Satan thrives in the shadows of ignorance.
I was raised in the John Nelson Darby and C.I. Scofield legacy of modern dispensationalism and futurism. Actually, I was entrenched in it. Growing up my family attended a church in Dallas, TX named after C.I. Scofield, who if Darby was considered the father of this sect of Christianity Scofield would have been his next in line. Books such as the Left Behind series, the well known work of the late Timothy LaHaye, and the conspiracy theory and Americana melded work of Hal Lindsey all came from this line of teachers. Frankly, if you were raised in a Bible, Southern Baptist or Pentecostal Church in America the last 100 years this has been your framework for the end of days.
In March of 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea after their military intervention in Ukraine known as the Russo-Ukrainian War, I began to study a particular passage of scripture which theologians claim predicts that Russia will invade Israel for what would set into motion the Tribulation. If Russia was this so-called power, they were making moves the likes of Hitler invading Poland and it at least called for some research.
That set me on a journey of discovery that opened my eyes and changed my life forever.
I write extensively about what I found in my first book, End Game. But rather than give you the full exposit of my study I will share with you in short what I found.
First: The early Church did not believe in Pre-Tribulation rapture. In fact, this teaching is new in terms of history. The idea of a Pre-Tribulation rapture is a theory that grew out of the translations of the Bible that John Nelson Darby analyzed in 1833. Charles Spurgeon, who actually published criticism of Darby and Brethrenism, called Darby a heretic based on Darby’s disbelief in imputed righteousness.
Second: The return of Christ will be the second coming, not the third. Throughout scripture we see Jesus talk about His return but this return is not in two phases. There is only the First Advent [coming], as the Lamb, and the Second Advent [coming], as the Lion.
Third: The most important is that Pre-Tribulation rapture is found nowhere explicitly stated in scripture. Not only is it just a theory, it is a very weak one. In fact, Pre-Tribulation rapture can be easily refuted based on the very premise it is based on. I will show you how and what the Bible actually says.
Pre-Tribulation rapture is based on two main tenants:
- That we in Christ are no longer objects of God’s wrath but recipients of His grace [Romans 9:22-23]. This is a true statement though it doesn’t solve the question about objects of mercy [believers in Christ] being in a world destined for wrath. Dispensationalism takes this a level further in terms of eschatology and when applied to the time of Jacob’s Trouble or the Great Tribulation, the wrath of God on earth before the Second Advent of Christ, it suggests that believers who have the Holy Spirit [the seal of God] can not be on earth during that time, since we are objects of mercy and not wrath.
- Pre-Tribulation rapture teaches that the “restrainer” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 is the Holy Spirit and when removed takes with Him the Christians on earth to be raptured in the sky and meet Jesus before the Tribulation.
There are major issues and to save time I will go to the heart of the matter.
Even if the “restrainer” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 were the Holy Spirit the restrainer mentioned in that passage is removed at the Abomination of Desolation, when the Man of Lawlessness is revealed, which is at the midpoint of the Tribulation. That is even based on Pre-Tribulation teaching of a 7 year Tribulation timeline [Tribulation 3 1/2 and Great Tribulation 3 1/2]. In fact, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 is telling you that the second coming of Christ will not happen until the Abomination of Desolation occurs and the one who “restrains” will do so until the Man of Lawlessness is revealed. In short, this passage is telling you that “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” [v1] will not occur [at the very least] until the Man of Lawlessness or the Antichrist is revealed. That is the halfway point of the Tribulation based on Daniel 9 and what Jesus references in the Olivet Discourse.
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7
Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 4 that the dead in Christ will rise first, not those who are alive. In other words, Paul is talking about the Second Advent of Christ. That Christ will bring with Him the souls of those who have fallen asleep [dead in body but not in spirit], but those “who are left” are not people that were left behind from a Pre-Tribulation rapture, rather they are believers that remain to the end.
“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Revelation Chapter 7 actually speaks to a mass martyrdom of believers that come out of the Great Tribulation.
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 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 will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:13-17
Pre-Tribulation teaching will tell you that these are believers who have come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. Again, that contradicts the Holy Spirit being removed prior to the Tribulation which they claim removes the Saints in a rapture with Jesus and with God returning to an Old Covenant type salvation. Revelation 7 is actually explicitly telling you that the Holy Spirit will still be on earth sealing believers throughout the Great Tribulation, the last half of the 7 year Tribulation.
What is the truth then?
The truth is that believers will likely go into the Tribulation and those alive at the time will be martyred. This will likely spark a “great falling away” [2 Thessalonians 2] or at least exacerbate this as people start to lose faith and become apostate. Darby was likely given over to false and deceiving spirits. The Church in the last days will fall to this delusion and deception to the degree that they are in the world. Though we are not objects of wrath the Bible does say that judgment begins in the household of God [1 Peter 4:17] and it is clear in scripture that believers, sealed by the Holy Spirit, are martyred in the Tribulation. The ‘restrainer’ is likely Michael the Archangel or angelic hosts which fight the spiritual battles behind the scenes, and who restrains the Prince of Persia. The Holy Spirit is rather likely quenched, not evacuated, as the hearts of believers grow cold. Once the angelic protection is moved out of the way evil will be loosed on earth in ways never seen before in human history. This does not negate the promises or character of God, rather it confirms what was already promised in the prophecies of scripture.
There is much more supporting evidence which connects these passages to the Olivet Discourse and Jesus’ words, specifically that:
“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” – Matthew 24:22
For who? The elect.
Be mindful of your foundation.
We should trust the word of God as the final word and authority over all things, including our Bible teachers. Though men and women can be anointed, they are also flawed human beings like us and they can go astray even while being well-intentioned. This is humbling and a reminder for all of us who handle God’s word. The Bible is the source of truth. Traditions of man, seminaries, and dogma in every denomination breed arrogance that can actually keep us from the truth. That is part of Satan’s strategy. Satan is devious and he is capable of corrupting the pulpit, deceiving people into false teachings which will only fail them in the day of distress.
Satan thrives in the shadows of ignorance, do not give him that advantage. Whatever your interpretation of scripture make sure that you stand on Christ, not a theory applied by man, for you may find your foundation one day gone and the storm having swept you to sea.