Rapture Ready : Response to Robert Morris

Robert Morris, founder pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas preached a message about the rapture some time ago and someone send me the link on Youtube. In the video, he makes two criticism of the Pre-Tribulation rapture as a doctrine known as the Blessed Hope.

Before I go into the video and the theology of it, let me say a few things about Robert Morris. The first and foremost is I am praying for his healing. He has (at the time of this writing) some very serious health challenges. The same blood that saves him heals him. Divine healing is not secondary to the gospel; it is an integral part of the gospel itself.

I also want to say that I consider him as Pentecostal brethren. He might not be classic Pentecostal but he is a man of the Spirit. He openly believes in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, praying in tongues and healing the sick. I am sure we share differences on some things but I know Robert Morris to be a man that loves the Holy Ghost.

I would also say that he is doing quite the work there in Dallas for the sake of the Kingdom. I see great things being done through people who are part of the Gateway people.

Blessed Hope and Church History

One of the biggest misunderstanding about the Pre-Trib position on the catching up is that is only 150 years old. This is simply not true. However, some popular views such as Partial Preterism (that Azusa Report considers heretical) is not much older.

What we do know is the The Shepherd of Hermas in 140 AD wrote about the catching up before the times of testing. In the discourse, he talks about an open vision that he had. In it he asked the Lord to rescue him from the beast. The reply was, “Be not of doubtful mind, Hermas.”

A few years later, it was Irenaeus talking about the catching up before the tribulation. The following is what wrote,

And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be. For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.

Another interesting statement was made by Pseudo-Ephraem. This was a leader in Syria that wrote pieces about what he believed was coming. It is not completely clear if he expected some type of major attacks by a foreign power to be the beast of Revelation or a literal one.

We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. . . . Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? . . . For all the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.

Brother Dolcino from the Apostolic Brethen in the 1300’s is another example. I am not in agreement with some of the theology in the following statement but it is clear that this leader did, in fact, preach the catching up of the saints and the Blessed Hope. This was taken from the Latin book, The History of Brother Dolcino.

Again, [Dolcino believed and preached and taught] that within those three years Dolcino himself and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist.  And that the Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah.  And in this way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist.  And that then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth for the purpose of preaching [against] Antichrist.  Then they would be killed by him or by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time.  But when the Antichrist is dead, Dolcino himself, who then would be the holy pope, and his preserved followers, will descend on the earth, and will preach the right faith of Christ to all, and will convert those who will be living then to the true faith of Jesus Christ.

The last one we will look at today is the founder of Brown University, Morgan Edwards. He was, in all likelihood, a student of George Whitfield. He was not stranger to suffering, nor did he look for a reason to “escape.” He outlived his first and second wife as well as the majority of his children.

I say, somewhat more—, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s appearing in the air (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter:  but will he and they abide in the air all that time?  No.

These examples are just a few of dozens that you could read about if you looked for them before Darby or anything related to the last 150 years. The fact of the matter is that concept is far from being “a new doctrine.”

Blessed Hope : Western theology?

Robert Morris hold that it is only believed by English speaking people that read English bibles. This is also not true. I have traveled the world. I have been in the mountains of the Philippines, the villages of Fiji, and the hills in India. It is very common to hear Pentecostal believers study and talk about prophetic experiences concerning the catching up of the saints. It is somewhat hard to consider that these all these people believe God has given them detailed dreams and visions about the coming catching up and they are all “lying visions.”

In Africa, most of the saints hold to a similar view of a Pre-Trib rapture and living in expectation of it. This is especially true in Kenya and Tanzania from my experience. I have no reason to believe that it would be any different in the other countries that I have not done as much as ministry in person.

Many of the largest churches in the world is not in English speaking countries and most hold to the Pre-Tribulational view of the Blessed Hope. David Yonggi Cho, Sergio Hornung, David Oyedepo, Abraham Alex Tanuseputra and David Mohan all believe and preach the Pentecostal perspective. All of them also pastor church of over 40,000 members in Non-English speaking countries.

If this was just some odd American doctrine that was only popular because of a study bible and the Left Behind series; that would not explain while most of the pastor of the world’s largest Assemblies believe it and preach it. The truth of the matter is that it is the commonly hold view and has been for centuries.

At 12:20, Dr. David Yonggi Cho tells a story of a pastor who went to heaven and had an encounter with Abraham concerning the catching up of the saints. This is a Korean’s testimony; not an American.

There is no reason to believe that the doctrine of the imminent Blessed Hope is not hold globally by most of the brethren. It is more common than any other position of eschatology. It does not matter if you are in the back villages of Cameroon or the mountains of Nepel; the message of the Lord coming very soon is going to believed and preached. It is far from being an American doctrine. The basis for prosperity theology could be debated as American far more than the Blessed Hope.

Personally, I have preached in church in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Kirabati to name a few of the countries. In every one of these churches, there was a strong conviction that Jesus could catch us up in the air that night. It was central to much of what these churches were doing for the Kingdom of God in their countries. Much of the Pacific is anti-western in thinking; not taking every word from a preacher just because he is an American.

The debate of it being a geographical idea that only works in countries with a common language does not hold weight with you look at the beliefs of people in Samoa, Kenya, Brazil and Mongolia to name a few places that are not English speaking white people. I can not think of a country that the Blessed Hope is the preferred position of eschatology.

While I respect Robert Morris as a pastor and I love what he is doing in Dallas, I find him to be simply wrong when it comes to the geographical challenge of the doctrine. It could be that he has not been on a mission field in quite some time though.

Will we remain?

At the end of the clip, he openly questions or mocks people who believe we will be caught up before the times of testing by quoting 1 Thessalonians 4:17. I will add this is a verse in a chapter that could be taken in context, not one sentence ripped out from the rest.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

The word that we see as left or in other versions of the Bible, remain is actually perileipomai in the Greek. It could be translated as “to leave over.” It is interesting that it is only used twice in the New Testament. Both times are in 1 Thessalonians 4.

What does it mean to leave over or to remain? This is talking about the times of testing or the “great tribulation?” In all likelihood, it is not. First of all, Paul was thinking that the fall of Juruselam was the tribulation that would cause great falling away more than he saw some wild decade of living hell at some point in the distant future. There is clearly a prophetic element to the scriptures but Paul was probably concerned that many would be killed in that carnage that was imminent.

The reason we know this is the other use of this word is just two verses before it and it makes it clear that Paul expected many to be killed in what he saw was coming very soon.

According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

It is very reasonable to believe that the early believers that Paul was writing to expect the Messiah to come back before the fall of the Holy City. It was the expectation that seems to be common all through the New Testament. They did not think they would see death before the catching up. They lived very night asking each other “Will the Lord come like a thief in the night?”

If they really believed that they would go through what they saw as tribulation, there is no logical reason for all the references to the imminent return of the Lord all through the New Testament. The only reasonable takeaway from this is they did believe that Jesus could come back today and at the latest next week.

The reality is that many prophetic texts in the scriptures have at least a duality of fulfillment and interpretation. While those at Thessalonia understood this to be about events in their lifetime, it is clear that it was prophetically speaking of something at the end of the age of grace as well.

I want to take the time to end this with hope for Robert Morris as he heals up and get back in the fight for souls preaching the power of Pentecost to the world.

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