Pre-Tribulation Rapture; How do you know?
I like to think I am a very curious person and always have been. I can be a little obsessive-compulsive (OCD) at times, especially on topics I find intriguing (my wife can attest to that).
Recently, it is all about the UFO and strange and unexplainable phenomena we see happening all around our planet with greater frequency. I think I have a healthy appreciation for those sort of things. I know they exist; but I am not buying into the world’s explanation of them being little green guys who are only trying to help humanity out. I believe they fall into a category of fallen angels, who in their varying rank structures (Eph. 6:12), were instructed to misguide and confuse humanity about life on other planets. Somehow, their increasing activity and overt deception is tied to the soon coming Rapture of the Church.
My borderline OCD regarding information of varying stripes is equally applicable to what happens when we die and about how we understand time. When a famous theologian dies, and for the sake of argument, let’s say they were truly born-again but held to some aberrant views on eschatology for example; I always wonder what their first thoughts are when they get to heaven and realize they had it completely wrong. Nevertheless, this also got me thinking about my own eschatological views. How can I know I am right? How do I know that the Pre-Tribulation position is the absolute correct view? Taking this out even further, how do I know my hermeneutical position of Dispensationalism is correct? Why is my view better than say, the Reformed position, or the Roman Catholic one? For these, and many other questions, I have to rely on Scripture.
Author’s note: One of the most frustrating things about debating theology is that both sides of a position or issue, always claim the Scriptural high ground, as if, only their interpretation is the correct one. Jim Jones got people to follow him to Guyana and drink purple Kool-Aid because they thought he was a Messiah. Mormonism gets people to follow an entirely different Bible. Jehovah Witnesses rewrote their Bible to say something completely different. Hebrew Roots nuttos twist Paul’s teachings so that it appears he is arguing FOR Christians being under the Law. Snake handlers. Prosperity gospel pimps. Truth be told, any position can be taught from Scripture.
The real test is not getting the Bible to say what you want it to say, but for that view, position, or doctrine to flow together logically and consistently with every other doctrinal position. Then and only then, can that view have any merit. Which is why I am a futurist from the Pre-Millennial persuasion, who holds to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture position, from a distinctly dispensational hermeneutic.
This is not to say that Pre-Millennial Dispensationalism has everything worked out perfectly, because we don’t. There are simply some things we either cannot know, or will not know this side of the veil, because they have not yet been revealed. Nevertheless, for as much as can be revealed, I believe this position to be as good as we can get at present.
If my position on the rapture conflicts with my understanding of the nature and purpose of the Church, or on salvation, then my theological position is inconsistent, and therefore, incorrect to some degree. I believe that any particular position or interpretation has to be validated by the sum of the whole, rather than just the individual parts. For example, any rapture position in and of itself, can be proven from Scripture. The real test is whether that rapture position aligns itself with the rest of Scripture in a consistent manner. For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Here are some principles that have guided me along the way.
1. You interpret and then anchor your doctrinal positions from the clear and simple passages, rather than from ambiguous and complex ones. For example:
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. 17 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. 1 Thess. 4:16-17
a. Clearly, the Bible teaches that a “catching up” (harpazo [Greek], rapturo [Latin], rapture [English]) will happen. The argument should never be about if it happens, but only when it happens.
b. This clear and in-depth teaching comes from Paul, who was NOT an apostle to the circumcised (Jews), but to the Gentiles and the Church. Although the church consists of both Jew and Gentile, it is neither Jew nor Gentile, but something new. (1 Cor. 10:32, Gal. 1:11-16, 2:7, 3:26-29, Col. 3:11)
c. Since the Church was something new (2 Cor. 5:17-21), and this message was first revealed to them (the church at Thessalonica), then it must be viewed in context that this message applies to the Church and not to national Israel, which was a separate and distinct body of people who still had their own divine destiny to fulfill (Daniel 9:24-27).
d. This is why trying to pin the Church’s future on events found in the Olivet Discourse (remembering both the audience and the timing), is bound to cause confusion. Jesus (pre-Calvary) was speaking to Jews (His apostles) about events tied to Israel’s future, not the Church (which had not yet been built). He mentions a rapture-like event, but does not go into any details (Matt. 24:40-44). He leaves this to Paul to reveal at the appropriate time and to the appropriate audience.
2. Doctrinally consistent means a consistent interpretation across both the Old and New Testament.
a. We understand that what was concealed in the Old Testament is often times, revealed in the New. However, that does not mean the Old Testament was not relevant to its audience then. Jesus and the Apostles viewed the Old Testament as being both true and relevant even in their day (Matt. 5:17), and confirmed their own “new testament” doctrinal revelations against it for validation (Mark 14:49, Luke 24:27-45, Acts 2, 7)
b. Israel means Israel in both the Old and New Testament. Israel does not mean (nor ever meant) the “Church.” There are zero passages in either testament that says as much. Any view that promotes replacement theology or supercessionism has to take passages out of context, or pervert them to arrive at that conclusion. The Church could not be Israel because the Church could not have existed UNTIL after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Hebrews 9:16-17). How do I KNOW that? Because Christ said as much;
- Identity: Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah). The Jewish people knew a Messiah was coming, but they did not know WHO He was. Peter’s confession confirms Jesus of Nazareth as THE Christ. Jesus also confirms to them that Peter did not arrive at this conclusion from a human understanding, but that God revealed it to him. He also tells them to keep it secret.
- Nature: Although the Jews believed in a future coming of a Messiah, their understanding was that he would be a man like Moses, or David. They did not (and still do not) understand that God would come down in the flesh and live amongst them. Passages like Isaiah 7:14 called Him “Immanuel,” who we later know to be Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 1:21). The name Immanuel was meant to demonstrate who He was, God with us, while the name Jesus (or Joshua/Yeshua) means Jehovah is salvation, or rather, what He will do (Hebrews 9:16-17).
- New: This confession is what Jesus will build (future tense) His church (ekklesia) upon. Jesus did not say that He was reforming Israel, or that He was adding too Israel. He was going to do something new. Paul further confirms this new church as a mystery (Gr-musterion) that had been hidden in the ages past from everyone, even the OT prophets (Eph. 3:8-10, 5:32, Col. 1:25-27).
c. So if my understanding that the Church is something new, that did not exist either in the Old Testament times, nor even in Christ’s day (pre-Calvary), then the Church could NOT be national / ethnic Israel. Ethnically, Israel had already been in existence for some 2,000 years since Abraham. Nationally, Israel had already been in existence for some 1,400 years by the time Christ came. The Church (ekklesia-assembly) is taken out of the Christ-rejecting Israel and out from the Gentile Pagans, to make a new body of believers…not the other way around. The Church could not even begin to exist until after the resurrection and giving of the Holy Spirit (Comforter/ Restrainer) to mankind at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). This is consistent with Paul’s later revelations that we were a mystery to the Old Testament prophets (Ephesians 3-5, Colossians 1-2, Romans 16:25, etc.)
d. All of national and ethnic Israel’s future hinges upon the 70 Weeks’ Prophecy as given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel in Daniel 9:24-27. Since the Church was not present in the first 69 Weeks of years, then we should also have no place or reason to be in the final week of years, or Daniel’s 70th Week. This final week of years is for national / ethnic Israel, not for the Church. Jeremiah 30:7-11, Daniel 9:24, 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9, Rev. 3:10, etc. confirms our absence in this future, terrible, period of human history. This means that Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, John, and Jesus are all in agreement on this point.
e. Furthermore, this reality reinforces Jesus’s warning to Israel that they would no longer see Him UNTIL they say “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39). The Church has already embraced Jesus as the Christ. 2,000 years later and national Israel has yet to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
f. So if the Church has no rhyme or reason to be inside the 70th Week, then that automatically rules out Pre-Wrath, Mid-Trib, and Post-Trib as viable candidates for when the Rapture (harpazo) occurs.
3. God reinforces these principles using strong passages and situations to convey clear doctrines across the entirety of the Bible. For example, Genesis 18:22-23.
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? (Gen. 18:22-23)
a. Three take aways from these passages
- When God imposes His wrath, He does not indiscriminately punish His own along with the wicked (Gen. 6-9, 18 and 19 confirms this.
- God will physically deliver His own before He unleashes His judgment and wrath (Gen. 7, John 14:1-3, 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9, Titus 2:13, Rev 3:10)
- This deliverance does not mean Christian’s are always exempted from the trials and tribulations of this world imposed by Satan or fallen man (John 16:33, Romans 5:3, 2 Cor. 1:4, etc.)
b. Although an argument from silence, we are also shown deliverance by type (Enoch), and our noticeable absence in the two passages that go in-depth about this time period (Dan 9:24-27 and Rev. 4-19). If the Church (ekklesia) was meant to go thru the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th Week), then Scripture should say so forthrightly…or else, we could say God was purposely and deceitfully withholding vital information, which of course, He has not, since that would violate His own holy nature (Isaiah 46:9-10, Amos 3:7).
Some might be wondering why I included the UFO stuff at the front-end of the article, which then quickly morphed into a theological discussion. The first reason is that both topics deal in the realm of deception and sleight of hand. I believe there is mounting evidence that other beings (demons/fallen angels/principalities) are increasingly making their presence known for the purpose of deception. The reason they are doing so, as far as I can tell, is that the Rapture of the Church is pressing closer and closer. Satan is busy building his false pretext for why many people go missing.
Bad theology works along the same lines of deception, because it also comes from the doctrines of demons. Bad theology comes from corrupted interpretations and skewed biases. However, the second you dig below the surface, you realize there is no substance to them. Somewhere in the past (depending on who you ask), many of the popular theological positions found in Christendom today were corrupted by men who long ago departed from the normative, historical, grammatical, literal interpretation of Scripture. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4).
To be clear, the Bible is not corrupted, nor does the Bible teach multiple positions on any given doctrine. We (mankind) are corrupted and begin to teach things that depart from the actual text (and context) of Scripture.
Many accuse dispensationalism as being new and heretical. They primarily do this by attempting to falsely associate dispensationalism (John N. Darby) to Margaret McDonald. However, when you read Margaret’s actual vision, it (the vision) actually promotes the Post-Tribulation Rapture position, which is wholly incompatible to dispensationalism. Furthermore, John N. Darby did not “invent” dispensationalism any more than Martin Luther invented the doctrine of justification by grace through faith.
God the Holy Spirit, revealed these truths to these men in a way and at a time that was appropriate. Darby simply codified what the Bible has always taught. But he could only do so when he departed from the Augustinian view of allegorical interpretation and returned to the original hermeneutic of the literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Scripture. I simply ask that anyone reading this be a Berean and sincerely ask God to reveal whether the things I teach here be true.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—Ephesians 4:11.