Rapture Wars

By Dan Payne


Out of curiosity a few weeks ago, I started doing a little experiment by typing just the word “rapture” into my internet search engine.

Different results appeared with links to various websites that highlighted discussion and information about the Rapture of the Church. Rapture Ready was usually at or near the top of the results page (thank the Lord).

Certain links began to show up contained within the “In the news” section of my (Google) search results, ranging from a video game review to news or sports related articles that just mention the word “rapture” in a casual way.

Lately however, another troubling search result has started to appear within the same section: links that take you directly to the Alex Jones YouTube channel, automatically playing videos of Alex Jones himself condemning the Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine.

The latest link (as of the time of this writing) is to a video on The Alex Jones Channel called “How the Pre-Trib Rapture Is a Deception.” The video description says it all: “Elite Use the Rapture as a Cop-Out for Christians.”

Now I am not writing this article as an attack on The Alex Jones Channel or the InfoWars website. My intention is to provide reassurance and comfort to those of my fellow sheep who may have watched these videos and who are also trying to maintain their hope in the Pre-Tribulation return of our Lord Jesus Christ for His true Church.

(If this article happens to end up convincing a skeptic or two along the way, then I certainly won't complain about that either.)

I had this thought while listening to the videos I referenced above: If the primary source of the fuel for those who attack the Pre-Trib Rapture is their belief that it is the will of God for them to carry out such attacks in order to “rescue” the “deceived,” then would they also be willing to put forth that same effort to rescue those who are lost and have never heard the true gospel message, let alone the doctrine of the Pre-Trib Rapture?

In other words, for those who find it to be God’s will that they “convert” those of us who are “deceived” into believing that we will be “rescued” from the horrors of the Tribulation, are you willing to also use equal effort to join in God’s will to convert those who are truly lost and are being deceived into spending eternity in hell?

Do you share the same enthusiasm as the apostle Paul did when he quoted from the book of Isaiah in Romans 10:15?

“And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather labor in bringing a warning that includes a message of hope, rather than labor in bringing a message of ridicule and condemnation aimed to destroy hope.

Just in case those who claim to be doing “the Lord’s work” by condemning the “heresy” of the Pre-Trib Rapture think that those of us who have hope to escape the horrors of the Tribulation are wimps, then I have a thought for you to ponder.

You think that it takes a certain degree of intestinal fortitude to stand up and be strong enough to proclaim a message of bad news to those who don’t want to hear a message of bad news and warning. Well there is another message that takes an even higher degree of courage to proclaim:

The gospel message is no message to be told by wimps, to wimps. It is a very strong message of bad news, forewarning the coming danger of eternity in hell. Yet at the same time it is also a message of good news because it offers the hope of escaping hell and spending eternity in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.

Anyone who endeavors to proclaim, and then actually follows through with the action of proclaiming the gospel, is no wimp. They are subjecting themselves to ridicule, further condemnation, rejection, and possibly even worse.

We who hold to the hope of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture also share in proclaiming the same warnings about the upcoming judgment of the Tribulation to those who would rather we just held our tongues. But we season our message with the salt of the hope of the Rapture through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ and the promise of the seal of His Holy Spirit.

That’s the difference between wolves and sheep. Wolves are always on the attack, offering no hope of salvation. But true sheep follow the command of their Shepherd and always endeavor to bring the good news of the Gospel unto all nations.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).

I would like to point out a few outstanding sources of hope in the Pre-Trib Rapture contained within the Word of God.

SALVATION

Let’s take a brief look at the word "salvation" as it is used throughout the entire New Testament. The denotation of salvation is rescue and deliverance. The connotation of salvation is determined by the surrounding context.

The Greek word translated into English as "salvation" is transliterated from the Greek as “soteria” (Strong’s concordance 4991). It occurs 46 times in the New Testament.

Oftentimes it is used to describe the eternal salvation of our souls. Other times, the same word is used to describe our rescue or deliverance out of earthly trials.

Again, the Greek word “soteria” equals the English word “salvation.” “Soteria” is translated as “salvation” in Philippians 1:19.

“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19).

In this verse, Paul demonstrates the awesome power of prayer. He is not speaking of the salvation of his soul but rather his deliverance from an earthly prison.

He is assuring the Philippians that their prayers are indeed powerful enough to affect his release from a Roman prison. Paul can achieve escape from an earthly prison via the prayers of his fellow believers through the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

The meaning of the word “salvation” used in Philippians 1:19 is determined by the surrounding context. The same word is also used in Luke 1:71 to describe the deliverance of Israel from her earthly enemies.

Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied about the Lord Jesus Christ in the first chapter of Luke. Zacharias used the same word for salvation (“soteria”) when he described Jesus as a horn of “salvation” through which Israel would be “saved” from her earthly enemies:

“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us” (Luke 1:67-69, 71).

The exact same Greek word “soteria” is also used in the following well-known and comforting verses in connection with the Rapture and the Day of the Lord:

“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

So we can find comfort in the fact that the same Greek word, oftentimes with the same part of speech, case, gender, and number (noun, accusative, feminine, and singular respectively), is used to describe salvation from judgment in hell and salvation from judgment on earth.

2 THESSALONIANS

In approximately A.D. 50, during his second missionary journey to Asia Minor and Greece, the apostle Paul planted a church in the Greek city of Thessalonica.

Paul taught this new group of believers about the Rapture and the Day of the Lord during his time with them in person, and also in his first letter written to them; 1 Thessalonians.

It did not take long for the wolves to creep in among the fold of sheep and attempt to undermine the truth of Paul’s teachings.

In his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul attempted to allay the fears of the Thessalonians brought about by the false teachings of the wolves in their midst.

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1).

You may ask, with regard to what “coming” and “gathering” was Paul referring? He was referring to the Rapture, the coming and gathering that he previously wrote about in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica:

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord... shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:15a, 17a).

Now Paul is exhorting the Thessalonians not to believe that the Day of the Lord had overtaken them like a thief, as the false teachers had proclaimed. Paul had already taught the Thessalonians that the Rapture precedes the Day of the Lord in his previous letter:

“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4).

Paul had no need to write to the Thessalonians about the times and the seasons that will occur during the Day of the Lord because they are primarily Jewish in character. During the Day of the Lord God will resume His direct dealings with the nation of Israel.

God has of course already begun to setup the nation of Israel by restoring the people to the land of Israel (Ezekiel 37). But His direct Tribulation judgment on the nation of Israel will not begin until the Day of the Lord begins.

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6-7).

Paul repeated this same explanation in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He continued in his second letter that since the Rapture will precede the Day of the Lord, they should not be upset that the Day of the Lord had already begun.

“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” (2 Thessalonians 2:2).

Looking back to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, Paul taught the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord will begin suddenly and without warning after the Rapture upon the unbelievers.

The Rapture itself will also arrive suddenly and without warning for believers who are not watching for their Lord’s return and are not paying attention to the signs of the times. Likewise, the events that will take place after the Rapture, which will include the Tribulation portion of the Day of the Lord, will arrive suddenly and without warning for unbelievers who are obviously not watching for the Lord’s return at all.

The false teachers were able to weave in deception and lies among the true teachings of Paul. The false teachers had success in deceiving the Thessalonians into believing that the severe persecutions they were suffering under were evidence that the Day of the Lord had already begun.

It seems very certain that if Paul had always taught the Thessalonians that they would not be gathered together in the air until after the Tribulation, then they should have always expected that the Day of the Lord could begin for them at any moment.

The Day of the Lord begins with the Tribulation and continues through the millennial kingdom, the reign of Jesus Christ and His saints. The Tribulation is just the beginning of the Day of the Lord. If the Day of the Lord had really already begun then it would stand to reason that the Rapture would only be seven years away at the most.

Hypothetically, if the Thessalonians had always been taught that they would have to endure the horrors of the Tribulation, then it is likely that Paul would have exhorted the Thessalonians to encourage one another in the hope that Rapture would occur at the end of the Tribulation. He would have likely repeated the following exhortation:

“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” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).

Instead, Paul implored them, on behalf of the Rapture, that they should not be worried that the Day of the Lord had overtaken them. He knew full well that if true believers were reading his letter to them, then the Day of the Lord would have absolutely not yet begun.

How could he possibly have known that the Day of the Lord would not begin while his letter was in transit? How could he have known that it would not begin by the time his letter was read by the true believers?

Paul knew that true believers, who make up the true church, would not be on the earth reading his letter after the Day of the Lord had already begun.

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 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” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-5 [emphasis added]).

Then Paul went on to remind them that they were chosen for rescue from the deception of the Antichrist through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and their belief in the truth.

God will only allow those who reject the truth to be deceived, not those who accept the truth.

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-13).

Again, we can take great comfort in the fact Paul used the same word for salvation in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that he used in Philippians 1:19. In Philippians 1:19 Paul was describing his earthly deliverance from a Roman prison. It seems crystal clear that Paul taught that believers will escape the wrath of the earthly Tribulation through the spiritual and physical the Rapture of the true Church.

“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. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, 5:9-11).