The Rapture of the church can also be referred to as the Blessed Hope after Titus 2:13. Many feel that the topic of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is outdated and old news. It’s been covered by so many teachers and pastors for so long, it is the “theological equivalent to beating a dead horse.”
I would like to emphatically counter this idea, and say, that if we had a 1,000 more years on planet Earth, we would not even begin to scratch the surface of God’s wonderful plan of love and redemption that He has for His people.
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture (catching up) is a beautiful picture in type of a Jewish wedding, and the ONLY model of the Rapture that so perfectly fits it. For me, once I understood not only is there a Pre-Trib Rapture, but understood why there is one, I’ve never looked back. In order to understand why the Rapture has to happen prior to any portion of the Tribulation, one has to have a firm grasp on Ecclesiology, and the role and nature of who the church is.
Being a Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist, I understand that when Christ was here on earth, His role then was as a Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22-23). At His trial and crucifixion He was our Sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7). The purchase price for His bride was His life. In His resurrection, He is both our Kinsman Redeemer and Priest and even now, serves as our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) before the throne of God. One day He will return in power and in glory as the King of kings before the whole world, but in the context of the Jewish wedding, He must return first to retrieve His bride at the conclusion of the betrothal period─which only the Father knows. When He returns for His bride, He does so as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), NOT with war, the sky receding back as a scroll and the peoples of the earth mourning at His appearing (Matthew 24:30).
We see in the Old Testament over and over, how national Israel ignored Moses’ warnings and went chasing off after other gods, subsequently prompting their subjugation to pagan nations. We read in the Old Testament the explicit instructions to the sons of Aaron that a priest could NOT be married to anyone who wasn’t a virgin (Leviticus 21:13-14) because if he did, he could not go before God in the Temple to offer any sacrifices. So it is not that the church is purer, because we aren’t. We fail God daily, I fail God daily. What makes us different from Israel then, is that we are now hidden in Jesus Christ, and His righteousness.
His righteousness is what God sees when He sees the church. His relationship with His church reinforces this principle as High Priest and Mediator today. The church is the Bride of Christ. The church is not Israel. One cannot simultaneously be both the “harlot” and the “chaste virgin.” Things that are different are not the same.
The church has not replaced Israel, nor have we become her, and we are certainly no more deserving of salvation than Israel was. National Israel, who came from the Patriarchs, was and still is God’s elect from among the nations. We (Christians-wild branches) are grafted into the common-vine of salvation through and because of Abraham like-faith (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7-9,14). Abraham predated the Law given to Moses at Mt. Sinai by some 500 years. He was not justified by his circumcision, or by his willingness to sacrifice his only son at Mt. Moriah. Abraham was justified by his faith that God would not only give him a son and many heirs, but could also raise Isaac back from the dead when God asked him to sacrifice his son.
But Isaac was not Abraham’s only son. I distinctly remember Abraham having another through his handmaiden Hagar and his name was Ishmael. The beauty and the reality of it is that Ishmael was born out of Abraham’s disobedience and sin. God in His forgiveness will not remember our sins when we ask for forgiveness even though we still might have to deal with the physical ramifications. And Abraham’s sin is still being dealt with today between the Arab’s and the Jews.
The New Testament church, and Israel, both share in this common salvation. Neither is better, but we are different, separated unto God and unto His purpose He has chosen us. Just like that generation of Israelites who journeyed out of Egypt after 400 years of bondage in their Exodus to the Promised Land, we too are that chosen generation about to journey out of 6,000 years of bondage to sin and death, to the real Promised Land. The church does not and never was promised a kingdom here on earth, nor do we have a city to call our own. We are looking for that city above, whose Builder and Maker is God.
The book of Revelation (Greek- Apocálypsis) is meant to reveal or unveil God’s future plans for mankind. Jesus mentions the church 19 times, and deals with 2,000 years of Church history in two chapters (2-3). Yet reveals to John in 13 chapters (6-19) the seven year Tribulation and doesn’t mention the church at all. Think about that for a moment.
The reason should be obvious, for had the church been destined to go through the Tribulation, God wouldn’t have needed to go into such great detail because we would be living through it. In fact, if man had written the book of Revelation apart from divine revelation, the material would have been reversed. Men would have spent most of the 22 chapters describing the Church Age and would have included a small section on the Tribulation about the same length and depth as the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Then at the end, there would have been at least five or six chapters, painfully detailing the account of the 2nd Coming. What is interesting though, is that the most glorious, culminating and catastrophic event in human history only warrants half of one chapter (Rev 19:11-21). And to those who would scoff at the idea that Chapters 2 and 3 do not chronicle the age of the church, would do well to read Revelation 12 and see that this one chapter also covers thousands of years.
I remember attending the Pre-Trib conference in Dallas back in 2009. I was 35 then and I remember looking across the audience of the 500 people sitting there, thinking there were only about five of us who were under the age of 40. I would venture to say that the median age then was around 55 or higher. It was right then at that moment, that I realized that our little eschatological community of Pre-Trib/Pre-Millennial Dispensationalists are a dying breed. I asked myself then, was it because the message was wrong? Was it too antiquated and outdated? I don’t think so.
People always want something new and exciting, and Dispenationalism was new and exciting 160 years ago. But today, people either have prophecy fatigue and have dropped by the wayside, or they are bored and migrate toward the sensational. Simultaneously, many Pre-Trib ministries are trying to remain relevant and draw in newer, younger, and energetic crowds by providing sensational teachings. The Emergent Church uses a similar technique by watering down the message and ramping up the experience. But we in the Bible Prophecy community have begun doing this by introducing conspiracy theories, extra-biblical texts (as proof), and the extra-terrestrial into prophetic matters. In other words, we are both angling to remain relevant, but attacking this problem from two different directions. There is an issue with both.
One doesn’t have to embrace the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture to be a Christian. I liken those who don’t accept it to the seeds that fell among the stony places, but were scorched by the sun, because they had no depth to their eschatological roots. These are they that understood this promise superficially or were never taught it to begin with. People who are not grounded in the Blessed Hope are the ones who get swept up by false dates and false teachings. The most hardened Preterists and skeptics, whom I know personally, were at one time in their life, Pre-Trib Dispensationalists. Somewhere along the way, they fell under the sway of a false teacher and got burned and then swore off the Blessed Hope forever. They allowed their shame of being duped turn into bitterness…and bitterness became the root that took hold.
The growing Emergent Church for the most part is either Preterist or Pan-Millennialist (no bother studying it, it will all pan out in the end). They see prophecy as fulfilled and largely irrelevant to their social-gospel agenda here on earth today. A secondary and unfortunate repercussion of their form of eschatology allows anti-Semitism and Supersessionism to creep in due to their confusion over who the church is, and how it has somehow replaced Israel. Aside from the anti-biblical stances on homosexuality, abortion, socialism, and core doctrinal issues like hell, salvation by grace through faith, and the inerrancy of Scripture, Preterist and Pan-Millennialist are blinded to the lateness of the hour. I caution against these views, because when you take your attention off of looking up, you end-up focusing on the drama here on earth…and that day will catch you unawares.
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35).
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church really is the Blessed Hope because when one really understands it, it has a way of sanctifying the believer in three distinct ways. First, it prevents one from ever being deceived into believing a false prophet’s claims of date setting, because you would know that the Rapture is imminent, and no one knows the day or hour (Matthew 24:36). Secondly, a believer grounded in the Blessed Hope doctrine also has a well-grounded understanding of who the church is and what our role is (John 14:1-3). Lastly, the believer who hold’s to the Blessed Hope doctrine is focused on looking up, not looking around (Luke 12:37-39).
Your standing with Christ is not dependent on your eschatological viewpoint, but not holding to the Blessed Hope will wreak havoc on your understanding of the Word of God. There should be no excuse for us today, since we have a complete Bible and 2,000 years of history to look back upon. We are instructed to study to show ourselves approved by rightly dividing the Word (2 Timothy 2:15).
Be cautious in following the teachings of just any one person. I’ve seen hopes dashed and hearts harden within our community because so many people had their hopes pinned to 2011. Certain teachers taught them that Christ had to return by then for a seven-year Tribulation to be complete by 2018 (70 years from 1948). Living out your hope with these kinds of changing expectations is an emotional roller coaster. We shouldn’t be hung up on any dates, whether they are Jewish feasts, blood moons, solar eclipses, wars, or anything else. The Rapture isn’t dependent upon those things.
When you pin your hope on some specific event that some teacher taught, and that day comes and goes, you’re the one whose left standing there picking up the shattered pieces of your hopeful expectations which are laying scattered about on the ground. Put your hope in the ONE who will never let you down. He is coming back, and I believe it is sooner rather than later.
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name…Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:8, 10).