Of the four views of when the Rapture of the Church will happen, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is the one that is believed the most. This view seems to have the most scriptures that support it; therefore this seems like a reasonable interpretation. We believe that God can pull His people out of danger before it occurs. Mt 24:38-39 “For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” God saved Noah from the destruction of the flood; so we believe He can also save Christians from going through the Great Tribulation.
But should we be teaching this as doctrine; that is, should we teach it as Biblical fact? Is it good to give Christians hope that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture will absolutely happen if there is a possibility that it might be a false hope, because the Rapture might happen another way? My question is not of the soundness of this belief; it does have its Biblical foundation. It is as the Assemblies of God puts it, ‘Our Blessed Hope’. So I am not saying that it should not be taught; but that it should be taught with balance because the Rapture could happen at a different time. Many Bible teachers agree that the teaching of the Rapture is an in-house debate; so this is something that we should be able to agree to disagree upon and still call each other Christians despite our view of this teaching.
There are four main teachings about when the Rapture may happen. They are Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, Pre-Wrath and Post-Tribulation. Each of these views has their Biblical merits, but each one also has their Biblical weaknesses. So if teachers agree that the Rapture is a non-salvation issue, that there is a chance that Christians might have to endure some or part of the Great Tribulation; wouldn’t it only be fair to teach a balanced view on the Rapture? This way, weak Christians might not lose hope if the Pre-Tribulation Rapture does not happen; because they will know that God’s word is still true and God will still be with them if they do have to endure some or all of the Great Tribulation.
I have heard two teachers, both whom I greatly respect, but disagree with on this point, talk about Christians who do not believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. They said that others can believe in other timings of other Rapture teachings if they want to; but when the Pre-Tribulation Rapture occurs, they will wave at them on their way up. This is a cute saying and shows confidence about their beliefs; but it is not Biblically accurate. As Evangelicals, we believe in the inerrancy of the Bible; we don’t believe that the way each person interprets the Bible is the way it will happen for them. Meaning; if the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is correct, then even Christians who believe in one of the other three scenarios will be raptured before the Great Tribulation happens. But if one of the other scenarios is correct, then even Christians who believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture will be stuck on earth to live through part or all of the Great Tribulation.
Pastors and teachers are called to be shepherds of God’s people. They are supposed to take care of them, correctly feeding them God’s holy word, to give the hearers the best chance of coming to know, grow in, and stay with, Jesus our Savior. We are not to teach people only things that they want to hear. This sometimes calls for the shepherds to warn the flock of possible dangers so that the flock knows that they need to protect themselves. In John 16:33 Jesus told the Apostles “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is a time when Jesus warned the Apostles of impending problems so they would not be surprised when it actually happened. Rather, they would know that Jesus is still in charge and that the Apostles should not lose hope despite the problems.
Are we properly protecting the flock when we say that we will absolutely miss the Great Tribulation because of our belief in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture? Despite our confidence of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, what if we are wrong? Wouldn’t we better protect the flock by providing the flock a balanced teaching of the Rapture so as to warn Christians that there is a chance we might have to go through part or all of the Great Tribulation?
It is from this possibility that the Rapture might not happen Pre-Tribulation being the reason why I would like to encourage why the Pre-Tribulation Rapture should not be taught as fact, but as the most probable scenario with some balance. The Parable of the Sower, the Great Apostasy and a great persecution by the Antichrist give us reasons why we need to be balanced on the teaching of when the Rapture will occur. When we are balanced, it gives those who call themselves Christians the best hope if they have to go through part or all of the Great Tribulation.
Parable of the Sower
I will only focus on the seed that falls on the rocky soil, because that is what is applicable to this reasoning. Mt. 13:5-6 (NIV), “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Jesus explained this in Mt. 13:20-21, “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” These are people who claim to have faith in Christ, probably even attend church for a time, looking in every part that they are a Christian. But because they fall on hard times, or they are persecuted for their faith, they will fall away from their faith in Christ.
It can be argued that these people never truly let Jesus into their lives as Lord and Savior; but Jesus just says that they fell away. I wonder if these people were forewarned about possibly having to go through some persecution, that some of them not fall away because of this forewarning. Shouldn’t we give them this opportunity to be forewarned that we might have to go through some persecution in the Great Tribulation? Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. We are being haughty if we assume that they were never saved in the first place so if they fall away due to persecution, oh well. Good Shepherds need to forewarn Christians in their teaching about possible persecution so the hearers will know to be on their guard and know that they are accountable to God in needing to persevere through any persecution. That God will not understand anyone turning away from their faith in Him just so we will not be persecuted or killed for His name’s sake. In severe Christian persecutions in the past, people who deny their faith were often let back into the church because they repented, some even got back into positions of authority. But in the End Times, those who deny the Lord and take the mark of the beast have no opportunity for repentance. They will spend eternity in Hell because of their bad choice.
Paul wrote about many people falling away from the faith in the End Times, right before the man of lawlessness, or the Antichrist, is revealed. 2 Th. 2:3 (NASB), “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction”. The definition of apostasy, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is ‘renunciation of a religious faith’. This passage does not say that these people lose their Jewish faith, Christian faith or any other particular religious faith. But since Paul is writing this to Christians as a forewarning of what will happen before the day of the Lord, there is a good possibility that these apostates could be people who have made a profession of following the Christian faith but fall away from their faith to follow the Antichrist. Therefore we should be teaching Christians not to depend upon the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Because if we are around when the Antichrist appears, he will be able to deceive many people by looking like a man of peace. Verse 6 says “And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.” This passage assumes we were just told what is holding the Antichrist back, but the only thing this passage mentions to us about is an apostasy; it does not mention the Holy Spirit or Christians being raptured off of the earth, as some assume.
Great Persecution by the Antichrist
We also see where there will be a great persecution of Christian’s after the Antichrist does come to power. Rev 13:7a; “It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.” Those Christians who do not turn away from their faith will be greatly persecuted and many of them killed. This persecution could cause many more weak believers to turn away from their faith in Christ.
I know that because of the passages in 2 Thessalonians and Revelation that some teachers, who believe in the Pre-Tribulation, will interpret this as many of the people this happens to as being Jew’s, because this is the time of Jacob’s trouble. But can you be positive about this? There is no definitive passage here that clearly defines who the scripture is talking about; therefore we should assume that it could also be talking about Christians. After all, 2 Thessalonians and Revelation are written to Christians, not Jews.
As Pastors and teachers of God word, we will be held accountable on the day of reckoning for what we have taught. James 3:1; “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Knowing that we are more accountable, let us use our positions of teachers of God’s holy word to be balanced in our teaching about the Rapture so as to give weak believers the best chance.
I do not ask you to change your view on the Rapture. Instead, my hope is that when you talk or teach about the Rapture, you will be responsible enough to give a balanced view on the subject. So when you teach people about our hope in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, you also let them know there is a chance we might have to go through some of the Great Tribulation. This way, as a good shepherd of God’s sheep, you have fulfilled your responsibility in preparing God’s people, and also God’s people are knowledgeable about any problems they might have to go through.
All scripture used is the New International Version (NIV)