A response to The Tribulation and the Church by Pastor Chuck Smith.
May I first tell that I do agree with the larger part of Pastor Chuck Smith's words and works. God has empowered him; he has many responsibilties toward the Kingdom of God that extend far beyond any work I have yet permitted Gods Spirit to accomplish in me. He is God's servant. He has willingly taken up the burden of 1st Peter 5:1-4 and James 3:1.
It's not even my hope to reprove him; the notes that follow are written under the anguish of mistakes that we have all made. May God help us all.
Early from the Introduction to this book, pastor Smith writes:
Can you conceive of a time when people couldn't die? Perhaps their bodies would be mangled in a plane crash, yet their spirits would refuse to leave. They'd have to remain in a maimed condition for six months, waiting for death.
A tantalizing reference to Revelation 9:6? Does this illustration assume that no man can know physical death under the fifth trumpet? Maybe someone can show us for how the text/context supports "no death" universal? In any event, the temptation to presume and extrapolate in our expounding upon the Bible has occasionally drawn Calvary Chapel(s) into the shadows of imaginations (of men).
Further along, Chuck Smith writes:
There's a debate in theological circles as to whether or not the Church will be here when God's wrath is unleashed upon the earth. Many are saying the Church must go through this time period of judgment known as the Great Tribulation. They speak disparagingly of the blessed hope that Christ will come for His Church before God's judgments are loosed upon the earth. Since they maintain that there's to be no escape for the Church, they make the prayer Christ encouraged us to pray in Luke 21:36 meaningless.
That there continues a debate a difference of conviction/interpretation concerning the Church's future presence under great tribulation, would be a most honest representation. However, do those brethren who set aside the "pre-trib rapture" teaching all maintain a "no escape" hope against Luke 21:36?
Chuck further writes:
The purpose of this book is to examine the biblical reasons why I feel the Church will not be here during the Great Tribulation.
Chuck Smith further writes:
In Matthew 24:21-22 Jesus Himself said, 'For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.' The 'elect' here refers to Israel, as evidenced by the context (vs. 16, 20).
The teaching of two distinct groups for the one Body of Christ, often presented as prerequisite to a pre-wrath rapture. If there were only more direct Scriptural support for dividing Christians into two (or more) groups... Are we Abraham's children, or no? [Romans 4 & 11; Galatians 3]
"There is no such thing as a 'saved' heir to the law. You are an heir to
Abraham's faith or you are damned."
-- Eric Highleyman
The senior Pastor of CC Costa Mesa further writes:
It's important to make a clear distinction about tribulations as taught in the Bible. There are two different types of tribulation. (1) The Great Tribulation referred to by Jesus and Daniel and detailed by John in the Revelation. (2) The tribulation that Jesus promised would come to the Church.
The Great Tribulation that will come upon the earth originates from Heaven.
A distinction to support the premise? All that is ordained by God "originates from Heaven." The account of Job strongly hints to such.
Pastor Smith also tells us:
In the Old Testament the Lord spoke to Abraham and told him of the impending judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In response Abraham challenged the fairness of God. He asked, 'Shall not the Lord of the earth be just? Would You punish the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous in the city?' The Lord answered that for 50 righteous He would spare the city.
Notice the whole premise of Abraham's intercession with God. It wouldn't be fair for God to judge the righteous with the wicked. If the judgment proceeds from God, then it surely wouldn't be fair for God to judge the righteous along with the wicked."
Yet, whether it be "fair" or no...
"God will judge both the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and every work."
-- Ecclesiastes 3:17
"The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked..."
-- Psalm 11:5a
Pastor Smith also writes:
When the angels arrived in Sodom, they couldn't even find the ten righteous for whom Abraham had interceded. So, they delivered the one righteous man, Lot, out of the city. Not until he was delivered did the judgment of God come.
Yes, excepting the matter of Lot's own wife.
Any argument that might be developed to prove that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation and experience the wrath of God that is coming upon the earth must somehow explain the following point. When did God change His ways as to now punish the righteous with the wicked? It would be a change in God's nature to force His children to face the outpouring of His wrath. Yet, God said that he changes not (Malachi 3:6).
Did Noah and his family "experience the wrath of God..."? No, and yes. He was brought through, safely within the ark God commanded for him. So, where are these folk who speak of the Church, the Bride, as destined to endure the very wrath of God?
Pastor Smith outlines a syllogism for the thesis:
Our major premise is negative: the Church is not appointed to wrath (Greek: orge). 'We shall be saved from wrath' (Rom. 5:9); 'God has not appointed us to wrath' (I Thess. 5:9). The minor positive premise is: the Great Tribulation is a time of God's wrath (orge). 'Hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath is come' (Rev. 6:16-17). The conclusion must be negative and plain: the Church will not be in the Great Tribulation.
The more faithful conclusion being that the Church shall not be appointed to the wrath of the Great Tribulation. Otherwise, conforming to the more liberal premise, we have a Great Flood [Genesis 6-9] tossing around an empty boat, so to speak. If we will understand it, Jesus Christ is that 'ark' for us.
Under the sub-heading, "THE SEVENTY WEEKS" , Smith writes:
The prince of the people will 'confirm the covenant with many for one week [seven years]: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.' Since Jesus referred to this final seven-year period as yet future in His day, and inasmuch as the Antichrist hasn't yet made the covenant with Israel, we must conclude that it's still in the future.
Did He truly?
Concerning the 69 Daniel 'weeks' [483 years] being separated, as the Messiah is 'cut-off', from the 70th week [70 years] by what would be more than 270 'weeks' [~1900 years; termed as the 'Church age'], what can be said? There may yet be a 'dual fulfillment' (i.e., the early A.D. destruction of Jerusalem and/or the Temple, as well as a later 'final week' to mark Christ's soon second advent). Yet, in considering these things, there remains that dogged temptation to rely upon the calculations of men. This grab for some historical precision only tends to lead many to the 'would be, could be' sort of "date setting," or 'date hoping' that has stumbled more than a few of God's children, and played the Church for a fool. Is it not good enough for you and I, that Christ said, "of that day and hour, no one knows." [Matthew 24:36]? Counting of the weeks and years may have been of considerable insight (in hindsight) to religious leaders (et.al.) in the time of Herod or Pontius Pilate, but this technique will reveal trustworthy little to us for events encompassing Christ's next coming.
As for the time of the Rapture, Jesus said, 'No man knows the day or hour.' For us to presume to declare some date or hour for the Rapture would be an unscriptural presumption. If we say we know the hour, we're boasting of knowledge superior to Christ's when He was upon the earth.
Excellent. That's as good as a confession to me. It's time for the '1981' critics to get a clue... Chuck Smith is not willing to force a specific date for 'rapture' or advent.
Although we don't know the exact time of the Rapture, in I Thessalonians 5 Paul said, 'But of the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night. For when they will say, Peace and safety; then comes sudden destruction ... But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.' The Bible is saying that the Rapture of the Church shouldn't come to you as a surprise.
God has given to us the signs that would precede the coming of Jesus Christ.
Since "the rapture" can as easily refer to pre-, mid-, post-, advent-, whatever-, I won't quibble with use of the word here. Instead, I believe Chuck has a crucial point concerning our awareness of the 'seasons'.
Quoting from: 1998072519424000.PAA09974@ladder03.news.aol.com
firstname.lastname@example.org (EHighleymn); Date: 1998/07/25; Newsgroup: alt.bible
Amos 3:7 The Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
Rev 22:10b Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.
Rev 10:7 In the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
2 Tim 2:7b The Lord give you understanding in all things.
[Understanding, Knowledge: Strong's 4907, sunesis, from 4920, a mental putting together. 4920, suniemi, from 4862 and hiemi, to send; to put together, i.e. mentally.]
Eccl 8:5b-6a A wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment, because for every matter there is a time and judgment. . .
Dan 2:30b This mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you... may know the interpretation and that you may understand. . .
Ps 25:14a The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him. . .
Prov 3:32b His secret is with the righteous.
Dan 12:10b None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine. . .
Matt 24:36a Of that day and hour knoweth no man. . .
1 Cor 2:11b The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
John 16:13 When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. . . and he will shew you things to come.
1 Jn 2:20 Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
Prov 28:5b They that seek the LORD understand all things.
Dan 2:22 He revealeth the deep and secret things. . .
Mark 4:22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.
1 Cor 2:11b-13 The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Matt 24:32-34 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mark 13:33-37 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!
Back to "The Tribulation and the Church", by Chuck Smith:
Chapter 4 begins the third section of the Revelation. The chapter begins with the same Greek phrase, meta tauta, 'after these things.' The question naturally arises, 'After what things?' The obvious answer is, 'After the things of chapters 2 and 3.' What are the things of chapters 2 and 3? The things of the Church. So, you could begin Revelation 4:1, 'After the things of the Church, I saw a door open in Heaven, and the first voice I heard was a trumpet saying to me, Come up hither, and I will show you things which must be [then another repetition of meta tauta] after these things.'
The dangers of intellectual deduction linger ever so near. One of my 'top' seven things to be said for the sake of Calvary Chapel brothers would be: Do not read too much into 'meta tauta'.
Chuck Smith also writes:
The open door in Heaven takes us back to the message of Jesus to the Philadelphia church, His faithful and true remnant in the last days. He said, 'and I have set before thee an open door which no man can shut." Now this door is opened in Heaven, and the voice is as a trumpet, 'Come up hither.' This appears to be the Rapture of the Church in the Book of Revelation.
Or, maybe the open door is just for John and/or that Philadelphia church? Rather, it would be wisdom to avoid building around extrapolations... Especially since this "open door" has been placed at the other side of a pre-'meta tauta'?
Pastor Smith also writes:
Here [Revelation 2:18-29] the warning to the church is definitely to repent or face the Great Tribulation. The obvious inference is that they could escape the Great Tribulation if they would repent.
With the like inference that they could well go through "Great Tribulation", if they did not repent?
To which Chuck 'responds':
I must concur that at least part of the Church will face the Great Tribulation. The unrepentant of the church of Thyatira, who will not turn from their spiritual fornication, will go through the Tribulation and miss the Rapture.
A part of the Church, though it be a pathetic part, facing Great Tribulation. This allowance would seem enough to toss the, 'we are not to experience the wrath of God' axioms. How many unrepentant did you encounter, last week at church meetin'? More than a few, or, you just couldn't see. (Calvary Chapel, or wherever we may gather in the Name of the Lord.)
...and further on:
It is significant that the Church is singing before the throne of God the song of praise to Jesus Christ before He ever opens a single seal of the scroll. The Church is singing in Heaven before the Great Tribulation ever starts. The Church as a group isn't seen on the earth again in the Book of Revelation, until the Church comes back to earth riding on white horses with Jesus Christ in Revelation 19.
Can the church be "seen" as a single group within chapters 1 through 3? May we conclude that there will be no witness to God upon the earth during the '7 years'? The absence of a clear description of the Church whole is interesting, but would be less than conclusive.
The group in Heaven in chapter 7 which came up out of the Great Tribulation isn't the Church. John didn't recognize them when the elder asked him, "Who are these?" Their position isn't the same as the Church's. This group stands in the holy Temple and serves God day and night continually, whereas the Church proclaims the glorious prospect of reigning with Christ.
(John and verse 14 just got crunched.) John here answers, "Sir/Lord, you know." Deference need not be of ignorance.
Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation refers to the coming of the man of sin who makes 'war with the saints.' These 'saints' couldn't be the Church saints, because the man of sin overcomes them. Daniel also testified to this fact. Daniel 7:21 describes the 'little horn,' the Antichrist. 'I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.' However, Jesus said that the gates of hell wouldn't prevail against His Church. It's impossible that the saints of Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 could be in the Church, because the Antichrist cannot triumph over the Church.
Maybe some of them are to be from unrepentant Thyatira?
Apostasy is, and is to be, a reality within the Church. [2nd Thessalonians 2:3] By the power of God, no "saint" can be overcome by (the man of) sin unless they allow themselves such. And even today, Christians are allowing themselves to be overcome by darkness; refusing the power and deliverance through the same Spirit of Christ they profess with their mouths.
This is another syllogism with negative and positive premises and it can only produce a negative conclusion. Major premise: the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church. Minor premise: the saints are overcome by the Antichrist. Conclusion: the saints are not the Church. The saints must then be Israel, which are also the "elect" of Matthew 24:31.
For this syllogism to work without inviting confusion, the major premise must include "...cannot prevail against anyone within the Church"; and the conclusion read, "These [Revelation 13] saints must...". Given all this, the major premise appears to extend beyond the doctrine of John 16:33; Romans 12:21; 2nd Peter 2:20 and Revelations 2 & 3. However, if I have missed something in this (or, anything else presented), please feel free to reprove me en todo.
Pastor Chuck Smith also writes:
Who is the 'restraining' force holding back the revelation of the Antichrist? I believe that the restraining force is the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the Church.
Friends, always watch for the phrase: "I believe...", or, "I think...", or somesuch. It is there for your benefit. It precedes a heart-conviction or an opinion; even a well informed opinion. It does not mean that what follows "I believe" is to be taken as "Bible truth." In the above example, the Holy Spirit may very well be the "restraining force... working in and through the Church". Then again, that restraint may be something else entirely. Is there an urgent need, here, to sift for exactly what restrains? Probably not.
The Rapture of the Church and being changed into His glorious likeness is far from a woe. It would only be a woe if I didn't go!
And quite a woe to me, should I assure others that, as the Church, they are presently safe from ever seeing great tribulation or testing of their faith; then should that time begin to unfold as never has before. A brother once looked me in the eye, and said, "I would not be a Christian if I had to go through the Tribulation." A new dimension to the faith?
It's obvious that Jesus intended His disciples and the Church in each age to be anticipating His return at any time for them. His word to the disciples was to watch and be ready; for they wouldn't know the day or the hour when He was coming, and He was coming at a time when they wouldn't expect. Therefore, they should always be watching and ready.
If you argue that the Church must go through the Great Tribulation, then you're taking away from the imminency of the return of Jesus Christ. The Church will not be watching, nor do we have any need to be watching for His return, if we must first go through the Great Tribulation. in that case, we'd be watching for the Great Tribulation or the unveiling of the Antichrist. The Church would then have many things to watch for, and we could actually follow the final events rather carefully.
Yes, and no. No man knows just how much "tribulation" he will see... We could be thrown to the lions (or, to the IRS) tomorrow. We do not know the number of our days. We do not know for just how events described from the heavenlies (as recorded in Revelation, etc.) will appear upon the earth to us. The instruction to "watch" is unconditional; requires obedience rather than rationalization. And, even for the most stubborn amillenialist, the appearing of Jesus Christ can occur AT ANY TIME.
Chuck Smith also writes:
If the Lord plans to shield the Church from the Great Tribulation, then where are the promises?
Somewhat of a shock to me... to consider that Pastor Smith apparently should, even at this point in the book, be found short on encouraging words of God's loving and strong protection for us, the Church; God's own children.