Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three Views of the Rapture, Part 3

The Post-Tribulation View
The first of these views to be covered is what is called the Post-Tribulation view. This view asserts that the Rapture will occur after the Tribulation in conjunction with the Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 19.

Those who support this view will go to a verse like John 16:33 as a proof text for their position where it says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Their position would be that God has called the church suffer and that the sufferings of the Tribulation period will be just one more time of suffering that will come upon the church.

I must admit that it is true that God does promise that His Church will suffer through grave tribulation and persecution and be preserved through it. History is replete with examples of this fact. One need only pick up a modern history book or a copy of “Foxes Book of Martyrs”[1] to see this.

However, the problem here is that the advocates of this position are not accurately dividing Scripture. Even if their premise is accurate; their conclusion is wrong.

Their premise is that verses like John 16:33 and others like it are proof that the church has always endured and outlasted all persecution that has ever come against it and will continue to do so right on through the Great Tribulation that is to come upon the earth with the revealing of the Antichrist.

They will quickly add that the Church was built and has been sustained with the blood of the martyrs and that tribulation and hard times is what makes the Church strong and purified and that God has promised that the Church will always overcome all opposition that comes against it. They would insist that the very thought of a Rapture prior to this great time of persecution is escapism.

They will use verses like Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said to Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” This verse definitely promises that the Church of Jesus Christ will suffer and will always prevail no matter what Satan throws against it.

Another verse they use would include Revelation 2:10 which says, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This verse is also correct in that the devil has indeed been behind the persecution of God’s people through the ages.

However, there are major problems with this view that must be addressed. The largest of which is that those who hold to it are confusing persecution with wrath. The dictionary says that persecution is “the act or practice of persecuting on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs that differ from those of the persecutor.”[2] However, wrath is defined as is defined as “punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger or divine retribution for sin.”[3] There is a major difference between the two.

Yes, the Bible does say that God will not allow any type of persecution to overwhelm and destroy the church that Christ has established and bought and paid for through His sacrificial death on the cross, but the Tribulation has nothing to do with persecution. It has everything to do with the wrath of God on Christ-rejecting, sinful man. With that the argument loses steam.

The Tribulation is God’s wrath being poured out on an unbelieving world with whom He gave opportunity after opportunity to accept the gift of forgiveness through faith in His precious Son, Jesus, but they would not.

The time of Tribulation that is to come upon this earth is not about the persecution of God’s people, but the wrath of God against those who persecuted God’s people. Neither is it considered to be intended as a purification process for the people of God.

Some proof texts for this include Revelation 6:16-17 which says, “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" The Tribulation is a time of God’s wrath, not persecution of the Church.

The book of Revelation also calls it the time of God’s wrath in 19:15 where it says, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Again, this is the time of God’s wrath on a Christ-rejecting world led by the Antichrist.

The Bible also teaches that the children of God are not appointed to this wrath that is to be poured out during this time because it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is also taught in Romans 5:9 where it says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Here is a verse that promises the Church that it will be kept from this time of wrath because of our justification.

Another verse from many would also include 1 Thessalonians 1:10 which says, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Here is a promise of deliverance from the time of wrath that is to come for the Church.

Clearly the Bible teaches that there is a great difference between the persecutions that are inflicted upon the church from within and without in the past, present, and even the future, that He Himself will bring upon sinful man during the Tribulation period.

Another major problem with this view is that it makes it possible to predict the Rapture even though Jesus said that it is not possible. He said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

To say that the Lord is going to Rapture the Church at the Second Coming makes it possible know the exact timing of the Rapture because the Second Coming will be a predictable event at this point in the Tribulation.

This will be possible at that time because we know that the duration of the Tribulation will be seven years in length and that the Second Coming will be three and half years after the breaking of the covenant by the Antichrist with the children of Israel.

If this view is correct, Scriptures such as Matthew 24:36 are rendered void. The lesson here is that one can not excuse one portion of Scripture to justify another. That is bad hermeneutics.

This position also serves to remove the purpose for the imminent return of Christ. It is the imminent return of Christ that pushes and encourages the child of God to live a pure life because he has no idea when His Master will return.

If the Rapture can be determined that it is to take place at such and such a time, there would be no encouragement for Christians to live a righteous and holy life that is constantly prepared for the time when Jesus calls His Church home.

This is seen in what Jesus said in Matthew 24:42-44 when He said, “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.”

One need only look into the lives of the many who hold this position to see that they are not living like today could be the day of the Lord’s return!

[1] Foxe, John. The New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. (Gainesville, Florida: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2001).

[2] http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=persecution
[3] http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=wrath

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