Vol: 79 Issue: 30 Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I received another debate challenge in this morning’s email — this one offering me — or any of you — a check for $1000 if you can prove to my challenger’s satisfaction that there is a:
“literal and direct statement in the scriptures saying that there is a coming of Jesus from heaven, in the days before the tribulation!!”
I’ve yet to understand this whole “let’s debate the unimportant at the expense of the critical” mentality that surrounds the Rapture Question.
I politely declined the offer, but if any of you are hungry for that thousand dollar check, email me and I will forward you his contact information. But don’t start planning how you’ll spend your money yet.
What my challenger is looking for is a verse that says “there shalt be a coming of Jesus from Heaven before the Tribulation” — and if there were such a verse, then he wouldn’t be seeking his ‘debate’.
Since the Bible verses that do talk about the Rapture cannot be construed to mean anything else, finding something more explicit is a fool’s errand.
I won’t take his debate challenge for two reasons; the first is that he isn’t interested in learning anything from the Scriptures. The second is that there is something intrinsically creepy about turning the Bible into a game show for money.
(“I’ll take eternal security for $1000, Alex!”)
I am sure my challenger will use my refusal to debate as ‘evidence’ supporting his position, but for the life of me, I can’t see why anybody would care.
If one doesn’t believe the Scriptures teach a pre-Trib Rapture, but believes that all men are sinners who’ve come short of the glory of God and that Jesus paid the penalty for sin for all those who will Trust Him, then that person is as saved as a pre-Trib Dispensationalist is.
If the Rapture happens before that person dies, then that person will be translated along with the rest of us, whether he or she believes it or not.
The Bible tells believers to walk by faith and not by sight. (2nd Corinthians 5:7)
It promises, “For IF we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.”
The Apostle Paul adds weight to that promise, invoking the “Word of Lord” to give additional weight to his testimony, writing;
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: 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: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:14-17)
Note the words set off in boldface.
The Lord descends from Heaven , the dead in Christ rise FIRST and then those who are both alive and remaining on the earth are caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air . . . what else COULD it mean?
But in any case, it is irrelevant to salvation — Paul says one must ALREADY be saved as a condition of being raptured.
There is little point to debating what comes afterwards.
There are good, sincere, (and sincerely saved) Christians who believe that the timing of the Rapture is a big deal — that Christians must be prepared to face the antichrist.
They believe that Christians who expect the Rapture to whisk them away before the Tribulation will be so shattered if they find themselves facing the choice between accepting and rejecting the Mark that they will lose their faith and take it.
Nowhere in Scripture can I find even a hint suggesting that one’s salvation is depending on their faith in their ability to know what the Lord Himself was unknowable, ie; the timing of the Rapture.
My challenge’s argument (which he shared with me in advance) is predicated on a fatal flaw; like so many others, he views the Rapture as some ‘Great Escape’ designed to protect Christians from the Wrath of God.
Jesus promised that the Comforter would indwell me until He returns:
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. . . . But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:18,26)
Paul says that the antichrist cannot be revealed until the Restrainer of Evil (the Holy Spirit) is ‘taken out of the way’. (2nd Thessalonians 2:7)
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would indwell me until He comes, Paul says the Holy Spirit must be taken out of the way before the antichrist is revealed.
While we may see it as a ‘Great Escape’ from our perspective, from the Lord’s perspective it is a great evacuation by the Holy Spirit, which necessitates evacuating the vessels He indwells — or else Jesus’ Promise not to leave me comfortless is nullified.
If, as my challenger believes, there is no pre-Trib Rapture, then he will still go to heaven when he dies, if he trusted in Jesus for his salvation. It is not a case of ‘either-or’ — it isn’t really even a case of ‘when’.
Whether one leaves this earth bodily while still alive or leaves this earth the way everybody else does at death, they still leave this earth.
The ‘end of the world’ is only important to the living. Whether I die alone, die along with millions, or I am Raptured with the living, from my perspective, my worldly sojourn is over — my ‘world’ has ended.
If the criteria for salvation is grace by faith and not of works — lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9) then the manner of death is irrelevant.
Whether I die as a believer in a car crash tomorrow or whether I am one of the Tribulation saints beheaded for refusing the Mark, I am equally dead, insofar as this world is concerned.
I go to the same heaven, face the same believer’s judgement, stand before the same Righteous Judge and will receive the same rewards whether I get there via accident or old age or the Rapture.
Assuming that a Christian would be fooled into accepting the Mark because the Rapture didn’t happen yet assumes salvation by faith in the Rapture.
If I made that assumption, I wouldn’t worry about that person’s understanding of the Rapture, I’d worry about their salvation. I’d be much more concerned with sharing the Gospel of salvation with them than arguing about the antichrist.
The Apostle John specifically links accepting the mark of the beast with offering worship TO the beast. Further, he says that those who refuse will be put to death.
If a world leader demands you both accept a mark on your right hand or forehead AND bow down and worship him and you can’t figure out who he is or your responsibility as a Christian, it wouldn’t matter if the Rapture was pre-Trib or not. You would still have been left behind.
In the final analysis, we can infer the following from the Scriptures:
1) At some point, Jesus returns ‘in the air’ and calls out believers who then meet Him in the air. (1st Thessalonians 4:17, Acts 1:11, 1st Corinthians 15:51-57)
2) The ministry of the Holy Spirit is withdrawn from the earth before the Tribulation. (2nd Thessalonians 2:6-8)
3) Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would indwell believers until He comes. John 14:18-26)
4) The criteria for who goes in the Rapture and who is left behind isn’t based on when they think the Rapture will happen. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
5) Whether or not someone will meet the Lord in the air is based on whether or not they believe that Jesus died and rose again, not when He comes. (1st Thessalonians 4:14)
As to whether or not believers are ‘prepared’ for the Tribulation Period, what are they preparing for? Physical survival? How does that line up with the Word of the Lord?
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35)
Will believers be unprepared to face the antichrist? It depends on where one has placed their faith. If their faith is in Christ, the Bible addresses that issue head-on, as well.
“But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” (Mark 13:11)
The Rapture Question is not really a question. . . it is a diversion from what is of eternal importance. What is of eternal importance isn’t whether the Rapture is pre, mid, or post-Trib.
What matters is that one is saved when it does.