Assemblies of God 16 Fundamental Truths
#13: The Blessed Hope
The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; Romans 8:23; Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:51,52).
In the 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God, the 5th Fundamental Truth (one of the four cardinal doctrines), says “All Christians who have died will one day rise from their graves and will meet the Lord in the air. Christians who have not yet died will be raptured or caught up with them, to be with the Lord. Then Christians of all ages will live with God forever. The scriptural truth of the Lord’s soon return is the “the blessed hope” (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Titus 2:13). Rev Lim explores.
The second coming of the Lord is a blessed hope. One day we shall see His face. Every tear will be wiped away. Every knee shall bow before Him—including all demons, discouragements, and detours. We shall reign with him for eternity. Every believer should rejoice in the hope of His coming. Unfortunately, debate over when the Lord will return has brought disunity and disagreement in the body of Christ.
No one has a perfect understanding of when the rapture will take place. Believers have held three basic positions:
- Beready, Jesus can come After the rapture, the seven-year tribulation will begin.
- Thechurch must be prepared to go through the entire tribulation period before Jesus
- Thethird position seeks to moderate these views and declares that Jesus will come halfway through the tribulation, and that the saints will not encounter the major plagues of the final three and a half
Well-known biblical scholars have defended each position and none should be seen as heretical. Here are the major reasons why I firmly believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture:
- Imminent Return
The early church believed Jesus could come anytime. Jesus taught His disciples that there would be delay. Paul wrote Thessalonians to assure them that they had not missed the rapture. Jesus Himself said that the return would be as a “thief in the night” when people are not expecting it, so we are to live our lives in anticipation of His coming. If Jesus only returns after the seven-year tribulation and the Antichrist has revealed himself, the rapture would hardly be a surprise. Dr Albert Schweitzer, French-German theologian felt the early church was mistaken about Jesus’ imminent return. He felt that Jesus’ teaching was an “interim ethic”, a radical call to commitment that is not relevant today.
2. A Message of Comfort
“Prophecies”, rumors, and letters purporting to be from Paul implied that the Thessalonians had missed the rapture. They faced major persecution and some had died. They may have thought that Caesar in Rome was the Antichrist. Paul assured them that those who had already died would rise first and we who remain would be caught up to meet Him in the air. Imagine telling the suffering church, “Cheer up, we have seven more years of tribulation!” That would be of no comfort. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 indicates that someone holds back evil until it be taken out of the way. I believe that someone is the church that stands for righteousness, which is the salt of the earth. When we are taken out of the way, all evil shall flourish. The Antichrist will be revealed and he will gain power over the world. I personally believe a major reason the Antichrist will rise in power is because of the sudden disappearance of millions of believers. Someone has to explain this phenomenon, especially as non-believers would not want to admit that Jesus had raptured the church. The Antichrist rises on the power of his tongue (speech).
3.The Wrath of God
Revelations 6-19 describes a tribulation that will impact the entire world—major destruction of the economic sphere, and geographical upheaval that will affect every living creature. No one will be spared when judgment touches one-quarter of the world! Why would God pour out His wrath on believers too? That is why the mid-tribulation rapture position developed. This position states that the first three and a half years is not as difficult as the last three and a half years when the wrath of God is truly poured out. The Antichrist brings peace for three and a half years but then breaks that covenant and shows his deceit.
In Revelations 3:10 God promises the Philadelphia church that because they have kept the word of His patience, He will keep them ‘ek tou thlipsis’ (out of tribulation). There is no specific mention of the church on earth in Revelations 6-19 unless one sees the 144,000 as symbolic of the church rather than referring Jewish evangelists.
In a short article, one cannot be comprehensive. Admittedly, the post tribulation rapture position seems the simplest—rapture and return all at once, on the same day. The early church only thought of the coming of Christ. The pre-tribulation rapture position divides the coming into two parts: rapture first, then seven years later, the return to the earth. It seems a bit more complicated, but I take this position because it appears to answer more of the questions: Jesus can come anytime, providing comfort for the persecuted, the wrath of God as judgment upon sinners, and the salvation of the Jewish nation, a more literal rendering of the relevant passages. No position fully answers all the questions. We will understand it all when we get to heaven. Nonetheless, let us not miss the real points of the blessed hope.
Firstly, we can see God’s eternal plan and take the big picture. In light of Jesus’ coming, all our problems are small. We can fight battles that matter for eternity’s sake. We do not get embroiled in lesser issues.
Secondly, we do all in light of His coming. Jesus could come at any time. Material blessings are tools to spread the gospel. Talents and spiritual gifts are to impact this world. We stay healthy so that we can be effective till He returns. We reveal the fruit of the Spirit to bless others instead of to curse them. We let our light shine, so the darkness can be overcome.
Thirdly, we know God has a plan and He is effecting that plan. Jesus said, “I will come again.” God is in charge. He has never lost control! That means life has purpose. We are important in the Kingdom! God works through the church to reveal His glory throughout the universe.
Fourthly, we are motivated. In spite of evil as well as our failures and discouragements, there is one event that is of the greatest importance—Jesus is coming! The early church encouraged each other with “Maranatha”—the Lord is coming. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be more than conquerors. Satan was defeated at Calvary and now we shall see his ultimate demise!
Last but not least, we have a blessed hope. Because there is judgment day, we know that one day, the evil that men do will be turned into praise for Him. Satan is defeated. We do not labor in vain. All our stresses, failures and disappointments will fade away in light of eternity with Christ! This hope brings purpose, joy, victory, and courage. We will declare, “God has won, and Satan has lost!”.
About Rev David Lim
Rev Dr David Lim is the Honorary Pastor of Grace Assembly of God, after serving as Senior Pastor for more than 20 years. Prior to coming to Singapore, he served for six years at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Philippines in various functions including the role of President for a term.
Rev Dr Lim holds a doctorate in Ministry from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and has authored many books including ‘Spiritual Gifts—A Fresh Look’. In 2003, he recorded and produced his materials on Spiritual Gifts in a 5-DVD set that combines scholarship and practical experience into the exercising of the spiritual gifts. He also wrote two booklets in 2005, entitled ‘Finding God’s Will’ and ‘Worship’. His latest book, ‘The Drama of Redemption: Live the Life God Intended’, was released in January 2008. His involvement in the ministerial training, seminars, conventions, and crusades have touched many lives.