End Times and MythsThe Bible teaches that Jesus will set up a Kingdom that shall have no end.  However, speculation about the prophecies have led to a doctrine of escapism, which isn’t found in the Bible, which contradicts Biblical principles, and which leads the church to expect defeat.

Where in the Bible is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

Many respected preachers teach a dogmatic doctrine that is not directly stated anywhere in the Bible. You know the story: at any time, all people with even the barest belief in Jesus could be suddenly raptured to Heaven, so that the world can be turned over to the devil and suffer the wrath of God. This is called the “pre-tribulation rapture.”

I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible where such a thing is said. It’s not there. As an objective reader, it should jump off the page screaming that the entire doctrine is based on arguments. Yet it isn’t taught as a theory. It’s presented as a foundational prophecy and widely accepted.

In practicing law, you often deal with experts who disagree. In examining their conclusions, the question is always the same: “What is the basis of your opinion?” — Do that here. Our basis is the Bible. What does it say?

If you read the Biblical prophecies about the second coming of Christ and the catching-up of the saints, you’ll find a very different story than what is commonly taught.

Sinners Taken First

Simply reading through the New Testament, here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 13, in the Parable of the Weeds:

•  The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” “No, he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

Jesus interpreted this parable himself:

•  The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Matthew 24:37-43 repeats the same idea, that the wicked will be taken and the righteous left behind:

•  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

•  See also Luke 17:20-37; compare Revelation 14:14-20.

And so by reading the Bible, we learn something very different than typical pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.  If such doctrine were correct, we’d expect to find some witness of it.  Amos 3:7; 2 Corinthians 13:1.  It’s true that we don’t know everything. Daniel 12:9; Revelation 10:4.  And symbolic language may surprise us.  See Revelation 12.  But as explained below, pre-trib doctrine is deeply contradictory to the teachings of the Bible.  And if you consider the effect of making people unproductive and expecting defeat, it’s easy to discern myth from truth.

Jesus Describes the Elect Bearing Witness During Tribulation

Jesus’ description of end-times are recorded in Matthew 24-25Mark 13, Luke 17:20-37 and Luke 21.

There’s a debate about whether (1) these verses were completely fulfilled during the Roman invasion when the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. (the end of their age, within a generation as called for in Matthew 24:34); (2) to what extent there is duality in these prophecies that apply also to future times (scripture often has more than one layer of meaning); and (3) how much is literal or symbolic (parables and prophecies are known for symbolism, similar to dreams).

Regardless of how broadly these verses apply, Jesus does not say that anyone will be raptured away beforehand – but quite the opposite.  Jesus teaches that the elect will bear witness during a time of tribulation that comes upon “all.”

•  Matthew 24:9-14. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

•  Matthew 24:22. “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”

•  Matthew 24:29-31. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Accord Mark 13:24-27.

•  Luke 21:8-9. And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

•  Luke 21:13-19. “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. … By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

•  Luke 21:25-28. “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

•  Luke 21:34-36. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” See also Luke 17:20-37 (describing “the day when the Son of Man is revealed”).

Jesus Prayed to Leave Us in the World

Further, pre-trib rapture doctrine fails to address Jesus’ own prayer before the Crucifixion, in which he asks for all future disciples to be left in the world to bear witness:

•  John 17:13-21.  But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

•  See also John 6:44.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

We Should Have a Sense of Timing

Some people draw an inference of a separate rapture before Jesus’ final return, based on Jesus’ teaching that no one knows the day and hour of his return.  See, e.g., Matthew 24:36-44.  Pre-trib doctrine argues Jesus has to come before the tribulation, because afterwards, people would have a sense of the timing.  However, Jesus teaches that even though you don’t know the day or hour, you should have a sense of timing and recognize the season:

•  Matthew 24:32-33.  From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates.

•  Luke 21:25-28.  And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Paul puts it like this:

•  1 Thessalonians 5:2-6.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

And so the unknown day is a trap for those who aren’t watching:

•  Matthew 24:48-51.  But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

•  Luke 21:34.  But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

And here’s a verse we like to use in prayer meetings, to be like the men of Issachar:

•  1 Chronicles 12:23-40.  These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said: … from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command

Some Miss the Marriage Feast or Have No Reward

The church needs better goals than barely escaping Hell.  We are meant to bear fruit for the Kingdom, becoming more Christ-like and building a relationship with God.  (See Go Beyond Salvation).  Jesus gave two parables about this when describing the end-times in Matthew 25:

•  In the parable of the ten virgins, there are five foolish virgins with no oil in their lamps (symbolic of spirit).  When the bridegroom comes, they are trying to buy oil, and miss his coming.  When they later try to enter the marriage feast, they are told, “I do not know you.”  —  They are still pure virgins.  But they do miss the coming of the bridegroom and the marriage feast.

•  In the parable of the talents (a unit of money), servants are rewarded if they multiplied what they were given.  But the servant who does not multiply his talent, has it taken away.

Accordingly, there are different positions in the Kingdom of God, whether we die and go to Heaven or happen to be here when Jesus returns.

•  Parable of the Ten MinasLuke 19:11-27.  …He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.  The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.”  “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities. …”

Paul Agrees with Jesus

Paul describes believers being transformed “at the last trumpet.”  He never says that all believers will be removed from the world before any tribulation happens.

•  1 Corinthians 15:50-55.  I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

•  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

•  2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.  Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

[Notes:  There appears to be a single day set both for Christ’s return and our being gathered to him.  Further, these events may mark the mid-point in the seven year Tribulation.  See, e.g., Daniel 9:27; 12:1-13; (assuming Daniel’s prophecies apply also to the end-times and not only to the destruction of the Temple around 70 A.D. – see “Notes” at the bottom of this page for more discussion.)]

If you read Paul’s letters at face value, they agree perfectly with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25Mark 13, Luke 17 & Luke 21.  Pre-trib advocates use the words “who are left” to infer a separate rapture, in which non-believers are left behind, some of which then become believers “who are left.”  That’s a very strained interpretation of a simple phrase.  But even if a separate rapture is inferred, there’s nothing expressly requiring it to be before the tribulation.  See 2 Peter 3:15-16 (noting Paul’s writings were being distorted then).

The Bible is truth, and it sanctifies you.  There’s a curse for adding to it.  Revelation 22:18.  You should study the Bible for yourself – and pray for understanding.  If you love truth and spend time reading the Bible, truth should be easier to see.  And sometimes truth is admitting what we don’t know:

•  Deuteronomy 29:29The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

We like to speculate about things we don’t know.  But guessing at unrevealed knowledge by human reasoning is very likely to lead to error.  1 Corinthians 2:14.  When error becomes doctrine, it turns into an idol that elevates itself above God’s word.  Mark 7:6-13.

John’s Book of Revelation

I tread lightly in Revelation, noting that some things are expressly sealed.  Revelation 10:4.  There’s also questions about (1) how much of the book was fulfilled by the Roman invasion around 70 A.D., and (2) how much is literal or symbolic.  I also don’t wish to suggest my opinion is doctrine.  It isn’t.  Nevertheless, if you search the book, you won’t find any direct teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture.  But there are some interesting things to note.  Specifically, Revelation 12 can be argued to support a separate rapture of some transfigured Christians, as discussed below.  But the language appears symbolic.  And even if that theory is correct, I can’t find anything that would place such an event before the tribulation.

Notes on Revelation 1-12

Revelation 1:7

In Revelation 1:7, John writes:  “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.  Even so.  Amen.”

This statement is similar to Jesus’ teachings in Matthew and Luke, and Paul’s writings, as discussed above.  There is no mention of a separate rapture beforehand.

The Seven Seals

In Revelation 5-8, John sees the Lamb that was slain (Jesus) opening a scroll with seven seals.  The first four seals release the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  (Revelation 6.)  The fifth seal reveals martyrs who are told their number is not yet complete.  The sixth seal releases a great earthquake, the sun becomes black, the moon becomes like blood, mountains and islands are removed, etc. and the people of Earth hide in caves from the face of God and the wrath of the Lamb.  “After this,” in Revelation 7, John sees a “great multitude that no one could number” who are “the ones coming out of the great tribulation.”  The text does not expressly say how the great multitude came out, or when, and I am reluctant to assume too much.  But it’s hard not to notice that John doesn’t see the “great multitude” until after the sixth seal.  Further, who will bear witness to bring in this “great multitude” if all Christians are removed from the world?

Catching Up of the Man-Child

Revelation 12 directly discusses a catching up, but appears to use symbolism.  In summary:  A dragon pursues a woman who gives birth to a man-child that will rule all nations.  The man-child is caught up to Heaven.  The woman is protected in the wilderness.  The dragon makes war on the rest of the woman’s offspring, people who keep the word of God, defeating them.

Although Revelation 12 is one of few places where a catching-up to Heaven is directly discussed, it isn’t the story of a pre-tribulation rapture of all Christians.  Since Revelation 12 appears to speak in the language of dreams and parables, there is a lot of speculation about who-or-what these figures represent.  But whatever the answer, the catching up isn’t everyone.  (See also the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25).

On the surface, the man-child is Jesus.  However, in my opinion, these verses don’t completely fit the account of Jesus.  (Jesus did die on the cross with the Dragon in pursuit.  However, Jesus also defeated Satan on the cross, rose again, and then ascended.)  Rather, Revelation 12 appears to have a deeper layer of prophetic symbolism.  I haven’t had specific revelation on these verses, so all I can offer is conjecture.  But I offer it anyway, to share my research.

In the language of dreams, a woman giving birth is a common metaphor for bringing something about; like in the business world if someone refers to a project as “my baby.”  A woman is sometimes used to symbolize the church, such as the bride of Christ, and the woman may be various ages depending on the context of the dream/vision.  Accordingly, there is a teaching that the woman in Revelation 12 represents a portion of the church giving birth to a holy generation that transfigures itself (like Enoch) and is caught up into Heaven.  Then, the church is protected by fleeing to the wilderness, while the unprepared Christians are attacked and defeated.  (See Neville Johnson in the Resources page.)  This teaching is similar to the Genesis story of the flood:  Enoch was caught up to Heaven for having a deep relationship with God (Genesis 5:21-24), Noah and his family were protected for being righteous (Genesis 6-7), and those who “sometime[s] were disobedient” died (Genesis 6-7; 1 Peter 3:19-20).

I cannot yet say if this theory is correct.  But I agree that we are called to repent of sin and to develop a relationship with God.  Abiding with God brings the protection of Psalm 91.  And there is precedent that someone can become transfigured and caught up.  Enoch and Elijah achieved this before the crucifixion and spirit baptism (and possibly Moses).  I’ve heard stories of others.  But if you’re looking for a rapture, you need to seek relationship with God.

Notes: Theory of a Righteous Generation

Neville Johnson teaches that, in the end times, a group of people will transform themselves and overcome the last enemy – death.  (See This Generation Series, part 2; see also Seed of the Woman series, parts 1-4).

And so I’ve found prophecies in Psalms about a righteous “generation” that serves Christ, which are echoed in Revelation.

•  Psalm 22:30A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

•  Psalm 24:3-6.  Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?  He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

•  Psalm 78:1-8.  Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.  For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:  That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:  That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:  And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

•  Psalm 102:16-18.  When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.  He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.  This shall be written for the generation to come:  and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD.

•  Psalm 112:1-2.  Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.  His seed shall be mighty upon earth:  the generation of the upright shall be blessed.

•  Revelation 19:7-8.  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

The idea of a final, righteous generation is most clearly referenced in the Book of EnochEnoch isn’t part of our Bible, but it was read at the time of Christ, and 1 Enoch 1.9 is apparently quoted by the Lord’s brother in Jude 1:14-15.  However, Enoch was left out of scriptural canon in the West and was then lost for many centuries.  In 1773, copies of Enoch were brought back from the church in Ethiopia (see Acts 8:26-40), and the first English edition was published in 1821.  I link below to a 1906 translation of an Ethiopian text.  There are actually five books attributed to Enoch.  And like the early church, who left them out, we’re still not sure about them.  But I find them interesting to consider, especially where there are prophecies supported by the Bible:

•  The first book of Enoch is addressed to a remote generation1 Enoch, Ch. 1.1-2.  The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous, who will be living in the day of tribulation, when all the wicked and godless are to be removed. And he took up his parable and said -Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw, but not for this generation, but for a remote one which is for to come.

•  5 Enoch, Ch. 106.17-107.2  [F]or I know the mysteries of the holy ones; for He, the Lord, has showed me and informed me, and I have read (them) in the heavenly tablets. And I saw written on them that generation upon generation shall transgress, till a generation of righteousness arises, and transgression is destroyed and sin passes away from the earth, and all manner of good comes upon it.

 

Revelation 14 and 16

Revelation 14 and 16

A few more points of interest:

  Revelation 14:9-13.  And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

  Revelation 16:12-16.  The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

Notes: Refuting Arguments

Pre-trib rapture proponents draw out a few arguments from Revelation, but they are extremely weak.  For example, Revelation 2-3 presents letters to churches that existed in John’s time.  Then in Revelation 4, John goes up to Heaven (caught-up in the Spirit) to see “what must take place after this.”  The rest of Revelation refers to saints instead of separate churches.  Pre-trib proponents argue the language change means that all the churches must be gone.  This is very presumptuous.  Revelation’s mention of saints as-a-whole, instead of separate churches, is entirely consistent with there being one body of Christ.  Romans 12:5.  Nothing in the text expressly requires the removal of Christians from the world prior to the tribulation.

The second argument is that the letter to the church in Philadelphia says “because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”  Revelation 3:10.  Pre-trib proponents argue the Philadelphians will be raptured away before the seven year tribulation begins.  However, this also is presumptuous, in that the letter does not say how they will be kept from the hour of trial.  It also ignores that the Philadelphia church was a historical church in John’s time, not at the end-of-days.  Other interpretations teach that the Philadelphia church also refers to a later historical phase of Christianity that is faithful to God, such as in the 19th or 20th centuries.  Yet again, these were not the end-times and there is no record of Christians being raptured away.  Even if you assume that Philadelphia also refers to an end-time church, the pre-trib arguments still presume (1) that the only way God saves is by rapture, and (2) that rapture has to take place before the seven year tribulation, not just an “hour of trial” within it.  These are poor assumptions given that they contradict the teachings of Jesus and Paul, as discussed above.

 

Biblical Principles Contradict Pre-Trib Rapture Theories

Pre-Tribulation Rapture Doctrine – as commonly taught – conflicts with a number of Biblical principles and precedent.  If you’re reading the Bible daily, surely you notice that the Godly are willing to sacrifice themselves to save others.  Yet pre-trib proponents want to leave the world to burn behind them, with no witness of Jesus.  It’s hard to reconcile their view with the teachings of the Bible.  If the greatest showdown of good and evil is going to take place, Christians should expect to play a part.

God Uses Witnesses

The main principle that stands out to me is that God uses witnesses to reach the lost.  Likewise, in the Great Commission, Jesus commands all Christians to bear witness for him throughout the whole earth, even to “the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:16-20.

Before the Crucifixion, Jesus expressly prayed that His followers would NOT be taken out of the world, but would instead be His witnesses in it, while being protected from the evil one.  John 17:13-21.

Revelation 11 prophecies that God will send two witnesses to preach during the Tribulation for 1,260 days.  When they are finished, they will be killed.  Then after three-and-a-half days, they will be raised to life and called up to heaven in a cloud.  So even these two great men give their lives for Christ before being raptured.

Even during the Jewish Holocaust of World War II, God sent a witness for Christ into a concentration camp:  Corrie ten Boom.  In 1974, Corrie ten Boom wrote that pre-trib rapture doctrine was unscriptural, and it left people ill-prepared for persecution.  For example, many Christians died for their faith in China and Africa, under intense tribulation.

In fact, God says he does nothing without a witness.

•  Amos 3:7. “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

•  2 Corinthians 13:1, citing Deuteronomy 19:15, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”

If there is to be a pre-tribulation rapture, I’d expect it to find it in the Bible at least a few times.  So it isn’t hard to discern that the doctrine is wrong, when I can’t find it once in the Bible, and when it leads the church to expect defeat.  (i.e., no written basis and a bad result)

[Note: The principle of using a witness may explain why Jesus often said “Verily, verily” (or “truly, truly”) before teaching, as he was bearing witness to himself.  I also note that important points are often repeated back-to-back in scripture, such as the two dreams of Pharaoh.]

God Knows How to Save

God can protect you without rapturing you to Heaven.  It’s throughout the Bible.

•  2 Peter 1:21 – 2:10.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. … For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

•  Psalm 91.  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. …  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. …  Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent….

Christians Pass Through the Storm

If you turn to Biblical precedent, God often saves by bringing his followers through tribulation.  Daniel passed through the lion’s den.  His companions passed through the fiery furnace.  The patriarch Joseph passed through slavery and prison.  Paul went through prison and trials.  Jesus went through the Crucifixion.

•  John 15:20.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

We are meant to be overcomers.  I have a whole page on it here:  Love and Trials.  How can you overcome if God pulls you out of every trial?  That isn’t the teaching of the Bible.

When a nation goes through tribulation, so do the Christians within it.  Some Christians may go through it with a measure of protection, but they still go through it.  This is was what happened during the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

•  Jeremiah 45:2-5.  “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”

•  Ezekiel 9:4-6.  And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

Jesus’ First Coming Wasn’t What Experts Expected

I imagine that preachers of Jesus’ day fell into many of the same traps that preachers do today.  Prosperity doctrine was likely very popular, especially under the Mosaic law with the blessings of Deuteronomy 28 (“if you faithfully obey … the Lord will make you abound in prosperity”).   Prophecies about the Christ coming to rule were probably used to great effect.  Being under Roman rule, the people would’ve looked forward to a Messiah who would rule the world.  Yet Scripture records that these same teachers did not recognize Christ when he came, and did not understand the prophecies about the Christ having to suffer.

Given this history, it may be wise to view the prophecies with a healthy dose of humility and integrity.  Prophecies aren’t just hypotheticals that one can declare anything about and never see the consequences.  The Bible is very real.  The Bible records that some things are sealed up (Revelation 10:4), that there will be a great deception (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:11), and that there will be scoffers about the second coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:1-7).  I believe it.

Protection in the Storm

I’ve heard respected preachers say they believe in the pre-trib rapture because they can’t imagine God letting his followers suffer through a tribulation period.  Yet there are periods throughout history where followers of the Lord gave up their very lives as testimony.  This is happening today in the Middle East.  It’s true that God can protect us through trials.  2 Peter 2:9.  But even if we die for our faith, martyrdom is a powerful testimony to carry through eternity.

•  Revelation 14:13. “… Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Nevertheless, the Bible also describes powerful protections available through intimate relationship with God.  As quoted above, Jesus instructs us to “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:36.

•  Psalm 91He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.…

Psalm 91 is a great principle, whether we are in the end of the end-times or not.  For whatever times we are in, we are called to serve God.

Therefore, abide in God.  Develop a deep relationship with Him.  Walk with Him as Enoch did.  Genesis 5:22-24.  Renew your mind with Him as Paul teaches.  Romans 12:1-2.  Keep oil in your lamp.  Matthew 25:1-13.  Pray and worship and wait on Him.  Serve Him with all your heart to the best of your understanding.

What About the Harvest???

End-time teachings often have an immediacy to them – a sense that the world is ending now.  I’m not convinced with any certainty.  A lot could be said here, but I leave it at this:  What about the harvest?  The end of the age is often compared to a harvest.  A harvest is for mature fruit and mature seed.  I don’t see a lot of that right now.  But I expect great things.

•  Parable of the Weeds: Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn. … The harvest is the end of the age….

•  Mark 4:26-29.  He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

•  James 5:7.  Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.

•  See also Revelation 14:14-20.  Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  Joel 3:13.

And so I think there is more to come.

•  Ephesians 3:20-21.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

•  Revelation 19:7.  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

•  John 14:12.  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

•  1 Corinthians 2:4.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power….

A Sad Reality

As the season of prosperity changes (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), much of the American church slumbers under the belief that nothing bad will ever happen to them, or else they’ll be miracled away.  This is not the teaching of the Bible.  Psalm 34:19; Acts 14:22; John 16:33.  Meanwhile, America falls deep into moral darkness, and persecution of Christians has begun.  There are protections (Psalm 91) and great blessings (Psalm 103:11), but complacency isn’t the way to find them (Revelation 3:16; Proverbs 1:32; Proverbs 22:3).  Whatever the future holds, it’s in the present that we build a relationship with Christ and bear fruit for His Kingdom.  Psalm 90:12.  And what we do in the present shapes our future.  Proverbs 10:4.

There is no time in world history where negligence would’ve been a good plan.  Our refuge is in Christ.  Therefore, be sober-minded.  Seek God now.  Be doers and not hearers only.  James 1:22.  There are still powerful blessings available through the Lord.  Psalm 91.  Troubled times are our opportunity to testify about Jesus, not to look for the end of the world.  Ecclesiastes 11:4.  Don’t slumber.  It is past time to seek God.

•  Joel 2:1 and 2:12-18 (KJV).  Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand … Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God?  Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.

•  2 Chronicles 7:14.  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Caveats

Some of the end-time prophecies “are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”  Daniel 12:9; Revelation 10:4.  Thus, to the extent I offer my own speculation, it’s likely incomplete or even wrong.  (I would be surprised if I had everything right.)  However, I write this section because I find a lot of end-time teaching to be presumptuous, such that Biblical principles for going through hard times are being neglected in favor of denial and escapism.  And so I wish to raise questions and encourage sober minded thinking.

As I’ve searched for evidence and testimony about these subjects, much of what I’ve found is contradictory.  Thus, I don’t think of this as doctrine, but theory.  What does seem clear is that popular teaching on a pre-trib rapture is presumptuous, and it doesn’t prepare people for hard times and/or a kingdom harvest. (In the Parable of the Sower, those without root fall away.  Matthew 13:20-21.)

Even if it turns out that many of the end-time prophecies were fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., then Biblical principles for going through hard times still apply, and there is still an exciting future in Christ. (Ephesians 3:20).

Regardless, we need to master the principles of the Bible, for both the present and whatever future may come.

Notes: Preterism

There is another view that all or most of the end-time prophecies were fulfilled in the first century (preterism).  Jesus’ description of the end-times began with predicting the destruction of the temple, which occurred within a generation in 70 A.D., just as he said it would.  Matthew 24:1-2; Matthew 24:34Daniel 9:26.  And there are books that go through detailed descriptions of the Roman conquest and how it could apply to prophecy.

Admittedly, it’s been difficult to tell the extent to which prophecies apply to the Roman conquest, or to some future time, or both.  This is because short statements that are absolutely true can still be confusing without deeper explanation or context.  But I offer my personal opinion here, for whatever it’s worth, and I pray for further insight:

I disagree with the view that there are no future fulfillments to Biblical prophecy, and I believe at least some of the prophecies have a duality to them.  For example, Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 record Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ private question about “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  I suspect Jesus gave them prophecies that could be applied over a long time period, from the end of their current age to the end of the age of the gentiles and Jesus’ return to rule.  2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; see, e.g., Daniel 2:44; 7:27; Acts 1:6-11; Revelation 1:7 and ch. 19-21.  We expect to find such prophecies because God does nothing without a witness.  Amos 3:7; 2 Corinthians 13:1.  Moreover, scripture is God-breathed and has layers of meaning packed into it.  (See Importance of the Word).  Therefore, I find it reasonable to read Jesus’ prophecies about His return as being literal, and I believe it is normal for prophecies to apply to multiple time periods (e.g., prophecies about persecution of Christians).  Similarly, in Jesus’ time, religious leaders failed to understand that prophecies about the Messiah both suffering and ruling on Earth were discussing separate events in different time periods.

(For example, Daniel 9:20-27 appears to have a gap of time in between verse 26 (when the Messiah is “cut off”) and verse 27 (when the covenant with many is made for “one week” and broken in the midst of the week).  See also Daniel 12 (seeming to set forth a period of ~ three-and-a-half years before the end of days).

But I also recognized that Jesus is here now, in his body the church.  I truly expect great things.  Not defeat, but victory, even as we take up our cross daily to follow Jesus.  Luke 9:23.

•  John 14:12.  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  Ephesians 3:20-21.

•  Revelation 19:7-8. Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

In these matters, our understanding is far from complete.  And I hope to be continually learning.  See Daniel 12:9 (“Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.”)

There’s more that could be written on all these topics, but this is intended as a summary, and I hope it is edifying. 

 

 

Erik
Originally, June 2013; “What About the Harvest,” October 2014