A Rebuttal of Pre-Trib False Teaching
By Pastor Steve Conley
The following article appeared on proclaimanddefend.org the website of the FBFI. I have responded with the post that follows this article.
Three Powerful Reasons to Believe in the Pre-Tribulational Rapture
By Matt Recker | January 30, 2018
The rapture is the catching away of believing saints from the earth to meet Jesus Christ in the air. The English word “rapture” is not in the Bible but derives from the Latin word raptura, which means, “to carry away.” We translate the Greek word that relates to the word rapture with “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This colorful word, harpazo reminds us of the word “harpoon” or, “to snatch away suddenly.” Two classic New Testament passages that deal with the rapture are 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. At the rapture of the church, Christians will be with Jesus forever!
1 Cor. 15:52 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 Thessalonians 4:17, 18: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
While God’s people have honest differences on the timing of the rapture, whether it is before, in the middle of, or at the end of the Tribulation time, there are good reasons to believe from Scripture that the rapture occurs before the tribulation. Here are three powerful reasons to maintain the pre-tribulational rapture view.
1. The rapture happens imminently.
The New Testament breathes that Jesus Christ is coming again and that He can come again at any moment (1 Thess.1:10; 1 Cor.1:7). God’s people from the days of the apostles to this present moment have had the clear sense that Jesus can come back during our lifetime. The imminent return of Jesus Christ is only possible with a pre-tribulational catching away of believers. “The Lord is at hand” (Phil.4:5) and “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:8). Many verses speak of the believer living today as Jesus can come at any moment (John 14:2, 3; Titus 2:13; Phil.3:20; 1 Tim.6:14).
2. The Tribulation is God’s dealing with National Israel and not the church.
Daniel 9:24-27 is one of the most important prophetic passages in Scripture. This section begins: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” While these verses are very complex, many believe that the 70 weeks are 70 x 7 years, or a 490-year period of God’s dealing with National Israel, His “people.” The last seven-year period, or the last week, is the seven-year tribulation. What is important to grasp is that these years are God’s dealing with national Israel. The church did not exist during any part of the first 69 weeks, or 483 years, and there is no Biblical reason to believe that the church is present for the final week, or the seven-year tribulation time. We must always keep the distinction of difference between Israel and the Church, and the tribulation is the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer.30:7). In fact, during the Tribulation time in Revelation 6-18, the church receives no mentions but Israel is prominent in God’s dealing. Why? Because the Lord raptured the church prior to the beginning of the tribulation.
3. The church is not called to wrath, and the seven-year tribulation is a time of God’s wrath.
Revelation 6-18 describes in detail the wrath of God upon the earth and unbelieving nations in order to bring Israel to salvation. Thankfully, God has delivered us from this wrath that is to come upon the earth. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess.5:9). God promised the church in Revelation 3:10: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” The purpose of the 70th week is to bring tribulation upon all the earth and God promises the church deliverance from this coming time of judgment from God.
Let us ever continue to live holy lives for Christ, looking for the blessed hope of Christ’s imminent coming in the clouds! There are many other Biblical reasons to believe in a pre-tribulational rapture, but these are three of the best.
Pastor Conley’s post in response
Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Mr. Recker, I don't doubt that you mean well, but there are serious problems with each of your points. I'm the Pastor of an Independent Baptist Church, and have known Christ as my Lord and Saviour for 40 years. So, that you don't prejudge me, let me state the beliefs that I think we have in common. I believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture, I believe there is a difference between the Church and Israel, and that God has a future plan for that nation. I am premillennial when it comes to Christ's return. Also, I believe that the Church is not appointed unto God's wrath and therefore, will be removed from the earth before His wrath is poured out.
These statements are typically the position of those holding the pre-trib rapture model for the catching up of the saints. I held this model for 40 years, and taught it for 30 years, becoming an expert in the defense of it. However, I now find many flaws in the model as a whole. Below, I will respond with Scripture to each of your points.
"1. The rapture happens imminently"
There are dozens of texts which make it clear that the return of Christ could not happen at any moment as the doctrine of imminency teaches. The false doctrine of imminency, the any-moment rapture, holds the idea that after Jesus ascended into Heaven, He could return for His own at any moment.
We know Peter didn't teach this because Jesus told him how he would die. It's recorded in the last chapter of John. Jesus said that Peter would die as a martyr, in his old age. Therefore, Peter never could have believed or taught that Jesus could come back at any moment and rapture him away. Paul also received several prophecies concerning His future ministry and even spoke to Timothy of his soon death. Paul, therefore, couldn't have believed or taught that Jesus would come in His lifetime either. In fact, Paul taught the Thessalonians that two events would take place before the day of Christ or the day of the Lord would come (the day of Christ is Christ's second coming with emphasis upon His interaction with His church, and the day of the Lord is Christ's second coming with emphasis upon His interaction with the world).
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;" (2Th 2:1-3)
The day of Christ is defined by verse one: "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him". According to Paul our gathering to Christ cannot come until an identifiable departure from the faith, and the man of sin (the Beast) is revealed, sitting and standing in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem shewing himself to be God.
We know that the Apostle John didn't teach an any moment rapture because in ~96 AD he was told: "...Thou must prophesy again before (against) many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." (Rev 10:11)
There are dozens of passages presenting this type of evidence against the any moment rapture. I took all 26 passages that I had used to teach the any moment rapture, and asked of them the simple question: "does this verse say that Jesus could return at any moment to gather His own unto Himself?" The verses you included were among those 26 that I had used to teach imminency. Not a single one says that Jesus could come at any moment. Let’s examine the verses you have given below.
1Th 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
1Co 1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
We are to wait for Him, but nothing is said about Him coming at any moment. The right doctrine is "watchful expectancy" for Christ's return, not an any moment rapture.
Php 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
This verse is the closest statement to imminency that is found in all the Scriptures. However, it simply means that He is near. Obviously, the Holy Spirit was not moving Paul to indicate that Christ's return was near in time because it's been nearly 1950 years, a third of mankind's existence, and His return is yet future.
Jas 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Jas 5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
It is absolutely true that the Lord’s coming is getting nearer; it is approaching. This says nothing about any moment.
Joh 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Yes, Hallelujah, Jesus is coming back to take us to the Father's house. However, nothing is said about it happening at "any moment". The very same week, Jesus told these same disciples that His return would be proceeded by a couple recognizable events. He does this in response to their questions: "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matt 24:3). These events are the signs that they asked for, to know when He would return. See them below.
Mat 24:15-21 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) ... For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Mat 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
The two events or signs that will signal His imminent return are:
1) The revelation of the man of sin when he defiles a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (the abomination of desolation). This initiates a period of unparalleled persecution of the elect and Israel, that Jesus calls "great tribulation". This tribulation God cuts short with the next sign (Matt 24:22, 29).
2) The cosmic event of the sun, moon, and stars going dark which precedes the day of the Lord (Matt 24:29; Joel 2:31; Rev 6:12-17; Isa 2:19-21; 13:6-11). Jesus tells the same disciples of John 14:3 that these signs would precede His coming. In fact, He says that their redemption is nigh (near in time) when these things begin to happen.
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:25-28)
Tit 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Jesus' return and continuing presence has always been the blessed hope of the Church. We look for Him with watchful expectancy.
Heb 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Php 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Php 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
1Ti 6:14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Christ's appearing will be when Timothy in a resurrected body sees Christ. In fact, it will be the first time any of us see Christ in our new immortal body. It is when we are glorified and come into the fullness of our inheritance. Paul wasn't teaching that Christ would come in Timothy's lifetime. This verse says nothing about an any-moment rapture. However, it does identify the timing of our gathering to Christ, even the rapture. It happens at Christ's appearing (epiphaneia). Epiphaneia is used 6 times in the NT each time referring to Christ's advent. One refers to His first advent, the remaining five refer to His second coming. It is described in Revelation 1:7 "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."
2Ti 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
I look for Him, when He is revealed to all the world, in all His glory, for it is then that we are gathered to Him (Matt 24:30-31).
"2. The Tribulation is God’s dealing with National Israel and not the church."
This statement is ripe with error. One problem is the nomenclature used for the seventieth week, "The Tribulation period". That name has led to many false conclusions concerning the order of eschatological events. There are actually three distinct periods within the week, and they fall in this order: beginning of sorrows, great tribulation, and the beginning portion of the day of the Lord.
First, I think we can agree that the seventieth week begins when he (Antichrist) confirms the covenant with many (Israel ?) (Dan 9:27). Then according to Daniel, Jesus, and John we see deception, conquest, war, and famine take place in what Jesus called the beginning of sorrows (Dan 11:36-; Matt 24:4-14; Rev 6:1-6). Then in the middle of the week, the rebuilt temple is defiled by the Beast, when he is given power by Satan, who was just cast out of heaven to the earth by Michael (Dan 9:27; 12:1; Matt 24:15; 2Thes 2:3-10; Rev 12:7-17; 13:4). It is at this time that Jesus says: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Mat 24:21) At this time in the middle of the week unparalleled persecution of the elect and Israel begins. Daniel prophecies of this very same period of intense persecution: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." (Dan 12:1)
There is another unparalleled period of time that Jeremiah spoke of: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." (Jer 30:7) This period, the focus of which is Israel, begins at the same time but will continue for the 42 months that the Beast continues in the second half of the week (Rev 7:1-8; Rev 12:6,12-17; Rev 13:5). The great tribulation, on the other hand, is said to be cut short by the return of Christ (Matt 24:29-30), to prevent every last believer on the earth from being killed: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Mat 24:22)
The great tribulation is cut short when the sun, moon, and stars go dark and there is a great earthquake (Matt 24:29; Joel 2:31; Isa 2:19-21; 13:6-11; Rev 6:12-17). It is then that the Beast worshiping earth-dwellers attempt to hide from the impending wrath of Christ on the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord begins with Christ's return and involves His wrath being poured out in the trumpet and vial judgements and the destruction of the Beast and all that follow him (2Thes 1:6-10; Rev 8, 9,16-19). The day of the Lord portion of the week takes up the remainder of the second half after the great tribulation is cut short.
There is nothing that is said to be unparalleled about the first period of the week, called the beginning of sorrows. The second period, the great tribulation, however, is unparalleled persecution by the Beast upon the elect and Israel, due to the great wrath of the Devil having been cast to the earth (Rev 12:12). The last period is God's tribulation upon the Beast worshiping earth-dwellers, it is said to be the day of the Lord (1Thes 5:2-3; 2Thes1:6-10; Rev 8, 9, 16-19).
You said: "there is no Biblical reason to believe that the church is present for the final week, or the seven-year tribulation time. We must always keep the distinction of difference between Israel and the Church, and the tribulation is the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). In fact, during the Tribulation time in Revelation 6-18, the church receives no mentions but Israel is prominent in God’s dealing. Why? Because the Lord raptured the church prior to the beginning of the tribulation."
All of the NT was written directly to the church. However, the word "church" is not found in 7 books of the NT. Neither Mark, Luke, John, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, nor Jude have the word church. Does that mean that they are not for the church? Certainly not! The word “church” isn't the only word in the NT that describes the body of Christ. In Rev 7 we see the Church having been resurrected and raptured standing before the throne of God. These are said to be those who "...came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev 7:14) These are saved like we are, redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. These are resurrected in the first resurrection like we will be (Rev 20:4-6). These are Gentiles like most of us are (Rev 7:9). They are called saints in Revelation 5, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20, and we are called saints throughout the epistles. Even if it were the case, that Matt 24 was for the Jews (it most definitely isn’t) there is no getting around the fact that the day of the Lord follows the cosmic sign, and the cosmic sign follows the great tribulation (Matt 24:29; Joel 2:31).
"3. The church is not called to wrath, and the seven-year tribulation is a time of God’s wrath."
The church is not appointed unto God's wrath, that is true. However, His wrath doesn't begin until the day of the Lord, and the day of the Lord cannot come until the sun moon and stars go dark. "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come." (Joe 2:31) The seals are not God's wrath. We know this for three reasons.
1) The cosmic sign spoken of by Joel is not seen until the sixth seal is opened at which point God's wrath is impending (Rev 6:12-17).
2) At the opening of the fifth seal the souls under the altar are crying out that their blood be avenged upon the earth dwellers and are told they must wait a little while (Rev 6:9-11). So, we explicitly see that God’s wrath upon the earth dwellers has not come when the fifth seal is opened.
3) There is no explicit mention of God's wrath in the chronology presented in the book of Revelation, until it is said to be impending, after the sixth seal is opened. There, we find the first of twelve occurrences of the word wrath being used in relation to God’s indignation.
Concerning Rev 3:10, the hour of temptation is the day of the Lord, not the great tribulation. We know this because it is focused upon the earth dwellers, not upon the elect and Israel. This means that it is God's wrath upon the unbelieving and not Satan's wrath through the Beast upon the saints and Israel, as shall be so in the great tribulation.
The phrase “them that dwell on the earth” is a technical term that appears throughout much of the eschatological seventieth-week passages of Scripture. It always refers to those dwelling on the earth that worship the Beast and receive his mark (even in Rev 12:12).
Jesus says concerning the Day of the LORD: “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:35)
Note: Paul clearly teaches that the Day of the LORD will not overtake the watching believer as a thief: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” (1Th 5:4-5) So, “them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” excludes the watching saints.
John records concerning the two witnesses: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. ...And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.” (Rev 11:7-10) Note: The earth-dwellers here rejoice at the death of God’s two witnesses, which no believer would do.
Again, John uses this technical term concerning those who are deceived by the false prophet: “And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” (Rev 13:14) Note: The earth-dwellers here are deceived by the False Prophet into worshiping the Beast and receiving his mark, but Jesus said that it was not possible for the “very elect” to be deceived (Matt. 24:24).
Eleven verses in the book of Revelation contain this technical term for those who worship the beast and receive his mark.
There is ten times more that we could look at concerning the proper eschatological model. Every question and objection by pretribulationists and posttribulationists can be answered. In fact, I have presented the historic model for the rapture, held by the church throughout the centuries, from Justin Martyr to Charles Spurgeon. They all believed that the church would see the Antichrist, suffer great tribulation, and then at any moment be raptured before God's wrath was poured out without mixture upon the unbelieving world.
All praise, honour, and glory be unto Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is my sincere desire that every blood-bought child of God who reads this rebuttal prepare himself or herself for the greatest persecution to ever fall upon the church. The Scriptures are clear, that unprecedented great tribulation will fall upon the last generation of the church. With Israel back in the land and the Temple soon to be rebuilt the indications are that our generation will experience these things. Yet I believe too many professing Christians are not prepared to identify with Jesus unto death. The record says that there will be a great falling away. Many will be offended at Christ when persecution comes, and they will receive the mark of the Beast in order to save their physical lives. By doing such they will forever damn themselves to eternal conscious torment. “…If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev 14:9-11)
Prepare yourself now to confess Christ in the dark hour to come.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Rev 12:11)