We All Get Left Behind

left_behind book

I wrote this critique of Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind novels and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory back in 2004.

Since then I have rewatched the movie The Langoliers based on the Stephen King story and I could not help but think of the similarities of people disappearing on  a plane.

stephen king langoliers

Then there was the new 2014 Left Behind movie starring Nicolas Cage and nominated for three Razzie awards.

47_LeftBehind_poster_web

Knowing (2009) was a much better Nicolas Cage end of the world rapture plane crash movie.

knowing-2009

left_behind_remake_movie_poster_1

Introduction

According to Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins is one of the top ten selling books of the 20th Century (1). The twelve books in the series tell the story of those who were “left behind” after the Rapture when Jesus returned for his Church and removed them from the Earth. Those, who remained, had to endure the Great Tribulation and the reign of the Antichrist before the Second Coming of Christ.

left_behind book

Left Behind’s readers might assume that the books are based on what Bible prophecy says will happen in the future. However, what the books describe is only one of many interpretations of Bible prophecy. The Left Behind novels are based on a pre-Tribulationist futurist interpretation of Bible prophecy. Futurism teaches that the Great Tribulation and most of the events in the Book of Revelation are still to come in the future. There are other interpretations. The historical interpretation is held by some conservative Protestants. They believe the Book of Revelation symbolically describes historical events in the Church era. Instead of a future world dictator, the historical interpretation equates the Antichrist or Beast with the Pope. Then, there is the preterist interpretation. They believe Revelation and other passages on prophecy, such as Matthew 24, describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. Finally, the spiritual school of interpretation tends to look more for the meaning behind the symbolism in Revelation, rather than trying to apply it to specific events.

tim lahaye

Tim LaHaye is a pre-Tribulationist. He believes the Rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation. He believes the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming which occurs at the end of the Tribulation.

There are other theories about when the Rapture will happen. Mid-Tribulationists believe the Rapture will occur in the middle of the Tribulation. There is the pre-wrath theory which believes the Rapture will take place towards the end of the Tribulation. Post-Tribulationists believe the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation and is simultaneous with the Second Coming. Finally, there is the partial Rapture theory which teaches that only the more spiritual Christians will be raptured, although I have never come across anyone who believes this.

Tim LaHaye has written a book called Rapture Under Attack (now called The Rapture) in response to the arguments of post-Tribulationists, mid-Tribulationists and others. The title is misleading. Post-Tribulationists, etc. do not attack the Rapture. They believe in the Rapture. They only disagree with pre-Tribulationists about when it is going to happen.

tim lahaye rapture

There are also different schools of interpretation regarding the Millennium, the period of 1000 years described after the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 20. Tim LaHaye is a premillennialist. He believes Jesus will return before the Millennium and will rule on Earth for 1000 years. On the other hand, postmillennialists believe the Church will establish the Kingdom of God on earth by evangelizing the world. Then, Christ will return. Amillennialists believe there is no literal 1000 years. It is symbolic of the Church era we are now in. Both amillennialists and postmillennialists believe the time at the end of the 1000 years when Satan is loosed from the Abyss (Rev. 20: 7-8) represents the Great Tribulation. The fire coming down from Heaven, which destroys Satan’s armies (Rev. 20: 9) is the Battle of Armageddon.

As you can see, Tim LaHaye’s pre-Tribulationist interpretation is only one of many held by Bible-believing Christians. Only one interpretation can be right, but that does not mean that those with different interpretations are heretics or false Christians. They are fellow Bible-believing Christians with differing opinions about a minor doctrine.

Tim LaHaye has written,

“Various interpretations of the timing of the rapture do not constitute heresy and should not cause division among believers. Whereas some of my personal friends disagree vigorously with me on this matter, we do not show disrespect or question each other’s love for the Lord.” (2)

It looks like many Christians have come to believe the pre-Tribulationist view is correct from reading the Left Behind novels and probably think it is the only one. However, a novel about the pre-Tribulation Rapture does not prove the pre-Tribulation Rapture is true. Someone could write a novel, which places the Rapture in the middle or at the end of the Tribulation, but that would not prove their views are correct, anymore than the movie Independence Day proves Earth is going to be invaded by aliens. Christians should not assume something is true or Biblical because they read it in a novel. The Left Behind novels prove nothing in themselves, only that it is possible to persuade people about what are supposed to be facts through works of fiction by appealing to their imagination, rather than rational argument. Some would call this approach propaganda.

tribulaion force

I agree with Tim LaHaye in part. I believe the Great Tribulation is in the future, the Antichrist will rule the world and he will be overthrown by Christ at His Second Coming. However, I believe pre-Tribulationists are wrong about the timing of the Rapture. Instead, I am going to argue that the Bible teaches that the Rapture will occur at the same time as the Second Coming. This essay will not so much address the Left Behind novels, but Tim LaHaye’s non-fiction works, such as The Rapture, or Rapture under Attack, in which he outlines his pre-Tribulationist arguments on which the Left Behind series is based, as well as the arguments of some other pre-Tribulationist writers, Hal Lindsey, John F. Walvoord and Thomas Ice.

Notes

(1) Samuele Bacchiocchi, “Left Behind: Fact or Fiction?”, Endtimes Issues No. 62 (revised) 26 January 2001/ 28 March 2001, http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/endtimesissues/eti_62.html

(2) Tim LaHaye, The Rapture, Harvest House, Oregon, 2002, p. 104

Interpreting the Bible Literally

Tim LaHaye writes that if we take the Bible literally, we would conclude it teaches a pre-Tribulation Rapture.

“As a general rule, the more a person accepts the Bible literally, the more likely he is to hold to the pre-Tribulation view.” (1)

Furthermore, he accuses post-Tribulationists of not interpreting the Bible literally.

“As a general rule, many of those who hold this (post-Tribulationist) view do not take prophetic scriptures as literally as they do other passages of the Bible.” (2)

He also claims that if the Book of Revelation is interpreted literally, it supports the pre-Tribulation Rapture.

“Taken literally, the book of Revelation is a pre-Tribulational book.”(3)

This is not true, because LaHaye and other pre-Tribulationists do not take literally the passages in Revelation which they use to support the pre-Tribulation Rapture. He interprets them allegorically. He wrote about Revelation 3:10,

“One of the best promises guaranteeing the church’s rapture before the Tribulation appears in Revelation 3:10. As you read it, keep in mind that it is one of our Lord’s own promises:
Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you
from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those
who dwell on the earth (emphasis added).
……….
In my commentary on the book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1974), I pointed out that the seven churches of Asia were selected out of hundreds of young churches at that time because they were types of the seven church ages that would exist from the first century to the present…..The message of Christ to the church at Philadelphia was not only for that little church, but also represented the church age that was an “open door” church – that is, the evangelistic, missionary-minded church that started about 1750 and will exist right up to the time Christ comes to rapture His church.
………..
Revelation 3:10 teaches that the faithful church of the open door – which will not deny His name, but will practice good works, evangelism and missions – will be kept out of the hour of trial (the Great Tribulation) that will try the whole earth. The guarantee of rapture before Tribulation could hardly be more powerful.” (4)

Pre-Tribulationists argue that this verse means the Church will be kept from the Tribulation by being taken out in the Rapture. Post-Tribulationists say it means the church will be preserved through the Tribulation. Such arguments are not based on a literal interpretation of the passage. Taken literally, this is part of a letter addressed only to a church in Philadelphia in modern-day Turkey and nothing more. LaHaye and other pre-Tribulationists have interpreted Revelation’s letters to the seven churches allegorically and suggested that they describe seven periods in church history. I agree this interpretation is probably correct, but it is not a literal interpretation.

nicolae left behind

LaHaye ignores the question of what did this promise meant to the Christians it was made to, the church in Philadelphia in about 95 AD. At this time Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire. The Philadelphian church did not have their own private Rapture. They were still there during the Moslem era. I assume that they were preserved through the persecution and did not suffer like others in the area did.

Even if the seven churches of Revelation are meant to represent seven periods in church history, the Laodecian church is supposed to represent the last church period before the Second Coming, so any promise about being raptured would have been made to them. The Laodecian church was not perfect. No church is. LaHaye labels it the “apostate church” (5). Jesus did not say it was apostate, only that it was “lukewarm, neither cold nor hot” (Rev, 3:15). They sound like they believed the right things, but they were not on fire for God. This sounds like a more accurate description of the modern evangelical church than the Philadelphian church. In spite of its faults, the Laodecian church was still one of the lampstands, which Jesus stood in the midst of (Rev. 1:12-20), they were still part of the body of Christ. Whenever it is going to be, the whole body of Christ, including the Laodecian type of church, will be taken up in the Rapture.

Instead, LaHaye has written that only the Philadelphian church-type is raptured (6), while the types of churches represented by the churches of Thyatria (7), Sardis (8) and Laodecia (9) get “left behind” and go through the Tribulation. He appears to be inadvertently advocating a partial rapture theory in which only the more spiritual Christians are included.

LaHaye also argues that if references to saints being martyred in the Tribulation refer to Christians, then Jesus broke his promise.

“The pre-Trib view is the only one that resolves the contrasting difficulties of Revelation 3:10 and 7:14. For if Christians are among the martyrs of 7:14 who are killed during the Tribulation, then the Lord has not kept His promise in Revelation 3:10. And that is unthinkable! Pre-Tribulationists explain that there are no Christians on the earth during the Tribulation to be martyred. They were raptured before it began – fulfilling the Lord’s promise.”(10)

Actually, there are no martyrs in Revelation 7:14, which says,

“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

It does not say they were killed. The only “blood” mentioned is the Lamb’s, not any martyrs’. They could presumably be believers who survived the Tribulation.

Nevertheless, there are martyrs mentioned elsewhere in Revelation’s description of the Tribulation (6:9-11,13:7,14:13,16:6,18:24), but, if they are Christians, they do not necessarily mean that Jesus broke His promise. LaHaye and other pre-Tribulationists have overlooked the fact that while the Rapture applies to all true Christians, Jesus’ promise to the church at Philadelphia is a conditional one. Jesus told them he would keep them from the hour of trial because they “have kept my command to persevere” (Rev. 3:10) or “have kept the word of my patience” (KJV)

Elsewhere in Revelation, it talks about the “patience of the saints”.

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall be taken into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” (Rev. 13: 9-10)

“If anyone has an ear, let him hear” is reminiscent of “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” what Jesus said to each of he churches in Revelation 2 to 3.

“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14: 12)

James wrote that “the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:3)

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines patience “in the N.T. the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” (11)

Believers are going to face all kinds of temptations and trials during the Tribulation, not just whether or not to take the Mark, but issues like whether or not to resort to violence. In his promise to the church at Philadelphia, Jesus appears to be saying that those, who keep the faith, resist temptation and live in a Christ-like manner, will be preserved. Such a promise would not apply to the gun-carrying members of the Tribulation Force.

In Revelation 4:1 John is told to “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” and is taken up to Heaven. LaHaye claims this is an allusion to the Rapture and John represents the Church being taken to Heaven (12).

Again, since LaHaye is saying that John symbolizes the Church, this is not a literal interpretation. It is an allegorical one.

Furthermore, the symbolism does not hold. In the subsequent chapters John goes back and forth between Earth and Heaven, which, according to pre-Tribulationists, the Church does not do.

LaHaye also argues that the Church is not mentioned in Revelation 4 to 18 because it has been raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation.

“The church is mentioned seven times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but after John ( a member of the church)is called up to heaven in chapter 4, he looks down on the events of the Tribulation – and the church is not mentioned or seen again until chapter 19 when she returns to the earth with her bridegroom at the glorious appearing. Why? The answer is obvious: She isn’t in the Tribulation. She is raptured to be with her Lord before it begins!” (13)

However, the Church is not mentioned as being in Heaven during the Tribulation period either. John, supposedly representing the Church, did not stay in Heaven, looking down to Earth during the whole Tribulation, so this does not show that the Church was raptured and is in Heaven during the Tribulation either.

The word “church” does not appear in Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John or Jude. These books still involved the church and applied to it. Clearly, the absence of the word “church” proves nothing.

According to pre-Tribulationists, the Great Tribulation is mean to be a time of God’s plans for the Jews being fulfilled, however the words “Jew” or “Jews’ do not appear in Revelation 4 to 18. Neither does the word “Antichrist”. Therefore, according to the same reasoning used by pre-Tribulationists, the Jews are also not present during the Great Tribulation and neither is the Antichrist.

While the words “Jews” and “Antichrist” do not appear, the synonyms “Israel” and “Beast” do. Likewise, the word “saints” is used in Revelation 4 to 18. In all, but one (Matthew 27:52), of the 49 times the word “saints” is used in the New Testament outside Revelation, it means Christians. Since the Bible says nothing to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that in Revelation, “saints” still means Christians.

However, pre-Tribulationists claim these saints are not Christians, but “Tribulation saints” even though this term also does not appear in Revelation 4 to 18 or anywhere else in the Bible. Pre-Tribulationists have invented this new category of believers to explain away what would otherwise be understood as references to Christians in the Great Tribulation.

There is nothing in Revelation to suggest that the saints in the Tribulation are something different from Christians. Revelation says they have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14); they “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17); they “keep…the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12) and they “die in the Lord” (Rev. 14:13). Since the saints in Revelation “die in the Lord” and the “dead in Christ” will be raised first at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16), this suggests that the Rapture is still to come at the end of the Tribulation

Furthermore, Paul wrote that Jesus is going to return with all his saints;

“So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thess. 3:13)

He did not say Jesus is going to return with only His Christian saints, and not the Tribulation saints. He is going to return with all of them. Since Jesus returns with all His saints, then no one can become a saint between the Rapture and the Second Coming, suggesting there is no significant time lapse between the two events. The Rapture must take place at the end of the Tribulation. The dead in Christ are raised first and the living saints are translated. They rise to meet Jesus, then they all return with Him. There are no additional saints who are left behind.

Assassins left behind

The saints in Revelation sound identical to Christians. The Tribulation saints characters in Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novels do not seem any different from Christians. In The Truth Behind Left Behind, Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice wrote that “salvation during the Tribulation will come about just as it does during our present church age” (14) and God “will pour out his grace on those who come to Him in simple faith.” (15) However, pre-Tribulationists do not see believes in the Tribulation as people who became Christians after the Rapture. In the same book, Hitchcock and Ice quote Donald Barnhouse as saying,

“For when the church is removed at the Rapture, the Holy Spirit goes with the church insofar as His restraining power is concerned. His work in this age of grace will be ended. Henceforth, during the Great Tribulation, the Holy Spirit will still be here on earth, of course – for how can you get rid of God? – but He will not be indwelling believers as He does now. Rather, He will revert to His Old Testament ministry of “coming upon” special people.” (16)

John F. Walvoord has written,

“But neither Gundry nor anyone else can prove that the baptizing work of the Spirit that forms the church is ever seen in the Tribulation.
That the Spirit works in the Tribulation all agree. That the Spirit indwells all believers is nowhere taught.” (17)

Hal Lindsey says,

“There is ample evidence that the Holy Spirit does minister according to the conditions of the previous economy of law during the Tribulation.
It is important to note that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit did convince people of their need for salvation, give the new birth and work through certain chosen vessels such as prophets. The Scripture predicts that He will work in the same way during the tribulation.” (18)

Thus, pre-Tribulationists do not believe that the Holy Spirit will indwell the Tribulation saints in the same way He does with Christians now. It is hard to reconcile the claims of pre-Tribulationists with what the Bible teaches. They say the Tribulation saints will not have the Holy Spirit, but how can someone be a saint, acceptable to God, when Romans 8:8-9 says anyone, who does not have the Holy Spirit, cannot please God and does not belong to Him? Likewise, it is difficult to imagine how Hal Lindsey thinks the Holy Spirit can “give the new birth” to the Tribulation saints without dwelling in them.

The Bible does not say there will be a new category of believers called Tribulation saints and that the Holy Spirit will not dwell in believers during the Tribulation or will go back to operating in an Old Testament manner. These are the teachings of dispensationalism, which will be examined later, rather than the Bible.

Hal Lindsey claims that the seven lamps of fire in Revelation 4: 5 represent the raptured Church in Heaven at the start of the tribulation,

“When the apostle John is caught up to heaven in Revelation Chapter 4, he sees seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God (Verse 5). Those seven lamps first appeared on earth in chapter 1, Verses 12 through 20. In Verse 20 they are identified as seven symbolic churches. I believe that these seven lamps are the Church which has just been raptured into Heaven.” (19)

Again, this is not a literal interpretation. It is allegorical. It is also a misleading one. Although Lindsey studied Greek for five years (20), he does not tell his readers that two different Greek words are used here. The lampstands of Chapter 1 are luchniai. The lamps of fire in Chapter 4 are lampados. Lindsey gives the impression they are the same thing when two different words are being used.

The word luchniai, which symbolized the churches, does appear elsewhere in Revelation. Chapter 11 describes the ministry of the two witnesses who prophesy for 1260 days. Then, they are killed by the Antichrist. Three days later they are resurrected and are taken up to Heaven. Tim LaHaye believes the two witnesses are two literal people, Moses and Elijah (21). That is not what the Bible says. Revelation 11: 4 says, “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” The word for “lampstands” here is luchniai, same as in Revelation 1:13, 20.

Not everything in Revelation is meant to be taken literally. No literalist pre-Tribulationist believes a seven-headed sea monster will rule the world (Rev. 12: 1-10) or that a dragon is going to chase a woman into the desert (Rev. 12: 13-17). These are symbolic or allegorical.

Sometimes the symbolism in Revelation is explained to John. Jesus told him the stars and lampstands in Chapter 1 were angels and churches respectively (Rev. 1: 20). An angel told him the seven heads of the Beast were seven kings (Rev. 17: 10) and the Beast’s ten horns were ten future kings who would rule with him (Rev. 17: 12).

In the case of the two witnesses, the symbolism is also explained. Revelation 1: 20 says the lampstands (luchniai) are churches and Revelation 11: 4 says the witnesses are lampstands (luchniai). If A = B and B = C, then C = A. Therefore, the witnesses are churches. Witnesses being churches is kind of obvious if you think about it.

On the other hand, Tim LaHaye has written,

“But there’s no reason to take these witnesses symbolically or spiritualize them as the church” (22)

“John had no difficulty identifying the church in the first three chapters. If he had meant to introduce two symbols, he would have said so.” (23)

John did say so.

Revelation 11 is not a description of two literal people in the Tribulation; rather it is a symbolic account of the church in the Tribulation, its ministry, persecution and Rapture.

Tim LaHaye’s claim that pre-Tribulationists interpret Revelation literally is not true. They can only find arguments for a pre-Tribulation Rapture in Revelation by interpreting it symbolically. In the case of the two witnesses, they interpret them literally when it is explained they are symbolic and they apparently symbolize the Church in the Tribulation.

Furthermore, Tim LaHaye tried to sue two Christian companies, Namesake Entertainment and Cloud Ten pictures, over the movie version of Left Behind. 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 expressly forbids Christians suing each other in secular courts. LaHaye apparently only takes the Bible literally when it suits him.

Left-Behind-The-Movie

Notes

(1) LaHaye, The Rapture, op cit., p.107

(2) Ibid, p.109

(3) Ibid, p. 138

(4) Ibid, p. 49-50

(5) Tim LaHaye, Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, Zondervan, Michigan, 1975, p. 60

(6) Ibid, p. 54

(7) Ibid, p. 43, 47

(8) Ibid, p. 42, 52

(9) Ibid, p. 60

(10) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 139

(11) Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, Michigan, 1995, p. 644

(12) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p 54, 58

(13) Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?, Tyndale House, Illinois, 1999, p. 112

(14) Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice, The Truth Behind Left Behind, Multonah, Oregon, 2004, p. 84

(15) Ibid., p. 100

(16) Ibid., p. 32

(17) John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question, Zondervan, Michigan, 1979, p. 243

(18) Hal Lindsey, The Rapture, Bantam House, Toronto, 1983, p. 83

(19) Ibid., p. 107

(20) Ibid., p. 99

(21)LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 113, Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, op. cit. , p. 152

(22) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 113

(23) Ibid., p. 114

Israel and the Church

Tim LaHaye has written that there are two keys to understanding Bible prophecy,

“First, one must interpret the Bible literally unless the context provides good reason to do otherwise. Second, we must understand that Israel and the church are distinct! They had different beginnings, purposes and commissions, and they have different futures. If a person fails to acknowledge these two facts of Scripture, all discussion and argument is fruitless.” (1)

As we have seen, pre-Tribulationists do not consistently interpret the Bible literally. Furthermore, the distinction between Israel and the Church, in the sense that LaHaye means, is not a “fact”. It is a belief of dispensationalism or Darbyism, a system of theology which divides up the way God relates to His people, Israel, then the Church into different period or dispensations and draws sharp distinctions between them.

Most pre-Tribulationists, including Tim LaHaye, (2) are also dispensationalists. They believe God must remove the Church in the Rapture for His plans for the Jews to begin again and a Jewish remnant to be saved. Pre-Tribulationism is built on the foundation of dispensationalism. Hal Lindsey has written,

“In fact, I believe that God’s purpose for Israel and His purpose for the Church are so distinct and mutually exclusive that they cannot both be on earth at the same time during the seven-year Tribulation.
If this is so, then the Church must be removed before God can deal specifically again with Israel as defined in Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 7: 24-27)” (3)

I agree with pre-Tribulationists that the seventieth week of Daniel 9 is synonymous with the Tribulation and a Jewish remnant will be saved, but who are pre-Tribulationists to say that God must remove the Church before His plans for the Jews can resume and they cannot be on earth at the same time. I thought God was all-powerful. Can’t He do two things at once?

There is no reason why an omniscient, omnipotent God cannot have a plan to save the Jews running and have a plan for Christians at the same time. God did not have to make all the Jews disappear in order for His plan for the Church to begin. Why does He need to make the Church disappear in the Rapture for His plans for the Jews to resume?

Pre-Tribulationists say that the restoration of the nation of Israel in 1948 was part of God’s plan for the Jews, meaning it is already underway, but the Church is still here. Clearly, God can have two plans going at once.

The pre-Tribulationist argument makes even less sense when the “Tribulation saints” are taken into account. They say the Church and the Jews cannot be here at the same time, but the “Tribulation saints” and the Jews can, and in their case, God can work in both groups. Why?

In a speech known as the “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, Jesus described events preceding His Second Coming. He told His disciples they were going to experience the Great Tribulation. He did say they would be raptured before it started. He said they would see the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15), believed to be an idol which the Antichrist will set up in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. The Rapture is described at the end of the Tribulation;

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, and from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24: 29-31)

This has parallels with other Rapture passages. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17 refers to the coming of Jesus from heaven, an angel, a trumpet and clouds,

“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.”

2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4 reads,

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition. Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

Matthew 24: 31 says the angels “will gather together His elect” at the end of the Tribulation. 2 Thessalonians 2: 1 talks about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering to Him”. Paul said the day of Christ will not come until the falling away of the Church comes first and the Antichrist is revealed. He then describes the “abomination of desolation”, the Antichrist in the Temple. Then Jesus will return and we will be gathered to Him in the Rapture. This is post-Tribulationism. There is no suggestion of a pre-Tribulation Rapture in Matthew 24 or 2 Thessalonians 2.

However, because dispensationalists divide history into different dispensations and the Church did not exist before Jesus’ death, many of them believe that most of what Jesus said in the Gospels, particularly Matthew, was intended for the Jews and does not apply to the Church. They believe the Olivet Discourse of Matthew was intended for the Jews or the tribulation saints and has nothing to do with the Church. Thus, Tim LaHaye ignores it in The Rapture.

The dispensationalist teaching about Jesus’ words is clearly contradicted by what Jesus told His disciples in the Great Commission,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”(Matthew 28: 19-20)

Jesus told His disciples to teach their disciples, and thus, the Church, everything that He had commanded them. Everything, which Jesus said to His disciples, applies to the Church. That includes Matthew 24 when he told them they would go through the Tribulation.

Notes

(1) LaHaye, The Rapture, op cit., p. 231-2

(2) The Truth Behind Left Behind, op. cit., p 180

        (3) Lindsey, The Rapture, op. cit., p.69-70

The Blessed or Gospel of Fear

Tim LaHaye has written,

“The resurrection of all believers who have died in the Lord, and the translation of living believers to meet each other in the clouds as Paul described, has been treasured expectations for almost 20 centuries. We commit loved ones to the ground with the confident hope that we will see each other again at the Rapture and then join our Lord in the Father’s house. Death for a Christian is but a temporary time of separation from friends. That is the hope of our faith.” (1)

Titus 2: 13 describes Christians as “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Tim LaHaye argues that only if there is a pre-Tribulation Rapture and Christians avoid the Tribulation can they truly look forward to the second Coming as comforting and a blessed hope.

“[The pre-Tribulation Rapture] is the only view that makes the “the blessed hope” truly a blessed hope.
Even the mid-Trib position destroys that hope by forcing the Christian to anticipate the trauma of the Tribulation. Post-Tribulationism, of course, is even worse in that it requires Christians to go through the Great Tribulation…..
Remember: Rapture teaching was given to comfort those who mourn. The threat of going through the Tribulation is hardly a doctrine of comfort to the saints.”(2)

Christians have always had the hope that one day Jesus will resurrect them and they will see their loved ones again. However, only the last generation of Christians has to be concerned about going through the Tribulation before this happens. All the other Christians of the last 2000 years have already died with the hope of being resurrected and reunited and did not have to go through the Tribulation. Most of them could not have believed they were going to be taken up in the Rapture before the Tribulation because, as Tim LaHaye acknowledges, the doctrine of the pre-Tribulation Rapture did not exist before 1830 (3). So, for all but one generation of Christians, LaHaye’s argument is irrelevant.

glrious appearing left behind

Furthermore, Titus 2:13 mentions both “the blessed hope and glorious appearing” of Jesus. The “glorious appearing” is understood to mean the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation. LaHaye claims that this passage refers to both the Rapture and the Second Coming, seven years later, in the same verse (4). However, grammatically, the “blessed hope” and “glorious appearing” are the same thing. Tim Warner writes,

“The Greek word kai is equivalent to our English word “and” or “also”. It is used to connect two nouns in some way. It sometimes means the second noun is “in addition to” the first noun. That is, two distinct things are mentioned together. Example, “heaven and earth”. But, when the Granville Sharp rule applies, “kai” is used to restate, or connect two nouns referring to the same thing or person. (Example, “the God and Father.”) That is, the second noun is a further description of the first noun. Both nouns refer to the same thing or person.
The Granville-Sharp rule is as follows;
“If two nouns of the same case are connected by a “kai” [and] and the article is used with both nouns, they refer to different persons or things. If only the first noun has the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing referred to in the first.” [ Vaughn and Gideon, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1979), p. 83.]
The key to understanding this rule is the use of the definite article (the). When we have two nouns connected by “kai” (and), we must look to see if the definite article (the) is used before BOTH nouns, or just the first noun. If it is used before BOTH nouns, the Granville Sharp rule does not apply, and the two nouns are referring to separate things or persons. But, if only the first noun has the definite article, Granville Sharp applies. Both nouns refer to the same person or thing.
………
Now, let’s apply this rule to Titus 2:13……
“Expecting the blessed hope and appearing the glory the great God and savior of us Christ Jesus.”
The Granville Sharp rule actually applies twice in this verse (1). It applies to the words “the great God and savior”. Both “great God” and “savior” are nouns of the same case (masculine singular). The first noun “great God” has the definite article “the” and the second noun does not. This means that the Greek word “kai” [and] is being used to restate, and the second noun is referring to the same person as the first noun. So, in effect, “savior” [ who is Jesus Christ] IS the “the great God.” This is a definitive statement on the deity of Christ which is lost if Granville Sharp is not applied.
The same rule applies to the first sentence. Both “blessed hope” and “appearing” are nouns of the same case. And, the first [blessed hope] has the definite article, while the second article [appearing] does not. This means the “appearing” and “blessed hope” are being referred to as a unit. The word “kai” [and] is used to restate or refer back to the first noun, it does NOT mean the ‘appearing” is something we are looking forward to IN ADDITION TO looking for the “blessed hope”. We are looking for ONE coming, not two.
The NIV captures the meaning in this verse.
Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (NIV)
So, in essence, this verse says that our “blessed hope” is the “glorious appearing” of Christ. ” (5)

Tim Warner also pointed out how on the logo of their webpage, the Pre-Trib Research Center, which Tim LaHaye co-founded, edited this verse so it reads,

“Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13

The “glorious appearing” obviously means the Second Coming, but simply the “appearing” of Jesus Christ could be interpreted as meaning His appearing to Christians at the Rapture. (6) This kind of editing of the Bible text so that it fits one’s theological bias is the sort of thing one would expect from cults.

LaHaye attacks the mid- and post-Tribulationist position by appealing to the emotions, not just the Bible. The idea of going through the Tribulation is not comforting.

“And yet that comforting belief is under great attack today more than at any time in recent history. Christian mothers now worry that their precious sons and daughters will be forced to undergo the horrors of the Great Tribulation. Christian fathers fret about the impossible task of keeping their families alive through the most gruesome period the world has ever known.
………….
Are you able to look at your children playing in the sunlight and believe firmly in your heart that they will not have to endure the monstrous horrors of the Tribulation?”(7)

In spite of his emphasis on tolerance in the Rapture debate, which was quoted earlier, LaHaye calls Christians, who do not agree with his pre-Tribulationist position “hope stealers” (8) who have been sent by Satan (9) and says, “When the pre-Trib position is attacked, undermining the faith of a young Christian, or when a minister embraces a different theory and divides his church by teaching it, Satan notches another victory.” (10). LaHaye thinks that when a Christian disagrees with him, it is a victory for Satan.

What we, as Christians, believe is not based on what feels good or what we find comforting, but on what the Bible says. We may not find comforting the idea of our non-Christian family members and friends going to Hell or being expected to deny ourselves and take up our cross (Matthew 16:24). That does not mean it is not true or it comes from Satan.

It sounds like Tim LaHaye expects Christians to be worried and afraid at the prospect of going through the Tribulation, and the pre-Tribulation Rapture is the means of averting their fears. Some pre-Tribulationist evangelists preach what could be described as a gospel of fear. I have heard them describe to an audience all the horrible things that are going to happen during the Tribulation. Then, they say the way to avoid all this is to become a Christian so they will be taken up in the Rapture before it happens. Similarly, it appears “many” people have become Christians from reading the Left Behind novels because they do not want to be “left behind” and go through the Tribulation (11). One day, they are going to be disappointed.

On the other hand, Hal Lindsey has written,

“I think it is important to bring out that as far as my own personal faith is concerned, if the Scriptures teach that the Church is to go through all or part of the Tribulation, I can certainly trust God for His care and protection and press on.”(12)

The Bible tells us not to worry and not to be afraid (Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6). In spite of some pre-Tribulationists’ fear-mongering, Christians do not need to be afraid at the prospect of going through the Tribulation. Whether we go through the Tribulation or nor, and whatever happens to us before then, God is in control, He loves us infinitely and we can trust Him in what happens. That is real hope and what we should take comfort in, not the flawed doctrine of the pre-Tribulation Rapture.

The argument, that Christians cannot look forward to the Second Coming with comfort and hope if they are going to suffer in the Tribulation first, might make sense to Christians living in prosperous, free Western countries. However, elsewhere in the world, Christians are already suffering and being persecuted. The Bible says persecution is the norm of the Christian life (John 15: 18-19, 1Timothy 3: 12). I have heard the statistic that more Christians were martyred in the 20th Century than in the rest of the history of the Church put together. Christian parents in Moslem and Communist countries already face the prospect of their “children playing in the sunlight” suffering and even being killed for their beliefs. To them, the suggestion, that the Second Coming cannot be a blessed hope if Christians are going to suffer first, must appear insensitive nonsense.

In fact, for Christians, who are suffering and experiencing persecution, the Second Coming is even more of a blessed hope because it means an end to their suffering. That is how the characters in the Left Behind novels look forward to the blessed hope of the Second Coming.

In 2 Thessalonians, before he wrote that the Rapture (“our gathering together to Him”) would take place after the apostasy of the Church and the revealing of the Antichrist, Paul told the Thessalonians that the Second Coming would bring an end to their sufferings and tribulations.

“So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of he kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you. And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when he comes in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to admired among all those who believe, because our testimony was believed.” (1 Thess. 1:4-10)

Again, Paul is teaching post-Tribulationism. He did not say the suffering of Christians is going to end when they are taken up in the Rapture before the Tribulation. (He is definitely addressing Christians here. Pre-Tribulationists cannot explain this away as meaning Jews or Tribulation saints.) Paul was clearly talking about the Second Coming, the Glorious Appearing. He told them their suffering would end, they would be given rest, at the same time when the wicked are punished at the Second Coming which is at the end of the Tribulation.

Pre-Tribulationism teaches imminency, that the Rapture could happen at any moment, so it does not consider the possibility of anything significant happening between now and the start of the Tribulation. During the Cold War it was apparent that most pre-Tribulationists did not believe they would experience World War III because they believed the Rapture would occur before then. The Church was not raptured before World Wars I and II. They did not consider the possibility that World War III could also occur and they would still be here, and the Great Tribulation could begin years afterwards. Many pre-Tribulationists do not consider the possibility of dramatic political changes, like the collapse of democracy and the end of religious freedom in Australia or the United States before the Tribulation begins. They assume everything is going to be fine, they will continue to live in middle-class luxury right up the Rapture.

This belief had a disastrous effect in China where before the Communist revolution, Western missionaries taught the pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine to the Chinese Christians. Corrie Ten Boom, a Nazi concentration camp survivor and missionary, reports,

“There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution. In China, the Christians were told, “Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.” Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later, I heard a bishop from China say, sadly, “We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes – to stand and not faint.”” (13)

The consequences of belief in pre-Tribulationism in China are mentioned briefly in Tim LaHaye’s The Rapture, when he quotes Gerald Stanton’s critique of Dave MacPherson’s book, The Incredible Cover-Up,

“He makes the awful charge that in China “the Pre-trib Rapture view has caused the deaths of thousands of persons” because missionaries did not warn them of the coming persecution.” (14)

Stanton did not produce any evidence that the claim about China was not true. He simply called it an “awful charge”. Apparently, we are not supposed to believe it because it is “awful”. This is an appeal to the emotions, not facts. Just because it is “awful”, does not mean it did not happen.

Christians should expect to suffer persecution. Even if they turn out to be wrong about the timing of the Rapture, post-Tribulationists would presumably be more spiritually and emotionally prepared to cope with persecution then pre-Tribulationists, even if that persecution is not part of the Great Tribulation.

However, Tim LaHaye has written,

“One of the weakest arguments for rejecting the pre-Trib position is that we should be preparing the church for the coming Tribulation; otherwise, Christians will be unable to endure the sufferings of those months of calamity….
Such a pessimistic view not only blasts the hope of the Rapture but sells short the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. If the church were forced to proceed through the Tribulation, we would not be abandoned by the Spirit of God. Philippians 4: 19 would not be torn from our Bibles, for God would still supply all our needs. Besides, how would one prepare for such a time of tribulation? True, we could memorize more Scripture, but you don’t need the threat of tribulation for that.” (15)

Here, LaHaye appears to be saying the Bible does not need to give us any special teachings for preparing for the Tribulation. However, elsewhere in the same book, LaHaye contradicts himself and argues that the lack of instructions for preparing for the Tribulation is evidence for the pre-Tribulation view,

“Doesn’t it seem strange that although the Bible advises Christians how to face ordinary, everyday troubles, it submits absolutely no instructions related to the worst time the world will ever face, a period filled with frightening events that have never even come close to being fulfilled? Pre-Tribulationism has a simple answer: We won’t be there!”(16)

What about the “Tribulation saints”? If the Bible contains no instructions for coping with the Tribulation, what are they supposed to do? If the supposed absence of instructions means the Church is not going to be there, then, presumably, the “Tribulation saints” are not going to be there either.

The Bible did not give Christians instructions for specific events that were going to happen in the future. That does not mean Christians were not going to experience them. The Bible did not give us instructions for going through World War II, but the Church still did.

However, in the Bible and the Holy Spirit, God has given us everything we need to cope with every situation we will face (2 Peter 1:3). That includes the Great Tribulation. If anyone wants to learn about spiritual preparation for the Tribulation, they should read Corrie Ten Boom’s Marching Orders for the End
Battle, which studies what the Bible says about surviving and overcoming persecution to prepare Christians for the Tribulation.

Notes

(1) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p.71

(2) Ibid., p. 137

(3) Ibid., p. 155

(4) Ibid., p.78-81

(5) Tim Warner, “The Blessed Hope”, http://www.geocities.com/~lasttrumpet/titus213.html

(6) Tim Warner, “”Rapture Myths” and the Tangled Webs we Weave, Part I”, http://www.geocities.com/~lasttrumpet/debate2_4b.html

(7) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit. , p.17-19

(8) Ibid., p. 221

(9) Ibid., p. 25

(10) Ibid., p. 224

(11) The Truth Behind Left Behind, op. cit., p. 17

(12) Lindsey, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 24

(13) Corrie ten Boom, (untitled), http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/corrie.html

(14) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 174

(15) Ibid., p. 71-2

(16) Ibid., p. 140

The Church and the Wrath of God

Tim LaHaye believes two passages in 1 Thessalonians, referring to Christians being spared from God’s wrath, support the pre-Tribulation Rapture.

“For they themselves declare concerning what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” ( 1 Thess. 1: 9-10)

“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5: 9)

He believes the “wrath” is God’s wrath poured out in the Tribulation and the Church escapes it by being taken up in the Rapture before it begins (1). If the “wrath” here is only the Great Tribulation, and Paul only means escaping it in the Rapture, then, like LaHaye’s argument about the “blessed hope” demanding a pre-Tribulation Rapture, it is irrelevant to all but the last generation of Christians. It is also irrelevant to all but the last generation of non-believers. They do not need Jesus to deliver them from God’s wrath in the Tribulation. All they have to do is die before it starts and they have also escaped God’s wrath in that sense.

A more logical explanation is that the wrath is not simply God’s wrath on non-believers during the Tribulation, but the Last Judgment after the Second Coming, when all non-believers, not just the last generation, will face God’s wrath, and all Christians will be spared because they “obtain(ed) salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( 1 Thess. 5:9)

Post-Tribulationists believe the Church will go through the Tribulation and will be persecuted by the Antichrist, but, as far as I know, no post-Tribulationist believes God’s wrath, described in Revelation, will be inflicted on the Church. However, pre-Tribulationists believe that if the Church went through the Tribulation, they would suffer God’s wrath. John F. Walvoord writes,

“On the other hand, many of the judgments by their very nature cannot distinguish saved from unsaved. The judgments of famine and the sword, or earthquake and stars falling from heaven, war and pestilence, are not by their nature suitable for discriminatory judgment. They fall on just and unjust alike.” (2)

Walvoord makes it sound like God has no aim and cannot control His wrath. He “carpet bombs” the world and everyone gets hit indiscriminately. However Revelation 14: 9-10 says,

“Then an angel followed them saying, with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or in his hand, he himself shall also drink from the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. “”

The angel did not say everyone on earth during the Tribulation, including the saints, would suffer the wrath of God, only those who take the Mark of the Beast. Those, who do not take the Mark, will presumably not suffer God’s wrath.

God is all-powerful. He can pour out His wrath on the Antichrist’s followers, but not on His own people at the same time. Tim LaHaye believes the “Tribulation saints” of his Left Behind novels will be spared from God’s wrath. Pre-Tribulationists believe the 144,000 “Jewish evangelists” will also be protected and not subjected to God’s wrath. If God is capable of not pouring out His wrath on the “Tribulation saints” and 144,000 Jews, surely He can likewise avoid hitting the Church if they were to go through the Tribulation. Again pre-Tribulationist arguments are inconsistent and do not make sense.

Notes

(1) LaHaye, The Rapture, op cit., p. 50-53

(2) The Rapture Question, op. cit., p. 159

Imminency

Pre-Tribulationists believe the Rapture is imminent, that it could happen at any moment, i.e. before you finish reading this. Tim LaHaye claims,

“The apostles and the church of the first three centuries whole-heartedly believed that Christ would return for His church during their lifetime.” (1)

If this is true, I would find it embarrassing, since the early Christians would have been mistaken. However, Jesus told Peter he was going to die an old man (John 21: 18-19). Peter could not have believed Jesus was going to come back at any moment, at least until he was an old man and about to die. In fact, the doctrine of imminency appears to have first been stated in 1878 (2).

LaHaye writes,

“In John 14: 1-3, Acts 1: 11, 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52, Philippians 3: 20, Colossians 3: 4 and many other passages, the apostles taught that Christ could come at any moment.” (3)

Here are the passages, which LaHaye cites, that are supposed to say that Jesus could return at any moment.

“Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told so. 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 to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14: 1-3)

“[Two angels] who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up to heaven, this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. “” (Acts 1:11)

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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.” ( 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52)

“For our citizenship is in heaven from which we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3: 20)

“When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” ( Colossians 3:14)

Is there something painfully obvious I am missing here? Because it looks to me that none of these verses say Jesus is going to come back at any moment.

John F. Walvoord writes,

“The hope of the return of Christ to take the saints to heaven is presented in John 14 as an imminent hope. There is no teaching of any intervening event.” (4)

Jesus did not say there would be no signs before the Rapture. This is an example of the logical fallacy of the argument from silence, assuming that because something is not mentioned on a certain occasion, it does not exist at all. Just because on this occasion, Jesus did not say anything was going to happen before His return does not mean He was teaching that nothing was going to happen before then and He could return at any moment. On another occasion, in Matthew 24, Jesus did describe signs which would precede His coming for His elect which appears to mean the Rapture.

Walvoord claims 1 John 3: 1-3 teaches imminency (5). This passage says,

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him, purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3: 1-3)

Again, this passage does not say Jesus could not return at any moment. It says that we shall be like Jesus, which presumably means translated and given incorruptible bodies at the Rapture, when Jesus is revealed, which is usually associated with the Second Coming or Glorious Appearing, rather than the supposed secret Rapture. Thus, this passage suggests the rapture will be at the Second Coming.

In “Perhaps Today: The Imminent Coming of Christ” on the Pre-Trib Research Center’s website, Thomas Ice says,

” [The following] verses stating that Christ could return at any moment without warning and those instructing believers to wait and look for the Lord’s coming teach the doctrine of imminence. Note the following New Testament passages:

1 Corinthians 1:7- “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

1 Corinthians 16:22- “Maranatha.”

Philippians 3:20- “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”

Philippians 4:5- “The Lord is near.”

1 Thesalonians1:10- “to wait for His Son from heaven,”

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18- “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of {the} archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall 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.”

1Thessalonians 5:6- ” so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”

1 Timothy 6:14- ” that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Titus2:13- “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;”

Hebrews 9:28- “so Christ…shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

James 5:7-9- “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord….for the coming of the Lord is at hand….behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

1 Peter 1:13- ‘fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Jude 21-“waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

Revelation 3:11; 22:7,12, 20-“‘I am coming quickly!'”

Revelation 22:17, 20-“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.” And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.'”

“He who testifies to these things says,’ Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” “ (6)

Again, none of these passages say Jesus is going to return at any moment. Some of them talk about waiting for Christ’s return, but that does not necessarily mean He could come back at any moment. i.e. If you are waiting for a bus or a plane, it is not necessarily going to come at any moment. At best, some of these verses say Jesus is going to come back soon, but that is not the same as believing He could come back at any moment. I believe Jesus could return soon, i.e. ten years from now (actually I believed that twenty years ago), but I do not believe He could return at any moment.

Hal Lindsey believes that when Jesus’ return is compared to “a thief in the night”, it is an allusion to the Rapture;

“Part of the confusion on this issue rises from a failure to distinguish two stages in Jesus’ second coming. One passage of Scripture speaks of Christ’s coming in the air and in secret, like a thief coming in the night. Another part of Scripture describes Christ’s coming in power and majesty to the earth, with every eye seeing Him.” (7)

If we think of a “thief in the night” as a cat burglar, who sneaks into a house and steals things while the owners are asleep, that might sound like a metaphor for an imminent pre-Tribulation Rapture when Christ supposedly sneaks in unexpectedly and snatches His Church.

When the Bible says Jesus’ coming is “as a thief”, it is not talking about a surprise Rapture before the Tribulation starts. When Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” in Revelation 16:15, it is a prelude to the Battle of Armageddon, His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation.

Peter wrote,

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

Again, in this passage Jesus’ return “as a thief in the night” does not mean a pre-Tribulation Rapture. It is referring to the Second Coming.

Paul wrote,

“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 on a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thess. 5:2-4)

Paul is saying that the Day of the Lord will only be a surprise, like a thief in the night, to non-believers, who are in darkness. Christians are not in darkness, but walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7). In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus told us to “watch” (Matthew 24:42). If, in the future, you are a Christian, the Antichrist is ruling the world, the “abomination of desolation” in the new temple in Jerusalem, the sun has gone dark and armies are advancing on Armageddon, you know what is going to happen. The Second Coming will not be a surprise, like a thief in the night, to Christians who are awake and watching.

One of Tim LaHaye’s objections to the other views on the Rapture( mid-Trib, post-Trib and pre-wrath) is that if the Church has to go through all or part of the Tribulation, then Jesus cannot return at any moment and they destroy the doctrine of imminency (8). That would only be a problem if the Bible said that Jesus could return at any moment and none of the verses, which pre-Tribulationists cite, plainly state this.

Instead of imminency, the Bible says there are things which must happen before the Second Coming.

We have already seen how in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 it says the day of Christ, when Christians are gathered together in the Rapture, is not going to take place until the apostasy of the Church and the Antichrist is revealed.

In the Olivet Discourse, when His disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age, Jesus did not tell them He could come back at any moment. He told them there would be wars, famines, plagues, earthquakes, persecution, false prophets, the gospel preached to all nations, the abomination of desolation, the sun and moon darkened, stars would fall from the sky (presumably meteorites), the Heavens would be shaken, the sign of the Son of Man would appear, they will see Jesus coming, and finally, His angels will gather His elect (Matthew 24: 4-31).

Jesus said He is not going to return until the gospel has been preached to all nations;

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14)

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The disciples were told they were to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19) and they were going to be Jesus’ witnesses “to the end of the earth”. They could not have believed Jesus was going to come back at any moment. They had to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, to all nations first. If Jesus did return before then, His statement in Acts 1:8 would have been a lie.

Many dispensationalists say the “gospel of the kingdom” of Matthew 24: 14 is not the same thing as the Christian gospel of grace and this different gospel will be preached during the Tribulation (9). However, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, which was quoted earlier, says that when Jesus comes back, He is going to “take vengeance……on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus would not punish the wicked for not obeying something which was not preached to them. This suggests that the gospel of Jesus, not another gospel, is going to be preached during the Tribulation.

Tim LaHaye disagrees with other dispensationalists. He believes the gospel of the kingdom is the same as the Christian gospel. He quotes Acts 28:30 which says Paul was “preaching the kingdom of God”. Paul’s gospel, the Christian gospel of Jesus and grace, is the same as the gospel of the kingdom (10).

Tim LaHaye claims that during the Tribulation 144,000 Jewish evangelists will complete the Great Commission after the Church has been raptured. This is based on Revelation 7: 1-8 which describes the sealing of 144,000 “servants of God” (7:3) from the tribes of Israel. LaHaye believes these 144,000 Jewish evangelists will be responsible for the “greatest revival the world has ever known.” (11) I have read similar claims from other pre-Tribulationists about the ministry of these Jewish evangelists and the millions they are going to save. It sounds exciting. It’s just a pity it is not in the Bible.

Revelation 7:1-8 describes the 144,000 servants of God from the tribes of Israel being sealed with the seal of God, but it simply does not say they are evangelists or they are going to bring about the greatest revival in history. LaHaye says the word “servant” (doulos) is the same one used by Paul to describe himself (12), but that hardly proves they are the evangelistic equivalents of the apostle Paul. A great multitude of believers, who came out of the Great Tribulation, is described in the second half of the chapter (Rev. 7:9-17). LaHaye thinks they are a result of the preaching of the 144,000 (13), but again, the Bible does not say this.

I do not know who or what the 144,000 are, whether they are 144,000 literal Jews or are symbolic of a saved Jewish remnant. But I do know the Bible does not say they are evangelists who will complete the Great Commission or will be responsible for the greatest revival in history.

Pre-Tribulationists contradict themselves when they say the Rapture is supposed to be imminent and could have happened at any time during the last 2000 years, but at the same time they believe the Jews had to return to Palestine and the nation of Israel re-established before the Tribulation could happen. Based on Daniel 9:27, Tim LaHaye believes the Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist signs a treaty with Israel. The Rapture will happen sometime before this treaty is signed (14). If the Rapture could have potentially happened at any moment in the last 2000 years since Christ’s ascension, and the Church was removed in, say, 1600, then over 300 years would have passed before the restoration of Israel in 1948, and only then it would have become possible for the Great Tribulation to begin. This sounds absurd. If pre-Tribulationism is true, the Rapture could not have happened until after 1948. Only then could the Antichrist sign his treaty with Israel and the Tribulation could begin.

Furthermore, the Antichrist and the False Prophet will set up a cashless society in which everyone will have to take the Mark of the Beast to be able to buy or sell anything (Revelation 13:16-17). Tim LaHaye writes,

“For the first time in two thousand years, it is now technologically possible to enforce such a system. Microchips have already been invented that can be placed in the fatty tissue behind the ear or in other places of the body to enable others to track that individual. ( Such systems are already in place to track family pets.) We are all familiar with the scanner at the checkout counter of most stores. All it would take is a computer program that required the “666” number on people’s accounts (or hands or foreheads) in order to “buy or sell”. Mark-of-the-Beast technology is already here!”(15)

But if now is “the first time in two thousand years, it is technologically possible to enforce such a system”, then it would have been technologically impossible for the Antichrist’s cashless society, preceded by the Rapture, to have set up in the past. The Rapture could not have happened in 1600, if, shortly afterwards, the Antichrist and the False Prophet were to set up a world government and cashless society. Can you imagine a worldwide cashless society without electronic communication and computers? Or the Antichrist’s forces sailing for months to reach distant, unexplored parts of the world to enforce his will? By the time some people found out they were part of the Antichrist’s world government and had to take the Mark, the Tribulation would be over.

John F. Walvoord has written,

“At the outset it must be observed that most of the hindrances to the coming of the Lord at any moment in the first century no longer exist. A long period has elapsed; Peter and Paul have gone home to the Lord; only the specific signs of Matthew 24-25 remain to be fulfilled. Most of the difficulties to an imminent return have been resolved.” (16)

The establishment of Israel in 1948, world missionary efforts, computer and communication technology developments mean it now sounds plausible that Jesus could return at any moment and the Tribulation begins. But in the past, the doctrine of imminency did not make sense and it is not taught in the Bible.

Notes

(1) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 28

(2) Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy (editors), When the Trumpet Sounds, Harvest, Oregon, 1995, p. 226

(3) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 138

      (4) The Rapture Question, op. cit., p. 73

(5) Ibid., p. 70, 74

(6)Thomas Ice, “Perhaps Today: The Imminent Coming of Christ”, http://www.according2prophecy.org/perhaps.html

(7)Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming, Vision House, California, 1973, p. 77-78

(8) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 72-74, 126, 200-202

(9) Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, Moody, Chicago, 1973, p. 55

(10) Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, op. cit., p. 113

(11) Ibid., p. 109

(12) Ibid., p. 111

(13) Ibid., p.114-122

(14) Are We Living in the End Times, op. cit., p. 116

(15) Ibid., p. 198-9

(16) The Rapture Question, op. cit., p. 166

Differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming Part I

Pre-Tribulationists claim there are differences between the Rapture and the Glorious Appearing or Second Coming, so they cannot be the same and must be different events.

Earlier, I quoted Hal Lindsey attempting to distinguish between the Rapture and the Second Coming;

“Part of the confusion on this issue rises from a failure to distinguish two stages in Jesus’ second coming. One passage of Scripture speaks of Christ’s coming in the air and in secret, like a thief coming in the night. Another part of Scripture describes Christ’s coming in power and majesty to the earth, with every eye seeing Him.” (1)

As we have seen, Lindsey’s description of the Rapture as a thief in the night was wrong. When Christ’s coming was compared with a thief in the night, it was referring to the Glorious Appearing at Armageddon, not a Rapture seven years earlier.

Lindsey’s other distinction was that the Rapture is secret, like in the movie Left Behind, when people vanish silently, while everyone knows about Christ’s Glorious Appearing. He made the same claim in a 1994 book, Planet Earth –
2000 A.D.,

“There is no way to reconcile the two descriptions of Jesus’ coming apart from there being two stages of the second coming. The first is secretly for the Church before the Tribulation period begins. The second is public and with awesome displays of judgment as the Messiah Jesus comes to save mankind from totally destroying himself and all life on this planet.” (2)

Hal Lindsey also described the Rapture as secret in The Late Great Planet
Earth, one of the biggest selling non-fiction books ever,

“However, in the Rapture, only the Christians see Him – it’s a mystery, a secret.” (3)

Late Great Hal Lindsey

However, the idea of a secret Rapture really does not match the way Paul described it;

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an angel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

There is nothing to suggest this is a secret event. Jesus shouts and the trumpet of God sounds. How loud do you think the trumpet of God would be? After this has been repeatedly pointed out, some pre-Tribulationists apparently no longer believe the Rapture will be secret. But, instead of simply admitting they were wrong, they deny they ever taught that the Rapture would be secret.

Tim LaHaye writes,

“Through the years some tried to discredit the pre-Tribulation rapture theory by calling it the secret rapture. Of course, nowhere in Scripture is the term secret applied to this event. ” (4)

Likewise, Thomas Ice has written,

“Included in the above tirade (an article “Origin of the Secret Rapture Theory”) is an equation of the so-called “secret” rapture with pre-tribulationism. Sorry, but this is another myth. In all my reading of pretribulationism and discussion with pretribulationists, I have never, that I can recall, heard a pre-trib rapturist use the nomenclature of “secret” rapture to describe our view. I have only heard the phrase “secret” rapture as a pejorative term used exclusively by anti-pretribulationists. Why? Apparently they enjoy fighting with a straw man.” (5)

However, Tim Warner has pointed out that Thomas Ice has used the term “secret rapture” himself, such as in a 1988 article, “Dispensationalism, Date Setting, and Distortion”, when he quoted Ernest Sandeen,

“First, Darby taught that the second advent would be secret, an event sensible only to those who participated in it….Second, Darby taught that the secret Rapture could occur at any moment. In fact, the secret Rapture is also often referred to as the doctrine of the any-moment coming…… Darby maintained that none of the events foretold in the Revelation had yet occurred nor could they be expected until after the secret Rapture of the church.” (6)

Tim LaHaye has also described the Rapture as secret. In 1973 in Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, he wrote,

“One of the reasons we know Christ is coming before the Tribulation to rapture His church is because the Rapture is a secret thing.” (7)

In Are We Living in the End Times?, written in 1999 after disowning the term “secret rapture”, LaHaye said,

“The coming of Christ must occur in two installments because they are for two different groups of people and fulfill two different purposes. The first is the Rapture, when all living and dead Christians will be snatched up to be with Christ in the Father’s house. The second is for all the people in the world, who will be judged for rejecting Christ. The first is secret, for a special group; the second is public, for everyone left on earth. They are entirely different events.” (8)

Pre-Tribulationists do not simply admit they were wrong about the Rapture being secret. They lie, claim they never said it and accuse their critics of making it up. This is like something out of George Orwell’s 1984 where history was rewritten to suit the present ideology and the old version of history goes down the “memory hole”.

Notes

    (1) There’s a New World Coming, op. cit., p 77-78

(2) Hal Lindsey, Planet Earth-2000 A.D., Western Front, California, 1994, p. 289

(3) Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, Zondervan, Michigan, 1970, p. 131

     (4) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 38

      (5) Thomas Ice, “Rapture Myths”,
http://www.pre-trib.org/article_view.php?id=57

(6) “”Rapture Myths” and the Tangled Webs we Weave, Part I”, op. cit.

(7) Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, op. cit., p.96

      (8) Are We Living in the End Times?, op. cit., p. 103-4

Differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming Part II

In The Rapture, LaHaye claims,

“Post-Tribulationists cannot explain the 15 differences between the Rapture and the glorious appearing unless there is a separation of time between them.” (1)

Pre-Tribulationists say there are differences between the Rapture and the Glorious Appearing, but unless these differences are based on what the Bible teaches, they do not prove anything and pre-Tribulationists are arguing in circles. Hal Lindsey said that a difference between the Rapture and the Glorious Appearing was that the Rapture was secret, but the Glorious Appearing was public, and there wasno way to reconcile the two descriptions of Jesus’ coming apart from there being two stages of the second coming”. Now, pre-Tribulationists (sometimes) admit the secret Rapture is not Biblical. According to what pre-Tribulationists tell us, there is a difference, but this difference is not in the Bible. LaHaye’s 15 supposed differences are explained below . They can be explained, because, like Hal Lindsey’s two differences, they do not exist in the Bible. They are based on the assumptions of pre-Tribulationism, rather than what the Bible actually teaches.

1. Rapture – Christ comes in the air for His own.
Glorious Appearing – Christ comes with His own to the earth.

Jesus will come in the air at both the Rapture and the Glorious Appearing. He will come for His saints at the Rapture. He will come with them to the earth some time later. However, there does not have to be a seven year gap between the two events. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 only says we “shall meet (eis apantesin) the Lord in the air.” It does not say where we will go after that. Pre-Tribulationists assume we will go to Heaven, but the Bible does not say that.

The words for “meet’ (eis apantesin) also occur in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which is about the Second Coming. The virgins go out and “meet” (eis apantesin) the bridegroom, which sounds like an allusion to the Rapture. Then, they apparently all went back the way they came.

Also, when Paul was on the way, some Christians “heard about us, they came to meet (eis apantesin) us as far as the Appii Forum and Three Inns.” (Acts 28:15). The Roman Christians then turned round and went back the way they came with Paul to Rome.

Likewise, in the Rapture, the saints could go up and meet Jesus in the air, then immediately return with Him to earth at the Second Coming. They do not have to be two different and separate events.

2. Rapture – Rapture of all Christians.                                                  Glorious Appearing – No one is raptured

This is only a valid difference if the Bible says the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation, and not at the Glorious Appearing. Simply saying that he Rapture will occur before the Tribulation and not at the Glorious Appearing does not prove the Bible teaches it.

LaHaye is contradicting what he wrote in Revelation Illustrated and Made
Plain when he said the “second installment of the Rapture” will occur shortly before the Glorious Appearing.

“In Psalm 50: 1-6 we find the Lord above the earth but below the heaven (v. 4), looking back to heaven and down to the earth, calling His saints to Him. This would indicate that He will rapture the tribulation saints still living and the tribulation saints whose souls are under the altar (Rev. 6). This may include the Old Testament saints, whose resurrection may wait until the end of the Tribulation. This may take place just before the marriage supper of the Lamb previously discussed. Now, having raptured all believers from all ages, He will come to an exclusively unsaved earth.” (3)

LaHaye is saying there will be two Raptures, one at the beginning of the Tribulation and another at the end. He is agreeing with post-Tribulationists that there has to be a Rapture for those saints at the end of the Tribulation, so he has split the one Rapture into two events. A less confusing explanation is that there is only one Rapture at the end of the Tribulation.

3. Rapture – Christians taken to the Father’s house.
    Glorious Appearing – Resurrected saints do not see the Father’s
house

Pre-Tribulationist premillennialists believe Christians will be taken to the Father’s house, heaven, after the Rapture and will return with Jesus at the Second Coming. The dead in Christ will rise first at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4: 16), so I assume by resurrected saints, LaHaye means the supposed Tribulation saints.

However Revelation 6: 9-11 describes the souls of martyrs under the altar in heaven. LaHaye believes these are the souls or martyred Tribulation saints (4), so he is saying here that the Tribulation saints will be in heaven along with Christians during the Tribulation (according to pre-Tribulationists).

Pre-Tribulationists say the Tribulation saints will be on earth for the 1000 years after the Second Coming. However, Revelation says those “who come out of the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14) are “before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple” (Rev. 7:15). The temple is in heaven (Rev. 11:19, 14:15, 15:8, 16:17). Thus, the saints, who go through the Tribulation, will be in heaven.

4. Rapture – No judgment on earth
    Glorious Appearing – Christ judges inhabitants of earth

Simply saying that Christ will not judge the world when He comes for His Church at the Rapture does not prove it is Biblical. This contradicts 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 which says Jesus will give Christians, “who are troubled, rest”, i.e. the Rapture, when He judges the world.

6. Rapture – Imminent – could happen at any moment
    Glorious Appearing – Glorious appearing cannot happen for at
l
east seven years

7. Rapture – No signs
Glorious Appearing – Many signs for Christ’s physical coming

The Bible does not teach the Rapture is imminent and there will be no signs before it. Matthew 24 says there are signs which will happen before Christ returns for His Church.

8. Rapture – For believers only
Glorious Appearing – Affects all humanity

Only Christians will be taken up in the Rapture, but that does not mean the rest of the world cannot be affected by Christ’s return at the same time. Like their argument about the Church and the Jews, pre-Tribulationists are again having trouble believing God can do two things at one.

9. Rapture – Time of joy
Glorious Appearing – Time of mourning

If the Rapture and Second Coming were simultaneous, it would still be a time of joy for Christians and a time of mourning for non-Christians. After all, pre-Tribulationists believe the Second Coming will be a time of joy for the “Tribulation saints” who survive the Tribulation, even though it is a time of mourning for others. Why can’t it be the same for Christians?


10. Rapture – Before the “day of wrath’ (Tribulation)
Glorious Appearing – Immediately after the Tribulation

Again, simply saying that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation and the Glorious Appearing will be at the end does not prove that is what the Bible says.


11. Rapture – No mention of Satan
Glorious Appearing – Satan bound in abyss for 1000 years

The binding of Satan is not mentioned in passages referring specifically to the Rapture, but it is also not mentioned in some passages relating to the Second Coming, such as Mathew 24. That does not mean it is a separate event from other passages about the Second Coming. The fact that the defeat of Satan is not mentioned in Rapture passages does not mean it does not occur at the same time. This is another example of the logical fallacy of the argument from silence.

Satan is defeated at the Second Coming, but the binding of Satan for 1000 years (Rev 20: 4-7) more likely symbolizes Christ’s victory over Satan at the Cross and the subsequent Church age. When Satan is released from the abyss (Rev. 20: 7-8) symbolizes the Great Tribulation and parallels the Beast coming out of the abyss (I assume it is the same abyss) during the Fifth Trumpet (Rev. 9: 1-12). Satan is defeated at the Second Coming and is thrown into Hell (Rev. 20: 9-10).

12. Rapture – The Judgement Seat of Christ
Glorious Appearing – No time or place for Judgement Seat.

The Bible does not say Christians will be judged between the Rapture and the Second Coming. We have all eternity after the Second Coming, so I do not understand how LaHaye thinks there will be no time for the Judgment Seat of Christ then.

Paul wrote,

” Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness , which the Lord the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

The “appearing” (epiphaneia) of Jesus means the Second Coming. Here, Paul seems to be saying that Christians will be judged and receive their reward after Christ’s appearing, the Second Coming.

13. Rapture – Marriage of the Lamb
Glorious Appearing – His Bride descends with Him

The Bible says Jesus will return “with all His saints’ (1 Thess. 3:13). It does not say His Bride will descend with Him at the Second Coming. After the Second Coming, the defeat of Satan and the Last Judgment of Revelation 20, John wrote,

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21: 1-2)

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21: 9-10)

The Bride does not descend at the Second Coming, but later, after the present heaven and earth have passed away. If you are a premillenialist and believe there will be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ after the Second Coming, the Bride will not descend until after the 1000 years.

14. Rapture – Only His own see Him
Glorious Appearing – Every eye will see Him

The Bible does not say only Christians will see Jesus at the Rapture. This sounds like the secret Rapture idea. It looks like LaHaye forgot he never believed in the secret Rapture.

15. Rapture – Church taken to heaven
Glorious Appearing – Christ sets up His kingdom on earth

16. Rapture – Tribulation begins.
Glorious Appearing – 1000-year kingdom of Christ begins.

Pre-Tribulationists cannot show that the Bible says the Rapture is before the Tribulation.

For premillennialists, the Rapture and the Second Coming, after which they believe the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth begins, do not have to be two separate events. Not all premillennialists are pre-Tribulationists. There are also post-Tribulationist premillennialists, like George Eldon Ladd, author of The
Blessed Hope, and Tim Warner of The Last Trumpet website. They believe the Rapture will occur at the same time as the Second Coming. Then, the 1000 year reign of Christ will begin.

However, on the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming, “both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10). According to the literal, consecutive manner which premillenialists interpret Revelation the new heaven and earth will not be created until after the 1000 year reign of Christ and the Last Judgment (Revelation 20:1 – 21:1). Is Jesus going to be ruling a pile of ashes for 1000 years?

An amillennialist interpretation explains this apparent contradiction in the Bible. The binding of Satan symbolizes the victory of Jesus over Satan at the Cross and the Christian era we are now in. Jesus and the martyrs are reigning in heaven during this period. Martyrs are the only ones Revelation says reign with Christ during the 1000 years (Rev. 20:6) and it does not say they reign on earth. At the Rapture and the Second Coming, heaven and earth are destroyed (2 Peter 3:20-13). A new heaven and new earth are created (Rev. 21:1) and Christ’s kingdom goes on forever (Rev. 11:15, Daniel 2:44), not 1000 years.

Tim LaHaye has written,

“For years I have searched for a single reason that would convince my post-Tribulationist friends of the impossibility of their position. My friend and colleague Dr. Thomas Ice has shared with me such a reason – very simply, it is this: It is impossible for the Rapture to occur at the end of the Tribulation, for if it did, there would be no one left on earth in a natural body who can populate the Millennial kingdom.” (5)

Pre-Tribulationists believe that the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46) means that those, who survive the Tribulation, will be judged and the “sheep” will be allowed to live on in their mortal bodies during Jesus’ 1000 year reign and their descendants will repopulate the earth. Tim LaHaye believes the “sheep” will be “those who receive Christ during the Tribulation and survive to the time of Christ’s glorious appearing” (6). Hal Lindsey says they will be those who helped the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7). With hermeneutics reminiscent of a cult, a parable about showing charity to others has been turned into a theological statement.

However, as we have seen, Peter wrote that on “the day of the Lord…..the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). How are mortal bodies supposed to survive this?

Paul wrote that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50). He went on to describe how Christians will be translated or changed and given new immortal bodies at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-56). No one is going to get into the kingdom of God in their corrupt mortal body. The only way is in a new perfect and immortal body. This is another pre-Tribulationist argument which is simply not based on what the Bible teaches.

According to John F. Walvoord, another distinction is, “At the time of the Rapture the Mount of Olives is unchanged, while at the Second Coming it divides and a valley is formed to the east of Jerusalem.( Zech. 14:4-5)” (9)

Passages describing the Rapture do not say the Mount of Olives will be unchanged. They do not mention the Mount of Olives at all. This is yet another example of the argument from silence and shows how absurd it is.

Important passages about the Second Coming, such as Matthew 24 and Revelation 20 also do not mention the Mount of Olives. Jesus did not tell His disciples he was going to split the Mount of Olives while He was standing on it telling them about the Second Coming.

Therefore, if the Rapture is a different event from the Second Coming described in Zechariah 14 because the Mount of Olives is not mentioned as being split, then the Second Coming in Matthew and Revelation must also be a different event from Zechariah. Therefore, according to Walvoord’s reasoning, there are three Second Comings, the Rapture, the Second Coming of Matthew 24 and Revelation 20, and the Second Coming of Zechariah 14.

Of course, this is nonsense. Matthew, Revelation and Zechariah are describing the same event, but each of them does not mention everything that happens. Likewise, the Rapture can happen shortly before Jesus splits the Mount of Olives, but the Rapture passages do not mention it.

Notes

(1) The Rapture Question, op. cit., p. 166

        (2) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 128

(3) Ibid., p. 129

(4) Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, op. cit., p. 260

(5) Ibid., p. 106

(6) LaHaye, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 130

(7) Ibid., p. 131

(8) Lindsey, The Rapture, op. cit., p. 145-7

(9) The Rapture Question, op. cit., p. 275

Unity of the Rapture and the Second Coming

There is no word exclusively for the Rapture as distinct from the Second Coming in New Testament Greek. Three words are used for the Second Coming – parousia, which means “coming”; apokalupsis, which means “revealing” and epiphaneia which means “appearing”. Pre-Tribulationists would agree that apokalupsis and epiphaneia refer to the Second Coming or Glorious Appearing, rather than the Rapture seven years earlier. However, they argue that the “coming” (parousia) can refer to both the Rapture and the Second Coming. i.e They say the “coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 refers to the Second Coming, but “we who are alive and remain at the coming (parousia) of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 refers to the Rapture seven years earlier.

However, as we have seen, pre-Tribulationist attempts to show the parousia at the Rapture and the parousia at the Second Coming are two different events are unconvincing. The same word is used and the early Christians understood it as referring to one event. The early Church was post-Tribulationist. They believed the Antichrist would persecute the Church and Jesus would come for His Church at the Second Coming (1). Instead of pre-Tribulationist’s divisions, the Bible points to the unity of the Rapture and the Second Coming.

In the Great Commission, Jesus told His disciples He would be with them “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). A few weeks earlier, Jesus’ disciples had asked Him. “And what will be the sign of Your coming (parousia), and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)

As we have seen, Jesus told them they would experience the Tribulation. After the sun had been darkened (Matt. 24:29), everyone would see the Son of Man coming in the clouds (Matt 24:30) and His angels would gather His elect (Matt. 24:31). Paul wrote that “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1) would come after the Antichrist has been revealed (2 Thess. 2:3).

Christians will be here and Jesus will be with us until the end of the age and the age ends with the Second Coming and Rapture at the end of the Tribulation.

Earlier, we saw 2 Thessalonians 1: 7-8 says Christians will be given rest from their suffering “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God”. This clearly means the Second Coming. Christians will be here until the Second Coming. Then, we will be given rest, taken up in the Rapture, not seven years earlier.

There are other verses which suggest Christians will be here until the Second Coming, as opposed to being raptured seven years earlier.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1: 6)

“That you may approve of the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense until the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:10)

“Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Philippians 2:16)

“So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation (apokalupsis) of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 7-8)

These passages say Christians are going to be here, living the Christian life, until “the day of Christ”. The “day of Christ” is not a pre-Tribulation Rapture. The “day of Christ” is the Second Coming and comes after the apostasy of the church and the Antichrist is revealed.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thess. 2: 1-3)

1 Corinthians 1:7-8 equates the “day of Christ” with the “end” and the “revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The “revelation” of Jesus is the Second Coming when everyone sees Him.

Jesus will destroy the Antichrist “with the brightness (epiphaneia) of His coming (parousia)” ( 2Thess. 2:8)

Titus 2:13 describes Christians as “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing (epiphaneia) of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As we have seen, LaHaye equates the “blessed hope” with the Rapture, but grammatically, the “blessed hope” or Rapture and “glorious appearing of Jesus” are the same thing, when, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:8, quoted above, Jesus destroys the Antichrist, which happens at the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation.

Paul told Timothy to “keep the commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing (epiphaneia).” ( 1 Timothy 6:14) If Christians are supposed to keep the commandments and be blameless until Christ’s appearing, when He destroys the Antichrist, then they will have to be here on earth until that happens, not taken up in the Rapture seven years earlier.

The dead in Christ will rise first at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16). Jesus did not say He would raise those, who believed in Him, seven years before the Second Coming, but on the last day.

“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

Who are you going to believe when the dead in Christ are raised, Tim LaHaye or Jesus Christ?

As we have seen, there will still be believers who “die in the Lord” during the Tribulation (Rev. 14:13). Since the “dead in Christ” are resurrected at the Rapture, then, to include all of them, it must take place at the end of the Tribulation, on the last day, like Jesus said it would, not seven years earlier.

Paul said that the Rapture will occur and the dead will be raised at the last trumpet.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all 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.” (1 Corinthians 15: 51-52)

A trumpet is also mentioned in the Olivet Discourse, when Jesus described His Second Coming,

“And He will send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24:31)

The sounding of the trumpet and the gathering together of the elect seems to be the Rapture, but pre-Tribulationists claim it happened seven years earlier and the “last trumpet” of 1 Corinthians was not really the “last trumpet”. Surely, the logical explanation, which takes the Bible at what it plainly says, is that the last trumpet at the Rapture, when Christians are gathered, is the same trumpet, which sounds when the elect are gathered at the Second Coming at the end of the age.

In Revelation, the last trumpet is the seventh trumpet which sounds after the two witnesses have been taken up to heaven (Rev. 11:12,15). Mid-Tribulationists believe the two witnesses going up to heaven represents the Church being raptured at the last trumpet in the middle of the Tribulation. In fact, the two witnesses going up to heaven represents the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation. Like the Bible’s other apocalyptic book, Daniel, the visions in Revelation are not consecutive. They overlap. The Second Coming is described more than once from different perspectives.

This is apparent in the vision of the seven seals. The first five seals mention a false Christ, war, famine, death and persecution (Rev. 6: 1-11). They clearly parallel what Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:4-14). The sixth seal is clearly the Second Coming. Like in Jesus’ own description (Matt. 24: 29), the sun and moon go dark (Rev. 6:12), stars fall from the sky and the heavens are shaken (Rev. 6: 13-14). “The great day of His wrath has come.” (Rev. 6:17) The, in the next chapter, John sees a “great multitude…of all nations” (Rev. 7:9) who “come out of the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14) The seven seals cover the Tribulation period to the Second Coming and beyond, but pre-Tribulationists claim they only concern the early part of the Tribulation.

Likewise, the vision of the seven seals also ends with the Second Coming. The Church, which is represented by the two witnesses, is raptured (Rev. 11:11-12). The seventh trumpet announces, “The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15)

Pre-Tribulationists and others, who interpret Revelation consecutively, teach that the exact opposite happens here. They believe the seventh trumpet is in the middle of the Tribulation when the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Antichrist. Interpreting the visions of Revelation concurrently makes more sense.

The Rapture is described again in Revelation 14, after the visions of the woman, the dragon and the two beasts. John wrote,

“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with aloud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cries with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.” (Rev. 14: 14-20)

Jesus compared those He wanted to save to a harvest (Matt. 9:37-38). In His parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus described how at the end of the end of the age, at harvest time, the tares, the wicked, would be burned, but the angels would gather the wheat, the righteous into the barn. “(Matt. 13:24-30,36-43)

In Revelation 14, the Church is “harvested” in the Rapture (Rev. 14:14-16). Then, the wicked are thrown “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:19) when Jesus returns at Armageddon (Rev. 19: 11-21)

Notes

(1) George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope, Eerdmans, Michigan, 1983, p.19-31, Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, Zondervan, Michigan, 1973, p. 173-184

Conclusion

Tim LaHaye accuses amillennialists and postmillennialists of imposing their system of theology on the Bible and interpreting it to make it fit their pre-existing beliefs.

“Both amillennialists and postmillennialists require that systems of belief be imposed on the text of Scripture in order to reach certain conclusions about end-time events. In that respect they are like Christian Science, which include Mrs. Eddy’s system of helps in order to manufacture its bizarre conclusions about the Bible. The same can be said for Jehovah’s Witnesses and most other cults.” (1)

Tim LaHaye should remove the plank from his own eye (Matt. 7:5) before he accuses other Christians of behaving like cults, because, quite frankly, pre-Tribulationists are just as bad, if not worse, when it comes to imposing their pre-existing beliefs and assumptions on the Bible.

Pre-Tribulationism is founded on dispensationalism which often teaches that Jesus’ words in the gospels were meant for the Jews, not the Church, and that the Church must be removed from the earth before Daniel’s seventieth week can begin and a Jewish remnant can be saved. They say the Holy Spirit will operate in an Old Testament manner in believers and a different gospel will be preached during the Tribulation. (LaHaye disagrees on these two points.) They invent a new category of believers called Tribulation saints. Pre-Tribulationists believe Christ could return at any moment. They clearly wrote that the Rapture will be secret. Then, they deny ever saying it would be secret. Tim LaHaye writes about the greatest revival ever as a result of the preaching of 144,000 Jewish evangelists and that all children under the age of accountability will also be raptured (2). They say there will be two Comings, two Raptures, two last trumpets and the sun and moon will go dark twice. None of these pre-Tribulationist beliefs can be found in the Bible. They are imposing their pre-existing beliefs on the Bible and twisting it to make it fit these beliefs.

To put it bluntly, I believe pre-Tribulationists come to their beliefs about the Rapture and Bible prophecy by reading pre-Tribulationist books or hearing pre-Tribulationist speakers. Then, they read the Bible and interpret it in the light of their already existing beliefs. A post-Tribulationist is more likely to form their conclusions about the Rapture from reading the Bible.

If any pre-Tribulationist thinks this is unfair – Where did your pre-Tribulationist beliefs come from? Was it from reading the Bible or from reading pre-Tribulationist books? If there are any Christians, who can honestly say they concluded that the Bible teaches a pre-Tribulation Rapture without previously reading or hearing pre-Tribulationist material, I would like to hear from them.

I became a post-Tribulationist, before I had ever read a single post-Tribulationist book, from reading what the Bible says about the Rapture and the Second Coming. If a man, with no Christian background and no knowledge of pre-Tribulationism, were marooned on a desert island for years with nothing to read but the Bible, he would conclude that Jesus comes for His Church at the Second Coming.

As I said earlier, the early Christians were post-Tribulationists. They believed the Antichrist would persecute the Church, and the Rapture and the Second Coming would be at the same time. As Martin Luther would tell us, appealing to Church tradition does not mean it is true, but it does show what conclusions Christians came to when they looked at what at the Bible actually says, and not through dispensationalist-tinted glasses. When we saw what the Bible plainly says in the chapter “Unity of the Rapture and the Second Coming”, and did not twist it to fit pre-Tribulationism’s extra-Biblical assumptions, it was clear that the Bible teaches post-Tribulationism, Jesus comes for His Church at the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation.

I believe that one day all those, who thought they were going to be raptured before the Tribulation, are going to be in for a shock. Although I called this essay, “We all get Left Behind”, in the sense that Christians will go through the Tribulation, the truth is that none of us (Christians) really get left behind because Jesus promised to be with us until the end of the age (Matt. 18:20). As I said earlier, whatever happens, God allows it to happen because He loves us and we can trust Him. That is more important than whenever the Rapture is going to be.

I hope that when the “Day of Disappointment” comes, Left Behind‘s readers will understand that it was the flawed interpretation of men that let them down, and not God and His perfect Word, and they put their trust and hope where it really belongs.

Notes

(1) LaHaye, The Rapture, op cit., p 233

(2) Ibid., p 39

Bibliography

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Samuele Bacchiocchi, “Left Behind: Fact or Fiction?”, Endtimes Issues No. 62 (revised) 26 January 2001/ 28 March 2001, http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/endtimesissues/eti_62.html

Corrie ten Boom, Marching Orders for the End Battle, Christian Litrature Crusade, Pennsylvania, 1970

Corrie ten Boom, (untitled), http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/corrie.html

Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, Zondervan, Michigan, 1973

Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice, The Truth Behind Left Behind, Multnomah, Oregon, 2004

Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy (editors), When the Trumpet Sounds, Harvest, Oregon, 1995

Thomas Ice, “Perhaps Today: The Imminent Coming of Christ”, http://www.according2prophecy.org/perhaps.html

Thomas Ice, “Rapture Myths”,
http://www.pre-trib.org/article_view.php?id=57

George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope, Eerdmans, Michigan, 1983

Tim LaHaye, The Rapture, Harvest House, Oregon, 2002

Tim LaHaye, Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, Zondervan, Michigan, 1975

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?, Tyndale House, Illinois, 1999

Hal Lindsey, Apocalypse Code, Western Front, California, 1997

Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, Zondervan, Michigan, 1970

Hal Lindsey, Planet Earth – 2000 A.D., Western Front, California, 1994

Hal Lindsey, The Rapture, Bantam Books, Toronto, 1983

Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming, Vision House, California, 1973

Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, Moody, Illinois, 1973

Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, Michigan, 1995

John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question, Zondervan, Michigan, 1979

Tim Warner, “The Blessed Hope”, http://www.geocities.com/~lasttrumpet/titus213.html

Tim Warner, “”Rapture Myths” and the Tangled Webs we Weave, Part I”, http://www.geocities.com/~lasttrumpet/debate2_4b.html

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Author: Malcolm Nicholson

I am a small business owner and I live in northern Tasmania. I am a graduate of the University of Tasmania and I have a Master of Arts in Early Christian and Jewish Studies from Macquarie University. I am a member of the Churches of Christ. I have been a teacher librarian, New Testament Greek teacher, branch president and state policy committee chairman of a political party, university Christian group president. My interests include ancient history, early Christian history, the Holocaust, Bible prophecy, revival, UFOs, peak oil and science fiction.

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