Tennessee evangelist Perry Stone has an unusual teaching series. He asserts that a person’s name must be written in Malachi’s book of remembrance in order to qualify for the rapture. The verses cited for support are these:
“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.” -Malachi 3:16,17
For those who don’t know what link there might be between Malachi and the rapture, it is found in the words, “And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.” The term or “rapture” concept, says that, just prior to His second coming, Jesus secretly returns to whisk His faithful followers away from the tribulation judgments. They meet in the air according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, thus being spared the horrors of the tribulation.
The case for this point of view seems strengthened by Jesus’ words to the church of Philadelphia.
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you (spare you) from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Revelation 3:10
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape (be spared of) all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36
Two more passages from the book of 1 Thessalonians round out this list.
“To wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us (spares us) from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
The hour of trial, and the wrath of God are in most people’s point of view, the tribulation period. In the book of Revelation Jesus unseals the scroll releasing the wrath of God upon the earth. Since the verses above convey the sense of being spared from tribulation, it is easy to see how Stone reaches his conclusion. But the case is not as clear cut as it seems.
First, while God’s wrath may be intensified in the tribulation, it’s not limited to that period. Romans 1:18 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against,…” and Paul goes on to list examples of the manifestation of that wrath which is currently occurring. Consider also Psalm 7:11. “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.” (NIV) So the wrath of the Lamb need not be restricted to a future tribulation period.
What about the implications in Revelation 3, and Luke 21 about being protected or spared the terrible events? How can we explain them? Let’s begin with Revelation 3:10. “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
The key word here seems to be keep. It should be noted that “keep from” need not necessarily mean “take from” which would be required if indeed the church were to leave the earth during the tribulation. One could argue that a play on words is at work, “you have kept,.. I will keep” both words being the same in the Greek. The context is perseverance. Is the issue, you have kept my word to persevere so…
- I will take you where you will no longer need to persevere,
or is it
- I will continue to empower your perseverance.
The Greek word for keep, “tereo,” is often used that second way. For example, in His departing prayer Jesus says, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15. This could easily be the thought of Revelation 3:10. A perseverance through tribulation, rather than a taking from it. This is especially instructive in that the Church of Philadelphia is long gone. But the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ remains upon the Earth.
Luke 21:36 helps reinforce this conclusion. “Watch therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things.” Understanding hinges on the meaning of “counted worthy to escape.” How is one counted worthy? Does escape have a literal or figurative application here?
Again, escape need not mean we are being taken somewhere to be protected from the tribulation judgments. In Christ we have escaped the condemnation which brings those judgments. The phrase counted worthy is difficult, found only three times in Scripture and once with a different word in the most reliable manuscripts. Yet the idea that counted worthy means achieving some level of rapture meriting godliness undermines the concept of grace. A more likely meaning is that we demonstrate our imputed worthiness by enduring troubles and afflictions, including those which are viewed as characteristic of the tribulation. This is also known in reformed circles as persevering grace.
One cannot deny Stone’s creative imagination, though he would no doubt credit God with this so-called revelation. However, the one book the Bible clearly mentions our names being in, is the Book of Life. The idea of another listing in a second book, simply isn’t Biblically credible.