Upon the vexed question of the translation of the Church there has been much controversy.  One large party has pronounced that all her living members will be removed from earth before the Tribulation: another, that the whole number of them will have to remain here until the end of the same dread season: a third, that those of the living saints who, through their walk and behaviour after conversion, are found worthy, will escape the Tribulation; while such as the Lord finds living in ease and carnal security will have to be cleansed from worldly lusts by passing through the trial.  This last mentioned view seems to us to be the true solution of the problem; while, at the same time, it suggests a probable origin for the others.

But we would pray for power to remember that over-confidence and dogmatism are altogether out of place in the discussion of subjects so profound and solemn.  With chastened and humble hearts must we enter the Holiest, sprinkled with the Blood of our slain Lord, and leaning, not upon our own wisdom, but upon the aid of that [Holy] Spirit Who Alone knows the mind of God and Alone can reveal it.  And if these be our conditions, there will be found in us none of that vain self-reliance, at times bordering upon arrogance, which is so often conspicuous in discussions even of the most solemn themes.

A vital passage is Luke 21: 36, which runs as follows:-

“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.”

Now in the ten verses immediately preceding these words, the Lord has been describing the Great Tribulation, which shall come as a snare “upon all them that dwell upon the face of the whole earth.” Evidently, then, there is but one way of escaping a trouble so universal - namely, by a previous translation from the earth. And the last clause of the verse reveals that those who are thus translated will find themselves in the presence of “the Son of man Which is in Heaven.”  We have, then, to discover who those favoured ones are, and, with that purpose in view, must carefully mark what the text tells us respecting them.

First, then, (1) they must be sought only among those who will be alive at the time of the end.*  (2) They must belong to the same class as the disciples whom the Lord was addressing.  (3) They must be persons who know and believe that the Tribulation is impending, and who pray without ceasing for deliverance from it.  (4) They will have to win this great favour by being accounted worthy of itBare faith in God, or Christ, will not procure it for them; it is not a ‘gift,’ but a ‘prize’ to be won, in the strength of the Lord, by the fruits of faith, by conduct and works after conversion.  And (5) they are to be translated from earth to Heaven where the Lord Jesus is, and to remain with Him while their brethren are being harassed and slain by Harlot and Beast in succession. ** 

[* Not at the end of the Great Tribulation, but sometime before it commences: “Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth:” (Rev. 3: 10).]

[** The old idea, that the title, ‘Son of man,’ indicates a Jewish connection is untrue.  The title is one of deep humility, and, therefore, with a single exception was used only by the Lord Himself.  The one other mouth that uttered it was that of Stephen, a Christian believer.  And how could we ever forget its intimate association with ourselves?  For was it not as Son of man that our Lord died, and redeemed us from all iniquities?]

In the fourth chapter of the Revelation a change of Dispensation becomes manifest.  The very word ‘church’ is never again found, until the prophecy has ended in chap. 22: 5.  The sanctuary of the Lampstands has disappeared, and its place is taken by the Throne, before which stands those heavenly things which were the patterns of the Tabernacle-furniture. [Rev. 4: 2, 5, 6; 6: 9; 8: 3; 6: 19.]

Presently the Lord appears as a Jew, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David[Rev. 5: 5]   Then again, we have the martyrs [in Hades, the underworld (Matt. 16: 18)] crying for vengeance, [Rev. 6: 9-11] the sealing of the twelve thousand from each of twelve tribes of Israel, [Rev. 7: 1-8] and other signs that the Church period has gone by, and the final Seven Years of Israel’s probation have commenced.  And, since this great change occurs immediately after John’s ascent to heaven, [Rev. 4: 1] we cannot but regard the latter event as indicating the moment when the Firstfruits will be removed and the Church upon the earth broken up, so far as her official character is concerned.

Thus the great controversy as to whether the then living members of the Church will be removed before or after the [Great] Tribulation appears to have been founded upon a mistake that all of them would be removed at the same moment: whereas the Scriptures plainly intimate, that, while a comparatively small number of saints will be accounted worthy to escape the Tribulation, the rest will have need of its burning trials, to wean them from the world, and to complete their sanctification.

But it must not be forgotten, that the only reason assigned for the earlier rapture is, that those who have part in it may escape the evil that will then be impending over the earth.  They will be conveyed to a temporary place of safety, where they will wait, with their Lord, until they are joined by their brethren, the living and the dead.  It will also be seen, that the previous removal of the Firstfruits does not divide the Body of Christ, as some have foolishly supposed.  For that Body can never even be formed, much less manifested, until every one of its members is gathered to the Lord.  Therefore, as we have already said, the Firstfruits will simply be snatched from peril upon the earth, and kept in a secret place of the Most High, until the [Great] Tribulation is past, and the reaping of the Harvest has accomplished the number of the elect.

The fact that those who really love the Lord more than all else will be suddenly delivered from the appalling woes of the end, seems to be a secret, as it were, between Himself and those of His people who live in the last times.  For, so far as we are aware, none but Himself has divulged it.  He reveals it with His own mouth in Luke 21: 36, and in Rev. 3: 10; while the more detailed notice of it in Rev. 14. occurs in the Book which was peculiarly His Own.  His Evangelists and Apostles, who were to pass away long before His return, seem to have made no distinct mention of the secret.  His Church upon earth lived through the weary centuries without discovering it; and it is only in recent times that the light of the [Holy] Spirit has been thrown upon it.  Have we not here a solemn warning, that the time for its fulfilment is at hand?


"Blessed partakers in this consummation!

    Throughout life’s ‘race’ they did eager contend,

Aye pressing on in ‘the hope of salvation

    On toward the Mark for ‘the Prize’ at the end

Lord! Grant us grace, through Thy [Holy] Spirit of Power,

    Constant to dwell in Thee through life’s short day,

With ‘fear and trembling,’ until its last hour,

    Steadfastly watching in prayer, that we may

Truly ‘prevail to escape’ the dread sadness

    Taking the dwellers in earth as a thief,

And, in that time of redemption and gladness,

    Stand in Thy Presence with joy . . . not with grief."


-       John A. Mac Millan.