Tag: PRE TRIBULATION

RAPTURE 7: FAULTY IMMINENCE- CONTINUED

Last time I  discussed the hopeful but faulty application of Jesus’ words “You do not know the day or the hour” to the pre-tribulation rapture theory. This post, excerpt 7 of my book*  continues on from there…

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The “imminence” view assumes that the starting moment of the tribulation, including the very day and the time of day, could be universally known by all believers if they were not already raptured. It assumes that the tribulation will be exactly seven years long from that point, to the day and the hour. It expects that the mid-point event of Antichrist’s revealing will be exactly on the middle day and the middle hour of that period. It presumes that those occurrences will be so obvious to everyone on earth that the date and time of the visible return of Jesus could be marked on calendars and devices so that alarms would sound at the moment Jesus pierces the sky in power and glory. While I agree that God means exactly what he says in scripture, I suggest that all of the above assumptions are not correct.

The possibility doesn’t seem to have occurred to pre-tribulation believers that we may not know anything about the covenant of Daniel’s 70th week being “confirmed”, if indeed it is still future. It could be an agreement made behind closed doors: a secret pact or treaty; a private and probably sly resolution to achieve something big. News of it may not reach the ears of the public for a few days, or weeks, or months, with no mention of exactly when it occurred. When is this covenant mentioned in New Testament prophesies of end times? The answer is that it isn’t. Paul said that the first-not the second-unmistakable sign that the Day of the Lord is coming would be a “falling away” (2 Thess. 2:3) which surely can’t be fixed to a time or a day. The second would be the appearance of Antichrist in the Jerusalem temple. Paul didn’t  mention a “covenant” or “peace deal” as a sign of the Day of the Lord, but only that people will be talking peace and safety when destruction suddenly overcomes them (1 Thess. 5:3). Why didn’t Paul tell the Thessalonians “That day cannot come, until the Covenant, spoken of by Daniel, is signed”? He was speaking of  a general false sense of security in his first letter, not a specific event to look for.

So even if  Paul did have Daniel’s “covenant” in mind here, there is still no mention of the rapture being years before this sudden destruction, or for that matter, before destruction at all. It is “the Day of the Lord” which will come “like a thief in the night”, not the rapture (1 Thess 5:2).

Similarly, Jesus said that the first unmistakable sign of “great distress” would be Antichrist standing in the Holy Place of the temple. He didn’t mention any covenant or peace deal, which would certainly be a very useful and significant sign for anyone-even if it were for a Jewish remnant only.

Compounding these facts are the mysteriously different number of days given to Daniel to accommodate the fulfillment of last-days events (Daniel 12:11-12). The difference in these dates is something of a mystery even to the “experts”. Notice also that in this scripture in Daniel’s book, relating specifically to end times, there’s no actual mention of the appearance of the Messiah: it isn’t there. Exactly what happens at the end of each of those time periods isn’t clear, and exactly which of those days-if either of them- Jesus will launch from heaven in power and glory we do not know. It may not be on either of those days. It may be many days after or before the exact end of that seven year or forty-two month period. The day and the hour of Christ’s coming isn’t given away by Daniel, even to those who might see the covenant of Daniel’s prophecy being signed.

When Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour” in Matthew 24:36, which “day or hour” had He been speaking of? Which “day” did they not know of? In the previous verses He had been speaking solely of the events of the tribulation and of His physical appearing for the whole world to see (verses 15-35). He was referring to the “Day of the Lord”, the time of tribulation, of his coming, and of the restoration of all things, when he said we could not know. He was not speaking of a pre-tribulation rapture.

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Was Jesus in his Olivet Discourse really saying that it would be a Jewish remnant who would see the events of the tribulation, and not the Church? He was, in truth, talking to his original and closest disciples who, although certainly Jewish, became the first born-again members of Christ’s body-the Church-on the day of Pentecost. If the theory that the Olivet Discourse was for a Jewish remnant only were correct, why did Jesus keep speaking to his disciples as thought they would see the events he was foretelling, considering that they constituted the first Christian Church: saved, baptized and filled with the Spirit? Were his first-century disciples not eligible for the rapture? Jesus kept using the word “you”, not “they” when speaking to his first representatives and first members of his Church. They were, after all, co-founders of the Church after Jesus himself-not outsiders or Jews who would only find the Messiah upon his return. He told them what to look for as signs of the tribulation beginning and taking hold on the world. He told them to look out for deception and false Christs, and for the revealing of Antichrist on the temple mount. 

Perusing online “evidence” used to defend the doctrine of pre-tribulation theory through imminence, I found the offerings very weak in terms of scriptural evidence and logic. I also found that it’s common for verses to be used without reference to their context. One such offering was a single verse from Luke’s gospel, where Jesus said, echoing quotes from Matthew’s gospel:

You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40).

In this passage Jesus was speaking about a master-servant relationship. For the good servant, his master’s surprise return would be good news;

It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready” (verse 38).

Just as a house owner needs to be ready for a thief, Jesus was saying in verse 40 that we too must be ready. Reading a little further sheds some light on the full meaning of the verse about the Son of Man coming at an unexpected hour. Here Jesus switches his analysis to a servant whose master is away and who mistreats his own servants. So when the master returns, says Jesus:

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers” (12:46).

Here the wicked servant is the one taken by surprise by the coming of his master. His master comes on a day and at an hour that he was not expecting. The surprise appearance of the master is not a rapture event, it’s a judgment event! The master came at an unexpected day and hour as a judge! This passage is not about the rapture at all, as one website I read is claiming-it’s about God’s interest in our faithfulness. It’s about how we live out our faith rather than living as we did before we professed faith.

Other verses commonly offered as evidence for the pre-tribulation rapture are those speaking of Jesus’ soon coming. For example, somehow James’ words, “the Lord’s coming is near” and “the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9) are seen as evidence for an imminent rapture. If we read the whole verse we see that James was really speaking of faithfulness and sincerity of faith. If “the Judge is standing at the door”, we need to take this as a warning to be true, so that we are not judged with the world, just as the wicked servant who did not expect his master will be. Such verses are not valid evidence for a pre-tribulation rapture.

Another verse used as evidence is Revelation 1:1, which tells us that the events of the Revelation “must soon take place”. I agree that these events will occur quickly and will not be expected when they begin, but John is speaking here of the entire prophecy: the entirety of the book of Revelation. Logically, this means that stars falling from heaven, and the mark of the beast, and the new heaven and new earth are also happenings which “must soon take place”. Therefore the rapture can’t be identified as being any “sooner” than anything else in Revelation, and the book’s first verse is not speaking specifically of rapture!

One Matthew chapter 24 verse used to support the imminence of a pre-tribulation raptur is this one:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (verse 36).

Which day and hour was Jesus speaking of-was it the time of the rapture? No, he hadn’t even mentioned a rapture, and certainly not a pre-tribulation rapture. He’d been giving an overview of all the events to come, culminating in his visible, physical return in power and glory. This makes even more relevant Peter’s statement that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). Perhaps Jesus was answering the questions of his disciples from a minute or two before, when they wanted to know when the temple would be destroyed, and what would be the sign of his coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered that “no one knows…” Not even he knew, at that time. However, he gave them, and us, the signs of his coming, which, by definition, would in the future demonstrate that the time was near, once they began to happen.

Even then, people will still not know the exact day or hour. Even then they will not know until it actually happens. They will know they are in the general time, but they will not know the day or the hour. Therefore, Jesus’ talk of believers not knowing the day or hour has nothing to do with a pre-tribulation rapture: it’s about the events of the tribulation and Jesus’ visible, physical return in power and glory.

* My book entitled “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon. However, the entire book will eventually be excerpted or summarized here. And lucky you-you’re getting an up-dated edit, which will all be one day published as a new version of the book. Thanks for reading.

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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* 

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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.

ALL LEFT BEHIND: MY NEW BOOK

Greetings brothers and sisters in the faith. None of us has been “left behind” by the rapture-yet-so we still have time to read up on it!

Did you ever wonder if what people say about the rapture is true? My new book is the result of years of soul-searching and scripture study on the subject. Posts on this blog published over the past few years formed the foundation of the book, which contains far more insight and detailed commentary than all the posts put together. I believe I’ve also made the whole subject much more understandable than I did before.

Available in paperback or e-book. Take a look: