Nowhere to Hide: Part II (Dedicated to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Haters) - By Pete Garcia -
Perhaps you're a Christian, but you think the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is all a bunch of warm hooey. It is an escapist eschatology; built specifically for weak-spined western Christians who are afraid of a little persecution. You frequently tell anyone who will listen, that the word "rapture" is not even in the Bible. You say the "rapture" was a theological scheme created out of thin air by that evil dispensationalist John N. Darby 150 years ago. And even he didn't invent it you say matter-of-factly, but stole the idea from a teenage Scottish girl. Perhaps you think we are already in the Tribulation, and times are looking bleak for America (see Part I). You say it is time for us Christians dig in, get our hands dirty, and fight for what we believe in when another civil war comes. It is time for Christian's to get our "big boy" pants on and take a stand.
I suppose it is the height of both irony and hypocrisy that a professing Christian would hate the idea that their Savior could return sooner rather than later. Essentially, that is what those who despise the Pre-Tribulation Rapture are guilty of, turning the blessed hope (Titus 2:13) into a joke or a byword. Of course, most would never admit to such a thing. They will claim some moral or theological high ground of outing false theology or having to prove our salvation through tribulation. However, is that really true?
I for one, cannot see how it could be, especially given the fact we all have Bibles and could sit down together and go through these issues line by line, chapter by chapter, and book by book to see if what we believe actually passes the theological smell test. So what is it then? Why so much angst against a biblical doctrine that shows irrefutably, that Christ will return again for His Church before the 70th Week begins. Why are certain eschatological views hell-bent (literally) on putting the Church (ekklesia) inside the 70th Week of Daniel? There are a few reasons I can think of:
1. Inheriting bad hermeneutics
The practice of bad hermeneutics (or how one interprets scripture), began in earnest with Origen (circa 200AD) and his application of allegory to Scripture. His approach was later passed on to Augustine (circa 400AD). Augustine's teachings were later incorporated into the Roman Catholic Church doctrine and dogma (500AD - Present). The allegorical approach became the default position (especially regarding eschatology), which was carried into and through the Protestant Reformation (1517 - Present). The allegorical approach was distributed throughout the mainline protestant denominations for the next three centuries.
However, mainline Protestants began protesting again, but this time, against the inherited corrupted RCC form of hermeneutics at the end of the 18th-century and early 19th-century. They returned to a literal, grammatical, and historical understanding of all Biblical doctrines, not just soteriology. This subsequently, resulted in rediscovering dispensationalism, which concludes the Church Age with the Pre-Tribulation (Pre-70th Week) Rapture (harpazo) of the Church (ekklesia).
2. Personality/Event-Driven Eschatology
Not that I blame Hal Lindsey for his personal achievements, but shortly after the runaway success of his bestselling book the Late Great Planet Earth, many came after him trying to capitalize on his success. They did so by putting their own particular brand/spin on bible prophecy (ex. Robert Van Kampen). Their motivations may have varied (money, fame, belief, etc.) but the results were the same. It is similar to when a rock band breaks big and ushers in a new genre of music (Elvis, the Beatles, Bon Jovi, Guns n Roses, Nirvana, etc.). What happens every single time afterwards? Only about a million other bands come along behind them riding the wave of popularity.
For most of the 20th-century, Biblical eschatology remained relatively unknown to those outside of the academic-evangelical circles. However, Hal's success highlighted an untapped doctrinal treasure trove that many theologians (and would be theologians) sought to cash in on. To be clear, I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, because many have and continue to produce solid, biblically accurate eschatological studies. However, many, many others, not so much. This is usually exacerbated when geopolitical/natural events are hyped beyond any reasonable scriptural boundaries (think 88 Reasons, Gulf War, Y2K, 2012, Blood Moons, etc.).
3. Error begets error without course correction
If you start with bad theology, you will continue drifting further and further away from true scriptural theology. The Bible only presents one eschatological position. This is presented as objective truth. So if you believe in something for example, like British Israelism or Mormonism as a foundation, you are already beginning on a wrong foundation with faulty presuppositions.
It is very much like starting your scientific hypothesis off with Darwinian Evolution or the Big Bang as an origin story. From there, you will only continue into more error because you started off in error. However, as we continue moving further into an time and culture that rejects objective truth and replaces it with subjective reasoning, we will likely see all biblical doctrines, not just eschatology, suffer at the hands of itching ears.
4. Works-based salvation
Lastly, if you belong to a group who believes your works are directly related to your level of salvation, you probably believe that the Church must go through some type of refine-through-fire phase, of which, the Tribulation serves as your perfect scenario. Of course, this goes directly against Jesus's own words that He is building His Church (Matt. 16:18).
Task and Purpose
Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob's trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it....
... For I am with you,' says the Lord, 'to save you;
Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you,
Yet I will not make a complete end of you.
But I will correct you in justice,
And will not let you go altogether unpunished.' Jeremiah 30:7, 11
It is to that last point (#4), that I find strangely fascinating, particularly when talking to fellow believers who wholeheartedly believe that we are all going into the 70th Week of Daniel (aka...the Tribulation). To be fair, the anti-Pre Tribulation Rapture crowd is a rather large bag of mixed nuts. You have the mid-Trib folks, the Three-Quarter folks (so called Pre-Wrath), the Post-Tribulation (i.e., the post-toasties), the Amillennialists (the sleepy church), the Dominionists (the church militant), the Preterists (the church ignorant), and then you have your garden-variety out and out deniers (they deny everything Biblical).
This passage from Jeremiah is also speaking directly to the nation of Israel in the last days, because a) nations are still in existence, and b) the Church was never scattered amongst the nations. To say that would imply that we (the Church) were first together all in one location. The Church is made up of believers who come out of all nations, and the first time we will all be gathered together into one location, is at the Rapture of the Church (John 14:1-3).
I suppose my fascination with these wannabe Tribulation Saints, comes from their perception that we are going to become part of some last day's resistance like in the movie Red Dawn. I would specifically like to address those who think that by prepping today and having stored food, weapons, gold, silver, and underground bunkers, that they are somehow going to be prepared for what is coming upon the earth in that day. These would be the same folks who viciously mock us for not prepping now. According to them, we Pre-Tribbers are guilty of leading ourselves and others blindly to the slaughter. They also think for those of us who are not killed outright will collectively fall away from the faith once the Rapture does not happen and the persecution begins. To their points I say,
1. If Church-Age Christians have to go into any part of the 70th Week, then the Bible has some serious communication issues.
2. Since, my first point is impossible (God's word is perfect), then the only other logical conclusion is that flawed and sinful people have mistranslated and misunderstood the Bible.
These folks really have no idea how dangerous things are really going to be. Aside from the Antichrist and his military and government forces, there will be a vast array of advanced technological and economic weapons at his disposal. Furthermore, the divinely appointed Seal, Trumpet, and Vial Judgments will wipe out close to one-half of the world's population. I wanted to list a few reasons why there will be nowhere to hide for those who come to faith after the Rapture (tribulation saints). Keep in mind, the Beast is a ten-nation/region confederacy, aligned regionally, economically, and militarily and will govern the affairs of the entire earth in the last days (Dan. 2:41-43, 7, 8; Revelation 13). The Antichrist will then rise to power (having deposed three leaders) and will have the plurality of authority backing him. He will also have the FULL backing of Satan, and will have untold legions of demonic hosts at his disposal:
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. Revelation 13:7
Please understand that I am not saying that being prepared in general is a bad thing. We should all do some preparation for those unforeseen events in our life. Accidents, natural disasters, unplanned financial situations always require us to be prepared for the unexpected. And as we move further and further into the last days, there will be an increase in things like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, crime, violence, etc. However, there is a huge difference between prudence and militancy.
The Church (powered through and by the Holy Spirit) is the last thing restraining Satan's wholesale takeover of the earth. If that were not so, Satan would have taken over the earth a long, long, long time ago.
Then the devil, taking Him (Jesus) up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Luke 4:5-6
Satan right now, has the authority (but not the ability) to hand over all the kingdoms to whomever he chooses. What is preventing him, is the restraining force of God (Acts 17:26) through the Church. Once God removes the born-again, blood-bought Church from the earth, He will give the Christ-rejecting earth what they have been clamoring for all these years...a world without God. At that point, the only group the Bible guarantees any sort of divine protection for through the Tribulation, is the 144,000 Jewish male virgins from the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:2-3).
The Church is God's pièce de résistance; a mystery hidden in the mind of God before the world began. The Church was conceived in the mind of God before He created the foundation of the earth. We were carefully cultivated from the first Adam (Gen. 3:15) to the Last (1 Cor. 15:45). The Church was forged at the Cross and through Christ's finished work there. Because of His death, we are covered with the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:17-21) and will one day be presented blameless to the Father. Through His burial, we are buried with Him and have died to our old natures (Romans 6:5-11). However, through His Resurrection, the Church is becomethe ultimate weapon against evil.
"O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?"
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1st Cor. 15:55-57
The Church is not: a religion, a building, an organization, or a business. The Church is the multi-membered, universal, singular, body of believers (both Jew and Gentile) who are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). We are not redeemed by our good deeds, our wealth or poverty, or our personal piety, but only through the shed blood of Christ, which covers us and makes us presentable to God the Father. We are the salt (preventing rotting) and light (preventing darkness) from overtaking the world (Matt. 5:13-14). Once the Church is removed from the earth at the Rapture, this world will be plunged into both rottenness and darkness. As the Apostle stated quite clearly in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. The falling away (apostasia) being the physical departure of the Church by way of Rapture.
So How Can You Know the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is 100% Correct?
1. There is not one mention of the ekklesia inside the 70th Week, either in the Old or New Testament.
2. The Church (the body of Christ-ekklesia) has already been judged at the Cross, and is now made perfect and does not need refinement in the 70th Week (Hebrews 10:10, 14, 12:2; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Eph. 2:4-7)
3. The 70th Week of Daniel (aka...the Tribulation) is a time specifically set aside for Israel and the Christ-rejecting world (Jer. 30:7-11; Dan. 9:24-27; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:1-3; 1 Thess. 5:1-9; Revelation 4-19)
4. Although Christ warns the Church that they will suffer trials and tribulations in this life (John 16:33) He never warns the Church to prepare for The Tribulation (i.e., that 70th Week). However, He does warn against not looking for His coming at the Rapture (Mark 13:39; Luke 12:37-39, 21:36; Rev. 3:3, 10, 22:20)
5. The Apostles never once warn the Church to prepare for The Tribulation. If the Church were destined to go into it, they (through prompting by God the Holy Spirit) would have warned the Church to prepare
6. Paul specifically states that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until the Restrainer is removed (2 Thess. 2:7-8). He who restrains can only be the Holy Spirit, who infills and seals the Church until the day of redemption (2 Cor. 1:21-22, Eph. 1:14, 4:30)
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 will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 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 upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 1st Thessalonians 4:15-5:4
Even so, Maranatha!