Tom and Tommy Ice continue their discussion on the Rapture of the church, and answer the question: Is there anything that we can do to hurry things along?
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 tune in. In today’s program, Tom continues his discussion on the doctrine of the Rapture with 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 our program today is the Rapture of the church, and our guest is Tommy Ice, who’s the Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, and he told us about that last week, so you can check out that part of our program—this series, at least.
Now, Tommy, where we ended last week, we were talking about the accusations against the Rapture, and we talked about—the last thing we talked about was that people say, “Well, it’s an escapist teaching that has nothing—that has do-nothing Christians looking for a bailout before the times of Tribulation.” Now, I quoted 1 John…again, these people make these accusations. We’re willing to be corrected. We will listen to what people have to say, but, you know, we’re Bereans. We need to search the Scriptures to see what the Word of God says about these things, and I quoted 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 what the Word of God says: it’s a purification thing. We’re looking—we’re expecting for Him to return, and we want to hear those words, you know, as we’re snatched away, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I mean, wouldn’t that keep you—not anxious, but certainly doing the things that would please our Lord so that when we see Him, He will be pleased with us? What do you think, Tommy?
Tommy: Well, yeah, a lot of people hold the right doctrine with wrong motives, and I agree. I’ve talked to people over the years within our movement who are looking for an escape from life.
Tommy: I remember a guy for a group test in seminary said—got up in front of the class, and said, “I don’t have any problems the Rapture wouldn’t solve right now.” Of course, we think of that, and it would solve a lot of our problems, but nevertheless, that’s not the biblical reason given, or the motives given in the Scripture. The Scripture teaches that it’s not that we can’t handle life in the nasty here and now—we can. Look at all the Christians that have gone before us that have given their lives and suffered through great things for 2,000 years of history.
Tommy: The Christian life in the present works. But part of that is the hope of looking to be with Christ, and what bride does not want to be with her bridegroom? And we are betrothed to Christ…
Tommy: …and He’s gone away to build a house, and as Peter said, “Whom we have not seen, we love,” and that’s the biblical motive for the Rapture is that the bride wants to be with the Bridegroom!
Tommy: And Paul even talks about that.
Tom: Tommy, would you apply John:14:1,2,3 to this? “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me…”
Tom: “…In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
And then Titus:2:13—you [already] paraphrased it, but let’s get the Scripture: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Tommy: Yeah, exactly. That’s why it’s called the blessed hope. This is our destiny, this is our future, because as the bride of Christ, our destiny is to always be at His side.
Tommy: Once the church is complete and the Rapture occurs, we will be at His side. That’s why we return with Him at the Second Coming…
Tommy: …and so it does fit within this Jewish wedding time. This is the time of testing of His absence, and therefore, the bride’s hope and focus is on the Lord Himself. And that’s the motive, that’s the reason—not to escape, you know, “I’ve got a bunch of credit card debt, it’d be nice,” and that kind of stuff. That is not—and I admit, I’ve talked to people out there who say that, but that is not the biblical motive…
Tommy: …and based on the presuppositions of this question, you know, they say we’re just sitting around and waiting for the Rapture—first of all, we’re not just sitting around.
Tom: That’s right.
Tommy: It’s a motivation to preach the gospel. Dave Hunt didn’t just sit around and wait for the Rapture. He was motivated by the implications of that. And when people say, “Well, you Christians, you don’t do anything, or you’re just trying to provide a self-fulfilling prophecy…” well, not for us, because all the prophecy we believe in requires God, who is supernatural, to do these things. There’s nothing that we have to do except evangelize people…
Tom: Right, right.
Tommy: …and surely all forms of Christians are not opposed to evangelism, true forms of Christians. And God has to do the rest, so that you—for example, in the 1600s, around 1655 in England, they had expelled the Jews in 1290 from England, and they believed at that time, both post-millennialist and pre-millennialists, that Christ could not return until the Jews were dispersed to every nation, and then He would return. And so John Owen preached a sermon in front of Parliament saying, “We’ve got to bring the Jews back to England, because we’re preventing the Second Coming.” That is not the way we think at all, and that was the motive for Cromwell issuing the decree in 1655 to readmit Jews into England, and they brought a boatload of Jews over from Amsterdam…
Tommy: …and that’s the implication. Or Seventh Day Adventists from Australia in the early ‘80s tried to blow up the Dome of the Rock, because they had to “help God out.” We don’t believe that. We believe that God is going to do these things or it won’t get done.
Tom: Right. Now, Tommy, one of the other accusations—you sort of addressed it a bit in our previous program—but what about the accusation that the early church fathers, well, they knew nothing of the Rapture?
Tommy: Well, they talk about the Rapture. They talked about the event from 1 Thessalonians 4 and other things. They were very confused at many points, and you read The Shepherd of Hermas, which is about as early as any post-apostolic church father writing out there, and he talks about the possibility of escaping the Tribulation. Irenaeus talks about escaping the Tribulation, and people say, “Well, they’re not pre-trib because they appear later on in their writings to be post-trib.” But that’s my point. They’re very, very confused on some of these issues because they believe that Christ on the one hand could come at any moment, which is a feature of pre-Tribulationialism. But on the other hand, they seem to say things that would contradict that. And also you have the suppression of early church writings by the Catholics starting in the 500s where they would—for example, the oldest first commentator on the book of Revelation was Hippolytus, who wrote a commentary on Revelation, and some of the copies they found in the 1600s were amillennial, but then they found earlier copies that he was a premillennialist. So in other words, they doctored [in] the Middle Ages a lot of these guys’ comments. So it’s hard to really know exactly what they believed on that.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Tommy, as I mentioned in our earlier program, coming out of Roman Catholicism, I had no idea about prophecy. I had no idea especially about the Rapture—clueless to all of that. And then as a believer, as a young believer—and I also mentioned that the book at the time when I became a believer—the popular book was The Late Great Planet Earth, which some of my evangelical new friends gave me that book, and I thought, Wow, this is incredible! This is really biblical! You know? And that was I think the power of that book, because it wasn’t just an idea about it; the Scriptures were brought forth, eschatology was presented in that book, which got me excited. But here’s what happened at least from my observation: the more excited I got about it and over the early years I saw things within the evangelical community that were—it was like, “Well, you know, it’s not an issue, it’s not a doctrine that we really want to make a big deal over, whether you’re pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib—I’m pan-trib, so whatever pans out.” Am I correct? Wasn’t that a perspective of a lot of people? And it began to grow, Tommy. But here’s what concerned me, and that’s why, you know, you’ve written numerous articles. Well, one of the articles that I wrote about this was, “Is Your Eschatology Showing?” In other words, these beliefs, these doctrines that we hold even with somebody making up a pan-trib, that affects how we’re going to live our lives and do the things that we do. So, we’ve just talked about for those who would take a premillennial position, but if they fall into an escapist mentality, they’re not following what Scripture says. First Timothy 6:14 says, “That you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.” So, as premillennialists—yes, as pre-tribbers—we have our working orders, our marching orders. Our lives are to be spotless so that when Jesus does come for us, you know, we can say, “Hey, Lord…” Or He can say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Now, let’s go to the other side of the amillennialists, dominionists, and so on. Tommy, their theology, their eschatology is working out an agenda that stands in the way of the Rapture, but it also brings in some teachings, some actual practical applications that—Dave Hunt has said this, “Look, if you’re not looking for Christ to come to snatch you up, but you’re looking for the kingdom now, you’re unwittingly working for the kingdom of the Antichrist.”
Tom: Isn’t that a practical outworking of a doctrine that’s, if it’s not in line with Scripture, it’s going to lead to real problems?
Tommy: That’s right, and no one can deny, because there’s over a dozen references to—in the epistles, primarily—about Christ coming at any moment. We call that imminence; that’s a Latin word that we use to refer to that. And you cannot have Christ coming at any moment and have a bunch of conditions of things that the church has to accomplish before He can come.
Tommy: Now, people get the Second Coming and the Rapture mixed up a lot of times, and the point is that Christ could come at any moment. Those are passages in the epistles that relate to the Rapture. And if that is our focus just as it’s the bride’s focus—even that verse you quoted in 1 Corinthians 16 implies the Jewish wedding motif there, you see, that the interim is a period of testing for the church where we’re to be about our Father’s business, which is preaching the gospel and living a holy life for Him, and at the same time having an eye on the fact that Christ could return today, this moment. And that provides a motivation for holy living, as you’ve shown; missions; and evangelism. And the history of those from the last 200 years who believe in the Rapture has been just that, and a lot of these anti-Rapture—like Reconstructionist—people complain that our view is widely spread. Well, if we’re just sitting around doing nothing, how did it become widely spread? It’s because of the fact that the missionaries primarily were people who believe like us.
Tommy: Where were all of these other people?
Tommy: Some of them are out on the mission field now, but during the late 1800s, early 1900s, it was primarily people who believe like us who were motivated by the Lord.
Tom: Yeah. You know, Tommy, when you talked earlier about imminency, at any moment, any time—I give a really silly example, but I think it’ll ring true for some people. You know, when my wife, Peg, goes off to visit the grandchildren down in Southern California and so on, if she says to me, “Well, I’m not exactly sure when I’m going to be back. It could be any time,” Tommy, do you think I keep the house nice and clean, keep it ready for her, okay? [chuckles] On the other hand, if she tells me that she’s going to be back July 12 or something like that, here’s a wild guess, Tommy—when do you think I start cleaning the house?
Tommy: Then you [….] servants. [laughs]
Tom: Yeah, right! [laughs] When do I start cleaning the house? You know it’s the day before she returns, okay?
Tommy: Right, exactly!
Tom: So, I mean these things have practical ramifications, and they’re not just, oh, some kind of concepts or ideas or things like that that don’t affect our lives and how we go about our lives.
Tommy: Well, I remember a few years ago, I had a long talk with R.C. Sproul about Bible prophecy, and he’s a preterist, a partial-preterist, and even he said that you cannot interpret two-thirds of the New Testament without coming to conclusions about Bible prophecy.
Tommy: For example, your view of the kingdom—you know, is the kingdom now or is it future? We believe it’s future, that God is rounding up, so to speak, through the preaching of the gospel, citizens for the future kingdom. But this isn’t the kingdom, and now we see all of these bad movements and social gospel is returning, you know? And the so-called, what’s that called, the social-something movement…
Tom: Well, they’re into progressive Christianity. It’s a left movement, it is the social gospel…
Tommy: Yeah, but…
Tom: …it’s solving the problems.
Tommy: …social something or there’s a second term there, I can’t remember. But the fact of the matter is, is this is so dominant among 35 and younger, you know, that, “We’re working for the kingdom, we’re doing all of this kind of stuff,” and the preaching of the gospel is being shoved aside. And it’s people who believe that we are looking for the kingdom in the future after Christ returns that are doing the most gospel preaching, which is what our calling is for this age.
Tom: Right, and just to take it a step further, not that it all will lead here, but I’ve seen it: it moves not only to a social gospel, which ends up being a works-salvation gospel. So now the agenda, the game plan, solving the problems—whether it be social justice, whatever it might be—we’re not saying these aren’t admirable things, but as soon as they replace the gospel of salvation, you’ve got serious problems. It’s temporally bound. It’s a temporal delusion.
Tommy: Yeah, that’s right. And the focus is not on Christ, it’s on whether I’m relevant…
Tommy: …it’s on relating to people rather than out proclaiming the gospel, letting God do His thing.
Tom: Tommy, we’ve identified amillennialism, postmillennialism, we’ve talked a little bit about those who promote the “kingdom now”—that is, Jesus is held in the heavenlies, can’t return until we turn this earth, take dominion over this earth and turn it into a paradise—so at least we could say there are two camps out there that would be, eschatologically speaking—there are the amillennialists, postmillennialists, and then on the other side we have the kingdom dominionists. But what I’m seeing, and you can comment on this, is that there are those who wouldn’t call themselves amillennialists or kingdom dominionists, but their programs [and] their agendas fit right in here. And I’m thinking of Rick Warren and his global peace plan, or Bill Hybels and Lynne Hybels with regard to Willow Creek Church and the things that they’re doing—it is anti-Rapture. I mean, they won’t talk about it, they won’t go there, because it doesn’t fit with their agenda. So again, it isn’t just trying to slug somebody into a—or fit somebody—into a particular category; it’s what are they doing and how does this relate to our blessed hope that the Scripture talks about?
Tommy: Well, it doesn’t, because they have gotten so absorbed with the present in a wrong way. In other words, I believe the Bible teaches that—you know, people say, “Well, you can be so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.” Well, unless you’re heavenly minded, you won’t do any earthly good…
Tom: That’s exactly right.
Tommy: ...and it’s what I call “future orientation.” It’s the fact that what we believe about the future impacts what we believe is important in the present. And so if you’re a kid, for example, growing up your whole life in a normal family, this focus on, “What are you going to do when you grow up, when you become an adult? You’re training, you’re learning, you’re going to school to prepare for adulthood,” and I know there’s many exceptions to that, you know, “live for the present” and all that—the Pepsi generation, etc. But [in] normal families, that’s the way it is and has been. And so, what we’re saying is, we believe in activity in the present. Just because we’re heavenly minded doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in activity in the present. It’s what activities that we are going to do that flow out of our view of the future. If you believe the goal is to bring social change and all this kind of stuff like Rick Warren and Mrs. Hybels, then obviously you’re going to take your focus off of the heavens, off of the future. And I’m so sad to see Lynne Hybels running around campaigning for the Palestinians…
Tom: Oh, brother.
Tommy: …and her anti-Israel thing. Well, that shows you right there she doesn’t believe in Bible prophecy, because you can’t be turning around supporting terrorism, which in essence is what she’s doing—I know she doesn’t believe that’s what she’s doing, but that’s in essence what she’s doing…
Tom: And she’s not the only one, Tommy.
Tommy: Oh, no, no! But you brought her up and I thought I would say that.
Tom: Yeah, well, you know, and our really good friend Paul Wilkinson—folks, I’ve interviewed him here, we’ve gone a couple of weeks and different programs—but this is an issue of how your eschatology, how your understanding of the Bible…For example, God lays out His game plan—you know, I’m going to call it a game plan—His plan and His timeline, and these are not some kind of esoteric—we don’t need a Bible code to figure these things out, right? It is very simple, very straightforward, and our cry, our prayer, really, to those who are not conforming to these things—hey, folks! You’ve got to go along with God’s plan, because heaven and earth can pass away, but God’s Word and His truth and the way He says things are going to play out—we need to conform to that, and we can’t let our agendas…I know the Word says, Proverbs [says] twice: “There’s a way that seem right unto a man.” So what we think is right, if it doesn’t conform to God’s eschatology, that is, eschatology just meaning the way things in the last days are going to play out, if they don’t conform to that, we’re not working for the Lord, we’re working for the adversary.
Tommy: Yeah, the thing is you cannot be neutral or not take a position at least by implication of eschatology, because, for example, Rick Warren I think would probably classify himself as a premillennialist.
Tommy: However, what he’s doing promoting his PEACE initiative really makes more sense presuppositionally from a postmillennial or amillennial framework, you see? And so, whatever you are advocating in the present flows out of presuppositions that come from Bible prophecy, either premillennialism or the opposite.
Tom: Yeah. And, Tommy, Rick’s been very clear that in his view of prophecy, he thinks, you know, he believes it’s getting in the way of the agenda that he’s creating: his global PEACE plan. And it’s true, it’s a problem. Now, Tommy, we’ve got about four minutes left. Here’s what I’d like you to address: somebody who would be premillennial, pre-trib certainly, Christian leader has come out just recently and said, “Well, once the Rapture takes places, it could be three years, five years, twenty years, thirty years before the Tribulation begins.” What do you say to that?
Tommy: Well, I remember back a hundred years ago in Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truth book, he speculated that there would be a 50-year interval between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation, because Israel wasn’t back in the land, they had to rebuild the temple, Babylon had to be rebuilt, he gave all kinds of things. Well, what’s happened in the interval the last hundred years is God is preparing the stage already. He’s brought Israel back to the land, you know. They’re in just the right condition or situation that they could—they’re a nation, they could sign a covenant. The Jews are in control of Jerusalem, the Tribulation requires the Jews to be in control of Jerusalem, or at least there are to be a lot of Jews in Jerusalem for prophecy to occur. And we don’t know how long, frankly, the interval is going to be between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation. It could be days, weeks, months, or years, and I tend to believe, for example, the Battle of Gog and Magog is going to take place after the Rapture but before the Tribulation. So, I think it’s going to be a few years, and—but I don’t want to put a number on it, because there’s no basis to do that with, see? We just know that the Rapture ends the church age, the Rapture does not start the Tribulation. What starts the Tribulation is the signing of the covenant, Daniel:9:24-27, between the nation of Israel and revived Roman Antichrist. That’s going to take some time to develop through the normal course of history. Second Thessalonians 2 says that, “the restrainers restraining the man of lawlessness,” the synonym for the Antichrist, and so when you exegete that passage, it means that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church is going to be removed and after the church is removed, then the man of lawlessness will be allowed to come onto the scene. So that’s going to require a few sequences of events and things like that, so it depends on how much the stage is set. I believe the European Union is setting the stage for the revived Roman Empire, but it’s not a fulfillment of it, but it’s a preparation for it. We see globalism, the mentality of globalism, is being pushed and absorbed by people today. They’re all for it. So you remove the church and everybody’s going to just gravitate toward that like you wouldn’t believe. And so I believe that right after the Rapture, the Rapture Ground Zero, not one believer is left on planet earth, then I think people are going to start getting saved again by the millions…
Tommy: …and so even before the Tribulation starts, I think there’ll be millions of Christians who are saved after the Rapture that go into the Tribulation. So, I can’t give you a dogmatic answer one way or the other.
Tom: Well, but, Tommy, what we do know, we do know the Antichrist is going to appear right away, and we also know just from looking at what’s taking place, just as you’ve enumerated, there are a lot of things that are setting this up. We see apostasy growing so fast, so furious, that our heads are spinning, and these are affecting believers as well as professing Christians and as well as the world. But as you say, once the Holy Spirit is taken out, want to talk exponential? I mean in terms of a movement, in terms of this man moving in—and then, so whether you call it the “Great Tribulation,” you’ve got the man of lawlessness in charge. Now, how sweet he may be at the beginning, I don’t know, but the point is that this stuff is going to take place exponentially, and to think that it might go 30-40 years, I mean, that’s hard for me to imagine.
Tommy: Yeah, it’s hard for me to believe, too, because the world’s already prepared pretty much for it. It won’t take much more development to be there.
Tom: Well, again, all of this is about our blessed hope, and I hope, and our prayer, I know Tommy’s prayer and my prayer is that we will look for the return of the Groom for His bride. We’re the bride, folks, and we’re looking forward to a wedding feast! This is not a fulfilled prophecy or something like that, God’s going to work this out in His timing, but as Tommy said, and the Word of God says, this is imminent. It could happen at any time. But folks, we’ve got to keep our excitement about it, and we have to occupy and we have to do the things that please the Lord. So, Tommy, thanks for being with us. I think we’ve presented some information that might be helpful to the body of Christ.
Tommy: Well, good. And I look forward to being with Christ Himself.
Tom: Amen, amen.
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 be joined by Keith Gibson, author of Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith With the New Apostles And Prophets. We hope you can tune in. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for being here, and we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.