I have always enjoyed the fellowship and worship associated with being part of a church. At some point along the way, however, I did realize that at their core, denominational churches are often more about teaching church doctrine than Biblical truth. They teach church doctrine, and then they show how to use the Bible to defend and propagate those doctrines. They do this because that is the way most pastors are trained in Seminary. A healthy amount of seminary training is how to defend the “brand”. In this case, the “brand” is the denomination, and its core doctrines.
The danger with this is that you end up putting the cart before the horse. The doctrines become preeminent, and the Bible is a tool you use to prove the doctrines.
No place is this more clear than with the doctrine of the Pretribulation Rapture which is a core teaching of most mainstream denominations in the West today. The rapture doctrine is very popular because, well . . . it sells very well to Western culture. To exaggerate just a little bit, it goes like this . . . God loves you, He is pleased with everything you do, and in fact He is so concerned with your circumstances and comfort He is going to beam you out of here before any of the bad stuff happens. I can not tell you how many times I have had believers tell me that they do not need to understand Revelation, because we will all be “gone” when those things happen.
It is certainly forgivable that one could be confused on details of Eschatology, or the study of End Times. Indeed, it is a complex topic, and one in which it is very easy to be in error. The issue is that the pretribulation rapture doctrine is not just an error in Eschatology, it is an error in understanding the attributes of God. Read the Bible . . . we are told that as believers we will be hated, we will be persecuted, we will suffer, and yes, we will be killed for The Name of Christ. This truth can be found on almost every page of the Bible, and to ignore it is to risk not being ready for a great persecution that is coming.
So, how can I so boldly state that the pretribulation rapture theory is in error? Well to make the case will be much beyond the scope of this one post, but lets look at one simple argument. I will present more scripture defense of my position in future articles. For today, lets look at what most people consider the “foundational” rapture verse in the Bible, 1 Cor 15:51-58
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
To analyze this verse, lets start with the most important and obvious point. The passage tells us WHEN the “rapture” is going to happen. Verse 52 tells us that it is going to happen at the Last Trumpet. If we look in Revelation, we can see that there are seven last days trumpets, and the Last Trumpet, the seventh, is described in Revelation 11:15
15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
This occurs at the END of the tribulation and clearly is Christ’s second coming. Remember the Lord’s prayer where we pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”. This seventh trumpet represents the answer to this prayer believers have prayed throughout the ages. Christ has returned to reign over the earth. His Kingdom has come! So, one must ask, how many trumpets are there after the Last Trumpet? If the Last Trumpet of 1 Cor 15:52 is before the tribulation, how can there be 7 more trumpets during the tribulation? In this case, it would NOT be the last trumpet. No, the Last Trumpet is exactly what it says, it is the Last Trumpet. There will be no more trumpets after the last one. Those who argue for a pre tribulation rapture will say that 1 Cor 15 is talking about a different set of trumpets. When you ask them for a scripture to defend this contention, they will typically hand you a fascinating rapture video by Tim LaHaye, but they will be completely unable to provide a textual basis for their contention that the last trumpet is in fact not the last trumpet.
Next up, we have a second indication of timing. We are told in 1 Cor 15:51 that Paul is describing to us a “Mystery”. Hmm . . . I wonder if the Bible gives us any more end times verses on this “Mystery” of God. We have to look no further than Revelation 10:5-7:
5 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, 7 but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.
We are shown here that the Mystery of God alluded to by Paul in 1 Cor 15:51 would be completed with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. We have already shown that the seventh trumpet happens at the end of the tribulation and is associated with the blessed second coming of Christ.
Finally, we look at the other blessed promise that occurs at the time of this resurrection of the dead and the “rapture” of the church. We are told that in 1 Cor 15:54-56 that this is the time that Christ will win victory over death. In fact, “Death is swallowed up in Victory”. Everyone will agree that Revelation clearly teaches that millions of believers will be martyred in the Tribulation. If the events of 1 Cor 15 occur before the tribulation, and this is the time that Christ wins final victory over death, how can it be millions of Christians die AFTER Christ wins final victory over death?
If we place the events of 1 Cor 15 where the verse tells us to put them, at the last trumpet, which is at the end of the tribulation and is Christ’s second coming, ALL the textual problems go away, and the story fits like a glove.
So, why do we do so much damage to scripture to place the “rapture” before the tribulation. Well, it is like I said before, it sells well. In fact so well that literally Billions of dollars have been made selling believers books and videos teaching that they will not have to endure hardship. As westerners we are so precious in God’s eyes that He would never allow us to suffer tribulation, persecution or martyrdom. To this, I must ask, what about the almost 10,000 Christians that have been slaughtered this year in Africa alone? In Nigeria Christian communities are being wiped out in mass for their faith. In Kenya, schools, shopping centers, buses and more are routinely attacked. In many of these attacks, Christians could save their lives if they would denounce Christ, but they choose death over denouncing their faith. Where is their rapture? Is it only Westerners that God so favors as to spare them persecution?
Again, the danger of the pretribulation rapture doctrine is not that it is off on eschatology, but that it is off on understanding the attributes of God and the promises of the Bible. God never promised that we would not face persecution, and he never promised that we would not face tribulation. The promise of the Bible is that He would be with us and give us strength WHEN those things happen. To believe in a pre tribulation rapture is to not be ready for the things that will come upon the Church in those last seven years known as the Great Tribulation.
So to believe in a pre tribulation rapture, we must believe that:
- There will be 7 trumpets after the LAST Trumpet
- Millions of Christians will be massacred AFTER Christ wins final victory over Death, and
- the Mystery of God is completed 7 or more years BEFORE the Bible says it will be completed.
I will provide more analysis in future posts, but for now I hope this information is enough to at least get you thinking, praying and searching out the scriptures on this topic.