"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. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. ... For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, ..." 1Thes 5:1-9
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35
The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ
By Anthony Barbieri
Pre-Tribulation (Pre-Trib) Rapture of Believers is a very hot topic today. There are best selling books and movies all warning people to get saved before the Rapture. This movement is desperately trying to get out the message, "You do not want to be left behind."
Is it a requirement for a person to have a firm stance on Pre-Trib to become a Christian? Are differences in belief over this issue reason enough for us to break fellowship with one another? Will those who do not believe in the Pre-Trib teaching be left behind?
Of course not! We are still related by the Blood of Jesus Christ! When Jesus returns, He will come for us all. In discussing topics we disagree upon, remember that our love for each other is the only proof the world has that we belong to Jesus Christ. Our first priority is to win the lost to Him.
While I would be very thankful to bypass the Tribulation in a secret Rapture, there remain questions and concerns about using the Rapture as a tool or platform for preaching the Gospel. How will the left behind message open the door for conviction and repentance? Will it focus hearts on the goodness of God, or on the fear of what man will do with them if they are left behind?
- Will this kind of preaching produce false converts?
- If widespread persecution breaks out, will many backslide, believing the Bible is a false witness?
- Are we ready, come what may, to follow Jesus Christ, even unto death?
The other day I heard a minister explain how no one left behind was going to be able to resist the mark of the beast. He said a loving mother would surrender to the mark to silence the pleas of her hungry child. The speaker continued to pound at the idea, taunting the audience that they would be powerless to resist the mark of the Beast.1 He then gave a very graphic description of a bloody beheading room where you would be taken if you tried to resist the mark.2 This minister went on to say that no one threatened with death would be able to stay true to Jesus and refuse the mark. He said he understood some would say he was preaching fear, but that he did not care why you got saved, just as long as you got saved.
1. False Converts?
Many preachers have used the fear of Hell or eternal separation from God to rivet the attention of the sinner before presenting the Gospel message. But several things must be accomplished in the heart of a sinner before they can respond in true repentance toward God.
First the Holy Ghost must "draw" the sinner, preparing their heart for truth.3 Next, He opens their understanding of how their rebellion has rent the heart of God. Further, how their willful blindness has strewn chaos and pain across the many lives they have stumbled through. They must become throughly convinced of their rightful guilt before an innocent God.4 Finally, the Holy Ghost uplifts the broken heart with the insight of God's goodness. They begin to see God in His love reaching out through the Cross of Jesus Christ, longing to restore the relationship. When they turn from that which God hates, and lay their lives at His will, He does a wonderful work in their inner-most being.5
Paul tells us this new creation6 is only ushered in by God-ordained preachers, who preach the true and full Gospel.7 The Holy Ghost uses the Truth to move upon the sinner's heart. Anything less will prevent the Word from being planted in good soil,8 and this will produce false converts.
2. Is the Bible True?
What if they are wrong? What if we are wrong? Are we basing our beliefs about the Rapture upon the whole counsel of God, or on a few texts bolstered with the words of men? Are we keeping our fallibility and the infallibility of the Word of God in mind while sharing with others? Our insight into the Word only extends to the point in which the Holy Ghost has enlightened us. Our understanding may be wrong, but the Word of God is right every time.
What if persecution comes to us who have never known it? Many Brothers and Sisters in Christ are suffering persecution and martyrdom today. Will the Believers in your circle of influence stand for Jesus, or will they backslide? Who will be held accountable?
What if the Anti-Christ appears before the Rapture? Here is my greatest concern: believers must know that if anything other than what they were taught comes to pass, it was the teaching that was wrong and not the Word of God!
3. Are We Ready?
When you read the Book of Acts, do you ever wonder if you might suffer persecution in like manner as did the Apostles? Will we remain true to our confession of Christ Jesus even if faced with death? We should not take anything for granted; situations may change at any time. If this topic brings any fear, if we stumble during times of ease, we should seek the Lord for a fuller revelation of His grace.9
If we walk with Jesus now, we will walk with Him then. If our "old man" has been crucified and buried, "he that is dead is freed from sin,"10 and with this freedom from sin comes freedom from fear. Whether it is persecution, occupation, or even the Great Tribulation, Jesus Christ will be there11 providing what we need and comforting us with His Word, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."12 Let us take comfort in His arms, continuing to serve Jesus, come what may!
The Bible is perfectly clear that if we continue to follow Jesus Christ, we are going to be "caught up"13 to be with Him in the air when He returns. Be sure of this, we will meet Him in the air and not on the earth.14 This is an absolute. Where the debate begins is about when we will be taken from the earth.
While there is enough revealed in the Bible for us to discern "the times and the seasons" and that His revelation should not overtake us "as a thief,"15 we must remember we truly "know in part," and "we see through a glass, darkly!"16
Remember, we must always approach the Word with an open heart and mind, being willing to change our positions to align ourselves with His written Word.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
Here I would like to share from my own experience. In my mind, reasonable doubt about the Pre-Trib Rapture was created when a Christian teacher pointed out a single word in the text of a scripture. The verse is found in first Corinthians, chapter fifteen. Paul is discussing the resurrection of the dead and how this relates to the Gospel. There are many great pearls here, but the word that raises the question is tucked into the fifty second verse, and that word is "last."
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."17
The instructor continued by pointing to the book of Revelations and asking, "If there are seven trumpets, which one of them is the last trumpet?" When I read the context, I had to conclude that if there were a rapture before the seventh trumpet, Paul would certainly have gone up. Yet he still includes himself in the verse with the word "we."
What About Wrath?
This is a very good question often heard in response to those questioning the Pre-Trib teaching. For if "God hath not appointed us to wrath,"18 we should not be here when His wrath is poured out. My question is, what if God's plan is to preserve those who are still alive in the midst of it all as a witness of His power?
Consider the following Bible examples:
- Noah's obedience to God preserved his family from wrath during the Flood.
- Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were protected in the midst of the furnace by Someone who looked "like the Son of God." Not even the smell of smoke was on their clothing.19
- The blood of a lamb protected Israel from the wrath of God on Egypt.20
- When God's hand was against Jericho, Rahab's faith in the Lord protected all who took refuge under her roof.21
We can see that God is willing and able to save us from all circumstances, as long as we are willing to follow His guidance.
My Questions & Thoughts!
Here is where I ask for a little indulgence. Though I do not consider anything presented here as essential doctrine, I hope you will allow me a bit of speculation.
Let me start by asking a question: Is it possible that what is wrath to one might be a blessing to another?
We know that God is a Consuming Fire.22 And if we are wood, hay or stubble, we would have a problem with fire. In this instance fire could be considered an instrument of wrath. But on the other hand, if we were silver or gold, fire would improve us, burning out the impurities. Here fire would be a blessing.
Let's look at the account of Noah found in the book of Genesis from a little different perspective. Man had sinned to the point God decided to start over with Noah and his family. Think about the water: was it not the instrument of judgment? If water was the instrument of God's wrath to the destruction of the wicked, this same water provided deliverance for those who were being saved, by floating the ark. True, the ark was also a necessary element, as Noah had to act in obedience by building it in the first place. But I still believe that this is a valid type of deliverance 'in the midst of wrath.' Just as you can say, the ark was afloat on the water, you can say that the water held up or supported the ark. That which was destruction to the one (the water), carried the other to safety.
Believers are not to fight against each another when it comes to non essential doctrines.
We need to be sure we are presenting the whole Gospel to all in our circle of influence. As we share the truth with them, the Holy Spirit will do His work.
Those we share with, need to know we are fallible. We may make honest errors in judgement, or our understanding may be lacking. But our misunderstanding of God's Word should in no way reflect upon God.
"Let God be true, but every man a liar." Romans 3:4
Whether we are ever called to be a martyr, each of us must settle the matter in our hearts before the Lord. Let our wills be fixed to stand with Jesus Christ in all circumstances. Let us declare, 'Thy will, not my will, but thy will be done.'
Let us remind each other that God is always willing and able in all circumstances to be an ever present Help. As Betsie ten Boom, who went through the Nazi concentration camps with her sister, Corrie, once said, "We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still."23
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The following is a list of the references used in the writing above. All scriptures are taken from the King James Version.
- Pre-Trib teaches the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth after the Rapture.
- In the first century many Christians were faced with death and stayed true to Jesus. Stephen was the first, Acts 7:59. John Foxe chronicled the martyrdom of many who followed Jesus unto death.
- John 6:44, John 12:32
- John 16:7-8
- Romans 2:4
- 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15
- Romans 10:13-15
- Matthew 13:18-23
- Jeremiah 12:5
- Romans 6:4-11
- Psalm 46:1, Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 13:5
- 2 Corinthians 12:9
- 1 Thessalonians 4:17
- Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:17
- 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4
- 1 Corinthians 13:9 & 12
- 1 Corinthians 15:52
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9
- Daniel 3:14-25
- Exodus 12:13
- Joshua 2:1-18 Hebrews 11:31
- Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29
- From The Hiding Place spoken by Betsie just before she was caught away to be with Jesus from Ravensbruck concentration camp, 1944.