LET ME STATE THIS AS SIMPLY AS POSSIBLE:
In the Olivet Discourse passages (found in the synoptic gospels--Matthew, Mark and Luke) the disciples come to Jesus asking Him what they should expect to encounter in the 'end times'.
Jesus looks them straight in the eye, and in the simplest and plainest terms explains that those of His followers who live in those days must expect to find themselves up against the Antichrist himself.
Christ's followers (or as the text explicitly indicates-- "disciples" of Christ) in the 'end times'...will be on earth at the same time as the Antichrist.
Those plain statements from the Lord Himself should conclusively indicate the error of PreTrib doctrine. I would dare to say PreTrib proponents have not come within a thousand miles of successfully negating Jesus' advisory to the "disciples".
Those who are His followers (His "disciples") must expect to go through many (but not all) of the events of the 70th Week of Daniel. I will touch on this throughout the chapter.
JESUS TAUGHT "POST-TRIB" TO PETER, JAMES AND JOHN...BUT THEN ALLEGEDLY THEY REJECTED JESUS' TEACHING AND BECAME PRE-TRIBBERS? HOW DOES THAT WORK??
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus taught a Post-"Great Tribulation" Rapture doctrine to Peter, James, John, and the other disciples. He told them they would enter into the 70th Week...that they would go through the "great tribulation" before being raptured...that they would be on earth at the same time as the Antichrist.
In a flat contradiction, PreTrib teachers today claim that Peter, James, and John (et al) adopted PreTrib.
Inadvertently or otherwise, PreTrib teachers are proposing that the direct recipients of the Olivet Discourse (Peter, James and John and the other disciples) were being given absolutely false information by Jesus:
According to PreTribbers, the first Christian leaders of the church needed to expect, look forward to, and teach a PreTrib Rapture...not the PostTrib rapture which Jesus plainly described to them in the Olivet Discourse, only a couple of days before He went to the cross..
Was Jesus mistaken in telling them they would go through the great tribulation? Answer: No, He was not mistaken. His "disciples" need to expect to go through the "great tribulation" because that is what Jesus plainly described in answering their questions.
Those of His "disciples" who live in the 'end times' will NOT be removed from earth before the time of "great tribulation", but will remain...all the way past the "abomination of desolation"...all the way up to the occurrence of spectacular "cosmic disturbances" (the darkened sun and moon--stars falling from the sky, etc.)...and all the way to the sound of the trumpet...and the appearance of the Lord of Glory.
At that time, the angels will "gather the elect" by means of a supernatural translation, i.e. by means of a "rapture"...after the time of "great tribulation":
Matthew 24:29, 31-- "Immediately after the tribulation of those days...He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."
Could Jesus have stated His post-tribulation rapture teaching any more simply and clearly??
The context of the Olivet Discourse is as plain as day: The disciples were quite evidently asking questions about the 'end times' on their own behalf. There is no "trick" in the Olivet Discourse. No 'curveball'. No mystery code. No complex Greek and Hebrew riddles. In hindsight, I cannot understand how PreTrib has ever gotten any footing among Bible students. (And yet... I once believed so myself.)
PRETRIB'S AMAZINGLY FLAWED ARGUMENT ABOUT THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
First of all, it is extremely difficult to find any extended, detailed treatment of the Olivet Discourse from among PreTrib luminaries...in which each and every facet of these passages is carefully explained and interpreted. In fact, I have literally not been able to find any such thing! (Anyone, feel free to email me a link to information.)
What I have found are some passing comments...in books, and in sermons that I've heard. The (as I would describe it) half-hearted argument from PreTribbers regarding Jesus' words in the Olivet Discourse...is that His comments were being directed only to Jewish people.
But wait a minute: Peter, James, John and the other disciples were believers first and foremost!
So...PreTrib is (inadvertently or otherwise) saying that if Jesus had returned within their lifetimes (which is what they and the entire first generation of Jesus-followers very much expected)...Peter, James and John (et al) would not have been raptured in this envisioned "PreTrib" rapture even though they were obviously believers...and even though all other believers around the world would be taken up in this proposed PreTrib rapture.
In other words, PreTrib is apparently conceding that, yes, Jesus describes a post-"great tribulation" rapture to His disciples...but because His audience was comprised only of Jewish people...saved or not, they were not to expect a PreTrib rapture but rather...merely a post-trib rapture. (?!)
I can imagine any number of PreTrib advocates would step in at this point, trying to create arguments to somehow distance themselves from such an awkward scenario. But, with all due respect, I would insist on pinning this illogical implication on PreTrib doctrine. The illogical 'bottom line' of PreTrib needs to be accounted for.
Let's answer this question: What is the reason Peter, James and John were taught by Jesus to NOT to expect a PreTrib rapture and instead were taught to believe they would go through the "great tribulation"?
Either 1) because there IS no such thing as a PreTrib rapture...or 2) as PreTribbers seem to be arguing, inadvertently or otherwise...Jewish believers do not get to have a PreTrib rapture!
Ironically, I'm almost positive any self-respecting PreTribber would utterly reject the idea that a believer (Jewish or not) would miss out on their proposed PreTrib rapture. So then...what IS their explanation??
At this point in the discussion (I have sought out dozens of preachers, teachers and laymen for discussion over the years), I have observed rather significant fragmentation in the PreTrib world...as various individuals come up with any number of ways of trying to explain this gigantic contradiction.
PRETRIB'S CONFUSING MISNOMER-"THE TRIBULATION PERIOD"
By way of brief tangent: While it is agreed that the "70th Week of Daniel" has a seven year duration...the specific "great tribulation" described by Jesus in the Discourse, does not begin until the "abomination" (read Matthew 24)...which is almost universally understood as the middle point of the seven years.
Therefore, PreTrib's baffling "tribulation period" designation for the entire seven year period and which the Bible has already designated as "the 70th Week of Daniel" is extremely unfortunate to say the least, as it is certain to cause confusion between the specific (and expressly biblical) term "great tribulation"...and this dubious misnomer "tribulation period".
Why has PreTrib arbitrarily created a new term for something which the Bible already has a term?? I suppose if C.I. Scofield were still alive, we could ask him. Scofield is the one who, with the aide of some very strange and very rich bedfellows, pioneered the popularization of PreTrib with enormous success, in the early 1900's.
(There is, by the way, huge intrigue associated with Scofield--his personal life and extremely dubious associations...and the degree to which this is glossed over and brushed past by PreTrib proponents verges on the extraordinary. Link: Cyrus I. Scofield and the Tribulation)
ANSWERING A COUPLE OF THE CLASSIC PRE-TRIB "OBJECTIONS":
"But what about 'dispensational conflict'?" ask some PreTribbers. What about it?? PreTribbers are arguing that to have both Jews and Christians on earth at the same time during the 70th Week...creates some sort of "conflict".
But...Jews and Christians are on the earth together right at this moment! Why do Jewish people get to scamper all across the globe during OUR 'dispensation'?
Furthermore, when the Jewish "dispensation" ended at the time of Jesus' death (recall how the temple veil was torn from top to bottom)...that was the end of the Jewish religious economy/dispensation for good.
Regardless of how many animal sacrifices may take place during the 70th Week, there IS no valid Jewish religious economy/dispensation. There only remains the New Testament/cross-of-Calvary dispensation/economy.
In terms of orthodox Christian teaching, there is absolutely no possibility of any kind of "dispensational conflict": The former "dispensation" ended at the cross. The new dispensation/economy (the shed blood of Jesus) remains valid for eternity.
"WHAT ABOUT THE DOCTRINE OF IMMINENCY?"
This is another challenge from PreTribbers. But there never was any such thing as "imminency". From Day One...from the very outset...Christ's followers were told that, among other things, Peter would have to live to old age (and then suffer martyrdom)...therefore, there was NO imminency in existence during the entire first generation of the church.
The church "age" would need to continue until at least Peter's "old age"...at some unspecified time, nearing the end of the first generation of believers.
Either the "doctrine of imminency" is valid...or not. If the entire first generation of the church had no imminency, that's the 'end of the line' for imminency.
[Christian author Dave Hunt made the incredibly flawed argument at one point...that because many believers may not have been aware of Jesus' prophecy regarding Peter, therefore "imminency" remained intact throughout Peter's advancing years. Amazing illogic: Because there may be some who are not aware of the truth...this means the truth, in effect, does not exist??]
Additionally---since PreTribbers equate the "day of the Lord" to the entirety of the seven year period (a claim which apparently is seen as vital to the support of the PreTrib argument)...there are many Scriptures which clearly place major events before the "day of the Lord". Such things would, of course, eliminate the possibility of a "signless" rapture, which is the key feature of the Doctrine of Imminency.
Joel 2:31 is one of many examples of this problem: It prophecies of momentous cosmic disturbances BEFORE the Day of the Lord:
"The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."
The only option left to PreTrib is to now arbitrarily place the rapture not only before the day of the Lord...but as an afterthought, also place the rapture before these cosmic disturbances as well.
THEN...they have to go back over to Matthew 24 where there are these identically described cosmic disturbances...and try to argue that these are a different set of cosmic phenomena, even though Jesus is there quoting Old Testament passages (Isaiah 13:10 and Isaiah 34:4) that clearly are connected to the Joel 2:31 passage.
I would have to argue (with all due respect) that PreTrib is in deep, deep trouble at this point.
ARE PRETRIB LEADERS IN DENIAL ABOUT THE NET EFFECT OF THEIR TEACHING?
Please understand also the bottom line of PreTrib such as it is perceived by 90% (or more) of conservative church-goers: The huge and vast majority are hoping and believing they are going to be raptured..."before all the bad stuff happens".
That IS the bottom line of modern-day mainstream PreTrib rapturism. The "raptured before all the bad stuff" is virtually an official aspect to this doctrine such as it is presented by a wide array of top PreTrib teachers and leaders.
But the "before all the bad stuff" concept is a falsehood. It creates a false hope. Nowhere is it taught in the Bible that Christians are guaranteed a rapture before 'bad things' happen...and Christians in Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, the Communist nations (during the Communist era), in Nazi Germany, and during the Roman empire...can all testify to NOT having been raptured before lots and lots of bad stuff happened.
Try picturing this: A Somalian Christian (or a believer from any other of these countries and during any other time throughout church history) sitting on a pile of ashes, having just witnessed the butchering of his entire family...and along comes a PreTrib enthusiast: "Hey, look at the bright side--you still have that PreTrib rapture to look forward to!" What's wrong with this picture?
Furthermore, to deny that the net effect of PreTrib teaching in America has led to these universal assumptions....and to a universal sleepiness...and a universal 'ho-hum' response to the gathering storm clouds on this world's horizons...is to be in denial indeed.
The absolute fact of the matter is....the absolute bottom line is...99.99% of all PreTrib-indoctrinated church-goers in America hold to a very firm belief that...American believers will never, ever, ever go through any kind of cataclysmic troubles, persecutions, widespread imprisonments, abuse and death.
That IS the state of affairs in the American church today. And the responsibility for that dangerous, deadly, false doctrine lies clearly at the feet of PreTrib luminaries because of the rosy picture they have painted...certainly over the course of my lifespan, some fifty years.
(In fairness, the "Dominionists" have also contributed heavily to this "carried off to heaven on flowery beds of ease" scenario.)
Is it possible a dark age of totalitarian rule could overtake America BEFORE any “rapture” comes along? If you've read through the previous chapters to this point, that certainly has become an intriguing question, has it not?
Interestingly though, if you read the "fine print" (so to speak) almost all PreTrib advocates concede nominally that Americans have no specific exemption from the extreme persecution experiences that a great percentage of all other Christians have gone through, throughout the history of the Church.
(And yet...this constitutes a rather interesting and puzzling contradiction coming from within the Pretrib mainstream...where, almost in the same breath, they will then counter-claim...that any severe persecutions of the 'church' would be tantamount to "tainting the Blessed Hope".)
Therefore in this chapter we are taking a closer look at the whole ‘rapture’ issue and specifically PreTrib Rapture doctrine.
THINK INDEPENDENTLY FOR A MOMENT (IF YOU CAN)
Usually there is this obstacle in broaching the subject of the rapture with a great majority of evangelical/fundamentalist Christians--a kind of "pass the buck" mentality that has taken hold in the Christian mainstream.
The net result is that no matter how strong the arguments against “Pretrib” might be…and no matter how directly these arguments may be coming from straightforward Scripture passages, many folks who have been brought up with Pretrib teaching will respond with:
“Oh, but there must be some good counter-arguments out there somewhere.” Or—“If Dwight Pentecost or Hal Lindsey were in the room, they would have a good answer for that.”
In other words, they pawn it off on "higher authorities". Unfortunately, we're living in a day and age of...a highly developed "superstar" network of VIP Christian celebrity authors, teachers, sages, "top authorities" and what-not.
In the current state of affairs in Evangelical and fundamentalist culture, the entire subject matter of the rapture and Bible prophecy is (as a rule) perceived to be the domain of the "experts".
That IS the current reality of conservative 'church-dom'...the idea that these things are so deeply complex and so highly technical, they are almost completely beyond the reach of the common man.
Having come from a PreTrib background myself, I remember growing up with the notion, thinking there must be only a small gaggle of five or ten professional theologians on the face of the earth...who could actually fathom that which could be humanly understood about "end time" events.
But that kind of thinking is wrong, unbiblical, and dangerous...and it hearkens directly back to the church culture of the Middle Ages when the religious "elites" high-handedly kept the Bible only in the Latin translations, as it was thought that the "little people" were not equipped to understand the truth.
ELITISM IN THE CHURCH WORLD
In this regard, it was interesting to read many of the reviews of the book PreWrath Rapture of the Church (which seeks to refute PreTrib) when it came out in the early 90's.
The book was written by a very knowledgeable and educated individual. Nevertheless, there was this long parade of "scholars" from around the nation (led by Dallas Theological Seminary) who, one after the other, scolded Mr. Rosenthal for not having doctoral degrees in Greek, Hebrew and such.
Their message to this author was crystal clear--"real" Bible study is the exclusive domain of self-appointed elites.
I very strongly disagree with this kind of mindset. Jesus was born in a barn next to a cow and a donkey...to indicate the accessibility of the Bible's message--to the poor, the lowly, the not-so-grand, and not-so-great.
When I first began reading and studying the presentations of those who oppose and refute Pretrib (circa 1991), I then went back to all of my familiar PreTrib sources (such as the famous book “Things To Come” by D. Pentecost)…only to realize there is a conspicuous and deafening silence on a wide array of issues and questions.
I know I am saying something very controversial but…PreTrib has gotten a lot of mileage, quite frankly and honestly, from simply being unfathomable to the average Bible student.
It reminds a little, of what so often happens with abstract art—the ‘Average Joe’ looks at it, scratches his head, and then becomes intimidated when it is explained to him that only “geniuses” can understand the artwork.
THE UTTER SIMPLICITY OF MATTHEW 24--JESUS' "SURVIVOR MANUAL" FOR END TIMES
In stark contrast to this tragic notion that only "rocket scientists" are qualified to decipher Bible prophecy, the fact is that a ten year-old child could read through Matthew 24 in fifteen minutes and have a good, basic grasp of all the information Jesus would have His "disciples" to understand.
But similarly to the abstract art scenario...when the average Bible reader observes Jesus in Matthew 24, stating with simple clarity and straightforwardness, that His followers need to expect a confrontation with the Antichrist, and be prepared to go through many of the events of the 70th Week of Daniel...
...it is at this point that PreTrib leaders step in and explain: “Well, no...Matthew 24 is not what it appears to be. You must allow folks with Ph.D.'s to explain all of this to you.”
Again, what is wrong with this picture? Personally, I reached the conclusion at a certain point (many years ago) that the reason so many aspects of PreTrib appear to be unfathomable is because they are…unfathomable. And that the reason PreTrib appears to be unrecognizable in any passages of Scripture…is because it isn’t found in any Scriptures.
Of course, that is what I am attempting to demonstrate over the course of this chapter. Continue reading!
I truly believe huge numbers of aspiring 'followers' of Christ are stumbling tragically into the gaping jaws of a roaring lion, in thinking they’ll be whisked off to heaven on "flowery beds of ease". I would strongly assert that Pretribulation Rapturism does not survive a simple reading of Matthew 24 (along with Mark 13 and Luke 21).
So let us now take a closer, detailed look at this PreTrib rapture doctrine and it’s potential flaws:
THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST PRETRIB: FOUND IN A SIMPLE READING OF MATTHEW 24
As I had previously commented, in this passage Christ's followers ("disciples" in the text) came to Jesus a couple of days before he went to the cross, asking Him point-blank about the ‘end times’ and about what was going to happen.
In answering their questions, Jesus stated His position in very simple, straightforward terms: Those of His followers living during those final days, will experience a direct confrontation with the Antichrist.
With that, He is clearly indicating that believers will find themselves INSIDE the seven-year period known in the Bible as the 70th week of Daniel (usually referred to as "the Tribulation" by PreTribbers).
Look closely at the text--In this Matthew 24 passage, the disciples ask Him: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus tells them that there will first be “birth pangs” (earthquakes, famines etc.) and then the “abomination” i.e. the Antichrist will emerge. Jesus then states that at that time, some believers will be “afflicted” and “put to death”.
Then comes the “sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds”. His next statements literally describe a rapture: “He will send His angels…and they will gather His elect from the four winds”.
The passage also clearly indicates the elect are gathered from "one end of the heavens to the other". In other words, it would seem to be saying this gathering extends beyond the "earth-bound" elect and includes those who have passed from life on this earth. Jesus describes a gathering of ALL the elect, dead or alive.
Do these angels use planes, trains and automobiles to "gather the elect"? Of course not--therefore, this is describing a supernatural translation, i.e. a "rapture".
PRETRIB INADVERTENTLY PROPOSES AN ABSURDITY--TWO RAPTURES
In this Matthew 24 text, the "gathering of the elect" event CLEARLY is not happening before the beginning of the seven year period. Thus Pretribbers are relegated to an awkward proposal of two raptures. Or WHATEVER argument it is that they would use at this point.
Actually...this is one of those issues among an array of issues...where finding direct commentary from any leading Pretrib scholars is like finding hen's teeth. I mean no disrespect but I believe my complaint here is totally warranted.
It takes (to my way of thinking) an amazing amount of ‘brush off’ for Pretribulationism to get past this, because the text is describing nothing less than a supernatural translation i.e. a rapture…a rapture that does not happen until some time AFTER the mid-point of these seven years (the Antichrist “abomination” occurs at that mid-point).
WHO TO BELIEVE? JESUS OR TIM?
To put it in simple terms, Jesus told His disciples in regards to the 70th week of Daniel: “You’re going in!” Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey and a host of others say: “Actually, Christians WON”T be going into that seven-year period. They’ll be raptured before that.” Who to believe? Jesus or Tim?
(LaHaye has strong ties to Rev. Moon and to many 33rd degree Masons, and may even be a part of that himself. He has inexplicably displayed satanic symbols on a couple of his book covers. I have much more to say about LaHaye later on in Ch.14.) Additional LINK
Some try to argue vaguely that once the ‘Church Age’ had begun, a whole new set of instructions kicked in, which were contrary to Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. Really?? How does that work?
After all, can you imagine a conversation between Jesus and his disciples AFTER His resurrection (but before His ascension): “Hey guys, I know it was only 4-5 days ago I had told you, you’d be headed into the 70th week but…uh…er…now I’m telling you that you’re actually going to be raptured before that.”
I can’t even finish this imaginary conversation because I have no idea how PreTrib would try to explain this.
I have scoured and searched Christian bookstores and the Internet in vain…trying to find a PreTrib luminary who deals directly with these specific aspects and with the issue of Christ’s unequivocal words to the believers in Matthew 24 that..they should expect to go into ‘great tribulation’ and face off with the Antichrist.
On what authority do we ignore Jesus' words which are specifically directed towards those who are His "followers"?
Tragically...millions of aspiring Christians (Americans in particular) are counting heavily on being whisked away to heaven on flowery beds of ease BEFORE any of the ‘bad stuff’ happens.
I have a concern that at the moment of truth, when these end time scenarios are playing out, many aspirants to the faith will panic and take the mark of the Beast (see Chapter Fourteen).
I believe this is the ultimate objective of a diabolically-originated PreTrib doctrine:
When the Antichrist explodes onto the world scene and the "PreTrib Rapture" fails to transpire...there will be widespread panic and confusion among church-goers which will drive them straight into the arms of these satanic "false prophets".
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus gives specific warning regarding these "false prophets" who lure confused Christ-followers into an apostasy trap:
"At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles...So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it." (Matthew 24:23-26)
These "prophets" will be well-known Evangelical and/or Charismatic "Christian" leaders who are actually satanic behind the facade.
It certainly won’t do, for people to dismissively claim: “Oh, I’m ready for any eventuality. I don’t really need to sort out these prophecy issues. I’m pan-trib. It’ll all ‘pan’ out in the end.”
If these aren’t important issues, then why did God arrange for ‘prophecy’ to comprise fully one fourth of the Scriptures?
To borrow an analogy (from author Marvin Rosenthal): During the Viet Nam war, some young men were able to score plum assignments to the National Guard which meant there was virtually no chance they’d be sent to war. (They would still spend the occasional weekend in military training so as to maintain general preparedness.)
By contrast, many of the kids who got drafted into the army, knew the moment their boot-camp training was over they’d be on a transport plane headed into combat. They knew for sure…they were headed into ‘great tribulation’.
I ask you-- Do you think there was any difference in the intensity and the mindset of this Army recruit, compared to the National Guardsman???
God has given us prophecy for a reason, so that we can adequately prepare ourselves.
THE GREAT APOSTASY
I strongly believe the so-called "great apostasy" (Matthew 24:10) is none other than these millions of church-going, nominal "Christians" who falter when they realize at the eleventh hour that the 'cavalry' is not going to arrive in time to rapture them away from the most difficult hours in human history...and thus they will 'fall away' from the faith.
I believe therefore, some of us are possibly sitting on one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities there has ever been-- all of these same millions of church-goers who are waiting around for their PreTrib rapture, and who will otherwise capitulate to the Antichrist and, to put it bluntly, go straight to Hell...could be forewarned. They represent a huge ready made ‘mission field’.
That is precisely what God is TRYING to do, in having given us all these 'end times' descriptions. That is why Jesus described the sequence of events in the Olivet Discourse-- to allow people to prepare themselves for a time of "great tribulation".
THIS NEXT SECTION: FOR PROPHECY BUFFS
If you're interested in getting back to the emerging details of an Antichrist globalist conspiracy...feel free to jump past this next section, and on to the next chapter. But for those who want to see the T's crossed and the I's dotted on this "rapture" topic...I will make a brief attempt to clarify a number the issues:
THE DETAILS OF A "PRE-WRATH RAPTURE"
The question might arise- Where does Jesus place this rapture (this supernatural "gathering of the elect") in the sequence of events?
Clearly, He places this "gathering" some time well after the “abomination” (which the PreTrib and PreWrath groups both understand is the middle point of the 70th Week).
But He also places it well before a great many other events of the 70th Week have taken place. How can we ascertain that?
Answer: By comparing the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 21) with Revelation 6.
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus describes the end times, beginning with 1) "wars and rumors of wars"...2) famine and pestilence...3) a time of Christian martyrdom...followed by 4) spectacular, unprecedented cosmic disturbances (the sun darkens, the moon turns red, the stars fall from the sky)...followed by 5) the sound of the trumpet and the return of the Lord in the clouds.
And please note that the Olivet Discourse describes these things in that order.
And then LO AND BEHOLD....Revelation 6 echos all of the above precisely!--
Revelation 6: "...he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest."
"...the Lamb opened the second seal...another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword." [1. "Wars and rumors of wars".]
"...the Lamb opened the third seal...there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand...."A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"
"...the Lamb opened the fourth seal...I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." [2. "Famine and pestilence".]
"...he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." [3. Martyrdom of the saints.]
"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place." [4. Spectacular cosmic disturbances.]
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
Notice in that last portion of Revelation 6, how the occurrence of these staggering cosmic signs is signaling the commencement of the day of God's wrath.
Lo and behold, AGAIN! -- Notice POWERFUL CONFIRMATION FROM JOEL 2:31:
“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood BEFORE the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
Contrary to PreTrib doctrine which equates the time of God's wrath to the entirety of the seven years, the Bible states bluntly and repeatedly...that God's wrath only follows AFTER these great cosmic signs/disturbances.
And isn't it therefore interesting..that if we go back to the Olivet Discourse, we find that this is precisely when the angels are "gathering" God's elect? Just before the outpouring of God's wrath:
"...the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken."
"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)
And isn't it amazing and resounding confirmation...when we see in the very next portion of Revelation (Rev.7:9-17)...the sudden appearance in heaven, of "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes..." (Rev.7:9).
Rev.7:15 goes on to explain that these are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation...just as is precisely described in the Olivet Discourse.
Given the correlation offered to us in the Bible, by comparing the Olivet Discourse and Rev.6...it is an amazingly awkward stretch to argue this group is merely the limited number of "martyrs". There is a abundantly evident parallel between the two passages which provides extreme clarity.
GOD'S WRATH AND THE 70TH WEEK OF DANIEL ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME!
Under the influence of PreTrib doctrines and assertions, many Bible students arbitrarily designate the entirety of the 70th Week as "God's wrath" when this is not indicated. God's wrath comes onto the scene only as the seventh seal is about to be broken (Rev. 6:15-17). In fact, the very "scroll" which has been sealed by these seven seals...is itself God's wrath.
As has been pointed out, Joel 2:31 makes it even clearer, if that is possible. It plainly states the cosmic disturbances come before the "dreadful day of the Lord".
If you read beyond chapter 7 in Revelation, you will see beginning in Revelation 8, God’s wrath unfolding only AFTER the appearance of the saints “who have come out of the great tribulation” (Rev.7:14).
Thus the ‘rapture’ indeed serves a purpose...of removing the ‘elect’ before the wrath of God (but not before the Devil has unleashed his wrath..his final fury).
By comparing these two texts (as we have), there emerges a very clear sequence-- Revelation 6 predicts 1) wars, famine, pestilence, earthquakes etc. 2) martyrdom/tribulation, 3) cosmic disturbances, 4) the appearance of the saints in heaven, and only then 5) God's wrath.
In Matthew 24, there is a remarkable, dead-on match. The narrative in Matthew however, breaks off before the events related to the wrath of God. The Book of Revelation continues on with a description of events beyond the point where God's people have been physically translated.
ARE THE COSMIC EVENTS OF MATTHEW 24 AND REVELATION 6...ONE AND THE SAME?
In answer to the above question: In the Matthew text, the cosmic disturbances are followed by a supernatural translation of believers.
And likewise...in the Revelation text (in which John is given a ‘heavenly’ perch from which to view the events), the cosmic disturbances are followed by a supernatural translation. Notice these descriptions:
“…I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes…” (Rev.7:9)
“…who are they and where did they come from?” “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.” (Rev.7:13,14)
Could it be any clearer? Could the Bible speak any more simply?
Again…in Matthew, the narration of events ENDS with the Translation. But Revelation goes on to describe what happens AFTER that. In the Revelation text, there are events that FOLLOW the cosmic disturbances and the sudden appearance of vast multitudes in heaven.
Following the descriptions in Rev.6:12 about the sun and moon …6:17 states that “the great day of their [God’s] wrath has come. Who can stand?” The text then goes on to describe this “wrath” in detail…fire from heaven, oceans of blood etc.
I would argue that Pretribulationism (aside from it’s other critical shortcomings here) has a very, very tall order trying to explain the conspicuous absence, in the Olivet Discourse, of all of this over-the-top ‘wrath of God’ stuff.
None of the ‘fire from heaven/oceans of blood’ stuff appears in Matthew 24 at all. Why? AGAIN, because those things don’t happen until AFTER the translation/rapture and the appearance of vast multitudes of believers in Heaven…and are therefore of no direct concern to believers.
In my opinion, the greatest single treatment of this entire topic is the book by Marvin Rosenthal: “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church”.
You may find Robert Van Kampen's book, The Rapture Question Answered, equally enlightening. And for true bookworms, a previous publication from Van Kampen, The Sign. Actually, on second thought, it's a dead-tie for me..between Rosenthal's book and The Sign. But I recommend starting with Rosenthal.
PRETRIB—A HUGE MOOT POINT?
The irony here is that if some have carefully read through the report up to this point, many erstwhile PreTribbers reading this may now be developing an intuitive realization...that their whole insistence on this “PreTrib rapture” concept has potentially been reduced to really just a moot point.
By that I mean...although America’s ultimate fall may still be a few decades into the future, it could also be a month from now. Our nation appears to be approaching the brink of an abyss--a plunge into totalitarianism, including some very rough times for Christ's "disciples"/followers. So again, is it possible American Christians might be subjected to all of this before any rapture?
As I said before—the answer to that question, conceded nominally even by PreTrib proponents is—“yes”.
I would think the realization might finally dawn on someone reading through all of this...that from a personal standpoint, whether one experiences imprisonment and/or martyrdom during The Great Tribulation, or experiences such things during a generic ‘great tribulation'...makes little or no practical difference.
By the way, this is one of the great contradictions of Pretribulation Rapturism: The Scriptures declare that “in this world you will have tribulation.”
PreTrib teachers continuously argue (and as I said--this is one of the central arguments for PreTrib) that going through a time of great tribulation would “taint” the Blessed Hope. This certainly stands in awkward opposition to many thousands of martyred and severely persecuted Christians all across the globe.
I would strongly argue therefore that the ‘greatness’ of The Great Tribulation (Matthew 24) refers primarily to it’s unprecedented expansiveness (worldwide) –and only secondarily to it’s ‘intensity’.
After all, there would seem to be nothing more intense than captivity and martyrdom...and those things have already been experienced by millions of believers.
Pray tell…how could the “blessedness” of the Blessed Hope become tainted by tribulation?? In the light of the overall thrust of Scripture regarding the subject of tribulation, I am amazed that this argument has ever developed any footing.
"FEAR NOT, FOR I AM WITH YOU..."
Amazingly, our Lord's advice on all these matters is that there is absolutely nothing for us to be ‘troubled’ about. The Bible is replete with advisories—“let not your hearts be troubled”…and “fear not, for I am with you…”.
To paraphrase another familiar Bible promise--there are no trials or tribulations that God will allow to come upon His children but that He will also “make a way of escape” that we are able to miraculously bear up under it and through it.
I do not know how all of that works. I will say that I grew up reading dozens and dozens of Christian biographies...and have read many amazing testimonies of God’s miraculous stengthening bestowed upon His followers in the midst of the greatest crises.
I have seen God's grace in my own life during various troubled times. It is a huge mistake to try to calculate one's ability to stand up under fire...based on a normal 'everyday' routine disposition. God pours the oil of His grace at the proper time.
JESUS' ADVICE: ATTEMPT ESCAPE!
There are some hopeful expressions found in the Olivet Discourse texts (Matt. 24 / Mark 13 / Luke 21). If you look at the passages closely, Jesus seems quite interested in helping His followers do everything they can to successfully evade the dangers.
In Luke 21:36, Jesus says: "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen...".
We do not need to (nor should we) resign ourselves to martyrdom and/or imprisonment. Jesus wishes us to set a goal and keep at the top of our prayer list...the possibility of "escaping all that is to happen". After all, some among the "elect" are going to survive to the return of the Lord...otherwise, there'd be no need for a "gathering of the elect"!
Jesus emphasizes lightening quick reactions--“fleeing” would seem to have some merit. While many others may be shocked into paralytic amazement at unfolding events, careful students of God’s Word will be miles down the road.
Also the instructions to avoid the desert regions and “inner rooms”...would seem to indicate that an overall awareness on the part of a knowledgeable Christ-follower would enhance the opportunities to sidestep the schemes of these evil people.
World-watching Bible believers who have been paying close attention to the national and world scene have noted all the FEMA prison camps now sprinkling the countryside...many hidden within large military facilities ("inner rooms") and many (or even most) which are in fact located in very remote "desert places".
Then there is Revelation 3:10, which seems to offer a promise to those who have met certain qualifications “...that they will be kept from the hour of tribulation that is going to come upon the whole world…”
In fact, if you look again to Matthew 24:40,41...there will be those (few?) believers who somehow have picked out a path through the entirety of these troubled days...such that they are found, at the moment of the "gathering of the elect" (i.e. the real rapture, described in Matthew 24:31) going about their routine activites and still working at their work places (walking in a field and/or working at a "grind stone"). Not to say they didn't have any number of hair-raising close calls during those Great Tribulation days.
As I stated before, most PreTrib advocates interestingly concede that American Christians have no special exemption from falling into extreme persecution. In all honesty though, these concessions are usually conveyed in an almost perfunctory manner, as though it is not truly viewed as a real possibility. Leonard Ravenhill being one noted exception:
"There is a cowardly Christianity which...still comforts its fainting heart with the hope that there will be a rapture 'perhaps today', to catch us away from coming tribulation." (Sodom Had No Bible, p. 94)
Psalm 23:1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: A Grand Tour of the Devil's Crime Syndicate.
ANY COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or go to my new "current events" commentary blog:
The New Jerusalem Chronicle
INTRODUCTION: Connecting current events to "end times" scenarios...in a way you've never seen before.
CHAPTER ONE: Hidden Luciferians in American culture, politics, academia...and in the Evangelical community.
CHAPTER TWO: The Kay Arthur/ Al Denson/ Robert Schuller/ Star Trek/ Oprah Winfrey Connection??
CHAPTER THREE: A Closer Look At 9/11.
CHAPTER FOUR: An Even Closer Look At 9/11.
CHAPTER FIVE: 9/11--Some Parting Shots.
CHAPTER SIX: A Closer Look At The Bush Family.
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Franklin Cover-Up / Bohemian Grove Connection.
CHAPTER EIGHT: Entering the Netherworld.
CHAPTER NINE: Hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, pestilence, disease...and more.
CHAPTER TEN: The Pre-Trib Rapture Problem.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: A Grand Tour of the Devil's Crime Syndicate.
CHAPTER TWELVE: Part Two of the Grand Tour.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Part Three--Wolves in Sheep's clothing.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Part Four--More Wolves.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Tracking the Syndicate Through History
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Tracking the Syndicate--Part Two
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: A Strong Delusion.
CONCLUSION: "Happily Ever After".