Pre-Trib Rature: Out of Order
As world events seem to be becoming more violent, financially desperate, and lawless, and with the Earth groaning with increases in tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, many may be wondering if the world they know is coming to an end. Different civilizations have different traditions and myths regarding the end of the world. The Mayans developed a calendar that ran for thousands of years that is supposed to culminate cataclysmically in 2012. Anyone who believes in some form of apocalypse knows that the earth is not going be a safe place during any such event. People will hope there is a magic button that will save them from end-time events so no disaster happens to them. In fact, there are many that think such a button actually exists.
In Christianity, a theory has arisen and gained popularity because it gives the last generation of Christians an escape clause - it is called the Pretribulation Rapture and is the belief that the Messiah returns suddenly (imminently) to gather all of the church saints to avoid the seven-year tribulation. This theory is relatively recent in terms of Biblical history. It comes from a Scottish minister named Edward Irving in the early 1800s. He was influenced by observing a young girl who fell into a trance and pronounced that Christ’s return would happen in two parts, not one, and His first appearance would be visible only to the righteous. Edward Irving started to teach his congregants this message. Another man, John Darby, heard of Irving’s teaching and he started to develop it further. Cyrus Scofield popularized the theory in his notes in his Scofield Reference Bible in America in the early 1900s. Today, it is commonly referred to in the shortened form as simply the Pretrib rapture.
If you visit a Christian bookstore and scan the prophecy section, the majority of the books on the shelves address the point of view of a Pretrib rapture. Most Christians believe what their pastors teach and don’t search the Scriptures (especially the Torah) to learn for themselves. Other points of view concerning the timing of the resurrection and rapture don’t sell very well. Who wants to hear different arguments among prophecy teachers, or worse, that believers will have to endure the Great Tribulation?
It should not come as a shock to readers of YAVOH that I do not teach nor hold to the theory of the Pretrib rapture. I believe that the rapture (translation of the believers alive at the time of the resurrection) includes the tribulation saints; therefore, I believe the timing of the rapture is in the days immediately after the tribulation but prior to the Day of the Lord (God’s wrath upon this world). I believe that the rapture/resurrection will be the fulfillment of a future Feast of Trumpets. However, some New Covenant brethren believe the rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation, I think that their idea of the rapture is simply out of order.
In recent articles (February and March 2010), I shared about the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks and the key events that begin the final seven years of this age. These prophecies are what Yeshua used in order to answer the disciples’ questions about the end of the age and the signs of His coming. The final seven years leading to the end are the difference between the 62 years following the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem with plaza and moat. The specific events that separate the 62 years from the final seven years are three things: (1) an agreement involving Israel and many nations (the antimessiah confirms this agreement), (2) a regional war where God slaughters the enemies of Israel (Israel dwells securely in the land) then detailed burial procedures, and (3) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel and all mankind. With these three things we have confirmation in counting Daniel’s final 70 years accurately. We will also know that we are at the final seven years of Daniel’s count. Therefore this spring/summer of 2010 is of profound significance for all of us given that 62 years from the decree will be completed this May 2010.
So, why am I bringing up the Pretrib rapture at this point? If the final seven-year countdown begins in spring/summer of this year, then the Pretrib rapture will be proven to be a false expectation for end-time believers. This is going to be hard for many brethren to deal with. Many evangelical leaders and believers have pinned all of their hopes on this eschatology theory and will be confronted with this dilemma:
Many of the most influential nationally known Christian leaders and their ministries are on public record promoting and defending the Pretrib rapture (the sudden transformation and removal of believers from the present world prior to the final seven years).
In addition, what will Pretrib book publishers and teachers do after the seven years begin without a rapture? What will they say after the agreement spoken of in Daniel 9:27 is accomplished? What will they do when the regional war of Ezekiel 38 and 39 results in the seven years of burning the weapons of war? How will they explain the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or the House of Israel making their way to the land of Israel and God being sanctified before the nations?
I believe that there are four distinct directions that the Pretrib teachers will go.
1. They will deny that the final seven years has begun. They will claim that the agreement is not the specific agreement fulfilling Daniel 9:27.
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week [the final seven years], but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. DAN 9:27
2. They will classify the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s war in chapter 38 and 39 as another in a long line of military conflicts of Israel’s history but not a part of the final seven years.
3. They will deny the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as another “spiritualized” movement as we have seen in recent revivals, which have all fallen short.
4. They will assure those who have followed their teaching that they will “have peace” and “no calamity will come upon them.” They will maintain that the rapture must happen before the final seven years can happen.
These teachers will face a major problem. Believers who follow their teaching will see too many things happening and realize that the theory of the Pretrib rapture was wrong. Many of them regrettably will give up the faith and refuse to listen any longer to any prophecy teacher.
In the final days, the “false prophets” Yeshua warned us about will be revealed. As disturbing as that may sound, look again to what Yeshua said of the days we live and how false prophets would “mislead, if possible, even the elect.” Yeshua mentioned several aspects in answering the brethren about the signs of the end of the ages. He talked about things that He said are NOT signs of the end but are the beginnings of sorrows (times of great stress on mankind), including wars, famines, earthquakes, and diseases. He spoke directly to specific prophecies by the prophet Daniel that were key to a proper understanding of identifying the final seven years and the final 3½-year Great Tribulation.
Finally, he addressed the subject of false prophets and false messiahs. He said of the latter that they would be so prolific that the elect (the believers) would almost be deceived.
Then if anyone says to you, “Behold, here is the messiah,” or “There He is,” do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. MAT 24:23-24
Consider this thought for a moment. If this warning of Yeshua is correct in the final generation, then the false messages and false brethren most likely come from the ranks of believers at the end of the ages, most likely Christians among Christians, and probably be in teaching and leadership positions. Today, the predominant evangelical message of the end of the ages is the Pretrib rapture. Many of the public evangelical messengers espouse the Pretrib rapture. Yeshua warned us about these who have the influence to possibly mislead the elect (believers).
The message of the Pretrib rapture is the most compelling evidence that indicts these teachers. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of false prophets at the end of the ages. Here is what he had to say about their message.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You will have peace’; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, “Calamity will not come upon you.”’ But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Behold, the storm of the Lord has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest; it will swirl down on the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it.” JER 23:16-20
The Pretrib rapture is futility. Look at it like a stopped watch; it will tell the correct time twice a day but it is not a working watch. The Pretrib rapture is based on the doctrine of imminency—that God is so sovereign that He can return at any moment of His choosing. No one disputes that God is sovereign; however, God has said of Himself that He does not do impulsive things like a man, nor does He change His mind. God has clearly said that He has a definite plan for the end of the ages and that He will do exactly what He has planned.
Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure”; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. ISA 46:8-11
God has said that the end of ages will include a specific seven-year period. In the middle of the seven the Abomination of Desolation will come and the resulting Great Tribulation. In days immediately following the tribulation, the Messiah will appear in the sky and return to judge the earth. That is what is going to happen. Any suggestion or teaching to the contrary falls into the category of a false teaching.
Look back again to Jeremiah’s word about false prophets and teachers. They have two messages for the people.
They keep saying to those who despise Me, The Lord has said, “You will have peace”; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, “Calamity will not come upon you.” JER 23:17
The message of the Pretrib rapture is that the church will have peace; no tribulation will come upon the church. Whenever a believer of the Pretrib rapture hears a teaching of the tribulation, they summarily dismiss it because they believe they won’t be there (they will have been raptured first). Somehow the logic of the Bible escapes them. Why would God have told us about the tribulation if we have nothing to do with it? It goes to the very nature of the people who believe in the Pretrib rapture. They despise God and have stubborn hearts. This is what Jeremiah says.
Many years ago, I was arguing with a Baptist pastor about the timing of the rapture. He strongly held to the Pretrib rapture. No matter how I approached the subject, no matter what Scripture that he or I used, he refused to budge at all on his conclusion. It seemed futile to continue the discussion so I concluded with a final question.
“If you were to see the prophesied events of start of the Great Tribulation (the middle of the seven years) and fully realized that you were now in the Great Tribulation, what would you do?” I expected him to say that he would adjust his beliefs and still look for the Lord’s return. Instead, he shocked me and said that he would give up the faith!
I immediately asked why. He answered that he did not want to believe in any God that would make him or his family go through the Great Tribulation.
It is as Jeremiah said, deep down they despise God and are stubborn in their hearts. By the way, I don’t believe that fellow believers like him will go through the tribulation. That kind of stubborn heart will get them killed early in the Great Tribulation.
Jeremiah is not the only one who describes false prophets to us. Yeshua warned us about them this way.
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. MAT 7:15-20
Wolves are not good for the flock; in fact, they are dangerous to the flock. Maybe this is why they over-assert that the brethren will have peace and that no calamity will come upon them. They have to say this again and again. The real test and determinant is the resulting fruit. Yeshua draws a direct comparison between the tree itself and the fruit.
Messianic believers know that the good tree referred to by Yeshua is the Torah. Those who take hold of the Torah look to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They look to the God who spoke from Mount Sinai and follow the instructions of righteousness given to Moses. They believe in the prophets of Israel and the Messiah King. The Torah leads us to the Messiah and the blessings of the kingdom.
Pretrib teachers and followers do not hold to the Torah. They skip past that part of the Bible and race to their own conclusions of who they are and what God will do for them. As a result, they produce a much different fruit from that of the Torah. Let me share a couple of examples of what I mean.
There are two Scriptures that dominate the subject of the rapture.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 1CO 15:51-52
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 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, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall 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. 1TH 4:13-18
Neither of these Scriptures speaks of a seven-year period or how the resurrection and the rapture occur prior to the last seven years. The conclusion that the rapture occurs prior to the tribulation is a theoretic judgment about who they think the church is and that God will never judge the church. “Judgment is something that happens to Jews, Israel, and the rest of the world; but it won’t happen to us, the church.” Never mind that the Apostle Peter says that judgment come first on the household of faith prior to the day of reckoning for the world.
Pretrib teachers say that there is no clue about the timing of the rapture in these two passages of Scriptures. They are wrong.
These two Scriptures say that the rapture occurs concurrently with the resurrection of the saints. It says that the rapture occurs when the Messiah descends from heaven, when the archangels give a shout, and when the last trumpet is sounded. Now this is the part where knowing the Torah is critical.
The Torah teaches us the great plan of the Messiah’s first coming and His second coming. It is laid out for us in the Appointed Times and God’s festivals.
The Messiah has already fulfilled the feasts that typify the work of redemption: Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits in the spring. We are still looking for the Messiah to fulfill the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles in a future fall. The trumpet of God is the trumpet referred to in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. God doesn’t come at any moment of His choosing. He has a plan and He will come in the late summer/early fall just like the Feast of Trumpets does.
If you do not keep the Feasts of the Lord and you are not familiar with the sounding of shofars, then it is easy to ignore what those two passages are really saying.
The emphasis of these passages is to explain that those who are alive and are raptured will not precede the resurrection of the saints. The emphasis is to show that the rapture is part of the resurrection (the gathering of all His saints for His triumphant return to Jerusalem).
If you really want to see the Scriptures which explain the timing of this in relation to the tribulation, then find those Scriptures talking about the resurrection and the timing of the gathering of God’s saints. For example, the following is an excellent passage from the Messiah answering this very question.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. MAT 24:29-31
There is no question about the timing of the resurrection as being in the days immediately AFTER the Great Tribulation. It also says that a great trumpet is sounded. This could well be the LAST Trumpet. Logic would say that any trumpet sounded before this would not be the LAST one since this is sounded after the tribulation.
The Torah teaches us about the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah). It’s important to learn what the significance of using trumpets is. If you don’t study the Torah the significance is lost. When the LAST trumpet is mentioned to Pretrib teachers, it is sad to see how they dispute and ignore the Scripture and its meaning. It is the same disputing when they are confronted with the Scripture’s logic of the FIRST resurrection.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. REV 20:4-6
This is another passage describing events after the tribulation. It says that the tribulation saints—those who did not worship the beast or his image, those who did not take the mark in their forehead or hand, and those who lost their lives resisting, were resurrected and lived with the Messiah in His 1,000 year age. It clearly and without equivocation says that this is the FIRST resurrection. Pretrib teachers say there is another resurrection before the FIRST one.
These same tribulation saints are shown to us in Revelation chapter 7.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; REV 7:9
And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “these who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?” And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes. REV 7:13-17
Did you notice that these saints are holding palm branches? Those who hold to the Torah know that this is the preparation for keeping the Feast of Tabernacles when we make temporary dwelling places (Sukkot) using palm branches to make the roofs.
I have heard Pretrib teachers try to explain away these passages and their description assigning them to others, not the church. They say this is another group of believers separate from the church (who were raptured earlier).
Why do they twist the Scriptures and add other explanations saying the Bible cannot explain it properly? These teachers have not studied Torah and the Prophets. The Pretrib rapture theory is exactly that - it is a theory and not the truth. The simple truths of Torah lead us to understand the events of the end. Trying to explain end-time events without understanding Torah leads to nonsense and error. It also causes one to say the opposite of what the Scripture says, that the last trumpet is really the first and the first resurrection is really the last. Maybe this is why the elect are almost deceived but not quite.
So, let’s consider the near future. What if the final seven years becomes clear to all the believers this spring/summer of 2010 and God pours out His Spirit and literally everyone is able to not only understand but also to prophesy? What will the Pretrib teachers and followers do if they remain defiant against God’s plan?
I fear two things. One, they will be a part of the great falling away of faith as the Baptist pastor said to me and, two, they will turn against other believers who don’t agree with them. They will ultimately hate the tribulation saints. Maybe this is why Yeshua said this:
And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness (Torah-less-ness) is increased, most people's love will grow cold. MAT 24:10-12
When the final seven years become visible to all the brethren and they look around realizing the Pretrib rapture didn’t happen (they are still here), it will become obvious who the false teachers of our days are. It will shake the hearts of all believers as we prepare for the final years of this age.
The Messiah is not coming back to the church and Rome. He is coming back to Israel and Jerusalem. He is not coming to a New Testament Bible study; He is coming to teach the Torah.
Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. ISA 2:2-4
In those days, the deception of the Pretrib rapture will not be remembered anymore. Those who survive to the end will be purified and ready for the Kingdom with no thought of escaping the future. When they see the Messiah returning on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, they will know that all is in order.