This could become a book. I have written much on the Rapture and the timing of the Rapture. Since my Facebook post a couple of days ago, I have had multiple requests that I teach on the subject. We are going to start with the latest post and go from there.
Some YouTube theologians/Pretrib Diehards, have been suggesting that the Greek Word, “ἀποστασία” or “apostasia”, translated “falling away” in KJV and “apostasy in modern translations, actually means Rapture… This is imaginative manipulation and not translation. Strong’s translates the word as desertion or falling away. It isn’t just Strong’s… There are multiple examples in Greek writings from the era in which the word Apostasia is used to speak of soldiers deserting their posts… There is no doubt that it means to leave your position in a disgraceful or unlawful manner…
Whenever the Rapture is, what it is, it is not a holy fire escape to keep you from suffering or dying for Jesus. Ask the Saints in the Middle East, Northern Africa, India, Pakistan, or another hundred nations where persecution of Christians is the norm.
The following is a collection of articles and Facebook posts I have written on the subject over several years… cut and pasted for your edification.
Many of my friends believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture. I am concerned that if it turns out to be Mid-Trib, they are going to be so disappointed and confused and that they will fall away and be easy prey for the Antichrist and his mark… but that is something each one of them must deal with as an individual. My problems with Pre-Trib are many but there are two that stand out. First, it is a doctrine whose roots we can trace and they go back to a Catholic Monk who wrote a book, using a pseudonym and pretending to be a Jewish Rabbi. That book was picked up by a man named John Darby, of the Plymouth Brethren. Darby wrote prolifically on the subject. While in England, Dwight L. Moody became enthralled with the idea and brought it to America where it became a primary doctrine taught by Moody Bible Institute. The founders of the Assembly of God Church had come from a background deeply influenced by the teachings of Moody and thus, it spread into Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. The very idea that Jesus could come at any moment was the greatest tool a Christian Evangelist could ever dream of… Sermons centered on the idea of an imminent Rapture sent guilty sinners running to the Altar in a holy terror. The Left Behind books and movies centered on the Doctrine and it spread like wildfire. The problem is, it is not taught in Scripture but rather is an interpretation that takes many Scriptures from all over the Bible and puts them together in an order that, if presented without opposition, makes it appear to be Biblical. Unfortunately, the interpretation has been elevated to the level of Holy Writ and people believe it as if God had come out and said so…
There is no passage of Scripture that clearly teaches a Pre-Trib Rapture, in and of itself and it is a doctrine that can nowhere be found mentioned by the early Church Fathers… some point to some casual references dating back to the 1600s but no one has found anything prior to that century. This leads me to my second major problem and that is that while no single passage of Scripture teaches a Pre-Trib Rapture, there is in fact, a passage of Scripture that clearly and plainly teaches against and contradicts the doctrine. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, says exactly the opposite. Speaking “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,” Paul says, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction”. “Our being gathered together to Him” is a clear and obvious reference to the Rapture and Paul says that anyone who tries to tell you that the Rapture will happen before the Antichrist (Man of Sin) is revealed is trying to deceive you and that if you believe that the Rapture will happen before that, you have been deceived. That is clear and plain Scripture and it contradicts a convoluted doctrine, pieced together from dozens of verses from all over the Bible, a doctrine that does not even claim to have one single verse that, by itself, states the concept.
You are free to believe whatever you want but I am putting up a clear passage of Scripture that contradicts a doctrine that has to be pieced together from many verses but has no clear passage anywhere in Scripture that, standing on its own, supports that belief. Read it for yourself and then decide which you believe. May I quote Paul one more time? “Let no one in any way deceive you…”
The Man of Sin
2 Brothers and sisters, we want to ask you something. It has to do with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It concerns the time when we will go to be with him.
2 What if you receive a prophecy, report or letter that is supposed to have come from us? What if it says that the day of the Lord has already come? If it does, we ask you not to become easily upset or alarmed.
3 Don’t let anyone trick you in any way. That day will not come until people rise up against God. It will not come until the man of sin appears. He is a marked man. He is sentenced to be destroyed. 4 He will oppose everything that is called God. He will oppose everything that is worshiped. He will give himself power over everything. He will set himself up in God’s temple. He will announce that he himself is God.”
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
ITCHY EARS AND THE RAPTURE
What doctrine, in all of Christendom, could ever have more power to attract itchy ears than that of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture? Prosperity Preachers have attracted their millions but Pre-Trib Pastors their tens of millions. Think about it. In Matthew 24:9, Jesus, speaking about the day in which we live, said “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me…” Who wants to go through that?
Pre-Tribulation doctrine has been popular since the mid eighteen hundreds. In the early days, its main attraction was for Pastors and Evangelists who found that the teaching that Jesus could come at any minute, terrified sinners and sent them running down the aisles seeking salvation. Recently, the unsaved have become hardened and unresponsive. Threats that Jesus could come and catch them in their sin no longer terrify either the unsaved or the backslidden Christian. Today, as society and the world fall apart all around us, the doctrine has an unparalleled attraction for the wimpy, politically correct Christians who view it as an escape hatch that will prevent suffering and death. Christians overseas may be handed over, persecuted, put to death and hated of all nations. That verse and others like it surely apply to them and not to us.
Growing up, I believed in a Pre-Trib Rapture because my preacher said it was so. The verses he read, as he taught the doctrine, both motivated me to repent and comforted me with the assurance that I would never be asked to suffer and die for Jesus like the people in the Bible did. Jesus was going to rescue me a long time before that. I really never questioned the doctrine and when they came out, the Left Behind books thrilled me.
Not long ago, in the scheme of things, I started to read articles by people who questioned and attempted to refute Pre-Trib doctrine. I read them, unconvinced at first. As more and more highly trained Pastors and Theologians began to join the chorus against the doctrine, I began to pay attention. Soon I was convinced that the doctrine was shaky and not at all as solid as I had been led to believe. Even after I had acknowledged academically that it probably was not true, I held on to it because the alternative was terrifying.
My own study soon convinced me that God, more often than not, allows His people to go through suffering and death, promising to be with them in persecution rather than delivering them out of troubles. This was true in Scripture and this was true in Church history. As I read the stories of Christian martyrs, I was amazed at how men and women could walk voluntarily to the place of execution… full of the Spirit and continuing to praise God even as the wood around them burned their bodies. Understanding that gave me the courage to let go of a shaky and flawed doctrine and accept the alternative with peace in my heart.
Today, when Christians send me their many and varied arguments for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, I am amazed. I read their list of Scriptures and see the strange and tortured interpretations they force upon them and I see the eisegetic force behind them. It seems obvious to me that no one who did not truly believe in a Pre-Trib rapture would ever interpret those passages to say what they insist that they do. In the Middle-Ages, men wrote volumes supporting their view on the hottest debate of the time. They each used hundreds of Scriptures to support their own conclusion as to how many Angels could fit on the head of a pin. I see the same principle in arguments for a Pre-Trib Rapture.
Can anybody besides me see circular reasoning and eisegesis here?
- So, you believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, therefore, you skip the first five verses of 2 Thessalonians 2 and start with verse 6.
- “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”
- Starting there, you make a wild guess and you say that one identified in Scripture only as “he” is the Holy Spirit.
- Then, with no Scriptural basis whatsoever, you assume that the Holy Spirit MUST leave the earth in order to stop restraining the “Evil One” or the “spirit of lawlessness”.
- Scripture doesn’t say that but you are sure that that is true.
- Based on your guess that “he” is the Holy Spirit, you then make the assumption that the Holy Spirit must leave the earth in order to stop restraining evil.
- Based on a guess and an assumption, you are possessed of the conviction that if “he” whom you guess is the Holy Spirit must leave the earth in order to quit restraining, which is an assumption, “he” must take you with him.
- Now, standing on a guess and an assumption, you are convinced that you will go with him.
- Therefore based on a guess, an assumption and a conviction, you know that the Rapture is Pre-Trib.
- Assured of that, you go back and read the first five verses of the chapter and discover that we cannot be gathered to Christ unless the Man of Sin is revealed first.
- “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and OUR GATHERING TOGETHER TO HIM, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for IT WILL NOT COME UNLESS THE APOSTASY COMES FIRST, AND THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS IS REVEALED, THE SON OF DESTRUCTION, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”
- That conflicts with what you have already believed, a belief based on a guess, an assumption and a conviction.
- Placing your guess, your assumption and your conviction ahead of the clear and plain Scripture that precedes it, you decide that those verses must be speaking about the Day of the Lord which comes after the Tribulation (which it is).
- Now you are forced to conclude that WE ARE RAPTURED BEFORE THE TRIBULATION AND THEN RETURNED TO EARTH, AT THE END OF THE TRIBULATION, so that we may be gathered to Him the second time.
All of the Passages used to support the Pre-Tribulation Rapture use equally inventive interpretations but perhaps you chose to believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture because the alternative scares you too much to even consider.
RELIGIOUS DECEPTION AND THE PRE TRIBULATION RAPTURE
David A. Rice, D.D.
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” Mark Twain
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.
Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote, “The reason for the fall will be a giving heed to deceiving spirits, i.e., the nature of their working being not known evil, but deception, which is a covered working. The essence of deception is that the operation is looked upon as sincere and pure. The nature of the deception will be in doctrines of demons, i.e., the deception will be in a doctrinal sphere. The way of deception will be that the “doctrines” are delivered with ‘hypocrisy,’ i.e. spoken as if true.”1
What if you were taught a deceptive and false doctrine, repeatedly, all of your life by your Pastor in your Church? What if he believed it with all of his heart, not being “evil” but rather, deceived? If Pre-Trib is a false doctrine, and I personally believe that it is, millions and millions of God fearing, born again, Christians are living in deception. What is worse, that deception has opened them up to the Great Deception that is coming.
I have, in many other articles and places, attempted to show why I believe that the doctrine of a Pre Tribulation Rapture cannot be proven in Scripture. For the sake of this article, I will not repeat those arguments here. Let us assume, for the sake of these few paragraphs, that it is not Biblical. If you sincerely believe that it is, humor me and play along for the moment.
Prior to 1830, no church taught about a Pre-trib Rapture in their creed, catechism or statement of faith. You cannot find any example of such a teaching published by any denomination or church prior to that date. A few isolated references that could be construed to support a Pre-trib Rapture may be found among the writings of the Church Fathers but none of them ever developed such a doctrine.
There are conflicting stories as to where he got the idea but the first person to ever develop the idea of a Pre-trib Rapture as a Church Doctrine was John Darby. If you are interested in his story, Google his name and read several different accounts of his life. His biographers tend to twist the story one way or the other, depending on their acceptance or rejection of the Pre-trib Doctrine.
One of his earliest converts to this doctrine was Dwight L. Moody. Moody Bible Institute was the first purveyor of this doctrine in the United States. The doctrine… the idea that Jesus could come at any minute, was an Evangelist’s dream. This idea literally scarred the Hell out of sinners and sent them running to the altars, begging for forgiveness. The new doctrine flooded the churches with new converts… Right of wrong, Pastors saw the results sitting in the pews and in the money in the plate. It was a winner from the start.
Christians loved this new teaching because, like all of us, the idea of being beheaded for the sake of the Gospel was not a pleasant thought. Who needs tribulation? If someone who sounds like they know what they are saying tells me that I do not have to worry about the Tribulation, I want to believe them… this is personal! This man is telling me that I will not have to suffer… I want to believe that! If he pulls a large number of passages out of the Bible and tells me that, taken together, they prove his doctrine, why would I challenge him? He is telling me something that I desperately want to believe.
The very heart of deception that targets Christians and the Church is that it sounds real, it sounds Biblical, it has the outward appearance of righteousness, goodness and holiness… this isn’t sin, this is God!!!
This kind of deception is always something that appeals to our flesh. It is something we want. Let me give a few examples:
- NAME IT CLAIM IT (God wants you rich)
- YOUR BEST LIFE NOW (God wants you happy)
- HYPER-GRACE (God will let you live in sin and go to Heaven too)
- THE NAME (Here is a secret that will make God Happy)
- LEGALISM (If you follow these rules, you will be holier than anyone else)
- LAW (if you follow the Torah, you can keep the Salvation Jesus gave you)
- PRE-TRIB RAPTURE (You don’t have to suffer)
Numbers one through three feed the flesh while sounding godly. The heresy is that they teach a human centric Gospel. The Bible teaches that everything is for the Glory of God. These preachers teach that God exists to make you happy. Scripture teaches that you exist to glorify God.
Four through six teach that there are things that you must do in order to become righteous and earn the blessings of God. These feed the part of man that rejects charity. This feeds our need to earn everything. We are repulsed by the idea that we are hopeless sinners and that God reached out through Jesus Christ and made us holy and righteous. All we have to do is believe? Surely there must be something that I can do to make me holy and righteous… People ensnared in these heresies feel more righteous and more holy than anyone else in the world… Unfortunately for them, the Bible says that the Blood of Christ washes us and nothing that we can do can improve on what God has already done.
Having been saved, we obey God out of love and gratefulness. Those who have no desire to repent of sin and live a holy life have never been saved. Those who obey in a frustrated attempt to earn the favor of God, have never been saved.
Number seven makes us feel special. All those who have rejected Christ are going to suffer but God would never let his Children suffer. It gives us a great sense of relief, it calms our fear of suffering and it is a lie.
Heaven will be Heaven! “In this world” as Jesus said, “You will have tribulation.”
“Plures efficimur, quoties metumur a vobis; semen est sanguis christianorum.” (We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.) This quote is often reworded, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” (Tertullian, Apologeticus, 50, s. 13.)
Nowhere does history or Scripture teach that God protects his people from suffering. Jesus could have prevented the beheading of John the Baptist but He chose not to do so. The Old Testament is filled with stories of the suffering of God’s people. In the New Testament we read of suffering, stoning and beheading. Early Church History is full of unbelievable suffering. Eleven of the twelve Apostles were martyred for their faith. Modern History is full of the suffering and death of believers. Sources estimate that more than one hundred thousand Christians have died for their faith in the last twelve months alone and millions have been displaced. There is no Scriptural or historical precedent for the supernatural salvation of the Church from the pain of the Tribulation.
IF YOU DID NOT ALREADY BELIEVE IN THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE, reading the passages quoted as “proof” of a Pre-trib Rapture would never lead you to believe any such thing. Not one verse, in all of Scripture, guarantees a Pre-trib Rapture. The most sincere and well-studied believer in the Pretribulation Rapture, cannot give you such a verse. When someone who desperately wants to believe in a Pre-trib Rapture, reads the affirmations by the doctrine’s purveyors and then reads those verses (along with detailed notes explaining how the verse supports the doctrine) one can believe. When one begins to study those Scriptures without the helpful notes, he finds that, in fact, those verses say no such thing.
Why does the doctrine continue?
- NO ONE WANTS TO SUFFER
- IT IS A GREAT EVANGELICAL TOOL
- PREACHERS FIND IT HARD TO SAY THE WORDS, “I WAS WRONG.”
- “IT’S EASIER TO FOOL PEOPLE THAN TO CONVINCE THEM THAT THEY HAVE BEEN FOOLED.”
What is the danger inherent in the doctrine?
- CHRISTIANS ARE COMPLACIENT
- CHRISTIANS ARE NOT WATCHING
- SIGNS ARE MISSED AND MISINTERPRETED
- “IT CAN’T BE THE MARK, THE RAPTURE HASN’T HAPPENED!”
Deceptive doctrine, taught by hypocritical spirits always combines scripture, partial truth and something that feeds the flesh, disguised in religious language. It never appears to be sin. On the contrary, it is sold as a Blessing from God!
PRETRIBBERS LOVE TO QUOTE VERSES
There is not one verse of Scripture that says that the Rapture happens before the Tribulation… not one. Pretribbers love to quote verses that do not say that the Rapture is before the Tribulation and then to assert that if we really understood them and could somehow just read between the lines, we would understand that the writer really meant to say that but somehow forgot. When you apply proper Hermeneutical principles and do a good exegesis on the subject, all of their arguments fall apart… just like the example above. People will believe what they want to believe. The Scripture does not teach it but, if you really, really want to believe it… you can make the Bible say anything. For example, the Bible says, “Judas went and hung himself… go thou and do likewise… and what thou doest, do quickly.” Therefore, I can tell you, on the authority of Scripture that God wants you to hang yourself… LOL
I will tell you a secret. If you are not prepared and willing to go through the Tribulation with Jesus and to suffer and die for him, you are not prepared for or worthy of the Rapture…
No one can prove, from Scripture, when the Rapture happens. The idea that what withholds is the church is perhaps a good guess but it at its very best is a guess… Many go on to guess that “he” is the Holy Spirit… and then they conjecture that he cannot be moved out of the way without leaving the planet… and then, they further propose that he cannot leave the planet unless he takes the church with him. Then, based on a couple of guesses a conjecture and a proposal, they build a Doctrine… The same exact method the Watchtower Society uses to make up new doctrine for the Jehovah’s Witnesses… In the end, if you are not prepared and willing to suffer and die for Jesus, you are not prepared for or worthy of the Rapture… whenever and at whatever point it happens…
The Bible does not identify “he” and it never says what restrains. Anybody who thinks they know is guessing… guessing… Where, in the context of that passage, is it stated? It isn’t. The only other place in Scripture where we have an account of an angel being held up is in the Book of Daniel. There the Prince of Persia, holds up the Angel sent to deliver a message to Daniel. A satanic prince, holding up God’s angel. If I had to guess who was holding back the Mystery of Iniquity, I would guess that it is an angelic being… But, that would be nothing more than a guess… Scripture itself never says…
WHEN IT COMES TO THE RAPTURE, I AM PREMILLENNIAL. I believe that it will be after the midpoint, perhaps at the end but it could be pretrib.
THE TRUTH IS THAT THOSE WHO ARE PREPARED TO SUFFER AND DIE FOR JESUS, IF CALLED ON TO DO SO, ARE ALSO PREPARED FOR THE RAPTURE WHENEVER IT HAPPENS.
If you are not prepared to suffer and die for Jesus because you have convinced yourself that Jesus is going to appear in the clouds, robed in an American Flag and take you home before American Christians have to suffer and die, like their brothers and sisters overseas, you are not prepared for any rapture, pre, mid or post.
If you are not prepared to and determined to suffer and die for Jesus when called on to do so, you do not qualify for the rapture.
IF YOU ARE NOT WATCHING THE SIGNS OF THE END OF THE AGE, YOU ARE LIVING IN A STATE OF CONSTANT DISOBEDIENCE TO YOUR LORD.
JESUS COMMANDED US TO “WATCH!” and told us what to watch for. If you have fallen for the pretrib lie that we do not need to watch or prepare because we won’t be here, you are living in disobedience.
Go back and read the story of the ten virgins… they were all virgins, all ten of them. The five who were prepared got in, the rest did not. When Jesus got to the moral of the story, He summed it up in one single word,
Are you watching?
WHEN IT IS TIME
Whatever you believe or disbelieve, Jesus will come and the Rapture will happen when it is time; not a minute before or after. God is not interested in your opinion nor mine. The truth is that Scripture never says when. People quote a hundred Scriptures from all over the Bible, order them, interpret them and make their best guess. As is always true in matters where the Bible is not specific, people argue that their opinion is the “most Scriptural” opinion. At best, they are all opinions because, as I already said, God never told us when. God told us to watch. God did not tell us to exalt our private interpretation and opinion to the level of Scripture and insist that somehow, God himself agrees with our opinion but hates the other guy’s interpretation.
If the Rapture is Pretrib, you had better be ready to go now. If it is Midtrib or Posttrib, you had better be prepared to hold on to your faith and to stand up for Jesus under the most awful of circumstances. The Bible does not say when but it does command us to watch and it does promise that “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” I am not impressed by your interpretation and I refuse to judge between interpretations and declare one more righteous than the other. I am extremely concerned that you be prepared spiritually for whatever happens… whether the fact of His return agrees with your opinion or not!
THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH IS THAT THE BIBLE NEVER TELLS US WHEN THE RAPTURE WILL OCCUR
The absolute truth is that the Bible never tells us when the Rapture will occur. Anyone who tells you any different is a liar. If they will lie to you about that, they will lie to you about anything… You may prefer one theory/guess to another theory/guess but all you end up with is a theory/guess that at least half the Bible scholars in the world will disagree with. Relax!
THE RAPTURE IS BEFORE THE TRIBULATION?
Where, exactly, in the Bible does it specifically say that the Rapture is before the Tribulation? Chapter and verse, please.
2 Thessalonians 2 clearly says that if any man tells you that we will be gathered to Christ before the “Man of Sin” (Antichrist) is revealed, he is deceiving you. You are commanded not to be deceived! Read it in any version you like… this is King James…
2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by
OUR GATHERING TOGETHER UNTO HIM, (The Rapture)
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU BY ANY MEANS: FOR THAT DAY (the day we are gathered to Him) SHALL NOT COME,
except there come a falling away first, and THAT MAN OF SIN BE REVEALED, THE SON OF PERDITION; (Antichrist)
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
That is what plain Scripture says. I am still waiting to see the passage or verse that says anything to the effect that “We shall be gathered to Christ before Antichrist is revealed.
Help me… where is that verse?
SO MUCH HYPE
There has been so much hype on a pretrib Rapture… books, movies, more books and remakes of movies… a new version of Left Behind being released now with big stars… this idea of a pretrib Rapture has been shoved down believers throats until most of Christendom accepts it as proven fact. There are many dedicated Christian scholars who stand with me in believing that the Rapture cannot happen before the Antichrist is revealed. There is a huge danger here. For all the hype, Pretrib doctrine is an interpretation of Scripture and not Scripture itself… but it is sold as if it were plain Scripture and indisputable. In fact it is very disputable and there are strong Scriptural arguments against that interpretation. Pretrib… if it is incorrect, is the most damning false doctrine to ever hit the Church. There is no story ever told that could be so readily accepted by people… there is a massive appeal to the promise that we will escape the suffering and death associated with the Tribulation. Matthew 24:9 says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Pretrib doctrine teaches that that verse does not apply to us and Christians desperately want to believe that they are exempt from suffering. The amount of eisegesis that is accepted by those wanting to “prove” the Pretrib Rapture theory, is astounding. No other doctrine ever accepted by the Church is so sloppy… I will give you an example in another paragraph…
The reason that this is so very important is that, if Pretrib Doctrine turns out to be false doctrine, millions and millions of Christians are going to enter the most difficult and dangerous period in all of human history totally unprepared, confused, believing that God himself lied to them, angry at God and their Pastor. The Apostasy is going to be massive as these disoriented and angry Christians accept the deception and follow after the Antichrist. Most Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians have never even considered that the Pretrib Doctrine could be wrong and they have given absolutely no thought as to what they would do and how they would react if it were. These Christians are ripe for deception.
Now for an example of Pretrib eisegesis.
- Pretribbers believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, therefore, they skip the first five verses of 2 Thessalonians 2 and start with verse 6.
- “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”
- Starting there, they make a wild guess and say that one identified in Scripture only as “he” is the Holy Spirit.
- Then, with no Scriptural basis whatsoever, they assume that the Holy Spirit MUST leave the earth in order to stop restraining the “Evil One” or the “spirit of lawlessness”.
- Scripture doesn’t say that but they are sure that that is true.
- Based on their guess that “he” is the Holy Spirit, Pretribbers then make the assumption that the Holy Spirit must leave the earth in order to stop restraining evil.
- Based on a guess and an assumption, they are possessed of the conviction that if “he” whom they guess is the Holy Spirit must leave the earth in order to quit restraining, which is an assumption, “he” must take the Church with Him.
- Now, standing on a guess and an assumption Pretribbers are convinced that they will go with Him.
- Therefore based on a guess, an assumption and a conviction, Pretribbers know that the Rapture is Pre-Trib.
- Assured of that, they go back and read the first five verses of the chapter and discover that we cannot be gathered to Christ unless the Man of Sin is revealed first.
- “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and OUR GATHERING TOGETHER TO HIM, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for IT WILL NOT COME UNLESS THE APOSTASY COMES FIRST, AND THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS IS REVEALED, THE SON OF DESTRUCTION, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)
- That conflicts with what Pretribbers have already believed, a belief based on a guess, an assumption and a conviction.
- Placing their guess, their assumption and their conviction ahead of the clear and plain Scripture that precedes it, Pretribbers decide that those verses must be speaking about the Day of the Lord which comes after the Tribulation but because they are convinced of a Pretrib Rapture, they start speaking in Doublespeak.
Now Pretribbers are forced to conclude that WE ARE RAPTURED BEFORE THE TRIBULATION AND THEN RETURNED TO EARTH, AT THE END OF THE TRIBULATION, so that we may be gathered to Him the second time. That does not make sense, which is why Pretrib books all skip the first five verses of 2 Thessalonians 2 and start their argument with verse six.
Almost without exception, the passages used as proof texts by Pretrib expositors can be taken apart with equal ease. The more I look at the Pretrib Doctrine, the more evidence I find that it is a doctrine built on wishful thinking and eisegesis.
You are free to believe in a Pre-trib Rapture if you like. I personally believe it to be unscriptural. If you are right, I am prepared to go… I have considered the possibility that I might be wrong. I would lovingly and kindly request that you do the same. Simply admit that you MIGHT be wrong and ask yourself what would happen if you were wrong. If the Great Tribulation occurs, Antichrist is clearly on the scene and there has been no Rapture, what do you do then? Do you point your finger at Heaven and accuse God of lying to you? Do you sign up with the Antichrist because you are angry at God? Do you get frightened and depressed? Do you stick a gun in your mouth and blow your brains out? What do you do? How do you handle life if your favorite doctrine turns out to be false doctrine?
THE RAPTURE IS REAL
I agree that the Rapture is real. It is clearly spoken of in Scripture in several different places by several different writers. It would be very difficult to disprove the Rapture and people have been talking about it and writing about it for 2,000 years. The part that is new, less than 200 years old is the idea that Jesus can come at any minute (like a thief in the night) and that He must come before the tribulation begins. That is new.
Paul says, clearly and unequivocally that our being caught up will not happen until the Man of Sin has been revealed. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) and that for Christians who are being obedient to the command that we watch for His coming and discern the signs of the times, that day will NOT come upon us as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
Until the first part of the 19th century, every Christian writer believed that. Jesus promised that we would have tribulation, He never promised that we would be delivered out of tribulation (John 16:33). Then, in the early 19th century, a Catholic Bishop, writing under a pen name as a Jewish Rabbi, came up with the sudden, any moment rapture and the idea that it would happen before the Tribulation and rescue believers from any pain and suffering. John Darby believed the book to have been written by a Rabbi and was fascinated by it, incorporating those ideas into his commentary. Dwight L. Moody picked up the doctrine from Darby. The idea that Jesus could come at any moment (even though that contradicted plain Scripture) turned out to be the greatest evangelism tool of all time… terrified sinners flooded the altars. The rest, as they say, is history.
Two Baptists who do not believe in a Pre Tribulation Rapture
First, Benjamin L. Merkle. Associate Professor of New Testament & Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His arguments are summarized:
With regard to the language of being “left behind,” he wrote in his article, “Who Will Be Left Behind? Rethinking the Meaning of Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35” he argues, “Although many assume that those taken in Matt 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35 are taken to be with Jesus and those left behind are left for judgment, this interpretation should be rejected.”
 Throughout the context of these passages Jesus uses judgment language reminiscent of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of its inhabitants. Those who were taken away were the ones judged by God whereas those left behind were the remnant who received grace.
 Furthermore, the teaching of Jesus confirms this thesis. In the Parable of the Weeds the Son of Man sends his angels to gather out the children of the devil and throw them in the fiery furnace whereas the wheat is left behind (Matt 13:36-43).
 The context of Matt 24 and Luke 17 also suggests Jesus is intentionally using judgment and remnant language. Such language naturally brings up images of the former destruction of Jerusalem where the enemy came and “took away” (i.e., killed) those in the city.
 Finally, the parallel with Noah and the flood in the preceding verses strongly confirms our thesis. Just as in the days of Noah the people were taken away by the great flood, so those who are not prepared will be taken away when the Son of Man returns.
Second, John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. (Yes, I know he is a Calvinist but apart from Predestination, he is a good Bible scholar.) Here is a summary of his argument:
- The word for “meeting” the Lord in the air in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (apantesin) is used in two other places in the New Testament: Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15. In both places it refers to a meeting in which people go out to meet a dignitary and then accompany him in to the place from which they came out. One of these, Matthew 25:6, is even a parable of the second coming and so a strong argument that this is the sense of the meeting here in 1 Thess. 4:17—that we rise to meet the Lord in the air and then welcome him to earth as king.
- The wording of 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7, when read carefully, shows that Paul expects to attain rest from suffering at the same time and in the same event that he expects the unbelievers to receive punishment, namely, at the revelation of Jesus with mighty angels in flaming fire. This revelation is not the pre-tribulational rapture but the glorious second coming. Which means that Paul did not expect an event at which he and the other believers would be given rest seven years before the glorious appearing of Christ in flaming fire. Vengeance on unbelievers and rest for the persecuted church come on the same day in the same event.
- The wording of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 suggests that the “assembling to meet him” is the same as “the day of the Lord” about which they are confused. But the assembling is the “rapture” and “the day of the Lord” is the glorious second coming. They appear to be one event.
Supporting this is the reference to “gathering” the elect in Matthew 24:31. Here there is a gathering (same word) but it is clearly a post-tribulational context. So there is no need to see the gathering and the day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians as separate events.
- If Paul were a pre-tribulationist why did he not simply say in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that the Christians don’t need to worry that the day of the Lord is here because all the Christians are still here? Instead he talks just the way you would expect a post-tribulational person to do. He tells them that they should not think that the day of the Lord is here because the apostasy and the man of lawlessness have not appeared. . . .
- When you read Matthew 24 or Mark 13 or Luke 21, which are Jesus’ descriptions of the end times, there is no mention of a rapture removing believers from the events of the end. A normal reading gives no impression of a departure. On the contrary, he talks as if the believing listeners and then the readers would or could experience the things he mentions. See Mt. 24:4, 9, 15, 23, 25f, 33, etc.
- Going through tribulation, even when it is appointed by God, is not contrary to Biblical teaching. See especially 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; Hebrews 12:3-11. But even so, Revelation 9:4 suggests that the saints will be in some measure protected in the time of distress by the seal of God.
- The commands to “watch” do not lose their meaning if the second coming is not an any-moment one. See Matt. 25:1-13 where all ten maidens are asleep when the Lord returns. Yet the lesson at the end of the parable is, “Watch!” The point is that watching is not gazing up for an any-moment-return of the Lord; it is the moral vigilance that keeps you ready at all times doing your duty—the wise maidens had full lanterns! They were watchful!
Nor does the teaching that the second coming will be unexpected lose its force if post-tribulationism is true. See Luke 12:46 where the point is that if a servant gets drunk thinking that his master is delayed and will not catch him-that very servant will be surprised and taken off guard. But as 1 Thess. 5:1-5 says, “You (believers) are not in darkness for that day to surprise you like a thief.” We still teach that great moral vigilance and watchfulness is necessary lest we be lulled asleep and fall prey to the deceits of the last days and be overtaken in the judgment.
- The strongest pre-tribulational text, Rev. 3:10, is open to another interpretation without any twisting. It says, “Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth.” But to “be kept for the hour of testing” is not necessarily to be taken out of the world during this hour, and thus spared suffering. Compare Gal. 1:4 and Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:15where to “keep from” does not mean physical removal. And notice the inevitability of martyrdom in Rev. 6:9-11. The promise is to be guarded from the hour in the sense of being guarded from the demoralizing forces of that hour.
- The second coming does not lose its moral power in post-tribulationism. New Testament moral incentive is not that we should fear being caught doing evil, but that we should so love the appearing of the Lord that we want to be pure as the Lord is pure, for whom we hope, as 1 John 3:1-3 says.
A MUCH SMALLER RAPTURE
I believe that all those who believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, will be saved. I believe that the Lord is faithful and that no man can snatch His children from His hand but someone once said that the longest eighteen inches in the world is the distance between the head and the heart. Jesus is coming for heart believers… not head believers. You can believe in your head and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and bust Hell wide open when you die. There are a multitude of head believers and very few heart believers. The Rapture is going to be much smaller than anything envisioned by the authors of the Left Behind Series. Most of the World will not be aware that it even happened.
A head believer believes what the Bible says but does whatever he wants to do. A heart believer does what the Bible tells him to do. Jesus is coming for a Holy Bride not a Fat Whore. Matthew 7:21 tells us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The broad road that leads to destruction is full of head believers but only a very few heart believers walk the narrow road that leads to Salvation. Many believe the Bible… few do the Bible. How do you know that you are a heart believer? Love. Not a feeling but love in action. It isn’t what you do but why you do it. Are you motivated by love for Christ? We are saved by Grace, not by works but faith without works is dead. Are you a Christian? James says that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Does that describe your life? Have you crucified the flesh? Do you “die daily”? Is there visible, tangible fruit that testifies that these things are true in your life? It is time to get serious…
The Sheep and the Goats
31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”
Matthew 25:31-46The Message (MSG)
JESUS WILL RAPTURE THE CHURCH WHEN HE RAPTURES THE CHURCH
The problem for many Christians is that the Bible does not tell us everything we would like to know; our curiosity is greater than the Revelation. God has told us everything we need to know but not necessarily everything we want to know. Theologians sometimes go to the Bible with questions it does not directly answer. They are, it seems, positive that if they can find enough verses that sort of, kind of talk about the subject and if they can fine tune their skills in systematic theology, they can make the Bible answer their question.
Honestly, there is only one passage in all of Scripture that clearly and plainly places the Rapture solidly on a timeline… just one! 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, clearly states that “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and OUR GATHERING TOGETHER TO HIM” (Raptured), “IT WILL NOT COME unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction…” That is the only passage that seems to directly give a timing for the Rapture. The Pre-Trib theologians have mostly ignored but sometimes tried to explain that passage away. Since there is no companion passage that states the same thing, good hermeneutical principles warn me not to make a doctrine out of it but it is one more verse than the Pre-Trib theologian has and it does influence my opinion on the timing of the Rapture.
Our problem is that we desperately want to know when it will happen. Good, solid, Born Again Theologians, all using an accepted “system” of theology, have gone to the Scripture fully intent on forcing the Bible to come up with an answer to their question. That might be alright except that these good men, full of the Spirit of God, using the best Hermeneutics and the best Systematic Theology, have come to very different conclusions and they all… or at least most of them, insist that their answer is the only correct answer and that anyone who disagrees is a pagan and a heretic. I believe that Jesus will Rapture the Church sometime following the revealing of the Antichrist but you are not a heretic just because you disagree.
The shocking truth is that Jesus will rapture the Church when Jesus raptures the Church. If God had wanted us to know whether it was Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib or No-Trib, He would have stated that information in plain and clear language in at least three different places in Scripture. The fact that He chose not to do so is a good indication that we do not need that information… it is not necessary for Salvation or holiness. Jesus strongly suggested that we should discern the times in which we live and commanded us to watch. If we do those things, it is enough.
Interesting post. I have been in active ministry since 1962, served over 36 years as a Baptist pastor, and have three earned graduate degrees (ThM, ThD, DMin) from conservative seminaries, and I taught a pre-Mil pre-Trib Rapture for over 40 years. I now have an extremely difficult time justifying the teaching of that doctrine. I cannot find anywhere that a “Rapture” is clearly taught in the Scriptures! All of the commonly-used “proof texts” simply do not adequately support the position. Although I certainly hope that it is true, I cannot reconcile it with the clear teaching of Scripture. Yes, Messiah will return with a shout and the sound of a Shofar. Yes, the dead in Messiah will be resurrected as will the righteous from all ages. Yes, we will rise to meet Him in the air. But will these events occur before, during, or after a period of “tribulation” or will they occur at the end of Messiah’s reign on earth for a thousand years? The “Rapture” teaching is great for building church attendance, and the whole “Left-Behind” scenario is useful for frightening people into joining a church so they don’t get to experience hell on earth before being consigned to hell for all eternity. But is it actually Biblical? I can’t find it clearly taught in the Sacred Text.
That folks… is a book.