The Secret Rapture of the Church is a False Hope of Modern Origin

 

A Chapter from the book The Kingdom Calendar: Divine Dates of End-time Disaster & Deliverance

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Some believe Jesus could rapture the Church at any moment.  Others say He won’t do so until the middle of the tribulation.  Still others place the rapture at the very end of the tribulation period.  Are any of them right, or could the Bible teach a different option altogether?

 

Pretribulation rapturism teaches that Christ will rapture the saved before a seven year tribulation period or what is called the seventieth week of Daniel,[1] thereby saving the church from end-time persecution and martyrdom.  Although not new, this view gained wider acceptance in recent times by the Left Behind book series, but what has been left behind is the real truth.

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The “seven year” tribulation has become synonymous with evangelical prophecy. Yet one discovers this popular view is not only contrary to the language of the vision itself…

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The “day-for-a-year” principle, transferred from the books of Ezekiel (4:6) and Numbers (14:34) and forced upon the literal periods of Daniel, was first considered an option during the Dark Ages likely as an answer to the long delay in Messiah’s return.  The “time, times and half” (1,260 days) of Daniel 7:25 was turned into years (1,260 years) and so forth.  The historicist view of prophecy became the popular view of Christendom for several centuries.

 

However, in more recent history, a novel concept was proposed­—the seven year tribulation.  I was taught this prophetic view during my childhood, but upon closer examination realized this interpretation was built upon hypothesis and presented several contextual inconsistencies.  First, Gabriel’s straightforward and very explicit time frame is overturned, and the last “seven days” of the 70 week prophecy in Daniel 9 are declared to be “seven years.”  Second, an even greater theological liberty is taken: the last week is chopped off from the other 69 weeks and applied arbitrarily to the end of time. 

 

This innovative approach to Daniel 9:27 grew steadily in popularity through widely published commentaries, being widely disseminated from pulpits everywhere.  Now the seven year tribulation has become synonymous with evangelical prophecy.  Yet one discovers this popular view is not only contrary to the language of the vision itself, but to other clear-cut statements in God’s prophetic visions. For instance, the Word of God states that Antichrist is to rule three and one-half years, and no longer.[2]  However, he is arbitrarily granted an additional three and one-half year reign to coincide with the seven year teaching. 

 

Whether considering century-old traditions or modern-day presumptions, we should question the reliability of all teachings; we must get back to the foundational tenants of God’s Word and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

 

Here are the facts.  When we study the “taking up of the believers” in the Biblical prophecies without preconceived ideas, we discover both good news and bad news.  The good news is the last days will last just over three and one-half years,[3] not seven years.  However, the bad news is that followers of Christ will be here to face this period of great trials and death  itself, until God’s wrath is about to be poured out during the last 40 days of the Great Tribulation; then deliverance will come.

 

For this reason, for those who live near the close of this world’s history, the prophecies relating to the last days especially demand our attention.  From pulpits and classrooms, pastors and teachers should be warning of extremely difficult trials which loom before us.  Leaders should be preparing those under their care for the deceptions foretold to come from Lucifer’s schemes and his modern-day false prophets, who will unleash “signs and lying wonders,” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).  However, most slumber on in apathy,[4] and the church will enter the appointed time of the end confused and unprepared for the overwhelming calamities that will break upon mankind with mighty a force and unspeakable devastation. The pretribulational view breeds complacency through the idea of the great escape from trial.  It has fostered spiritual laziness and lack of watching, and will lead to a crisis of faith when the trials of the last days fall upon each person as a crushing weight.

 

So, how should we search the Scriptures in order to understand what they teach, so that we might teach others what we’ve learned?  We should come to the investigation of God’s Word with a humble attitude, and a teachable and prayerful heart.  We should not think that our ideas and opinions are perfect, or believe that professionals are the sole guardians of truth and knowledge; and, that we have no obligation to search the Scriptures to challenge common views. And, we should not study the Bible for the purpose of sustaining our preconceived opinions or doctrines, but with the simple object of learning what God has said.  We must prayerfully allow God to speak to through His ancient prophets.  Let us have sufficient faith to believe He will do just that, when we take the time to study His Word and pray, seeking truth… no matter the cost. 

 

History of the Pretribulational View

 

The pretribulational view had early advocates when it was first introduced in the 1800’s, including Arno Gabelein, Harry Ironside, James Gray, Ruben Tory and Lewis Sperry. The Scofield Reference Bible of 1909 and the revised edition of 1917, which included pretribulation rapturism as a major part of its prophetic teaching, greatly popularized this modern view of the secret rapture more than any other force.  Most Bible conferences, Bible colleges and seminaries under the influence of these men adopted this view.  

 

The book, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church[5] examines the weaknesses of pretribulation rapturism. The author wrote concerning the historical starting point of this teaching, noting that most evangelical Christians are unaware “this position, widely held by conservative premillenarians, is relatively new in origin. As an established view, it can be traced back to John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in the year 1830.  Some scholars, seeking to prove error by association, have attempted (perhaps unfairly) to trace its origin back two years earlier to a charismatic, visionary woman named Margaret MacDonald.  In any case, neither its recent origin nor its source proves nor disproves its correctness.  But if pretribulationism is used as a badge for orthodoxy, one is faced with the perplexing question of what to do with the millions of godly believers who, for almost eighteen hundred years, did not hold to pretribulation rapturism.  Among them are men like John Wesley, Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, John Knox, John Hus, William Carey, John Calvin, Isaac Newton, George Whitfield, A.B. Simpson, George Mueller, John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, John Wycliffe, John Bunyan, and many others.”

 

Throughout the book, Rosenthal presents insights, although sparingly, into how Jewish Holy Days may fit into the final events, which closely parallel The Kingdom Calendar.[6]  Rosenthal documents how God’s wrath is not only to be poured out against the Gentile nations,[7] but also against Israel when she is brought into account for her sins.[8]

 

Weaknesses of the Pretribulational View

 

The Bible teaches the taking up of believers occurs on the very day the Day of the LORD begins;[9] and therefore, many pretribulation rapturists believe (such as Scofield), out of necessity, the Day of the LORD must begin and continue for seven years through Daniel’s seventieth week.  Nevertheless, several problems emerge from the teaching that the Day of the LORD starts at the commencement of a seven year tribulation, and at the secret rapture of the church.

 

First, the Bible teaches there will be cosmic disturbances before the Day of the LORD,[10] not after it has started.  This would necessitate the darkening of the sun, moon and stars before the secret rapture.

 

Second, the Hebrew Bible teaches the Day of the LORD’s wrath will commence immediately after the believers are taken.  In other words, there can be no delay between the beginning of the Day of the LORD and God’s judgment.  The Day of the LORD is always associated with the immediate and decisive wrath of God against the wicked.[11]  However, pretribulation rapturists teach that Antichrist is given control of Planet Earth during the Day of the LORD, and that God’s wrath is delayed by several years.

 

Third, the Word teaches Elijah must come before the Day of the LORD begins,[12] not after it commences. So again, Elijah would need to arrive in ministry before the secret rapture, but this is never taught in pretribulation rapturism. 

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Christ associates His “thief in the night” return not to a secret rapture but to judgment, division and destruction.  In fact, His return is compared to the annihilation of sinners in the global flood.  __________________________________________________

 

Fourth, the Scriptures teach the apostasy and revelation of the Man of Sin will precede the Day of the LORD.[13]  The church cannot and will not be taken before the Lawless One is revealed in the Temple of God.  Antichrist would need to come into power before the secret rapture.

 

Fifth, the Scriptures teach the gospel is to go to the entire world, and then (and only then) will the Day of the LORD come.[14]  The great commission to go to the whole world was given to the followers of Christ to fulfill.  Furthermore, Jesus promised He would be with the faithful even to the end of the world,[15] not just until a secret escape.  Christ admonished the believers to endure to the end,[16] to then be saved.

 

Consider this truth: believers have never been exempt from trial and persecution throughout the centuries.  Even today, countless Christians are persecuted and killed around the globe each and every year for their faith, and hundreds of thousands, even millions, have been martyred through the centuries.  The idea of a wholesale escape from trouble is an American-based theology in a country where freedom to worship has been upheld and Christianity is the prevailing religion. However, our relatively peaceful lives and freedom to worship as our consciences lead us will be taken away, as last-day tragedies increase and the collective mind of the masses seek to implement a common religion in an attempt to restore God’s favor to our war-torn and devastated planet.

 

Religious freedom will soon turn to religious fury, as our nation and the entire world “wonders after the Beast.”  For those who do not follow the popular “Christian” religion of that day, each will be persecuted at the hand of the church-state governments like that of the Dark Ages. This harassment will grow in time to exceed our wildest imagination, even in the United States—the land of the free.

 

Thief in the Night

 

Many think the Bible teaches a secret rapture because it says that Christ comes “as a thief in the night.”  However, ponder the evidence in the Scriptures.  In the Gospel accounts, Yeshua admonished His servants to be prepared and watching for the Son of Man’s coming.[17]  Christ associates His “thief in the night” return not to a secret rapture but to judgment, division and destruction.  In fact, His return is compared to the annihilation of sinners during the global flood in Noah’s day.  The people were going about their day-to-day activities, but then the waters came and destroyed all but a few; so it will be at the coming of the Messiah.  

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, Paul again takes up the “thief in the night” theme.  The message is not to promote a secret rapture, but to forewarn once again of judgment, division and destruction.  Instead of sinners being confused by missing friends and relatives in a secret church-wide getaway, the wicked will know assuredly the Day of the LORD is upon them because of unprecedented death and ruin all around them. 

 

Paul wrote, “The Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”  Paul adds that indeed “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our LORD Jesus Christ,” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  However, this salvation will be simultaneous with the Day of the LORD, followed by the overthrow of all sinners.

 

Jesus Himself associates the “thief” activities with an ill-equipped church, just as the world will lack in watchfulness and preparedness.  Christ said in a direct warning, I “know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know at what time I will come to you,” (Revelation 3:2-3).  Yeshua adds, “He who overcomes” the end-time trials without denying Christ “will... be dressed in white,” (Revelation 3:5).

 

Persecution: A Blessing in Disguise

 

Jesus considered persecution a blessing.[18]  Believers are to suffer just as Jesus suffered.  This is a basic truth, and persecution is an essential part of the Christian experience: “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also,” (John 15:20).  Prophecy is very clear in its directive that the obedient last-day faithful will face great trials.[19] The only escape will come just before the Day of the LORD’s wrath is unleashed; it is from Jehovah’s wrath we are to be saved, not from the anger and resentment of strangers, or even former friends and family members.

 

What does God’s Word say about escape for the faithful? There are two groups of believers.  The first group will be sealed for protection (the twelve tribes of Revelation 7:1-4—those who are “alive and are left” behind; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) to endure the final end.  The second are those overcomers, the great multitude of all nations (Revelation 7:9-14) who will be resurrected—whether dead for one minute, one day or for years—taken up at Yom Kippur to “escape from the midst of great tribulation” because of their patience during trial.  Yeshua promised the faithful last-day believers, “Since you have kept My command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial [Great Tribulation] that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.  I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the Temple of My God” (Revelation 3:10-12)—a permanent Temple dweller (Revelation 7:15). This escape of the victorious saints transpires just before the seven angels exit the Temple with God’s plagues of wrath.[20] After being taken to Heaven for the short duration of the Great Tribulation, this “great multitude” of all nations will return with the King of kings 40 days later at His visible climactic return, for the gathering of His 144,000 sealed elect and the destruction of all remaining sinners.[21]

 

Finally, Jesus taught the wheat and tares (weeds) will grow together.  At the end of the world in simultaneous fashion, the wheat will be gathered into His barn, while the tares will be burned.[22]  God’s people are in need of true holiness, that He may gather a mature grain, ripe for harvest.  As Daniel predicted, “many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.  None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand,” (Daniel 12:10).  John adds, “Everyone who has this hope [of Christ’s return] in him purifies himself, just as He is pure,” (1 John 3:2-3).

 

We as believers will be called upon to stand before leaders and rulers, and they must know the truth.  God can teach us more in moments of trial by His Holy Spirit than we could learn from renowned men of the earth. At great cost, God has provided us the opportunity to know the true Savior, Christ Jesus the LORD.  Today is the day to follow Him all the way to His Kingdom, no matter the cost.



[1] Constructed from Daniel 9:24-27

[2] Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5

[3] Daniel 12:7

[4] Romans 13:11-14

[5] Author, Marvin Rosenthal, published in 1990, Publisher Thomas Nelson

[6] To my knowledge, Mr. Rosenthal has neither seen nor endorsed The Kingdom Calendar

[7] Romans 2:3, 5-6, 8-9; Obadiah 15-16

[8] Isaiah 40:2; cf. Isaiah 17:4-8; 33:10-14; Zechariah 13:8-9; Malachi 3:2-5; 4:1

[9] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-4; Revelation 11:15-19

[10] Isaiah 13:9-11; Ezekiel 32:7-10; Joel 2:10-11; 30-31; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24- 26; Luke 21:25-28; Acts 2:17-20; Revelation 6:12-17

[11] Joel 1:15; 2:1-2, 10-11, 30-31; 3:14-16; Amos 5:18-20; Isaiah 2:12-21; Isaiah 13:6-13; Ezekiel 13:3-8; 30:2-3; Zephaniah 1:14-2:3; Zechariah 14:1-4; 2 Peter 3:7-10

[12] Malachi 3:1-2; 4:5-6

[13] 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

[14] Matthew 24:14

[15] Matthew 28:19-20

[16] Matthew 24:13

[17] Matthew 24:36-44; Luke 12:35-48

[18] Matthew 5:11

[19] Daniel 11:33-35; Revelation 12:17

[20] Revelation 15:2, 5-7

[21] 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Jude 14-15

[22] Matthew 13:30