Tag: RAPTURE

RAPTURE 29: LOT, ENOCH AND DANIEL

Is Lot’s escape from Sodom really evidence for a pre-tribulation rapture? Was Enoch taken to heaven so that he could escape the Flood? Does Daniel’s absence from the furnace scene support the same idea?

Subjects covered lately in this series have been a little on the fringe of the whole matter of the timing of the rapture, but considering that  some ardent preachers of a pre-tribulation rapture  borrow every corner of Scripture to try to prove their point, it’s necessary to counter some of those weak arguments, and bring some reality to light.

I want to reiterate that I am not a-millennial in my beliefs, and I know that the rapture is a real Scriptural event. However, having been misled on the subject for twenty-eight years, I wish now to help others see what the future really holds, and not allow them to stick their heads in the sand of faulty interpretation. This post is excerpt number 29 from my book*. There’s a lot of meat in earlier posts. Just search “rapture” or try search terms such as “rapture wrath”, or “rapture bride”.

LOT’S ESCAPE FROM SODOM

Jesus’ reference to Lot’s escape from the destruction of Sodom in Luke chapter 17 is used to support a pre-tribulation rapture. However, Lot left Sodom on his own two feet, not on angels’ wings, knowing it was going to be judged that very day, because he had been told so. The ungodly were living out their usual daily lives when destruction from the Lord took them by surprise (verses 28-29). This is the point Jesus is making: not that believers were taken away without knowing that they would be or when they would be, but that the wicked were taken by surprise and were not expecting judgment. The wicked were appointed to wrath instead of salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Noah entered the ark on the same day the Flood came (Genesis 7:11-13) and not days or years before. Lot escaped from Sodom on the same day judgment came. They did not leave the earth. Do we really want to take these events as templates for the rapture? If so, at best we would have to take the “mid-Tribulation” position, because Jesus and Paul said that the “time of trouble”-equivalent to the Flood and the destruction of Sodom-will begin when Antichrist enters the temple, and not before (Matthew 24:17 and 21). This will be only three and a half years before Christ’s visible return, not seven or eight or ten years before it. Even in the words of pre-tribulation “experts” the first half of the “seven years” will be a time of apparent peace and prosperity for the world: not the day of judgment, wrath and trouble. Antichrist’s power lasts only for forty-two months (Revelation 13:5). If Noah’s escape and Lot’s escape prefigure the rapture itself then the rapture would have to be on the very day Antichrist is revealed on the temple mount-at the earliest.

Noah’s deliverance does not work as a model for a rapture years before the time of trouble: neither does Lot’s. It’s intended to demonstrate that the unbelieving world will not be ready for the Day of the Lord while true believers will. Paul put it this way:

…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly…But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief…” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4).

ENOCH

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).

Enoch’s disappearance could certainly be considered a type of rapture. It’s very reminiscent of Paul’s description of our being changed from mortal to immortal, in his letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. However, some pre-tribulation teachers go beyond what this brief account actually says, by claiming that Enoch’s “rapture” is symbolic of a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church. They assert that Enoch was taken to heaven to escape the Flood, and in the same way, the Church will be taken to heaven to escape the tribulation. Is there a statement in the Bible plainly connecting these two events-Enoch’s “rapture” and the rapture of the Church?

This concept gives the impression that Enoch was raptured a day or so, or a year or so, before the Flood, so that he wouldn’t have to suffer it. After all, the Church, it is said, will be raptured days or perhaps a few years before the “seven-year” tribulation begins. In fact, when you do the math, you find that Enoch was taken by God to heaven nine hundred and sixty-nine years before the Flood (Genesis 5:21-29 and 7:6). We’re told in Genesis that Enoch “walked with God”. This is why the Lord took him. We’re not told in scripture that Enoch was taken to spare him from the Flood almost a thousand years later, but because he walked with God. Being so close to God, would he not have escaped the Flood, along with “righteous” Noah, were he around for that long? There was no need for him to be raptured from the Flood!.

DANIEL

One prominent denomination teaches that Daniel had his own “rapture” which is intended to model the pre-tribulation rapture. Into the fiery furnace went Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, in Daniel chapter 3, for not worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. But where was Daniel? He was not there at all. The fearless three had to endure the trials and tribulations of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, while Daniel was nowhere to be seen. His absence is not only a “mystery”, but is considered a type of the pre-tribulation rapture.

Of course, there’s no statement to that effect anywhere in scripture, not even in Paul’s discussion of the rapture in the New Testament, when he shares his “mystery”. It’s an idea which is not provable, but which tickles the fancy of those who look for support for a pre-tribulation rapture in every corner of the Bible and beyond. There’s no consideration of the possibility that Daniel was, for example, away on business for the king. It was a very big kingdom. And why were the other three not raptured also, considering they were men of great faith, whose faith would put most of us to shame?

Not only is there no statement in scripture that Daniel’s absence models a pre-tribulation escape from the events of Revelation, but when we read on in the book of Daniel we find that he’s back in the flesh, on earth, and undergoing his own “fiery trial”. Chapter six sees Daniel falsely accused and set up by the king’s counselors. He’s then thrown into the lion’s den, where he is miraculously protected, but nonetheless very present on the earth for the ordeal.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND:THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nick Fisher, on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

RAPTURE 28: NOAH and the FLOOD

The experiences of several Old Testament characters are frequently used and confused as evidence for an early rapture of the Church, as they once were by me. Today I will consider Noah, and next time Lot, Enoch and Daniel..

NOAH AND THE FLOOD

In his “Olivet Discourse” Jesus, after describing the destruction of the temple and the times of distress before his return, gives the example of Noah’s escape from the Flood as a way of telling his people that they need to be ready for his coming (Matthew 24:36-39). This reference is seen by some believers, as it once was by me, as a sure evidence of pre-tribulation rapture: Noah escaped the Flood, so we’ll escape the tribulation. Others, including at least one prominent modern-day denomination, teach that Noah’s experience in the ark represents Jews being preserved through the tribulation on earth, whereas Lot’s escape from Sodom is a type of the rapture of the Church before tribulation.

If Noah’s escape from the Flood in the ark speaks of Jews living through the tribulation, we might ask why the Church is not in this allegory, since the only other characters in the account-even before the Flood began-are those who drown outside the ark. Only eight souls survived the Flood, and they were all in the ark. And while it’s a fact that Noah and his family were safe inside the ark, Jesus made it clear that those living in and around last-days Jerusalem, not to mention the world, will undergo terrible trials. That’s why the tribulation is known as the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

Jesus said that upon the revealing of Antichrist in Jerusalem people there are to flee the city, because “…there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21). Zechariah said that in that time Jerusalem will be invaded and half the city will be taken into captivity (Zechariah 14:2).

The other popular theory, that the escape of Noah is a type of pre-tribulation rapture, is equally dubious. Righteous Noah and his family escaped the Flood while everyone else, who had no idea what was going to happen, drowned. Therefore, the Noahic-rapture theory says, Jesus was obviously alluding to the rapture, modeled by the ark, in which all of Christ’s people-the Church-will be whisked away to safety before the seven-year tribulation begins. This is another indicator, they say, of the doctrine of “imminence”.

However, Noah did know the flood was coming. Of course-he was building an ark, he must have known. But it wasn’t just a vague idea that a deluge was coming, he knew exactly when it was coming seven days before it came, because God told him:

Go into the ark, you and your whole family… Seven days from now I will send rain over the earth for forty days and forty nights…” (Genesis 7:1 and 4).

The seven days of warning God gave Noah could be seen by some as symbolic of the “seven years” of tribulation, but the Flood began at the end of those seven days, not at the beginning, and most pre-tribulation believers don’t see the distress and judgments of the tribulation as arriving at the end of the “seven years” of tribulation. Neither will these judgments last for forty years as the rains lasted for forty days in the case of the Flood. Then, after the Flood Noah and his family came back to earth with a bump on the mountains of Ararat, lived out their lives as mortals and died, which doesn’t speak well of a change to immortality for the Church in the Flood/rapture scenario.

Since Noah was clearly warned seven days before the beginning of the Flood, Jesus did not intend to use the example of Noah’s escape from the Flood to be an example of a surprise rapture. It was the unbelieving world which was not ready for the Flood. That was the point Jesus was making in the Olivet Discourse:

“…and they knew nothing about what would happen until the Flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (verse 39).

The flood did not begin until the seventh day after God’s specific timed warning to Noah. While Noah was told by God seven days before the flood to go into the ark, those seven days were spent loading it up with animals-which was probably the intention of God’s command. Noah and his family did not actually enter the ark to stay until the seventh day-the very day the floodwaters began to arrive:

…and the floodgates of the heavens were opened… “On that very day Noah and his sons…together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark” (Genesis 7:11-13).

So using the seven days of God’s initial command to enter the ark, during which the animal “kinds” of the world were boarding, doesn’t work as a model or a type for a surprise pre-tribulation rapture. The wrath of God in the form of the world-wide flood began at the end of the period of seven days, not at its beginning, so using the seven-day period as a type would only serve to further confirm the wrath of God falling at the end of the seven-year period and not all the way through it.

The entrance of Noah into the ark was at the end of the seven day period, not at its beginning. No-one “left behind” and outside the ark for that seven day period or after it resembles a “saint” of the tribulation period: everyone outside the ark perished. Noah was not taken into heaven to escape the Flood, he remained on the earth and died at his allotted time.

The point of Jesus’s example of Noah and the Flood was to let his people know that they must be ready spiritually, because the unbelieving, wicked world will not be. In the days before the Flood, said Jesus, people were eating, drinking, marrying…in other words, living out their lives normally, with no expectation of or interest in what was to come:

…up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:36-39).

The people who “knew nothing” were the unsaved-not the people of God. Jesus’ emphasis was readiness for the coming of the Son of Man, not readiness for a sudden surprise escape, because Noah knew exactly when his escape would be. It was to be a spiritual readiness of obedience in contrast to living in blind wickedness like the rest of the world. What was coming for hearers of the Olivet Discourse to be ready for was judgment, not rapture. Significantly, the coming of the Son of Man which Jesus had just described in Matthew’s gospel, to which he was relating the story of Noah, was his entrance into the sky from heaven in power and glory, not a secret coming (verse 30-31).

Those who tell us that Noah represents the remnant of Jews living through the tribulation also miss the fact that Noah knew the Flood was coming, seven days before it came. They tell us that the majority of the Olivet Discourse is intended for the Jews who they say will live through all those events. If this is the case, why did Jesus tell the very same people, living in that time, “You do not know the day or the hour”? Noah knew exactly when the Flood was coming:

Go into the ark, you and your whole family…Seven days from now I will send rain over the earth for forty days and forty nights…” (Genesis 7:1 and 4).

Noah was actually the father of all of us-Jew and Gentile. He didn’t live under the Law, he wasn’t circumcised, and he didn’t dwell in Israel after the Flood. There’s no scripture telling us plainly that Noah represents Jews living through the tribulation or escaping the tri-bulation: these are impositions to prove a theory. When Jesus did speak of Noah in relation to tribulation events, it was clearly to stress the importance of spiritual readiness rather than being lost in judgment with the unsaved: not to illustrate the plight of Jews at that future time.

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.

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…!

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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.

RAPTURE: UNSPOKEN WORDS, AND THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE

At the outset I need to make one thing very clear, and should have done so at the start of my series: I am not an amillenialist…

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WHAT PAUL AND JESUS DID NOT SAY

Sometimes facts can be clear or implied by what isn’t said, and I believe that’s the case with the rapture. Yes, Paul called the rapture a “mystery” (1 Corinthians 15:21), and his designation is used today to bolster the idea that Jesus will come like a thief in the night for his Church (see the previous part of my series).  But Paul wasn’t secretive about what he knew about the rapture: he went on to describe it (verses 51-55). 

Paul warned the Thessalonians not to be easily led into the notion that the ‘day of the Lord’ had already arrived. Evidently some such deception was going around at that time. According to Peter, the “day of the Lord” includes the destruction of this present earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), and according to Paul it will include sudden destruction falling on an ungodly world of people (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). So the ‘day of the Lord’ includes the Tribulation and following events. Paul told the Thessalonians what to look out for as signs that the day of the Lord had really begun. He said:

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV).

Please notice what Paul did not say. He didn’t say anything like this:

 “That day will not come before we’re all taken into heaven, so don’t worry about it”.

This to me is very telling. It seems like a serious omission, if he really knew and was preaching, as some claim, that there was a rapture coming before Antichrist is revealed. The first sign, said Paul, was a falling away and the man of perdition: not rapture. This fact is compounded when we see that Jesus identified the very same event, which he called ‘the abomination of desolation’, as a clear sign that the Tribulation was about to begin. It has to be significant that Jesus said nothing about any rapture coming before the “abomination” (Matthew 24:15-22). He wrote about the rapture in Matthew chapter 24: why didn’t he say that it would occur first as a deliverance from what was to come? Instead, he said “..but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verse 14). The first clear event, according to Jesus, was the abomination.  He also spoke to his disciples as though they would see that sign.

WHEN WILL THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE BE?

The beginning of Daniel’s seven-year period has been assigned by “prophecy experts” as the end of the Church age, since it marks the continuation of God’s dealings with Israel. They presume that it is therefore the end of God’s dealings with the Church on the earth, and as such, the Church is no longer required to be on the earth. But are there any clearer indicators of the end of the Church age?

THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES

Paul said that “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). So a very pertinent question here would be, “when does the hardening of Israel end, according to Bible prophecy?”. This will mark the end of the ‘full number of Gentiles’ being saved. And this in turn would, surely, mark the end of the “Church Age”.

If we look into some of the Old Testament Prophecies, we find that the Jews will come to realize who their Messiah is when he appears physically over Jerusalem, at the end of the Tribulation (Zechariah chapter 12, especially verse 10). Even then, considering that salvation will still be by faith in Jesus, is it right to see an end of the Church Age at any other time than his visible return to the earth? The gospel will still be preached during the Tribulation (Revelation 14:6), so how can we arbitrarily put an end to the Church age before it?

DO THE 24 ELDERS REPRESENT THE ALREADY RAPTURED CHURCH?

Some Pre-Trib. teachers refer to the twenty four elders who John sees on thrones, initially observed in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, situated around the throne of God. The elders sing of redemption (5:9-10), and the NIV translates certain words in their song to ‘they’ and ‘them’, suggesting the elders are referring to the redemption of others who are still on the earth. Pre-Trib. teachers say that the words should be translated ‘we’ and ‘us’, as they are in the KJV. In other words, the redemption the elders are singing of is their own, and they are actually representatives of the Church, and possibly Old Testament saints also. This, say the experts, signifies that the Church will be in heaven before the Tribulation.

I don’t know enough about Greek to comment on whether these words should be translated to refer to the elders around the throne, or to humans still on the earth. I can only make a couple of observations here. One is that when John is taken on his trip to heaven, which Pre-Tribulationists say is a type of the rapture, the elders are already there and settled in: they didn’t arrive with John in his ‘rapture’ (chapter 4 verses 4, and 9-11). Instead they already know everything about what’s going on and proceed to tell John (5:5; 7:13-21). This seems strange since John was an original member of the Church. More that that, since John was the disciple who was especially close to Jesus, it seems odd that if at least twelve of the elders in heaven are representatives of the Church, he wasn’t even invited to “take his place” with them. Also, there are still followers of Jesus on the earth, as I have already pointed out. Are these believers, who “hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ”, and who willingly give their lives for him, not to be represented in heaven?