Answering Questions About the Rapture: Escape or Prepare
By Nathan Jones
Are those who believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture just a bunch of escapists who are afraid of suffering during the Tribulation?
This and other questions about the Rapture sent in to us were answered by Dr. David Reagan, Nathan Jones, and Tim Moore on our television program Christ in Prophecy.
Nathan Jones: They’re asking if Christians should stay on the earth and suffer through the Tribulation in order to prove that they are “real” Christians?
Dr. Reagan: Didn’t Jesus say that Christians are to pray to escape? He said in Luke 21:36, “Watch, therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Nathan Jones: Yes, true, but I think the interpretive problem here is we get confused when we look at the word tribulation in the Bible, and it is little “t” which means Christians will suffer at the hands of man for being a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus warned His followers that we will suffer because the world first hated Him. But, we’re not talking about little “t” sufferings here, rather we are talking about a time period with a capital “T” called the Tribulation. This coming time period will be like the Flood in that it’s all about God’s wrath being unleashed upon the world. The big “T” Tribulation will also concern God’s wrath. There’s an important difference there between everyday little “t” sufferings and big “T” God’s wrath.
Tim Moore: There are many examples where Jesus warns His followers to pray to escape the wrath that is to come. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul reminds the believer in Christ that we are not destined for destruction, rather only those who are unable to escape because they live in darkness. No, Christians are the sons of light and of day, not of darkness. Other passages show the example of Noah and the example of Lot, where God demonstrated that before destruction falls — before God pours out His wrathful judgments — that He takes those of His who are credited as righteousness out before He releases His wrath so that they will not suffer the same fate as those who dwell in darkness.
Will those who have heard the Gospel before the Rapture and rejected it have no hope of accepting Christ during the Tribulation?
Dr. Reagan: I’ve heard people say that if you’ve heard the Gospel before the Rapture and rejected it that you’ll have no hope of responding to it during the Tribulation. That’s a very controversial statement.
Tim Moore: I think that there’s a difference of perspective here. I know that will be a very difficult question to answer. A person who has hardened their heart to the Gospel before the Rapture, why would their heart be softened after the Rapture?
Dr. Reagan: Possibly from knowing that they’re probably going to be killed at some point by God’s wrath?
Tim Moore: I chalk this up to what Ezekiel had to say when the Lord asked, “Can these bones live?” My answer to this question is, “Only the Lord knows.” Only God knows because His Spirit will still be at work during the Tribulation touching the hearts of individuals. And so, only God knows. I will leave it up to His discretion.
Nathan Jones: 2 Thessalonians 2 seems to indicate that people who have heard the Gospel before the Rapture will have no chance of being saved afterwards. But, in Revelation we read about millions and millions of people who will be saved during the Tribulation, so we know the Gospel will continue to spread during that time. Those like Pharaoh who have set their hearts against God will continue to do so, even after seeing such a miracle as the Rapture, and so the Lord will give them a delusion because they choose to believe the lie. For those lost souls, it would appear their own hard hearts condemned them.
How should people prepare for the Rapture?
Dr. Reagan: Let’s first answer that question with unbelievers in mind.
Nathan Jones: If you are an unbeliever, in other words, you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and you haven’t repented of your sins and turned to Him, then I have to ask, just what are you waiting for? You know that the Tribulation is coming. You know that when you die Hell awaits you as the punishment for your sins. What is holding you back from accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. He took your punishment onto Himself. And, when you accept that truth in faith and repentance, you will be saved. Pray from your heart something like, “Dear, Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and be my Lord and Savior.” And, He’ll do just that. Your sins will be forgiven, the guilt will be gone, and you will inherit eternal life in Heaven.
Dr. Reagan: And how should believers prepare?
Tim Moore: It is very important for believers in Christ to understand that our time is short. Therefore, we have to be serious about living for the Lord today. That means living holy lifestyles and being urgent in evangelism. We don’t have the promise of even another day, so we need to be ready for Christ’s return by looking for our Blessed Hope.
This is proven in Titus where Paul says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The Lord Himself in Luke 21:28 made the same point that we should be living looking for His soon return. We should be “straightening up,” if you will.
Finally, I’ll point out in Mark 13:33 that Jesus Christ warned, “Take heed, keep on the alert, for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” As He promised Abraham, there has been an appointed time set. As we wait for Jesus Christ to return and rapture up His Church, live right now for Jesus Christ each and every day.
Dr. Reagan: On your point, if a person ever would truly believe, not with their head but with their heart, that Jesus is coming back and that it could happen at any moment, why that knowledge just motivates people to holiness and to evangelism. We need to emphasize the fact that there’s not anything people can do to earn their own salvation, because Satan’s greatest trick that he’s pulled on people throughout history is to try to convince them that they have to earn their own salvation. “You’ve got to work to get to Heaven. You’ve got to earn your salvation.” But, the Bible says that’s just not true.
Nathan Jones: Jesus did the only work that matters — the saving work on the cross.
Dr. Reagan: Yes! One of my favorite pastors, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, often says, “Every religion in the world except Christianity is spelled D-O, do. Only Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It was all done for us on the cross.” There, on the cross, Jesus declared, “It is finished!”