When Millions Vanish

by William T. James

A young mother will be walking the aisles of a Wal-Mart store, or perhaps a K-Mart or a Kroger store, her two-year-old daughter riding securely and happily in the shopping cart while they both look over all the brightly packaged goods on the shelves. A businessman will be entering an on-ramp to a freeway near Los Angeles, giving a nervous glance to his left to make sure he will have room to merge smoothly into the flow of traffic.

Half a world away, the captain of a 747, having just received permission to take off, will push the throttles fully forward and the gigantic bird will begin its roll between the runway lights that appear to come together in a sharp point in the distant darkness. A mother-to-be will reach for a ringing telephone, a broad smile on her face anticipating talking with her husband, who had promised to call once he was settled in at the airport hotel where his company is holding its quarterly sales meeting. Then, in a mind-confounding split-second, it will happen!

A surgeon in a Boston hospital who has just started the scalpel moving along the man's chest suddenly finds the blade cutting only air. The patient is gone!

A mortician in Dallas recoils in astonishment when the suit he is smoothing to make a corpse presentable collapses. The body is no longer there! The mother pushing the cart in the store turns back toward the basket with the items she has gotten from the shelf. Her little girl is missing! Only her toddler's colorful little dress and shoes remain in the cart in a crumpled heap. The woman's scream pierces the air, joining screams of panic reverberating throughout (he store. At the same moment in time, the commuting businessman in Los Angeles sees the big semi rig directly in front of him swerve sharply right and begin tumbling down the steep embankment while the roadways ahead and on either side of him explode with violent wrecks.

Precisely at that instant, the co-pilot in the 747's right seat panics when he realizes that the huge jet, now screaming down the runway at more than 100 miles per hour, is totally out of control, its pilot having disappeared!

The young father-to-be is shouting into the telephone, wanting to know what is wrong with his wife, who he hears crying hysterically. She has fallen to the floor and is desperately groping her abdomen, nearly insane because she cannot feel the baby who is no longer in her womb.

I believe literally billions of people around the world will suffer shocks similar to those depicted above, or will awaken to find they live in a world phenomenally different than the one they knew when they went to bed the night before.

Planet Earth reels with foreboding that something unknown is poised to thrust terrifying events upon our tumultuous generation. Anxiety swells within the collective mind of humanity as the new millennium rumbles in storm-like fashion toward us across the twenty-first century horizon. While optimism abounds that the new century will produce a brighter, better world, the foreboding eerily warns that the year 2000 likely harbors within its untraveled time region and beyond, perils of apocalyptic dimension.

Although worries about the future of our world grow daily, the overwhelming majority of earth's inhabitants, if they consider these matters at all, shrug off the beginning of the third millennium since the birth of Christ as portending nothing more than a continuation of things as they have always been. "Change of any kind for the masses will be for the better" is the general philosophical mindset of the globalist thinkers elite while they wrestle with the complex factors involved in dealing with miserable Third World squalor. Still, even through the malaise caused by their often heart- wrenching, day-to-day misery, there beats within the common pulse of the billions living in abject poverty seething unrest that leads to the inescapable sense that profound rearrangement on a planetary scale is about to take place.

Doomsday Worries

Although scoffers at doomsday talk most often attribute that talk to bizarre religious thinking and more and more in our day to religious right-wing fundamentalists, such gloomy predictions by secular writers and speakers far outnumber those issued by religionists of our time. Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave us a number of quotes from secular notables in his commentary introduction to the Book of the Revelation.

Knowledgeable men have been saying some very interesting things about this present hour. Please note that I am not quoting from any preachers but from outstanding men in other walks of life.

Dr. Urey, from the University of Chicago, who worked on the atomic bomb, began an article several years ago in Collier's magazine by saying, I am a frightened man, and I want to frighten YOU."

Dr. John R. Mott returned from a trip around the world and made the statement that this was "the most dangerous era the world has ever known." And he raised the question of where we are heading. Then he made this further statement, "When I think of human tragedy, as I saw it and felt it, of the Christian ideal's sacrificed as they have been, the thought comes to me that God is preparing the way for some immense direct action."

Chancellor Robert M. Hutchins, of the University of Chicago, gave many people a shock several years ago when he made the statement that "devoting our educational efforts to infants between six and twenty-one seems futile." And he added, "The world may not last long enough." He contended that for this reason we should begin adult education.

Winston Churchill said, "Time may be short."

Mr. Luce, the owner of Life, Time, and Fortune magazines, addressed a group of missionaries who were the first to return to their fields after the war. Speaking in San Francisco, he made the statement that when he was a boy, the son of a Presbyterian missionary in China, he and his father often discussed the premillennial coming of Christ, and he thought that all missionaries who believed in that teaching were inclined to be fanatical. And then Mr. Luce said, "I wonder if there wasn't something to that position after all."

It is very interesting to note that the Christian Century carried an article by Wesner Fallaw which said, "A function of the Christian is to make preparation for world's end."

Dr. Charles Beard, the American historian, said, "All over the world the thinkers and searchers who scan the horizon of the future are attempting to assess the values of civilization and speculating about its destiny."

Dr. William Yogt, in The Road to Civilization, wrote: "The handwriting on the wall of five continents now tells us that the Day of Judgment is at hand."

Dr. Raymond.B. Fosdick, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said, "To many ears comes the sound of the tramp of doom. Time is short."

H.G. Wells declared before he died, "This world is at the end of its tether. The end of everything we call life is close at hand."

General Douglas MacArthur said, "We have had our last chance."

Fortner president Dwight Eisenhower said, "Without a moral regeneration throughout the world there is no hope for us as we are going to disappear one day in the dust of an atomic explosion."

Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, ex-president of Columbia University, said, "The end cannot be far distant."'

Speculation about the end of the world spans the broad spectrum of both secular and religious thought. Postulation and propaganda on the subject ranges from the declaration that man is totally in control of his own destiny and therefore will always find ways to prevent doomsday, to wild-eyed fanaticism that preaches precise dates the world will end and urges followers of that preaching to engage in bizarre practices that include such things as adorning themselves in white robes and going to their rooftops to wait for the end to come. In a growing number of cases, dangerous cult leaders command their followers to go so far as to commit atrocities such as have been witnessed through the Jim Jones massacre and mass suicide in Guyana and the more recent Japanese nerve gas murder.

Thinking on both ends of this spectrum of end-time matters is dead wrong, as is easily provable by historical facts. Every peace made by man has eventually been broken by war. Conflicts grow increasingly more violent with each generation of war-making technology. Despite the incessant call for mankind to come together as one great planetary community, the divisions widen and become more numerous. Obviously, mankind cannot prevent doomsday. The fanatics who have set dates for the end of the world have time after time been proven wrong. Their antics and weird pronouncements and activities have served only to bring scoffing and derision upon themselves. Sadly, their lunacy has erected a barricade that adds to the difficulty of reaching the minds of men with the Word of God, who is the only One who knows all there is to know from beginning to end. Jesus Christ is the Living Word. To know the truth about the future, one must know Him.

One Electrifying Moment!

Based upon the only Truth there is, and without apology, this chapter's purpose is to proclaim with absolute confidence the fact that there is indeed coming one electrifying instant in time which will cause changes of epic proportion for all who live upon Planet Earth. That event will precipitate massive rearrangements in every facet of human existence. Those rearrangements will ultimately eventuate in what Jesus himself called the Great Tribulation, a time of trouble unprecedented in human history.

Jesus Christ, who is the Living Word (John 1: 1, 14), inspired the apostle Paul to write, "Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Cor. 15:51-52;KJV).

God, the Holy Spirit, further wrote through Paul, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words" (I Thess. 4:16-18).

That this will be an electrifying moment for the child of God is perhaps the understatement of understatements! God's Word promises that the body of each believer in Jesus Christ who is alive at the time this indescribably momentous event takes place will be converted in "the twinkling of an eye" from a body that is in the process of decay leading toward death into a body eternally indestructible and beautiful beyond imagination.

The apostle Paul writes through inspiration: "For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15: 53-54).

That instantaneous translation from mortal to supernatural being will be exhilarating beyond anything we can imagine within the framework of our present, finite intellectual capacity. Far exceeding that exhilaration, however, will be the joy of seeing Jesus Christ face to face and at last understanding through transformed and perfected senses the width and height and depth of God's holiness and love. Christians will at last know Christ as He truly is. Each believer will be like Him in that moment and will be eternally in His majestic presence. "But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).

The reason for Christ returning for true believers in Him will be achieved in less than one stunning second! All who have died in Christ since He began forming His Church at Pentecost will be made ready for heavenly citizenship on the spot, as Jesus himself promised His Bride, the Church. This includes all people who have accepted Him as Saviour and Lord since the day of Pentecost (Acts 2):

"Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. And where I go ye know, and the way ye know" (John 14:1-3).

God Speaks to Us Through Contemporary Voices Jesus Christ's sudden catching up of all living believers from the planet's surface, to meet himself and all believers who have died since the day of Pentecost, to begin the journey to the heavenly city where He has been preparing mansions for them, will leave earth's inhabitants gasping in fear and wonderment. That secret taking away of Christ's Bride, the Church, although termed a mystery by the apostle Paul (I Cor. 15:51-58) when he penned the words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, needs no longer be a mysterious prophetic doctrine. Truth about this miracle of God, which will be perhaps the most spectacular of all miracles surrounding the greatest of His works - His amazing saving grace through the shed blood of His only begotten Son on the cross at Calvary - has been unveiled for clear understanding by the Christians of our day.

The prophet Daniel foretold that as the time for the end of God's plan for the present earth system nears, "knowledge shall be increased" (Dan. 12:4). That knowledge, many biblical scholars believe, while including the vast body of general knowledge, refers most particularly to revealed biblical truths. When Daniel was told by the angel of God, "Seal the book, even to the time of the end" (Dan. 12:4), it is obvious that God planned to make at least some portion of His mysteries understandable to the generation alive at the end of this present earth system. The discipline eschatology - the study of endtime matters - is a recent development in the mining of the deep truths of God's prophetic Word.

Has the book Daniel was told would be sealed up until the end now been opened for examination? If so, do the new truths unveiled through eschatological methods as men and women of God are infused with understanding by the Holy Spirit make clear the mystery that Paul wrote about in I Corinthians 15:51-52 when he said, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye"? Does any new understanding give credence to any of the several rapture theories?

Liberal theologians, almost without exception, proclaim prophecies clearly yet unfulfilled to be spiritual concepts that have already come to pass or spiritual concepts yet to come to pass. They see no physical reality in God's prophetic Word; rather, they consider the prophesied events merely interesting ideas to be used in the exercise of mental gymnastics upon the floor of theological debate. Tragically, many otherwise fundamentalist, conservative Christian scholars fall into the same trap of rationalizing and/or spiritualizing away future prophetic events such as the I Corinthians 15:51-58 description by the apostle Paul of a stunning event yet to come which he, under inspiration, interpreted to be literal.

Again, without apology, this chapter is meant to examine the coming microsecond of time in which millions of people will vanish. The Rapture of all living true believers and the resurrection of the bodies of all believers who have died since the Church Age began is a prophecy as Holy Spirit-given as was the prophecy in the Old Testament that promised Jesus Christ's first advent. This book's intention is to explore the many aspects and effects of that coming moment from the spiritually based perspective that the rapture will take place before the time known as Jacob's trouble (Jer. 30:7). That era will be the last seven years of the present world system, which will culminate with Christ's return to Planet Earth to put an end to man's madness. In other words, Raging into Apocalypse comes from the pre-Tribulation view.

In Good Company

The pre-Tribulation view of the rapture of the Church, indeed, the belief that there will be a rapture or a partial rapture at any intervening moment in history, has increasingly come under attack by theologians who are Christians as well as those who are not. Scoffing at the notion of the translation of and snatching away of Christ's own from the planet has intensified in recent times. While many true believers are firmly convinced that Christians who are alive at the end of the Church Age will go into the Great Tribulation called Jacob's trouble by Jeremiah the prophet, we who are also true Christians who believe that Christ himself will keep us from the very hour of temptation (Rev. 3: 10) by calling us to himself in the air above the earth (I Cor. 15:51-58) are accused of having "Star Trek" mentality. The pre- Tribulation Rapture view in particular is disparaged as "pie in the sky" and "beam me up, Scotty" fantasy.

Strangely, a significant segment of world observers apparently anticipates some sort of cosmic disruption in which millions of earth's inhabitants will be abducted in some fashion by superior beings from other worlds. Hope, according to the scoffers, puts us in the same company as science fiction buffs and New Age dreamers of our day. Many of them, like us, believe that at some point in the near future the earth will suffer a sudden disappearance of millions of its inhabitants.

"You are known by the company you keep" is an admonition many of us received from our parents early on in our lives. Those Christian theologians and others who criticize the pre-Tribulation view or even the Rapture in general most likely agree with that admonition. It would appear at surface level that such criticism is justified. And certainly it would be justified if, as they loudly proclaim, the view of Christ's "secret coming" for those who believe in Him is a false doctrine only recently concocted by those who preach it. So the question is: Are we in bad company with these sci-fi addicts and New Agers; or: Are we in good company - with those early believers through whom Christ began building His Body, the Church?

Beginnings of Christ's Church

Dr. J. Vernon McGee, referring to the Book of Daniel, stated in his radio program, "A great many use verse I to try to prove the Church is going through the Great Tribulation period. Well, if we've been following Daniel and listening to him, we understand he is talking about his people in the last days and he's not talking about the Church. The Church has already been raptured. The Church is not here. This is the resurrection of the Old Testament saints, which does not take place at the time of the rapture of the Church"

And in his commentary on Daniel, McGee continues: "Scripture clearly states that at the rapture those 'which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him' (I Thess. 4:14). Only, 'the dead in Christ shall rise first' (1 Thess. 4:16). We are in Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit which began on the day of Pentecost and will end at the Rapture. This particular body of believers is called the Church. We are told in I Corinthians 12:12-13, 'For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we, all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.' 112

Much of the disagreement involving the subject of the Rapture revolves around misunderstandings about what God's Word has to say regarding God's dealings with the nation Israel on the one hand and His program for Christ's church, or Bride, or body, on the other. The distinctions between these two separate programs are not easily or clearly discerned without a careful and prayerful study of the 70 weeks of Daniel (Dan. 9). Here, God outlines His program for "thy people" - meaning Daniel's people, Israel - and tells Daniel that there is a disruption of unspecified time between the sixty- ninth and seventieth weeks. Serious study with a heart toward understanding what this disruption is all about leads to the unraveling of the mystery called the Church in the New Testament (I Cor. 15:51). The sixtyninth week given in the Daniel account is history. The seventieth week - the seven- year Tribulation period spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet (Jer. 30:7) and by Jesus (Matt. 24) - is yet future. This age of disruption for God's nation Israel - this period in which you and I are privileged to live - is the Church Age.

I So are we who believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture and a pre-millennial view (that is, that Christ will return literally to earth before earth enjoys a prophesied thousand years of peace and harmony called the Millennium) in good company or bad? Again, Dr. McGee provides some clear commentary in answer to the divisive question.

I am going to give you the viewpoints of many men in the past to demonstrate that they were looking for Christ to return. They were not looking for the Great Tribulation, they were not even looking for the Millennium, but they were looking for Him to come. This expectation is the very heart of the premillennial viewpoint as we hold it today.

Bamabas, who was a co-worker with the apostle Paul, has been quoted as saying, "The true Sabbath is the one thousand years ... when Christ comes back to reign."

Clement (A.D. 96), bishop of Rome, said, "Let us every hour expect the kingdom of God ... we know not the day.

Polycarp (A.D. 108), bishop of Smyrna and finally burned at the stake there, said, "He will raise us from the dead ... we shall ... reign with Him."

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who the historian Eusebius says was the apostle Peter's successor, commented, "Consider the times and expect Him."

Papias (A.D. 116), bishop of Hierapolis, who according to Irenaeus - saw and heard the apostle John, said, "There will be one thousand years ... when the reign of Christ personally will be established on earth."

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150) said, "I and all others who are orthodox Christians, on all points, know there will be a thousand years in Jerusalem ... as Isaiah and Ezekiel declared."

Irenaeus (A.D. 175), bishop of Lyons, commenting on Jesus' promise to drink again of the fruit of the vine in His Father's kingdom, argues: "That this ... can only be fulfilled upon our Lord's personal return to earth."

Tertullian (A.D. 200) said, "We do indeed confess that a kingdom is promised on earth."

Martin Luther said, "Let us not think that the coming of Christ is far off."

John Calvin, in his third book of Institutes, wrote: "Scripture uniformly enjoins us to look with expectation for the advent of Christ."

Canon A.R. Fausset said this: "The early Christian fathers, Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus, looked for the Lord's speedy return as the necessary precursor of the millennial kingdom. Not until the professing Church lost her first love, and became the harlot resting on the world power, did she cease to be the Bride going forth to meet the Bridegroom, and seek to reign already on earth without waiting for His Advent."

Dr. Elliott wrote: "All primitive expositors, except Origen and the few who rejected Revelation, were preniillennial."

Gussler's work on church history says of this blessed hope that "it was so distinctly and prominently mentioned that we do not hesitate in regarding it as the general belief of that age."

Chillingworth declared: "It was the doctrine believed and taught by the most eminent fathers of the age next to the apostles and by none of that age condemned."

Dr. Adolf von Harnack wrote: "The earlier fathers Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, etc. believed it because it was part of the tradition of the Early Church. It is the same all through the third and fourth centuries with those Latin theologians who escaped the influence of Greek speculation."

My friend, I have quoted these many men of the past as proof of the fact that from the days of the apostles and through the church of the first centuries the interpretation of the Scriptures was premillennial. When someone makes the statement that premillennialism is something that originated one hundred years ago with an old witch in England, he doesn't know what he is talking about. It is interesting to note that premillennialism was the belief of these very outstanding men of the early church.

Since these great forefathers of the Christian church eagerly longed for - even expected - Jesus Christ's return during their lifetime, it should be obvious to any believer with a heart toward inviting Holy Spirit discernment that they held unwaveringly to the belief that the Lord could return at any moment. If they had believed that Great Tribulation had to first occur before Christ returned, they would have certainly and ceaselessly warned all believers within their sphere of influence to be watching for the catastrophic occurrences and for the Antichrist, both of which Scripture tells us will have to come onto the scene before Jesus physically returns to earth to judge the nations and set up His millennial kingdom. That great cataclysm has not yet occurred. That last and most vicious tyrant of all, the Antichrist, has not yet come to power and subjected all the world as prophesied in Revelation 13. Man's final war called Armageddon is yet future. Yet these early saints of the Church Age anticipated that Jesus could have returned at any moment during the time they lived. They were most assuredly believers in the pre-Tribulation Rapture! We who hold to the belief in the imminent coming of Christ for His saints above Planet Earth to rapture them into His presence are not looking for "pie in the sky." We do, however, look for that great escape from God's coming wrath and judgment, as eloquently voiced by Dave Breese, one of the pre-eminent biblical prophecy scholars of our own day:

The Scripture says to Christians, "Because you have kept the word of my patience, I will keep you from that hour of trial, temptation, tribulation, that will come upon the whole world to try them that dwell on the earth."

Therefore, we see in Scripture that the Bible says that Christ will come for His saints before the beginning of the Tribulation and take all believing Christians up to be with Him in heaven. Spoken of in I Thessalonians 4:16, "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God; the dead in Christ shall rise first. We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with Him in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Paul expands on this a little bit in I Corinthians 15, saying to the Corinthians, "Behold, I show you a mystery," something you could not figure out just by Aristotilian syllogism. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

So we can assure every believer ... that there will come a moment when they will be caught up in their physical body into the presence of Jesus Christ so as to ever be with the Lord."'

Rapture At Any Moment!

Dr. Dwight Pentecost, in his masterful work, Things to Come, .addresses the fact that God's prophetic Word points absolutely to the any-moment coming of Jesus Christ to fulfill His promise of John 14. This truth is termed the doctrine of imminence.

The church was told to live in the light of the imminent coming of the Lord to translate them in his presence.... Such passages as I Thessalonians 5:6; Titus 2:13; Revelation 3:3 all warn the believer to be watching for the Lord himself, not for signs that would precede His coming. It is true that the events of the seventieth week will cast an adumbration before the rapture, but the object of the believer's attention is always directed to Christ, never to these portents.

This doctrine of imminence, or "at any moment coming," is not anew doctrine with Darby, as is sometimes charged, although he did clarify, systematize, and popularize it. Such a belief in imminency marked the premillennialism of the early church fathers as well as the writers of the New Testament.

Although the eschatology of the Early Church may not be altogether clear on all points, for that subject was not the subject of serious consideration, yet the evidence is clear that they believed in the imminent return of Christ. This same view of imminence is clearly seen in the writings of the Reformers, even though they have had different views on eschatological questions.

The doctrine of imminence forbids the participation of the Church in any part of the seventieth week. The multitude of signs given to Israel to stir them to expectancy would then also be for the Church, and the Church could not be looking for Christ until these signs had been fulfilled. The fact that no signs are given to the Church, but she, rather, is commanded to watch for Christ, precludes her participation in the seventieth week .5

The apostle Paul tells in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 that there will come a startling change in the moral order for the end-time generation of mankind: "Only he who now hindereth will continue to hinder until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked one be revealed." Author and lecturer Hal Lindsey gives an excellent overview of the truth about the office of the Holy Spirit in this Church Age and what the Holy Spirit's removal in performing His restraining office will mean.

First Corinthians 12:13 says: "For by one spirit we have been baptized into one body, whether bond or free, Jew or Greek, we have been made to drink into one spirit, for the body is not one member." So how do we get into one body? By the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. There could have been no Church before the Holy Spirit came and started His ministry of taking each believer at the moment of salvation and baptizing into living union with Christ himself, joining us in a living, organic union with Christ, so that we are in Christ from that moment on.

He takes up permanent residence in every believer. He puts every believer in union with Christ. He makes it possible for us to be sealed With His Spirit, which is God's guarantee that we will be redeemed in a resurrection body and brought into His presence. It's what is called the filling of the Spirit.... So these are the days of the Holy Spirit. This is the age of the Holy Spirit.

What does 2 Corinthians say is going to happen before the Antichrist is revealed? The restrainer is going to be removed. You see, the Holy Spirit resident within the Church is the restrainer. So when you remove the restrainer, you also have to remove the containers in which He dwells, i.e., you and me. So, you see, it was a miracle the way the Church began; it's going to be another miracle the way it departs. And that is when the Holy Spirit resident in the Church is taken out, and we with Him.

Lindsey further brings into focus the change that will take place for mankind in that twinkling of an eye.

God does not mix His program for the Church with His program for Israel ... in the Book of Revelation in the first three chapters, the Church is mentioned by name 19 times. From chapter 4 through half of chapter 19, the Church is not mentioned once by name. That is no oversight; the Holy Spirit knows better. The Holy Spirit does not mention them (the Church) because chapters 4 through 19 talk about the judgment of the earth and the spotlight is once again on Israel.

I believe the next intervention of God into human history will be that time when Jesus says, "Come up here!" And only believers will understand what the noise meant. The world will hear some noise, but they won't understand it. Then suddenly, all over the world, people will disappear .... I believe God is going to do it just like that in order to shake them up and let them know that something dramatic has happened. If God is going to remove His ambassadors, you can expect there will be some repercussions that will shake people up and I really believe that when every living believer is snatched out, there's going to be planes crashing, cars crashing; there's going to be all kinds of weird things happening because God wants to shake up the world and let them know that something supernatural has intervened.

Dr. Charles Stanley, in dealing with the imminency of Christ's return, recently said:

Jesus said "I don't know when I'm coming back ... not even the angels in heaven know; only my Father knows." Matthew 24:27 and Matthew 24:36-41 ... remind us of His warnings. He's coming without a warning; He's coming instantly without a warning. The skies are going to break open. The shout, the sound of a trumpet. And I believe that only believers are going to hear and only believers are going to know what is taking place.

Stanley then punctuates the message about Christ's imminent return with words starkly relevant to the time in which we live.

I wonder how many of us really do watch, wait, look forward to, think that at any moment Jesus Christ could come. There's not a single thing that has to be done before Jesus comes. There are some things that have to be done before He comes a second time back to earth to judge this earth to set up His millennial reign - there are some things that are going to take place. That's why, when He talks about the signs in Matthew 24, He is talking about His second coming to earth. There are no signs about the rapture, except this. If there are evidences, scriptural signs of His coming the second time, what should that say to you and me today? ... If there are evidences of Christ's second coming, if things are happening in the world about us that are very evidently signs mentioned in the Scripture, what should that say to us about the rapture? Close! How close? I don't have any earthly idea and you know what? Nowhere in the Bible does it say, "You'd better be checking your clock, checking your calendar, checking the time." What does it say? Just be ready. I don't have to worry about when it's going to happen. All I have to do is be ready.

Although there are many signs given to warn the nation Israel that Jacob's trouble or the Great Tribulation is upon them - signs that point directly to Jesus Christ the Messiah's return to Planet Earth in power and great glory - no such signals are given Christ's bride, the Church. Dr. David Jeremiah says regarding this fact:

There is not one single statement to warn the Christian of future tribulation or to help them get ready for it. Not one single statement. There are all kinds of statements about the kinds of problems we have now. The Bible says, "They that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." But can you believe that the God who would warn us against false teachers and false prophets and would warn us against the serious things that will come upon this world in the future, if He knew that His church was going to face judgment in the tribulation period, is it possible that God, who gave us this Book to prepare us for things to come, would leave out any encouragement or challenge or information to help us to know how to deal with the tribulation we were going to experience? I just want to tell you again there is not one single statement in any of the epistles directed to the Church as to how they are to endure or experience the Tribulation.

There is only one reason for that: We aren't going to be here. Some people ask me,- "What difference does it make whether you believe in the pre, the mid, the post, the pan, or whatever; do you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back? Do you believe He could come [right now]? Are you sure? [If you do], then I want to tell you that you are ... pretribulational. If you say you believe [Jesus can come back right now] ... the only way you can say that, even if you don't understand what's involved in it, is if you are pretribulational.

You see, if He doesn't come back for the rapture until seven years, He can't come back tonight. Can He? If He doesn't come back for the rapture until three and a half years of the Tribulation period, He can't come back for at least three and a half years. The only doctrine in the Bible which is historically proven from the beginning all the way through is the doctrine of the imminency of Jesus Christ. Imminency means He can come back at any time. And one of the reasons I believe so strongly in the pre-tribulational rapture view from the Scripture that it is the only view that is consistent with the imminent return of Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly teaches from almost every perspective that the Christian waits in hope of the return of Christ, that we are to constantly be watching for His return, that He could come [right now] .... If He can't come until seven years of tribulation have happened on this earth, there is no such thing as an imminent return of Christ.'

Dr. Renauld Showers, professor for the Institute of Biblical Studies and author of Maranatha, Our Lord Come, states:

The Bible makes it clear that nobody living on Planet Earth knows exactly when the Lord Jesus will come for His bride, the Church. It's an imminent event. It could happen at any moment. In fact, it could even happen today! ... Paul tells us in I Thessalonians 4 when Jesus comes for His bride, the Church, He will not come all the way down to Planet Earth where His bride is living. He will stop outside the Earth in the air and wait there. And then His bride, the Church, will come out and meet Him.

After the Jewish bride would come out of her home with her bridesmaids and meet her bridegroom and his male escorts, now the enlarged wedding party would have a return torchlight procession to the groom's father's house. By analogy, after Jesus has caught up His bride the Church from the earth to meet Him in the air, we are convinced in light of this passage in John 14 that He will return with His bride from the air above the earth back to His Father's house in heaven to begin living in the living accommodations He has prepared there.'

What Difference Does Belief in Christ's -Imminent Return Make, Anyway?

God's Word says that the time of Christ's return will be like it was in the days of Noah., Although there will be gross immorality, violence, etc., it will nonetheless be business as usual for industry, commerce, society, and all other human activity. Again, God's Word warns Christians to not be caught up in the flow of worldly pursuits to the extent their hearts and minds are diverted from their thoughts of their real home, the eternal, heavenly city where the Father dwells. It is sadly unfortunate that most Christians have their noses so down on the earthly grindstone that they never think to look up toward their hope from Heaven. It seems quite obvious from the way many Christians live today that a significant portion of Christ's body, His bride, the Church, disregards the commandment of Jesus, their bridegroom: "Watch ye, therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at evening, or at cockcrow, or in the morning; Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:35- 37).

Peter LaLonde summed up the importance of living in expectancy of Christ's imminent return. The Lord could come at any moment. There is nothing that has to precede [His coming].... We have to be ready and living and expectant at all times.... Some people say why study prophecy, why study all this stuff? ... Why get on all this rapture stuff? ... The fact of the matter is, when the disciples came to Jesus and said, "What will be the sign of thy coming and of the end of this age?" He gave them great detail. He didn't say, "Don't worry about it. If I come, I come." He gave them great detail. We are to be expectant at all times.

What we see now in the world today are signs of the second coming of Christ, which is seven years after the rapture. And if those signs are beginning to come to pass, how much closer the rapture must be! So that gives us a sense of urgency. [The rapture] has always been imminent since the time of Christ and we are to be excited and expectant because in a moment - if we as Christians could come to grips with this - in a moment we will be in the presence of our Lord forever. How it would transform our lives!

Dr. John Walvoord, past president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and one of the world's preeminent biblical prophecy scholars, whose chapter titled "Why We Watch" appears in this volume, said about the imminent rapture of the church: "I've been teaching prophecy for more than 50 years on the seminary level. It's a very precious truth and a very practical one, but it's more than just a doctrine to me. The idea of being able to see Christ - perhaps any day - face to face, is an amazing, electrifying anticipation. And that's what the Bible teaches, and I believe that's what God wants us to realize and hope for. And so as I am dealing with this subject, perhaps from a theological, biblical standpoint, it is also from the standpoint that if you really love Christ, you are going to love His appearing. And this is going to be a precious truth to you." I I Indeed, the scriptural text is abundant within God's Holy Word that the hope of Christ's imminent return to rapture all believers to himself is not pie in the sky, in the sweet by and by fantasy, but precious truth of the coming great escape from a time of hell on earth.