Many Christians believe in a pretribulation rapture happening before a seven year period called the “tribulation” where the “church” is taken off the Earth before the so-called antichrist is revealed. In this belief system the “restrainer”, spoken about in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, is assigned to the Holy Spirit and is removed from the Earth with the church. The Jews are then left with the remaining population to endure the reign of the antichrist and the prophecies of the Old Testament now pick up again after they were paused during the “age of grace” between the cross and the rapture of the church.
I am not going to necessarily argue against this theology because it causes many believers to be driven into a defensive mindset at the very least, all the way to immediate rage. Rather, I would like to objectively look at where this belief system originated. The following is from the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Clearly Paul is describing a majestic coming, a coming to rule and not as at Christ’s first coming, a coming to serve. He goes on to speak of living believers as caught up to meet the coming Lord in the air. Traditionally this has been understood to mean that Paul is speaking of the end of this life as we know it and the ushering in of the final state of affairs.
But some Christians have seen in the words a secret rapture (“rapture” is from the Latin raptus, “seized,” “carried off”), wherein believers are caught up secretly out of this life and taken to be with the Lord while earthly life goes on without them for the rest of the human race. Pretribulationists hold that there follows a period of tribulation for those remaining on earth (Matt. 24), which will last for a thousand years (Rev. 20:5). Midtribulationists think that the church will experience three and a half years of the tribulation before being raptured (citing Dan. 7:25, etc.). Posttribulationists hold that the church will remain on earth throughout the tribulation and that the return of Christ is after that. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that some have been far too confident in the way they interpret some difficult scriptural passages. That Christ will return at the end of the age, bringing “those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thess. 4:14) and that living believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air is clearly taught (1 Thess. 4:17). So is the fact that all this will be public and open, for the Lord will come “with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). But we must exercise care in the way we go beyond these words and in our attempts to relate them to other scriptural passages. Whichever way we interpret the difficult passages we must bear in mind Jesus’ exhortation to his followers to watch (Matt. 24:42).
Leon L. Morris, “Second Coming of Christ,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 721.
The futurist eschatology is ascribed to an arm of the Catholic church to counter the protestant reformation. Under traditional theology, the pope and Catholic church were looking similar to the antichrist and beast system to the reformers, and the church needed a way to deflect this negative image that was spreading rapidly.
Francisco Ribera was a Jesuit priest that proposed the futurist view that most evangelicals believe today. It was rejected by reformers, but through John Nelson Darby and C.I. Scofield, it spread like wild fire through the twentieth century in America. This is in part due to the Scofield Reference Bible. Scofield inserted these futurist views into the commentary notes of his study Bible that were used by evangelical seminaries throughout the United States. The Dallas Theological Seminary, who produced teachers such as David Jeremiah and Hal Lindsey, was one of the leading seminaries to put forth the dispensational and futurism theologies.
In most cases, evangelical Christians are blindly lead into this view as the only way to interpret scripture when considering end times, even though it is a relatively new way to view scripture. It feeds well into the politics of the United States with the nation state of Israel, because many people are waiting for a third temple to be built in Israel due to these futuristic interpretations. Evangelist John Hagee has used the futurist view of end times prophecy to unite evangelicals with the politics of the United States and Israel. This may be all with good intentions, but one should know the source ultimately comes from a Jesuit priest and a lawyer turned theologian, namely C.I. Scofield.
These views of the pretribulation rapture, seven year tribulation with the antichrist rising in the middle of the seven years, come from an interpretation of Daniel that inserts a gap of over two thousand years between verses 25 and 27 of Daniel chapter nine.
Daniel 9:25–27 (LEB)
25 And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but in a time of oppression.
26 “And after the sixty and two weeks an anointed one shall be cut off, and he shall have nothing, and the people of the coming leader will destroy the city and the sanctuary, and its end will be with the flood and on to the end there shall be war; these desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a strong covenant with the many for one week, but in half of the week he will let cease sacrifice and offering and in its place a desolating abomination comes even until the determined complete destruction is poured out on the desolator.”
Verse 25 is clearly talking about the Messiah, or anointed one, who came in a time of oppression, that is the oppression of the Roman Empire. However, with the futurist and dispensational view, verse 27 switches and is now talking about the antichrist figure over two thousand years after the Messiah in verse 25. This is a poor way to interpret scripture. Verse 27 traditionally was still talking about the Messiah who made a strong covenant and ended the sacrifice in the temple. A few years later in 70AD the temple was completely destroyed.
The “time, times and half a time” is used with the three and a half year time line. There is a lot of ambiguity in these translations. First, an example of the “time, times and half a time” in the English Standard Version translation of the Bible.
Daniel 12:5–8 (ESV)
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream. 6 And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” 7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.
In the Lexham English translation these words are translated to “appointed time, appointed times and half an appointed time”.
Daniel 12:5–8 (LEB)
5 Then I looked, I myself, Daniel, and look, there were two others standing: one on this bank of the stream and one on the other. 6 Then he said to the man who was clothed in linen who was above the water of the stream, “How long until the end of the wonders?” 7 And I heard the man who was clothed in linen who was above the water of the stream, and he raised his right hand and his left hand to heaven and he swore by the one who lives forever that an appointed time, appointed times, and half an appointed time would pass when the shattering of the power of the holy people would be completed; then all these things will be accomplished.
What Hebrew, or in the case of Daniel, Aramaic words, are we getting these English words that the futuristic, dispensational view of end times events are founded upon? It is Strong’s H4150:
מועדה / מעד / מועד
mô‛êd / mô‛êd / mô‛âdâh
1) appointed place, appointed time, meeting
1a) appointed time
1a1) appointed time (general)
1a2) sacred season, set feast, appointed season
1b) appointed meeting
1c) appointed place
1d) appointed sign or signal
1e) tent of meeting
The “half” in “half a time” is Strong’s H2677:
The point is that these scriptures have been manipulated a certain way to create the futurist, dispensational view of the end times. Someone as creative as John Nelson Darby could easily manipulate these scriptures into another story. Much of Christianity has been lead into believing Walt Disney style theology, unfortunately. There have been also millions of dollars of book sales making modern “prophets” quite wealthy. This alone should send out red flags to true students of the scriptures.
What does the Bible say about prophesying in the name of the Creator and making merchandise of people? It is actually prophecy itself.
2 Peter 2:1–3 (LEB)
2 But there were also false prophets among the people, as there will be false teachers among you also, who will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, thus bringing on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their licentious ways, because of whom the way of truth will be reviled. 3 And in greediness they will exploit you with false words, whose condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Exploiting sincere people by selling them books with “the answer” to biblical prophecy or cheap trinkets for donations is certainly what happens in many ministries. I do not believe the Creator needs gimmicks, and there will be a price for all of this. Playing on people’s emotions regarding end times is also a trait of many ministries. People are convinced the Bible backs their views of a rapture, whatever that may be, without studying the whole matter, and possibly never reading and studying for themselves.
Jeremiah 23:16–18 (LEB)
16 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “You must not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are deluding you with visions of their mind, They do not speak from the mouth of Yahweh. 17 They are continually saying to those who disregard the word of Yahweh, ‘Peace it will be to you,’ and to each one who walks in the stubbornness of his heart they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ 18 For who has stood in the council of Yahweh, that he has seen and heard his word? Who has listened attentively to his word and heard it?
Is this not the teaching we have today? “Disregard the words of Yahweh” is the same as saying “those are the old laws of the Jews, we are in the age of grace and need not be concerned about them”. “Calamity will not come to you” is similar to saying everyone who is breaking all the commandments in the church is going to be whisked away in the nick of time to some ethereal place on the rapture bus and the Jews will be left behind to deal with the antichrist in the time of Jacob’s trouble. The rapture bus is looking like it could have a few flat tires according to scripture.
Amos 5:18–24 (LEB)
18 Alas, those who desire the day of Yahweh, why is this for you the day of Yahweh? It will be darkness and not light! 19 It will be as if a man fled from a lion and a bear met him; or he went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall and a snake bit him. 20 Is not the day of Yahweh darkness and not light, and pitch dark with no brightness in it? 21 “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your assemblies. 22 Yes, even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them, and I will not look at the fellowship offerings of your fattened animals. 23 Remove from me the noise of your songs, and I do not want to hear the melody of your harps! 24 But let justice roll on like the water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Desiring the day of Yahweh is exactly what the church is doing today. Yahweh goes on to say He hates your festivals and has no delight in your assemblies. Could this be speaking to the church today about all the false festivals they celebrate neglecting the commands of God for their traditions of pagan deities? Israel did the same thing the church is doing. They mixed up their religion with gods of others. He calls your worship band rock and roll concerts noise and does not want to hear the melody of your harps. It is a terrible situation. He destroyed Israel for the same things the church does today.
Study the scriptures for yourself using the entire Bible. Revelation quotes the Old Testament many times. Without studying the Old Testament it is impossible to understand the New Testament. This is the way Christianity has become a new religion, seemingly with a different God than the God of the Old Testament.
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