Luke 17, The Lord’s Other End Time Prophecy

by Jack Kelley

Our Lord gave us a pretty thorough overview of the End Times as they relate to Israel. It’s often called the Olivet Discourse because He was speaking to four of His disciples on the Mt. Of Olives. It was just a couple of  days before He was arrested, and they asked Him about the End of the Age. Matthew’s account of His answer is in chapters 24-25. Mark’s is contained in chapter 13. Luke’s version is a little different in that it also includes a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. You’ll find it in his 21st chapter. (Read “The End Times According To Jesus”)

 

Since the Lord was answering questions about Israel’s future and His 2nd Coming, the focus was decidedly Jewish, so we don’t learn anything about the Church from studying it. But understanding how things will progress for Israel gives us a background that makes Paul’s prophecies about the church in the End Times, which came 20 years later, easier to understand. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, written about 51 AD, officially introduced the notion of the Rapture and its timing to the early church, and contain clarifying information about the anti-Christ and the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit as well. The 2nd Coming is referred to in every chapter of these two letters, for an average of once in every 13 verses.  (Read “The End Times According To Paul”)

In Luke 17:20-37, the Lord gave us some additional information about the time of His coming that’s often overlooked.  But after you’ve gained the Jewish perspective from the Olivet Discourse and the Christian one from Paul’s letters, you can use Luke 17 to double check your understanding of the End times, and see if you’ve gotten it right. The fact that Luke 17 shares some language with the Olivet Discourse gives us a hint that they’re meant to be related. Let’s take a look.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”(Luke 17:20-21)

Right off the bat, the Lord threw us a curve to make sure we’re paying attention. It came in the form of the word translated “within”.  He was responding to the Pharisees who had posed the question, and the Kingdom of God was not within them because they weren’t believers. So what was He trying to tell us? Well, it turns out that the word can also mean “in the midst of”, and the Kingdom was in the midst of them. He was the personification of the Kingdom and He was standing right in front of them. Some translations, the NIV for example, offer “among” as an alternate to “within” in verse 21.

To the Pharisees it was only true that the Kingdom was among them. But once the Holy Spirit was given, the Kingdom would also be within all believers. At that point, both of these interpretations would become true. The Kingdom of God is within us, and we are in the midst of the world. This is the spiritual, or invisible phase of the Kingdom. But as we’ll see it’s not the final phase.

Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. (Luke 17:22-25)

After being rejected and executed by the leaders of His generation, the Lord would go away, and only the invisible phase of the Kingdom would remain. It’s called the Church. But then He would return and when He did there would be no mistaking it.  The second coming will light up the entire sky, and the visible phase of the Kingdom will begin.

This is a clue as to why the Church and Israel are mutually exclusive in the world. The Kingdom of God began with Israel. He had Moses tell them so. “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

But then because of their disobedience it was taken away from Israel and given to the Church. In Matt. 21:43 Jesus said. “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

But this wasn’t to be permanent. After the Church disappears, the Kingdom will be restored to Israel. The early Church understood this, as evidenced by James’ prophecy in Acts 15:13-18 where he said that the Lord would first take from among the Gentiles a people for Himself, and after that would return to rebuild David’s fallen tabernacle. Later Paul confirmed this, saying that Israel had been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles come in, and after that Israel would be saved. (Romans 11:25-27)

The Days Of Noah

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27)

Like it was in Noah’s time most people on Earth at the End of the Age will be unaware that life as they know it is about to end, not because they haven’t been warned but because they haven’t believed the warning. Noah is used as a model of the believing remnant of Israel at the end of the age, preserved through the judgment while the world is destroyed. Noah and his family remained in the general location of the judgment while the unbelievers were swept away in the flood.

At the End of the Age Israel’s believing remnant will remain in the general location of the judgment but will be preserved while the Lord completely destroys the nations around them. Speaking of the time of Jacob’s Trouble (the Great Tribulation) in Jere. 30:11 the Lord said,

I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you.”

In the symbolic language of Revelation the Jewish remnant is represented by a woman, while Satan is called the serpent.

The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. (Rev. 12:14)

The Lord used this same terminology to describe the manner in which He delivered Israel from Pharaoh’s Army in the Exodus.  “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4)

The Days Of Lot

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:28-29)

At first glance this seems like another similar example. But it’s really very different. Lot was taken away from the location of the judgment to a place of safety. In fact the angels who were sent to remove him said they couldn’t bring the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot was away and safe. (Genesis 19:21-22) He was rescued from the out pouring of God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah before it began.

In this sense, Lot becomes a model of the Church. Paul explained that the Church would be rescued from the time of God’s Wrath on the Earth as well. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.(1 Thes.1:9-10)

The Greek word translated “from” in verse 10 means the Church will be removed from the time or place or any relation to the coming wrath. Just like it was with Lot and the judgment of Sodom , we have to be away and safe before the End Times judgment of Earth can begin.

I’ve often said that Jesus didn’t teach the doctrine of the Rapture and didn’t even tell His disciples about it. But if you already know it’s coming you can find hints of it in the Gospels. This is one of them, and by using Lot as a model the Lord confirmed the timing. Before the judgment.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

“Where, Lord?” they asked.

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:30-37)

In Matt. 24:17-18 Jesus warned the people alive at the beginning of the Great Tribulation not to go back into their houses for anything but to flee quickly, so it’s reasonable to assume He means the same thing here. It wouldn’t make any sense for Him to be speaking of the actual day of His return because by then it will be too late to run.  Those who cling to the ways of this world at the beginning of the Great Tribulation will find themselves losing everything.  But those who abandon them in favor of the next world will gain eternal life.  I think Lot’s wife is a graphic model of those “in-name-only” Christians who attend church and even do lots of good things, but aren’t born again.  Though they claim to be Christians, their hearts continue to long for the things of this world.  When the time comes they’ll be left behind, and many will perish in the End Times judgments.

As in Matt. 24:40-41 the word translated “taken” literally means received, and the word for “left” means to put away, as in a divorce.  After the Lord returns, some tribulation survivors will be received directly into the Kingdom. They will have become believers after the rapture and will be welcomed into the Kingdom as their reward. But those who have persisted in their unbelief will be put away, off the planet, in the place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) This statement summarizes the judgments the Lord will conduct just after His return.  Matt. 25 describes then in detail.

Some read a lot of symbolism into the comment about dead bodies and a vulture, but I see it as a simple parable. Vultures don’t gather any place in the sky except over the carcass of a dead body. The dead body is really the purpose of their gathering, it’s where they belong.  The use of this parable was just the Lord’s way of answering the disciples’ question, “Where, Lord?” He said each group will be gathered to the place where they belong.

So in Luke 17:20-37 the Lord explained the two phases of the Kingdom, the invisible phase (the Church) and the visible one (the Millennial Kingdom).  He said he was going away and then coming back, and that His 2nd Coming will be physical just like His first one.  He also said there will be a believing remnant preserved through the End Times judgments that precede His return (Israel),  another group of believers who will be removed to a place of safety before the judgments begin (the Church), and a group of Tribulation survivors. Upon His return, some of the Tribulation survivors will be received into the Kingdom as a reward for believing, while the rest will be sent to the place prepared for the devil and his angels for refusing to believe. It’s a remarkable overview of the Great Tribulation and 2nd Coming.  You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.

 

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  1. Stamping Out Harold Camping

    Is Second Coming date-setter Harold Camping worthy of death? He already has a zero batting average after his September 1994 prediction fizzle and, according to the Bible, is a false prophet.
    Nevertheless that California shaman, who should be ashamed, claims he’s found out that Christ’s return will be on May 21, 2011 even though Matt. 24:36 says that no one knows the “day” or “hour” of it!
    A Google article (“Obama Fulfilling the Bible”) points out that “Deut. 18:20-22 in the Old Testament requires the death penalty for false prophets.”
    The same article reveals that “Christians are commanded to ask God to send severe judgment on persons who commit and support the worst forms of evil (see I Cor. 5 and note ‘taken away’).”
    Theologically radioactive Harold Camping and his ga-ga groupies (with their billboards featuring “May 21, 2011”) should worry about being “stamped out” if many persons decide to follow the I Cor. 5 command.
    The above article concludes: “False prophets in the OT were stoned to death. Today they are just stoned!”
    PS – For many years Camping was not known as a pretrib rapture teacher. But now, for $ome my$teriou$ rea$on, he seeks support from those who believe in and teach an imminent, pretrib rapture which supposedly will occur SEVERAL YEARS BEFORE the traditional SECOND COMING to earth! For a behind-the-scenes, documented look at the 181-year-old pretrib rapture belief (which was never a part of any official theology or organized church before 1830!), Google “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” and “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts.”

  2. Hi Edie! No Harold Camping is not worth of stoning, but he is worthy of our forgiveness and prayers that he will come to know God’s word in truth! In addressing your comments above I would say you have a misunderstanding of scripture and your just plain wrong on the history of the pre-tribulation rapture. First, False prophets were stoned in the old testament days for the sin of speaking in God’s name falsely according to the law at that time. When Jesus came he took the sin of all mankind upon himself and paid the price for our sin by giving his life on the cross to pay the debt of our sins. In doing so he brought a new covenant in which he fulfilled the law and gave us new commands. He told us to love each other….even our enemies:

    Matthew 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

    Secondly, the pre-tribulation rapture is not something that began in the 1800’s. It has been around as long as scripture. It is clear that the early church immediately following the apostles held to a premillennial view of Christ’s coming to earth. These theologians embraced two key truths concerning Christ’s return to earth. The idea of an any moment return and a coming of Christ to rule as the political and spiritual king over the world were advocated by many of the earliest theologians. Here is a partial list of some of the theologians who embraced the doctrine of imminency and/or the future kingdom rule of Christ:



    Papias (60-130)


    Clement of Rome (90-100)


    The Sherpherd of Hermas (96-150) 
    

Ignatius of Antioch (98-117)
    

Barnabas (100)


    The Didache (100-160)
    

Justin Martyr (110-165)


    The Epistle of Barnabas (117-138)
    

Irenaeus (120-202)


    Tertullian (145-220)


    Hippolytus (185-236)


    Cyprian (200-250)
    

Lactantius (260-330)



    From these men we see the doctrine of Christ’s soon return within a premillennial framework. The doctrine permeated the early church. Some of these men even had direct contact with the apostles.

    Two Pretribulational References in the Early Church


    1. The Shepherd of Hermas (95-150)

The Shepherd of Hermas was written between 96-150 AD. This document provides a statement that resembles a teaching of a pre-trib rapture doctrine. Though it is not exactly as found in modern day scholarly pretribulational writings, it still shows that an idea existed in some degree that God’s people could escape the future tribulation that was to come on the whole earth. The text reads:
    “You have escaped from the great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days of your life serving the Lord blamelessly.”
    This is not a systematic teaching, nor does it answer all of the questions that one may have. But it does give a reference to the possibility that God’s people can escape the great tribulation.

    

2. Victorinus ( Well known by 270 and died in 303 A.D.)

Victorinus wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. In one place he made an interesting statement that reflects his idea that the church would be removed prior to the tribulation. Of course his ideas were not systematic, and some will argue that he contradicts himself in other places, which may very well be true. But even with such an admission it still serves us well to see that early in the church history someone taught in some sense that God’s church could escape the tribulation period by being removed from the earth. His commentary notes in Revelation 6:14 indicate a pre-trib reference of some sort: 
    “And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up.” For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away. “And every mountain and the islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid persecution.
    This reference gives light into a developing idea in the earliest periods of the church. There was an idea that God’s people could be spared the terrible time of wrath thatGod would pour out on the earth by removing the saints. The saint’s departure from the earth would occur so they would not undergo the terible wrath at the beginning of the judgments of God upon the sinful unbelieving world.  
      

    Summary:
    Three Clear Summary Points from the Early Church Fathers’ Teachings
    These early church fathers expected Christ to physically return to earth followed by a 1000 year kingdom rule on earth.
    By many of the writings we can see they believed in the possibility of an any moment return of Christ with some statements that resemble a pre-trib view point.
    Even though the early church was under heavy persecution these teachers believed there would still come a distinct time of great tribulation in the future.

    Two Pretribulational Teachings in the Medieval Church
    

1. Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373)

Ephraem wrote an important sermon “On the Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World.” As a prominent theologian and prolific writer of the Eastern Byzantine church, he advocated for a pretribulational rapture position for the church. Dr. Grant Jeffrey has noted that he had a profound love for the Scriptures. Below is a selected quote that concerns the escape of God’s people from the horrible tribulation. He stated:
    “We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging.  Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled, and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of hte Roman kingdom.  Why therefore are we ovvupied with wordly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or the anxieties of the ages?  Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that He may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms the world? Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it it the very last time.  Or do you not believe unless you see it with your eyes?  See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares:  “Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!”  Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.  And so brothers, most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of this world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early.  Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and invasions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor ofthe appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!
    Notice that there is a clear teaching on the rapture of the saints before the terrible tribulation period. This theologian admonishes the people not to desire to see the Day of the Lord? Why? Because in his mind to see the day of the Lord means a person is not a believer. The believers will be snatched away and taken to the Lord before this time period begins. Look closely at what he says again:
     ”
    See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares:  “Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!”  Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.”
    Scholars Dr. Ice and James Stitzinger provide some other insights as to what this theologian taught concerning the end times. In many respects this theologian taught many truths that are common among the Dispensational system of interpretation today. They note that Ephreum 
    “develops an elaborate biblical eschatology, including a distinction between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. It describes the imminent rapture, followed by a three-and-half-year-long Great Tribulation under the rule of Antichrist, followed by the coming of Christ, the defeat of the Antichrist, and the eternal state. His view includes a parenthesis between the fulfillment of Daniel’s sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks (Daniel 9:24-27).” 
    Keep in mind that this reference is 1500 years before the time that many critics of the pre-trib view claim this doctrine developed. Many falsely advocate that the idea of a pre-trib rapture view developed in 1800s through J.N. Darby or through some sects and mystics. Such a view does not hold water, though it is popular in many circles. 

For example, I once visited a Reformed Baptist Church in Greenville. It was a question and answer time session hosted by two pastors connected to the fellowship. Students from North Greenville College, Furman Univeristy, and other colleges, universities, and churches were present. A sincere man raised his hand and asked this question: “Why will no one teach on the book of Revelation and prophecy anymore? Can you give me a biblical answer to the issue of Bible prophecy.” I thought it was a great question and I was interested to hear a biblically based answer from Scripture by the two pastors. Sadly, what was given in reply caused several of us in the room to have a serious concern for the pastors answering questions. Instead of providing an answer to the student’s question the two pastors took the next ten minutes to simply attack the idea of a pre-trib rapture view. These two men did not take the time to provide for a biblical defense of their view. All they did was attack the pre-trib view as a modern invention that developed in the 1800s. After they attacked such a view, with little to no defense of their own view, I called the men on the carpet for a failure to study history and to defend their own view biblically. I asked them about several men who held this view before the 1800s, such as with Ephraem and others I’ll discuss below. They had no reply to the information I gave to them.    

    2. Brother Dolcino (d. 1307)

One scholar has found a quote that relates to the teachings and disciples of Dolcino. Dolcino and his followers held to some form of rapture view whereby people were translated to heaven before the time of judgment on the Antichrist. The teaching is as follows: 

”Again, [Dolcino believed and preached and taught] that within those three years Dolcino himself and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist. And that the Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist. And that then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth for the purpose of preaching [against] Antichrist. Then they would be killed by him or by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time. But when the Antichrist is dead, Dolcino himself, who then would be the holy pope, and his preserved followers, will descend on the earth, and will preach the right faith of Christ to all, and will convert those who will be living then to the true faith of Jesus Christ”

    Teachers and Theologians after the Protestant Reformation Who Believed in a Pre-trib Rapture:

    
At the time of the Protestant Reformation a major shift in how one interpreted the Bible caused the church to adjust in her views on the end times. Predominately under the Roman Catholic Church the Bible was interpreted allegorically. Scripture dealing with end times, prophetic texts, for the most part suffered from the hands of those who would not take the text literally. However, as the Reformation grew and as people began to return to a literal interpretation of the Bible the more people shifted to see that Christ was going to come back to earth to rule and reign. Many of the Puritans and Pilgrims, the 2nd generation of the Reformation movement, adopted the idea that not only was Christ going to reign on the earth but he would also translate his church saints before the awful time of his outpouring of wrath. Several of these scholars in some form or another held to a pre-tribulational rapture position.

    

1. Joseph Mede (1627): Clavis Apocalyptica

Some believe that he in this work made a distinction between the rapture of the saints in contrast to the second of Christ to earth.
    


    2. Increase Mather (1639-1723)

Increase Mather was a pastor, scholar, and was the first President of Harvard College. Paul Boyer has noted that this Puritan scholar proved “that the saints would be caught up into the air beforehand, thereby escaping the final conflagration.” This teaching from Mather was an early formulation of the rapture doctrine it seems. 



    3. Peter Jurieu (1687) 

Peter Jurie in his book “Approaching Deliverance of the Church ” (1687) taught that Christ would come in the air to rapture the saints and return to heaven before the battle of Armageddon.He spoke of a secret Rapture prior to His coming in glory and judgment at Armageddon.

    

4. John Gill (1748)

Dr. John Gill was one of the most brilliant scholars of his day. This Calvinist Baptist theologian wrote a full commentary set on the Bible in 1748. In this commentary he made a statement in his notes on 1 Thessalonians 4 that supported a time difference between the rapture of the saints and the coming of Christ to earth. He said: 
    ….here Christ will stop and will be visible to all, and as easily discerned by all, good and bad, as the body of the sun at noon-day; as yet He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him; but when that and its works are burnt up, and it is purged and purified by fire, and become a new earth, He’ll descend upon it, and dwell with his saints in it: and this suggests another reason why He’ll stay in the air, and His saints shall meet Him there, and whom He’ll take up with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it…. 

    

5. Morgan Edwards (1742-1744) the Founder of Brown University

Edwards was a prominent Baptist Leader in his day. When he came to America he was recommended to a pastoral role by the famous John Gill. He founded the first Baptist College in the colonies. This college later became known as Brown University, a well known Ivy League University of our times. Edwards taught that Christ would return for his church saints 3.5 years before he returned to establish the Kingdom of Christ on earth, the 1000 year reign of Christ. He specifically said: 
    “The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years. I say, somewhat more–, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s ‘appearing in the air’ (1 Thess. 4:17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many ‘mansions in the Father’s house’ (John 14:2).”

    Summary: Orthodox Believers of History Have Believed in a Pretribulational View:
     
    As stated earlier in this link, the timing of the rapture debate should not be classed as an “A” level truth. The fact of Christ’s coming is a larger issue. Then next in the scale would be if Christ will rule on the earth as King over all the earth. Those two issues are higher on the scale than the exact time of his rapture of the church age saints. To divide a fellowship or to break fellowship with a body over this one doctrine shows a sign of immaturity. 
     
    However, Christians must recognize that those who paint pre-tribulationists as fanatics, fringe movement Christians, or as heretics who have emabraced some strange and novel idea never heard of until the 1800’s have done a disfavor to the entire body of Christ. Whatever position one holds to in this area, everyone should at the least admit good, sound, and orthodox believers have taught this view before the 1800’s time period. And many today continue to see this as a valid position to hold from the Scriptures when properly interpreted in a plain, consistent, and normal manner with the words given their ordinary usage in historical context.    


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