Program description: Is the pre-Tribulational Rapture biblical? Or is there room in the Scriptures for interpretation? Find out the church history behind the varying schools of thought in today's program with T.A. McMahon and Dr. Thomas Ice.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in. In today’s program, Tom welcomes Tommy Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center. Now, along his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. The topic for this program and our next one is the assault – and I mean assault on the timing of the Rapture of the church. More specifically, it has to do with a documentary, the title of which is Left Behind or Led Astray? And the documentary asserts that the premillennial pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church is a false teaching that will leave the bride of Christ unprepared to go through the great Tribulation. Our guest to discuss this controversial yet important subject is Tommy Ice. He is the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, which produces a newsletter and hosts an annual conference that focuses primarily on biblical prophecy. Tommy, thanks for joining me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Tommy: Well, it’s good to be with you, Tom.
Tom: You know, as I mentioned, Tommy, you head up the Pre-Trib Research Center, so that would indicate your position on the timing of the Rapture, which is also our position. It’s what we hold to here at The Berean Call.
Now, we believe that Jesus will return for His bride, the church, which is made up of all born-again Christians. He will return for them before the “time of Jacob’s trouble” – that’s Jeremiah:30:7 – a time in which the earth will be subject to the wrath of God. And Jesus will take believers in Him to heaven, where they will remain until the end of seven years of great tribulation on the earth. And at that point, Jesus will return to earth – known as the Second Coming – with all those who were raptured, as well as others who were in heaven. And the purpose of the Second Coming is to rescue Israel from being annihilated by the nations of the world, and for our Lord to set up His millennial kingdom.
Now, Tommy, add to, what you will, the definition that I just gave of the premillennial, pre-Tribulation Rapture… Well, let’s start with that, and then you can, if you will, give us some other views with regard to the timing of the Rapture.
Tommy: Well, I don’t really have anything to add, because that’s a good definition. I want to talk in a moment about the purpose of the Rapture and why it’s necessary, and that gets into why it has to be pre-Trib. But other views of the timing… I just had a person recently send me something where you’re raptured a quarter of the way through the Tribulation. Of course, the mid-Trib view has been around for over a hundred years; and then you have the three-quarter Rapture view, which is sometimes called the pre-wrath view that came out in the ‘70s by Harold Camping.
Tommy: And then you have post-Tribulationalism where the Rapture and the Second Coming occur basically at the same time period. And then there’s another view called the partial Rapture, and that is people who are filled with the Spirit – or spiritual versus carnal Christians – will be taken, and carnal Christians will be left behind to go through the Tribulation to somehow purify them.
So those are the different views out there, and let me just mention also that you have to be premillennial to hold any of those particular views, because if you’re amillennial or postmillennial or panmillennial, then the Rapture is a non-issue, because you don’t have a literal Tribulation, you don’t have the same sequence of events, and therefore, you’re – a person just has the Second Coming, so to speak.
Tommy: So you have to be premillennial – that is, that Christ returns before the Millennium, which is taught in Revelation 19 and 20, and therefore, if you’re amillennial or postmillennial… And there’s a whole other view that some preterists, so-called, transmillennial – that is, that we’re already past the Millennium, and we’re in the new heavens and the new earth. [laughs] Kind of crazy.
Tom: [laughing] Right.
Tommy: But nevertheless, those are the views with premillennialism.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And incredibly, Tommy, they just confuse a very important doctrine – a doctrine, I think, is laid out as clear as can be. Well, obviously the Lord lays it out for us in the Scriptures, but people are just running to and fro with all of these different ideas.
Tommy: Yeah, and that’s because of the breakdown of orderly, consistent, systematic Bible teaching…
Tommy: …that we have today; the postmodern idea where people get “hot flashes,” you know, and ideas, and they run with them rather than laborious study of Scripture. And, you know, I believe that the purpose of the Rapture is to remove the church so that God can complete the 70th week of Daniel that is unfinished relating to Israel.
Tommy: And so that means that God’s plan for Israel is unfinished, and that they currently are in the dispersion, and in the process of being regathered in preparation for the Tribulation. But the church age is still going on where Jew and Gentile are coequal in Christ, and we’re baptized into one body and we’re made into one new man.
Tommy: And that’s why the Rapture’s only for church age believers, because Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4 it’s for those who are “in Christ,” and that is a technical term I think used about 85 times in the Greek New Testament to only describe church age believers. So therefore, the purpose of the Rapture is to complete the temporary church age where James said at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 that God is now taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. Paul later in Ephesians 2 describes how the Jewish remnant is also added into the church, and after that – after taking out the people for His name – He’s going to return and rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David. In other words, that deal means He’s going to deal with the nation of Israel.
Tommy: And so you cannot have Israel being the instrument that God is going to use during the Tribulation like the 144 thousand evangelists and others…
Tommy: …and have the church also present where Jew and Gentile are coequal. And so the Rapture is introduced by Christ in the upper room discourse, which is John 13-16, and about two-thirds of the way through chapter 13 after Judas leaves the room, Christ teaches them – introduces them the night before He was killed on the cross the next day to what we call church-age truth. It’s a seed plot of what is later taught in the epistle. That’s why three times in the upper room discourse, Christ says, “You won’t be able to bear it all now, but later when He the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all things.” And so He’s introducing them to this, because later on, you see especially in Paul’s writings these new doctrines are being expanded upon, and so John:14:1-3 is where He introduces the Rapture.
Tommy: “In My Father’s house are many [mansions…(unintelligible)]…” He’s going to go away, and He’s going to come back and take them to Himself, “so that where I am, ye may be also.” So every doctrine He teaches is a brand new doctrine not taught in the Old Testament.
And let me just introduce an issue at this point, because in John 15, He talks about how the church will be persecuted, and one of the statements that they made in this video was that, “What are we doing to prepare people for the Tribulation?” And somehow we’re negligent if we believe in the pre-Trib Rapture. Well, that’s an issue whether the Bible teaches it or not, but the church is said in the New Testament, in the epistles, etc., that we’re going to be persecuted.
Tommy: And what is the church doing to prepare people for persecution? Well, you know, they’re teaching the Word of God, they’re teaching them to grow in Christ, and the same preparation that prepares people today for persecution throughout the 2,000 years of church history where millions of Christians have died and even more have been persecuted or are assured of death, and how were they prepared, you see? So there’s no special preparation that’s needed other than, you know, the teaching of the whole counsel of the Word of God, which we are doing as pre-Tribulationalists.
Tom: Well, you know, Tommy…
Tommy: Go ahead.
Tom: …I think it’s far worse than that, which I want to get to just in a bit, because – well, just as a teaser out there, wait a minute: how do you prepare the body of Christ when the church is going through… I mean, read the Book of Revelation when it’s going through cataclysms to, you know, God’s wrath being poured out – what kind of preparation?
Well, I’m jumping ahead – I want to come back to that – but, Tommy, let me back up to this: I was for 30-some years, as you know, a Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism preaches, among many other false ideas, it teaches amillennialism, that we’re in the millennium now. You know a lot about that, especially as it lends itself to Replacement Theology and so on. But the point is, growing up in Roman Catholicism, I had no clue as to this teaching. After I became a believer, you want to talk about not only being excited about being saved? But then I find this teaching, this doctrine, that Jesus is going to return for His own, and I just became one of His own! And it was absolutely tremendous, and, again, clearly spelled out in Scripture. These guys that are clouding it up with erroneous ideas…
Now, the thing that got a little disappointing afterwards is that now I’m an evangelical, you know, a Bible-believing Christian, and I was obviously fellowshipping with a lot of believers in Christ, but they weren’t as excited about it as I was, because along that line came the idea, “Well, you know…” and you used the phrase, “Well, you know, I’m a pan-Tribber; whatever pans out.” What do you think of that?
Tommy: Well, obviously, what I think of it is the – tied up in the ethics or living of the Christian life in the New Testament epistles is…
Tom: Mm-hmm. That’s right.
Tommy: …and therefore, for example, 1 John 4 about purifying yourself as He is pure because He could come back at any moment. So it’s a motive. It’s not the only motive…
Tommy: …it’s one of four or five major motives that the New Testament teaches that Christ could come at any moment; therefore, as Peter says, what type of people ought we to be in all holiness and godliness, etc.? And it’s a motive for living a godly life now, a separated, holy, godly life in the nasty now and now, as I like to say.
Tommy: And you can’t just – Scripture’s a seamless garment, and so if you say, “Well, that refers to the Second Coming,” well, I’m sorry, it says that we’re to be looking for this blessed hope. Actually, the Greek word there is waiting for the blessed hope, because there’s no signs for the blessed hope.
Tommy: It could happen at any moment, so we’re waiting, as 1 Thessalonians 1 says, for His Son from heaven. And so we’re waiting – that shows our hope, what our hope is, and that is to motivate us like a bride waiting for her bridegroom within the framework of the ancient Jewish wedding 2,000 years ago. It was a test: is she going to be faithful to her betrothed while she’s waiting for him to come and take her, you know, into his marriage chamber? And so that same imagery is used there in John 14 of the church waiting for Christ to come at any moment, and it’s supposed to affect our everyday life.
Tom: Yeah, you know, Tommy, I sometimes use this illustration: you know, one of the things that I love about our good buddy who’s home with the Lord now, Dave Hunt, is that he came up with a lot of illustrations, and he would call them silly, but I think they make a point. So just hanging around him for almost four decades, I picked up a few of my own, and one is with regard to a response that those who say, “Well, if you believe in the Rapture, that God’s going to come, or the Lord’s going to come back and He’s just going to take you out, and you’re going to avoid all this stuff,” and so on and so forth, you know, they call it a helicopter theory: we’re just bailing out and so on. Well, going back to the purification aspect as just – as you pointed out, Tommy – just one aspect of motivation that we have with regard to the Lord coming for us, you know, I said, Well, suppose my wife, Peggy, she goes off to southern California, and we’re in Bend, Oregon. She’s looking for the beach, all right? And she says, “I’m going to be back in three weeks. Exactly in three weeks.” So I say, “Okay.” Now, I ask people, So I know she’s coming back in three weeks, and Peg is an impeccable housekeeper. Tommy, when do you think that I might start cleaning up the house?
Tommy: An hour before she gets back. [laughs]
Tom: [laughing] That’s right. I kid people by saying I get the leaf blower out and I dust the house.
Tommy: [laughing] Yeah!
Tom: But on the other hand, because I love Peg, and because she is an impeccable housekeeper, I want to please her, and she doesn’t tell me. “Tom, I could be back tomorrow, I could be back…” you know, whenever it might be - that’s a motivation for doing what I know will please her. So that’s one aspect, at least, of our blessed hope, of looking for the coming of the Lord for His own, for His bride, as you mentioned.
Tommy: Yeah, and so I’m saying that if you remove pre-Tribulationalism from the New Testament epistles, it’s like trying to unravel a piece of cloth, or pull a thread out of the cloth, you know? It just doesn’t work because it’s embedded, and a lot of people just don’t take the time to understand that later on in 1 Corinthians, it’s called a mystery, meaning it’s a new revelation, see? And so this is what we think, you know, that Christ has a special promise to church age believers that we’re not going to be, as the bride of Christ, beat up through the wrath of God – because that’s what the seven-year Tribulation is – and then be married to Him, you know? It doesn’t make sense.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Right.
Tommy: We have a special privilege as church-age believers that we are going to be taken out before the time of wrath. There are four major passages that teach that.
Tommy: And we will not pass through the time of wrath, and… What is the vehicle for doing that? Well, it’s what Paul in his second epistle, 1 Thessalonians 4, said, that we’re going to be caught up in the air to meet the Lord in the air. And this is the basis for Christ having introduced that in order to end the church age so that He could complete His unfinished seventieth week with the nation of Israel.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Tommy, there may be some who are listening who – well, they were like me as a Roman Catholic: I’d never heard this teaching before; you know, it was obviously never taught in the Catholic church, but I’ve talked to a number of evangelicals who said, “Well, we’ve never had that teaching in our church, as well.”
Now, for those who may be hearing this for the first time, they may be thinking, “Well, how do I qualify for this? I like it! It’s exciting; it sounds really great,” and of course they’re – I hope they’re thinking, “and it’s biblical,” because it is. So what qualifies somebody for this, Tommy?
Tommy: Well, you know, it’s part of the package deal: once you trust Christ as your Savior, there’s – one person said there’s like 54 things that happen to you when you become a believer, you know? You’re made part of the household of God, and you list all these other things from the New Testament, and that’s all you have to do. There’s no separate qualification to be taken in the Rapture, and that’s why some of these people who are believers who don’t believe in the Rapture are going to go up kicking and screaming.
Tom: [laughing] Whoa!
Tommy: You know?
Tom: Yeah, I don’t think so! I think they’re going to have a quick change of mind!
Tommy: They are, they are. And I always say that’s why I’m not going to go “na-na-na-na-na-na” when it happens, because I too will experience a quick change, you know, in my body.
But I grew up Southern Baptist in Texas, of all places, and we were in church – you know, I was there nine months before I was born, every time the doors were open, and I don’t remember hearing about the Rapture until I was 19 years old. When I went to a camp in Glorieta, New Mexico, a Southern Baptist camp, and a pastor from Hollywood Baptist Church in Hollywood, CA, named Barry Woods preached on it. And I was so fascinated, like you were; I waited for him to finish talking to everybody. And it was time to go eat, so we went to the mess hall, and I walked with him, and I said, “Man! That’s exciting. Where can I learn more about this?”
Tommy: And he said, “Well…” this is 1970, and he said, “This new book just came out called The Late Great Planet Earth.” And when I got home, they didn’t have it at the bookstore there at the Baptist place, you know, so I got it when I got home and read it, and that was my first exposure, really, to Bible prophecy, even though I’d grown up in the church.
Tom: Yeah. You know, the sad part of that is – you mentioned Hal Lindsey – we have…we’ll talk later about Jacob Prasch going after Darby, you know, and… Look, folks, we may mention these men who the Lord has used to bring this back to the church and so on, but we’re talking about what the Scriptures say. We don’t need Darby, we don’t need Hal, even though they’ve been used of the Lord in many ways. “To the law and the testimony.” That’s where we’re going. We’re Bereans. We search the Scriptures to see if this is what the Scriptures say. That’s what we hold to, right, Tommy?
Tommy: That’s exactly right. And regardless of who was the one that brought a particular doctrine into widespread understanding within the church, it was in the Bible all along.
Tommy: As a person who has two degrees in church history, I can tell you there’s a lot of reasons why people wouldn’t see it earlier, although some did – a lot more than the average person tends to think today.
Tommy: It’s one thing to have the revelation of God, but there seems to have been a development of the church’s understanding of what they had in the Word of God.
Tommy: You know, it’s amazing to me that no one articulated the substitutionary atonement of Christ until a thousand years in church history with Anselm. Their view in the early church was closer to Benny Hinn, you know? It was called the “ransom to Satan” theory. No one that we know of articulated the doctrine of justification by faith until Martin Luther came along for 1,500 years! And it led to a schism, you know, within the church, thank God…
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Tommy: …of Protestants being kicked out because they protested against the Catholic Church, and the 99 anathemas against justification at the Council of Trent by, you know, the Roman Catholics. And we needed to separate from that…
Tommy: …and they said all kinds of bad things about Martin Luther in the process. But it is true that Darby was the first major guy to articulate it with any resonance, even though people before him had taught a form of the pre-Trib Rapture.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah…
Tommy: But here’s a question: the Brethren Movement was one of the most biblical movements – I mean, anybody who studied them knows that those were people of the Book…
Tommy: …and even people who are very much opposed to the Brethren Movement all acknowledge that they were Bible studiers, the most intense Bible studiers of their day. Yet most of them – not all Brethren – most of them adopted pre-Tribulationalism, and it had a resonance and it was taught in the Bible, and those kinds of things. And it was all these people’s church traditions – I’m sure our listeners can identify with the idea that they grew up in a certain church or this or that, and that tradition prevented them, maybe, from seeing the gospel. But it’s not hard to realize that many people’s church traditions kept them from seeing what the New Testament taught.
Tom: And the major one was during that time the Roman Catholic Church, which was amillennial. So that would be so far – you know, go back to Augustine and so on – that would be removed from anybody’s thinking, especially – even me growing up Roman Catholic during my generation, we were never encouraged to read the Bible. So then take it back further than that: it was a problem, and these things – there had to be breakthroughs to get our heads straight according to the Scriptures.
Tommy: Yes, and the Roman Catholics invented amillennialism. [laughs]
Tom: Yeah. There’s no doubt about it. Now, Tommy, we’ve got just a couple of minutes left – what I want to establish right now, and we’ll get onto it in our next session, the Lord willing, is that we are, as I said at the beginning, although we haven’t gotten there yet – well, except in bits and pieces – we’re going to address the trailer for a documentary that’s coming out; it’s called Left Behind or Led Astray?, and it’s a trailer, as I said. The documentary supposedly is going to be released by the end of the year or early next year, but the question we have with that is it’s making a lot of headway, and you haven’t seen it, I haven’t seen it, because it’s not out there, so we’re just going to be addressing what’s in the trailer, which is enough, I would say. However, Tommy, you know what these guys teach. I know what they teach, so we’re not just picking things out of the air or making things up as we go along. The documentary addresses and promotes post-Tribulationalism, and the Lord willing, we’re going to get after that in our next session.
Tommy, thanks for being with us. We look forward to next week.
Tommy: I’m looking forward myself.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources 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, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.