I HOPE we’ll be raptured out of here before.
But I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll be partying in heaven at the time millions are dying as martyrs on earth.
“It wasn’t until the early or mid 1800’s that there was any significant group of believers around the world that looked for a “rapture” of the Church prior to a seven-year tribulation period. It may come as a shock to some who read these lines, but it is a fact, nonetheless, that the “rapture” teaching was not taught by the early Church, it was not taught by Church of the first centuries, it was not taught by the Reformers, it was not taught by anyone (except a couple of Roman Catholic theologians) until about the year 1830.
One of the most widely circulated attacks against the pre-trib rapture is the notion that a girl named Margaret MacDonald started this theological view back in 1830. The claim is typically made that MacDonald received a demonic vision, passed it on to John Darby, who in turn popularized it. Disproving this assertion proves rather easy. Pre-trib scholars have discovered a host of rapture writings that predate Margaret MacDonald.
If MacDonald was the founder of the pretribulation rapture, as most anti-rapture proponents say, then someone needs to explain why rapturists have failed to give her credit. You would expect to find dozens of books that expound upon her every word. From reading the writings of anti-rapture authors, one would think we pre-tribbers would be reverencing MacDonald as Catholics do Mary. But clearly we don't. Pre-tribbers dont go around reciting, "Hail Margaret full of grace, blessed art thou among visionaries, pray for us sinners at the time of the rapture." If MacDonald were the founder of the doctrine of rapture, the lack of recognition we rapture believers pay her would be comparable to the modern Mormon church failing to recognize Joseph Smith as its founder or to the Jehovah's witnesses neglecting to identify Charles Russell as that groups originator. Poor Margaret MacDonald, she gets all of the blame, but none of the credit.
The first problem with the MacDonald origin is the fact that she wasn't the one who widely taught the doctrine of the pre-trib rapture. A man named John Darby is believed by many to have sparked modern interest in the rapture. The question here is how Darby came to hear of MacDonald's vision. Proponents like Dave MacPherson and John L. Bray have never been able to prove that Darby had ever heard of MacDonald or her vision.
Darby himself claims the revelation of the rapture came to him when he realized the distinction between Israel and the church.
Darby reported that he discovered the rapture teaching in 1827, three years before MacDonald had her vision.
When one closely examines MacDonald's vision, it becomes clear that her vision could not have been a pretribulational one. MacDonald looked for a "fiery trial which is to try us," and she foresaw the Church being purged by the Antichrist. Any pretribulation rapturist can tell you the Church will be removed before the advent of the Antichrist. John Bray, an anti-rapturist, said himself that Margaret MacDonald was teaching a single coming of our Lord Jesus. This contradicts current rapture doctrine, which teaches a two-staged eventfirst, Christ coming for His Church and second, seven years later His return to earth. With so many contradictions between MacDonald's vision and today's pretribulationism, it is difficult to see any linkage.
By far the biggest mistake post-tribulationists have made attacking the rapture is claiming that the pretribulation rapture wasnt taught before 1830. In fact, John L. Bray, a Southern Baptist evangelist, offered $500 to anyone who could prove that someone taught the rapture doctrine prior to MacDonald's 1830 vision. Bray was first proven wrong when he wrote in a newsletter, "Then my own research indicated that it was Emmanuel Lacunza, a Jesuit Catholic priest, who in the 1812 book The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, first taught this theory." Bray stuck his neck out again when he made another $500 offer to anyone who could provide a documented statement earlier than Lacunza's 1812 writings. Apparently he had to cough up the 500 bucks. I quote him again: "I offered $500 to anyone who would give a documented statement earlier than Lacunza's time which taught a two-stage coming of Christ separated by a stated period of time. No one claimed that offer until someone found writings that forced Bray to write the following: Now I have the Photostat copies of a book published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1788 but written in 1742-1744 in England, which taught the pretribulation rapture before Lacunza." Lately, a number of other sources have been located that teach the pretribulation rapture--some written as early as the second century. Where does this leave Margaret MacDonald?
In my life here on earth, I've made a number of observations that I regard as undeniable truths. One of these is the fact that the truth will suffer attacks with no one defending it, while a lie will be allowed to proliferate with no one challenging it. This seems to have taken place in the case of the rapture. For years on end, anti-rapturists have been allowed to attack pretribulationism freely. One assailant called the rapture the mark of the beast while another remarked that when Jesus returns at the battle of Armageddon, He will fight against those who believe in the rapture. The people who should have been contending for the rapture, for the most part, just said, "That may be your opinion."
Finally, it appears that those who hold to a pretribulation rapture are beginning to counter the ridiculous charges. A number of books have been published that cite several pre-MacDonald sources describing a raptured Church. Author Grant Jeffrey deserves a good deal of praise for his work in discovering many of these sources.
As far as being able to find the pretribulation rapture in the Bible, we dont need to be rocket scientists to discover it. Locating the rapture doctrine in the Bible is as simple as finding evidence that Jesus Christ is Messiah.
No evidence whatsoever points to MacDonald as the source of pretribulationism. Every major prophetic author alive today claims the Word of God as the foundation for belief in the rapture. Both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul made statements that clearly establish the rapture doctrine. Jesus said, in Matthew 25:13, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Paul affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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."
Epharaem the Syrian said, in 373 AD, "For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins."
I HOPE well be raptured out of here before.
When we search the Scriptures and read the passages describing the Lord Jesus' return, we find verses that tell us we won't know the day and hour of that event. Matthew 25:13 says Jesus will return at an unknown time, while Revelation 12:6 indicates that the Jews will have to wait on the Lord 1,260 days, starting when the Antichrist stands in the Temple of God and declares himself to be God (2 Thes. 2:4). This event will take place at the mid-point of the seven-year tribulation (Dan 9:27). Note that some people only see a three-and-a-half-year tribulation. In a way, they are correct because the first half of the tribulation will be relatively peaceful compared to the second half. Nonetheless, peaceful or not, there still remains a seven-year period called the tribulation. When the Jews flee into the wilderness, they know that all they have to do is wait out those 1,260 days (Mat 24:16). There is no way to apply the phrase "neither the day nor the hour" to this situation. The only way for these two viewpoints to be true is to separate the two distinct events transpiring here: 1) the rapture of the Church, which comes before the tribulation; and 2) the return of Jesus to the earth, which takes place roughly seven years later.
In Luke 12:36, the Word states that when Christ returns, He will be returning from a wedding. In Revelation 19:7-8, we read about the marriage supper of the Lamb itself. The marriage supper takes place before the marriage. According to Jewish custom, the marriage contract, which often includes a dowry, is drawn up first. The contract parallels the act of faith we use when we trust Jesus to be our Savior. The dowry is His life, which was used to purchase us. When its time for the wedding, the groom goes to the bride's house unannounced. She comes out to meet him, and then he takes her to his father's house. This precisely correlates with the events according to the pre-trib scenario. Jesus, the Groom, comes down from heaven and calls up the Church, His Bride. After meeting in the air, He and His Bride return to His Father's house, heaven. The marriage supper itself will take place there, while down here on earth the final events of the tribulation will be playing out. After the marriage supper of Jewish tradition, the bride and groom are presented to the world as man and wife. This corresponds to the time when Jesus returns to earth accompanied by an army "clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Rev 19:14).
Many groups try to discredit the pre-trib rapture by saying most of the end-time events in the Bible have already taken place. A group of people called preterists claims that the Book of Revelation was mostly fulfilled by 70 AD. If the events described in the Book of Revelation took place in the past, Im at a loss to explain some of the current situations I see around us: the rebirth of Israel, the reunification of Europe, the number of global wars that have occurred, and the development of nuclear weapons. During history class, I must have slept through the part where the teacher talked about the time when a third of the trees were burned up, 100-pound hailstones fell from the sky, and the sea turned into blood (Rev 8:7-8, 16:21). I think several people would have to question their opposition to the pre-trib rapture doctrine if they knew that the evidence provided to them was based on the understanding that most tribulation prophecies have already occurred.
If Christ were to come back after the tribulation, rapture all the saints, and slay all the ungodly, who would be left to populate the earth during the millennium? Only the pre-trib viewpoint can account for this post-trib problem. The Church is raptured before the tribulation, a vast number of souls are saved during this seven-year time frame, and those who make it through the tribulation go into the millennium while the unsaved are cast into hell.
In the pre-trib scenario, after we rise to meet the Lord in the air, we will go to heaven and abide there seven years. At the end of that period, Christ will come down to earth, defeat the Antichrist, and cleanse the temple. In a post-trib rapture, we would rise in the air to meet the Lord, then do a 180-degree U-turn and come back down to earth. Revelation 1:7 states that Christ will appear out of the clouds and come down to earth. Zechariah 14:4 says that His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. If He's already headed our way, why would we need to be caught up to meet Him?
In several passages, the Bible refers to the tribulation as a time of trouble for the Jews. The phrase "Jacob's trouble" pertains to the descendants of Jacob. Jeremiah 30:7 says that this time of trouble will come just before the Lord returns to save His people. The final week of Daniel's 70th week is yet to take place. An angel told Daniel that, "70 weeks are determined unto thy people" (Dan 9:24). Scripture never mentions that the tribulation is meant to be a time of testing for Christians. However, some post-tribbers try to claim that they are the ones being tested during the tribulation. To make this so, they need to spiritualize the 144,000 Jewish believers in Revelation 7:2-8 who receive God's protective seal. Placing the Church dispensation into the same time frame as the seven-year Jewish dispensation, as the post-tribbers do, raises one good question: Can two dispensations transpire at the same time? In the past, God has only dealt with one at a time. Having both present during the tribulation would have to be an exception.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul assures us that God has not appointed His people to wrath. This wrath is plainly God's anger that will be poured out during the tribulation. Pre-trib believers interpret this as meaning that Christians will be removed from the earth. Post-trib believers tell a different story. They describe this as meaning that God will protect Christians during the tribulation and pour this wrath out on the unbelievers only. This idea runs against the statement made in Revelation 13:7, in which the Antichrist is given power to make war with the saints and to overcome them. A post-trib view would make God's promise of protection from wrath into a lie. In years past, it was possible to think of being protected from the guns and swords of that day. Today, when any major war would involve nuclear and chemical weapons, it's impossible to expect that same kind of protection. When Nagasaki, Japan was bombed during World War II, the bomb exploded over a Catholic church. Everyone who was in the center of the explosion died--both Christians and non-Christians. The only way to validly interpret God's promise of protection from wrath is by viewing 1 Thessalonians 5:9 as the bodily removal of the Church from this world.
The tribulation period is compared to the times of Noah and Lot by Jesus in Luke 17:28. Most people argue over whether the time frame Jesus was talking about in that passage was pre-trib or post-trib. In doing so, they miss an important point. The two circumstances that the Noah and Lot situations have in common are the removal of the righteous and the judgment of the unbelievers. From these two accounts, we see that God prefers to remove His own when danger is involved.
Those who have accepted Christ as Savior will not go through the time of judgment that God will send on this fallen, evil world. We will be removed before the judgment comes, as Jesus promised.
You don't have to hope that you'll be raptured before; you have every assurance that you will be.