Had Ye Believed Moses
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The Biblical Structure
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found, because God had taken him; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5).
There are two places in Scripture that provide a history of Christendom throughout the dispensation. One was given during the earthly ministry of Christ, preceding the existence of the Church; and the other was given about sixty years after the Church had been brought into existence.
In the first four parables of Matthew chapter thirteen, a history of Christendom is given as it relates to the Word of the Kingdom. And in Revelation chapters two and three, a history of Christendom is given as it relates to works, and to overcoming.
Both accounts deal with the same facet of Church history, though from two different perspectives. The Word of the Kingdom in Matthew chapter thirteen is simply a name for that which is seen as the heart of the message in Revelation chapters two and three (works emanating out of faithfulness, with a view to overcoming and occupying a position with Christ in the coming kingdom).
These are the only two places in Scripture where an overall history of Christendom throughout the dispensation is presented. Each one centers on exactly the same subject — that which God, not man, deems of primary importance. And anyone desiring to understand the “why” of existing conditions in Christendom today can do so through understanding that which has been revealed in these two accounts.
Relative to that which is centrally in view in both sections of Scripture — the Word of the Kingdom — Christendom could go in only one revealed direction. The leaven that the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matthew 13:33 would work until the whole was leavened, leaving Christendom, at the end of the dispensation, in the Laodicean state seen in Revelation 3:14ff.
Because of the working of this leaven throughout the dispensation, the state of the church in Laodicea — “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17b) — was used to depict the condition in which Christ would find Christendom at the time of His return. When Christ returns, He is going to find Christendom completely leavened, through and through. And because of this condition, He is not going to find “the faith” being taught in the churches of the land (Luke 18:8 [“faith” in this passage is articular in the Greek text, and “the faith” is an expression used in the New Testament peculiarly related to the Word of the Kingdom]).
Thus, that which Scripture reveals in Matthew chapter thirteen and Revelation chapters two and three restricts itself to a history of the Church as it relates particularly to biblical doctrine surrounding the Word of the Kingdom — the central message of Scripture. It is this message alone that is in view throughout. But the working of the leaven within the confines of this central message could not possibly restrict itself to this one area of biblical doctrine alone. Biblical doctrine in general could not help but be negatively affected.
And that which Scripture reveals surrounding what is commonly called “the rapture” forms one example of this negative impact upon biblical doctrine — something that can be easily seen through the multiplicity of things currently being taught about the rapture. Teachings about the rapture vary in Christendom to the extent that there seemingly is no end to the different views that are held.
But, though teachings surrounding the rapture are quite varied, they can be divided centrally into two main categories. One segment of Christendom teaches that all Christians will be removed preceding the Tribulation. Then, another segment teaches that only faithful Christians will be removed preceding the Tribulation, with the unfaithful left behind to go through part or all of the Tribulation (a generalized statement, for different selective rapture teachings often vary considerably).
These two main areas (with all the various forms in the latter) would cover most of that which is being taught throughout Christendom concerning the rapture. But there are numerous other ideologies being promulgated in certain quarters as well — e.g., the rapture will occur during the Tribulation, the rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation, or there will not even be a rapture.
Correct, Incorrect Approaches
Most Christians who correctly understand that the rapture will not only occur preceding the Tribulation but will also include all Christians as well rely heavily upon dispensational considerations to support their position. And this would be a correct approach, for, whether it is realized or not, the foundational support for dispensational considerations begins with the types (e.g., comparing the experiences of both Enoch and Rebekah within context [Genesis 4-8; 23-25], the Church must be removed preceding God resuming His dealings with Israel once again).
However, most of these same individuals, seeking further support for that which they see as a dispensational scheme of events, go in a completely erroneous direction. Rather than going back to the types and letting the matter rest upon a comparison of the types with the antitype, they invariably attempt to use sections of Scripture to support their position that have nothing to do with the rapture.
Then, to further complicate the overall situation, a second group that teaches selective rapture ignores dispensational considerations. They do not necessarily ignore those types that have to do with the rapture and with dispensational distinctions, but they misuse them. And most of those in this second group, as do most from the first group in an effort to support their position, also appeal mainly to sections of Scripture that have nothing to do with the rapture. And some of these sections are the same ones used by the first group.
This is how confusing the situation has become, leaving numerous Christians not knowing which way to turn. And the reason for all of this confusion is quite easy to ascertain. Man has ignored the manner and the way in which God set the whole matter forth in His Word, something resulting from the working of the leaven in Matthew 13:33. Man has sought to come up with answers and conclusions through a means other than the way in which God set them forth in His Word (ref., chapter 13 of this book).
And because man has gone in a completely erroneous direction, many Christians have little understanding of God’s purpose for the present dispensation. There is little understanding of the reason why the Holy Spirit was sent into the world on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. — to search for and to procure a bride for God’s Son (a work of the Spirit subsequent to His work surrounding salvation by grace through faith). And, correspondingly, there is also little understanding among these same Christians surrounding the fact that once the bride has been procured, the purpose for the Spirit’s mission in the world will be brought to a close, the dispensation will end, Christians will be removed, and God will once again resume His dealings with Israel.
These are the things that God has revealed in typology relative to that occurring throughout the dispensation. And though one can see some of this apart from the types — a present dispensation in which God deals with the Church rather than with Israel — it cannot be seen in all its clarity and fullness. That revealed in the types alone will allow for the latter.
That revealed in the types alone forms the only foundational material that Scripture provides relating to the rapture. And the types, in conjunction with the antitype, are where man must go in order to properly understand that which God has revealed about the rapture.
(Dispensational considerations are things that have kept many within a correct framework of thought on the rapture. And dispensational considerations are things that should have prevented any form of selective rapture teaching, but not so.
For example, it would be dispensational incorrect to have God dealing with the Church during the last seven years of the previous dispensation [the previous dispensation — covering almost 2,000 years, from Abraham to Calvary — lacks seven years being complete; and the fulfillment of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy will complete this dispensation]. God, during these final seven years, will turn His complete attention to Israel and the surrounding Gentile nations — not partly to Israel and the nations and partly to Christians.
When the present dispensation has run its course, Christians [all] will be removed. God, at this point in time, will have terminated His dealings with Christians on earth. And from a dispensational standpoint, not a single Christian could possibly be left on earth following that time at the end of the dispensation when Christians are removed.
Nor will God deal with a so-called false Church once the present dispensation has been brought to a close and the last seven years of the preceding dispensation begin. Two reasons would preclude God dealing with that which man sees as a false Church during this time: 1) Dealings with an entity of this nature during the Tribulation would be dispensational out of line with that which Scripture reveals about the Church [as previously noted]; and 2) no false Church has ever existed in the first place, or ever will exist, for God to deal with after this fashion.
The thought of a false Church, either existing today or left behind at the time of the rapture, results from man’s erroneous interpretation and understanding of Scripture [usually drawn from teachings surrounding “the great whore” in Revelation 17, erroneously associated with the city of Rome and the Roman Catholic Church]. The simple truth of the matter is that if man is not part of the Church, then he is associated with either the nation of Israel or the Gentile nations. Scripture knows no middle ground between the Church on the one hand and Israel or the Gentile nations on the other — a middle ground that man has associated with a false Church.)
Wrong Structure, Wrong Scripture
Numerous Christians, in their attempts to teach various things concerning the rapture, have begun in a completely erroneous fashion. They have either ignored or misused the correct structure of Scripture through either ignoring or misusing the types. And this has led to disastrous results.
Because that which God set forth has been either ignored or misused, appeal for support of a particular position on the rapture has been made through using various other verses in Scripture. And the verses being used invariably have nothing to do with the rapture, though things stated in the verses are made to apply to the rapture.
Aside from either ignoring or misusing that which God has to say on the matter, the central problem in the preceding can easily be seen. Through making verses apply to the rapture that do not pertain to the rapture, man has destroyed that to which these verses do pertain. And that to which these verses do pertain usually has to do with some facet of the Word of the Kingdom.
There are several vital sections of Scripture, treated in this erroneous fashion, to which appeal is usually made for one’s particular position on the rapture. Attention will be called to three main sections used to support positions on the rapture after this fashion, along with commentary on these sections showing their actual subject matter. And these three should suffice to illustrate the point.
(The whole matter of using sections of Scripture that have nothing to do with the rapture in efforts to support a particular position on the rapture is somewhat like using Revelation 3:20 (Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me) as a verse pertaining to salvation by grace. Neither this verse nor its context deals with salvation by grace. Rather both deal with the Word of the Kingdom. And to use Revelation 3:20 as a verse dealing with salvation by grace does away with that which is actually dealt with in the verse, i.e., it does away with a facet of biblical teaching surrounding the Word of the Kingdom.)
1) 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9
1 Thessalonians 1:10; and 5:9 are often used as companion verses to teach a pretribulation rapture of Christians. And, viewing these verses within context, the rapture is taught by some to include all Christians (both faithful and unfaithful) and by others to include only certain Christians (only the faithful).
But, rather than deal with things surrounding that which either group teaches, it would be better to simply show that which is being dealt with in both sections of Scripture. This will present the truth of the matter, allowing the truth to in turn expose existing error (no matter what form the existing error might take).
And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers [lit., ‘the One delivering’] us from the wrath to come.
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9)
In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, God’s Son is seen presently delivering the Thessalonian believers, described in the previous verses, from “the wrath to come” (the word “delivered” is a present participle in the Greek text and should be translated, “the One delivering”). A present work of the Son is seen in the realm of deliverance, with a view to the Thessalonian believers being delivered from a future wrath.
That being dealt with is, contextually, associated with two things: Paul’s gospel (v. 5), and the faithfulness of the Thessalonian believers (vv. 6-9).
Paul’s gospel centered on “the mystery” revealed to him following his conversion on the Damascus road. The mystery had to do with Christ (the One Who would rule and reign) being proclaimed among the Gentiles; it had to do with believing Gentiles placed in the position of “fellowheirs” with believing Jews (Ephesians 3:1-6; Colossians 1:26, 27).
This was the message which Paul had been commissioned to proclaim to Christians throughout the Gentile world (though Christians did not exist throughout the Gentile world at the time of the revelation of the mystery). And, being proclaimed to Christians, this message had to do with the good news surrounding the coming glory of Christ, not the good news surrounding the grace of God (cf. Romans 16:25; Galatians 1:11, 12; Ephesians 3:1-6; Colossians 1:5, 6, 23).
Paul, relative to the message that he had been commissioned to proclaim (Galatians 1:16; 2:2; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:25), sought to warn and to teach every Christian “in all wisdom,” with a view to presenting every Christian knowledgeable and mature in Christ’s presence at the judgment seat (Colossians 1:26-28). And Paul conducted his ministry after this fashion because he knew that which awaited faithful Christians as well as that which awaited unfaithful Christians: deliverance on the one hand or wrath on the other (1 Thessalonians 1:10), described as salvation or wrath in 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
Neither deliverance (1:10) nor salvation (5:9) has anything to do with the rapture; nor does wrath in these verses have anything to do with the Tribulation. Either deliverance (salvation) on the one hand or wrath on the other in these verses is seen as that which awaits faithful or unfaithful Christians beyond the judgment seat, with both realized during the Messianic Era. This would not only be in keeping with the text and context of each verse but with other passages dealing with the subject as well (e.g., Romans 1:15-18; 2:5-10, 16; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6).
God’s Son is presently effecting a deliverance on behalf of Christians, and this deliverance is with a view to events surrounding the judgment seat and beyond. A present deliverance with future ramifications corresponds to present and future aspects of salvation seen so often in Scripture. And, viewing the end result of this present deliverance — this present work of salvation — decisions and determinations will be made at the judgment seat, with these decisions and determinations being carried out beyond the judgment seat.
Note the context of 1 Thessalonians 5:9, which has to do with Christians being removed from the earth into the Day of the Lord. Christians are seen being removed from the earth in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, and they are then seen in the Day of the Lord at the beginning of the next chapter.
They are seen being removed from Man’s Day into the Lord’s Day (exactly the same as the sequence of events presented in Revelation 1:10-20). Man’s Day will end for Christians at this point in time, since Christians having been removed from the earth, will no longer be present in Man’s Day (“Man’s Day” has to do with man upon the earth throughout 6,000 years of allotted time.) And, no longer residing in Man’s Day, Christians will find themselves in the Lord’s Day.
For those left behind on earth though, they will not find themselves in the Lord’s Day for at least another seven years. Man’s Day will continue on earth until the end of the Tribulation (Joel 2:31, 32; 3:14). Only then, in connection with Christ’s return and the overthrow of Gentile world power, will individuals on earth find themselves in the Lord’s Day.
It is in that coming day, following the overthrow of Gentile world power, that the prayer, “Your kingdom come…,” will be fulfilled. The kingdom under Christ will replace the kingdom under Satan; and Man’s Day, as it has existed for 6,000 years, will be brought to a close (for all mankind), with the Lord’s Day being ushered in.
The Day of the Lord would not overtake the Thessalonian believers “as a thief,” because of that seen in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10. The Christians in Thessalonica were knowledgeable concerning that which lay ahead (either salvation or wrath), for Paul had taught them in the same manner outlined in Colossians 1:28. They knew about that which lay ahead for both the faithful and the unfaithful, resulting in their governing their lives accordingly. And, as a result of their faithfulness, salvation, not wrath, awaited them.
However, an entirely different situation awaited unfaithful Christians. That future day would overtake them “as a thief.” The sudden arrival of the Day of the Lord would catch them completely off guard. They would not appear at Christ’s judgment seat in the condition described in Colossians 1:28. And, as a consequence of their unfaithfulness, wrath, not salvation, awaited them.
“Salvation” in this passage is presented as a hope that Christians presently possess, intimately associated with the armor in which Christians are to presently array themselves (1 Thessalonians 5:8; cf. Ephesians 6:11-18). And seeking to make 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9 relate to the rapture and the coming Tribulation removes all the promises and warnings that God meant for these verses to convey. Rather than providing support for various things taught about the rapture, teachings of this nature, instead, do away with revelation surrounding present and future aspects of salvation.
2) Revelation 3:10
Exactly the same thing can be seen in Revelation 3:10. This verse, as 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9, has nothing to do with the rapture, but it is almost universally looked upon throughout Christendom as a reference to the rapture. Even entire books have been written dealing with this verse in this erroneous fashion.
Because you have kept the Word of my patience [‘patient endurance’], I also will keep you from the hour of temptation [‘testing,’ ‘trial’], which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Revelation 3:10).
Revelation chapters two and three consist of seven short epistles directed to seven existing churches in Asia. These epistles are all identically structured, referring to the works of the Christians in each church, with a view to these Christians either overcoming or being overcome (either overcoming or being overcome by the world [1 John 5:1-5], the flesh [Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5], or the Devil [James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9]). Everything stated in each epistle relates to the former (works), with a view to the latter (overcoming or being overcome).
There is nothing in any one of these seven epistles that relates to the rapture, though numerous well-meaning Christians have removed a verse from its context in the epistle to the church in Philadelphia and sought to make it relate to the rapture (3:10). And this verse is used as somewhat of a mainstay by both those teaching that all Christians will be removed at the time of the rapture and those teaching that only faithful Christians will be removed at the time of the rapture.
“The hour of temptation [‘testing,’ ‘trial’]” is taken as a reference to the coming Tribulation; and the promise given to the faithful Christians in Philadelphia, “I also will keep you from [lit., ‘out of’]” this hour of testing, is taken as a reference to the rapture. Those teaching that all Christians will be removed at the time of the rapture somewhat home in on the latter part of the verse (the promise to be kept out of this time of testing), and those teaching selective rapture somewhat home in on the first part of the verse (the promise applies only to faithful Christians).
But neither position needs to be considered, for the verse has nothing to do with things surrounding the rapture taught by either group. As in the preceding comments on 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9, that which is taught in the text itself is the only thing that needs to be considered, allowing the truth of Scripture to expose existing error (no matter what form the existing error may take).
Revelation 3:10, within context, has to do with works emanating out of faithfulness (cf. James 2:14-26), with a view to overcoming (cf. vv. 8, 10a, 12). And the Christians in Philadelphia were promised that, because of their faithfulness, they would be kept out of a particular time of testing/trial — one about to come upon “all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
This promised deliverance could only be the same as that seen in what is commonly called “the Lord’s prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil [lit., ‘from the evil one’ — from Satan]…” (v. 13a). This would be the same temptation that Christ spoke of in Mark 14:38 and which Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 7:5. And it is the same temptation from which the Lord promised deliverance in 2 Peter 2:9.
Testings or trials are seen in Scripture within two spheres. They are seen as something that God uses in connection with the maturing process, with a view to the person being approved at the judgment seat (James 1:2-4, 12); and they are seen as something that Satan uses in his efforts to bring about defeat in a Christian’s life (Mark 14:38; James 1:13-15). The promise concerning deliverance in Revelation 3:10 would have to be understood within the latter frame of reference, in keeping with Christ’s statement to His disciples in Matthew 6:13.
This “temptation [‘trial,’ ‘testing’]” by Satan was about to (literal rendering from the Greek text) come upon “all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” The fact that this testing would be worldwide is another thing that has led many to believe that the coming Tribulation was in view. But this is not so. Christians are being dealt with, not the world at large; and the expression, “all the world,” must be understood in the same sense as it is used in Colossians 1:6, where Christians alone are also in view.
In Colossians 1:5, 6, 23, Paul states that the gospel (his gospel, the good news surrounding the mystery that had been revealed to him) had been proclaimed throughout “all the world,” “to every creature that is under heaven.” However, the message in this gospel — “if you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (v. 23) — being part of Paul’s gospel, was for Christians alone. The content of the message restricts this good news to Christians, allowing for only one understanding of the passage. “To every creature that is under heaven” can only be a reference to Christians (all Christians) scattered throughout the then known world, not to unsaved individuals in the world as well.
And the extent of the promise surrounding deliverance from a coming time of trial/testing in Revelation 3:10 is the same. It is a promise made to faithful Christians relative to a time of testing/trial that Satan would bring upon Christians (all Christians) scattered throughout the then known world, seeking to bring about their defeat. And the context of Revelation 3:10 is in complete keeping with this thought, not with the rapture.
Efforts to use Revelation 3:10 as a verse relating to the rapture can have only one end result, which is negative. Such efforts can only do away with that which is actually dealt with in this verse. Such efforts can only do away with a facet of teaching surrounding the Word of the Kingdom.
3) Luke 21:34-36
This passage from Luke is used mainly by those teaching selective rapture. And these are verses that, as with the verses in 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9 and Revelation 3:10, have nothing to do with the rapture.
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36).
Luke 21:34-36 should be studied and understood in conjunction with 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9 and Revelation 3:10. All four sections of Scripture deal with exactly the same thing, though from different perspectives.
“That Day” (v. 34) is the future Day of the Lord (cf. vv. 29-33), in which all Christians will one day find themselves. But, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:2ff, some Christians will be prepared for events of that coming day, while other Christians will not be prepared. And “all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (v. 35), as in Revelation 3:10, must be understood in the same sense as those in “the whole world” in Colossians 1:5 is to be understood.
The thought of being “accounted worthy to escape all these things” (v. 36) has nothing to do with the rapture. It has to do with escaping the things enumerated back in verse thirty-four. And the division occurring among individuals in “that Day” has to do with standing or not standing before the Son of Man.
Standing or not standing before the Son of Man must be understood in the light of the context and related Scripture. The context has to do with individuals in the Lord’s presence in “that Day” — with individuals in the Lord’s presence, in the future Day of the Lord — not with individuals removed from the earth into Christ’s presence. And, further, contextually, it has to do with individuals standing in the Lord’s presence in an approved manner in that coming day.
That involved in the thought of standing or not standing before the Son of Man after this fashion can easily be seen in the types. Abraham and Lot would form a good example. At the end of the complete story, both are dealt with in this respect. Both men are seen on the mountain, or in the high country. The cities of the plain (pointing to this present world system) had been destroyed, and the mountain (signifying a kingdom) is now in view. But Abraham alone is seen standing before the Lord (Genesis 18:22; 19:27). Lot was there, but he occupied no place with Abraham (Genesis 19:30; cf. Revelation 6:17).
And that’s what is in view in Luke 21:34-36. These verses have to do with individuals in the future Lord’s Day, with some realizing the goal of faith and others not realizing the goal of faith (1 Peter 1:9).
Correct Structure, Correct Scripture
Little needs to be said concerning the correct way to approach the rapture or any other subject in Scripture. As previously stated, the only correct way to view the matter is to view it after the same fashion in which God has set it forth in His Word.
God structured His Word after a certain fashion, which must be recognized. It is not for finite man to question the ways and methods of an infinite God. Rather, it is for finite man, regardless of whether or not he understands these ways and methods, to heed that which has been recorded.
Man must study the Word after the same fashion in which God structured His Word. Man must recognize the highly typical nature of the Old Testament. Man must go back to the types, comparing the various types on a particular subject with that to which they point — an antitype. Only through this means can man arrive at unblemished truth surrounding any biblical doctrine.
“What does the type reveal?” That is the question of the hour in any area of biblical study. And only when that question has been properly answered, comparing type with antitype, will one arrive at the truth of the matter in the same manner in which God set that truth forth.