With the upcoming re-release of the Left Behind movie due out next month, you can rest assured that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture haters will come out in droves. The secular world, Hollyweird in particular, seems fixated on this idea with the return of Christ, but not in a good way. It has in recent years released a number of films mocking it, or turning it into some kind of bizarre horror spectacle. Granted, what follows after the Rapture will be a horror show on a “biblical” scale, but the Rapture in and of itself is not anything to fear for the believer in Jesus Christ.
But as Left Behind gets released into theaters, there will be a growing chorus of Bible teachers and expositors who will become more vocal in refuting it. They are seemingly convinced that the church is destined to go thru either part, or all of the Tribulation. I suppose that is a relatively normal reaction, given the perilous times we are increasingly finding ourselves living in.
After all, the signs are all there for an impending economic and societal collapse, as well as an increase in: wars and rumors of wars, pestilences, earthquakes, and strange natural phenomenon. And since the Rapture didn’t pan out in 2011, 2012, 2013, and thus far into 2014, a natural tendency occurs in our minds to think that if the Rapture doesn’t occur by 2018 (70 years from 1948), then all bets are off.
The supposed “delay” in our Lord’s coming, has given rise to a number of biblically incompatible eschatological theories. I confidently call them “biblically incompatible” because they are. They are in a sense, Anti-rapture and attempt to pervert or change what God’s Word says on the subject. On the surface, some of these views might appear to have theological legs to stand on, but if you drill down just a little bit into what actually “supports” their arguments, it falls apart very quickly.
Most recently, there is the Pre-Wrath position, which posits that we go through at least the first five Seal judgments, but not the Trumpet or Bowl judgments. (They attempt to distinguish between Man/Satan’s wrath, from God’s wrath) Then there is a Mid-Tribulation position that has us being raptured at the 3.5 year mark of the seven-year Tribulation. There is thePost-Tribulation position that states the church must endure through all of the Tribulation. And finally, there is the Pan-Tribulation position (which is the predominant position in Protestant churches here in the west) in which it will all work itself out in the end, so why bother teaching it.
The one thing that all these positions have in common, is that they neglect the Word of the Lord, in that the church (i.e.…the Body of Christ) has no place, position, or purpose for entering any part of this highly specified time period. There is also a fundamental misunderstanding of who and what the church is.
The truth of the matter is that while we are still here and the Lord has yet to return, we will be on earth until either death takes us or the Lord catches us up. But that reality does not in anyway, diminish what God’s Word promises. If the church were destined to go through the Tribulation (i.e. the 70th week of Daniel), I think that the teachings in the New Testament Epistles (both General and Pauline) would be abundantly clear. There are mentions in the gospels, but the gospel’s weren’t written to the church specifically. They are a recording of Christ’s birth, life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection…and Christ lived and died, under the age of the Law.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
Aside from Christ’s discussion on building the church in Matthew 16:13-20, the church was all but a mystery. Even in Acts 1, the disciples were still under the impression that the Kingdom promised to Israel was about to be ushered in.
But instructions for the church to endure and maneuver through a period of time specifically set aside for Israel in the last days, is seemingly absent from the pages of Scripture…and that would be because they do not teach that the church goes through any part of the Tribulation. Follow my logic here:
§ Christ is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18).
§ The church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23).
§ Corporately, we make up one new Man, who is Christ. (Ephesians 2:14-16).
§ The only One found worthy to even open the first seal, is Christ (Rev. 5:3-5).
The seventh Seal Judgment, triggers the blowing of the seven Trumpet Judgments, in which the seventh trumpet triggers the pouring out of the seven Bowl Judgments. So Christ opening the seven Seal Judgments, triggers all the rest.
ALL the Judgments, are divinely appointed wrath. The only difference between the first four Seal Judgments, and the last three, is that the first four are not “supernatural” in nature, but rather, are God’s removal of any kind of restraint from the world…and the effects are devastating.
But the Judgments (all 21) cannot begin, until Christ has removed His Body from the earth, back to Heaven, to be where He is (John 14:1-3).
Since the Holy Spirit permanently seals and indwells those believers who are baptized into the Body of Christ via the Holy Spirit, it stands to reason, that if the Holy Spirit’s role of restrainer is removed, so too will those bodies in whom He seals and indwells (Eph. 1:11-14, 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21-22).
The Restrainer (2 Thess. 2:7), is definitively a “He.” That leaves you with three options:
§ Michael the Archangel
§ Holy Spirit
The Restrainer ‘restrains’ lawlessness, and has been, so that pretty much rules out the “father of lawlessness”…Satan (John 8:44).
The Restrainer “restrains” lawlessness, which is not another individual, but a condition. Michael is a finite being and is NOT omnipresent, therefore, cannot be everywhere at once. Thus, he does not qualify as one who can restrain lawlessness. Besides, he has a job already (Daniel 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7).
This leaves the only One capable, of restraining the condition of lawlessness, and that is God the Holy Spirit, who existing before Creation (Gen 1:2), was given in a particular role at Pentecost to the church. (John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7) until that time is complete.
The Church Age had a beginning, Pentecost (Acts 2), and will have an ending (Rev. 3:10).
This is why the apostle Paul even wrote 2 Thessalonians in the first place…because someone had come along, pretending to be an apostle, telling them they were now in the Day of the Lord (the time of the Tribulation). The Thessalonian church were deeply shaken by this, (2 Thess. 2:1-2) and Paul had to reassure them, that THAT day could not happen, until three things occurred first:
§ The falling away happened.
§ The Restrainer is taken out of the way (God the Holy Spirit is not removed, just His role as the restrainer is done away with (Gen. 6:3).
§ And then the lawless one will be revealed (2 Thess. 2:7-9).
If the church is to endure, ANY portion of the Tribulation, is Christ now going to unleash the judgments (Rev. 6:1) upon Himself, if the church is His body?
The clear, biblical answer, is a definitive no. Not only does the Bible NOT teach the church will endure God’s wrath, (1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9; Rev. 3:10), and that we are NOT looking for signs inside the Tribulation, but that we are too be looking eagerly, for the Blessed Hope, which is the appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
The rhetoric is heating up, along with the scoffing and turning away, even from those who profess Christ, mocking the promise Christ made to us (2 Peter 3:3-7), that He will come again, and receive us unto Himself (John 14:1-3). Don’t let anyone steal your joy, or your hope, in that promise, because one day soon, Christ will break back into human history, and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, transform both the living, and the dead, into our glorified bodies, so that we can dwell with Him forever (1 Cor. 15:51-56; Romans 8:28-30).
As with Adam, all men die. But Christ is the ‘last Adam’, and through Him, all men live, forever. And as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, as a help-mate, so too was the church, born out of Christ’s side to be His helpmate (1 Cor. 15:45; John 19:34). Paul explains this “mystery” in Ephesians 5, echoing the spiritual reality of Genesis 2:23-24, that the two shall become one. We are brought into Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) at the moment of belief (Eph. 1:11-14).
The church is unique in its role and nature in God’s administrating over Creation. The Church was in God’s mind, before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and we are not Plan B or an afterthought with Israel’s rejection of Christ. We serve the purpose of bringing about God’s purpose for making a people for Himself into one, new Man (Eph. 2:15).
When you come to understand who and what exactly the church is, then you will see the ludicrousness of the idea, that the church must then be “purified” by the Tribulation in order to become “acceptable” to God in any form or fashion. Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the law (Gal. 4:4-5) perfectly in His life and death, paid it all on the Cross…and then said ‘It is finished’ (John 19:28-30). If we are truly the Body of Christ, then what more can WE add to what Christ has already done?
Furthermore, it’s not even tribulation that purifies us…
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).