A QUESTION AND ANSWER

 

By G. H. LANG

 

QUESTION - Are not all true Christians caught up when Jesus comes? If not, who will be left behind? Jesus said, "Pray that you might be counted worthy to escape..." What does that mean?

 

ANSWER Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of man." Luke 21: 36.

 

The two preceding verses (Luke 34, 35) clarify this admonition. The people of God are cautioned against being careless in their Christian experience. The inference is that conditions will be such that many will grow careless and drift along with the spirit of the times. Weymouth's translation says, "Take heed to yourselves, lest your souls be weighed down with self-indulgence and drunkenness or the anxieties of this life." These very dangers are present to-day, and are very likely to continue through to the Rapture. Money is plentiful. Drink, drug abuse, gambling, gluttony and smoking by both sexes make these evils popular. Self-indulgence of every description is practised. Thousands of Christians have been swept from their moorings during the past few years. Prayer is neglected, consequently there is a general decline in spirituality. We are told to pray that we may be fully strengthened to escape all these evil things and be able to take our place in the presence of the Son of Man.

 

The foolish virgins, and all those who have grown careless in their Christian experience, are in a declining spiritual condition and will be left behind. Moffatt states that those who fail to keep awake and pray, that day will catch them suddenly as a trap.

 

How contrary is this teaching of our Lord to his disciples, from that of those who expect all will to be caught up before the end days*; and from those who expect all will have to endure them!

 

There are two principal views on the Rapture and the Tribulation: one, that the Parousia will commence prior to the Times of the End, and that at its inception all believers of the heavenly calling, dead and living, will be taken to the presence of the Lord in the air; the other, that the Parousia will occur at the close of the Great Tribulation, until when no believers will be raised or changed. The one view says that no believers will go into the End Times the other that none then living will escape them. The one involves that the utmost measure of unfaithfulness or carnality in a believer puts him in no peril of forfeiting the supreme honour of rapture or of having to endure the dread End Days: the other view involves that no degree of faithfulness or of holiness will enable a saint to escape those Days. As regards this matter, godliness and unfaithfulness seem immaterial on either view; which raises a doubt of both views.

 

1. Our Lord Jesus Christ has declared distinctly that escape is possible. In Luke 21 is a record of instruction given by Him to four apostles on the Mount of Olives. It is a parallel report to Matt. 24 and 25 and Mark 13, and it deals specifically with the Times of the End and His Parousia. He foretold great international wars, accompanied with earthquakes, famines and pestilences, to be followed by terrors and great signs from heaven (vv. 10, 11: comp. Seals 1-4, Rev. 6). These things are to be preceded by a general persecution of His followers (ver. 12), which will be the first indication that the End Days are at hand. Then Jerusalem is to be trodden down by the Gentiles right on until the Times of the Gentiles run out (ver. 24: comp. Rev. 11: 2, where the same term "trodden down" is used, and Zech. 14: 1-5). This shows that it is the End-times of which Christ is speaking, as is further shown by His earlier statement that at that time of vengeance "all things that are written" shall be fulfilled. All things that are written in the prophets concerning Jerusalem, Israel, and the Gentiles were not by any means fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

 

Then He mentions the disturbances in nature and the fears of mankind that are grouped under seal 6 in Rev. 6: 12-17, and adds explicity that "then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory," and that when these things begin His disciples may know that their redemption draweth nigh (ver. 27, 28).

 

In concluding this outline of the period of the Beast the Lord then uttered this exhortation and promise: "But take heed to yourselves, lest. haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly as a snare: for so shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of all the earth. But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

 

This declares distinctly: (1) That escape is possible from all those things of which Christ had been speaking, that is, from the whole End-times. (2) That that day of testing will be universal, and inevadable by any then on the earth, which involves the removal from the earth of any who are to escape it. (3) That there is a fearful peril of disciples becoming worldly of heart and so being, enmeshed in that last period. (4) That hence it is needful to watch and to pray ceaselessly, that so we may prevail over all obstacles and dangers and thus escape that era.

 

This most important and unequivocal statement by our Lord sets aside the opinion that all Christians will escape irrespective of their moral state, and also negatives the notion that no escape is possible. There is a door of escape; but as with all doors, only those who are awake will see it, and only those who are in earnest will reach it ere the storm bursts. In every place in the New Testament the word "escape" has its natural force [see Greek word] - to flee out of a place of trouble and be quite clear thereof.* It never means to endure the trial successfully. In this very discourse of the Lord it is in contrast with the statement, "He that endureth to the end (of these things) the same shall be saved" (Matt. 24: 13). One escapes, another endures.

 

[* This word comes only at Luke 21 36; Acts 16: 27; 19: 16; Rom. 2: 3; 2 Cor. 11: 33; 1 Thes. 5: 3; Heb. 2: 3; 12: 25. In comparison with Rom. 2: 3, see its use in the LXX in the interpolated passage after Esth. 8: 13; "they suppose that they escape the sin-hating vengeance of the ever-seeing God"; also Judg. 6: 11; Job 15 :30; Prov. 10: 19; 12: 13. The sense is invariably as stated above.]

 

The attempt to evade the application of this passage to Christians on the plea that it refers to "Jewish" disciples of Christ is baseless: (a) No "Jewish" disciples of Christ are known to the Scriptures (Gal. 3: 28: Eph. 2: 14-18). (b) The God-fearing remnant of Israel of the End-days will in no wise escape these things that shall come to pass (Mal. 3: 1-4; Zech. 13: 8, 9; Jer. 30: 7, 8). (c) Nor will they believe on Jesus as their Messiah until they see Him coming in glory (Zech. 12: 9, 10; 13: 6; Matt. 23: 39). (d) The assertion that the title Son of Man is "Jewish" is equally unwarranted, for the term "man" is necessarily universal to the race, and does not belong peculiarly to any one nation. (Comp. John 3: 14, 15; 5: 25-29: "whosoever" and "all").

 

2. In harmony with this utterance of our Lord is His further statement to the church at Philadelphia (Rev. 3: 10): "Because thou didst keep the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from (ek) the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Here also are declared: (a) The universality of that hour of trial, so that any escape from it must involve removal; (b) the promise of being kept from it; (c) the intimation that such preservation is the consequence of a certain moral condition: "Because thou didst keep ... I also will keep." As this is addressed to a church, no question of a "Jewish" application can arise. Nor do known facts or the Scriptures allow of the supposition that every Christian keeps the word of Christ's patience (Matt. 24: 12; Rev. 2: 5; Gal. 6: 12; Col. 4: 14 with 2 Tim. 4: 10 concerning Demas); so that this promise cannot be stretched to mean all believers.

 

In The Bible Treasury, 1865, p. 380, there is an instructive note by J. N. Darby (see also Coll. Writings, vol. 13, Critical 1, 581) on the difference between (apo) and (ek). The former regards hostile persons and being delivered from them; the latter refers to a state and being kept from getting into it. On Rev. 3: 10 he wrote: "So Rev. 3 the faithful are kept from getting into this state, preserved from getting into it, or, as we say, kept out of it. For the words here answer fully to the English 'out of' or 'from'." That the thought is not being kept from being injured in soul by the trials is implied in the expression "Keep thee out of that hour"; it is from the period of time itself that the faithful are to be kept, not merely from its spiritual perils.

 

- G.H. LANG.