Close Only Counts In Horseshoes (and Hand Grenades)
Vol: 155 Issue: 30 Saturday, August 30, 2014
As we tick down the hours to the end of this present age, I notice that more and more Christians, perhaps assuming things can’t get much worse, are coming to the conclusion we must be in the first half of the Tribulation now.
I received one such email recently from an OL subscriber who took the time to list the various questions and irreconcilable differences she has regarding the Rapture and Tribulation.
Q. I was wondering what verse(s) in the Bible point to the idea that the rapture has to occur at one of three points: pre, mid, or post. I understand the idea of imminency in regards to the fact that it could occur at any time pre-trib, even months or years before the tribulation period. However, I don’t understand how imminency is instantly disregarded once the tribulation begins. I know about the pre-wrath theory, which I also know is fairly new. But, my question is: why cannot Christ’s coming for His elect occur during the first half of the tribulation?
A. There is no verse that limits the Rapture to one of three points. There is, however, a verse that tells us that, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
The Tribulation Period is no exception to that rule. It has its primary and secondary purposes. The Prophet Daniel tells us that its purpose, from the perspective of Israel, is six-fold:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people [Daniel and the Jews] and upon thy holy city, [Jerusalem] to (1) finish the transgression, and to (2) make an end of sins, and to (3) make reconciliation for iniquity, and to (4) bring in everlasting righteousness, and to (5) seal up the vision and prophecy, and to (6) anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)
For the Church, points 1 through 4 were accomplished at the Cross. Points 5 and 6 are yet future — and neither apply to the Church, anyway.
The prophecy is to the Jews and of Jerusalem and the Temple. And the anointing of the Messiah takes place at the Temple following the 2nd Coming.
The primary purpose of the Tribulation, therefore, is to effect the national redemption of the Jews.
There is a secondary purpose as outlined in Revelation 9:21:
“Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”
The secondary purpose is, therefore, to judge an unrepentant, Christ-rejecting world. By definition, to be a Christian, one must accept Christ and repent of one’s sin. So the Church has no purpose in God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners.
The tertiary purpose for the Tribulation is to permit Satan free reign over the earth.
Among the many purposes of Heaven outlined in Scripture is the trial of Satan. At the conclusion of the Tribulation Period, there will remain no doubt among the angels as to the depth of Satan’s guilt or the severity of his punishment.
“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” (Isaiah 14:15-17)
The doctrine of immanency teaches that the Rapture could have taken place at any time from Paul’s day until the starting point of the Tribulation Period. How do I arrive at that conclusion? Scripture makes me that promise.
In order for Satan to have total control (and therefore no excuse) the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His ministry of identifying and restraining evil must be removed.
But Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will indwell me until He returns. I have no part in the Tribulation, I am neither a member of the elect House of Israel nor a Christ-rejecting Gentile.
If the Holy Spirit must be ‘taken out of the way’ BEFORE the Antichrist can be revealed, which is the only logical way to interpret 2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8, He cannot leave me comfortless without breaking His Word. (John 14:18)
No matter how I try to make it read otherwise, I cannot. If the Holy Spirit is NOT ‘taken out of the way’ then that Wicked CANNOT be revealed.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8)
Let’s identify the players. “The mystery of iniquity” — the spirit of Antichrist. (1st John 4:3) “He who letteth”. First, “he” is a personal pronoun, so this isn’t a ‘thing’ to be taken out of the way, but a ‘Him’. ‘To let’ is an old English phrase that signifies indwelling, as in the phrase, “Room to Let.”
That “Wicked” is also a personal pronoun and in context, refers to the one whom Jesus destroys at His Second Coming.
Let’s read it again in modern English: “The Antichrist won’t be revealed until after the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence is taken out of the way.”
So the whole bone of contention is about whether or not, when the Holy Spirit is removed, we will be removed with Him. I cannot picture a situation in which I would lose the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence while I am still alive on this earth. It is unthinkable.
Where do we get seven years of tribulation?
Daniel says that Antichrist rules for one ‘week’ — or seven years. The first three and one half years are a period of false peace for Israel. The last three and one half years are a period of persecution and tribulation.
No matter how novel an interpretation one may develop to argue against the seven year period, Daniel also identifies it as a period of 2520 days, divided into two periods of 1260 days each.
Since Israel marks time with a 360 day lunar calendar (right to this very day) finding another time frame that fits requires some seriously wishful thinking.
Now, to the specific question: “why cannot Christ’s coming for His elect occur during the first half of the tribulation?”
Because, as already noted, every season has a time and a purpose under heaven. Scripture outlines a season (of tribulation) for the purpose of judgment that is to last seven years.
The Tribulation is not the Church’s season of redemption. It is Israel’s. The purpose of the Tribulation is either redemption for, or judgment against the lost.
The Church is neither under judgment or in need of redemption.
My correspondent also writes: A misconceived notion regarding the rapture taking place before any suffering could easily cause the people to turn from their faith as is talked about in the gospels. I understand the idea of “tribulation saints” but I cannot find one single verse to back up this idea. I truly believe that is pure speculation.
I concur whole-heartedly that the idea of the Rapture taking place before any suffering is a misconception. Suffering is part of the human condition and persecution and martyrdom are not ancient concepts, but that which continues without pause to this very day.
As to the concept of “Tribulation saints” — I’m assuming that the notion that they are not the Church Age saints is the ‘pure speculation’ referred to. Any possible alternative identification, however, begs a bigger question.
Of the Church Age saints, John writes:
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1st John 4:4)
During the Tribulation, it is the saints that are overcome:
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:7)
The same Apostle John wrote both verses. Is it not ‘pure speculation’ to assume that the differences in status are irrelevant?
One more point I can’t reconcile. All things are done for the ultimate glory of God, right? How would a pre-trib rapture bring any glory to God? Would it not bring all that much more glory to Him if Christ appears amidst the persecution of his saints to rescue them from the evil one?
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
I dunno. You tell me. During the Church Age, salvation comes by grace through faith. When Christ actually appears, how much faith will be necessary?
Are there two standards for salvation in the Church Age? Of course not. Does that not suggest the existence of two separate administrations of God?
Confusing, no? Now, is God the author of confusion?
As bad as it seems, the Rapture notwithstanding, we are NOT now in the first half of the Tribulation. We wouldn’t be in the Tribulation even if the Rapture is really mid Trib. Or Pre-Wrath. Or Post trib.
The antichrist has not yet been revealed. The peace treaty has not yet been confirmed. Temple worship has not yet been restored. All these are events that take place BEFORE the Great Tribulation begins. It is that termination of sacrifice that begins the Great Tribulation.
The antichrist can’t cause the sacrifice to cease until AFTER it has begun. That can’t happen until the Jews possess the Temple Mount. The antichrist cannot take his seat in the Temple of God, causing Israel to reject him, which kicks off the Great Tribulation, until AFTER there is a Temple to sit in.
These events are clear, unmistakable AND independent of the Rapture. None of them exist because we aren’t in the Tribulation Period. We are indeed close.
But we’re not there yet.