Is The Pretribulation Rapture a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card?

get-out-of-jail-free-revised

During the past year, the Lord called me away from my career as a financial analyst to pursue writing on a fulltime basis. His call began with a stirring of my heart as I saw the ridicule of the pretribulation rapture on Facebook and I felt a strong desire to defend my beliefs.

I am not a scholar. However, a careful and prayerful study of many passages in the New Testament over a period of many years has led to my deep conviction that the rapture happens before the start of the tribulation. I have studied opposing viewpoints as well.

I recently read a blog post arguing against the pretribulation rapture. In doing so, the writer made three common arguments, ones based more on human reasoning than on the Word of God. At first, I dismissed the post.

As I later reread the article, however, I felt compelled to answer his attacks on the pretribulation rapture. I have heard similar arguments over the past several decades; they are not new.  However, in the past I have not written out a response to them.

This is the time to do so.

I will respond to this article in a series of three shorter posts rather than one lengthy post.

A Get-Out-of Jail-Free Card?

The first argument of this blog post is that the pretribulation rapture offers believers a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Here is his exact quote:

First, believing I won’t have to endure the awful end-times tribulation period, fosters in me an “early-out” mentality, in which I don’t need faith to live my life. Waving my get-out-of-jail-free card, all I need do is simply hang on, and hang out until my sudden extraction. How does this jive with Jesus telling us that all who believe, will ‘suffer persecution’ ? It doesn’t. Perhaps what He meant to say was, “All (but the last generation) would suffer persecution.” But that’s simply not what He said, and I always credit the Son of God to have said what He meant to say. Doesn’t wisdom begin with that? [i]

In other words, this writer believes that the pretribulation rapture offers believers an “easy out” of the persecution of the tribulation. Since the church is not experiencing opposition at the moment, in his opinion, our belief in the pretribulation rapture thus represents a desire to miss out on such oppression.

Persecution Versus Wrath

First of all, there is a significant difference between persecution and the wrath of God that will be poured out on sinful humanity during the tribulation. Approximately half of the world’s population will die in the judgments of the tribulation. This is not the “persecution” of the church; it is God’s judgment on the world to bring them, as well as Israel, to repentance.

No one who advocates a pretribulation rapture does so to escape persecution. It is God’s wrath we seek to avoid and understandably so. Who wouldn’t want to miss out on that!

We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises us such a deliverance.

This is not an “early-out mentality” whatsoever. The Lord, through the apostle Paul, says the church will miss the pouring out of God’s wrath on the earth during the tribulation (1 Thess. 5:9). We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises us such a deliverance.

The rapture is the promise of a ceasing of persecution for the church after which the Lord’s judgment falls on a Christ-rejecting humanity. This, I believe, is the message of 2 Thessalonians 1.

The Church Is Being Persecuted Today

Second, the writer’s point only makes sense for believers in America. For most believers in our world today, the rapture is most certainly not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Many believers across the world are experiencing fierce persecution; they have seen loved ones brutally killed by ISIS and have left all their belongings behind while fleeing for their lives.

What this blogger describes applies only to the church in America. It’s a totally invalid argument in almost every other nation of the world where believers are currently undergoing intense oppression.

Yes, Jesus says His followers should expect persecution and this is what we see in many places in our world and even to some extent in America. The tribulation, however, is God’s wrath poured out on a sinful world that refuses to repent. It’s far worse than “jail.”

As a defender of the pretribulation rapture, I am not looking for an easy out in regard to persecution. I may yet experience fierce opposition for my faith. Who really knows what we will face tomorrow?

I am, however, looking and waiting for Jesus to take me home before the coming period of wrath overtakes the world. That is a much, much different matter than an escape from persecution!

Our Great and Glorious Expectation

In Philippians 3:20 Paul wrote this, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word he used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event.  It implies a deep heart-felt longing for whatever is expected.

In this case, it’s the return of Jesus to take His church back to His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3).

Paul characterizes believers as recipients of grace who as a result look for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul characterizes believers as recipients of grace who as a result look for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

I could cite several other verses from the New Testament that point to Jesus’ appearing as our immediate hope, our great and glorious expectation. Believers in the New Testament, regardless of their circumstances, eagerly awaited Jesus’ return.

We may yet face fierce persecution in the United States; we almost certainly will face dark times in our lives that will test our faith. We do not know where the path of following Christ will lead us

One thing is certain, Jesus is our hope. Our great expectation is that of seeing Jesus face to face. It’s a wonderful anticipation that brings hope and joy in the midst of the most painful of circumstances and calms our fears.

Our great expectation is that of seeing Jesus face to face. It’s a wonderful anticipation that brings hope and joy in the midst of the most painful of circumstances and calms our fears.

No where does the New Testament tell believers to await the pouring out of God’s wrath such as will characterize the entire seven years of the tribulation.

The pretribulation rapture is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” It’s the promised cessation of persecution for believers while the Lord judges a sinful world in order to bring them and Israel to repentance.

The pretribulation rapture is precisely what Jesus promises us through the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The same Jesus who tells us to expect persecution in this life also promises to deliver us from the wrath of the coming tribulation.

[i] John Miltenberger, Rapture

 

3 thoughts on “Is The Pretribulation Rapture a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card?

  1. Marge December 8, 2016 / 9:17 am

    Excellent! Hallelujah! There seems to be such growing division, within the church, on this topic, I am beginning to wonder if this could be the ” falling away.” There is such a determined effort to belittle, ridicule and debate this topic, it must be very important for the enemy to stir up such strife against it. However, it absolutely verifies the scripture about end time scoffers. Also, like it or not, God does give awards. Looking for Christ’s glorious appearing is rewarded. I am working 24/7 for that crown, so I can worship at Jesus’ feet. I purposely choose to listen to and read people who oppose the Rapture, and the more I do, the stronger my own conviction about its truth becomes. I often think of the torture of early Christians, and no matter how viciously they were torn apart physically, nothing could tear out their love for Jesus. I feel just as strongly about the Rapture; no matter what anyone says or tries to prove I cannot let go my earnest longing and belief for Him to spare me and my loved ones, from the wrath that is to come. I am so happy to finally read someone else who can distinguish between persecution, and wrath. The mid and post tribbers, refuse to reference the wrath verses! Jesus is the soon and coming King. God loves to repeat His actions. Jesus came when it was God’s appointed time, earth was in violence, and all eyes were on the events of the time. . That sounds like today doesn’t it! Imagine if our greatest Christmas present was His presence!!!
    P.s. If there is a reward for watching and believing for the Rapture, should we not be focused on this glorious event? We are told to be aware of the times and seasons. How can God reward those who are preparing to endure wrath? I am prepared for emergencies. I have extra food and water etc, but that is just good planning, not focusing on enduring through tribulation. Jesus died for His church, His true believers, why would He make them suffer again?
    Maranatha

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ed December 8, 2016 / 11:23 am

    I am also not an end times scholar, but a couple of things bother me about the pre-trib rapture, and you may address these in your next couple of posts. One is the “reconciliation” of the end times timeline based on “arranging” passages from Daniel, the Gospels, 1-2 Thessalonians, and Revelation all together (plus some passages from Joel, Zechariah, etc.). Any time you take so many passages out of their original context you run the risk of misinterpretation. That’s not to say that one Scripture cannot clarify another Scripture elsewhere, as in the OT prophecies like Isaiah 53, but for the end times you can put different passages together in almost any way you like to fit your scheme of things. Also, if the Rapture is a crucial point for the Church, why is it “hidden” in Revelation? Warren Wiersbe is one who makes a valiant effort to say that Revelation 4 is really during/after the Rapture as John sees things from heaven after being “taken up” there. Wiersbe also hangs a lot off of the church at Philadelphia and Rev. 3:10, saying that particular “church” is the story of the “true church” while the “false churches” like Laodicea will go into the Tribulation. Then there is the matter of audience. Why tell this vision to the 7 churches if no Christians will be on earth for chapters 6-20? Is it so they see “Babylon” (Rome?) “gets it” in the end and they will all be in white robes watching? And are all the Christians in heaven by Rev. 6:9-11 or are there still more to die on earth, as verse 11 implies? If so, then is the 7 years not ended by then? Further, does Jesus really return twice, once “in the air” to gather Christians (not really the Second Coming) and then actually to earth to defeat His enemies?

    Finally, Revelation talks a lot about “overcoming” (the KJV word; NIV translates it being “victorious”) until the end so we inherit all things (Rev. 21:7). It becomes tricky to say when the “overcoming” stops. You make some good points about the differences between persecution and tribulation, but Jesus makes it sound as if we’re all here “overcoming” right until He returns (Matt. 24:22; Mark 13:20). But that too is an interpretation, and obviously I have more questions than answers on this topic. I think the “Left Behind” series has positioned believers as onlookers who will watch the “bad people” get theirs eventually, creating a dangerous dichotomy that is not biblical and bothers me greatly. Sadly, I see it underlying some of the comments I get from customers who talk about “those people” (those who are actively against Christians) as if they are hopelessly lost and Jesus just wants to punish/destroy them.

    OK, now I have to go back to work. Thank you for your posts and considering my thoughts.

    Like

  3. Stephen Nielsen December 27, 2016 / 1:57 pm

    Great post! I also write on the rapture and on all prophecy topic.

    Like

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