World-shaking events, more portentous than can be gauged, compel - whether we wish it or not - a stern facing of the problem of the coming removal from earth.  Those who expect all believers to be rapt instantly, totally irrespective of the grossest worldliness, need not be greatly concerned; those who assert that all believers the most wakeful equally with the most careless - must pass through the worst that is coming can, at the best, only be resigned; but to those of us who see, or think that we see, that prior rapture is for the ‘overcomer’ only - an escape that turns critically on life and attitude - it is an ever-deepening crisis calling for the highest and holiest and best.  Profoundly convinced that this is the truth, we can only invoke our readers to a most careful study of the problem in view of its fearful urgency.  The critical fact is that, as the event is not yet actually upon us, there is still time to shape all life to the highest; and just as the illusion of a known date for the Advent, exactly so also a cast-iron rapture or no-rapture, robs the situation of its poignant appeal, and saps the vigilant care that God demands.” - D. M. PANTON.]


As regards the suddenness of rapture, Our Lord tells us "in that night there shall be two in one bed; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  Two shall be in the field: the one shall be taken, and the other left,"* showing plainly the LORD will call up from among the living disciples to whom alone this discourse was given for their edification, and not for ‘the multitudes’ those who will form the Firstfruits, some raptured in the night, at one place; some in the early morning at another; and lastly others in the field during their daily work, one here, another there, according to their fitness, out of the vast Harvest field.


[* Luke 17: 22, 34-36.]


When the Firstfruits are raptured, much takes place ere the Harvest is ripe, and all of earth is dried out of the wheat in order that it may be fitted for the Heavenly Garner.  Closely following, or just after the rapture of the Firstfruits, we realize there will be a time of great trials and temptations "which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth," and in consequence doubtless no one will be permitted to preach the Gospel of Grace; hence an Angel is sent to proclaim an age-long gospel to all them that dwell on the Earth, flying between heaven and earth, that all may hear.  This Angel is followed by another who proclaims the destruction of the great mystery Babylon, because of her awful idolatries, of which we read more fully in Chapter 17.  A third Angel now appears announcing the awful fate of those who worship the Antichrist or his image or receive his mark on their foreheads, or on their hands, in order that they may buy and sell,* showing clearly that the Antichrist will then be upon the earth, and the Great Tribulation will be running its course; whilst amongst the sufferers upon earth at that time will be "they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" - not Jews only, but Christian believers.


[* chapter 13: 11-17.]


"But," it may be asked, "will Christians - true believers be in the Great Tribulation?  Are not all believers raptured before the Great Tribulation as many affirm?"  The writer has searched the pages of Holy Writ in vain to find any confirmation of this statement.  On the contrary he has found much that indicates plainly the greater part of the Church living at the time of the commencement of the Great Tribulation will have to pass through a part of that awful time of testing.  Are we not commanded by the Lord Himself, as His disciples, to watch and pray at all seasons that He, as our judge, may be able to count us “worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass”?* What is the meaning of such a command given to disciples, if disciples are not to pass through any part of the Great Tribulation, of which the Lord had spoken in the previous verses of the chapter where the Command is given?  Is not a special promise also made to the Philadelphian portion - and to that portion only - of the Church that because she had kept the word of His endurance she would be kept from the hour of trial that was to come upon the whole world to try all those dwelling upon the earth?**  From this special promise, to one portion only of the Church, we surely must infer it is not a general promise for the Church as a whole.


[*Luke 21: 36.  ** Rev. 3: 10.]


But do all Christians, all believers, all His own bondslaves, arise to stand before the - Bema or - Judgment Seat of Christ for their rewards?  Let us turn to our LORD’S own words for answer, as given to us in Matt. 25. and Luke 19. In the parables of the talents and the pounds we read all the bondslaves were called upon to reckon with their Lord, "that He might know how much every man had gained by trading."  This they did, the good receiving a reward, but the wicked and slothful bondslave not only lost his reward, he also lost that which he had received from his LORD, and was cast "into the outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  Is this bondslave eternally lost?  The parables seem to show plainly that all the servants were His Own, bought with His precious Blood, entrusted with His goods, truly converted; hence they possessed eternal life, and could not therefore be eternally lost, "for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance;"* but the wicked and slothful servant lost his reward, i.e. the living and reigning with Christ during the millennial age ; for rewards are apportioned according to the work done after conversion, and the account rendered by the servants.  On such the second death - the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,** - hath no power "but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."*** It becomes then a matter of vital importance that all believers, bondslaves and Christians take most earnest heed to the Lord’s very solemn warning as given to us who are disciples - not to the world - in Matt. 5: 29, 30, and Mark 9: 43-50.


[*Rom. 11: 29.  **Rev. 21: 8.  ***Rev. 20: 6.]


Paul urges that the greatest care was to be exercised in building on the one and only Foundation, that which would stand the fire, which "shall try every man's work; ... if ... (it) shall be burned he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved ; yet so as through fire."*  Are such solemn passages culled from the teaching of our Lord and His Apostle to be treated as mere platitudes, or discarded as hyperbole?  Nay. Rather may we, as His bondslaves, take the solemn warnings to heart, that when we come to appear before His Judgment Seat, we may render a good account of our stewardship, and enter into the joy of our LORD. Amen.


[* 1 Cor. 3: 11-15 (Gk.)]