Tag: WILL THE RAPTURE BE BEFORE

RAPTURE 17: WHEN? PAUL’S CLEAR STATEMENT!

Last time I discussed what Paul didn’t say about the rapture, which omission is a strong indicator of its timing. Here, in a mercifully shorter post, I’ll briefly include what Jesus didn’t say. Then I will point out one of the clear statements which Paul did make concerning the rapture’s timing. I once ignored such statements, as others do now…

WHAT JESUS DIDN’T SAY

In his Olivet Discourse Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple, which was to occur a few decades later (Matthew 24:1-2). When his disciples then asked him about the end of the age, he summarized what was to come, from verse 4 and ending at verse 14. Then He gave them the clearest clue, or the most significant event to look for, as the trigger of last-days events. He called  it “the abomination of desolation”, first spoken of by Daniel (verse 15). The abomination of desolation will occur in association with the revealing presence of Antichrist on the temple mount in Jerusalem. According to Jesus, this will effectively be the sign that the turmoil of great tribulation is beginning. In verse 21 we read:

For then will be great distress, unequaled from beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again”.

When Antichrist goes to work on the temple mount, said Jesus, there will be “great distress”, unequaled through all history. This initial sign of tribulation given by Jesus aligns with what Paul wrote, saying that the first signs of “the day of the Lord” would be a “falling away” and the revealing of the man of sin. 

Neither Jesus or Paul said anything about a rapture or a gathering of believers happening before the “abomination” event. Why not? Paul did tell the Gentile church about the rapture in  his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 4, so why didn’t he tell them in his second letter that it would occur as a first sign, in order to put their fears to rest? Jesus spoke about the resurrection and the gathering of his elect at the end of the tribulation: why didn’t he say anything about a gathering which would precede tribulation events? Neither of them said anything along these lines:

When you see millions of believers vanish from the earth, know that the time is near”

Instead, Jesus said :

..but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verse 14).

MYSTERY UNVEILED

Pre-tribulation teachers answer the problem of why Paul and Jesus omitted talk of the rapture while discussing the Day of the Lord by saying that the rapture was a “mystery”. But Paul did speak about the rapture, in his first letter to the Thessalonians-the one before the second letter in which the signs of the day of the Lord are given. He also discussed the rapture in his first letter to the Corinthians, saying, “I tell you a mystery”. He didn’t say “I know a mystery but I’m not going to tell you what it is”. He didn’t say, “Behold, I hide a mystery from you”: the rapture was an open topic. Thessalonians and Corinthians (and so probably others also) were told about the mystery. And we too know it, because we’ve read these letters many times. Yet when giving the initial signs of the Day of the Lord, Jesus and Paul said nothing about the rapture!

Another pertinent fact is that Jesus was in fact speaking to his  closest disciples during the Olivet Discourse: people who would shortly become the first members of his spirit-filled, saved and sanctified Christian Church at Pentecost. To them-born again Christians-he gave the signs of tribulation and things to look out for during that tribulation.

A CLEAR STATEMENT: 1 THESSALONIANS 3

Paul’s wish and prayer was that the Thessalonians would be, “…blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thess. 3:13). This thought about being blameless is echoed by John in one of his letters:

And now, dear children, continue in him so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming (1 John 2: 28).

Paul hoped that the Thessalonians-predominantly Gentile believers- would be blameless and holy when Jesus comes “with all his holy ones”. When, according to Scripture, will Jesus come with all his holy ones? Is it in a pre-tribulation rapture, or at his visible appearing to the entire world? Paul answers the question himself:

God is just: 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” (2 Thess. 1:6-7).

Didn’t Paul want the Thessalonians to be “blameless and holy” at a secret coming of Jesus, years before Christ’s “blazing fire” appearance with all his holy ones? Why be in the presence of Jesus for seven years before you have to be “confident and unashamed before him at his coming”? And the “relief” which the Thessalonians would receive, says Paul, does not come before the Tribulation, but at the visible appearing of Jesus Christ to bring judgment and rewards.

Paul is telling the Thessalonians that he wants them to be blameless and unashamed when Jesus appears in his grand entrance for all the world to see-which is at the end of the tribulation. This statement-ignored by pre-tribulation believers-directly contradicts the concept of a pre-tribulation Rapture.

Thanks for reading. This post is an updated and edited excerpt from my book, “All Left Behind: The Case Against a Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

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RAPTURE 13: THE REAL END OF THE CHURCH AGE

Pre-tribulation teachers say that the Church’s purpose will be finished on the earth before Daniel’s “seventieth week”, also known as the Tribulation, begins, and that the focus of God’s plan will then once again be the remnant of Israel. Is this teaching clearly supported in the Bible?

File:Hortus Deliciarum, Das Gebäude der Kirche mit den Gläubigen.JPGHortus Deliciarum, Das Gebäude der Kirche mit den Gläubigen, by Herrad of Landsberg (1125-1195)

Last time I wrote a little about the Bride of Christ in relation to the rapture, and said that I will be getting into the subject of the Bride in more detail. But first I must cover other relevant detail concerning the Church of Jesus Christ.

WHEN WILL THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE BE?

The common understanding of the Church Age acknowledges that since the time of Jesus Christ, and specifically the Day of Pentecost until now, the world has been living in the “Church Age”. Pre-tribulation teachers insist that the Church Age will end before  the beginning of the tribulation, and that the consideration of any other possibility is almost heretical. The rapture will occur, and God will be finished with the Church on the earth. Jews will live through the trials of the “seven-year tribulation”, while the Church will be partying in heaven, enjoying the wedding supper of the Lamb. After this the Church, now the consummated Bride of Christ, will return to earth as a ferocious army to destroy the antichrist and his army. Is this all clearly stated in the Bible, or is it perhaps a hopeful patchwork of assumptions?

It certainly is true that Israel and the remnant of Jews will be the focal point of many activities in the tribulation, and that they are important to the fulfillment of much of Bible prophecy. There are numerous prophecies throughout the Bible indicating clearly that one objective of Antichrist will be the destruction of the state of Israel and its removal from Jerusalem, or its surrender of power over the city. Daniels “70 weeks” prophecy really does partly concern this. However, there’s no statement or obvious suggestion from Daniel’s prophecy or anywhere in the Old Testament that a multitude of Gentile believers will vanish from the world before the tribulation: the concept has to be read into such passages. New Testament scriptures used to show the same idea are very questionable. Neither Jesus Christ or Paul or Peter  mentioned anything about a seven year period of tribulation, or the disappearance of the Church before it.

THE FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES

As the scriptural hub of God’s plan during the tribulation will be Israel, does that automatically mean the predominantly Gentile Church has no place in the tribulation? Are Gentile believers really conspicuously missing en-mass from the last-days scene? Is it really all about Israel, or should we still consider Gentiles to be a concern of God at that time?

Paul wrote about the temporary setting aside of the people of Israel due to unbelief (Romans 9 to 11). This was begun during the first century. Jesus, overlooking Jerusalem, cried out:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ ” (Luke 13:34-35).
Later, in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple and the city, which occurred in 70 AD.

Paul likened Israel to the branches of an olive plant. Some of the branches -unbelieving Israel-had been “broken off” or rejected, so that “wild” branches, representing the Gentiles, could be “grafted in”. The grafting in of the wild Gentile branches has been in process for the last two thousand years. However, the rejection of Israel said Paul, was temporary:

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

At some point in the future, the people of Israel will no longer be hardened, and they will be restored, says Paul. This will happen “when the full number of Gentiles has come in”. This is a very significant clue normally overlooked or ignored.

Once again, pre-tribulation teachers use some circular reasoning here, by saying that since we “know” the rapture of the Church is before Daniel’s seventieth week, and since we “know” the Church is absent from the outworking of the prophesies of Revelation, we also “know” that the fullness of the Gentiles being come in; the process of grafting in Gentile branches to the root, will have been accomplished before the tribulation. This, they are sure, must be the end of the Church age, because the Church is said to be gone from Revelation, and only Israel and those late-comer “saints” are left behind. Is this all true?

First, please refer to my significant analysis of John’ s testimony in a previous post, in which I showed that the claim that the Church is absent from Revelation is not valid (posts “RAPTURE 8” and “RAPTURE 9”).  

Next, if we go back to the account of the multitude “who have come out of great tribulation”, which occurs after the sixth seal and before the final seven trumpet judgments (Revelation 7:9), we see an amazing fact. This multitude is: 

“…from every nation, tribe, people and language” (verse 9)!

They aren’t just a Jewish remnant. Also, we need to acknowledge that this great multitude, apparently from all ethnic and national groups and not just the Jewish race, having lived through at least some of the tribulation, has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, just as we are saved now in our own time:

…they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (verse 14).

Since the fullness of the Gentiles being come in is contemporaneous with the end of the hardening of Israel, as stated by Paul in the verse above, a very pertinent question here would be, “When will the hardening of Israel end, according to Bible prophecy?” The answer to this question will more accurately mark the end of the “Church Age”, if indeed there is an end to it at all. The real answer is surprisingly accessible.

The prophesies of Zechariah give us a very clear picture of a last-days attack on the land of Israel and specifically Jerusalem, by the nations of the world. It’s when things look blackest for the Jews during the tribulation that their Messiah will, says God through Zechariah, make his appearance, and deliver the remnant. It’s at this time, and not before, that the people of Israel will receive an outpouring of the Spirit of God. They will realize just who their Deliverer is, and that they are guilty of his death on the cross:

On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child… (Zechariah 12: 9-10).

When Christ appears to destroy his enemies and the attackers of Israel, God himself will pour out his Spirit on the Jews, opening their eyes to the truth of the Son of God, who they “pierced” and have ignored as being a false prophet for two thousand years. His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). This event occurs at the end of the tribulation, at the time of the battle of Armageddon. The sequence of these events fits perfectly into New Testament accounts of the physical, visible return of Jesus Christ: He will come down from heaven, he will defeat his enemies, and his feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives.

Here is an unmistakable indicator as to the timing of the end of the hardening of Israel, and therefore to the real timing of the end of the Church age, if there is an end. Remember, Paul said:

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

The two go together.

As, then, the hardening of Israel ends at the visible return of Jesus Christ, which is at the end of the tribulation, how can we say that the full number of Gentiles being grafted in will end at least seven years before this event? How would those multitudes from all tribes and nations-predominantly Gentiles- come to saving faith, if the full number of Gentiles had already come in seven years earlier

Will there not still be Gentiles left on the earth during the tribulation? Of course there will. And will God not care any more about Gentiles in Daniel’s 70th week, or any part thereof? Of course he will: his son died for them. They will still have a chance to repent and become saints. How then can they not be a part of the Church? What else could they be a part of? Having willingly been persecuted for their faith and their testimony and for resisting the world, the flesh and the devil, are they now going to be excluded from union with Christ? Such a conclusion is unreasonable, unscriptural and hard-hearted, all for the sake of invoking an escape from trials which the rest of Christianity has not been provided through the last two thousand years.

We’ve already seen the gospel, called here the “eternal gospel”, being preached by an angel all over the world, and not just to Jews:

…he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people” (Revelation 14:6-7).

The angel can’t be said to be preaching in some past time period, or only in the commonly prescribed “Church Age”, because it’s clear from the language and message of the immediate context that his ministry is during the tribulation, and he says himself:

Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment has come”.

The angel’s preaching is situated between the sealing of one hundred and forty-four thousand and a warning about the mark of the beast. It is not, therefore, before all tribulation events.

What would be the point in preaching the gospel to a world which God has already given up on? Those who may respond to the gospel at that time are contrasted with those who accept the “mark of the beast” (16:9).

Here is an unmistakable evidence to the effect that the full number of Gentiles has not yet come in at this late point of the tribulation, and will not be in until Jesus Christ appears to his Jewish remnant, causing their hearts to be softened. Jesus said to the Jews:

…you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”( Matthew 23:39).

Thanks for reading this long post. It’s an excerpt from my book “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon. This post is actually an up-to-date edit. You’re getting a “second edition”, free, on this blog, and in time the entire book will be published here. Follow my blog to get notifications. Please find previous excerpts by typing in the search box. The most recent series is numbered, eg “Rapture 3”; “Rapture 4”, but you can probably enter a relevant search term such as  “The Wrath of God”.

RAPTURE 12: TWO MORE MULTITUDES

Greetings fellow truth-seekers! Today’s post is a continuation of my series on the rapture of the Church, and more specifically, a brief look at two more of the heavenly  multitudes found in Revelation.

Those new to my blog should be aware that I was a zealous defender of the pre-tribulation rapture for twenty-eight years, until I was of the mind to bravely face up to opposing scriptures. Herein is the twelfth excerpt from my book*

The second multitude discussed here concerns the Bride of Christ. The subject of the Bride is a big and important one in relation to the rapture, which will be covered in more depth in subsequent posts.

220px-The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)

A MULTITUDE OF ANGELS

After we meet the twenty-four elders and other beings around the throne, we read about millions of angels, also close by around the throne (Revelation 5:11). They’re praising the Lamb of God, and are joined quickly by “every creature in heaven and on earth” (5:13). The word translated “angels” means “messenger” and can refer to human messengers, but normally refers to spirit beings. There’s no reason given to assume that these are raptured Church people around the throne. They’re not identified or named in the book as people, the Church, the bride, saints, or even martyrs. All Bible versions such as the NIV, the KJV, the NASB and the ESV translate this word as “angels”. Since they are joined in praise by every creature in heaven and on earth the significance of this praise-party is thrown wide open. It may just be a symbol of the fact that all of nature is designed and created to worship God and will do so. It could be a millennial praise event, in which the whole earth will be under the authority of the Lamb.

John and the twenty-four elders are the only people, or representatives of people, around the throne. This is not a scene of the Church raptured before the tribulation.

A GREAT MULTITUDE AND THE BRIDE

A great multitude in chapter 19 praising God is commonly identified in pre-tribulation theory as the “Bride of Christ” also known as the Church. They are there, it is assumed, since before the tribulation, and now, it is also assumed, they’re enjoying the wedding supper, and preparing to go down to earth with Jesus Christ to attack his enemies. However, this great multitude is not named as the Bride or as the Church in Revelation. More importantly, the multitude is speaking about the Bride in the third person-even in the King James Version. Those in the multitude are not  speaking of themselves:

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (19:7).

This fact cannot be ignored by those insisting that the twenty-four elders of chapter four are speaking of their own redemption, and are saying “you have redeemed us” (see the previous post-part 11). Given that they were speaking of themselves,  it’s clear that the multitude here in chapter 19 is speaking of someone else, and not themselves. The pre-tribulationists can’t have it both ways.

The bride is “ready” in chapter 19. Wasn’t she ready in chapter 4 or 5, when John, it is believed, was also “raptured” before the tribulation events, and when the twenty-four elders-the representatives of the Church-were seen in heaven? The Bride and the Church were  not mentioned there. And why wasn’t she ready before the seals… the seals of judgment…were opened? What does it mean that she has “made herself ready” anyway? What can believers possibly do to ready themselves for marriage to Christ? There is only one thing they can do: they can accept the gospel and live lives worthy of him. This has been done throughout the centuries. They can also give up their lives for the sake of Christ: something multitudes will do in the tribulation.

Stay tuned for more examination of the Bride in relation to end-times events.

*All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, by Nick Fisher, available on Amazon.

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.

220px-Old-table-and-chairs

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.