The Rapture’s in the Air: Part 1
By Pete Garcia
If you’ve ever been on an airplane departing from a busy terminal, maybe you’ve wondered how your 747 is able to punch into the clouds upon departure, and seemingly make the necessary turns and adjustments in the clouds to get you from point A to point B. Commercial flights almost always operate under what is known as Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). When flying IFR, the pilots don’t look outside except for takeoffs and landings, but in flight, they are solely reliant the navigation instruments to determine everything from airspeed, altimeter, navigation, and rate of climbs and descents. Likewise, they would also be receiving instructions from an Air Traffic Controlling (ATC) agency who is giving them commands on where and when to turn, when to climb or descend, or to maintain current headings and altitudes.
In IFR, there are different kinds of instrument approaches you can use, depending upon what kind of instruments your aircraft has available to it. One of the most common ones amongst aircraft, is the VHF Omnidirectional Range, or VOR. Without getting too technical, a VOR offers you direction, but doesn’t give you distance, unless it intersects with another VOR airway. The VOR itself sits on the ground usually near an airfield, and serves as a marker for your approach, should you need it in case of bad weather. Unique to a VOR, is the ‘cone of confusion’ you enter, as you pass overhead of the VOR. In other words, the closer you are to the actual navigation aid, the more sensitive your instruments become to it, causing rapid oscillations and false readings.
As both an aviator and a student of prophecy, I can’t help but draw the parallels between the increasingly vitriolic attacks on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine, and this ‘cone of confusion’. I am of the firm conviction that the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is the only biblical eschatological position regarding the timing of the Rapture, and as evidence to its validity, the increasing hostility towards it, and the confusion on the subject, means we must be very close indeed.
The truth is, the Rapture of the Church is going to happen whether we like it or not. The Rapture of the Church is in effect, the victory ‘ticker tape’ parade through Satan’s domain where Christ our Redeemer, escorts us to our new heavenly abode. Yet, before He does this, the dead are resurrected and the living are instantaneously translated into immortal bodies. It will also happen in accordance to the way Scripture says it will, which is before the seven year Tribulation begins. So think about it this way…Jesus is returning, and He is giving us ‘superman’ type bodies, and we get to leave this crummy, sin-ridden world…and “Christian’s” are angry about this? That dog don’t hunt.
It strikes me as odd that the level of anger and vitriol which is leveled against those of us who hold the Pre-Trib view, especially coming from other “Christians”. It seems that a lot of folk are apprehensive and irritated that Christ would have the audacity to return without their say-so. Again, with all the savagery directed at us “Pre-Tribber’s”, you’d think we were attempting to add a fourth deity to the Trinity or something. When you boil it down, the encapsulated inside the Pre-Trib view is the following:
– That Christ ushers in His Kingdom, not men
– The Church is NOT Israel, nor is the Tribulation for the Church
– That God delivers His Bride (the Church) before He pours out His wrath on the earth
– That God’s wrath begins with the first Seal Judgment
What has become fashionable as of late, primarily amongst critics of the Pre-Trib view, is to issue financial taunts in the form of the “$10,000-You Can’t Find One Pre-Trib Verse” challenge. While even though we do offer verses which are Pre Trib in nature, the fact remains that their challenge is disingenuous at best, and outright blasphemous at worst. Either way, they won’t pay, or can’t pay, and offer only interpretational excuses so as to discredit any verse we do offer as evidence. But, we have something greater than a single verse, we have the entire canon of Scripture, both Old and New, which verifies and testifies to God’s faithfulness in regards to His judgments. Besides, we already know the answer to the pivotal question Abraham presented on the plains of Mamre when he asked the Lord, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? (Gen. 18:23)
We can rest assured that our view, still and always will be, the only biblical version of the “Blessed Hope”. Although I will not be able to address all four of these in a single sitting, they will be addressed, and hopefully in a manner that piques your interest to search these things out for yourself. The following represent popular areas of contention:
1. The definition of wrath
2. Who’s who in the Tribulation
3. The identity of the Restrainer
Wrath v. Deliverance
And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. Luke 17:26-30
First and foremost, a believer’s supernatural deliverance in Scripture, is in direct relationship to the size and scope of God’s judgment. In describing the time just before His return, Jesus uses both Noah’s and Lot’s day as examples for what it would look like in the Day prior to His return. In Noah’s time, the common argument against the Pre-Trib view is that Noah had to endure the Flood via the Ark…thus, the Rapture must be Post-Tribulational.
While it is true that Noah and family endured the wrath whilst floating safely on the Ark, maybe we should take a moment to consider that Noah and family’s removal from the earth wasn’t necessary. After all, God’s plan wasn’t to destroy the world itself, or why would He have Noah save the animals? Since their permanent removal wasn’t a part of God’s program, He preserved them through the flood, so they could repopulate the earth after the flood waters receded. (Gen 9) The Ark then was simply the mechanism of deliverance, which allowed for Noah’s escape through and above the flood waters. A true picture of the Pre-Trib Rapture, would be Enoch’s mysterious rapture prior to Noah’s day. (Gen. 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5-6)
Subsequently in Lot’s day, deliverance this time was not thru the judgment, but away from it. Since the judgment was limited to just the two wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, His warning came before the judgment, and judgment was withheld until he left with his family. In this instance, Lot and his family’s deliverance was in their departure from the cities before fire rained down. (Gen. 19)
But in either example Christ used, deliverance was before the judgment that fell, not during or afterwards. So a consistent understanding of deliverance, reads prior-to the divine judgment being issued out. Again, when God pours out His wrath, He faithfully removes the righteous first.
So what then defines wrath? Merriam-Webster defines it this way:
1: strong vengeful anger or indignation
2: retributory punishment for an offense or a crime: divine chastisement
Jesus, in the Upper Room Discourse, was pretty pointed in stating that in this life, we would have trials, tribulation, and be hated by all nations for His name’s sake. (John 14-16) Christ then prays for Himself, His disciples, and then all of us in the following chapter (17) for strength and deliverance in the form of perseverance to become overcomer’s. This is in keeping with the biblical construct that, the world is currently under Satan’s temporary management, and he’s got the whole system rigged against us. (Luke 4:4-6, John 14:30, Eph. 2:2, 1 John 5:19)
Likewise, nowhere in the New Testament are believers promised respite in this life, because we (the servants) are not greater than the Master (Jesus Christ). If they hated and killed Him, we will not be immune from it. The fact that the western world has embraced Christianity to one degree or another, isn’t necessarily a good thing. On the one hand, it has reduced physical persecution here in the west for a brief period of time, but only because Satan is working something far more nefarious in the forms of division and corruption.
Frankly, we should be more frightened if the world comes to love us, because that means our doctrine has really strayed from the course. (2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 2-3, Jude, Rev. 2-3) In regards to Eschatological views, simply look at which views the world will tolerate, and which they won’t for another indicator of Biblical validity. To date, I believe that the Pre-Tribulation view is the most hated. So if Satan runs this world, and He hates the things that God loves, well, you get the point.
However, these trials and tribulations we undergo in this age, does not presuppose that God’s judgments are equal and/or on the same level as satanically inspired persecution. God allows it, but only to a certain degree, and only to further accomplish His plan. But these are not divine wrath. In other words, as long as there are Christians and Jews on this earth, and as long as Satan is allowed to run loose, there will be persecution against God’s people so long as He allows it. Christian’s have faced persecution in every generation, and on almost every corner of this planet for the past 2,000 years. IF Christian persecution were the only barometer for deliverance, Christ would have returned millennia ago.
But it is not. Persecution, corruption, suppression, and censorship are simply a part of everyday life here on planet earth…just as Jesus said it would be. The aforementioned are NOT what THE Tribulation is about. In fact, The Tribulation isn’t even really the name of the time period we are dealing with, but is referred to it as such in common vernacular. We are in fact dealing with the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7-11), which is also known as the 70th Week of Daniel. (Daniel 9:24-27)
Who’s who in the Tribulation?
The problem with trying to fit the Church into the seven year Tribulation, is that the Church has no role to play in it. It would be like trying to fit the cast and plot of Benny and the Jets, into The Sound of Music….it just don’t fit. If we are to understand first, who and what the 70th Week is for, then that point would become very evident that it has nothing to do with the Church. So let’s see what the Tribulation is for, and then who is who inside the confines of it. From Jeremiah 30:7, 11:
7 Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it…
…11 For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you;
Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you,
Yet I will not make a complete end of you.
But I will correct you in justice,
And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’
As any student of the Bible should know, Jacob was given the new name Israel by the Lord in Genesis 32:28. In fact, it is the first time the word ‘Israel’ is used in the entire bible. In Jeremiah’s passage, God makes three unassailable points:
1. This is the time of Israel’s trouble
2. God will make a ‘full end’ of the nations, in which national Israel has been scattered too
3. God will punish (discipline), but not destroy Israel
Given the entire context of these verses, the time of Tribulation is what is in context here and is still yet future (since nations still exist). Ask yourself then, in light of the entire chapter,
– Where does the Church in which Christ built, fit in?
– Does the Church (the Bride of Christ) still need to be corrected in justice?
– Does the Bride of Christ still need punishment?
– Where is the Church mentioned in these passages?
Maybe that should be the $10,000 question?
Part II next week.
Until then, MARANATHA!