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Rapture Hope Stolen|
9 Reasons Why
Q. I am trying hard to figure out where this belief of a mid and post rapture is coming from. It's very disturbing to have always believed in a pre tribulation rapture and to hear Christians try to teach that we were lied to. I hold dearly to our blessed hope of being gathered to Jesus. I certainly don't want to be here when there will be actual physical demons running around everywhere. What Christian would? Why are Christians trying to steal our blessed hope? (Heather)
That is a good question, Heather! It is puzzling that many fellow Christians paint pre tribbers as fanatics or heretics who exist on the outer fringes of faith. The apostle Peter warned there would be scoffers in the last days who would mock the truth taunting, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?" (2 Peter 3:4). These scoffers are not unbelievers or atheists. They come right from within the Church.
Many post trib teachers, however, believe in the Second Coming of Christ. But, they believe the Second Coming is synonymous with the rapture. Still, the question remains: why must they ridicule fellow believers who hold dearly to 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 which describe the rapture event? Since we have already written about the rapture in other articles, let's explore 9 reasons why some critics may poke fun at those who hold to a pretribulation rapture.
Well Developed Eschatology?
1. Many people who belong to mainstream churches (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc.) do not have what we feel is a well developed understanding of eschatology (study of last things). They tend to allegorize Old and New Testament texts that refer to a literal Millennium and the horrific circumstances called the "tribulation" which lead up to its formation. Although apocalyptic literature (Daniel, Revelation, etc.) certainly exists within the Bible (as it does outside the Scriptures), those sections can be interpreted by comparing and contrasting with other biblical texts.
Reformed churches have done a fantastic job teaching key doctrinal beliefs such as original sin, atonement, the work of the Holy Spirit, faith, baptism, grace, salvation, sanctification and so on. But, their founder, Martin Luther, held to a Catholic view of end times which continues to exist in many Reformed churches today.
It may be possible that Luther just didn't have time to reform all aspects of Catholicism without the aid of computers and modern study tools. It might serve Reformers well to take another look at eschatology. Their clean grasp of doctrinal issues does not mean their understanding of biblical end-times materials adheres to good hermeneutics.
2. It angers a few mainstream Christians that pre tribbers think they will escape all persecution and martyrdom and get off "scot free." They believe that the church should be purified by trials and tribulation. But, I don't know any pre tribbers who actually think that way. Do you? The majority of pre tribbers agonize over the fact that many Christians worldwide suffer terrible persecutions today.
According to conservative, dispensational scholars the Wrath of God (tribulation period) appears to be a continuation of Daniel's Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:27) and consists of global, cosmic horrors culminating in Israel's belief in her Messiah. One need only to read Revelation chapters six through eighteen and Isaiah 24 to understand that these horrors consist of unparalleled terror.
In these passages the disasters may include meteorites striking earth, the earth being shifted off of its current axis, gut-wrenching global pandemics and poisonings, perhaps a nuclear winter and so forth. None of these global disasters have already occurred in A.D. 70 or at any other time in man's history as Reformers tend to believe. Besides, Paul tells us that Christians are not appointed to God's Wrath (1 Thess. 5:9).
3. Some confuse verses in Matthew 24 with the rapture event. In verses 24:40-41 Jesus says that after the Antichrist sets up the "abomination of desolation" (v. 15), then "Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left" (v. 40-41). The question is, who are these people who will be taken? Is it the Church or are they Tribulation saints who have accepted Christ as Lord after the rapture?
Angels Gather One Group while Christ Snatches-Up Other Group
Note that verse 31 clarifies that angels will "gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." "The elect" refers to those Jews who became believers during the tribulation period.
"Gathering His elect" is not the same thing as the rapture which consists of "snatching away" believers prior to God's Wrath (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 5:9). Rather, angels gather the elect in Matthew 24:31. But, the Lord himself will come back to snatch up believers into the air in 1 Thess. 4:16-17. The Reformers tend to blend or "harmonize" these differences which only serve to confuse the matter further.
Earliest Church Fathers Held Premillennial View
4. Reformers declare that in the 1800s John Darby taught a "new" doctrinal error called the "rapture" which began the rapture myth. This is false. Yet, no matter what facts pre tribbers give to the contrary, this false rumor continues to circulate today.
The doctrine of imminency (Christ's soon return) was held early on. It is clear that the earliest church fathers clung to a premillennial view long before Darby. They include Papias (60-130); Clement of Rome (90-100); The Shepherd of Hermas (96-150); Ignatius of Antioch (98-117); Barnabas (100); The Didache (100-165); The Epistle of Barnabas (117-138); Irenaeus (120-202); and Tertullian (145-220), among others.
The conclusion is that the earliest church fathers expected Christ to return to the earth at any time followed by a 1000 year kingdom rule on earth. The doctrine of imminence certainly did not begin with John Darby in the 1800s!
Early Church Pre Trib Rapture
Furthermore, a pre Trib rapture view was held by some in the early church. They include the Epistle of Barnabas (100 AD); Irenaeus, Against Heresies; Hippolytus, a disciple of Irenaeus (2nd Century); Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, and a recent discovery in the writings of Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century) among others.
Ephrem says, "For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins." ("On the Last Times the Antichrist, and the End of the World").
(Missler 2002, 328).
The Church Isn't Israel
5. The Church never replaces Israel. A believer in Jesus Christ becomes a member of the church no matter whether he is a Jew or a Gentile (Ro. 1:16). Paul declares, "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!…God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew."
Commenting on Romans 11:1-16 Charles Ryrie notes,
…"Paul assures us that God has not forgotten His people, the Jews, and His promises to them. After the full number of Gentiles have been incorporated into the church, all Jews will turn to the Lord, not a mere handful as now. Paul does not assert that the OT promises to Israel have been transferred to the largely Gentile church"
(Ryrie Study Bible 1995, 1806).
In Galatians 6:16 Paul concludes, "And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God," clearly separating the church from Israel. Again, Ryrie points out that two groups are mentioned here - all believing Galatians and especially believing Jews in that group. The church is not equated with the new Israel of God.
Prejudice Against Jewish Peoples and Nation of Israel?
6. Sometimes I wonder if it is possible that a few leaders within Reformed and liberal churches are prejudiced against the Jewish peoples and nation of Israel. Several leaders within the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist and the World Council of Churches have stood in solidarity with Palestinians. They tend to make fun of those whom they call Christian "Zionists" (supporters of Israel).
They have taken a rather hateful, public stand against Israel and oddly support Palestinians who are known to teach their young children to desire to kill the Jewish people. These are the same Palestinians who were filmed dancing in the streets over Americans who were killed right after 9/11. Should we pray for them? Yes. Support them? No.
Tribulation Pertains to Jewish People and Unbelievers Worldwide
7. The Tribulation is called the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7): …"that day is great. There is none like it. And it is the time of Jacob's distress, But he will be saved from it." "Jacob's trouble" refers to Jewish people during the Day of the Lord when God's Wrath is delivered to unbelieving Israel (Isa. 22; Jer. 30:1-17; Joel 1-2; Amos 5; Zephaniah 1) and on the unbelieving world (Ezek. 38-39; Zechariah 14). Church believers do not fall into either group.
8. The theory that the rapture comes at the midpoint of the tribulation requires that "the last trumpet" is blown in 1 Corinthians 15:52. However, that trumpet is blown for believers while Revelation's seven trumpets in chapters 8, 9 and 11 are blown for unbelievers. (Yes, sometimes it's confusing).
On the other hand, another group of end-times scholars believe that Christians may have to endure at least half of the seven-year tribulation period. This is because most biblical scholars agree that the technical definition of God's Wrath is the last three and one-half years of the tribulation period. They divide the tribulation into two periods of 1260 days each according to Daniel 9:27 and 12:7.
In fact, the Old Testament prophet, Daniel, describes a week of years yet to be fulfilled which will be intensified at the mid point of the seven year period (Dan. 9:27). Finally, Jesus warns that once we see the abomination of desolation (or antichrist declaring himself "God" in the holy temple in the middle of the seven year period) "then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time…" (Matt. 24:21).
There is so much more. But, we need to understand and remember that it was primarily Origen and Augustine followed by the Roman Catholic Church who began allegorizing and spiritualizing large portions of the Bible. We do not hold to that method of interpretation unless the text warrants it. Rather, many of the earliest church fathers prior to Augustine held to a serious or "literal" pre-millennial interpretation of the Bible.
Blending Church and Post Trib Saints?
9. The view that the rapture occurs after the tribulation comes primarily from four verses, most of which we have already discussed: Matthew 24:23-29; Daniel 12:3 and Revelation 6-19. Such passages cannot necessarily be harmonized or blended with each other and many other passages. The current day Church believers, tribulation saints and unbelieving tribulation Jewish people are distinct groups.
The fourth verse(s) comes from 2 Thessalonians 2 which describes the Lord's Second Coming. Before that day comes the restrainer must be removed first. What or who is the restrainer? Most likely the Holy Spirit or the church (the Holy Spirit resides within believers). The "day of the Lord" refers to the 7 year tribulation timeframe.
Sometimes Harmonizing Texts is Poor Hermeneutics
There are differences between the rapture and the Second Coming noted in the texts. For example, at the rapture the Lord comes for His church to meet them in the clouds. Yet, the Lord appears with His church on earth at the Second Coming. It is angels who gather the elect tribulation Jews and tribulation saints. But, it is the Lord himself who "snatches away" church believers to meet Him in the air at the rapture. The rapture depicts deliverance of the Church from God's Wrath (1 Thess. 5:9). The Second Coming depicts the deliverance of tribulation believers who endure God's Wrath. There are biblical passages that pertain specifically to each group.
There is nothing in those texts that suggest we blend together or "harmonize" all the texts dealing with end times. For instance, Reformed and liberal churches combine or "harmonize" Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Yet, Matthew 24 is a survival guide for tribulation Jews when a future leader declares himself as "God" in the new Jewish Temple. Luke 21 was written to first-century followers of Jesus who were warned to flee once they saw armies surrounding Jerusalem. This happened in 70 A.D. when Titus invaded Jerusalem. Church historian Eusebius records that millions of Christians were saved as a result.
Intellectual Arrogance in the Church
The arrogance of a few scholars within each position is uncalled for, unseemly and sinful. Sin is the root problem. After all, this isn't a salvation-issue. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus prayed that we would love each other and act as one (John 17). However, we certainly do not treat each other with gentleness, kindness or respect, do we?
In any case, the longer we live the more we observe how literal the bible's prophecies have been and are being fulfilled today. So we lean toward taking the Bible very seriously and literally unless there is good reason not to. We are open to discussion with gentle Spirit-filled Christians. But, we "refuse to have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments" (2 Tim. 2:23, NIV). We "watch out for people who cause divisions" and "stay away from them" (Ro. 16:17; Titus 3:10, NLT). Until this bickering and insulting one another stops we will continue to avoid divisive people while we continue to learn and teach to the best of our abilities.
References and Recommended Reading:
Artwork title&3rd painting by Duncan Long. Artwork used with permission of author. View Mr. Long's stunning artwork at: duncanlong.com/art/Christian.
Benware, Paul N. 1995. Understanding end times prophecy. Chicago: Moody Press.
House, Wayne H. 1992. Charts of Christian theology&doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the Bible in 24 hours. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Sherlin, Keith A. The History of the Pre-trib Rapture. essentialchristianity.com.
Sproul, R.C. 2005. The Reformation Study Bible. Orlando, FL: Ligonier.
The post-tribulation rapture of the church. Independence Baptist Church. independencebaptist.com.
Author Valorie Emilio holds an MA in history from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins. Ken Emilio has an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and is the director of the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon.
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