Tag: LAST DAYS

RAPTURE 6: IMMINENCE

Welcome back to excerpts from my book “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”. I was once a zealous defender of the pre-trib. rapture, but came to see things very differently when I eventually faced up to certain scriptures I had previously ignored, and analysed them more realistically. Here then is installment 6, which considers the doctrine of Imminence.

Pilgrim's_Progress_2

Pre-tribulation believers say that Christ’s coming is ‘imminent’. In the context of the rapture those who use the term mean that Jesus could come back secretly at any moment, just for his Church, without any warning or notice; leaving everyone else including nominal believers behind. There’s nothing else which needs to happen “on God’s prophetic clock” before the rapture, they say. Seemingly in support of this view are the words of Jesus who said we cannot know the day or the hour of his coming (Matthew 24:36-42). He said he is coming “quickly (KJV)” or “soon” (NIV, Revelation 22:12).

According to the doctrine of Imminence, if we were to see any of the tribulation signs of his coming we would be able to know he’s coming and when he’s coming. But this cannot happen, since Jesus said he would come “like a thief in the night”. Therefore his secret coming must happen before the “seven year tribulation”. If we saw the “signing of the peace treaty” we would be able to calculate the day and the hour of his coming, but Jesus said we cannot know the day or the hour-therefore we will not see it. Instead the Church will be taken in a surprise rapture before the “peace treaty” is signed and before the tribulation begins. Don’t even question the doctrine of Imminence, they insist: that’s very nearly heresy. Imminence is presented on one web-page in defense of the pre-tribulation rapture as “the grand-daddy of proofs”.

Admittedly, it’s clear from Jesus’ own words that we cannot know the day or the hour of his coming, so it’s inarguable that his coming truly is “imminent”. However, the application of imminence to the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture does not stand up to close scrutiny. 

Pre-tribulation teachers will say, as they must, that most of the content of the Olivet Discourse is intended for a Jewish believing remnant who will be around during the tribulation while the Church is in heaven, and not for the Church. Yet it was during that discourse and to those same believers that Jesus said these commonly-quoted lines:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36) and;

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42) and;

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (25:13).

There’s something wrong here. Why would Jesus say “you do not know the day or the hour” to the very people who the pre-tribulation believers say will be around during the tribulation, if that warning is intended to support a pre-tribulation rapture? Pre-tribbers tell us that these quotes mean the rapture is imminent and so before the tribulation, but in fact Jesus is saying these things for the benefit and instruction of the people who will be living on earth during the tribulation! Jesus wasn’t even talking to believers who might be gone before the tribulation when he said, “you do not know the day or the hour”. He was talking to his disciples about his visible, physical coming in power and glory!

If Jesus was talking to early rapture candidates in his Olivet Discourse, wouldn’t he have said something like, “Fear not, because I”ll take you away before such things happen”.

Teachings_of_Jesus_40_of_40__the_rapture__one_in_the_bed__Jan_Luyken_etching__Bowyer_Bible

There’s more. Here’s another quote from the same passage:

So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation…” (24:15).

Jesus was speaking of the abomination of desolation-which is at the mid-point of the expected seven years-to the very same people who he said couldn’t know the day or the hour of his coming, and he said that they would “see” it. If this was intended as a warning, not to the Church but to a Jewish remnant, wouldn’t they be able, upon seeing the “desolation”, to calculate the day and hour of his coming? Why then did he also tell them they could not know the day or the hour of his coming, if seeing the abomination would tell them the exact day and time? How can we take his admonition to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” as an evidence of Imminence doctrine in the form of a pre-tribulation rapture? Jesus is speaking to people living through the tribulation!

By the reckoning of pre-tribulation teachers, the people Jesus was addressing in his Olivet Discourse-the Jewish remnant- should also be aware of the “peace-treaty” they say will be made, and of the rebuilding of the temple. So presumably under the logic of Imminence theory, they would then be able to calculate the day and hour of his coming! But Jesus told them they could not know the day or the hour. It’s faulty logic and just plain wrong to say that if believers were to see any tribulation events occur, they would be breaking the words of Jesus when he said we cannot know the day or the hour.

It’s important to note at this point that Jesus didn’t actually mention any “seven year peace treaty” in his “Olivet Discourse”. Why not? Did he forget? Did he not think it was important? Did the translators leave it out?

When Jesus said “No one knows about that day or hour…” (verse 36) he had, moments before in verses 28-31, been speaking about his physical, visible appearing in power and glory for all the world to see-not about a secret rapture. He was saying this at the time he gave the discourse in the first century, and even in our time now, nobody knows exactly when he’s coming. As we’ve seen, even during the future time of distress he described in Matthew chapter 24, it seems people will still not know “the day or the hour” of his coming. We can look, and we can expect and hope, and we can see certain events which suggest the time is near, but no-one, then or now, or in the future, can know the exact “day or the hour”.

Strangely, the same people who say that “nothing needs to happen before the rapture” will tell you that there are plenty of signs of the coming tribulation to be seen now, and they proceed to publish books and videos and TV shows about those very signs which they are clever enough to divine. They’re the “watchmen on the wall”, and so make a good living telling the rest of us what prophetic signs have been fulfilled, while also telling us that the coming of Jesus is imminent and nothing else needs to happen before the rapture. If it’s imminent to the point of us not having a clue about the time of his coming, and if “nothing else needs to happen before the rapture”, what’s all this talk of signs being fulfilled? Why does the “Imminence” principle have to be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture only?

Thanks for reading. This subject will be continued in a few days.

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SETTING DATES FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF BIBLE PROPHECY

Here’s the article which many ministries-benefiting from your desire to know, and living an exciting life on your money and their speculation-aren’t giving you…

THE WESTERN WALL

One of the worst things a student or teacher of Bible prophecy can do is to set dates for its fulfillment. Having said that, I think there’s a place for asking if what we’ve been believing about end-times events is really true. This question, I think, affords and even requires a little ball-park speculation on the matter of timing. Yes-I’m going to set some dates! This article has few Bible references. I’ve listed relevant references elsewhere, and will do so again soon.

When we think about the possibility that we’re near the time of the return of Jesus Christ, the most compelling reason to believe that we are is the modern state of Israel. No, I’m not one of those fooled by replacement theology.

In 70 AD the legions of Rome destroyed Judea and Jerusalem, and expelled any Jews they didn’t kill from the ancient homeland. Against all odds and with no conscious intent to fulfill prophecy, but only to avoid another holocaust, the modern state of Israel was established officially in 1948. In 1967 Israelis regained control over all Jerusalem. Mirroring Bible prophecy, Israel since 1948 has very quickly grown and prospered. Its population has increased, with Jews immigrating there from all corners of the world. Its determination to hold on to the capital against the will of the world has been successful.

REMAINS OF THE SECOND JEWISH TEMPLE, WITH ISLAMIC DOME OF THE ROCK BEHIND IT

Also in line with prophecy the foretold enemies of the nation have been claiming the land belongs to them and not to Jews. Only the election of Donald Trump has temporarily halted the world’s schemes to remove Israelis, or at least professing Jews, from their ancient capital. Once he’s gone from power, for whatever reason, you can expect the pressure from all sides-including and perhaps especially the U.S., to continue apace, eventually culminating in a military assault as predicted in such Bible books as Zechariah.

Some commentators have mistakenly had the opinion that the current regathering of Israel cannot be the predicted one because, they assert, the Bible says Israel must be spiritually cleansed and holy as a prerequisite to restoration. To the careful reader, the Bible tells a different story: cleansing will not take place until the Messiah shows up to defend the nation at a time of extreme crisis.

TIME LIMITS, TIME CLUES

However, there are two potential problems with the entire Israel regathering “scenario” (to use a prophetic cliche). Perhaps they aren’t problems at all-perhaps they are in fact further indication that the time of fulfillment is very near.

1: THE “SECOND” RETURN FROM EXILE

The first problem concerns a Biblical limit to the number of returns of the nation from total exile. Isaiah wrote:

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people…he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
    from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 11:11-12).

In the Bible only two returns are allowed from total exile. The first occurred when ancient Israel and then Judah were invaded and carried off by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The second return began officially in 1948.

The idea that the current return is bogus and the real one is yet future just doesn’t make sense. If the miraculous events of the past several decades and the struggles between Israel and their neighbors and the world are not those prophesied, they are an incredibly realistic dress-rehearsal. Also, believing that the real return is yet future, we would have to expect the current inhabitants of the land to be driven out by some huge war or other disaster. The land would have to be invaded and claimed by enemies again, and then left empty and waste for a long period of time. Israelis there now would once again have to be dispersed to all corners of the earth for a long period of time.

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WEST BANK AND GAZA

How many times in the course of human history can the incredible set of events prophesied actually play out, in such an amazing series of what would have to be “coincidences”, as they have over the last several decades? It seems to me that either the 20th C restoration of Israel-the current one-must be the second regathering spoken of in Isaiah, or we would have to accept that the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and others were wrong, and therefore didn’t speak the word of God at all. In that case, no Biblical scripture could be trusted.

Also, when you consider other conditions in our world at this time in relation to Biblical prophesies, it’s clear that there’s much more than just coincidence at work here.

2: THE INVASION OF A LAND RECENTLY REGATHERED

The second time-issue concerns a Biblical limit on the time which can transpire between the regathering of Jews to the land and the judgment of the nations. Prophecies in Ezekiel foretell an international assault on Israel and the Middle-East in general ending in God’s clear and decisive intervention, after which the whole world will know there is a God who is still the Protector of Israel. This assault is said to come:

…against a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate (Ezekiel 38:8).

This and other passages indicate that Israel will be invaded by nations who recognize that its regathering is recent. So the vital question is, just how long a time period, scripturally-speaking, could be considered “recent”? Here’s my theory.

First, Israel, says the prophecy, would boom in population and in economic success. This would naturally take some time, but it has happened in just a few decades.

Israel, (that is, Jews and those from the northern tribes who had joined with Judah) were expelled from the land for seventy years (Ezra 1:1). God had told Isaiah many centuries BC that Ephraim was “about to” be judged by Assyria (Isaiah 8:7 NIV). That “about to” period was sixty-five years (7:8). We Bible students know that to the Lord “a thousand years is as a day”, so using that scale of what time seems like to God the “recent” period from the regathering of Israel to the invasion could be many thousands of years.

However, those two terms-“recent” and “thousands of years” don’t fit together well to us mortals, and the invading force of end-times certainly wouldn’t see an event thousands of years previous as being “recent”. God’s words, “sixty-five years” were just about meaningful as a short time period to Isaiah. The “recent” time period in Ezekiel must be seen as being truly recent to humans.

I’m not setting dates by saying that sixty-five years is the time period we must look for, but it seems logical that it’s a “ball-park” number. It could actually be fifty, or seventy, eighty, or more. At what point would the regathering of Israel not be considered by its invaders to be “recent” any more? And when exactly would the “prophetic clock” start ticking: 1948? 1967? Perhaps it would start when the majority of Jews had returned from the nations-perhaps the year 1990, or 2000, or 2010.

We could create a maximum time of fulfillment so that, say, seventy-five years from the dwindling of returnees to the land from the nations would take us to the year 2085. This would be the very latest date we could reasonably expect the prophecies of Ezekiel to be fulfilled. Alternatively, If we add sixty-five years to 1967, the year Israelis regained their ancient capital which figures so highly in last-days prophecy, we get the year 2032…only thirteen years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAPTURE 3: SAINTS OF WRATH?

Hello and Shalom to all you truth-seekers out there. Welcome to part three of my latest series on the timing of the rapture. Herein are more excerpts from my book* 

Bury-your-Head-in-the-sand

Many Christians wonder why people like myself bother writing on this  subject. They think it unimportant or irrelevant, or already covered adequately by others. In response, I will just say that far too many who are interested in future things are sticking their heads in the sand of faulty and mistaken doctrine, and will be shocked if those times they expect to escape are suddenly upon us. Very few are raising alarm bells in this regard. Here, then, is a continuation of my own alarm bells.

THE SAINTS OF WRATH?

Some argue that the wrath of God will fall for the entire future seven years they envisage, because the rapture will have taken place, and anyone “left behind” will be under that wrath. As a consequence of not being ready for the rapture, they say, these people will have to face all the horrors of tribulation. This argument doesn’t work, when you consider that there will be “saints” alive at that time, according to Revelation. We read about those saints in several places in Revelation, and how they will be persecuted for their resistance to the kingdom of the Antichrist. Will those “saints”, who are followers of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17) be under the wrath of God? Hardly! God said  that they who give their lives for him at that time will be “blessed”! They will not be under wrath or any curse:

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’ (Revelation 14:12-13 NIV).

Since this is the case, how can we smugly see ourselves as the recipients of blessing in a pre-tribulation rapture while the saints of tribulation times will be under God’s wrath? Surely they will not be, even though they will be alive as humans in Antichrist’s kingdom. Millions of Christians have been persecuted over the centuries, and many are being persecuted this very day. Being alive in the world at that future time described in Revelation does not equate to being under the wrath of God!

NO SEVEN-YEAR WRATH

John writes in Revelation that Antichrist will have power over the earth for forty-two months, or three and a half years (Revelation 13:5). So if the wrath of God in the form of disasters, plagues etc. does not fall until after the revealing of Antichrist, as Paul clearly indicates, it means wrath falls on humanity for much less than a seven year period. There’s no passage of scripture declaring that God’s wrath, or even man’s wrath, will play out for seven years. The words of Jesus may confirm this. In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus speaks first about the destruction of the temple, due to happen just decades after the disciples hear his warning. Then when the disciples ask him about the end of the age, he tells them that such things as deception, earthquakes and wars will herald the “birth pains” of the end times. Jesus said that nation will rise against nation, and there will be famines and earthquakes. All these things can be said to have been occurring over the last two-thousand years (Matthew 24:1-14). In fact, he said of them:

Do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (verse 6).

This suggests that any increase in intensity of “birth pains”, envisaged within the Olivet Discourse by prophecy experts today, have not occurred yet in the narrative. It seems that at some point those “birth pains” will indeed intensify, because Jesus goes on to intensify them. But when he says “then” in verse 9, to continue his prophecy, does he mean that the following events are just a part of what he has already mentioned-the “birth pains” which are not to be worried about? No, it seems he means that those things he has warned of will intensify, as suggested by his description. He lays out a vision of severe persecution, a loss of faith among many, a profusion of false prophets, deception, and a noticeable increase in wickedness (verses 9-11).

THE “PEACE TREATY”: NOT A SIGN OF RAPTURE

If a pre-tribulation rapture is to deliver us from the wrath of God, it does not need to occur until at most forty-two months before the visible return of Jesus Christ. There is no other event beside the revealing of Antichrist which we can be sure will be noticeable as a prophetic sign that the day of the Lord has come.

The “peace deal” which many believe Daniel speaks of as occurring at the beginning of the “seven year tribulation” is actually some sort of “covenant”, treaty or agreement (Daniel 9:27). It may not be an item of news. In other words, it may be done under the table, behind closed doors, in secret, without the world knowing. This would explain why Jesus and Paul did not mention any covenant, treaty or peace deal as a sign of the start of the day of the Lord. Instead they spoke only of the revealing of Antichrist as the mark of its beginning.

There are some that believe the first half of Daniel’s last “seven”, usually interpreted as the “seven-year tribulation”, actually played out at the time of Christ. In this case, there is only 42 months of God’s “seventy weeks” plan left to unfold-the very time period spoken of regularly in Revelation. Whether or not this is so, Paul and Jesus did not mention any peace treaty or covenant. A “falling away” and the revealing of Antichrist will come as first signs, and the wrath of God will probably not, judging by the opening of the seals, and the record of Revelaton, fall immediately after that. So why do we have to invoke a pre-tribulation rapture at least seven years before the return of Christ?

WRATH, RELIEF AND REVENGE: AT THE PHYSICAL RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST

Another indicator of the timing of God’s wrath is given by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He told these Christians that they would be rewarded for their good deeds and avenged for the way they’ve been mistreated. This will happen, he said, upon the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth, and not before:

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).

So not only will believers not be avenged or rewarded until the physical appearance of Jesus Christ on the earth, but Paul equates that day with the day Jesus is glorified and marveled at by “all those who have believed”. Here is as clear a statement of the timing of the rapture as we can find-but it’s ignored by the experts.

Making that “day” a general time only obfuscates and fudges, because the same “day” is applied to the blessing of believers as the day of vengeance. Both happen on the same “day”, and there’s no indication that rewards to believers come before Christ’s vengeance. Changing this “day” to mean a general time period is actually changing the content of the verse, because Paul clearly said that these two things will occur when Christ is made physically manifest, in blazing fire, with his powerful angels. This will happen on a specific day, not an age or a general time period.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON IN PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. PART 4 WILL APPEAR SOON.

RAPTURE 2: WHEN WILL THE WRATH OF GOD FALL ANYWAY?

FOR TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS I WAS A FIERCE PROPONENT AND DEFENDER OF THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE. NOW I HAVE A MORE REALISTIC UNDERSTANDING OF THE RAPTURE. HERE ARE CONTINUED EXCERPTS FROM MY BOOK*

(Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1887).

WHEN WILL THE WRATH OF GOD FALL ANYWAY?

Many people, certain that there will be a seven year tribulation, have the impression that the first day of that seven-year period-when the ink is still wet on Antichrist’s “peace deal” document, marks the start of the outpouring of God’s wrath, which will continue for the entire period until Jesus returns physically in power and glory. Are they right? If it’s God’s wrath which the rapture is to deliver us from, as many believe, we ought to be sure about when that prophesied wrath falls. We also might ask exactly how the wrath of God will be played out in our world, because whether it’s persecution or “natural” disasters such as giant hailstones, mega-earthquakes, pestilence and stars falling from heaven, the timing of the wrath of God may be a clue to the real timing of the rapture. What certainly does come from God in Revelation are the plagues and “natural” disasters, and the release of malevolent spirits which work to fulfill his will. These clearly come from the wrath of God, because we’re told they do, and there’s a statement in Revelation to that effect.

THE SIXTH SEAL

The sixth seal opens with a “great earthquake”. There’s something very different about this seal. It’s incomparably more devastating than those before it, because it affects the very foundations of our familiar physical universe. The sun and moon turn dark, stars fall from heaven, and the sky rolls up like a scroll (verses 12-14). It is at this point, when the sixth of seven seals with all its unprecedented events has been opened, that the leaders of the earth concede or recognize the fact that the day of God’s judgment has come:

They called to the mountains and the 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 6:15-17).

Is it only the sixth seal which begins the wrath of God, or was his wrath released in the previous five? Why do the “kings” of the earth only recognize and acknowledge God’s wrath upon the opening of the sixth seal? Is it because they just don’t want to face up to the fact before it, or is it because the sixth is so devastating and awesome that their spirits are finally broken? Is it perhaps because all previous seals were “business as usual” events common to the history of man, while this one is undeniably the outpouring of God’s wrath? Could it perhaps be that the previous seals were not actually the outworking of the wrath of God?

THE SEVENTH SEAL

Upon the opening of the sixth seal the heavenly bodies react in cosmic proportions, and “then” (verse 15) the kings of the earth declare to themselves that the time of God’s wrath has come. Following the sixth seal is the seventh, and I’m not trying to be funny. The seventh is opened in seven stages, each announced by trumpets. It details events which utterly devastate the earth: hail, fire, blazing mountains, the total pollution of the waters, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the final plagues on humanity.

This seventh seal, with its trumpets, is clearly an outpouring of God’s wrath. It aligns chronologically with certain prophesies in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, as will be explained later.

File:Gustave Doré - Death on the Pale Horse (1865).jpg

(“Death on the Pale Horse”, by Gustave Dore, 1865)

SEALS 1 TO 5: PEACE AND SAFETY?

It’s difficult for us to actually commit to the idea that people are realizing God’s wrath has come only when the sky has rolled up like a scroll, because we evangelicals have always been told that the beginning of the “seven year tribulation” marks the beginning of God’s wrath. However, we can surmise with certainty that people alive during the sixth seal aren’t coming to the realization of the arrival of God’s wrath during a time of peace and safety. Peace and safety are prescribed by pre-tribulation experts for the first half of the envisaged seven-year tribulation. They tell us that Antichrist will make a “peace deal” with Israel and its neighbors, beginning the seven year period, and that the world will think he’s a great man of peace and world order. Indeed, Paul did say, “When people are saying ‘peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

WILL THERE BE SEVEN YEARS OF WRATH?

But wait a minute. What about those four horsemen of the first four seals? Aren’t they riding out to conquer, to take peace from the earth, and to bring pestilence, death and Hades? How can they take peace from the earth at the start of the “seven year” period if Antichrist is bringing peace to the world at that time?

…and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many (Daniel 8:25 KJV).

Also, we’re told by Paul that Antichrist will be revealed when he enters the temple mount and not before. Why would people be hailing him as the great peacemaker before this temple appearance, since Paul tells us that his revealing occurs when he enters the temple? Granted, he may be at work making peace before the temple mount incident but not revealed in his true colors until that point. However, surely any saints holding to the testimony of Jesus at that time (Revelation 12:17) who have taken the trouble to read their Bibles and all the books on the rapture, and all the “Where We Have Gone” notes, would see this peacemaker and know-before the temple appearance-that he’s Antichrist, before Paul said they could know. They would recognize him before Paul said he could be recognized.

Antichrist’s revealing at the temple mount is commonly agreed to be three and a half years before the end of the tribulation. It’s at this point that “great distress” begins, according to Paul and Jesus. This means that all those terrible events associated with tribulation times, and the seven seals, cannot have yet begun. If they had, there would be no “peace”, particularly since the first seal unleashes a rider bent on conquest (Revelation 6:2). The beginning of “great distress” as described by Jesus and Paul would not be noticed if great distress were already taking place on the earth.

The second rider is given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other (7:4). How can the second rider taking peace from the earth square with Antichrist being viewed as a man of peace and safety, if the second rider takes that peace away before the revealing of Antichrist, three and a half years before the physical and glorious return of Jesus? How can these two conditions-peace and lack of peace-exist at the same time?

One answer may be that these four horsemen have been at large throughout history, and get temporarily “paused” by Antichrist. The other option is that they will only be at large after the revealing of Antichrist, who himself will bring devastation to the earth, quite apart from, or in conjunction with, what the second rider brings. Is he perhaps the manifestation of the work of the first two riders? Are these events concurrent? Is this why Revelation repeats a time period of three and a half years?

WHEN WILL THE DAY OF THE LORD BEGIN?

The day of the Lord is an important indicator of the onset of God’s wrath on the earth, in fact the two are perhaps synonymous. Paul, discussing “the day of the Lord” in his second letter to the Thessalonians gives as the first signs of its arrival a rebellion of some kind, and the revealing of Antichrist:

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day (the day of the Lord) will not come, until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

The day of the Lord cannot begin, says Paul, until after Antichrist is revealed, at the mid-point of that proposed seven-year period. Remember in conjunction with this that the sixth seal is opened before the kings of the earth recognize that the wrath of God has come. Surely, if the world had suffered a huge earthquake before the revealing of Antichrist, or if the stars had already fallen from heaven and the sky had rolled up, these would have been far more immediate and tangible signs for Paul to refer to as his onset of the day of the Lord? Knowledge of such disasters was not introduced as new revelation in later times by John, because Jesus spoke of them during his earthly ministry, and they’re mentioned in Old Testament prophesies.

No, those things will not yet have happened at the point Antichrist is suddenly revealed. All that will have happened, besides perhaps the increasing persecution of believers, is a rebellion. People will not yet have been begging the mountains to fall on them. Therefore the wrath of God has not yet fallen in the form of cataclysmic events.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON IN PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. PART 3 WILL APPEAR SOON.

RAPTURE 1: UNRAVELING THE PRE-TRIB. RAPTURE

FOR TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS I WAS A FIERCE PROPONENT AND DEFENDER OF THE “PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, UNTIL MY EYES WERE OPENED. WAKE UP NOW, CHRISTIAN BELIEVER, BECAUSE MANY OF US HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING FAULTY THEOLOGY…!

August 2013 010

We as believers all want to be “snatched up” to heaven before things get too rough on planet earth. The reality, however, is that things have been “too rough” for many millions of believers around the world for centuries, including this present one. In seeking clarity of conviction upon my twenty-eighth year of Bible-believing Christianity, at the time of the ascent of ISIS in the Middle-East, I came to the realization that what I had been taught and convinced of was not really supported by deep, honest Bible study.

Here then is a first installment of what I’ve discovered for myself- an excerpt from my book published in paperback and electronic form (see details at the bottom of this post*).

CHAPTER 2: NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH?

Usually the first subject to come up in any discussion on the timing of the rapture is the wrath of God. The whole idea of there being a wrathful God is very much out of fashion in our “post-truth”, relativistic age; in our easy-living and supposedly “tolerant” Western culture. But no true Bible believer can doubt that there is coming, sooner or later, a time of wrath on sinful mankind, when our Creator will finally put the brakes on all rebellion and godlessness in the human realm, and in the spiritual realm also. Such wrath will fall on the world during a time the Bible calls “The day of the Lord”. And since the day of the Lord is normally equated with the entire tribulation among Christians and with the entirety of a seven year period of prophesied events, the obvious expectation to many people is that believers will not be around during that time to suffer any of that wrath. Since Christians are forgiven of their sins and are promised eternal life, they will surely not be the recipients of God’s wrath. But does the tribulation-a specific time of God’s intervention on the earth just before the visible return of Jesus Christ-automatically mean wrath for every mortal living at the time?

The most common defense of the pre-tribulation rapture position is taken from Paul’s phrase, “God has not appointed us to wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Adherents are most likely to quote this verse as what they believe to be an unarguable, clinching piece of Biblical evidence that believers will be taken away before the beginning of the tribulation: one which should silence any opposition. God, being a God of love, “has not appointed us to wrath”, and so he will obviously be taking us to heaven before the tribulation-the time of trouble and distress- begins.

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Evangelical end-times prophecy interpretation almost unanimously calls for a seven year period of upheaval and trouble world-wide. During this time the “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness”, also known as “Antichrist”, will persecute and generally rage against God and anyone “left behind” by the rapture, so  people assume that the entirety of this coming seven year period entails an outpouring of God’s wrath from beginning to end and in all corners of the world, starting from the very first minute. Therefore, they say, people who get “left behind” by the pre-tribulation rapture are either nominal believers, or folk who knew something about the gospel of Jesus but failed to respond to it in time for the rapture, or others who just didn’t hear the gospel before it was too late.

It’s true that Paul was discussing end-times events with the Thessalonians when he wrote that God has not appointed us to wrath, but let’s put this phrase from Paul’s letter into its proper context. The complete verse which contains this much-used phrase reads thus:

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ “ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

In this verse Paul was contrasting the wrath of God with salvation-not announcing a pre-tribulation rapture.

Before we consider the slightly wider context of the passage, let’s look at something Jesus himself said which is similar but very instructive:

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).

Jesus, using the same Greek word translated “wrath” as the one Paul used in his letter to the Thessalonians, was stating that salvation from sin is found in the Son of God, but anyone who rejects that salvation is already permanently under the wrath of God. The wrath Jesus was speaking of was eternal judgment and separation from God, not the onslaught of suffering in this life or of tribulation events.

Now let’s go back to Paul’s letter. In chapter 4 Paul begins to discuss the coming of the Lord. He wants the church to have hope in seeing their loved ones in the Lord again, and writes about how Jesus will “come down from heaven”. At that point the dead will be resurrected, then living believers will be changed and will meet Jesus and their risen loved ones in the clouds. Paul notes that those in the Thessalonian church are not in the same darkness as unbelievers, and that therefore the day of the Lord would not come upon them like a thief (verse 4). Then comes the much-misused verse:

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 9).

Paul is  contrasting wrath with salvation from sin, just as Jesus was. That’s the primary focus.

In a similar way, Paul told the Ephesian church that when they were “dead in trespasses and sins” in their un-saved life, and when they were following “the prince of the power of the air”, they were “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV). In contrast, he said, God “made us alive together with Christ” because of his mercy (verse 4).

There’s no discussion of end-times events here, and the wrath of God’s tribulation did not fall in the first century. The intended point is the contrast between being saved from our sin nature, and remaining an object of wrath. Again, the Greek word translated “wrath” in this Ephesians verse is the same as that used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.

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Yes, Paul’s subject in Thessalonians concerns being ready for the day of the Lord”, but his way of being ready and of avoiding God’s wrath is salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. If we put this much-used phrase into its proper context we see that Paul was contrasting wrath with salvation from sin-not announcing a pre-tribulation rapture. People can be prepared for the day of the Lord by obtaining salvation in Jesus. In this way, in this eternal sense, true believers are delivered from God’s wrath, and will never suffer it.

Bad events in the lives of true believers are never from the wrath of God, and never will be. They’re just evidence that we’re all human, and subject to the consequences of the Fall, of the actions of others and our own mistakes. In fact, believers are free of God’s wrath even if they lose their lives violently at the hands of men. That’s why Jesus said:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28).

Antichrist will persecute and kill “saints” during the tribulation, according to Revelation, but this will not be from the wrath of God-it will be the result of man’s wrath and of the devil. No-one but God has any power over the souls of his saints.

Consider the Thessalonian believers of the first century. They died, did they not? They’ve been dead for almost two thousand years, and they didn’t get raptured while alive. But in their deaths they did not, and will not, suffer the wrath of God, but had already found eternal salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

PERSECUTION DOES NOT COME FROM THE WRATH OF GOD. SUFFERING, EVEN IN REVELATION, DOES NOT ALWAYS COME FROM THE WRATH OF GOD

God’s will is not, and never has been, to always deliver us from suffering in this world. In the opening chapter I mentioned the suffering inflicted on many Christians by ISIS in Middle Eastern countries. You can study the history of the Church and find countless examples of suffering inflicted on Christians, including death and torture. These people were not under the wrath of God, they were under the wrath of man, and no doubt sometimes the wrath of Satan. Even in our present day there are many believers around the world in prison and under threat from those who hate the gospel of Jesus. Jesus warned his disciples this would happen:

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John16:2KJV).
God’s plan is to deliver us from the eternal consequence of sin. This consequence is eternal separation from him, which is far worse than temporary physical suffering, and Christians have been persecuted throughout history. Not only that, but Christians have also been among the victims of plague, war, famine, natural disasters, sickness and the outcome of the Fall, just as non-believers have, and will continue to be subject to these things until the resurrection and the rapture occur.

Whatever you think of those tribulation saints found in the book of Revelation, living through the time of tribulation, it’s important to see that even though they’re God’s people, they will be persecuted and martyred (Revelation 12:17; 20:4). However, persecution and martyrdom do not come from the wrath of God: far from it. In fact, 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).
It seems abhorrent to us in the West to consider that God would allow his people to suffer persecution, but unfortunately, that’s the history of the Church, the condition of many of our brothers and sisters around the world today, and the testimony of scripture.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. THE NEXT EXCERPT WILL CONTINUE FROM THIS POINT.