THERE IS A RAPTURE – BUT WHEN DOES IT OCCUR? IS IT PART OF THE FIRST RESURRECTION?

A RAPTURE DEBATE BETWEEN GOOD FRIENDS

Perusing many comments on my Facebook page regarding the Day of the Lord (and the prior Hot Seat I did with Gary Huffman), I still see a number of people that say the rapture is a lie, the rapture doesn’t happen, believers that accept the doctrine of the rapture have been duped.  But is that really an accurate view of what scripture teaches?  It is one thing to argue that the rapture doesn’t happen separately from the visible return of Christ spoken of in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Revelation 19:11-19.  It is a very different thing to argue that there is no rapture at all.

To say there is no rapture is to say there is no resurrection.  If there is no resurrection, as the Apostle Paul flatly states, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain – you are yet in your sins. Then they that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If this life only we have hope in Christ, then we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

On June 18, I was joined by my good friend Chris Steinle for an episode of THE HOT SEAT.   See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcSVaZ2gxbI).  We dug into his book, WHY MOST CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN A POST-TRIBULATION RAPTURE.  Chris and I emphatically agree that there is a rapture, the only question is WHEN not IF.  Below is a link to the program with Chris.

So, with that common ground, we delved into many issues associated with the arguments for and against the Pre-Trib rapture, the Post-Trib rapture, and the Pre-Wrath point of view as well. We never came to blows and we probably only cemented each of our respective views.  But we did bring a lot of new light on the old arguments and focused on both history and scripture to understand why the rapture was not discussed until AFTER Historicism was dropped as the dominant form of eschatology.  If you don’t recall, Historicism is the view that the Book of Revelation was being fulfilled throughout the period of the Reformation and on into the time of John Wesley; essentially from about 1500 (with Luther), up to the genesis of Methodism and not long afterward, the Plymouth Brethren.  Before John Darby’s time, it was taught that the Pope was the Antichrist, Catholicism was Mystery Babylon, and Christ was to return at any moment because the world was going through the time of tribulation or a time immediately prior.  So the Book of Revelation wasn’t dealing with the future, but the past and the present.

However, the teaching of Dispensationalism emerged and was championed by Darby, and later by Scofield and Larkin.  Soon, Baptists throughout England and America adopted “Futurism.” Supposedly, Post-Tribbers would like us to believe that a Jesuit named Francisco De Ribera, as  part  of  counter-reformation.

While Ribera sought to recast Revelation into a ‘future’ fulfillment, he did so because he hoped to counter the position of Protestants that claimed the Book of Revelation was being fulfilled NOW (or then), and the Pope was antichrist and the Catholic Church was NOT mystery Babylon.  Ribera said, “No, there is a future fulfillment.”

Referencing Ribera as the originator of “Futurism” is an attempt to give the Pre-Trib and Futurist view a black eye (guilt by association) with the Jesuits.  They were the army of the Catholic Church to fight back against Protestants.  But Historicism died out mostly due to the fact that the Antichrist of 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 just hadn’t appeared and fulfilled those prophecies.  De facto, there must be a future fulfillment.

Today, there are two primary positions among Evangelicals, when it comes to biblical interpretation that ultimately dictates what eschatology doctrines we adopt.  One is called Covenant Theology and it is embraced by modern Reformed Churches, notably Presbyterian and some independent Christian Churches.

This understanding of the panorama of the Bible’s message is quite distinct from what the majority of evangelicals espouse, which is Dispensational Theology, begun by Darby, Larkin and Scofield, but made much more respectable by theologians like John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost and others from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Dispensationalists teach that there are 6-8 different ‘eras’ or dispensations covering how God has interacted by humanity and held them accountable for their actions.

In our discussion aka friendly debate, Chris and I discussed the fact that we have to understand the meaning of the regathering of Israel in todays Middle Eastern country (formerly Palestine).  If it is meaningless, then Covenant Theology is more likely to be correct.  If it is part of the grand design of eschatology and God’s providence to redeem Israel (see Romans 9-11), then Dispensationalism has an enormous bulwark undergirding its point of view.

Having laid this groundwork, we discussed why I did not agree with Chris’ essential premise that more Christians believe in the Post-Trib view.  My point is that most Christians don’t believe in a rapture, a millennium, or a visible Second Coming of Christ.  If they do believe in a second coming, they likely see it as a culmination of ‘life as usual’ and an inauguration of the eternal state.  All the teachings regarding what happens during “the Great Tribulation” is ignored because of their overarching disbelief in the ‘literal’ teachings of the Bible.

Chris and I agreed strongly that Dispensationalists are far more supportive of today’s Israel and the belief that the People of Israel will one day be redeemed.  Covenant Theology has too often been the basis of persecution and the pogroms.  It can be anti-semitic (as the so-called Replacement Theology).

However, the excessive view of some Dispensationalists follows the teaching of C.I. Scofield and his Bible Commentary.  They often assert that the Jews are saved by the Abrahamic Covenant or the Law of Moses. They do not have to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah or their savior.  This is known as “Dual Covenant” Theology. We agree that this is far from being ‘normative’ for Christians. Our view is harsh – it is heresy.  “Neither is their salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).  In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free man, male or female, for we are all one in Christ.

Chris and I agreed on the basic structure of the Great Tribulation.  Halfway through the seven year period (as foretold by Daniel and reiterated in the Book of Revelation), the ‘final’ Antichrist, the man of sin, will desecrate a rebuilt Temple, and establish what Daniel and Jesus called, “The Abomination of Desolation.”  The Antichrist and the 10 Kings will then destroy Mystery Babylon (possibly the Catholic Churches ‘headquarters’ at Vatican City), and soon thereafter, the wrath of God commences with the 7th Seal, the 7 Trumpets, and finally, the 7 bowls of wrath.  But one of the pivotal issues is, “Has the Church already been raptured? Or does it continue to dwell on earth and get, as I said, caught in the crossfire with the wrath of God poured out on the “earth dwellers.”

I have taken a slightly different position that most dispensational teachers in that I am not dogmatic about the timing of the 6 seals, especially the first four, and the 6th.  My position, written in several books, but especially fleshed out in THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST, is that the rapture coincides with the 6th Seal, when Revelation 6 indicates ‘the Day of the Lord’ commences.  However, this does not for me indicate a ‘mid-trib’ position or even an agreement with the Pre-Wrath view.  Daniel’s 70th Week may well already be underway, and indeed, the rapture may happen one or more years before the 70th week begins.

I’ll stop there with laying the foundation for our discussion.  I hope you take the time to listen to the 100 minute show.  It offers extensive teaching on the biblical verses, the history, and the theology of eschatology and will supply some significant education on the same.  My ‘post-production’ of the show includes dozens of illustrations, charts, and display of the key scriptures discussed.

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