“Through a Glass, Darkly”
Vol: 30 Issue: 28 Sunday, March 28, 2004
One of the questions most often posed to me in emails is generally put in the form of a somewhat sneering challenge; usually filled with page after page of Scripture ‘proving’ my teaching concerning the Rapture is false (sometimes saying it is deliberate deception on my part) and demanding, faced with the weight of their ‘evidence’, that I immediately accept whatever alternative they hold to.
I could just as easily send them the Scriptures that support a pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church (interestingly, some are the same verses), but it would have no more effect on changing their viewpoint than it does on mine.
The timing of the Rapture is easily one of the most divisive issues within the Body of the Christ, something I find extremely interesting. It would seem to me that the issue of when He is coming is important only in understanding the signs of the times, but not terribly important in terms of salvation or issues of eternity, or even in terms of living a Spirit-filled life.
Taken separately from following Bible prophecy, believing in Who is coming, and the certainty of His return, are all that is truly necessary to be a Christian. The timing of that event itself, is largely one of academics.
That being said, we ARE students of Bible prophecy; watchmen on the wall, as I like to express it, and the timing of the Rapture is extremely important to understanding the signs of the times.
We see evidence all around us, and we use that evidence to warn of His soon return. To us, understanding the Rapture is understanding how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. The key to this is understanding Dispensationalism and the division between the Age of the Law, the Age of Grace (Church Age) and the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th Week).
Dispensationalism teaches that the Dispensation of Grace (Church Age) concludes with the secret Rapture of the Church, followed by the the final 7 years of the Age of the Law. During the Tribulation, the Temple is rebuilt, Temple sacrifice reinstituted, and the price of salvation is martyrdom at the hands of the antichrist. (Tribulation Saints)
There are three basic interpretations of the Rapture; pre-Tribulatonal, mid-tribulational and post-tribulational.
Pre-Trib holds to the view the Lord returns BEFORE the Tribulation. Mid-Trib teaches that the Rapture of the Church will occur in the middle of the 7 year tribulation period. It will occur sometime around the abomination of desolation when the anti-Christ goes into the rebuilt Jewish temple and there claim to be God.
The Post-Trib view teaches that as the Lord Jesus is returning back to earth, God’s people will be ‘caught up’ or raptured at that point in time. They will return to earth with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Each of these views can be supported, to some degree, by Scripture, but only one is correct. I believe it is the one with the fewest problems, which is a Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church.
One of the problems with a mid-Trib view is glaring; it denies the doctrine of imminency. Although the Scriptures teach a SECRET coming, (no man knoweth the day or hour) once the Tribulation begins, one just has to sit down with a calendar. It will be no surprise and it will come at a known time.
Another problem with the mid-Trib Rapture view is that its followers aren’t looking for Christ, they are watching for the anti-Christ, from whom they derive their timetable.
By contrast, I am awaiting Jesus Christ. I never expect to know who the antichrist will be, and frankly, I don’t really care. My purpose, to the degree I even discuss the antichrist in your Omega Letter, is to demonstrate how the world is preparing for his coming — and to remind people that Jesus is coming FIRST!
The mid-Tribulation view is not widely followed for these reasons, among others.
The post-Tribulation view shares the same glaring problem as the mid-Tribbers; the denial of imminency. It will be even easier to pinpoint the return of Christ, given the Bible gives the exact number of days between the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Matthew 24:15; 2nd Thessalonians 2:4) and the return of the Messiah.
“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” (Daniel 12:11)
Compare that to Jesus’ Words; “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. ” (Matthew 24:36) If the post-Trib view is correct, that secret is hidden only until the revelation of antichrist. So it shares the same second flaw with the mid-Trib view; both of these interpretations make the coming of antichrist the seminal event in prophecy, with the secret coming of Christ for His Church a secondary Plan.
The post-Tribulation view also doesn’t pass the logic test. The post-Trib interpretation is that Jesus Raptures the Church, who then return with Him at the Battle of Armageddon. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Revelation 19:14) The ‘fine linen, white and clean’ are the garments of those Washed in the Blood of the Lamb.
So, Jesus leaves heaven with ‘ten thousands’ of empty white horses. As He descends, God’s people are Raptured, presumably translated from this earth to the back of a white horse on its way back!
Scripture tells us that, as the return of the Lord for His Church draws near, it will be as in the days of Lot and Noah. Noah warned of impending judgement for 120 years without a single convert. Life went on as normal, until the floods came, and ‘took them all away’. (Matthew 24:39)
Similarly, Lot lived in a big city, surrounded by immorality so repugnant to God that He decided to judge the wicked city with Divine judgement. Lot was secretly removed from the unsuspecting city before judgment was executed. But to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, life went on as usual until the moment of judgment fell.
Consider the consequences of the Tribulation Period. Widespread death and destruction, the annihilation of 3/4’s of the human race, miraculous judgments like the sea turned to blood and a ruined ecology, disease, famine and catastrophe . . . hardly fits with the days of Lot OR Noah.
“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:28-30)
The next problem with this view is what happens next. According to Scripture, the earth is repopulated during the Millennial Kingdom period.
If all God’s people are raptured as the Lord Jesus returns that will leave only the wicked on earth when He returns. The wicked will be destroyed as they will NEVER inherit the kingdom of God.
So if the wicked are destroyed and God’s people are all raptured then who will be left to enter into the 1000 year Kingdom?
When people go into the 1000 year kingdom they will not have their eternal bodies but will be just like we are today.
They will marry and have children. After the rapture all God’s people will have their eternal bodies leaving no mortals left on earth to go into the 1000 year kingdom.
The post-Trib view is widely received, despite its problems. It’s adherents generally also believe that Israel plays no important role in the last days, since the promises of God to Israel were passed on to the Church after the Jews rejected their Messiah.
That is also one of the reasons that post-Tribulationists are so hostile to Dispensationalists and pre-Tribulationists; our ‘wrong-headed’ support for Israel based on our belief that God has a Plan for Israel that doesn’t include the Church. It explains the blatantly anti-Semitic nature of many mainstream churches. It is at the root of the ‘Christian anti-semitism’ that was responsible for centuries of persecution of the Jews by the Church.
It explains the ‘Christ-killer’ label that is used to incite anti-Semitic actions and to justify anti-Semitism as a worldview. To some Christians, the crowd’s demands, “Then answered all the people, and said, His Blood be on us, and on our children,” (Matthew 27:25) carries more weight than Jesus Himself, when He said, ” Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34)
That is not intended to characterize all people who hold to a post-Tribulation worldview, but explain the teachings of post-Tribulationalism and some of the reasons for their hostility to the pre-Tribulationist view.
The Dispensationalist, pre-Tribulationist view of the Rapture is the only one consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures. It allows for a secret, signless, Rapture of the Church, as taught by Our Lord.
It teaches that the Restrainer of evil is removed (the indwelt, Spirit-filled Church) which allows for the unrestrained evil of the antichrist. While the Holy Spirit will remain on the earth during the Tribulation, the Church does not.
The pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church is not awaiting the antichrist, it is awaiting the Christ, which is wholly consistent with Scriptures that promise a special crown for those who await His coming. Everything harmonizes with the Scriptures without the necessity to allegorize or spiritualize a literal teaching in order to make it work.
Now to the point. Every day we attempt to document some current event relevant to Bible prophecy. In point of fact, we haven’t documented a single FULFILLMENT of a Bible prophecy since the restoration of Israel in 1948 — and that is a prophecy in the process of fulfillment. Israel has been restored, the Jews regathered to their ancient homeland, but their national redemption is yet future.
What we are witnessing are more like shadows in the sense that one can see a shadow of a man, but not his features. From the shadow, you can identify with certainty that it is of a man, but that is about all you can say for sure.
Paul describes it as ‘seeing through a glass darkly’;
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
There are things we KNOW, and there are things unknown. We know, for example, that the government of the antichrist during the Tribulation will control the global economy, global government and global religious system. While we don’t know who he is, the development, in this generation, of these three distinct systems, casts the shadow of the antichrist. We see, but darkly, how it all plays out.
We know that the world will be divided into four distinct spheres of world power; Gog-Magog, the Kings of the East, the Kings of the South and the revived Roman Empire. The Bible makes no mention of a fifth, overarching superpower.
We see the development of those four Biblical spheres of global power, while the future of America is tenuous, to say the least. We are at war from without, at war from within, and blissfully ignorant of the perils posed by both. We see, in part, and we know in part, but darkly.
But all we see are shadows of the coming Tribulation. The Bible says that these events are NOT fulfilled until the Tribulation Period begins. These events were given, not as a warning to the Church, but as the ‘signs of His coming’ to enoourage the Church, particularly the Church of the last days.
The signs of His coming, and the unfolding of Bible prophecy, were given as a sign to a ‘wicked and adulterous generation’ which ‘seeketh after a sign’.
We see through a glass, darkly. We know things in part, and we see shadows in the signs of what is to come.
We KNOW that the Lord is coming for His Church before the antichrist is revealed.
It is the shadows that frighten us.