Tag: PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE

RAPTURE 5: DID PAUL SAY THE CHURCH WILL BE TAKEN INTO HEAVEN WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT BEFORE THE TRIBULATION?

Will believers really be taken into heaven before any trouble comes upon the world? That was my conviction for twenty-eight years. I was wrong.

Welcome to the fifth excerpt from my recent book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”.

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Some believe, based on the words of Paul, that there’s coming a day before the Tribulation when the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth into heaven. We’re told by Paul that Antichrist can only be revealed to the world and do his work on the earth when the one who holds him back has been “taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). The assumption drawn from this chapter is that Paul is telling us the Spirit of God is going to be withdrawn completely, into heaven from the earth, before the “seven year tribulation” begins. And since the Spirit indwells all true believers (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-11) the theory goes that all believers must be taken into heaven with the Spirit, because He wouldn’t leave the Church which He indwells.

When we read this passage in 2 Thessalonians we see that it doesn’t actually say that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the earth into heaven. Neither does it say that He will be taken out of the way seven years before Antichrist is revealed. Here is what it does say:

And now you know what is holding him (Antichrist) back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way”.

Antichrist could probably have appeared many times over during the history of man, if the Holy Spirit of God not been here to prevent him, or to “hold him back”. Hitler, for example, would have been a perfect candidate for the position of Antichrist. But Antichrist’s advent must occur at “the proper time” (verse 6). That is, when God says it’s time.

Some people think that it’s the influence of Christians in the world which is preventing Antichrist from being revealed. The Church, they say, is the restraining force holding back the Antichrist. Only when Christians get raptured and “taken out of the way” can that power of lawlessness come to fruition.

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I think there’s a degree of truth in the idea that Christians hold back the forces of evil. We are, after all, “the salt of the earth”. But it seems we need a rather grandiose attitude to assume that the mighty “We” are the ones holding back the the appearance of Antichrist. We failed to hold back Hitler, and WW2 saw the deaths of tens of millions of people, including six million Jews. We failed to hold back Stalin, Pol Pott and Mao, who between them murdered over a hundred million of their own people, including Christians. And there have been innumerable other tyrants and murderers in the history of mankind. We failed to hold back the Black Death which killed a third of the population of Europe, including Christians. Furthermore, and more specifically, there is no statement in Paul’s letter or anywhere else in Scripture declaring that Christians are holding back the power of Antichrist and Satan. It’s an assumption only.

Neither did Paul say that the Holy Spirit must be taken into heaven in order to let Antichrist loose. It seems to me more likely that when the Holy Spirit is “taken out of the way” (verse 7) God will simply be removing his restraining power from a (or the) man who would fulfill Satan’s will on earth, and from the “secret power of lawlessness”. He will stop restraining the flood of evil which He constantly holds back like a dam, even now. For that He does not need to leave the earth at all.

A relevant and instructive scripture passage which reveals an important principle of Scripture is found in Romans chapter 1. Paul writes here about a people who have so turned their back on God that He literally gives them over to their sin:

…since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

We sometimes wonder why the wicked prosper, and why they get away with the things they get up to. Unfortunately for them, it may be because God has handed them over to their wickedness. In this case, what man regards as success may actually be God’s judgment. It’s the worst thing that could happen to anyone, because he or she no longer has the Holy Spirit of God drawing him and calling him, and he’s even less likely to find repentance and salvation in Jesus. At that point, Satan has successfully and totally blinded him to the truth, because in effect, he wants to be blind.

This is the intention of God for the tribulation. His purpose in the Tribulation is not to unite the godly with the wicked, but to cement the division between them, and to seal the wicked in their chosen fate:

They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

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SEVEN YEARS-REALLY?

Second, according to several Bible passages, Antichrist will not be revealed to the world until the mid part of the Tribulation, at the time when he enters the temple and claims to be God (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:5-6). This, and not before, is the time when the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will be removed, mid -way through the assumed seven-year period-not before them! If believers really want to see the removal of the Holy Spirit as the event concurrent with and necessary for the rapture, they should perhaps consider themselves “mid-tribulation” believers.

Thirdly, we know the gospel will be preached during the Tribulation, and that there will be followers of Jesus, so we need to recognize that it’s not possible for the unbeliever to be regenerated without the work of the Holy Spirit:

…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ”… “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:9-11).

The fact is that you cannot come to Jesus-you are not saved from your sins or regenerated-without the Holy Spirit. You would not even begin to understand the things of Christ without the Holy Spirit:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

How then can the saints during revelation become saints, hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17) hold on to their faith through terrible persecution and a godless world and become fearless witnesses, without the Holy Spirit?

Moreover, this view of believers disappearing into heaven along with the Holy Spirit is a little selfish, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be harsh, cold and un-loving for God to withdraw the only possible help from his Tribulation saints? The Spirit would be the only  comfort and strength available-assistance which they would surely need in order to deal with intense persecution and upheaval. According to the Pre-Tribulation theory, while the Tribulation saints are standing up to Antichrist and intense persecution the rest of us would be enjoying first class treatment and the luxury of heaven, in return for not having to stand up for the name of Jesus at all!

Finally, it’s undeniable that Paul told the believers in Thessalonica not to let anyone convince them that the day of the Lord had come, until Antichrist was revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Jesus spoke of the same initial sign to his disciples (Matthew 24:15-21). He did not say anything like this: “Do not to worry about the Tribulation, because you will not be here when the Day of the Lord arrives”.

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RAPTURE PART 4: IS JESUS A THIEF?

For twenty-eight years I was a believer in and fierce defender of the “pre-tribulation” rapture: not any more. If you find yourself in that camp, I sincerely hope you can open your mind a little to the idea that the pre-tribulation rapture theory has some serious flaws, and that the consequences for us as believers are very considerable…

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This post is a part of chapter three of my book* It’s rather lengthy, but you can scroll down and get the gist of it if you want.

WILL THE SECOND COMING BE IN TWO STAGES?

Experts see the second coming of Jesus Christ happening in two stages. In pre-tribulation theory, these two stages are separated by a time period of at least seven years. The first stage of Christ’s second coming, say the experts, will be in secret, like a thief in the night, in the air, to ‘catch up’ the Church into heaven (Revelation 16:15; 2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The second stage, it’s believed, will be for all the world to see, and to bring judgment on those who were left behind by the rapture and who didn’t repent during the tribulation (Revelation 19:11-16; Matthew 24:30; Zechariah 12:10).

I have to wonder why God wants to spend seven years punishing the world, when he’s going to be judging each and every individual when he returns anyway. Does he have a mean streak? Is he sadistic? Does he want to prolong the suffering of the lost on earth before he sends them into the lake of fire? No, Jesus is not sadistic: the tribulation time is a time of division. It is the last opportunity for man to repent , or to be eternally lost.

The phrase ‘thief in the night’, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, is used by prophecy experts to conjure up visions of Jesus secretly snatching away his Church before any tribulation starts, taking everyone by surprise, leaving traffic-jams with empty cars and pilot-less planes to fall from the sky. All sorts of scenarios have been imagined to explain the sudden disappearance of millions of people around the world, including a mass alien cleansing of the earth before the aliens come to straighten planet earth out.

As a new believer I was terrified that I may do, say or think something which would jeopardize my rapture status, leaving me behind in a hostile world devoid of the Holy Spirit and other Christians, to deal with the mark of the beast and persecution. Beside fearfulness, this kind of thinking can produce a class mentality: a world in which you have the good rapture candidates, and those who aren’t going to make it. They aren’t committed enough, or they aren’t spiritual enough, or they’ve had a sip of alcoholic drink and failed the test.

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IS JESUS A THIEF?

Are we to see Jesus as a “thief”? Will he “steal” his people from the world when nobody is expecting him to? Jesus did say, a few times, that he would come “like a thief”. The first such simile in the book of Revelation is found in his letter to the first-century church at Sardis:

If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I come against you” (Revelation 3:3 ESV).

Without doubt Jesus is likening his coming to that of a thief. However, he is here threatening to come against the church in judgment or discipline, not to rapture it away. He’s not promising to “snatch up” all the compliant faithful congregants leaving the rest behind. He’s not preparing the church for rapture.

As far as I know no pre-tribulation teachers suggest that the church in Sardis directly represents the last-days Church universal, though some do say that all the letters to the churches of Revelation speak of it in some way, directly or indirectly. Certainly the weaknesses of man are universal, and Jesus did say repeatedly, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:6). We do all need to learn from their failures and their successes, and from the direction of the word of God.

The second time in Revelation that Jesus said he would come like a thief is in chapter 16:

Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake…” (Revelation 16:15).

The timing of this statement must be significant. It’s just after…and not before…six of the seven bowl judgments-final judgments-very possibly concurrent or synonymous to the seven trumpet judgments, in which the sea has been turned to blood, and several other terrible plagues have take place. It’s also just before the beast and the kings of the earth are gathered together in the place called Armageddon, where Jesus Christ will engage them upon his glorious return in power and glory. Remember that we found that after the sixth trumpet the kings of the earth realize God’s wrath has come (Revelation 6:12-17). Incredibly, the final gathering of armies is a last-gasp and futile human effort to prevent Jesus Christ returning (19:19).

The seven trumpet judgments of wrath are arguably contemporaneous with the seven bowls of God’s wrath (16:1b). One reason for believing this is that they both are said to fulfill the wrath of God:

(TRUMPETS)

There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished” (Revelation 10:6-7).

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ…’” (Revelation 11:15).

(BOWLS)

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven last plagues-last, because with them God’s wrath is completed” (Revelation 15:1).

The significance of the above facts is that on both occasions in Revelation in which Jesus says that he will come like a thief, the topic is judgment and wrath. Someone is about to be judged-not raptured!

Jesus also spoke of his coming as being “like a thief” in his Olivet Discourse. Warning his disciples not to become complacent and fall into sin, he gave the example of Noah and the flood, in which all the wicked were judged. He told them to keep watch, just as a house owner would keep watch over his house if he knew a thief was about (Matthew 24: 36-44). More on Jesus’ example of Noah later.

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WHAT IS A THIEF?

Think about what a thief is. A thief is someone who does something no-one likes: he takes what is NOT his. But Jesus Christ’s Church is his property, his bride. Is he really calling himself a thief in the above passages? Should he be thought of as a thief, or that he wanted to be known as a thief?

Jesus didn’t actually say, “I am a thief”, or “I will be a thief”. Instead he said “I come like a thief”. Jesus does not steal what is not his. Instead he comes in the manner of a thief: suddenly; unexpected; without warning; unannounced; uninvited.

THIEF IN THE NIGHT

The “thief in the night” phrase is today taken out of its proper context. It doesn’t refer in scripture to the rapture at all, as believed by millions of Christians. According to Paul it’s “the day of the Lord” which will come like a thief in the night-not the rapture:

“…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

So what exactly is the day of the Lord? Paul described the day of the Lord not as the “snatching up of the Church”, but as the time of destruction of the unsaved:

While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…(verse 3).

The truth will dawn on the unbelieving world, though they had been thinking that their own great leader had everything under control-that is, the man and the kingdom about whom Daniel says:

When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power (Daniel 8:25).

And John tells us that the people of earth, in admiration of him, will say:

“Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (Revelation 13:4).

The God they had insisted didn’t exist will suddenly be knocking very loudly on their door. It will be the ultimate shocking realization for them.

Those in rebellion against God will for a time think they have the world to themselves (they do now!). Instead they’re going to get a severe shock when the day of the Lord comes upon them, “like a thief in the night”.

Peter also likened the day of the Lord, not Jesus or the rapture, to a thief:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire…(2 Peter 3:10).

Luke’s account of Jesus’ parable concerning the master who appears and takes his servants by surprise also uses the “thief” metaphor, but Jesus wasn’t using it in positive terms. In fact, he said that a wise house owner “would not have let his house be broken into” (Luke 12:39). This imagery would be conflicting with the pre-tribulation understanding of the “thief in the night” if it were true, suggesting that the wise house owner would not let Jesus-the thief-inside to rapture him.

Picture Jesus as the thief coming to rapture you, and you locking the door so he couldn’t get in! Surely that analogy does not make sense as rapture talk.

*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 5 WILL APPEAR SOON

THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE

Having been a proponent of the pre-tribulation rapture as I was for twenty-eight years, its counter-productive or destructive power in the life of the Christian and the Church as a whole is becoming clearer to me all the time…

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There was a time when I looked forward to being raptured, because the rapture was going to happen before anything really nasty happened in my part of the world. In an instant I was going to be in heaven, without hardly having to defend my faith at all. Don’t get me wrong: the rapture, I’m convinced, is a real, Biblical event, and there really is going to be a tribulation. The nation of Israel and the remnant will be the focus of world events for a few years, and the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ will follow. However, having honestly and realistically faced up to all those tricky Bible passages in all their glory and detail, I see things very differently now*.

The little cliched allegory of a live frog being slowly heated up in a pan of water, so that he doesn’t know he’s cooking, is becoming increasingly relevant. We’re all frogs in that pot, while the world around us “heats up”. The very conditions prophesied are becoming more prevalent and pronounced, while we’re still here…on the earth.

Perhaps another cliched but equally unmistakable fact is that if our immediate ancestors-those who lived just a few decades ago, were suddenly transported to our present day they would be mortified by what they would see: gay marriage and almost universal immorality; churches erasing the maleness of God, not to mention the deity of Christ, the rejection of national pride, and far more. Our world is moving quickly towards a global society in which the Christian faith is without doubt going to be squeezed into the shadows by an increasingly hostile liberal elite, while a certain other religion is being escorted to prominence. Once the current US president goes, for whatever reason, the process will escalate, and our world will change radically.

The predicament Israel, the newly reformed Jewish nation, finds itself in just as prophesied, is no less dramatic than it has been, as most of the West outside of Trump and his supports grow in their favor towards the enemies of Israel. The technology necessary to number, monitor and control everyone on earth is available and already at work, as is the propaganda and establishment necessary to herd everyone into the same way of thinking.

In short, the conditions which well-known prophecy teachers have assured us would come about after the rapture, are becoming more and more visible to us…here and now.

As with most debatable issues among humans, Christians generally take one or another of two extreme views and refuse to budge. Either they think that prophesied events are not to be considered and can’t be understood, so ignore them altogether, or they follow what their favorite teacher says to the n’th degree and refuse to even imagine any other view than the pre-tribulation rapture: we’ll all be taken away before anything bad happens to us. Both views are dangerously faulty.

A large percentage of Christians believe that we shouldn’t be engaged in politics; we shouldn’t speak out and upset anyone; we shouldn’t make waves; we shouldn’t say that some things are wrong and some are right… and they vacate the space which generations of freedom-seekers worked and fought for on our behalf, leaving the champions of lawlessness to move in. A majority of evangelical ministers who do care insist on supporting the politically-correct understanding of eschatology, and so fail to alert their people or anyone else to what our Enemy is already working out in our world. They tell us that it’s all unavoidable anyway, and not to worry because before anything serious happens to our society and our nation we’ll all be whisked away to heaven. Never mind the fact that millions of our brothers and sisters in the faith around the world are already suffering persecution without being raptured, because that’s “over there somewhere”: it’ll never happen here.

Apart from a minority of dedicated people who’re engaging in every way they can in our world to preserve what’s left of the Christian free world, the rest of us are in essence handing it over to the kind of people who will happily stand squarely behind the “man of lawlessness”, when he finally makes his debut appearance.

* My new book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE” is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.