I do not suppose there has ever been a time in my life-time when men have asked so many questions about this very thing - the period or time when the translation is likely to take place. The question of the issue is: Will the saints be caught up before the Tribulation or after the Tribulation? Will they go up at the beginning or the end of the Tribulation period? There are three views. There may be more than three, but I only know three held by Bible Students on this question. We respect each otherís views, and each person who holds a view intelligently on this subject has Scripture to support that view, but I am not going to take time to expound, much less to criticize them, but just to let you see how peopleís minds work about it.


The first view is held by those who say: "Yes, the whole Church will be caught up into the presence of the Lord in the air before the Great Tribulation"; and the Scripture chiefly relied on to support that view is this passage given by Paul, 1 Thess. 4: 13-18, although the Great Tribulation is not even hinted at there.


The second view says: "No; the Church will not be taken before the Tribulation. The whole Church must pass through this experience, and as Jesus said in Matt. 24: 29-31: "Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven ... with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." These, emphasizing this passage, say: "The translation of the Church will take place at the end of the Tribulation period and the whole Church must pass through this tribulation." Those are the two extreme views, and both are held by a great number of Bible students all over the world.


There is a third view which steers through the middle of the two extremes, and assumes that the truth lies between the two. This third view says: "Yes, some of the Church will pass through the Tribulation and part will escape it." Now, for thirty-three years past I have held that third view myself, and I do not see any need to relax it, but I hold it still, and will give you two or three salient reasons why I have held that view for thirty-three years.


First of all, resurrection cannot take place until after the Tribulation has run its course according to Rev. 20: 4. Secondly, The translation of the living saints cannot precede the resurrection of the dead saints according to our text: "The dead in Christ shall rise first," and after the resurrection of those dead in Christ, the living are caught up. Now it follows that if the living cannot precede the dead in Christ, the translation of the living saints cannot take place until after the Tribulation has run its course.


But there are several Scriptures which indicate that there are exceptions to that. The message to Sardis in Rev. 3: 1-6 includes the warning: "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee"; and the message to Philadelphia states: "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth" (verse 10). That "hour of trial", everybody deems, refers to the Great Tribulation and its period, but there is a promise by the Master that if certain conditions are fulfilled, He ďwill keep thee from that hour".


There are also His warnings to His disciples one of which I read in the Scripture given by our Lord Himself Luke 21: 34-37. "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your heartís be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. WATCH YE, THEREFORE, AND PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." There is a promise enshrined in the warning, that there will be some "accounted worthy to escape" the things suffered in the Great Tribulation, a promise of escape. And that is not all. There are chapters in the Revelation which throw light on this. The great 14th chapter of Revelation, begins with the gathering of the "Firstfruits", and concludes with the reaping of the harvest, that is the gathering of the saints. That again is preceded by the 1,260 days of the Tribulation. So you have first, the gathering of the Firstfruits of the harvest yet to be gathered; then you have the period of the Antichristís rule, and after that the reaping of the whole harvest, the gathering of the people of God.


So I conclude that the truth lies between the two extremes. On certain conditions being fulfilled, stressed by our Lord again and again, where the soul is watchful, ready, faithful - it turns entirely on an attitude of mind and heart - should the Lord appear during the lifetime of those saints, they will be translated, the rest will be left, and get ready through the trial through which they must pass; and at last the whole company of believing people will be gathered, when the seventh angel "begins to sound, and the mystery of God is finished", and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, when Jesus comes in visible power and glory, and His appearance is made manifest.


So, generally speaking, the destiny of the Church of God is translation, sooner or later, into the Presence of Christ at His Coming. That is our prospect; that is our hope, and therein lies the blessedness of the hope of all those who love the Lord.


-       The Prophetic News.