Images, such as the one to the right, have been used for decades to depict one of the most waited for events in Christian history: THE RAPTURE of the CHURCH. This marquee event in evangelical Christianity, finds its most clear scriptural foundation in two passages.
(1 Corinthians 15:51-55) 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O Death, where is your sting O Hades, where is your victory?”
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 further clarifies this wonderful moment in redemption history.At the the voice of an archangel and the blast of the last trumpet of God, Jesus will descend into the atmosphere and raise those who have died in Christ; then we who are living will be snatched away (raptured), to be with Jesus forever. O what a wonderful day our Beloved Jesus is bringing. Amen!!!
Most evangelical Christians in America will not dispute the event known as the “Rapture of the Church”. It is my sincere belief, that this blessed event is a key element of the doctrine of Christ our soon coming King, which in its totality (not just the rapture) is known as the “Blessed Hope” Titus 2:11-14. Yet in spite of the importance of “The Rapture” to our continuing in hope, our fixation on the timing of this event has caused much unnecessary division. This division can be split into four camps, concerning the timing of the event; they are as follows…
pre-tribulational Jesus returns to rapture His Church before the last seven years of the earth’s history known as the Tribulation.
mid-tribulational Jesus returns to rapture His Church at the mid-point of the last seven years of earth’s history, when Antichrist breaks a treaty with Israel and enthrones himself in a rebuilt temple claiming to be “god” in Jerusalem.
pre-wrath Jesus returns to rapture His Church at a time after the midpoint of the last seven years and before God pours out His wrath on the world.
post-tribulational Jesus raptures His Church at the conclusion of the last seven years of earth’s history, but before the battle of Armageddon.
It is my firm belief that each position is put forth by people who sincerely love Jesus. Subsequently, if one were to study each position, they would find loads information, where each purveyor is putting forth their “biblical” support. I lean towards the pre-wrath view (If you desire to know why, please comment politely and I will share), even though I can see merit in the other positions and would much rather be snatched away before any significant tribulation. Therefore, I am fine if you hold to another perspective, so long as you don’t cast me out as evil because I don’t hold to yours.
My purpose for writing is to deal with an error arising from one of the positions I listed; that of the pre-tribulational view. My writing is not for the purpose of debunking its “scriptural support”, although I find it less biblically supported than the mid-trib or pre-wrath view. It is also the least accepted inside of the faith historically, as it has found its prominence only in the last 150 years (give or take a few years). Most of this prominence is in the Church in North America and to its largest degree among American Christians. That being said, I do appreciate the demand the pre-trib view creates within the believer to be prepared for Jesus return by living filled, on fire and holy for God. In order to look at the error arising from this perspective let’s consider the image at the top again.
Over the last several decades, images such as the one to the left, are often accompanied by the phrase “Millions will disappear”. The idea is that when the trumpet sounds, multiple millions of Christians will vanish and no one will know where they are. In the pre-tribulational view, the disappearance will begin the “Tribulational” period, which is a time of great suffering, unlike anything the world has ever known. With the Church gone from the earth, all hell breaks loose so to speak. In the pre-trib view, anyone coming to Christ, after the rapture, will loose their head or be persecuted to death; while the rest of the church enjoys the marriage supper of the Lamb. Here-in lies the prevailing error… The Church will not suffer tribulation, such as starvation and deprivations (for not receiving the mark of the beast), such as death by beheading, but is living in a heavenly bliss awaiting Jesus to ride back to earth to take care of the remaining evil.
The error can be summed up and is by many of the pre-trib perspective, who speak phrases such as, “We will not appointed suffer” or “God will take us out before it gets too bad”. This error arises from a hope of avoiding the suffering and pain of tribulation. Therefore we must ask ourselves, if in the scriptures God makes a pattern of taking His followers out of trouble, trial or pain? The answer is almost never. Usually He delivers us through impossible trouble or pain, using it to refine us, while giving us power to endure for His glory.
In light of that word of God reality, is it not possible that millions upon millions will be devastated, in America, when tribulation-like events begin to happen, and the rapture has not yet taken place? About this time someone might feel compelled to shout “Inconceivable”. Yet it is more than conceivable when considering His persecuted Church.
Throughout the middle east thousands upon thousands of Christ followers have been beheaded, crucified, raped, forced to flee, deprived of food, deprived of clothing, lost family, lost homes, and lost jobs in the past several years; all for being Christians. It seems that these persecutions line up with the horror of the last days, and some mirror those from the tribulation period, as the bible records. Also around the world in North Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Russia, South America and Mexico believers are cast out as evil for Jesus sake, denied access to rights others can exercise, and are tortured and killed as well. We often forget the church has been suffering likewise since its birth (Read Acts of the Apostles and Romans 8:31-39; II Timothy 3:12; I Peter 4:1-3, 5:8-10). Jesus told us it would be so.
(John 16:33) These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Interestingly the word of “tribulation” is defined by the illustration of a corn or wheat sledge, which is a sled, with stones or bone on the underside. When the sled is tied to a beast of burden a man stands on the back(for weight) and is pulled over the grain. As this action takes place the sledge separates the grain from the stalk or cob. Therefore, we can see tribulation is an action of intense trial where Satan intends to pull you from God. God, on the other hand, uses tribulation to pull us away from carnality, and the influence of our old man and the world, so we can bring glory to Him, as we are sanctified. Therefore, we will suffer tribulation and more specifically, if we live godly, we will suffer legalized tribulation or persecution (II Timothy 3:12).
Many would accept encountering various trials, but persecution like that in the middle east? Come on this is America! Instead of being blinded by the relative peace we have enjoyed, let consider the nation of Syria. As recently as 7 years ago, Syria was one of the safest places in the middle east (as well as in the world) to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Now it is in the top 2 or three as the most dangerous place to be a Christian. What happened there can happen here. In fact if we believe to be living in the last days, we understand we will see this world over. The whole point is we ought not to place our hope in avoiding tribulation, for our brethren have been encountering it since the birth of the Church.
It will be difficult to be renewed away from this unbiblical hope, for avoiding suffering and deprivations is sown throughout our experience as believers in America. Will you be disappointed if Jesus delays the rapture and you must suffer tribulation?
Although I am not in the pre-tribulation camp, I must admit it appeals to my humanity. Is it possible that it is the correct view? I suppose it could be, but that alone does not ensure a free pass without tribulation or persecution. It is time we comfort one another, that whether we live or die, Christ Jesus is with us and will come for us and take us to be with Him forever. One day we will see Him as He is, and we will be forever changed. This is a reality because God dealt with our sins in Jesus Christ sacrifice on the cross. Therefore we avoid the wrath of God… Hallelujah!!!. Let us also be sure we understand, that we are not guaranteed to avoid Satan’s wrath against Jesus Christ (as it is poured out on us). Therefore prepare yourself to endure to the end, that you will not be one of millions devastated.