionism, Coalition on Revival, all of these things that were planted and are having a comeback to a certain degree—all of these were antagonistic toward the Rapture, the biblical doctrine of the Rapture of the church.
Tom: Now, Tommy…
Tommy: Yeah, because…
Tom: Go ahead.
Tommy: …if you’re going to reconstruct America and all of this, you’re not looking for the Rapture, that’s for sure.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Now, Tommy, why do you think that the Rapture is such a controversial doctrine among Christians, professing or otherwise, and true believers? Why do you think that is?
Tommy: Well, because it was a later development among Christians, and by the 1600s all the creeds and everything were all set in…
Tommy: …and pre-millennialism was revived in the 1600s from the early church, and it took a little while longer for the doctrine of the Rapture to be revived.
Tommy: And you had to first develop the doctrine of Israel and have a strong view of Israel and her promises in the Old Testament, and then historically people started thinking about, “Well, if Israel’s going to be revived in the future, then how does that relate to the church?” You see what I’m saying?
Tommy: And then—so you had this tremendous movement among the Puritans to see a future for Israel as early as 1587, when Francis Kett was burned at the stake in Norwich, England, for teaching that the Jews will return to their land. [chuckles]
Tom: [chuckles] Yeah. Oh, brother.
Tommy: And that developed as the Puritans had the Bible translated into their own language, and they became Bible readers and all of this, and they start learning the Old Testament in detail. Before that, one in two-and-a-half-thousand people could read, throughout the Middle Ages, and even if they could read, they didn’t necessarily have a handwritten manuscript of the Bible available to them.
Tommy: And so, Bible knowledge started really growing in the 1500s, and Protestantism produced a tremendous knowledge of the Bible, and then you start thinking about the implications both at the academic and at the lay level, and within a couple hundred years you had people start talking about the Rapture as a separate event, you see.
Tom: Right, right.
Tommy: But you had no creeds that had the doctrine of the Rapture in it, and as a result, it was viewed as something that wasn’t orthodox, because it wasn’t in the creeds and things. But it was so widely accepted by probably 95 percent of those in the Bible Conference Movement that developed in the United States, for example, after the Civil War, that virtually everybody who was part of a Bible study movement believed in the pre-trib Rapture, because it made sense when you started putting all these hundreds and thousands of details of Bible prophecy together. That’s why it takes charts for us to show it, because it’s a—you know, when you’re dealing with future history just like dealing with past history, it’s very complicated to get everything lined up. But it’s very clear once that movement started.
Tom: Right. Now, Tommy, we’ve got about just a couple minutes left in this program, then we’ll pick up in the next, but just briefly, in a couple minutes, let’s talk about some of the accusations against the Rapture. Just highlight them, and then what we’ll do is we’ll pick up on it, Lord willing, next week. So, here’s one accusation: “It’s not in the Bible, but it was a teaching conjured up by people like John Nelson Darby, Margaret MacDonald, and then a Jesuit priest.” What do you say to that?
Tommy: Well, I have a chapter in a new book that came out about a year ago called The Popular Handbook on the Rapture by Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, and Ed Hindson, General Editors, and I go through and show how just since the Pre-Trib Research Center started a little over 20 years ago, we’re [at] over a dozen pre-Darby rapture statements now.
Tommy: In other words, we’re finding them from the fourth century in [….Ephraim] and throughout—some have found one in 1301 or 1304, Brother Delsino, and we’re starting to find them the more that people are going back and doing research. We have a guy who presented last year—William Watson, who has a Ph.D. in British History—and he has found over a dozen from the 1600s alone of people teaching pre-tribulationalism. But, like I say, it was suppressed. There is one guy in the 1700s who was put in prison for the rest of his life for suggesting the pre-trib Rapture, and he was a member of the Irish and British parliament. [chuckles]
Tom: Tommy, let me—we’re just about to finish off this program, but the other accusation is, “It’s an escapist teaching; [it] has nothing to do—that has Christians doing nothing but looking for a bailout before the times of tribulation.” I’m going to let the Word of God answer that one. This is 1 John:3:2,3: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, and everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.” That’s the Word of God.
Tom: So, Tommy, thanks for being with us on this program…
Tom: Look forward to next week when we pick up on this.
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 discussion on the doctrine of the rapture with his guest Tommy Ice, Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center. We hope you can join us. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.