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« on: November 15, 2007, 10:15:56 PM »

Will the Body of Christ Go Through the Tribulation?

By Cornelius R. Stam





In recent years, numerous arguments have been advanced to supposedly prove that the Church, the Body of Christ, will go through the "great tribulation" before being "caught up" to be with the Lord.



The present trend of events is, of course, causing many sincere believers to fear that this will be the case, but we place our confidence in the Word of God alone and we are amply confirmed in our belief that the Rapture of the Church will take place before the tribulation period begins, and that the members of the Body of Christ will thus escape the sufferings that the tribulation saints will be called upon to endure.



Our purpose in writing this article is not to defend or to attack anyone, but simply to consider whether arguments for a post-tribulation Rapture are valid.



NOT ONE SCRIPTURE?



Some who hold to the post-trib Rapture position say that there is not one verse of Scripture which explicitly affirms the Rapture of the Church before the tribulation.



But why need there be? There is not one verse of Scripture which explicitly affirms that our Lord was baptized before His temptation by the devil, or that He was crowned with thorns before He was crucified, or that baptism with water is no longer included in God's program for believers, or that God is a Trinity. Yet there is abundant Scriptural proof for all these and they are accepted as the truth of the Word of God.



Years ago we printed an article entitled First the Departure, in which we dealt at length with a passage of Scripture which does explicitly affirm that the Rapture will precede the tribulation. In this article we gave conclusive evidence that the words hee apostasia in II Thessalonians 2:3 should have been rendered "the departure" rather than "a falling away" and that the passage thus reads:



"Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day [the day of the Lord]1 shall not come except the departure come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."



The preceding verses and the preceding letter written by Paul to these same people all bear witness that "the departure" referred to is the departure of believers to go and be with Christ.



We are quite taken aback to see how lightly some have disposed of the evidence we advanced for this rendering of II Thessalonians 2:3. We have given Scriptural proof after proof that the word apostasia does not mean departure from the truth, but simply departure, and that the original passage in question certainly does not use the words "a falling away" but rather "the departure".



To all this our post-tribulational brethren reply by simply stating authoritatively and dogmatically that the word apostasia means a departure from the truth.
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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2007, 10:17:54 PM »

Will the Body of Christ Go Through the Tribulation?

By Cornelius R. Stam



Lest some of our readers believe that apostasia means a departure from the truth, we offer again what we believe to be conclusive Scriptural proof that the words "a falling away," in II Thessalonians 2:3, should have been rendered "the departure" and that the Greek word apostasia does not contain ideas of revolt or rebellion as does our English word apostasy.



APOSTASIA AND APOSTASY



Actually the Greek noun apostasia occurs in only one other passage in the New Testament, namely Acts 21:21, where Paul is informed of the report that he has taught "all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses."



We suggest that "depart" here would be a closer synonym to the rendering "forsake" than would the word "apostatize." To forsake is not exactly to revolt or rebel against, and this is the meaning of apostasy. Furthermore, in this case we are explicitly informed that these Jews were being urged to forsake or depart from Moses, indicating that the word apostasia by itself does not mean "a departure from the truth" but simply "a departure."



But some people have evidently overlooked the root verb from which the noun apostasia is derived. This verb, aphisteemi, occurs 15 times in the New Testament and its meaning is easy to determine from those passages in which it is used. So that there may be no mistake, we present here a list of every New Testament use of this verb:



Luke 2:37 - "departed not from the temple."



Luke 4:13 - "the devil...departed from Him."



Luke 8:13 - "in time of temptation fall away."



Luke 13:27 - "depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity."



Acts 5:37 - "drew away much people after him."



Acts 5:38 - "refrain from these men."



Acts 12:10 - "the angel departed from him."



Acts 15:38 - "who departed from them from Pamphylia."



Acts 19:9 - "he departed from them."



Acts 22:29 - "they departed from him."



II Cor. 12:8 - "I besought the Lord...that it might depart."



I Tim. 4:1 - "some shall depart from the faith."



I Tim. 6:5 - "from such withdraw thyself."



II Tim. 2:19 - "depart from iniquity."



Heb. 3:12 - "in departing from the living God."

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« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2007, 10:20:29 PM »

Will the Body of Christ Go Through the Tribulation?

By Cornelius R. Stam



The reader should observe carefully that in 11 out of these 15 occurrences the verb in question is rendered depart, departed, or departing.



Only three of the 15 are concerned with departure from the truth. In two of these it is clearly stated that the departure is "from the faith" (I Tim. 4:1) and "from the living God" (Heb. 3:12) while the third clearly implies a departure, or "falling away," from that which was "for a while believed," leaving the meaning of the verb aphisteemi in each case simply depart. And these are the only three passages of the above fifteen where departure from the truth is even involved.



In the other twelve the meaning of the word itself is again simply that of departure - nothing more.



In Luke 4:13 we read that the devil "departed" from Christ. In Acts 12:10 an angel "departs" from Peter. In Acts 15:38 we read how a man had "departed" from Paul and Barnabas. In II Corinthians 12:8 we read of Paul's thrice-repeated prayer that a thorn might "depart," or be removed, from his flesh. And so with all the others.



Indeed, in two of the 15 cases above the very opposite of apostasy or departure from the truth is involved.



In I Timothy 6:5 Timothy is told to depart ("withdraw thyself") from men who are "destitute of the truth," while in II Timothy 2:19 all who "name the name of Christ" are exhorted to "depart from iniquity."



If one carefully considers these fifteen occurrences of the root verb of the noun apostasia, he would surely not declare with finality that the meaning of apostasia is "apostasy" or "a departure from the truth."



THE AUTHORIZED VERSION AND ITS PREDECESSORS



Before leaving this subject we would call attention to Mr. Kenneth S. Wuest's rendering of II Thessalonians 2:3 in his Expanded Translation of the Greek New Testament. It reads as follows:



"Do not begin to allow anyone to lead you astray in any way, because that day shall not come except the aforementioned departure [of the Church to heaven] comes first and the man of lawlessness is disclosed [in his true identity], the son of perdition."



Now however Mr. Wuest's translation of the New Testament may be appraised, we doubt that in thus rendering the verse he was trying to establish some private theory as to the timing of the Rapture. He was just trying to produce a good English translation of what the Greek actually says, and he proves this in his preface to II Thessalonians, parts of which we quote below.



"If apostasia and aphisteemi meant what our word `apostasy' and `apostatize' mean, why did Paul when using aphisteemi in I Timothy 4:1 feel the need of adding the qualifying phrase, `from the faith' to complete the meaning of aphisteemi in that instance of its use.



In explaining why the Authorized Version failed to retain the rendering "a departure," which they found in the five versions which preceded A. V., Mr. Wuest points out a mistake contained in all six versions. Says Mr. Wuest:



"The fatal mistake the translators made was in failing to take into consideration the definite article before the word apostasia which appears in the Greek text of Eberhard Nestle, in that of his son, Erwin Nestle, and in that of Westcott and Hort. A. T. Robertson in his monumental work, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, asserts that the translators of the A. V., under the influence of the Vulgate, dealt with the Greek article in a loose and inaccurate way (p. 756). He goes on to say that the vital thing is to look at the matter in hand from the Greek angle and find a reason for the use of the article in any given instance. The use of the article here is classified by Dana and Mantey in their Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament as that of denoting previous reference. In this usage the article is used to point out an object the identity of which is defined by some previous reference made to it in the context (p. 141). The word `previous' is all-important here. The translators of the A. V. looked for the definition of the word in the subsequent context, whereas the Greek article points here to a previous context, namely, to the coming of the Lord Jesus into the air and the gathering together of the saints to Him and their consequent ascent to heaven. Thus, instead of speaking of a departure of men from the true Faith, Paul is referring to the departure of the saints to heaven. It is this departure of the Church which is preventing the coming of the day of the Lord and the disclosure of the man of lawlessness in his true identity."
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« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2007, 10:24:08 PM »

Will the Body of Christ Go Through the Tribulation?

By Cornelius R. Stam



Dr. E. Schuyler English, too, has made a comprehensive study of the Rapture in relation to the tribulation and has written a book on the subject entitled Re-thinking the Rapture. In it he deals at length with the meaning of apostasia and its verb root, aphisteemi and goes on to say:



"The day of the Lord will not come, then, until the man of sin be revealed. And before he is revealed, there must be `the departure.' Departure from what or to what? It must have been something concerning which the Thessalonian believers were informed, else the definite article would hardly have been employed, and without any qualifying description with the noun. 2  Why do we assume that this departure must be from the faith?



"Again, how would the Thessalonians, or Christians in any century since, be qualified to recognize the apostasy when it should come, assuming, simply for the sake of this inquiry, that the Church might be on earth when it does come? There has been apostasy from God, rebellion against Him, since time began. And if it be proposed that the man of sin, sitting in the temple of God and showing Himself to be God, is the apostasy, we must ask ourselves a question: Is this act, on the part of the man of sin, apostasy, a falling away, or is it blasphemous denial by one who never at any time acknowledged God?



"There is a departure concerning which the Thessalonians had been instructed by letter. This is not conjecture but fact: it is the Rapture of the Church, described in I Thessalonians 4:13-17. It was on account of the confusion in the minds of these young Christians, in the matter of events associated with the coming of the Lord, that this epistle was written - for some had sought to deceive them, as by spirit (claiming, perhaps, some new revelation from God), or by word (possibly a misinterpretation of something Paul said), or by letter as from Paul, telling the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord was already present. And how could the apostle set their minds at rest? He could assure them, `by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,' that the day of the Lord will not come `except there come the departure, the Rapture, first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.' The day of the Lord was not present; for they themselves, members of Christ's mystical Body, were still on earth. The Rapture had not already taken place, they being left behind; for the man of sin was not revealed.



"This interpretation corresponds perfectly in sequence, with that in verses 7 and 8, if the restraining power is, as we believe to be the case, the Holy Spirit. The Church departs, and the man of sin is revealed (vs. 3); the Holy Spirit, the restrainer, is taken out of the way, `and then shall that wicked one be revealed' (vss. 7,8 )."



CONCLUSION



1. The word apostasia and its root verb, aphisteemi, do not, used by themselves, mean "apostasy" and "apostatize." They mean "departure" and "depart," nothing more.



2. II Thessalonians 2:3 states in the Greek, that the day of the Lord will not come "except the departure come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."



3. The term "the



4. Paul had written to the Thessalonians in his previous letter about the departure of the members of Christ's Body from this earth (I Thes. 4:16,17) and had even dissociated this from the prophesied "day of the Lord" with the "But" of I Thessalonians 5:1. He had also referred to this "departure" in the phrase "our gathering together unto Him," in II Thessalonians 2:1. Indeed, this was the basis for his appeal to the Thessalonians not to be "shaken" or "troubled" by those who would make them think that "the day of the Lord" was at hand. He had also "told" them about "these things" while he was yet with them (II Thes. 2:5).



5. "The man of sin" must also be manifested before the "day of the Lord" can come (II Thes. 2:3,4) and he cannot be manifested until "the departure" takes place "first."



6. Thus, in addition to many clear proofs that the Rapture of the Body will precede the great tribulation we also have a passage which "explicitly affirms" this.



"Wherefore comfort one another..." (I Thes. 4:18 ).



"Be not soon shaken in mind, or...troubled..." (II Thes. 2:2).



"Let no man deceive you by any means..." (II Thes. 2:3).




Endnotes



1. I Thessalonians 2:2 properly reads the "day of the Lord" not the "day of Christ."



2. "Such a noted scholar as Dr. George Milligan, in his commentary on the Greek Text (Macmillan, New York), although holding to the traditional translation of apostasia, states that the use of the definite article proves [that the apostasia referred to is one] regarding which the apostle's readers were already fully informed."

MUCH MORE TO COME!
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2007, 12:52:53 PM »

A Little Used Rapture Passage

by Thomas Ice





A number of years ago I was preaching the funeral of a dear lady who used to be in a church that I had pastored. Her husband, also a devout believer, asked that I build my sermon for his wife's funeral around 2 Corinthians 5. Since I had never taught through 2 Corinthians, I was somewhat surprised to discover during my preparation for the message that it spoke of our blessed hope - the rapture. Follow along with me and see what I mean.



The Context of 2 Corinthians 5



Many of us are familiar with the second half of 2 Corinthians 5, but what about the preceding context? Paul is dealing with a group of people who were rejecting his authority as an apostle of Christ. Thus, they were reluctant to accept his advice. In chapter 4, Paul notes that he is pouring out his life for their sake. He contrasts this temporal life, which the Corinthians believers greatly valued, with the one to come. Since the life and world to come are of greater value, then, Paul reasons, believers should live this present life from the perspective that places a priority on things that will have "an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).



The Corinthians, to which Paul wrote, had adopted the view that the physical body was of no value, since everything on the physical plane was inferior to things in the spiritual realm. Paul rejects this, and teaches that the physical is not in and of itself carnal but can be used to promote that which has eternal spiritual value. This Paul explains in his chapter on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. As he sets the stage for 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17- 18).



A Tent Verses a Building



2 Corinthians 3:1-2 says, "For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. "Since verse 3 is based upon Paul's statements in verses one and two, we need to know what he is saying there. Paul tells the Corinthians believers that their current body is like an "earthly tent." Why did he choose the word "tent?" He most likely uses the word "tent" because it is a temporary dwelling for a person who is on a trip away from home. That is the status of a believer during the church age, he is a pilgrim, just passing through this world (Phil. 3:17- 21). The term used for a resurrected believer in heaven is called "our dwelling from heaven." It is also called "a house not made with hands." Thus, our permanent dwelling place is clearly said to be in heaven and something to which we look. Since heaven is our home, then it makes sense that "building" is the description that Paul uses since it connotes a permanent structure.



So our current physical body is called a "tent," while our future resurrected body is described as a "building." So what does Paul mean when he speaks in verse 3 of not wanting to be found "naked" in verse 3?



Naked Believers



Since the subject matter of this portion of Scripture relates to the state of the body, whether mortal or resurrected, Paul speaks of the interval between a believer's death and the resurrection. Robert Gromacki says, "This period between the physical death of a believer and his resurrection is designated as the time of nakedness. It is when the self has neither its old body or its new body. Theologians have called it the intermediate state of the soul." [1] This does not mean that when a believer dies he does not go to be with the Lord, since Scripture says, "to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). Philip E. Hughes explains as follows:
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2007, 12:55:28 PM »

A Little Used Rapture Passage

by Thomas Ice



At the death the soul is separated from the body, and man's integral nature is disrupted. This important aspect of the disintegrating character of death explains the Apostle's desire that Christ should return during his lifetime so that he might experience the change into the likeness of Christ's body of glory (Phil. 3:21) without having to undergo the experience of "nakedness" which results from the separation of soul and body at death. . . . It still means a state of nakedness and a period of waiting until he is clothed with his resurrection body.[2]



This passage, in its indirect way, is teaching that Paul was longing for the rapture to occur before he died, since the interval between Paul's death and the obtaining of his resurrection body would come at the time of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13- 18; 1 Cor. 15:51- 58). Thus, 2 Corinthians 5 is a rapture passage. "It is the resurrection and the rapture which the new desire longs for," says Roy Laurin, "because the resurrection and the rapture will bring us this building which is "an house not made with hands." [3] Gromacki notes the rapture connection in the following:



The verb "clothed upon" is a double compound (ependu` using three words epi, en, du`). It actually means to put one piece of clothing over another which is presently being worn. The usage in this context probably means that Paul wanted to be alive when the Lord returned. In that way, the new body could be put on right over the old one. [4]



Paul further explains in verse 4 why he hopes for the rapture before his death. "For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." G. Coleman Luck explains, "The thing for which we groan is not death and dissolution of the body. We do not long to be 'unclothed,' so to speak, but rather to be 'clothed upon,' to have our mortal bodies transformed and perfected without dying at the time of the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 51, 52)." [5]



This passage seems to teach that a believer during the church age who dies before the rapture is with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), but do not yet have their new resurrection body. This seems to also imply that there is no New Testament basis for those who teach that we have an intermediate body (i.e. not a resurrection body) during the interval between death and the resurrection as we dwell in the presence of the Lord. Otherwise, how do they explain Paul's desire to not be naked? Further, this passage does not allow for "soul sleep" since the person is very much alive during the interval, it is the body that is "sleeping."



Rapture Implications of 2 Corinthians 5



There are a number implications that flow from the fact that Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5 that he desired to be taken in the rapture rather than die. I will attempt to note some of those implications.



First, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." This is significant in that the "judgment seat," or "bema" is the special judgment for church age believers only, not the end of the millennium great white throne judgment of unbelievers. Since verse 10 is part of Paul's passage where he has expressed his desire to be taken in the rapture, it supports the notion of pretribulationism since the bema will take place after the rapture of the church, while in heaven, in order to prepare the church for her return with Christ at the second coming (Rev. 19:1- 10).



Second, Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15:51- 52 the following: "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. "Here Paul taught the doctrine of the resurrection, while in 2 Corinthians 5 he links it with the rapture. Although 1 Corinthians 15:51- 52 stands on its own as a rapture passage, it is further strengthened by Paul's rapture teachings in 2 Corinthians 5. Paul is writing to the same church in both epistles, thus, he is speaking of the same subject - the rapture - both times when he addresses the subject of the resurrection.



Third, we learn from 2 Corinthians 5 that it is indeed a godly attitude to desire for the rapture to occur in one's lifetime. Since Paul desired to be taken to be with the Lord via translation so that he would not be naked, it is clear that he is modeling a godly attitude to be emulated throughout the remainder of the church age by subsequent generations. Yet, many Christians in our day disdain the rapture. Rapture hater Gary North says the following:



Christians living today supposedly will escape this supposedly burning building because we all have been issued free tickets on God's helicopter escape.
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2007, 01:02:04 PM »

A Little Used Rapture Passage

by Thomas Ice



This escape never comes. The supposedly imminent Rapture has now been delayed for almost two millennia. . . . They care only about an imminent escape from long-term responsibility: the Rapture. Rapture fever destroys men's ability to reason theologically. It weakens God's Church. [6]



How does North explain Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 5:8, which says, "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord"? According to North's theology, Paul's attitude is sinful. Apparently the rapture has destroyed Paul's ability to reason theologically. Perhaps Paul's theology also weakens God's church, as North declares. Paul clearly states that he would really rather be "at home with the Lord." Was Paul one of those just sitting around waiting for the helicopter escape known as the rapture? Of course not, and neither do we who would rather be "at home with the Lord."



Fourth, this passage does not teach one to shirk genuine biblical responsibilities as suggested by rapture haters like North. Instead, it teaches those of us who love His appearing that "we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9). Why? Because we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Tim LaHaye has said many times and in many ways that those who believe in the pre-trib rapture have three great practical applications: First, a motive for evangelism; second, a motive for world missions; and thirdly, a motive to live a godly life in an ungodly world. That is exactly what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 5:1- 13, contrary to rapture nay-sayers like Gary North.



Even though 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 is a little used passage relating to the pre-trib rapture, it is an important one that needs to be considered by anyone desiring a complete understanding of the New Testament teaching of the rapture. It provides another interesting piece of the puzzle concerning the nature and role of the church and how it fits into the blessed hope, which is the rapture of the church. It models for believers a proper motive for longing for the rapture, not because we cannot handle life in the present, but because "though you have not seen Him, you love Him" (1 Pet. 1:8). Maranatha!



Endnotes



[1] Robert Gromacki, Stand Firm in the Faith: An Exposition of II Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), p. 78.



[2] Philip E. Hughes, The Second Epistle to The Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), p. 171.



[3] Roy L. Laurin, Second Corinthians: Where Life Endures (Findlay, OH: Dunham Publishing Company, 1946), p. 97.



[4] Gromacki, Stand Firm, p. 77.



[5] G. Coleman Luck, Second Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), pp. 48- 49.



[6] Gary North, Rapture Fever: Why Dispensationalism is Paralyzed (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1993), p. 90.

(My Note:  To say that there is no Rapture of the CHURCH WHICH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST is ignorant and indicates that the person has not read and studied the Holy Bible. Further, I think it's silly to suggest that a Christian believing in the Rapture is lazy and not working as hard as a Christian who does NOT believe in the Rapture. The Rapture is one of GOD'S Promises to HIS CHURCH, and I would consider unbelief of this Promise to indicate a major problem. Some people say that there is no Rapture because the word "Rapture" is not in the Bible. "Caught up" is the terminology used in the Bible. If you do an ancient language study of "Caught up", you will find out why Christians talk about the "Rapture of the CHURCH". For those who deny the Rapture, I'd like to know how they explain 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and other portions of Scripture. I would also like to make a brief comment about the section of this article labeled "Naked Believer". This might be an interesting side study. Before they disobeyed GOD, did Adam and Eve have clothes or need clothes?)
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2007, 02:08:31 PM »

A Little Used Rapture Passage

by Thomas Ice

Was Paul one of those just sitting around waiting for the helicopter escape known as the rapture? Of course not, and neither do we who would rather be "at home with the Lord."

This passage teaches those of us who love His appearing that "we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9). Why? Because we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Tim LaHaye has said many times and in many ways that those who believe in the pre-trib rapture have three great practical applications: First, a motive for evangelism; second, a motive for world missions; and thirdly, a motive to live a godly life in an ungodly world. That is exactly what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 5:1- 13, contrary to rapture nay-sayers like Gary North.

The word "Rapture" is not in the Bible. "Caught up" is the terminology used in the Bible. If you do an ancient language study of "Caught up", you will find out why Christians talk about the "Rapture of the CHURCH". For those who deny the Rapture, I'd like to know how they explain 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and other portions of Scripture. I would also like to make a brief comment about the section of this article labeled "Naked Believer". This might be an interesting side study. Before they disobeyed GOD, did Adam and Eve have clothes or need clothes?)

I actually heard a sermon about this last night on my way home from work.  Thank you and God Bless, Eva
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2007, 03:18:10 PM »

I actually heard a sermon about this last night on my way home from work.  Thank you and God Bless, Eva

Hello Sister Eva,

You are most welcome, and I'm glad that you enjoyed this. I'm hoping to have some more really good material ready to post soon.

Love In Christ,
Tom

KEEP LOOKING UP!!
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2007, 01:57:14 AM »

God's Purpose For The Tribulation - Page 1 of 2
by Thomas Ice



Over the years I have done dozens of radio and television interview shows which include a time where listeners are permitted to call in with their questions about Bible prophecy. Since I am director of an organization that researches, teaches, and defends the pretribulational rapture teaching, I get many questions and comments relating to that subject. It is not hard to detect questions and comments that flow from an individual who is biblically informed verses those who speak from a position of mere human whim or opinion. The same is true of written correspondence. I have found that when it comes to the issue of the tribulation so many have not taken the time to let the Bible define the meaning and purpose for that future period of time.



A common statement made by some is as follows: " I believe that the church will go through the tribulation because the Bible says that we will suffer for our faith." The problem with such a statement is that while it may appear to have the veneer of biblical correctness, at core it betrays a lack of understanding of God's purpose for the tribulation. Certainly the Bible teaches that all through out the church age Believers will suffer persecution. This is taught by such passages as John 16:33b, " In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." And in 2 Timothy 3:12 " Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." The question is will the church experience the trials of the tribulation? I have found that when a person is knowledgeable of what the Bible says is God's purpose for the tribulation, or any issue for that matter, then a very high percentage of those people will come to believe that the church will be taken in the rapture before the tribulation. What is God's purpose for the tribulation?



Start Of The Tribulation



First, we need to know that the tribulation in Bible prophecy is the period of time that begins with the signing of a covenant between Israel and the antichrist and ends seven years later at the second coming of Jesus Christ. The most extensive biblical comments on the tribulation are found in the writings of John, specifically in Revelation 6- 19. In these chapters, John provides a detailed exposition of the tribulation days. Daniel's "70 weeks," prophesied in Daniel 9:24-27 are the framework within which the tribulation or the 70th week occurs. The seven-year period of Daniel's 70th week provides the time span with which a whole host of descriptives are associated. Some of those descriptive terms include: tribulation, great tribulation, day of the Lord, day of wrath, day of distress, day of trouble, time of Jacob's trouble, day of darkness and gloom, and wrath of the Lamb.



Judgment Nature Of The Tribulation



Second, God's basic purpose for the tribulation is that it be a time of judgment, while at the same time, He will hold forth the gospel of grace. This will precede Christ's glorious 1,000 year reign from David's throne in Jerusalem. Judgment, or God's wrath, is needed to put down the rebellion of mankind in preparation for Christ's reign of peace upon earth during the millennium.



The Goals Of The Tribulation



Third, while a number of goals for the tribulation could be given, there are a least three specific major purposes. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum lists them as follows:



Gentile Judgment



Before the Lord can personally rule on earth in the Person of Jesus Christ He must first judge the world in order to prepare it for His righteous rule. Dr. Fruchtenbaum says that the first purpose for the tribulation is,



* To make an end of wickedness and wicked ones (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19-20)- The first purpose for the tribulation is seen to be a punishment in history upon the whole world for its sins against God, in a way similar to that of the global flood in Noah's days (Matthew 24:37-39).[1]



Deuteronomy 30:7 tells us that God will " inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you." This will take place during the tribulation and will be retribution to the nations for how they have treated the Jews during the last 2,000 years. This purpose does not encompass the church.



World-Wide Evangelism



The seven-year tribulation will be a time of phenomenal evangelistic outreach. It will be a time unlike any previous period of history. Dr. Fruchtenbaum explains:



* To bring about a world-wide revival- This purpose is given and fulfilled in Revelation 7:1-17. During the first half of the tribulation, God will evangelize the world by the means of the 144,000 Jews and thus fulfill the prophecy found in Matthew 24:14.[2]
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2007, 01:59:41 AM »

God's Purpose For The Tribulation - Page 2 of 2
by Thomas Ice



In addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, there will be normal evangelism taking place like we see today. Further, the Two Witnesses will provide an evangelistic witness to Israel. Finally, at the mid-point of the tribulation Revelation 14 tells us that God Himself will use angels to preach the gospel and warn " earth dwellers" not to take the mark of the beast- 666.



The three angelic announcements are as follows: First, an angel will preach " an eternal gospel . . . to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people" (Revelation 14:6). Second, the next angel will make the following pronouncement: " Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality" (Revelation 14:8). Finally, the last angelic proclamation will specifically warn every person on earth not to take the mark of the beast, since doing so will result in their eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. " If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand . . . he will be tormented with fire and brimstone . . . forever and ever" (Revelation 14:9- 11). This tribulation purpose also does not include the church.



Conversion of Israel



One of the most glorious and important purposes of the tribulation will be the conversion of Israel. Dr. Fruchtenbaum tell us,



* To break the power of the holy people - Israel. Finally, the tribulation will be a time in which God, through evil agencies, prepares Israel for her conversion and acknowledgment that Jesus is their Messiah, resulting in the second coming of Christ.[3]



The Bible teaches us that God will use the tribulation to bring His elect people to faith in Jesus as their Messiah. When we put together the biblical information it appears that God will accomplish this goal in the following way: First, the Lord will return Israel to the land before the tribulation, the time of God's wrath. " I shall bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out (Ezekiel 20:34). The regathering before the tribulation is what our Lord has been doing since 1948 with the modern state of Israel.



Once the tribulation begins He " shall make you pass under the rod, and I shall bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I shall purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I shall bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 20:37- 38). This tells us that the unbelieving Jews (" the rebels" ) will be removed during the tribulation.



In an interesting passage that speaks of " My Associate," which is an obvious prophetic reference to Jesus The Messiah (Zechariah 13:7- 9), Zechariah gives us a numeric ratio that will be purged. " And it will come about in all the land," Declares the Lord, " That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ' They are My people,' And they will say, ' The Lord is my God.' " (Zechariah 13:8- 9) Therefore, we learn that two-thirds of Israel will be purged through the fire of the tribulation, leaving the one-third elect who will be converted to Jesus as their Messiah. Thus, " all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ' The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins' " (Romans 11:26- 27). What a glorious day that will be! Israel will be converted to Jesus as their Messiah resulting in the second coming, which will in turn give rise the millennial reign of Christ. The church is no where to be found in these tribulational activities.



Conclusion



While many people think the tribulation will involve the church, the Bible does not provide support for such a notion. Instead, Scripture informs us of at least a three-fold purpose for the coming tribulation, none of which involves the church. The New Testament teaches that the church will be taken at the rapture to be with the Lord before the tribulation begins, because God has not destined His bride for His wrath (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Revelation 3:10). Other groups of redeemed individuals will go through the tribulation, but not Christ's bride, the church. Maranatha!

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Endnotes



[1]Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, (Tustin, CA: 1982, pp. 122- 23.



[2]Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps, pp. 123- 25.



[3]Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps, pp. 125- 26.


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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2007, 02:41:21 AM »

Why I Believe The Bible Teaches Rapture Before Tribulation - Part 1 of 5
by Thomas Ice



Churches today often neglect the study and preaching of biblical prophecy because they consider it a controversial and impractical topic. At the same time, many bemoan the apathy of believers and struggle to encourage people toward holy living. Churches caught in this trap need to consider that the teaching of the Rapture, woven throughout the fabric of the New Testament, addresses these issues and can provide motivation for godliness. No single Bible verse says precisely when the Rapture will take place in relation to the Tribulation or the Second Coming in a way that would settle the issue to everyone's satisfaction. However, this does not mean that the Scriptures do not teach a clear position on this matter, for it does. As we shall see later, the Bible does promise that the church will not enter the time of God's wrath, which is another term for the tribulation. Many biblical passages teach the pretribulational rapture of the church.



Many important biblical doctrines are not derived from a single verse, but come from a harmonization of several passages into systematic conclusions. Some truths are directly stated in the Bible, such as the deity of Christ John 1:1; Titus 2:13). Other doctrines, like the Trinity and the incarnate nature of Christ, are the product of harmonizing the many passages that relate to these matters. Taking into account all that the Bible says on these issues, orthodox theologians, over time, concluded that God is a Trinity and that Christ is the God-Man. Similarly, a systematic, literal interpretation of all New Testament passages relating to the Rapture will lead to the pretribulational viewpoint: that, at the Rapture, all living believers will be translated into heaven at least seven years before Christ's Second Coming. This is what I believe the Bible teaches.



Foundational Issues



Four affirmations provide a biblical framework for the Pretribulational Rapture: They are (1) consistent literal interpretation, (2) Premillennialism, (3) futurism, and (4) a distinction between Israel and the church. These are not mere suppositions, but rather are important biblical doctrines upon which the doctrine of the Rapture is built.



Literal Interpretation



Consistent literal interpretation is essential to properly understanding what God is saying in the Bible. The dictionary defines literal as " belonging to letters." Further, it says literal interpretation involves an approach " based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning . . . not going beyond the facts." [1] " Literal interpretation of the Bible simply means to explain the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary usage of its language." [2] How is this done? It can only be accomplished through the grammatical (according to the rules of grammar), historical (consistent with the historical setting of the passage), contextual (in accord with its context) method of interpretation.



Literal interpretation recognizes that a word or phrase can be used either plainly (denotative) or figuratively (connotative). As in our own conversations today, the Bible may use plain speech, such as " Grandmother died yesterday" (denotative). Or the same thing may be said in a more colorful way, " Grandmother kicked the bucket yesterday" (connotative). An important point to be noted is that even though we may use a figure of speech to refer to Grandmother's death, we are using that figure to refer to an event that literally happened. Some interpreters are mistaken to think that just because a figure of speech may be used to describe an event (i.e., Jonah's experience in the belly of the great fish in Jonah 2), that the event was not literal and did not happen in history. Such is not the case. A " Golden Rule of Interpretation" has been developed to help us discern whether or not a figure of speech was intended by an author.



When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.[3]



The principle of consistent, literal interpretation of the entire Bible logically leads one to the pre-trib position. This means that the prophetic portions of the Bible are interpreted like any other subject matter in Scripture. The prophetic sections of the Bible use the same conventions of language found throughout the Bible.



Premillennialism



The next biblical principle foundational to Pretribulationism is Premillennialism. Premillennialism teaches that the Second Advent will occur before Christ's thousand-year reign upon earth from Jerusalem (Revelation 19:11- 20:6). It is contrasted with the Postmillennial teaching that Christ will return after He has reigned spiritually from His throne in heaven for a long period of time during the current age, through the Church, and the similar Amillennial view that also advocates a present, but pessimistic, spiritual reign of Christ.



Biblical Premillennialism is a necessary foundation for the Pre-Trib position since it is impossible for either the Postmillennial or Amillennial view of Scripture to support a Pre-Trib understanding of the Rapture.
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« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2007, 02:44:19 AM »

Why I Believe The Bible Teaches Rapture Before Tribulation - Part 2 of 5
by Thomas Ice



Futurism



The third contributing principle is Futurism. As if understanding the different millennial positions are not complicated enough, diversification is compounded when we consider the four possible views which relate to the timing of when an interpreter sees prophecy being fulfilled in history. The four views are simple in the sense that they reflect the only four possibilities in relation to time- past, present, future, and timeless. The Preterist (past) believes that most, if not all, prophecy has already been fulfilled, usually in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The Historicist (present) sees much of the current Church Age as equal to the Tribulation Period. Thus, prophecy has been and will be fulfilled during the current Church Age. Futurists (future) believe that virtually all prophetic events will not occur in the current Church Age, but will happen in the future Tribulation, Second Coming, or Millennium. The Idealist (timeless) does not believe either that the Bible indicates the timing of events or that we can know before they happen. Therefore, idealists think that prophetic passages mainly teach great ideas or truths about God to be applied regardless of timing.



Pretribulationism can only be built upon the futurist understanding of prophetic events. Such a conclusion is the result of the application of a consistent literal interpretation of prophecy as future historical events that are yet to occur.



Distinction between Israel and the Church



The final principle related to the pre-trib position is the biblical truth that God's single program for history includes two peoples, Israel and the Church. This view has been systematized into what is known as dispensationalism. While the basis of salvation (God's grace) is always the same for Jew and Gentile, God's prophetic program has two distinct aspects. Presently, God's plan for Israel is on hold until He completes His current purpose with the Church and Raptures His Bride to heaven. Only pretribulationism provides a purpose for the rapture. That purpose is to remove the Church via the Rapture so God can complete His unfinished business with Israel during the seven-year Tribulation period. Therefore, if one does not distinguish between passages which God intends for Israel from those intended for the church, then there results an improper confusion of the two programs.



It should not be surprising that God's single plan for history has a multi-dimensional aspect (Ephesians 3;10) that we know as Israel and the Church. If human novelists can weave multiple plots throughout their stories, then how much more can the Great Planner of the universe and history not do the same kind of thing?



Those commingling God's plan for Israel and the church destroy an important basis for the pre-trib rapture. The Bible clearly teaches that the church and Israel have in many ways different programs within the single plan of God even though both are saved on the same basis.



SPECIFIC PRETRIBULATIONAL ARGUMENTS



The fact of the Rapture was first revealed by Christ to His disciples in John 14:1-3. It is most clearly presented in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 which encourages living Christians that, at the Rapture, they will be reunited with those who have died in Christ before them. In verse 17 the English phrase " caught up" (NASB) translates the Greek word harpaz`, which means " to seize upon with force" or " to snatch up." This is the Greek word from which the English word " harpoon" is derived. The Latin translators of the Bible used the word rapere, the root of the English term rapture. A debate swirls around when this takes place relative to the Tribulation. At the Rapture living believers will be " caught up" in the air, translated into the clouds, in a moment of time.



An interesting tie between the revelation of the rapture by our Lord in John 14:1-3 and Paul's expansion in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 has been observed by commentator J. B. Smith. Smith has observed a " thought for thought" parallel between the two passages:



Let us now compare two passages of Scripture which, by the words employed, clearly show that they refer to the same event. . . .



John 14:1-3



trouble verse 1

believe verse 1

God, me verse 1

told you verse 2

come again verse 3

receive you verse 3

to myself verse 3

be where I am verse 3


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18



sorrow verse 13

believe verse 14

Jesus, God verse 14

say to you verse 15

coming of the Lord verse 15

caught up verse 17

to meet the Lord verse 17

ever be with the Lord verse 17
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2007, 02:46:30 AM »

Why I Believe The Bible Teaches Rapture Before Tribulation - Part 3 of 5
by Thomas Ice



Observe:



The words or phrases are almost an exact parallel.



They follow one another in both passages in exactly the same order.



Only the righteous are dealt with in each case.



There is not a single irregularity in the progression of words from first to last.



Either column takes the believer from the troubles of earth to the glories of heaven.



It is but consistent to interpret each passage as dealing with the same event- the rapture of the church. [4]



Such a comparison bodes well for the pretribulational rapture of the church, as we shall see below.



Operating consistently upon the foundation of these four biblical foundations, we will survey six specific biblical arguments for Pretribulationism. These are not all the reasons for a Pre-Trib Rapture, but are simply a summary of some of the basic arguments.



Contrasts Between Comings



The Rapture is characterized in the New Testament as a " translation or resurrection coming" (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:15-17) in which the Lord comes for His church, taking her to His Father's house (John 14:3). On the other hand, Christ's Second Advent with His saints (the Church=Rev. 19) descends from heaven and arrives on earth to stay and set up His Messianic Kingdom (Zech. 14:4-5; Matt. 24:27-31). The differences between these two events are harmonized naturally by the pre-trib position, while other views are not able to comfortably account for such differences.



Paul speaks of the Rapture as a " mystery" (1 Cor. 15:51-54), that is, a truth not revealed until it was disclosed by the apostles (Col. 1:26). Thus the Rapture is said to be a newly revealed mystery, making it a separate event. The Second Coming, on the other hand, was predicted in the Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 12:10; 14:4).



The New Testament teaches about the Rapture of the church and yet also speaks of the Second Coming of Christ. These two events are different in a number of ways. Note the following contrasts between the translation at the Rapture and Christ's Second Coming to establish the kingdom.



Rapture/Translation



1 Translation of all believers

2 Translated saints go to heaven

3 Earth not judged

4 Imminent, any-moment, signless

5 Not in the Old Testament

6 Believers only

7 Before the day of wrath

8 No reference to Satan

9 Christ comes for His own

10 He comes in the air

11 He claims His bride

12 Only His own see Him

13 Tribulation begins



2nd Coming/Establish Kingdom



1 No translation at all

2 Translated saints return to earth

3 Earth judged & righteousness established

4 Follows definite predicted signs including tribulation

5 Predicted often in Old Testament

6 Affects all men

7 Concluding the day of wrath

8 Satan bound

9 Christ comes with His own

10 He comes to the earth

11 He comes with His bride

12 Every eye shall see Him

13 Millennial Kingdom begins



Dr. John Walvoord concludes that these " contrasts should make it evident that the translation of the church is an event quite different in character and time from the return of the Lord to establish His kingdom, and confirms the conclusion that the translation takes place before the tribulation." [5]



Both events mention clouds symbolizing a heavenly role in both, but other differences demonstrate that these are two distinct events. At the Rapture, the Lord comes for His saints (1 Thes. 4:16); at the Second Coming the Lord comes with His saints (1 Thes. 3:13). At the Rapture, the Lord comes only for believers, but His return to the earth will impact all people. The Rapture is a translation/resurrection event; the Second Coming is not. At the Rapture, the Lord takes believers from earth to heaven "to the Father's house" (John 14:3); at the Second Coming believers return from heaven to the earth (Matt. 24:30).
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2007, 02:49:22 AM »

Why I Believe The Bible Teaches Rapture Before Tribulation - Part 4 of 5
by Thomas Ice



The best harmonization of these two different events supports a pretribulational Rapture (which is signless and could happen at any moment), while the many events taking place during the Tribulation are best understood as signs leading up to the Second Coming.



A Time Interval Needed Between Comings



An interval or gap of time is needed between the rapture and the second coming in order to facilitate many events predicted in the Bible in a timely manner. Numerous items in the New Testament can be harmonized by a pre-trib time gap of at least seven years, while other views, especially postribulationists, are forced to postulate scenarios that would not realistically allow for a normal passage of time. The following events are best temporally harmonized with an interval of time as put forth by pretribulationism.[6]



2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that all believers of this age must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. This event, often known as the " Bema Judgment" from the Greek word bema, is an event never mentioned in the detailed accounts connected with the second coming of Christ to the earth. Since such an evaluation would require some passage of time, the pre-trib gap of seven years nicely accounts for such a requirement.



Since Revelation 19:7-10 pictures the church as a bride who has been made ready for marriage (illustrated as " fine linen," which represents " the righteous acts of the saints" ) to her groom (Christ); and the bride has already been clothed in preparation for her return at the second coming accompanying Christ to the earth (Rev. 19:11-18), it follows that the church would already have to be complete and in heaven (because of the pre-trib rapture) in order to have been prepared in the way that Revelation 19 describes. This requires an interval of time which pretribulationism handles well.



The 24 elders of Revelation 4:1- 5:14 are best understood as representatives of the church. Dr. Charles Ryrie explains:



In the New Testament, elders as the highest officials in the church do represent the whole church (cf. Acts 15:6; 20:28), and in the Old Testament, twenty-four elders were appointed by King David to represent the entire Levitical priesthood (I Chron. 24). When those twenty-four elders met together in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, the entire priestly house was represented. Thus it seems more likely that the elders represent redeemed human beings, . . . the church is included and is thus in heaven before the tribulation begins.[7]



If they refer to the church, then this would necessitate the rapture and reward of the church before the tribulation and would require a chronological gap for them to perform their heavenly duties during the seven-year tribulation.



Believers who come to faith in Christ during the tribulation are not translated at Christ's second advent but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming and building houses, and they will bear children (Isa. 65:20-25). This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the second coming to the earth, as posttribulationists teach. Because pretribulationists have at least a seven-year interval between the removal of the church at the rapture and the return of Christ to the earth, this is not a problem because millions of people will be saved during the interval and thus be available to populate the millennium in their natural bodies in order to fulfill Scripture.



It would be impossible for the judgment of the Gentiles to take place after the second coming if the rapture and second coming are not separated by a gap of time. How would both saved and unsaved, still in their natural bodies, be separated in judgment, if all living believers are translated at the second coming. This would be impossible if the translation takes place at the second coming, but it is solved through a pretribulational gap.



Dr. John F. Walvoord points out that if " the translation took place in connection with the second coming to the earth, there would be no need of separating the sheep from the goats at a subsequent judgment, but the separation would have taken place in the very act of the translation of the believers before Christ actually sets up His throne on earth (Matt. 25:31)." [8] Once again, such a " problem" is solved by taking a pre-trib position with it's gap of at least seven years.



A time interval is needed so that God's program for the church, a time when Jew and Gentile are united in one body (cf. Eph. 2- 3), will not become commingled in any way with His unfinished and future plan for Israel during the tribulation. Dr. Renald Showers notes that " [A]ll other views of the Rapture have the church going through at least part of the 70th week, meaning that all other views mix God's 70-weeks program for Israel and Jerusalem together with His program for the church. A gap is needed in order for these two aspects of God's program to be harmonized in a non-conflicting manner." [9]



The pretribulational rapture of the church fulfills a biblical need to not only see a distinction between the translation of Church Age saints at the rapture, before the second coming, but it also handles without difficulty the necessity of a time-gap which harmonizes a number of future biblical events. This requirement of a seven-year gap of time adds another plank to the likelihood that pretribulationism best reflects the biblical viewpoint.
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