Teaching concerning the Rapture (definition given below) continues to divide Christians who give the subject of Jesus Second Coming much thought, which sadly many these days do not.
We live in, as I have often remarked, a paradigm when polarization among Christians is on the markedly increase. There are the fundie leaning Evangelicals and the liberal leaning Evangelicals, joining with the Liberals. There are those ok with a Biden presidency, ready to take the Corona virus vaccine when offered, ok with a Brexit fudge, all for a green new deal and a globalist takeover when in exchange for our liberties we can live in a world where people are nice to each other (controlled if only they realized) by the equivalent of Orwell’s Big Brother, and those where these very thoughts terrify them. But then there is the Rapture – and the expectation we will soon (and it could be at any time) meet the Lord in the air and those who love Jesus will have escaped and live happily ever after.
My own Plymouth Brethren (PB) background often included an insistence on the notion of the pre-Tribulation rapture. I recall testimonies by those when as children hearing this teaching were so alarmed their parents might one day be whisked off to the skies leaving them behind that they gave their hearts to Jesus. PBism has changed – those who believe these things tend to be a dying breed and those who don’t often throw out the baby with the bath water and gravitate to the sometimes woke Evangelical camp. While this is the case in “advanced” countries, I was awakened to the fact belief in the pre-Trib rapture continues, a few years back when preaching among Brethren assemblies. Many PBs in my beloved second home of Kerala, India still regard the pre-Trib rapture as an article of faith. Thankfully, my friends were gracious and didn’t require I signed up to this belief and I did not upset the apple cart. And as an aside and in the light of the fact the Devil is a past master of divide and rule, which has been the bane of the church / Church from the outset, we need wisdom to know when to get up on our spiritual high horses because of our principles and when to let certain matters ride.
Moving on to today, in my recent writing project “Prophets of the Bible” (available on Amazon ISBN 978-0-9537306-6-7) I looked extensively at the whole subject of yet to be fulfilled Bible prophecy. I include below what I wrote about the Rapture. Mindful this was a controversial subject where people who have studied the subject know much more than I, I wrote circumspectly. I continue to reflect on these things as I look on calamities we are presently facing and will face, and ask the question – what about the people of God – and that includes largely unbelieving Israel? Whether all these “very thoughts terrify” are a pre-cursor to the Tribulation period described in Revelation 6-19, I will let others debate. If, as I am now inclined to believe, Christians will have to face living in such a time (as historically has often been and still is the case and was for the people to who the Book of Revelation was primarily addressed) we know God will protect His people and it could be their finest hour as they become that radiant Bride and bring others to the Lord, and the Lord, whose plans are never thwarted, is glorified.
According to Wikipedia: “the rapture is an eschatological concept of a minority of Christians, particularly within branches of American evangelicalism, consisting of an end-time event when all Christian believers who are alive, along with resurrected believers, will rise “in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”” 1 Thessalonians 4:17 … Differing viewpoints exist about the exact timing of the rapture and whether Christ’s return will occur in one event or two. Pretribulationism distinguishes the rapture from the second coming of Jesus Christ to earth. This view holds that the rapture will precede the seven-year Tribulation, which will culminate in Christ’s second coming and be followed by a thousand-year Messianic Kingdom. Adherents of this perspective are referred to as premillennial dispensationalists” and goes onto say “Dispensationalism is a religious interpretive system and metanarrative for the Bible. It considers biblical history as divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles”.
While Wikipedia is hardly an authoritative source for theological definitions, I do not wish to disagree with the above statements but would want to elaborate. As far as orthodox Christian belief goes, Christ is coming again; which, noting the focus of this book, was what the Hebrew prophets looked forward to. When Jesus ascended into heaven, we read: “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10,11). The Nicene Creed reminds us: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” While Bible-believing Christians will agree on the Second Coming, as Wikipedia reminds us, only a minority believe in the Rapture that is to take place before the Lord comes, typically before the Tribulation period, which is discussed in Revelation 6-18, begins, but some argue it is at any time before Christ returns in Revelation 19.
During the course of my writing this book, I have tried not to get sidetracked by going down paths that are controversial and unprofitable. Besides which, it is a huge subject and I am merely able to give headlines. I am conscious there will be those reading this book who will regard themselves as “Pre-tribulation Rapture, Dispensational, Pre-millennialists” and those who are not. The only part of that label I fully subscribe to is “Pre-millennialist”, for reasons discussed in this book. A plain understanding of end-time prophecy leads me to that conclusion. I believe to tell believers they need not concern themselves with the great trouble to be an error. We need to be prepared for anything, to remain faithful whatever that is, and leave the rest to God. I am also of the view that Israel has not been replaced by the Church, and regret that except probably for the first three centuries this has not been the dominant view throughout two thousand years of church history.
While I am a mild Dispensationalist (I am not going down that rabbit hole to explain what and why that is), I understand, when it comes to the Jewish enigma (a people chosen by God, yet presently rejecting their Messiah, Jesus) why, with the Rapture, and the focus of attention turned once again on the Jews (with the Christians having left the scene), the question is begged, how things will change, and Dispensationalism may help provide answers. The Jews will come into their own and turn to their Messiah. It becomes a question for Bible students to marry the teachings of the Hebrew prophets with that of Revelation. But as I have said all along, other than opening up these scriptures and now recognizing the different positions of the Church and Israel, more study is required on how it ends up, and it may well be more needs to happen in the world before it becomes very clear.
We read, at the end of the Tribulation: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn … And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” Zechariah 12:10, 14:4. That is a truly marvelous thing and should cause us to wonder and worship God.
As a young Christian, in a Brethren assembly, it would be true to say that the majority view was: “pre-tribulation rapture, dispensational, pre-millennialist”, but because I have done what I encourage readers to do and taken on the Berean mindset and check everything out, I refuse to accept any position unless I can be convinced by the Scriptures. Moreover, I find the thought that Christians escape any tribulation, when Jesus tells us to expect it, goes counter to what He taught, what many of my brethren experience and our calling to bless our communities – the need to get involved, yet are taken from Earth when we are needed most?
Regarding when Jesus is coming again, even though Jesus told us nearly two thousand years ago, “Surely I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20), I am happy to accept that it can be any time (just as Jesus said would be the case, Matthew 24:36), and leave the unravelling to God. The main thing for us is that we are ready for His return. Whether His return comes in two stages (secret Rapture and openly in glory), I will not debate here other than declare my view that Christians will do through at least part of the Tribulation. What I do know, and in the light of the various yet to be fulfilled prophecies picked up in the course of our studies, is when Jesus does come, all will become clear. The future is a glorious one for the Church and believing Israel but a fearful one for those who reject Him.