Will some people be “left behind” when the prophesied “rapture” occurs? Are Christians going to escape the final years of upheaval on the earth?
Here is the first part of my updated study on a subject which will be confusing and perhaps weird to those who’ve never heard of the “rapture”, and to such readers I apologize. However, it’s primarily intended to be a challenge to those who have heard of the rapture, who hold to the “pre-tribulational” view, and who are brave enough to test their viewpoint.
For the first years of my Christian life I believed in a pre-tribulation rapture, but the more I wrestled with scriptures I once allowed the “experts” to interpret for me, the more I became convinced that I was wrong for all those years. This post reflects my changed position.
It’s my conviction that a large number of Christians have been willingly fooled into believing that they will be whisked away into heaven before anything nasty happens, and they’re completely unwilling to consider any alternative. Consequently, in my view, they’re unprepared for what may happen in their lifetimes.
I’ll publish parts of this series perhaps once a week. Part one covers the issue of “wrath”. (Most scripture quotes are from the NIV)
NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH?
The most common rejection of any view of the rapture other than the pre-tribulational position involves Paul’s phrase, “God has not appointed us to wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). People think that the entirety of a prophesied “seven year” period sees an outpouring of God’s wrath. Therefore, they say, Christians won’t be around during that time because God wouldn’t allow or inflict suffering on his own people.
Let’s put this phrase from Paul’s letter into its proper context. The complete verse which this much-used phrase comes from reads,
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ “.
Jesus said something very similar which is pertinent:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
Yes, Paul’s subject is about being ready for “the day of the Lord”, but when we put the entire verse together like this rather than splitting it up we see that Paul was contrasting wrath with salvation from sin, not announcing a pre-tribulation rapture: the choice is salvation or wrath. Believers can be prepared for the day of the Lord by salvation in Jesus, and in this way, in this eternal sense, believers are delivered from God’s wrath.
SOME OF THE PROPHESIED EVENTS ARE NOT A PART OF THE WRATH OF GOD
God’s will is not and never has been to always deliver us from suffering in this world: you only have to look at the current attempted genocide of Christians by ISIS in the Middle-East to see that. God’s will is to deliver us from the eternal consequence of sin. This consequence is separation from God, which is far worse than temporary physical suffering.
Christians have been persecuted throughout history. It’s important to see that while tribulation saints will be persecuted and martyred (Revelation 12:17; 20:4) persecution and martyrdom do not come from the wrath of God. Those martyred during the tribulation will be considered to be blessed, not cursed:
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Revelation 13:12-13. See also 14:12 and 20:4).
WHEN WILL THE WRATH OF GOD FALL ANYWAY?
People assume that the beginning of the seven-year period spoken of by Daniel marks the beginning of the wrath of God. Is that true? Let’s take a look at when that prophesied wrath falls, because if it’s physical wrath that you believe you will be delivered from, its advent may be a clue to the real timing of the Rapture.
Well-known pre-tribbers tell us that in the first half of the “seven year” tribulation Antichrist will fool the world by making peace in the Middle East and beyond. This peace will be broken, they say, when he enters the temple in Jerusalem, claiming to be God. Is it logical that the world could be “at peace” when the wrath of God is falling? The answer must be “no”: there surely cannot be wrath in the form of war, plague and famine in the world at the same time as there is world peace. So even in their own reasoning they are admitting that there can be no physical wrath from God until after the mid point of the seven years. According to Jesus, God’s wrath will not fall until at least some time after Antichrist makes himself known in Jerusalem and begins his own destructive onslaught (Matthew 24:15-30). This is not seven or more years before the visible return of Christ, it’s the mid-point of the seven years.
The symptoms of this time of “great distress” spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 24: 21) are war and deception. Its culmination-its end-will see the sun being darkened,the moon turning red, the heavenly bodies being shaken, and the visible return of Jesus in power and glory (verses 29-30). And according to John in Revelation chapter 6 the wrath of God is not seen on the earth until the sixth seal, not the first, because when the sun turns black, the moon turns red, the stars fall and the sky recedes like a scroll (6:12-14) it’s then, and not before, that the people of earth attempt to hide from God, in recognition that God’s wrath is falling:
“They called to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6: 16 and 17).
The judgments that then follow in the seventh seal bring devastation directly from God to the earth, rather than the man-to-man evil we see in the preceding seals.
Another sign of the timing of God’s wrath is that according to Paul, people persecuted for their faith will not be given relief before the tribulation starts, but at its end, when Jesus appears to the whole world:
“He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels…on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
According to Paul, the day of the Lord, which is the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:6-10) will come after Antichrist is revealed in Jerusalem:
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
This is not seven or more years before the visible return of Jesus!
According to Zechariah, God’s wrath will not fall until Jerusalem is surrounded by the armies of the world and facing defeat (Zechariah 12 and 14). This will be after any “covenant” or peace deal arranged by Antichrist, and so is not seven or more years before the visible return of Jesus.
IS SUFFERING IN OUR DAY CAUSED BY GOD’S WRATH?
Many Christians in the West say that “God is too loving to let us suffer by living through the Tribulation”. If this is the case, why, I ask, are Christians around the Muslim world being killed and persecuted? In fact, down through the centuries many thousands, no, many millions of Christians have been martyred and persecuted. Was that God’s wrath? Of course it was not, but they still died in their own stand against evil. I agree that God does not pour out his wrath upon his own people, but what we see happening to our brothers and sisters around the world does serve to blast out of consideration the myopic, selfish view that we are all going to be whisked away in the rapture before anything bad can happen to us. The prophesied “wrath of God” is not even due to fall until some time during the last three and a half years before the return of Christ, or even at the end of it, but the wrath of man and the wrath of Satan will. Get real! Get prepared! Get informed!ing ready for the