By: Pete Garcia
As the beloved, late Jack Kelley was often fond of saying, “I think people should get raptured according to their eschatological view”. Seems only fitting after all…at least the ‘post-toasties’ who think they can weather the storm of the 70th Week with an underground bunker and some survival gear can get their money’s worth. But I fear my prayers for eschatological-justice will most likely proceed no higher than my ceiling. And much to their chagrin, all these vehemently anti-Pre-Trib Christian’s are just going to have to settle for being Raptured prior to the start of the Tribulation, whether they like it or not.
I don’t get what the attraction to this view is. That goes for Pre-Wrath and Mid Trib views as well. Any view that places the Church inside the seven year period known as Daniel’s 70th Week, has some major eschatological and ecclesiological issues. Jesus stated that this period of time would be the most horrifying in all of human history, (Matt. 24:21-22) and we have huge swaths of Christian’s today who think we are either already in it (but they can’t say for sure when it started), or they think we have to go through it (because we deserve it). The good thing about our God is that He is merciful beyond any human definitions of the word. If we all got what we truly deserved, we’d all be doing head stands in the lake of fire.
Look, Pete Garcia didn’t invent the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Jack Kinsella didn’t invent the Rapture. Hal Lindsey didn’t invent the Rapture. John Nelson Darby didn’t invent the Rapture. The Apostle Paul didn’t even invent it. God put that on Paul’s heart to unveil this mystery that even was hidden from the disciples when they walked with Christ. To believe that the Rapture was just a sly deception put on by Paul, is tantamount to saying his epistles aren’t part of Holy Writ or else we deny divine inspiration. Peter stated that what Paul wrote, was in fact scripture (2 Peter 3:14-16)…so if Paul was wrong, then so was Peter. You can see how this unravels from here.
But we had pictures (and types) of this in the OT and NT with the likes of Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, Paul, and John, who all experienced their own supernatural catching up. Examples of being supernaturally transported from one place to another would be with both Ezekiel and Philip. All of that to say this…that it is an undisputed fact that God has easily and repeatedly demonstrated His ability to supernaturally move people from one place to another.
One thing I don’t understand, are churches who don’t teach on a Rapture event at all. Either they’re amillennial, post-millennial, or indifferent either way. If a church purports to be a Christian one, than their belief has to be rooted in something correct? If it is God, than God has to be the Creator, and outside the boundaries of His own creation in order to both create it, and manage its affairs. If that is the case, and God spoke the universe and all therein into existence, than why is it so hard to believe He can also retrieve both the living and the dead in a moment of time? Why is the Creation, the Flood, and the parting of the Red Sea…believable events, yet somehow the Rapture of the Church falls outside the realm of possibility? It would seem to me, that these people put God Almighty, in a mighty small box.
The Cripplegate recently released an article that I thought, was spot on. The author listened and compared 12 different preachers teach on Revelation chapter 6. Six of the preachers were amillennial, and six were premillennial and the difference between the two frankly, was startling. I would encourage anyone reading this, to read that before continuing on with this. Its ok, I’ll wait….
Ok, so you’ve read it, and like me, see the glaring issues people have, when they stray from the straight up, literal (not woodenly literal) approach to letting scripture speak for itself. When you stray from what the scripture actually says, you have to go into creative-mode to start filling in what you want the text to say…which is highly subjective. This kind of interpretive approach is also called ‘eisegesis’ (reading into a text a meaning), and it by far has had the most far reaching and damaging effects not only upon eschatology, but on the unity of the Church. For instance;
– Imagine a business where everyone was allowed to interpret the rules of operation in their own way. How long would that business stay open?
– Imagine a hospital where the healthcare providers and doctors, all got to interpret standard medical procedures in their own way. How long before someone was killed or maimed?
The answer to both is, not very.
Point being, is that if we ran our society as we interpreted our Bibles, we’d quickly get to the point where everyone did what was right in their own eyes. That’s has another name for it, and it is called anarchy. So what we wouldn’t tolerate from a hospital or a business, we seemingly make little fuss over with what we believe God’s word says. This has allowed for the fracturing and splintering of the Protestant churches.
The opposite of eisegesis, is known as ‘exegesis’, where the reader pulls from the text what it actually says. The reader could then cross-reference their understanding of that passage with other passages that may be related. While not bringing every believer utilizing this in perfect harmony with each other, it considerably allows for greater harmony and consistency of interpretation. In other words, were all Christian’s to take a historical-grammatical-literal reading of the scriptures, there would be far fewer denominations and confusion over major doctrines.
So why do so many well-meaning Christians have such divergent views on the Bible? Well, I can tell you with 100% certainty that it’s not the Bible’s fault, but rather men’s interpretation of the Bible. This has a lot to do with our translations and understandings of the ancient languages. There are also things like ‘agendas’ and ‘biases’ that have been particularly effective in distorting particular doctrines such as eschatology. But the real question is, why would people even want to change the true meaning of the text?
I think at the root of it, is that people are inherently sinful (no brainer there). Furthermore, when you put sinful men and women in positions of power and authority, it more often than not, corrupts them even more and they begin focusing more on building up their little kingdoms in the here and now, and focusing less on the Kingdom to come. Take for instance, the Roman Catholic Church system.
The RCC dominated Christendom for the better part of a thousand years from the 6th-16th centuries. Roman Catholicism espoused an eschatological belief that the millennial kingdom was not really a 1,000 years, but was figuratively speaking of the eternal and ongoing reign of Christ…IN heaven. They got these views from a North African theologian named Augustine in the 4th century, who initially taught that a physical reign of Christ on the earth was far too carnal to be taken literally.
True to his Greco-Roman philosophical upbringing, Augustine looked for a deeper meaning beyond the plain meaning of Revelation 20 and other passages which speak of Christ ruling and reigning on the earth and through the use of allegorizing the text (eisegesis), he taught that the millennial reign was an ongoing spiritual one. He got a lot of his ideas from a 3rd century teacher named Origen, who was credited with being the first Christian theologian to begin seriously allegorizing scripture.
But if Christ was busy ruling in heaven, then Christ would “need” a man here on the earth to be His representative (according to their logic)…hence the title ‘vicar’ (think vicariously) of Christ was given to the Roman Catholic Pope. The pope was supposedly from the line of ascendency from the Apostles, and was supposed to be the sole representative of Christ here on the earth. If the pope is sitting on his papal throne, he is said to speak ‘ex-cathedra’, which means his words and statements are to be “infallible” and presumably from the mouth of God Himself. Given the historical flip-flopping and anti-Christian nature of more than a few ‘papal-bulls’, we know that they aren’t scriptural, and they weren’t from God. From the RCC we also got the atrocities from the Crusades and the Inquisition, and the profiteering from Indulgences for purgatory.
The Protestant Reformers, although making a well-deserved and long-overdue departure from the RCC in the 16th century, didn’t go far enough in righting the wrongs of the interpretative-distortions that had polluted much of Christendom. Although they got things like salvation right (soteriology), they neglected reforming other key doctrinal areas like ecclesiology (study of the Church) and eschatology (study of last things), thus carried over some of the same theological baggage from the RCC they had long sought to escape from. And while having the correct eschatology isn’t necessarily essential to one’s salvation, uncorrected error begets more error.
For instance, if you were a 17th century Lutheran, and you remained an Amillennialist, you would likely not see a distinction between the Church and Israel. At that time, Israel was not a nation again, so the likelihood of a national Israel seemed about as likely to happen, as Atlantis rising from the deep and taking her place amongst the nations again. But if you ignored the distinctions between the two, you either believed the Church superseded Israel, or replaced them altogether as God’s chosen. Out of this error, stems Supersessionism and Replacement Theology. And while not creating the Nazi propaganda, it certainly augmented the flawed logic behind it with the weight of historical gravitas from the likes of Martin Luther and others who grew to hate the Jew’s. Error begets error.
The rise of Dispensational thought in the 1800’s has been accused of many things as of late by critics who equate it’s explosion onto the scene with the same sentiments they have for the development of aberrant views such as Mormonism and Jehovah Witness movements. Yet, despite all their cantankerous rancor, all Dispensationalism really is, is a return to the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation without the overlaying of Protestant creeds and traditions (still wet with Catholicism). In so doing, Dispensationalist simply make note of the differing stages man has undergone while serving under an unchanging, and eternal God. Where progressive revelation was the driving force for the writing of Scripture, progressive illumination was the driving force for properly understanding said scripture in light of the totality of scripture and the unfolding of time.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4
Although the Bible has undergone numerous translational transitions (from Hebrew to Greek, Greek to Latin, Latin to German, English, Spanish, etc.) the original languages…Hebrew and Greek, have remained the bedrock of the standard we measure our interpretations from. While not the most captivating aspect of our Christian theology to analyze, hermeneutics (how we interpret the Bible) certainly has the widest and most profound reach in how we understand our faith. Abuses of hermeneutics led to the Dark Ages. It also led to the rising of divisions, schisms, cults, and other aberrant views that have permeated the last two thousand years of Christendom.
It is this very reason, that Christ told his disciples that “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:12-13) The Holy Spirit will guide us if we ask earnestly, and He will lead us into all truth. That truth, is not subject to our own private interpretations (2 Peter 1:20), but only that of God the Holy Spirit. Since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), but the author of communication, He has deemed the scriptures as His manner of communicating to us. We have neither the authority, nor the knowledge to begin inserting our own interpretations into what God has clearly laid out for us. If God had intended for each of us to cherry pick, wildly speculate, and allegorize His word, He wouldn’t have given us the scriptures we have, but something more akin to Nostradamus’s confusing Quatrains.
The Golden Rule of Interpretation – “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” – D.L. Cooper
Thus, the standard Christian’s must hold to in these waning moments of human history, is that the Bible is inerrant in all its themes and doctrines. It is inconsistent (dare I say double-minded) to say that the doctrine of salvation can be taken at face value, but eschatology cannot. When Jesus said “I am the door”, (John 10:9) Christ was using symbolism to convey that He alone, was the entrance to salvation. How then do people struggle when Christ is said to have a ‘double-edged’ sword proceeding from His mouth upon His return…when Scripture tells us that Word of God is sharper than any double edged sword? (Hebrews 4:12-13) The abuses of interpretation today by a growing majority of so-called “Evangelical” churches, who are promoting post-modernism, human secularism, political correctness, or other liberalistic ideologies, and so many others are intent on redefining God’s word to fit a culture who is in rapid decline. Their version of the Bible is about as accurate as the butchering of biblical stories by Hollywood because they lack the Holy Spirit who gives understanding of our supernatural and divinely inspired Holy Bible.
In their eyes, Noah was no more than an environmentalist; Moses was just a military leader; Jesus was just a good man secretly married to Mary Magdalene, the Bible is just another ‘holy book’ to be placed on the shelf next to the Koran and Hindu Vedas, and Armageddon is just an earth-killing asteroid. They are the blind leading the blind, and it is growing worse by the day.
And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
“Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” – Matthew 13:14-15