II. THE FIRST SCHOOL LACKS A SCRIPTURAL BASIS
AND USES MANY GROUNDLESS PRESUMPTIONS—
A QUESTION AS IMPORTANT AS THE RAPTURE
CANNOT BE BASED ON PRESUMPTIONS
Their presumptions include:
A. Those of this school presume that Revelation 1—3 is on the church, and that since after chapter three Revelation never mentions the church again, the church must have been raptured. In the kingdom Christ has no word of endurance; there is only righteousness and majesty. From this these ones conclude that chapters one through three refer to this age, and chapters four through nineteen refer to the period of the great tribulation, in which the church has no part.
But it is not true that the church is not mentioned. In chapters four through nineteen there are many references to the church, though the term church is not used. For example, in Revelation 19:14, are not the armies the church? Also, Revelation 22:6-16 mentions "these things" (including the things of the great tribulation). It clearly indicates that it was written for the churches. If it does not concern the church and the believers, why was there the need to write? Revelation 5:9 refers to the church, and Revelation 17:6 refers to the saints, who are the church. Although the word church is not mentioned, it cannot be said that those people are not the church.
B. These presume that after the church is raptured, many others will be saved on the earth. These saved ones will become the saints in the great tribulation (see Rev. 7:9-17). They are saved while in the midst of the great tribulation. The first school has no choice but to admit this presumption. Otherwise, it cannot justify itself. If the church is raptured before the tribulation, where then do all these countless saints come from?
The multitude that no man could number must exceed two hundred million (200,000,000). This is the largest number in Revelation (Rev. 9:16). Today’s world population is 1.8 billion. Before chapter seven one-fourth of the world population died (Rev. 6:8), leaving 1.3 billion. How then can one say that no one can number them? This must refer to all the saints throughout the two thousand years.
C. During the great tribulation the Holy Spirit has returned to heaven. These presume that since the church is one with the Holy Spirit, the whole church will be raptured before the tribulation. Their ground is 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8, where "the lawless one" equals Antichrist and "that which restrains" equals the Holy Spirit.
However, "that which restrains" cannot refer to the Holy Spirit, because the tone of the phrase "goes out of the way" cannot refer to the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has many names—the Spirit, the Spirit of revelation—and without exception the word "Spirit" is always there. Although "the Comforter" was used once, the context clearly indicates that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Never once in the Bible is the Holy Spirit called "that which restrains." The Holy Spirit cannot go out of the way. The Bible never says that during the great tribulation there will be no Holy Spirit. Moreover, if there is no Holy Spirit, how can some become believers during the great tribulation? For men to be saved, they must be saved through the Holy Spirit! "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." This is very clearly spoken of in Revelation (see Rev. 5:6). The time of the great tribulation is precisely the time of the latter rain (see Acts 2:15-21 and Joel 2:28-31). The prophecy of Joel was not fulfilled at Pentecost, because there were no wonders: the blood, the fire, the pillar of smoke, the sun’s being turned into darkness, and the moon turned into blood. On the day of Pentecost there were no such wonders. All these five wonders will be fulfilled during the great tribulation: blood (the first trumpet), fire (the first and second trumpets), smoke (the fifth trumpet), the sun and moon (the sixth seal). Pentecost was merely a miniature; it was only a small foretaste. Peter did not say that this "fulfilled" the prophecy; he only said, "This is." Here the word "this is" does not refer to the fulfillment of the prophecy. Suppose Mr. A told Mr. B while they were eating, "Don’t eat too fast. You must chew the food; then it will be digested." The next day when Mr. A was reading the Bible, Mr. B told him, "You should read the Bible carefully; then it can be digested." Then Mr. A said, "This is that which was spoken to you when I told you not to eat too fast." Hence, we know that the Holy Spirit has a greater work to do during the great tribulation. If there were no Holy Spirit, how would the saints be able to stand during the tribulation?
D. These assume that the term "disciples" in the four Gospels refers to the Jews, and that the Lord was saying to the disciples, who were the Jews, "You must be watchful and sober, and you must pray." But to this school, since we are Christians, no matter what, we will all be raptured. These ones follow only the Epistles.
However, the twelve disciples were men in the church; they were Christians. Otherwise, why, out of the few Epistles that were written within these two thousand years (that is, since church history began), were so many written during the transitional period (the age of the disciples)? Furthermore, the Bible calls all Christians "disciples" (Matt. 28:19; Acts 11:26).
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 15: Study on Matthew, Chapter 26, by Watchman Nee)