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Seven Churches Revelation Study

 
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Rapture Controversy

A Topical Study of Revelation 3:10

The Book of Acts tells us the Berean believers were more noble than their neighbors in Thessalonica because the Bereans searched the Scriptures to validate what Paul taught them (Acts 17:11). So too, I want our church family to be able to say, "Here's why we believe what we do." To this end, I would like to submit to you 13 REASONS WHY I BELIEVE THE CHURCH WILL BE RAPTURED BEFORE THE TRIBULATION.

Well, I have friends who say the CHURCH will go through the Tribulation. Why get all concerned about this issue, you might say. My answer is because I believe one's view on Bible prophecy and the timing of the Rapture will affect the way one lives out his faith. Why does the debate continue concerning the timing of this event? I believe it is due to misunderstanding in three areas:

THE ELECT
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Matthew 24:21 22

On the basis of this verse people say, "Aha! The elect are going to be in the Tribulation," --- failing to realize that the term "elect" refers to three groups of people: Christians (Ephesians 1), Israel (Isaiah 45), and those who will be saved in the Tribulation (Matthew 24). To which of the elect does Jesus refer in Matthew 24:21? I believe the answer lies in the verse preceding it, which you can read below.

But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.
Matthew 24:20

Jesus would not have said this if the elect were Gentiles. On the other hand, in Israel even to this day, if one wants to travel on the Sabbath Day, he's in trouble because the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel controls 20 seats in the Knesset, and requires transportation shut down on the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath means nothing to Gentile nations, the application to Israel is clear.

THE TRUMPETS
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:52

On the basis of this verse, people say, "Aha! According to Revelation 11 the seventh, or last trump signaling the Rapture, will take place mid way through the Tribulation." But wait a minute. The seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 is sounded by angels whereas 1 Thessalonians 4:16 makes it clear that the last trump is blown by God.

In Exodus 19, God sounded the first trump when the Jews were gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai to hear the Law. The last trump will sound when the CHURCH is gathered to meet the Lord in the air and be taken to heaven. Thus, the Jews hear the first trump; the CHURCH hears the last. The following thirteen reasons are why I believe this trump of God will sound before the Tribulation;

1. The doctrine is to be a comforting one (1 Thessalonians 4:18). The belief that the Rapture happens after or in the middle of the Tribulation is anything but comforting because it means believers must endure unbelievable agony before they are taken to heaven.

2. The Tribulation is the outpouring of the wrath of the Lamb and God has not appointed us to wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9 11). The wrath which should have been hurled at you and poured out on me was absorbed by our Lord and Savior on the Cross of Calvary.

3. Rapture before the Tribulation is illustrated in Genesis 18, wherein angels deliver Lot and his family before the destruction of Sodom. How do I know this is a picture of the Rapture? Because in reference to this, Peter writes, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," (2 Peter 2:9). The word translated 'temptations' is the same word translated 'tribulation'.

4. Rapture before the Tribulation is illustrated in Enoch, who was taken to heaven prior to the flood. "Wrong analogy," some protest. "The correct picture is Noah who went through the tribulation of the flood." But wait a minute. Noah is not a picture of the CHURCH, but of Israel, who will indeed go through the Tribulation and will at last come to Jesus as a result.

5. Rapture before the Tribulation is illustrated in Daniel. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. But where was their friend Daniel? Either he did indeed bow to Nebuchadnezzar which is completely contrary to the rest of the Book or, his omission is in itself a picture of the Rapture. Bible scholars believe that very likely he was away on official business as an emissary. All we know with certainty, however, is that he was taken out of the scene.

5. Jesus told us to pray that we would be raptured before the Tribulation. In speaking of the Tribulation in His Olivet Discourse, Jesus said, "Watch and pray always that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things," (Luke 21:36). How are we accounted worthy? One way: we are worthy because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross of Calvary.

7. Pre-Tribulation Rapture makes sense historically and scripturally. In accordance with Jewish custom, when a man came of age to marry, he would add a room on to his father's house for himself and his bride. When the addition was complete, and when the father gave the go ahead, a trumpet would sound, and the bridegroom would go into the streets to meet his bride. Following the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom would take his bride to his father's house, where they would be tucked away for seven days in the newly completed 'bridal suite'. At the end of seven days, the bridegroom would come out with his bride and introduce her to the community.

That's exactly what's going to happen with us. Jesus, our Bridegroom, is preparing a place for us in heaven, His father's house (John 14:2). At the appointed time known only by the Father, a trumpet will sound and Jesus will meet us, His Bride, in the air to escort us up to the 'Bridal Suite' He has prepared for us. We will remain with him in heaven for seven years before we are presented to the world where we will rule and reign with Him.

8. Pre-Tribulation Rapture follows the outline of the Book of Revelation. If you don't embrace a Pre-Trib view, your understanding of Revelation becomes as twisted as a pretzel because you've got to put Revelation 4:5 after Revelation 11, if you hold to a Mid-Trib stance; after Revelation 19 if you take a Post-Trib point of view. Only a Pre-Tribulation placement of the Rapture allows for a consistent flow of the Book of Revelation.

9. Pre-Tribulation Rapture allows for the conditional aspect of the Tribulation. TO THE church AT THYAHRA, JESUS SAID, "IF YOU DON'T REPENT, YOU WILL EXPERIENCE TRIBULATION," (Revelation 2:22). IF THE RAPTURE WON'T OCCUR UNTIL AFTER THE TRIBULATION, WHAT WOULD BE THE REASON FOR THIS WARNING BY JESUS.

"Well, didn't Jesus say in this world we would have tribulation?" you ask.

Yes, but the crushing the believer goes through in the world is from Satan. The Tribulation of Revelation 6:19, on the other hand, is from God Who pours out His wrath on a Christ rejecting world. God will not allow anyone to get hit from both sides. If we experience tribulation in the world because of our faith, we will not experience the Tribulation of those who have none.

10. Pre-Tribulation Rapture allows for the unknown time of the Lord's return. According to Daniel's prophecy, 3.5 Biblical years (a Biblical year being 360 days) from the day anti-Christ enters the Temple and demands worship midway through the Tribulation, the Lord will return. Consequently, if believers are on earth during the Tribulation, they would be able to predict the exact time of the Second Coming --- 3.5 Biblical years, or 42 months, or 1260 days after anti-Christ enters the Temple. The problem is in 1 Thessalonians 5 and Matthew 24, which clearly states that no one knows the hour of His coming, believers must be absent at this time.

11. The Tribulation is unnecessary for the CHURCH. Referred to as the time of Jacob=s trouble, the Tribulation targets Israel, for through it she will be awakened and at last see Jesus as the Messiah (Deuteronomy 4:29 30). The promises God made to Abraham and to the Jewish people have not been forgotten. God will work with Israel in the days of the Tribulation. He will make Himself known to them and they shall indeed be saved.

12. Pre-Tribulation Rapture squares with the prophecy of Daniel. At the end of Daniel 9, Daniel was given the timetable for all of Jewish history in units of 'heptads' or weeks. It is clear from this all important passage of Scripture that the 69 'weeks' of Daniel refer to the time between the commandment to rebuild the Temple, given in 445 B.C. by Artaxerxes, and the coming of Messiah, fulfilled perfectly on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, offering Himself to the people. But Daniel was also told, "Seventy weeks are determined upon Israel." To what does the 70th week of Daniel refer? To the Tribulation. You see, the 70 weeks are determined upon thy people Israel and upon thy holy city Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24). The CHURCH was not present for the first 69 weeks. And the 70th week doesn't begin until after the CHURCH is raptured. In other words, if the CHURCH was not present in the first 69 weeks, why would she be present in the last week? She won't. She'll be in heaven.

I've just shared twelve reasons I believe the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation,

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE IS THE FOLLOWING:

13. A Pre-Tribulation Rapture viewpoint makes one seek first the Kingdom. Jesus said, "In such an hour as you think not the Son of Man is coming," (Matthew 24:44). "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing," (Matthew 24:45 46). WHO IS THE ONE WHO WILL HAVE AUTHORITY AND PURPOSE IN ETERNITY? HE WHO IS WATCHING FOR JESUS' COMING. But this is impossible for those who believe the Tribulation proceeds the Rapture because they must first watch for anti-Christ, then the rebuilding of the Temple, and finally the Abomination of Desolation when anti-Christ demands to be worshipped as God.

Two factors kept the early church on fire: The empowering of the Holy Ghost and the belief that Jesus would return during their lifetime. "But He didn't come back in their day," you say. And you're right, but do you think those early believers are in heaven now, saying, "We didn't get bogged down in materialism or trivial pursuits. We sought the Lord. We witnessed fervently. We lived for the Kingdom otherwise; if we knew He wasn't coming, could we have played more racquetball?" No! They're ecstatic that they chose to do what Jesus says to do in every generation:

WATCH ~ BE READY ~ LIVE FOR MY COMING

Whether or not you believe in a pre Tribulation Rapture will not affect where you'll ultimately end up. If you're a believer, you'll be in heaven no matter what position you hold. But your viewpoint concerning the Rapture very definitely affects how you live your life this side of eternity. If you do not believe in a Pre Tribulation Rapture, you cannot look for Jesus Christ because, according to your eschatalogical viewpoint, anti Christ must appear first. Therefore, you find yourself scanning the news, checking out current events, watching the global scene for anti Christ rather than for Jesus. And this puts believers in a 'survivalist' mentality. "We're going through the Tribulation," they say. "We better get ready."

Is this what Jesus meant? Does He want us storing gold and guns? Or does He want us living everyday in hopeful anticipation that today could be the day we go to heaven?

"I want you looking for Jesus every day," John said, "because he who has the hope of the imminent, sudden appearing of Christ and the Rapture of the CHURCH purifies himself," (1 John 3:3).

That is why I believe your view on the Rapture is of utmost importance. Live in constant expectancy of Jesus' return.


The above information is an edited version of
'Tree of Life Bible Commentary, Revelation - Volumn 1', by Jon Coursen.

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