I have often thought that for many of us, it may be both a pleasant and a frightening thought to contemplate the very last days of the end times when Christ prepares to return to govern. By the very last days of the end times, I am referring, of course, to that point in God’s Great Plan where tribulation is exacting its great toll on Christians everywhere and evil is abounding. And who could ever deny that this is exactly what is occurring in today’s sorry world. We just have to look around to see our present predicament. Here are but a few examples. Our Christian nations and citizens are in debt to our necks to the international banking cartel; our morals are in the basement; our will to be great has been neutralized; most of our leaders appear to be nothing more than puppets of their financial masters; our nations are being overrun by non Christians; our very beliefs are being watered down to accommodate the views and religions of these strangers; millions of our babies are being killed through abortion; sexual perversion has been legitimized; drug abuse is running at a rampant pace throughout our entire society; a growing unchecked violence threatens the nations; our police and armed forces are being weakened; our churches are being corrupted; our world is being polluted through greed; and the terrible evils of high unemployment, inflation and food problems are devastating the individual.
Shocking as this scenario is, it is still difficult for most of us to believe our western society has fallen so far. Yet, in spite of all this agony, it is a sad fact that even the most devout Christians look forward to the return of Christ with some trepidation. I imagine this is mainly because we know the kind of lives we have been leading and are frightened to face the ultimate judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ? Yet, perhaps the vivid description of the dire happenings on earth just before the Second Coming is too frightening for most of us to contemplate. Whether for either of these reasons, most Christians would like to believe that there is a way to pass through such tribulation unaffected. This is why the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory has been so welcome in the minds of most Christians today. It is a happy thought! And we are told by almost all our best-known theologians and the majority of our church leaders that all we have to do to take advantage of this soft landing approach is to accept Christ into our lives. Then, He will meet us in the air three and a half or seven years (depending on who is telling the story) before His Second Coming and He will escort us to Heaven and thus, save us from the severity of the times. If only it was this easy to avoid the tribulation of the very last days. But, of course, it isn’t! Yet, sadly, this great tonic for the faint hearted has proven a boon for the enemies of Christ, who are having their way on earth, as Christians abrogate their responsibilities. No matter how desperate the dilemma becomes, it just seems easier for a Christian to say, “I cannot do anything about the evil conditions and anyway, why bother, I won’t be here, I shall be raptured”.
Still, the major question which every Christian should be exploring is, “is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture truth or deception?” As mentioned, most theologians support it. In fact, it is almost heresy these days to suggest otherwise. Yet, a growing number of Bible scholars are stepping aside from the teachings of theology schools and televangelist reaching and are demonstrating that the Pre- Tribulation Rapture cannot be Scripturally proven. These learned men and women point out that the interpretations of the Scriptural passages most often quoted by the “Rapturists” are so glaringly flawed that even novice students can detect the defects with a little study. The problem is that most Christians never really study the Word but let others mould their beliefs.
Interestingly enough, the Pre Tribulation Rapture only originated in the mid to late 1500’s. The underpinning for the futuristic theory taught by today’s theologians, which brought about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture concept, was first seeded by a Jesuit priest named Ribera. He suggested that the events of Revelation would be last day ones, three and a half years before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. He may even have been among the first to predict the coming of a world dictator called the Anti Christ. Yet, significantly, no theologian of note during the early Reformation period taught anything similar and for this reason, Ribera’s claims were all but forgotten. Indeed. there was suspicion that Ribera only came up with his theory to take the spotlight off the Papacy, which at the time was viewed as being Anti Christ. Ribera would be surprised if he could know that his theory was adopted in the mid 1800’s and began picking up such support that it became widely accepted by the mid 1900’s. Of course, by the mid 1900’s the end times tribulation was in full bloom.
Perhaps it is important to clear up the confusion surrounding the tribulation. And there is confusion because theologians have harped upon its being an end time thing for so long now that most of today’s Christians truly believe it covers a period of three and a half or seven years. Yet, the tribulation actually began at the death of Christ, and has progressively got worse. Christ told us as much in Matthew 24. In fact, through His prophets, God revealed much more. He gave us clues to determine signs of His return, although not the time of His exact return. Yet, with the aid of Biblical prophecy, we can determine that the end times of the tribulation are upon us. Interestingly enough, these times coincide with the fulfilment of the prophecy to Esau, Jacob Israel’s brother, that his descendants would someday have dominion over Jacob’s descendants (Genesis 27: 40). Since that dominion took place, the heirs of Jacob Israel have experienced an ever-devastating tribulation. In a way, we are like the frog placed in water, which is then boiled. The change has been so gradual that we don’t really comprehend the bondage, which has been thrust upon us. Yet, the severity of the bondage cannot be mistaken as we travel through these very last days of the end times.
In support of the Pre-Tribulation theory, the Rapturists quote a number of Scriptural passages. To fully explore their position, we should first look at these passages.
“I will come on thee as a thief in the night and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Revelation 3: 3).
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10).
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we, which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them, which are asleep. For the Lord himself shaft descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4: 14 18).
“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark. And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. 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” (St. Matthew 24: 37 41).
In a nutshell, the Rapturists claim that Christ will return not once, but twice! The first occasion will be in secret and the Rapturists quote Revelation 3: 3, and similar Scriptural passages, as substantiating evidence to prove the secrecy, i.e., He is coming as a ‘thief in the night” (Revelation 3: 3). They combine this passage with I Thessalonians 4: 16 17 to show how Christ will rapture His believers, both dead and living in Christ, during this secret return and then escort them to Heaven. Quoting St. Matthew 24: 37 41, the Rapturists then suggest that two people might be in a field or elsewhere and instantly, the Christian will be raptured leaving the nonbeliever dumbfounded as to what happened. In fact, it is one of their most effective passages in encouraging a call to Christ.
Finally, the Rapturists claim that after three and a half, or, seven years later, again depending on the source of the story, Christ will come again, along with ten thousand of His believers, to deal with the wicked. At that point, He will establish His Kingdom. Some theologians say this Kingdom will be on earth while others say it is to be in Heaven.
There are basically five contentions here, (1) Christ will return twice, (2) that the first time will be in secret, (3) that in the Rapture, the wicked will be left and the believers, both living and dead, raptured, (4) that Christ will return with ten thousand of these believers three and a half or seven years later to deal with the wicked and (5) the Kingdom will be established. This report will review each contention.
Does Christ return twice? It is odd that when Jesus described the signs of His Second Coming (St Matthew 24:), He made no mention whatsoever that He would first briefly return to rapture the believers from the pangs of the end time woes. One would think that He would have at least alluded to such an important event. But, He didn’t! The Pre-Tribulation Rapturists counter by saying this Rapture will come quietly, in secrecy. But, does Christ return quietly in secrecy? If I Thessalonians 4: 16 is studied, then obviously He doesn’t. For the passage clearly states, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” This can only demonstrate that when the Lord returns, it will be anything but quiet. And in reviewing the entire passage of 2 Peter 3: 10, it ends, “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise.” So, obviously, when the Lord arrives, it certainly won’t be in secret.
Is it the believers who are taken away and is it the wicked who will remain? And who are the ten thousand who will return with Christ to deal with the wicked? These are two very confusing questions for Christians today, primarily because the false doctrine of the Rapture has become so firmly entrenched in our thinking that it is difficult to even consider the real truth. For reasons which are not clear to most of Christendom, modern theologians have misinterpreted both I Thessalonians 4: 14 18 and St. Matthew 24: 37 41, two favourite passages of the Rapturists.
Obviously, Jesus Christ is going to return at the end of the age to save the believers. At that time, the dead in Christ will be resurrected to meet him in the air, followed by the living in Christ. The Rapturists claim this act will take place at the beginning of the tribulation, although a study of their often-stated passages will demonstrate it is at the end. Still, to answer the question “is it the believers who are taken away and is it the wicked who remain”, it first must be asked “what is their destination after they meet the Lord?” The Rapturists suggest they are to be escorted to Heaven; yet, there is no Scriptural foundation for this. Indeed, as will be shown, it is quite the opposite. In fact, when the believers go to meet Christ, they are doing so to honour Him and to escort Him to earth, as the Queen would be honoured if she came to this continent. We wouldn’t let her fly from England, grab a taxi and go to our place of government. Our government leaders would be there to meet her. In this sense, it will be no different when Christ returns.
Then too, it must be asked, “Who are these ten thousands who will accompany the Lord”. Christ Himself said that He would be coming with his holy angels (St. Matthew 25: 31). The prophet Jude quoted the prophet Enoch, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints” (Jude 14). The Rapturists claim these saints to be the believers, but they are likely the same ten thousands who accompanied the Lord at Sinai (Deuteronomy 33: 2). What is interesting is that Jude says nothing about their returning to Heaven. On the contrary, he states that this gathering will be coming to earth to execute judgment upon the wicked (Jude 15).
So, who is left, the believers or the wicked. To restate the theory of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, modern theologians believe the Christians will be taken away to Heaven and the wicked and unbelievers left to pass through the tribulation. Yet, in Matthew 24: 37-41, it refers to the wicked being taken away and it compares the last days with the time of Noah. In these passages, Jesus basically said that if you want to understand what will happen at His coming, you must understand the situation at the time of Noah when the wicked were destroyed. Every Bible student knows that it was the wicked who were taken away at that time and the just, meaning Noah and his family, were left on the earth. It will be the same when Christ returns.