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