Perspectives on the Rapture
Vol: 19 Issue: 19 Thursday, January 19, 2017
You wouldn’t know it to listen to a debate on the subject, but all three parties in the Rapture Debate believe that they are the ones who have the right position and have the Scriptures to back them up.
Whenever I write on the subject of the Rapture, I get email from those holding a different view and it never ceases to amaze me how nasty some of them are.
I’ve been called a false prophet (for the record, I’m not any kind of prophet, false or otherwise), a false teacher, a liar, a purveyor of the doctrines of demons and more.
More than one has accused me outright of knowing the truth (their position, naturally) and deliberately spreading deception to some nefarious end that never quite gets explained to me.
But the fact is that those who believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture are no more sincere than those who believe the Rapture comes at the midpoint in the Tribulation.
The mid-tribulational view divides the Tribulation into two periods of 1260 days each, according to Daniel 9:27 and Daniel 12:7 and sees the Rapture of the Church occurring at that mid-point.
There are plenty of Scripture verses that can be used to support a mid-Trib Rapture.
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:9-13
It would seem to indicate here that Jesus is exhorting us to “endure to the end’ tying our endurance to being saved from the Great Tribulation.
Similarly, Jesus’ reference to the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15) is followed by a warning to flee, (21)”For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
(40-41)”Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”
The mid-tribulationist equates the beginning of the Great Tribulation when the antichrist abolishes Temple worship and begins his persecution of Israel with Rapture.
The problem with the mid-Tribulation view is it fails to explain WHY the Church endures the first half of the Rapture. The final week of Daniel is clearly set aside for the national redemption of Israel. (Daniel 9:24)
In order to make the mid tribulational view work, Jesus must be speaking to the Church when He is answering the question posed Him in Matthew 24:3 “What will be the sign of Thy Coming and of the end of the world?”
If Jesus were addressing the Church in the last days, why would He say, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath Day:” (20)? The Church is under no Sabbath Day restrictions.
Jesus makes plain the perspective from which He was speaking and to whom, saying, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in JUDAEA flee into the mountains: (15-16)
Jesus warning of being delivered up to be afflicted, and killed, and to be hated of all nations for His Name’s sake isn’t a reference to the Church. He is addressing Israel, who has been delivered to affliction for 2000 years as ‘Christ-killers’.
He is NOT addressing the Church. The Church is not here at that time.
But Jesus WAS addressing the Church when He said:
“In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
In Rev. 2 and 3 we have Jesus talking to the Seven Churches, but what I want you to notice is where Jesus is in relation to these churches. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;”
Now, from Chapter 4 to 19, Jesus is no longer on earth, but in heaven. So, if Jesus is no longer on the earth during the Tribulation period and He promised us we would always be with him, it would seem to indicate that we are going to be in Heaven with Jesus during the Tribulation period.
No matter how many ways I look at it, I just can’t overcome a few problems reconciling Scripture with the mid-tribulation view.
What purpose is served by having the Church participate in the first half of the Tribulation but not the second if the whole ‘week’ is set aside for Israel? Why have a Rapture at all?
Why would Jesus be positionally in the midst of the 7 Churches for the entire Church Age, but positionally in heaven from Revelation 4:1 forward if the seven golden candlesticks remain on earth during Daniel’s 70th Week?
Why is there no reference to the Church from Revelation 4:1 and forward?
These are serious problems from my perspective.
But again, that is not to say that those who hold to a mid-tribulational Rapture haven’t searched the Scriptures and found answers that satisfy those questions in their minds. They are as sincere as I. We simply disagree.
The third possible Rapture view is called post-tribulationism.
The third possible timing of the Rapture would take place at the end of the Tribulation. This is called the post-tribulational view.
In this view, the Church goes through the entire Tribulation Period, together with the ‘earthdwellers’ and Israel and is Raptured to meet the Lord in the air as He is returning at the 2nd Coming.
As in the case of the other views, this view can be supported by Scripture. As I mentioned before, I’ve received email accusing me of deliberately spreading error and of being a false teacher because I espouse a different Rapture scenario than they do.
Such nonsense is just that – nonsense. Believers are believers BECAUSE they believe. If someone is a sincere, Blood-bought, born-again believer, why would they adopt a position they don’t believe is supported by Scripture? Beyond that, why would a believer teach a position they KNEW to be wrong?
Supporters of the post-Tribulation position are sincere, as are those who hold to either the pre-trib or mid-trib scenarios.
In Matthew 24:30-31, Jesus speaks of a great gathering.
“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.”
It certainly sounds like the Rapture, and it sounds like it occurs at the end of the Tribulation. But Matthew 24, as I pointed out previously, is given, not from the perspective of the Church, but from the perspective of the Jews.
Jesus spoke of the abomination of desolation (25:15) — a distinctly Jewish blasphemy, followed by a warning to those in JUDEA (16) to flee, and for them to pray their flight be not on the Sabbath Day (20).
Now compare Matthew 24:30 with Zechariah’s description of the coming of Christ from the perspective of the Jews. “and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for His only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his Firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)
In Matthew 24:31 we see that the ‘elect’ gathered by His angels are gathered, not from the earth, but from ‘one end of HEAVEN to the other’.
Revelation 19:14 says “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” As we’ve already seen, those in white linen are the Bride.
The post-trib position is that ‘one end of heaven to the other’ really means the Rapture of earthbound believers at the end of the Tribulation Period.
But reading what Scripture SAYS, rather than interpreting what it ‘really means’, indicates the elect gathered AFTER the Tribulation are gathered FROM heaven, which is consistent with the pre-trib view that says that is where the Church was all along.
Bible prophecy is unfolding according to a systematic theology that shows that God dealt at different times throughout history in different ways through a system of progressive revelation. This systematic theology is called Dispensationalism.
The main points of dispensationalism are:
1. The recognition of a distinction between Israel and the Church.
2. A consistently literal principle of interpretation — particularly of Bible prophecy.
3. A basic working and conception of the purpose of God as His own glory rather than as the single purpose of salvation.
1. The O.T. prophecies of the restoration of national Israel to the land in the last days will be literally fulfilled. (Any newspaper confirms that prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes.)
2. The 70 weeks of Daniel spoken of in Daniel 9 refers to a period of 490 years and apply only to Israel. The first 69 weeks have been fulfilled historically, ending at the first coming of Christ.
3. When the Jews rejected the Messiah, the 70 weeks were suspended and a new age or dispensation called the Church age began. The Last or 70th week of Daniel, the last seven years, has yet to be fulfilled.
4. This last week will immediately precede the second coming of Christ.
The book of Revelation after the letters to the seven churches is a prophecy concerning events that will occur during the last seven years before the second coming or 70th week.
This 70th week is called the tribulation period. The last half of this week (the last 3.5 years) is the Great Tribulation spoken of in Dan. 9 and in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24). This tribulation period is a time when God will pour out His wrath on a sinful world (earthdwellers).
It is at this point that the mid-tribulationists believe the Rapture occurs.
The coming of Christ will occur in two phases. The Rapture, and His Second Coming at the conclusion of the Battle of Armageddon.
Dispensationalism concludes the Church cannot be here during the tribulation period because God has ended the Church age and resumed dealing with Israel.
The Church is also raptured to keep the Christians from the wrath of God which according to Romans 5:9 Christians will not experience.
The second phase is Christ’s second coming at the end of the tribulation with His saints to begin the Kingdom Age dispensation.
History consists of different dispensations or ‘economies’. A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.
Systematic theology reveals seven distinct Dispensations of God.
Creation to fall – Innocency
Fall to flood – Conscience
Flood to Abraham – Human Government
Abraham to Moses – Promise
Moses to Christ – Law
Church Age – Grace
Millennium – Kingdom
A new period or dispensation begins when God introduces a change in the principles or ordinances valid up to that time. For example a number of ordinances are introduced at the time of Noah. With the coming of the Church Age, the Mosiac Laws or ordinances are annulled.
In order to hold to a mid or post position it is necessary to deny Dispensationalism, claiming it is a recent invention. But at the same time, all three scenarios recognize the Church Age as a distinct dispensation.
We began this series with the intent, not to change anybody else’s view, but to explain why we hold to the view that we do.
Our mission at the Omega Letter is to equip the saints with evidence and hard facts that point to the reality that these are the last days, not to engage in a pointless debate.
The Rapture will happen when it happens and nobody will know for sure who was right until it doesn’t matter any more anyway.
Our purpose was not to argue FOR a pre-tribulation rapture so much as it was to clearly outline what we believe and why we believe it.
We view unfolding prophecy through the systematic theology of Dispensationalism because, without rightly dividing the Word, prophecy makes no sense.
For example, Jesus said the Comforter would remain with the Church until He comes. Yet the only reference to the Holy Spirit during the Tribulation is Revelation Chapter 7 when Jewish evangelists are miraculously ‘sealed’ (indwelt) by the Holy Spirit the way Church Age believers are now. That indwelling gives the Jewish evangelists ‘power’ to preach.
Together with 2 Thessalonians 2:7 we see the Restrainer is taken out of the way, saying that once that is accomplished, “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.” (8)
If the Church goes through the Tribulation, then Jesus’ promise of a Comforter until He comes needs rewriting to say, “I will send you a Comforter Who will stay with you until you need Him most, and then you are on your own for seven years.”
Without an understanding of the divisions between the Dispensations, (like the Church Age and Daniel’s 70th Week) prophecy is contradictory.
Jesus promised the Church in Matthew 16:18 that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” But we then read in Revelation 13:7 “And it was given unto him (the religious beast) to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
Which is it? Do we prevail, or does the antichrist? Apart from Dispensationalism, the two statements contradict.
But if the Church Age is over and the Tribulation period is the time of ‘Jacob’s Trouble’ and judgment against ‘them that dwell upon the earth’ rather than for the Church, then Scriptural harmony is restored.
As I pointed out elsewhere, the major problem with the mid-trib view is that it fails to explain what role the Church plays in the time of Jacob’s Trouble — even the first half.
The major problem in the post-tribulational view adds to that problem the problem of mathematics.
Revelation 13:15 says of those who do not worship the beast and accept his mark that he would “cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed”.
So we see two kinds of people in the Tribulation period. Those who take the mark and those who are killed. When the Tribulation is over, where are the living believers who get raptured?
For there to be believers left to Rapture, they will have to escape the antichrist’s global positioning surveillance systems, satellite thermal imaging systems, police and military dragnet, unable to buy or sell, living in caves for seven years.
A couple of decades ago, that seemed at least possible. But not so likely today. We saw how effective a strategy that was for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. And the antichrist is unlikely to follow the same civilized rules of engagement Washington must observe today to avoid global condemnation.
We conclude the Pre-tribulation Rapture scenario is the view that is most harmonious with Scripture, particularly when given the added dimension of actually watching the preparations unfold before our very eyes.
But our faith isn’t in WHEN Christ comes, it is in the fact that Christ IS coming soon. And the Rapture Debate is one more evidence of that fact.
Notice that the debate isn’t over whether or not the Lord will come in this generation. For most, that is not even an issue.
A century ago, they were debating over whether He was coming at all. Today, we’re fighting over His coming within a seven-year time frame.
Regardless of what you believe concerning the timing of the Rapture, the soon coming of the Lord is proved by the fact such a debate exists at all. And no matter what you believe about the timing of the Rapture, and no matter who turns out to be right in the end, the important thing to remember is WHAT we are debating.
We are living in the last generation in history. There are people reading my words — right now — who will never, ever die in the traditional sense, but will be caught up bodily to be with the Lord.
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words” – (1st Thessalonians 4:18)
Featured Commentary: The Road from Damascus ~J.L. Robb