Although the exact word "rapture," isn't in the Bible, millions of prophecy minded Christians have nevertheless been taught that soon God's Church will disappear from Planet Earth without a trace. This has been drilled into our psyche by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in their best selling series of Left Behind books. Left Behind teaches that the return of Jesus Christ takes place in two distinct phases. First, Jesus comes invisibly to remove His Church before a seven-year tribulation during which the rest of humanity must face the antichrist. This is the rapture. At the end of those seven years, Jesus will again return visibly to deliver those who become Christians during the tribulation - after being given a "second chance" to be saved - and to pulverize the invading enemies of Israel at Armageddon. This is the second coming. Thus it's rapture first, then seven years with the antichrist, then the visible second coming of Jesus Christ.
But is this biblical? You say of course it is! But have you read church history? More about that later.
But first we must dissect one of the cardinal passages of scripture wrongly interpreted by the Futurist school of thought so prevalent in today's Christian Church.
The Bible certainly does teach the exciting truth the Jesus Christ will return for His people. Our Lord himself said, "I will come again and receive you to myself" John 14:3. But will he come invisibly as most Christians think? Will the Church just disappear? Does the Bible really teach vanishing Christians? Without a doubt the most quoted passage used to support the rapture concept is I Thessalonians 4:17. There Paul wrote that true believers will someday be "caught up... in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (I Thessalonians 4:17). But does caught up mean to disappear? Is Paul describing a silent return of Jesus Christ before an apocalyptic seven-year tribulation? We don't need to guess. The answer is in the context of the verse.
Here is what Paul actually wrote:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.(I Thessalonians 4:16-17).Rapture teachers interpret this event as silent and secret, yet doesn't it seem rather loud and visible? There is a shout,a voice, a trumpet. Have you ever heard of a silent trumpet? Look again. This verse is certainly one of the noisiest verses in the Bible. Look carefully: Jesus Christ comes down from Heaven shouting and blowing a trumpet. The dead rise. Then true believers are "caught up". Honestly do you see anything here about vanishing Christians prior to the tribulation? Rapture promoters interpret "caught up" to mean disappear because this view fits their tightly-meshed prophetic system, yet it must be admitted that the text doesn't say this.
Two thousand years ago, at the end of His earthly life, Jesus Christ was also "taken up" (Acts 1:9). This doesn't mean He disappeared, leaving His clothes on earth. Instead, in full view of His wondering disciples, "while they watched", He was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9, emphasis added). This event was HIGHLY visible. Luke said Jesus Christ was "taken up," and then clouds are mentioned, just like Paul wrote about believers being "caught up ...in the clouds."
Now notice carefully the full context of Acts 1:9:
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11 emphasis added).Here we have holy angels - in the form of men in white robes - explaining the simple truth about Jesus Christ's return. They told the disciples that just as Jesus was literally and visibly "taken up" into the clouds, even so would He "come in like manner as [they had seen] Him go into heaven." These angels taught no secret coming or vanishing Christians. Everything will be HIGHLY VISIBLE, just like the ascension of Jesus Christ.(Emphasis mine)
But what about I Thessalonians 4:16-17? Again we need to look at the context in which it was stated by looking at the subsequent verses.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!", then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. (I Thessalonians 4:16-5:3, emphasis added).Here Paul compares the coming of Jesus Christ to the arrival of a midnight thief. Rapture promoters interpret this to mean Jesus will come like a silent thief to snatch believers off of this earth before seven years of chaos - then driverless cars will crash, pilotless planes will collide, and babies will be found missing from their cribs. Left Behind: The Movie portrays this dramatically. Yet is this really what Paul is saying?
First of all, the day when Jesus comes as a thief is clearly the very same day in which He descends with a shout and a trumpet blast. Secondly, it comes as "a thief in the night" only upon the unprepared. When it hits, "sudden destruction comes upon them [the lost], as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape."
Do you see what Paul is really saying? Jesus' coming as "a thief in the night" does not mean He will come quietly and invisibly to steal believers out of this world, as is taught in rapture movies and New York Times best selling books. Rather it means He will come unexpectedly, bringing "sudden destruction" upon the UNSAVED. Thus it is not a secret coming, but only a sudden one. Will the unprepared get a "second chance" to be saved during a subsequent seven-year tribulation? Paul answered this question when he wrote, "They shall not escape" (verse 3)
Here is a simple summary of what I Thessalonians 4:16-5:3 really says.
*Jesus Christ will literally descend from Heaven with a shout and a trumpet blast.
*The dead in Christ will rise first and true believers will be "caught up," just like Jesus Christ Himself was visibly "taken up" into the sky 2,000 years ago.
*This cataclysmic "day of the Lord" will burst upon the unprepared like the unexpected arrival of a midnight thief.
*"Sudden destruction" will overwhelm the lost, "and they shall not escape."
When taken literally as it should be, these words describe the visible second coming of Jesus Christ, not a secret rapture.
To re-summarize what we have just discovered; The rapture is NOT secret but will occur once at the last trumpet call of God. It will be visible and loud and occur at Christ's second coming.
"If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse, you may be dead."
Let's dissect another often quoted verse used by Futurists to justify the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians. Matthew 24:40-42
Jesus Christ predicted, "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two woman will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:40-42.
This is probably the second most quoted Scripture in the Bible used to support the doctrine of the invisible return of Jesus Christ and vanishing Christians. Supposedly, "one will be taken and the other left" means believers will disappear in an unperceived flash, while the rest of the world suddenly wakes up in mystified ignorance wondering,"Which way did they go?
Again, the key is in the context. Matthew 24 begins with our Savior quietly sitting upon the Mount of Olives. His "disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'" (Matthew 24:3) Obviously, the disciples were thinking about Jesus return and the end of the world.
Before we look at Christ's response, notice the little word, "coming", in verse 3. The original Greek word there is, "Parousia" - you can check it in any concordance. While you don't need to be a Greek scholar to understand the Bible, that small word is of large importance. As we shall soon see, the "Parousia Principle" will soon provide vital insights into the rapture question.
In response to His disciples' please-clarify-the-end inquiry, Christ's very first words were, "Take heed that no one deceives you" (Matthew 24:4). The forcefulness of this response should hit us like a hurricane! Why? Because it clearly implies that when it comes to this exact topic of His "coming" or "Parousia," Jesus knew there was going to be a great deal of deception whirling around. And what is even more dramatic is that Christ raised His "Don't Be Deceived" warning flag four times in this single sermon (see Matthew 24:4-5, 11,24). One gets the idea that end time delusions will someday sweep over Planet Earth like a massive tidal wave. The only way to avoid being swept away in this swirling sea of falsehood is to pay close attention to the exact words of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord continued, "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). Here Jesus said satan's delusions will eventually become so subtle and powerful that only "the elect" will come through unscathed. Based on the context, they must be a group of people who know the Truth Teller and the Bible so well that even the devil can't mislead them. Verse 31 also tells us that "the elect" are people who are ready for the return of Jesus Christ.
Immediately after warning about tricky false prophets and deception, Jesus said, "Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it or not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:26-27 KJV, emphasis added). Here Jesus draws a razor-sharp contrast between false views of His return and the truth.
Concerning false views, don't miss that little word, "secret" (verse 26). Jesus plainly warned that some will mistakenly promote a "secret" coming. Based on the context, we discover that this will be one of those powerful delusions which only God's faithful elect will avoid. How should we respond to the idea of a secret return? Christ's answer is stunning. "Believe it not"! Why? Because "as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be"(verse 27).
Far from being a secret event, Jesus Himself compares His return to the brilliant flashing of electrically-charged bolts of lighting hurtling across the sky. Now here's an important point. Guess what exact Greek word Matthew used for "coming" in verse 27? The same one he used in verse 3 - "Parousia." This is clear evidence that the Parousia definitely applies to the highly visible second coming of Jesus Christ. When it comes to the Parousia, Jesus clarified it would be anything but secret.
Christ's bewildered disciples had inquired,"..what will be the sign of Your coming [the Parousia], and of the end of the age?" After warning about secretive delusions, Jesus finally answered their exact question by lifting the curtain of history and fully unveiling what His cataclysmic return would be like:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:30-31 KJV).This description of Jesus Christ's return contains more punch than the highly speculative, evolutionary, Big Bang theory. There's no question about it. His "coming," or "Parousia," will be unmistakably visible to "all the tribes of the earth." The dazed masses of humanity will literally "see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Certainly no one will miss it, and no one will wake up the next day wondering, Which way did the Christians go? On that awesome day, the unsaved will "mourn." Why? Because their loved ones have vanished? No! But because Jesus Christ has suddenly come and their last chance for preparation is behind them. Now it's too late. They're lost forever.
This entire passage also parallels Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Just like Paul's description of what will happen when true believers are "caught up," Jesis Christ also said His coming would be very noisy event that will include loud reverberations from "a great sound of a trumpet" throughout the sky. When that booming blast is heard, multitudes of shining angels will descend into Earth's polluted atmosphere, circle the globe, and "gather together" His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Thus true believers will be "caught up" into the air. Now don't miss it. These are the very same elements Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4:17!
In both Matthew 24:30-31, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, we read about clouds, noise, a loud trumpet, a gathering together, and true believers being transported into the sky. When we place these sections side-by-side without prejudice or preconceived ideas - the message is unavoidable, inescapable, and irrefutable. Both passages refer to the loud, climatic, highly visible, and glorious second coming of Jesus Christ!
Back to Matthew 24; the Truth-teller continued:
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before, 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. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:36-44, emphasis added).Here Jesus Christ compared His return to the sudden descent of billions of tons of water upon lost sinners in Noah's day. Those ancient people thought Noah was a crazy old man, until "the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:39, emphasis added). Guess what Greek word is used here again for "coming"? It's "Parousia" which, as we have already proven, unmistakably applies to the highly visible second coming of Jesus Christ.
Now notice, immediately after Jesus described His "Parousia" in verse 39, He continued without skipping a beat: "THEN two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left" (verse 40, emphasis added). Remember this is the second most widely quoted verse used to buttress the secret rapture doctrine. Supposedly, when verse 40 is fulfilled, those who are "taken" will vanish without a trace, leaving only their clothes, shoes, false teeth, and wedding rings, while those who are "left" will have to endure a horrific seven-year tribulation and face the antichrist. But is this really what Jesus Christ is saying?
We don't need to depend on scholars to find the answer. In fact, it is never safe to lean completely on any man, no matter how smart or educated they may be. Christians should never be taught to rely solely on Tim LaHaye, John Walvoord, Thomas Ice, Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Grant Jeffrey, Chuck Smith, John Hagee, or any other popular teacher, including Steve Wohlberg. We all should open our own Bibles, pick up our own concordances, and find out for ourselves what truth is. If you are willing to do it, here is what you will surely find: Believers will be "taken" (verse 40) at the "coming," or "Parousia" (verse 39), which the Bible clearly applies to the loud, visible, and glorious appearance of Jesus Christ at the very end of the world (see Matthew 24:3,27,30-31,39)
Jesus basically said, "It will be just like Noah's day" (see verses 37-39). Now think about it. Did Noah and his family vanish before the flood? No, they walked visibly into the ark. And what about those who were left behind after the door of the ark was shut? Did they have a second chance? No again. How were they left, and took them all away," Jesus made His power-packed point, "so also will the coming [Parousia] of the Son of Man be" (verse 39). And then, without a break, Christ said, "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left" (verse 40, emphasis added). Upon careful analysis, these words leave no room for Left Behind's ongoing saga about "tribulation believers" resisting the antichrist during a post-rapture seven-year period. Why not? because those who are "taken" are transported up at the "coming," or "Parousia," which applies to the final second coming of Jesus Christ!
Immediately after saying, "One will be taken and the other left," the King of Kings then compared His second coming to the sudden arrival of a midnight thief, just like Paul did in I Thessalonians 5:2-3. Jesus Christ said, "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief could come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Matthew 24:43-44). To "watch" doesn't mean spending endless hours in front of the television set, nor does it mean watching popular movies about the end times which take detours away from the straight truth. Rather it, means to watch out for satanic temptations and end time delusions.
Matthews 24 and I Thessalonians 4 and 5 fit together just as perfectly as Adam and Eve before they sinned. Both describe a noisy, highly visible, trumpet-blasting, and glorious return of Jesus Christ in the clouds. Both describe believers being transported into the air.
Both declare this day will come with thief-like suddenness upon all sleeping sinners. In Noah's day, when billions of tons of water came crashing down, there were no second chances for those who refused to enter the ark. Similarly, Paul said the lost "shall not escape." And both Paul and Matthew use the same Greek word to describe this great and awesomely powerful "day of the Lord." Look in your own concordance. It's "Parousia," which clearly refers to Christ's second coming. True believers are urged to watch, be ready, and to avoid all subtle, secretive, devilish tricks.
Now let's look at one more passage describing an event predicted to occur "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (I Corinthians 15:52). This is probably the third most quoted pro-rapture verse used to support the idea of vanishing Christians prior to a nightmarish seven-year tribulation. Context, context, context - that's the safety zone we must be in when interpreting scripture. Notice carefully what Paul wrote:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall all not 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis added).Is Paul saying believers will some day vanish while their loved ones blink? Not at all! He is simply saying that the dead will be raised and our sinful bodies will be changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." When will this "moment" take place? Paul's answer is clear. It will occur "at the last trumpet," when "the trumpet will sound," that is, the very end of the world. This is the very same "great sound of a trumpet" Jesus Christ said would be heard when He finally commissions His shiny angelic friends to gather His people at His second coming (see Matthew 24:31).
In summary, the Parousia Principle (supported by the context of Matthew 24) proves the "one will be taken" event occurs at the final second coming of Jesus Christ. And based on the full context of I Corinthians 15:52, "the twinkling of an eye" moment similarly occurs at the end of the age.
To add a a seven-year extension to Jesus Christ's word in Matthew 24:40, or to Paul's message in I Corinthians 15:52 is, quite frankly, an end time delusion.
In summary Matthew 24:40-42, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthian 15:52 all agree and describe Christians being "caught up" at Christ's second coming which will not be secret but loud and visible to all at the end of the world.
In light of the preceding information your next question will probably be something like the following: If there is no pre-tribulation rapture because this is an end time delusion then will Christians have to go through the tribulation to face the antichrist?
Die-hard, pre-tribulation supporters sometime say, "God wouldn't allow his people to go through tribulation. He loves us to much!" But think about it. Does He love us any more than He would love after-the-rapture new believers during the tribulation? No. Then why would He allow them to go through such a horrific period, but not us? Could it be that the idea of escaping tribulation is really only catering to our lukewarm American tendencies? We like comfort, hate to go through trials, and can hardly bear it when our TV-dinner lifestyle is threatened. Yet historically, God's people have gone through intense suffering. All the disciples of Jesus, except John, were brutally murdered. Thousands of early Christians were torn to shreds by wild dogs inside the Coliseum. Millions of others were horribly tortured by the Inquisition and burnt to ashes during the Dark Ages. Believers in Russia and China have suffered terribly under communism, and yet American Christians say, "God wouldn't allow us to go through the tribulation!"
When it comes to "tribulation," once again concordances come in handy. If you look up, "tribulation" in Strong's or Young's Concordance, you may be shocked to discover that almost every reference describes what believers suffered through. Jesus told His followers, "In the world you will have tribulation. (John 16:33, emphasis added). Paul told his early Christian converts, "...we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22, emphasis added.) Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica,
"...we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure" (2 Thessalonians1:4, emphasis added). On the lonely island of Patmos, John was our "companion in tribulation..." (Revelation 2:9, emphasis added). In light of these Scriptures, the idea of Christians escaping the tribulation seems like fantasy and illusion.
Some might respond by saying, "Yes, but those verses are talking about 'tribulation,' not 'the tribulation.'" Again, just think about it. If the majority of the Bible's "tribulation texts" refer to what believers go through, why would God's Word suddenly shift gears by teaching that "the tribulation" is something believers will not go through? Even in Left Behind, there are after-the-rapture Christians who go through "the Tribulation." Jerry B. Jenkins calls them "the Tribulation Force." Therefore the thought of Christians going through this period is not so strange.
Many pro-rapture advocates also argue, "If the Church is going through the tribulation, then why isn't the Church mentioned after Revelation 4?" Let's take a closer look. In Revelation 4:1, John was told to "come up here." People conclude this represents the rapture and they think the Church isn't mentioned anymore. In Revelation 4:1, John was told to "come up here." First of all, John did not actually go to Heaven in Revelation 4:1; he was simply taken up in a vision, while his toes remained in Patmos. Secondly, the Church is on Earth after Revelation 4. How do we know this? Because Revelation says the beast will make "war with the saints"(13:7), then we read about "the faith of the saints" (13:10), and finally, during the mark of the beast crisis, the apocalypse refers to "the saints" who keep "the faith of Jesus" (14:12).
Some may respond by saying, "Those are the tribulation saints after the rapture, not the Church." But consider this. Paul wrote his New Testament letters to the "Churches of the saints" (I Corinthians 14:33). What does this tell us? Wherever there are saints, there is the Church! Even if the saints mentioned in Revelation 13 and 24 are only the tribulation saints after the rapture, wouldn't they, as sincere believers in Jesus Christ, still be the Church?
Rapture teachers contend the Church won't be here for Armageddon. Is this true? The word "Armageddon" is used only once in the entire Bible, in Revelation 16:16, which is the great chapter about the falling of the seven last plagues. Right before verse 16, during the time of the plagues, Jesus Christ thunders, "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blesses is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation16:15-16).
Who was Jesus talking to? To the Church! At the time of verse 15, while the seven plagues are falling, which is definitely during the tribulation, and right before the battle of Armageddon, Jesus Christ has not yet come as a thief! Therefore He must come like a thief at Armageddon, after the tribulation, and this must be the time when He comes to gather his Church.
Like a good commanding officer Paul, urged the soldiers of the cross, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13). We are to stand in "the evil day." How can we, if we have previously disappeared? Jesus Christ also said, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). How long must we endure? To the end.
What about the "second chance" idea? First of all, God has given every one of us more than "a second chance." When we sin and resist His love, He gives us countless chances to make a full surrender to His grace. The message of the gospel is continually sounding to sinners, "Christ died for our sins" (I Corinthians15:3); Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved"(Acts 16:31); "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). But eventually, God's patience will wear out and the Angel of Mercy will take his final flight. Humanity will have passed "the hidden boundary between God's patience and His wrath."
Paul wrote that all who are not fully on the Lord's side when true believers are "caught up...shall not escape" (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:3). For them, their second, third, tenth, and ten-thousandth chances are over. Jesus also said,
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37). After the door of the ark closed, all desperate attempts to get inside were useless. It was too late. Paul also wrote, "Now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2, emphasis added). Friend, this is it. Don't put off your decision to follow Jesus Christ. If you are not "caught up" when the Lord descends from Heaven with a shout, you will have blown it, big time, forever.
Here is another key thought. If the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is false, this obviously means we ourselves - if we are alive at that time - must not only pass through Earth's final tribulation, but must face the antichrist and his deadly mark (See Revelation 14:9-10). Here's the biggest problem. Many Christians are deeply afraid of this. Thus it seems that fear - a fear of the beast- often underlies many desperate efforts to maintain the shaky pre-tribulation rapture position.
This fear may be unconscious, yet often it is there, and it seems to prevent people being open-minded enough to even consider another viewpoint. Emotions fly high and many refuse to reasonably examine the clear scriptural evidence in favor of a post-tribulation gathering of the Church to Jesus Christ.
Sadly, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine has become the great evangelical escape clause for avoidance of the end times. And for those who must have it this way, no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. Like a triple-bolted door in downtown New York, they are simply closed to the facts. The result? Truth is left behind.
Christians should learn a lesson from bumper stickers and trendy T-shirts which say, "No Fear." The truth is, we don't need to be afraid, for Jesus has promised, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of a sound mind"(2 Timothy 1:7).
The truth is that fear indicates a lack of faith and not only a lack of faith but unbelief at it's core.
Remember our Lord's words which I highlighted in a recent article on OurFutureWorld.blogspot.com:
"But the FEARFUL, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." Revelation 21:8 KJV (Emphasis mine).
I don't know about you, but I fear the lake of fire and everlasting torment much more than facing the antichrist. I derive comfort from the fact that Jesus knew and predicted the coming antichrist and the end time 10 kingdom confederation as envisioned by the Club of Rome in their document titled: Regionalized and Adaptive Model of the Global World System, published September 17, 1973. Since He predicted this end time 10 kingdom confederation I can trust his word absolutely since it is now coming to pass.
We must all go through physical death. It is unavoidable. However it is nothing to fear. But the fact is that we can not be raised to eternal life in these perishable (corruptible) bodies. We must put on the incorruptible (immortal) body to be raised to life and live with Jesus Christ who is himself immortal. Suddenly
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up victory. O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:52-56 KJVSo I ask you, knowing our future [for those that have believed in their innermost being and confessed with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord] to rise incorruptible to immortality what have you to fear? O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Having this hope and certainty
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, UNMOVABLE, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 KJV(Emphasis mine)This is the reason for the hope I have and why I write with such conviction. Whom shall I fear if I am in the Lord's will and in the palm of his hand? He marches before me in victory over the grave. O death where is thy sting?
Where did this heresy of the pretribulation rapture originate? is the next question you are probably asking.
We must look at church history to find the answer. But first we must dissect the error of the modern interpretation of the seven year tribulation theory.
"A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake."
Where does this "seven-year" concept come from anyway? It may shock you, but if you look for "seven years of tribulation" in any concordance, you won't find it. The truth is, from Genesis to Revelation, there is no exact passage that specifically mentions a seven-year period of tribulation at all. Amazingly the entire theory is really based on a rather speculative interpretation of two little words in one single verse. The text is Daniel 9:27; and the two words are, "one week." Let me explain.
The book of Daniel was written while the Jews were in Babylon-- in exile because of their sins. Daniel 9:27 contains a prophecy from the angel Gabriel to encourage the Jewish people that they would given a "second chance" to return to Jerusalem, rebuild their temple, and ultimately, receive their Messiah (Jesus Christ).
This highly controversial prophecy literally reads:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cease the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:24-27 KJV).Thus we have a prophecy about "seventy weeks." Gabriel then subdivides the period into three smaller periods of seven weeks (verse 25), sixty two weeks (verse 25), and one week (verse 27). 7+62+1=70.
Seventy weeks = 490 days. A day in prophecy represents a year (see Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6). Thus 490 days are really 490 years. Without going into all the chronological details here, the prophecy starts with a direct "commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (verse 25) after the Babylonian captivity and reaches down to the first coming of Jesus Christ. After 69 weeks (after 483 years), "shall Messiah be cut off" (verse 26). All Christian scholars apply this to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After our Lord's agonizing death, "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (verse 26). While there are differences of opinion as to who "the people of the prince" refers to, the majority of scholars nevertheless apply the destruction of "the city and sanctuary" to the second destruction of Jerusalem and its rebuilt sanctuary by Roman armies under Prince Titus in 70 A.D.
So far, we have seen 69 weeks fulfilled. That leaves one week left, otherwise known as the famous "70th week of Daniel." Again, that highly controversial text literally says:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease...(Daniel 9:27 KJV).Based upon the day-year principle (which is valid), the "one week" remaining in this prophecy must refer to a period of seven years. Pro-rapture promoters claim this is the seven-year period of tribulation. Their idea is that while the first 69 weeks (or 483 years) did reach to the first coming of Jesus Christ, the prophetic clock has stopped because the Jewish people largely rejected Him. Then they slide the 70th week (the last seven years) all the way down to the end times, call it the tribulation, and say it applies to the Jewish people after we're gone.
Rapture teachers interpret Daniel 9:27 as follows:
1. "He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." "He" is the antichrist who will make a covenant (or peace treaty) with the Jews during the seven years of tribulation.Best selling author Hal Lindsey in his The Late Great Planet Earth reflects this current view when he writes about "God's last seven years of dealing with the Jewish people before the long awaited setting up of the kingdom of God (Daniel 9:27). According to Mr. Lindsey, during those seven years 'the antichrist,' breaks his covenant with the Jewish people and causes the Jewish temple worship, according to the Law of Moses to cease (Daniel 9:27)... We must conclude that a third Temple will be rebuilt upon its ancient site in old Jerusalem."
2. "In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.." In the middle of the seven-year tribulation, the antichrist will break his covenant, turn against Israel, and stop their animal sacrifices.
3. The phrase, "he shall cause the sacrifice... to cease" is viewed as irrefutable proof that a Jewish temple (which includes sacrifices) must be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Therefore according to countless interpretations, Daniel 9:27 is applied to a future antichrist, a future peace treaty made with Israel, a future seven year tribulation, and a future rebuilt Jewish temple inside Jerusalem. And all of this will supposedly start with the rapture. Honestly, that's a lot to interpret from that single verse, especially when Daniel 9:27 says absolutely nothing about a seven-year tribulation, antichrist, or rebuilt Jewish temple.
"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." ----------------------------------------Mark Twain. (1835-1910)
As we have already seen Daniel 9:27 literally says:
He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the oblation to cease...(Daniel 9:27 KJV).This may shock you, but historically, the vast majority of well-respected Bible scholars have not applied Daniel 9:27 to a seven-year period of tribulation at all. Neither have they interpreted the "he" as referring to a future Mr. Deadly. Instead, they have applied it to Jesus Christ.
Notice what the world-famous Bible commentary written by Matthew Henry says about Daniel 9:27: "By offering himself as a sacrifice once and for all he [Jesus] shall put an end to all the Levitacul sacrifices." Thus Matthew Henry applied Daniel 9:27 to Christ, not antichrist. Another famous commentary written by British Methodist Adam Clarke says that during Daniel 9:27's "term of seven years." Jesus Himself would "confirm or ratify the new covenant with mankind."
Here's one more statement from a book called, Christ and Antichrist, published in 1846 by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia. On page 2, under Recommendations, are endorsements from many Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist ministers, including an official representative of the Southern Baptist Convention. Commenting on the final week of Daniel 9:27, that ancient volume states:
...sometime during the remaining seven, he [the Messiah] was to die as a sacrifice for sin, and thus bring in everlasting righteousness." Here are allusions to events so palpable, that one would think, the people among whom they occurred, could not possibly have misapplied the prophecy.Okay, here we go. The following ten points provide logical and convincing evidence that Daniel's famous 70th week has no application to any future seven-year tribulation at all. Rather, this great prophetic period was definitely fulfilled nearly two thousand years ago.
1. The entire prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 covers a period of "seventy weeks." Logic requires that "seventy weeks" refers to one consecutive block of time, in other words, to seventy straight sequential weeks. The truth is, there is no example in Scripture (or anywhere else!) of a stated time period starting, stopping, and then starting again. All biblical references to time are consecutive: 40 days and 40 nights (see Genesis 7:4), 400 years in Egypt (see Genesis 15:13), 70 years of captivity (see Daniel 9:2), etc. In Daniel's prophecy, the "seventy weeks" were to begin during the reign of Persia and continue to the time of the Messiah.The explosive evidence is overwhelming! Point by point the events of Daniel's 70th week have been fulfilled in the past. These eight words found in Daniel 9:27: "confirm...covenant...many...midst...sacrifice...cease...abominations...desolate" all find perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ and early Christian history.
2. Logic also requires that the 70th week follow immediately after the 69th week. If it doesn't, then it cannot properly be called the 70th week!
3. It is illogical to insert a 2,000 year gap between the 69th and 70th week. No hint of a gap is found in prophecy itself. There is no gap between the first seven weeks and the following sixty-two weeks, so why insert one between the 69th and 70th week?
Note: If you told your child to be in bed in 70 minutes, you obviously would mean 70 consecutive minutes. What if five hours later your fully awake son said, "But dad, I know 69 minutes have passed, but the 70th minute hasn't started yet!"? After receiving an appropriate punishment, he would be swiftly sent to bed.
4. Daniel 9:27 says nothing about a seven-year period of "tribulation," a "rebuilt" Jewish temple, or any "antichrist."
5. The stated focus of this prophecy is the Messiah, not the antichrist. After the Messiah is "cut off"(referring to Christ's death), the text says, "And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sancturary." In the past, this has been consistently applied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple by Roman armies led by Prince Titus in A.D, 70.
6. "He shall confirm the covenant." Paul said "the covenant" was "confirmed before by God in Christ" (Galations 3:17). Jesus Christ came "to confirm the promisess made to the fathers" (Romans 15:8, emphasis added). In the King James Version, Daniel 9:27 doesn't say "a covenant" or peace treaty, but "the covenant," which applies to the New Covenant. Nowhere in the Bible does the antichrist make, confirm, or beak a covenant with anyone. The word "covenant" is Messianic, and always applies to the Messiah, not the antichrist.
7. "He shall confirm the covenant with many." Jesus Christ said, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many..." (Matthew 26:28). Behold a perfect fit! Jesus was quoting Daniel 9:27 specifically.
8. "In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." After exactly three and a half years of holy ministry, Jesus Christ died on the cross, " in the midst of the week [in the middle of the seven years]." At the exact moment of His death, "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom..." (Matthew 27:51). This act of God signified that all animal sacrifices at that moment ceased to be of value. Why? Because the Perfect Sacrifice [Jesus} had been offered!
9. "For the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate." "The abomination of desolation" (see Matthew 24:15) is not a simple subject, yet we know that Jesus clearly applied this event to the time when His followers were to flee from Jerusalem before the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. In a parallel text to Matthew 24:15, Jesus told his disciples, "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies [Roman armies led by Prince Titus], then know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20, emphasis added). The disciples did "see" those very events. Because of the "abominations" of the Pharisees, Jesus told them, "See! Your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). Thus Gabriel's statement in Daniel 9:27 about Jerusalem becoming "desolate" was perfectly fulfilled in A.D. 70.
10. Gabriel said that the 70-week prophecy specifically applied to the Jewish people (see Daniel 9:24). During the period of Christ's public ministry of three and one half years, the Master's focus was largely upon "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6). After His resurrection and then for another three and one half years, His disciples preached mostly to Jews (see Acts 1-6). After that second three and one half year period, in 34 A.D., the bold Stephen was stoned by the Jewish Sanhedrin (see Acts 7). This infamous deed marked the then-ruling Jewish leaders final, official rejection of the gospel of our Savior. Then the gospel went to the Gentiles. In Acts 9, Saul became Paul, "the apostle to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13). In Acts 10, God gave Peter a vision revealing it was now time to preach to the Gentiles (see Acts 10:1-28). Read also Acts 13:46. Thus approximately three and one half years after the crucifixion - and almost at the end of the 70 - week prophecy given for the Jewish people - the gospel shifted to the Gentiles exactly as predicted in Bible prophecy.
In the words of that 1846 Presbyterian publication,
The seventy weeks of Daniel therefore, have certainly ended many centuries ago. We are not to look to the future for the fulfillment of these predictions. We must look to the past. And if to the past; where is there one who can have any adequate claims to being the subject of these prophecies, but Jesus? He, and he only can claim them; and to him they must certainly refer.But they did. In fact, one major reason why the Jewish nation as a whole failed to receive the Messiah was because its scholars misinterpreted Daniel 9:27. They failed to see Jesus Christ as the predicted One who would die in the midst of the 70th week! Amazingly, the exact same thing is happening today. Sincere Christian scholars are now misappying the very same prophecy. The entire "seven year period of tribulation" theory is an end time delusion, a massive mega-myth. It may even go down in history as the "greatest evangelical misinterpretation of all time.
...one would think, the people [the Jews] among whom [these events] occurred, could not possibly have misapplied the prophecy.
The current debate and tremendous confusion over pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib is really a smoke screen of the enemy to hide the real issue.
Now we get to the heart of who introduced this modern error and why it was done.
In an article written by David Van Biema titled: The End: How It Got That Way in Time magazine July 1, 2002 page 46, Van Biema refers to John Nelson Darby who lived in England during the 1800's. Mr. Van Biema referred to Mr. Darby as "The man with the plan" to introduce into 19th century British and American Christianity "a radical new eschatology" which included believeing in "a seven-year, hell-like tribulation." Van Biema states
His [Darby] most striking innovation was the timing of a concept called the Rapture, drawn from the Apostle Paul's prediction that believers would fly up to meet Christ in heaven. Most theologians understood it as part of the Resurrection at time's very end, Darby repositioned it at the Apocalypse's very beginning, a small shift with large implications. It spared true believers the Tribulation, leaving the horror to nonbelievers and the doctrinaly misled...Darby's scheme became a pillar of the new Fundamentalism.Do you realize what you just read"? Based on solid historical research David Van Biema reported to millions of Time readers in July, 2002 that John Nelson Darby's most striking innovation "was to make Paul's "caught up" phrase in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and "reposition it" at the beginning of the "Tribulation"-- "a small shift with large implications." In the early 1800's, "most theologians" didn't see it that way; yet slowly over time, "Darby's scheme became a pillar of the new Fundamentalism."
This "pillar" now supports the entire Left Behind infrastructure. Unknown to modern fans, the pillar is not Scripture but Darbyism, even though Bible texts are used to support and proof-text the doctrine.
In God's Word, it's not rapture-tribulation-end at all. Daniel's 70th week is history and true believers will be "caught up" at the loud, visible, second coming of Jesus Christ. As David Van Biema correctly reported in Time, this is what "most theologians" have taught for centuries!
But the rabbit trail does not end here! Where did Darby get this idea from? We must continue to follow the rabbit trail of history back in time. It turns out that the idea of the pre-trib. rapture was borrowed from much earlier material written by a pair of Jesuits commisioned by a Catholic Pope as a way to counter the Reformation lead by Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in France, John Knox in Scotland, and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland to name a few.
That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.------Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894-1963)
The major Protestent Reformers had one primary passion: To inspire sinners to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 16:31) and to obey God's Word above the traditions of men(see Mark 7:13). But as they tried to lead their English and European countrymen to the Bible alone, to Christ alone, to His grace alone, and to faith alone, they encountered fierce opposition from the Roman Church hierarchy. As persecution increased, it drove them deeper into their Bibles.
Eventually, they turned to the prophecies. Through the Holy Spirit's illumination, they put the pieces of the puzzle together and came to this solumn conclusion: They discovered both Jesus Christ and antichrist.
"There are two great truths that stand out in the preaching that brought about the Protestant Reformation," American Bible Commentator, Ralph Woodrow, reminds us, "The just shall live by faith, not by the works of Romanism and the Papacy is the Antichrist of Scripture." It was a message for Christ and against Antichrist. The entire Reformation rests upon this twofold Testimony.The reformers mentioned previously all preached that the humble Nazarene was the Christ and that the proud Roman Papacy was the antichrist of Scripture. As a result of this high impact, double-edged message - for Christ and against antichrist --the river of history literally changed its course. Hundreds of thousands of people in Europe and England forsook the Roman Church.
According to H. Grattan Guiness "Luther never felt strong and free to wage war against the papal apostasy till he recognized the pope as antichrist. It was then that he burned the Papal bull.
Papal Rome rose to it's own defense in what became known as the Counter Reformation. In 1545 the Papacy convened the Council of Trent. During its many sessions (1545 to 1563) the leaders of the Vatican developed a highly sophisticated "game plan" to counteract the reformers. Up to this point, Rome's main method of attack had been largely frontal - the open burning of Bible's and of heretics. Yet this type of warfare only confirmed that papal Rome was indeed the very beast which would "make war with the saints" (Revelation 13:7). A new tactic was needed, something less obvious. This is where the Jesuits came in.
On August 15, 1534, Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) founded the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits. This highly secretive and militant Catholic order has a dark history of intrigue and sedition; that's why its members were expelled from Portugal (1759), France (1764), Spain (1767), Naples (1767), and Russia (1820). "Jesuit priests have been known throughout history as the most wicked political arm of the Roman Catholic Church."
At the Council of Trent Papal leaders and Jesuits decided to oppose loss of members to the new Protestant beliefs by changing theology to reinterpret the prophecies about "the man of sin," "the little horn," and "the beast".
A very intelligent Spanish Jesuit Francisco Ribera (1537 - 1591)tried to set aside the application of the prophecies to Papal Power by bringing out the Futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies refer properly not to the career of the Papacy, but to that of some future supernatural individual, who is yet to appear, and to continue in power for three and one-half years.
In 1590, Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter-interpretation to the new prevailing view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem.
Even Catholic writer, G.S. Hitchcock, confirmed the origin of these anti-Protestant counter-theories:
The Futurist School, founded by Jesuit Ribera in 1591, looks for Antichrist, Babylon, and a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at the end of the Christian Dispensation.In contrast to the Futurist system of Ribera and in stuanch opposition to it is Historicism, which is what the vast majority of Protestants used to teach. In essence, Historicism teaches straight-forward, chronological progression by saying that the major prophecies of Daniel and Revelation find fulfillment throughout Christian history while pointing toward the climactic, visible second coming of our Savior. Historicism also places special emphasis on the ongoing struggle between Jesus Christ and satan inside the Christian Church. It takes note of Paul's predictions about the "falling away" (2 Thessalonians 2:3), a subsequint departure from the original faith (see Timothy 4:1), and also discerns prophetic fulfillment in the rise of the Roman Church which, although a professedly Christian institution (with real Christians inside it), nevertheless teaches doctrines which divert the mind from simple trust in the all-sufficient merits of the sin-pierced Sufferer. While not wanting to attack honest individuals, Historicism still points the prophetic finger at the Vatican by calling it "the little horn," "the man of sin," "the beast," and "Mystery Babylon." Jesuit objective not achieved.
Describing Historicism as the truest and most reasonable method of interpretation, E.B. Elliot comments on the entire Book of Revelation:
Its subject matter I assume to be the the continuous fortunes of the church and of the world, (that is of the Roman world and Christian church settled therein,) from the time of the revelation being given, or time of St. John's banishment, to the end of all things.Historicist teachers of the past (and present), far from being aberrant theologians, include some of Christianity's most illustrious scholars: John Wycliffe, Willism Tyndale, Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Ulrich Zwingli, Robert Barnes, Nicolas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Joseph Mede, John Fox, Matthew Henry, Albert Barnes, John Bunyan, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Richard Baxter, Edward Bishop Elliot, Bishop J.C. Ryle, Baron Porcelli, Alan Timothy Kauffman, Jim Dodson, Reg Barrow, Richard Bacon, Robert J. Nicholson, Dr. Bill Jackson, Dr. John Robbins, Bill Kalivas, Dr. Doug Batchlor, Mark Finley, Dr. Ian Paisley, etc. These may not see eye to eye on every doctrinal detail; but they've all discerned the fulfillment of prophecy in church history and especially in the anti-Christ nature of the papacy as a colossal institution whose doctrine deny the New Testament message of free salvation by grace through simple faith in the Crucified and Risen One, apart from works.
Futurism which is by far the most popular school today, possesses the incredible ability to sweep 1,500 years of living prophetic history under the proverbial rug by inserting its famous GAP into the visions of Daniel and Revelation. In a nutshell, the GAP or parenthesis theory teaches that when Jerusalem or Rome fell, prophecy stopped, only to continue again near the time of the rapture. As we have already seen, futurism also stops the clock between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel 9:27. Thus Daniel's 70th week, the ten horns in Daniel 7, the "little horn" and "the man of sin" all have nothing to do with Christians today. "It is this GAP theory that permeates Futurism's interpretation of all apocalyptic prophecy." According to most Futurists, how many prophecies were fulfilled during the Dark Ages when literally millions of God's people were burnt to ashes in wars against the saints? None. Zilch. Zero. Historicists see something terribly wrong with this picture!
At its best, Historicism also recognizes that there were indeed prophecies fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., yet it also stands for the reality of future events such as the mark of the beast (see Revelation 14:9-12), the seven last plagues (see Revelation 16), the battle of Armageddon (see Revelation 16:16), the return of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 14:14-16), a 1,000 year period (see Revelation 20), the final judgment (see Revelation 20:11-13), the lake of fire (see Revelation 20:15) and the new earth (see Revelation 21:1). Yet again, the hallmark of Historicism as a prophetic system is its ability discern prophecy fulfilled in history - the rise of the papacy, the Christ-centered preaching of the Reformation onward, a final crisis, and the glorious return of our Lord and Savior, with NO GAPS!
I will make a bold statement here. The Futurist school of Bible prophecy was created for one reason, and one reason only; to counter the Protestant Reformation!
*Steve Wohlberg, End Time Delusions, The Rapture, the Antichrist, Israel, and the End of the World, (Shippensburg, PA: Treasure House, Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.), 2004.
I highly encourage you to purchase the book which may be found at amazon.com. The book will give you much more historical information about church history, eschatology, and the correct interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
In writing this information to present to you, the reader, it is my hope that you will not be deceived by modern day charlatans trumpeting the false hope of a pre-tribulation rapture to avoid the world "beast" system as it culminates in the final 10 kingdom confederation led by antichrist(Satan) as related to the apostle John on the island of Patmos by Jesus Christ many centuries ago. Your salvation is at stake, do not be deceived!