Vol: 48 Issue: 27 Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The other day, I received an earnest-sounding email from a reader with what I believed was a serious enough question.
The reader was referencing my column, ‘As By Fire’ and had a question about the Crown offered those believers ‘who love His appearing’. He wanted to know whether that Crown is given to all believers who love His appearing, whether pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib?
As I said, it was a reasonable-sounding question. I researched the matter, and replied that the crown of righteousness is extended to those ‘who love His appearing’ [those who study prophecy and anticipate His return] regardless of when they expect Him to return.
Alas, it was another ‘Rapture ambush’. His reply to my reply was the usual ‘you are wrong but are too arrogant to admit it’ stuff, accompanied by a cut and paste job of somebody ELSE’s Rapture research, peppered throughout with comments like, “How can you deny what Scripture says so clearly,” and suggesting I am leading people into “stumbling in the dark believing in some pre trib rapture???”
In reply, I sent him my standard response; “I have my opinion, and you have yours. Only one of us can be right, and neither will know until it happens. So debating it is a colossal waste of time.”
His response to me was a bit puzzling at first. “I agree with you. But I am sorry you feel that way.”
My correspondent went on to explain that he, too, had once been a ‘pretribber’, concluding, “So I know exactly what I am talking about!”
One sentence jumped out at me and set my mind to work; “In fact my entire Christian life hangs in the balance on the power of His revelation.”
What he wrote was correct on its face, but it was in the context of his faith in a post-trib Rapture.
I believe that the Bible clearly teaches a pre-trib Rapture, not because it holds out the promise of a ‘great escape’, or because somebody convinced me in a high-pressure sales job, or because it is my opinion and I am sticking to it.
I believe the Bible teaches a pre-trib Rapture because a pre-Trib Rapture puts the last days and the Tribulation into a context consistent with the overall flow of Bible prophecy.
That is the only reason that I teach a pre-trib Rapture. It makes no difference to me if other, sincere born-again believers embrace a different view; the timing of the Rapture plays no role in our salvation.
Saving faith is faith in Who is coming, that He is coming again, as promised, and that He will keep all His other promises, including standing as our Advocate before the Righteous Judge.
Our faith is that “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
But the timing of the Rapture is CENTRAL to the understanding of the overall Big Picture in the last days.
The ‘last days’ is a different era that the Tribulation Period. The ‘last days’ is used throughout Scripture in the context of the Church Age.
At Pentecost, the Apostles, newly-indwelt by the Holy Spirit, rushed from the Upper Room to the street, giddy from the experience. So giddy, in fact, that some bystanders thought they were drunk.
“Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But THIS IS THAT WHICH was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass IN THE LAST DAYS saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” (Acts 2:13-17)
The ‘last days’ is the Church Age, whereas the Tribulation is the ‘Time of Jacob’s Trouble’. They are two different Dispensations of God. That is central to understanding the times in which we now live.
We are currently in the “dispensation of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). Paul calls the conclusion of this present dispensation the ‘dispensation of the fullness of times.’ (Ephesians 1:10)
During this dispensation, believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
But John reminds us, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1John 4:3-4)
Note the context. John is speaking of the ‘spirit of antichrist’ which he says is ‘already in the world.’ He says that the spirit of antichrist cannot overcome the Church saints; because He Who indwells us (the Holy Spirit) is greater than the spirit of antichrist.
But this SAME PROPHET, writing of the SAME antichrist, (once antichrist comes in the flesh), says; “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to OVERCOME them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:7)
Since John penned both passages, and they cannot both be simultaneously true, the flow of Bible prophecy is interrupted, if the Church Age runs concurrent with the Tribulation.
During the Tribulation, the antichrist is ‘given’ power to overcome the saints. Is he ‘given’ power over the Holy Spirit? Jesus said, in the context of devils driving out devils, a house divided cannot stand’. (Matthew 12:25) Clearly, God isn’t giving power over Himself to the antichrist.
That leaves two possibilities, apart from a pre-trib Rapture.
The first is that the Holy Spirit indwells the Church until the onset of the Tribulation. Paul says He is ‘withdrawn’ BEFORE ‘that Wicked’ is revealed. (2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8)
For a pre-Trib Rapture to be a false doctrine means our generation was chosen out of all others in Church history to face the greatest spiritual trial the world has ever known without the Comforter Jesus promised would indwell us until He comes.
Or, it means that John was either lying when he said the spirit of antichrist cannot overcome indwelt believers, or when he said it could.
In either case, the promises of Scripture are broken.
Over the last thirty years, I’ve listened to explanation after explanation of why the pre-trib Rapture is a ‘false doctrine’. It usually revolves around the concept of a ‘great escape’ or some other misunderstanding of the flow of Bible prophecy.
Its opponents will spare no effort to ‘prove’ that it is a false doctrine, as if the timing of the Rapture were somehow of eternal significance. It is not.
The eternal significance of the Rapture is that, “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout . . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together WITH them in the clouds, to meet the Lord IN THE AIR. . .” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Now let’s try and pull it all together.
“And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, His disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
Note the first thing Jesus says. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:3-4)
Jesus said the one who comes in His Name would deceive ‘many’ – not all.
Speaking to Israel, Jesus said, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (John 5:43)
Paul identifies the one who Israel eventually (and temporarily) receives as their messiah is the antichrist.
If the one claiming to be Jesus is standing on the ground, instead of meeting me in the air, I won’t be deceived.
The doctrine of a pre-Trib Rapture isn’t a ‘great escape’ for the Church; it is a necessary evacuation of the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence as part of the overall Big Picture for the last days.
Remove it, and the chronology of Bible prophecy is thrown into chaos.
The pre-trib Rapture doctrine has no saving value. It is of no eternal consequence to anyone that they believe in a pre-Trib Rapture. I feel no particular need to convert someone to my understanding of the last days.
One is saved by God’s grace through faith in the finished Work of His Son on the Cross as payment in full as our pardon for sin.
But without the pre-Trib Rapture doctrine, Bible prophecy has no context. That is why I teach it as doctrine. It is my obligation as a minister of Christ. And my insurance against end-times deception.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15)