Pastor Bob (25 May 2014)
""Absence of Proof is not Proof of Absence -3""


Without controversy the Scriptures present the Rapture of the Church as a comforting and encouraging hope -(John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:18).  The glorious reality awaiting those believers who are alive and remain until the coming of Lord is that "we shall not sleep" -(1 Corinthians 15:51).  If the Church were destined to pass through the Tribulation, then those words would be of little comfort.  In this case, we are not talking about the ordinary trials and tribulations that we all experience daily.  We are talking about a period in which 3/4 of the world's population are killed.

Tribulation saints will not have the joyful expectations of being alive unto the coming of the Lord and being exempt from physical death.  To stand for Christ Jesus in that day will often mean martyrdom -(Revelation 7:14; 13:15; 20:4).  There will be a minority that survive in tact, especially with the world of surveillance today.

I was a United Methodist pastor from 1965-1998.  I served churches from rural circuits, to blighted urban steel towns, to affluent suburban, as well as small towns.  Over the period noted, I officiated at 154 funerals.  One of the passages read out loud to the bereaved was from the passage from John 14, where Jesus stated that He was coming back.  I never much  thought of the passage as a Rapture text, at least not until I regained my eye sight.

This may seem a bit peculiar but I was once blind and could not see.  You see, the UMC is a denomination rooted in the "Covenant/Reform" theological thread having come out the Reformation. 

Make no mistake about it, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture actually has much more going for it than what the critics would have the world believe.  They simply do not read the whole Bible, just portions of what their revered men repeat.  Pre-wrath advocate Marvin Rosenthal wrote that the "Pre-Trib Rapture was of Satanic origin and unheard of prior to 1830.  Marvin's book, 'The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church' published by Thomas Nelson, is going to prove one day to be, itself, of Satanic origin!

I have read Marvin's book four times through to date, and I only keep it around to sharpen my skills and memory of the truth. What is so disingenuous about his book is his statement concerning his research was so shallow.  First off, he relied on Dave MacPherson, a man that has written eight books, all of which attacked the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  He hasn't written on any other topic than his diatribes attacks against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  Think about it, what does that tell you about an author? 

The whole controversy aroused by Dave MacPherson's claims has so little supporting evidence, despite his so-called "careful research".  Note this insight tip:  You can be sure that anyone, writer, author, speaker, who points to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture as having begun with Margaret MacDonald and John Nelson Darby is parroting the words of Dave MacPherson or Hank Hanegraaff, aka the "Bible Answer Man" on syndicated Christian radio.  I used to listen to him years ago until I uncovered his biases and hatreds of the Jews and errant teachings on the Bible. 

In some ways we owe a debt of gratitude to the aforementioned individuals, despite their errors.  I say that because they have, and I should thank the extreme legalist critics that attack Five Doves as well, because they got an old retired preacher like me to respond. 

In reality, one of the Biblical foundations the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is the fact that God has two peoples - Israel and the Church.  The New Testament consistently differentiates between Israel and the Church.  It becomes powerfully evident to me when I first read Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum's books:  'Israelogy' A Systematic Theology of Israel and 'Footsteps of the Messiah'.  These two books helped me to regain my Biblical bearings and to refocus my Biblical world view. 

My transformation was no small struggle and no less painful.  I related to the butterfly escaping from the caterpillar body.  Being a United Methodist pastor I was a student of "Covenant/Reformed" theology, and a student of that corrupt system known as "higher criticism".  The UMC, like nearly all of mainline Protestant denominations, are still very close to Rome, despite their denominational politics. 

Dr. Fruchtenbaum's point about the absence of a study of "Israelogy" from the doctrines of the Bible was like so striking to me, since Israel is mentioned close to a thousand times in the Bible.  The subtlety of that fact with respect to my denomination set off alarm bells in my head.  It was indicative that we (meaning the UMC) had actually replaced Israel in God's Master Plan.

If I hadn't read Dr. Fruchtenbaum's books, I might have never heard of "Replacement Theology" other than by watching the late Zola Levitt on CTV40 in Pittsburgh, PA. 

One of the tricks used by "Replacement Theology" actually tries to teach that because Gentile believers are described as the "seed of Abraham" in Galatians 3:29 that this is the "equivalent" to saying that we are Israel.  In essence, this means we replaced Israel.  Additional comments below on this point.

The New Testament consistently differentiates between Israel and the Church and that God's plan for history, includes the two peoples of Israel and the Church does not mean or imply a dual covenant to salvation.  When it comes to salvation there is only one way.  Not so.  Christ Jesus' saving work is the only way of salvation for anyone, Jew, or Gentile.  This error was compounded by Pastor John Hagee and his "foot in mouth" statements that we should not try to evangelize the Jews.

Dr. Fruchtenbaum notes that "the term Israel is viewed theologically as referring to all descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, also known as Jews, the Jewish people, Israelites, Hebrews, etc."  Dr. Fruchtenbaum outlines four reasons for Israel's election:

    1. They were "chosen" on the basis of God's love to be a kingdom of priest and a holy nation.
    2.  God chose Israel to be the recipient of His revelation and to record it.
    3.  Israel was to propagate the doctrine of One God to a world that believed in polytheistic gods.
    4.  Israel was to produce the Messiah.

He [Dr. Fruchtenbaum] provides ample Scripture to support this premise.  No Biblically-oriented Christian would deny these purposes relating to Israel.  The differences begins to emerge when we consider Israel in relation to the Church.  Too many in the universal church have concluded that you can use the terms Church and Israel as interchangeably.  This is where Galatians 6:16 and even Romans 9:6 confuses people.

However, those of us that identify ourselves as "Dispensationalists" and interpret the Bible first literally and do not confuse the terms Israel and the Church; since there is no basis in the text of any Biblical passage for supporting such an approach of distinctive identities, purposes, promises, etc. know better.

Dr. Fruchtenbaum is a dynamic Bible scholar, soft spoken, to the point you can hear a pin drop when he is talking. He defines for us six reasons from the Bible supporting the notion that the church is a distinct work in God's household from His people Israel.

The first evidence is the fact that the church was born at Pentecost, whereas Israel had existed for many centuries prior.  This is supported by "the use of the future tense in Matthew 16:18 shows that it did not exist in gospel history".  Since the Church born at Pentecost is called the "Body of Christ" -(Colossians 1:18), and entrance into the body is through Spirit baptism -(1 Cor. 12:13), in which Jews and Gentiles are united through the Church.  It is evident that the Church began on the Day of Pentecost since Acts 1:5 views Spirit baptism as future, while Acts 10 links it to the past, specifically Pentecost.

The second evidence is that certain events in the ministry of the Messiah were essential to the establish- ment of the Church - the Church does not come into being until certain events have taken place."  These events include the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to become head of the Church {not to infer any denomination meets this categorical term} -(Ephesians 1:20-23).  The church, with believers as the body and Christ Jesus as the head, did not exist until after Christ Jesus ascended to become its head.  Furthermore, it could not become a functioning body/entity until after the Holy Spirit provided the necessary spiritual gifts -(Ephesians 4:7-11).

The third evidence is the mystery nature of the church.  A mystery in the Bible is a hidden truth not revealed until the New Testament -(Ephesians 3:3-5,9; Colossians 1:26-27).  Dr. Fruchtenbaum defines four defining characteristics of the church that are described as a "Mystery".

    1. The body concept of Jewish and Gentile believers united into one body is designated as a mystery in Ephesians 3:1-12.
    2. The doctrine of Christ indwelling every believer, the Christ-in-you concept, is called a mystery in Colossians 1:24-27; 2:10-19; 3:4).
    3. The Church as the Bride of Christ is called a mystery in Ephesians 5:22-32.
    4. The Rapture is called a mystery in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.

The above four "mysteries" describe qualities that distinguish the Church from Israel.

The fourth evidence that the church is distinct from Israel is the unique relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians 2:15.  During the current Church Age God is saving a remnant from the two previous entities (Israel and Gentiles) and combining them into the a third new object - the Church.  This unity of Jews and Gentiles into one new man covers only the Church Age, from Pentecost until the Rapture, after which time God will restore Israel and complete her destiny -(Acts 15:14-18).  I Corinthians 10:32 reflects just such a division when it says, "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God."

The fifth evidence for the distinction between Israel and the Church is found in Galatians 6:16.  It appers logical to view 'the Israel of God' -(Galatians 6:16 as believing Jews in contrast to unbelieving Jews called 'Israel after the flesh' -(1 Corinthians 10:18).  This passage does not support the false claim of replacement theologians who claim that Israel is supplanted by the Church.  Instead, the Bible teaches that a remnant of Israel is combined with elect Gentiles during this age to make up a whole new entity the New Testament calls the Church -(Ephesians 2).

Replacement theology tries to teach that because Gentile believers are described as the "seed of Abraham" found in Galatians 3:29.  This was a regular statement by professors in both seminaries that I graduated from, one a Presbyterian and the other a Methodist.  I came to realize this was just an example of twisting Scripture to suit the denomination position of being that the Church replaced Israel.  It was a nice try on young seminarians ill-prepared to challenge their professors.  This is clearly not the case of Galatians 3:29.  Paul's description of Gentile believers in Galatians 3:29 simply means that they participate in the spiritual blessings of salvation, that came through Israel.  Those who are the spiritual seed are partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings but are never said to become partakers of the physical, material, or natural promises.  You just will not find that mindset in the Bible.  Therefore, Israel's national promises are left in tact awaiting a yet future fulfillment.

Our sixth evidence is in the book of Acts, where both Israel and the Church exist simultaneously.  The term Israel is used twenty times and "ekklesia" the Church nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.  Thus, the replacement theologian has no actual Biblical basis upon which he bases his theological claim that Israel and the Church have become one.

I share all of this to get to this point.  If Israel and the Church are not distinguished then there is no basis what so ever for seeing a future for Israel or for the Church, as a new and unique people of God.  If Israel and the Church are merged into a single program, then the Old Testament promises for Israel will never be fulfilled and are usually seen by replacement theologians as spiritually fulfilled by the Church.  The merging of Israel's destiny into the Church not only makes into one what the Scriptures understand as two, it removes the need for future restorations of God's original elect people in order to fulfill literally His promises tha they will one day be the head and not the tail -(Deuteronomy 28:13).

The more that the believer sees a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the Church, the more they realize that when the New Testament speaks to the Church it is describing a separate destiny and hope for her.  The Church becomes more distinct in the plan of God.  Israel's future includes the "seven-year" Tribulation and then shortly before Christ Jesus returns to Jerusalem she will be converted.  On the other hand, the distinct hope (the Rapture of the Church before the 70th week of Daniel) for the Church is Christ's any-moment return. 

Thus a distinction between Israel and the Church, as taught in the Bible, provides a basis of support for the Pre-Trib Rapture.  Those who merge the two programs cannot logically support the Biblical arguments for the Pre-Trib Rapture position.  This will help you understand why the critics at that other site are so confused.  In their strict legalist way of thinking, they can't see the trees for the forest, or vice versa.  Now, if you want to ask the question, Which plan is Satanically-inspired you have to conclude that the idea of the Church replacing Israel in God's plan is a teaching from the pit of Hell? 

As my premise suggests, Absence of Proof is not Proof of Absence!   

Blessings to all, and keep looking up.  Most of us are going up in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  

Pastor Bob