|Correspondence with S. R. Shearer Regarding the Rapture
The following letter speaks for itself. It was written to S. R. Shearer, who has
a fine web site encouraging Believers to recognize denominationalism for what it
is and to step out of the confines of the Institutional Church.
In chapter three of section two of his book, “The
Antipas Papers,” Shearer states a “commitment to literalism,” which is, of
course, a commitment to Dispensationalism.
Shearer states as much, citing the classic Dispensationalism of the likes
of Harry Ironside, C. I. Scofield, Charles Ryrie, and Lewis Sperry Chafer.
In the following chapter, Shearer attempts to remove
the Rapture from the classic Dispensational end-time scenario. In order to do so, he violates nearly
every principle of Bible interpretation established in chapter two. It was this glaring inconsistency that
prompted the writing of this letter.
From time to time, Shearer posts messages from
visitors to his site, along with his response.
Our message was not posted. We
received a reply, not from S. R. Shearer, but from a coworker of Shearer’s
named Sean. His response is posted
following the original message.
I just downloaded your site (www.endtimesnetwork.com)
and began reading the Antipas papers. I
was very impressed with your chapter on Dispensationalism. It has been my
experience that dispensationalism has fallen out of favor with a great many
Christians. Your piece is a great defense of these great truths.
However, I was rather disappointed in your chapter
on the so-called "secret" rapture; not necessarily because I hold a
different view, but because I found your reasoning to be totally inconsistent
with the principles of scriptural interpretation you established in your chapter
on dispensational truth.
To start, you state that if we accept the teaching
of a secret rapture, "...we must throw out
as unimportant to us a great portion of this book; that portion which deals with
the Last Days [more than one-half of the prophetic Scriptures - almost
one-fourth of the entire Bible] if we accept the argument of those who say we
will not go through the Tribulation."
This is a commonly heard argument used
"against" the truth of the "Rapture." More than interestingly, it is the same
argument commonly used against dispensationalism in general -- that it
much of the Bible of no importance, or that dispensationalists don't believe
more than half of the Bible is important.
I have never heard one proponent of the
Rapture ever suggest that because of this coming event, the study of prophetic
topics was irrelevant. In fact, my
own experience has been that the most fervent students of eschatology are indeed those who believe the Lord will take His own to be
with Him before the final
terrible judgments fall. I have learned more about the end-time prophecies of
Daniel, Ezekiel, the minor prophets, and the book of Revelation itself, from
five men who believe in the Rapture than the next 100 who deny it.
Perhaps you can cite an example of the teaching you
are referring to. I have never sensed from the teaching of Tim LeHaye, Hal
Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Clarence Larkin, Harry Ironside or even C.I. Schofield
that these were men who felt that large segments of scripture were valueless to
church-age saints and not worth studying. These men SPECIALIZE in "last
days" teaching. They do not disregard or dismiss it as you suggest. Perhaps you have some other pre-trib teacher in mind. At any rate, this argument is NOT valid
and so is dismissed. But more importantly, it is unwittingly aiding and abetting
the Covenant theologians, as it validates their MAIN argument by using it en
toto against an undesirable doctrine.
Next, you quote John Walvoord as saying that the
"modern" teaching of the rapture is not found in the writings of the
"church fathers." To that
I would respond that the "theory" WAS taught by Jesus (Matthew 24,
Luke 17) and the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 15:52 with I Thessalonians 4:17.)
The church fathers did not teach that the nation of Israel would be restored or
that the church and Israel should be seen as two distinct entities. Should we throw that "theory"
out as well? You see what I mean about inconsistency?
In the same vein, you state "Both Martin Luther
and John Calvin believed the church would go through the Tribulation. More
recently, such Christians as Charles Finney, George Whitefield, D.L. Moody,
Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, B. B. Warfield, Robert Gundry, Carl Henry, and
Walter Martin [to name but a few] could not bring themselves to believe that the
church would escape the Tribulation." Would you like to tell me which of
these men was a premillennial dispensationalist? As far as I know, every one of
them was an amillennialist. None of them believed in a restoration of national
Israel. Again, your teaching in this chapter is totally inconsistent with your
splendid defense of dispensational truth in the previous chapter. I'm surprised
you could believe in dispensationalism since Luther, Calvin, Warfield, Gundry,
both Henrys and Walter Martin were Covenant theology adherents to a man! But now
I'm supposed to turn around and say, "Hmmm, Luther couldn't find the
rapture in the Bible, so maybe I should stop believing it..."
You state "For those, however, who are serious
about these matters, they need to make their minds up one way or the other
(i.e., whether or not the church will go through the Tribulation), because if
the church is not destined to go through the Tribulation, why should Christians
take the Prophetic Scriptures seriously? - again, why prepare for something
that's not going to affect us personally?" This will get really old after a
while, but I'm going to continue to ask you to cite an example of a pre-trib
teacher who does NOT advocate taking the prophetic scriptures seriously. This is
a baseless charge in addition to being a poor argument. (If you can cite an
example of the teaching you are condemning, I will rescind the "baseless
charge" comment, although the "poor argument" statement will
As far as the rapture being "silent" or
"loud," this is the first time I have been introduced to the issue, so
I have no strong feelings on the decibel level of the event. I believe the
timing is of much more significance than the volume. It should be noted however
that the Lord said in Matthew 24 and Luke 17, which you have not discussed, that
one man is taken out of his bed and one is left in bed. Must not be that noisy
if someone can sleep through it.
Regarding the "thief" passages, Revelation
3:3 is spoken to an amillennial church (the Reformation church typified by
Sardis). Jesus speaks as coming as
a thief in the night to those who are not watching for (expecting) Him to
return. The next church age is the age that recovers pre-millennial
dispensational church (Philadelphia). It is to THIS church that the Lord says He
will "keep them from" or out of, the tribulation that is coming.
When you say you have "examined the rapture
passage (I Thess. 4) and all of the 'thief' passages," this was NOT a
complete examination of these passages. For example, I Thessalonians 5:1-2 is
cited as saying "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the
night." But in verse 4 he
says, "But that day should not overtake YOU as a thief." That is a
message to the church. Why should it overtake SOME as a thief in the night and
I must say, the most compelling argument you made
for rethinking the rapture question was in your treatment of the "kingdom
parables." But even then, they are only compelling if you interpret them as
referring to the church, which any good dispensationalist knows cannot be taken
for granted. One could easily equate the gathering of the wheat with gathering
the surviving nations that are going to "shine" forth in the
millennium rather than the church being gathered at the rapture.
It is interesting that in Revelation 14:14-17, the
order is reversed and the "good vine" is harvested first, and then the
sickle is put in to reap the vine that is going into the winepress of the
judgment of God.
Given that, this is a novel but unconvincing
At the same time, your insistence on making
"until the end" mean until the last final minute on the clock is also
inconsistent with your teaching on dispensationalism. The "End" of the
Age is not one day, or one hour. There
are several stages (the beginning of sorrows, tribulation, the great
tribulation) and different roles for the church (which you have already
established), for Israel, and for the unbelieving nations. Any interpretation that attempts to
thrust the church onto center stage whenever Jesus is speaking a parable is
based on the kind of thinking that resulted in Covenant theology.
In regards to "as it was in the days of
Lot" and in the days of Noah, you seem to see great significance in the
fact that "this passage does NOT say that Lot went out of Sodom and then,
seven years later, fiery destruction fell upon them. No, it says that all these
things happened the SAME DAY." We also know that a "day" with the
Lord can be a thousand years.
Peter refers to this saying of Jesus, but emphasizes
the fact that no judgment could fall in either Noah's or Lot's case until
"the righteous" had been delivered and taken safely out of the way.
Only then could the judgments fall. The angel said to Lot, "We can do
NOTHING until you are safely out of here." The judgments in Noah's case
began on the same day and lasted for much longer than 24 hours. Who is to say that the prophesied judgments of God will not
begin to fall in earnest ON THE VERY DAY the church is taken out of the way and
continue for the next 3 1/2 years! In fact, the LOUD rapture event could be one
of the earthquakes mentioned in Revelation, could it not?
Speaking of Peter, I really don't understand what
you are saying about the heavens and earth passing away on the same day as the
rapture. You seem to be saying that not only are we looking for the Lord's
return, but we are looking for the total destruction of the universe to happen
at the same moment. This is NOT what premillennial dispensationalism teaches.
More importantly, it is not what the Bible teaches, or even what Peter is
teaching. According to Revelation 21, the present heavens and earth do not
"pass away" until AFTER a thousand years (a day) has elapsed following
the Lord's return (the DAY of the LORD). So, you see how the term
"DAY" can be misleading? It is not necessarily a 24-hour period of
time. The Day of the Lord, then is
NOT NECESSARILY a 24-hour period of time. The
DAY of the LORD could also be a reference to the thousand year period that the
Lord is personally reigning on David's' throne in Jerusalem. If that is true, or
even if it is only possibly true, much if not all of your arguments above fall
apart, since much of your thinking seems to based on the idea that all of these
events must occur at exactly the same time, or at least on the same
You state, "A study of II peter 3 and I
Thessalonians 4-5 plainly reveals that the "day of the Lord that cometh as
a thief in the night" is the time when Christ will descend from heaven with
a shout, believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, destruction
will fall upon the unbelievers and the present heavens and earth shall pass away
with a great noise." Again, are you saying this all occurs within a single
24-hour period called the Day of the Lord? Or is it a thousand-year Day of the
Lord... The scriptures, taken together, teach that this entire process is a one
thousand year process. What is
seven years in light of that? Let alone 3 1/2 years on one side or the other?
The annihilation of the universe at the point the Lord returns is what I was
taught growing up as an amillennial Lutheran. No Israel, no kingdom, no reign.
Just the Lord returns and everything is gone. Call it amillennialism, or
post-millennialism, it all boils down to no-millennialism. Again, this displays a lack
of consistency with your supposed dispensational hermeneutic.
You state, "These things indicate that the
Rapture will be at the END of the age; at the LAST DAY, at the LAST TRUMP. But
according to the Pre-Tribulationalists, the Rapture would have to take place at
the time of the FIRST trumpet or EVEN BEFORE, since - according to this
interpretation - the Church will be gone when the trumpets of Revelation sound.
Revelation 11:18 says that the sounding of the seventh trumpet - the LAST
trumpet - will be the time of the dead to be resurrected. God will then
"give reward unto ... the saints." Where, then, is there any room for
the idea that before any of these trumpets sound the saints will have already
been raptured to heaven to be rewarded?"
I'll grant you that the traditional "pre-trib"
position doesn't allow for the trumpets of Revelation to sound. But the last
trumpet doesn't mark the end of the tribulation!!! The fact of the matter is,
the "last trump" in the Book of Revelation signals the "third
woe." At this point there are
still seven final judgments of God to be poured out upon the inhabitants of the
earth. If the saints are "raptured"
at the "last trumpet" in the Book of Revelation, they are with the
Lord in heaven while more judgments are being poured out on the people who
remain on the earth. There just
simply is no way around, over, or under this fact. Read your statement above
again. You insist the rapture will occur as the "last trumpet" is
sounded. In that case you admit there are more judgments to fall SUBSEQUENT to
the rapture of church-age saints.
If that wasn't bad enough, at the end of Revelation
19, the heavens open and the Lord descends on a white horse to destroy the
enemies of God who are still on the earth, and to save the people of God
(Israel), and the CHURCH is WITH HIM, riding out of heaven!! How anyone who
claims to take the scripture literally (see your statements in chapter 4 on
dispensational truth and the literal interpretation of scripture!) can deny that
the Bride of Christ is with Lord in heaven as judgments continue to be poured
out on the earth, or that the Bride is accompanying the Lord as He returns
"as a thief in the night" to bring the final, sudden destruction of
the enemies of God, I simply don't understand.
I am going to pass over the section on "False
arguments" and the Greek derivation of terms for now. Suffice it to say,
and to borrow a phrase I learned from you, if you are going to split hairs to
this degree, we ought to just shave your whole head!
"Ah, but those who believe that the Rapture is
pictured in Revelation 4:1, commonly teach that the SAINTS in these chapters are
not CHURCH SAINTS, but TRIBULATION SAINTS - people that are not part of the
Church whatsoever! Yet, when we find the word SAINTS in connection with the
marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19, then we are told that this refers
to the CHURCH SAINTS. Notice the passage: "The marriage of the Lamb is
come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she
should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the
righteousness of the SAINTS." The Scofield footnote says: "The Lamb's
wife here is the Bride, the Church." So, it is agreed the saints here are
CHURCH SAINTS. How can some rightly argue that the saints mentioned in the
chapter before (Revelation 18), the chapter before that (Revelation 17), the
chapter before that (Revelation 16), and Revelation 13 are different kinds of
saints? By such arbitrary methods of interpretation, ANYTHING could be proved
from the Bible."
I have cited this entire passage because I find it
one of the most exasperating and one of the lines of reasoning most out of sync
with your profession to be a "dispensationalist" and a
"literalist." The term "saints" is used in the Old Testament
speaking of Israel! (See Deuteronomy 33:2,3; I Samuel 2:9; II Chronicles 6:41,
Job 5:1! pre-dating Moses and Israel! and about 30 other references.) I thought
you were a dispensationalist! The term "saint" refers to God's elect
in ANY AGE. Church age saints are
the Bride of Christ, or God's elect during the church age. Tribulation saints
are saved during the tribulation, just as Old Testament saints lived PRIOR to
the New Testament dispensation. Why can't there be saints subsequent to the
THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. This is
If you are going to call yourself a
dispensationalist, you are going to have to be consistent. Consistency in
interpretation is the hallmark of dispensationalism. Consistency in interpretation is the
pillar and ground, the root and branch of dispensationalism. And consistent
dispensationalism sees room for an age to come where the church is not center
stage, or even on the earth.
When Jesus said "I will be with you to the end
of the age," you make that a statement to the CHURCH, even though Pentecost
was five weeks away. You claim to
be a dispensationalist, but when it comes to interpreting "rapture"
passages, you handle scripture EXACTLY as a covenant theologian would handle
scriptures related to a future restoration of Israel, by inserting the church
into every verse, whether there is any justification or not!
This letter is getting quite long, and it is obvious
that I can turn the dispensational light on nearly every paragraph of your
article and come up with an alternate interpretation that is literal, that is
consistent with dispensational truth, not to mention consistent with the rest of
scripture, and which supports a rapture of church age saints PRIOR to the Lord's
return in Revelation 19. But to make things easier on both of us, I want to skip
to near the end of the article because you made a statement that really struck
me as being "condescending" of lay people, which again, seems to be
inconsistent with your position on the church and the clergy.
You say "Still, most evangelical
"lay-people" - in contrast to their leaders - continue to embrace the
theory of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church. What then gives this
theory such "staying-power," even in the face of all the evidence to
the contrary? - well, it's not that difficult to understand, and to this extent
there is very little room for evangelical lay people to blame their leaders;
they have only themselves to blame if they get caught some day by the events of
the "end of days."
To this I must say that in spite of your statements
against the institutional church and the professional clergy system, you
continue to view the "laity" not as Holy Spirit empowered priests and
kings of the Lord, but as sheep who are following some prestigious leader. It is not conceivable in your thinking
that the Holy Spirit is leading the great mass of believers IN SPITE of what the
"teachers" are teaching. Is it possible that the reason this
interpretation is so pervasive and so tenacious is that it is TRUE? It is the
simple believers who believe it. It
is the educated and sophisticated who do not.
Should that be any kind of a clue?
And finally I have to ask... What is your evidence
that the majority of "lay people" who believe in a pre-judgment
rapture (be it pre-trib or mid-trib) do not expect to suffer persecution? At the
end of the day, the main objection to the teaching of a pre-Armageddon rapture
seems to be that Christians won't be prepared for what is about to happen
because they think they are exempted from suffering persecution. But isn't it really the "dominionists"
who are totally unprepared? Isn't it THEIR hopes and dreams that are going to be
smashed on the jagged rocks of the tribulation, and NOT the mid-trib rapture
believers, who expect to see the man of sin revealed, the second holocaust
begin, and the mark to be implemented either after or JUST BEFORE the Lord takes
the Bride to prepare her for her soon return to the earth at His side?
That is to say, are you not overstating the
"dangers" of believing what the scriptures teach about the Lord
delivering "the godly out of temptations (tribulation)," and reserving
the unjust "unto the day of judgment to be punished?"
I did not mean this to get so long, and I have not
touched on all the points, but I hope you will consider what I say about being
consistent in the approach to your hermeneutic. I believe I have demonstrated
that you use the same "tactics" to get rid of the rapture as the
Covenant theology boys use to get rid of Israel.
Something to pray about... no?
loved the article on dominionism. Amen, brother...
And the reply:
"Thanks for taking the time to
craft such a long letter. I hope
you understand that those of us at Antipas Ministries completely reject any
timing for the rapture other than at the end of the 70th week... i.e. the End of
the Age. I will not go deeper into
things, since you have access to all of S.R.'s writings on the subject, but I
will say that if you are right then all we will be guilty of is being prepared
to witness for and serve the Lord until the Last Day. However, if you are wrong on this matter and Christ doesn't come for His
Church until the Last Trump, then I pray you and others of like mind are not
found unprepared as the 5 foolish virgins were.
"There are perilous times ahead. Make sure and have enough oil for your
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