The Revelations of Paul and the Mystery of the Rapture By Randy Nettles Did Jesus…
I Still Believe in Jesus’ Imminent Appearing
By Jonathan C. Brentner
I feel like I have awakened in the midst of a dystopian nightmare. The horror movies that I have avoided in the past have suddenly become reality.
The nation I love teeters on the brink of an economic ruin unlike anything in our history. It’s difficult to know if America will fall as the result of an internal implosion or an external attack, but one or the other seems likely in the coming years, if not much sooner, apart from a major change of direction away from the murder of innocents, the LBGTQ movement that destroys the lives of so many children, and the rampant lawlessness at the highest levels of our government that obstructs justice for so many and rewards the guilty.
It’s more than a little easy these days to fall into despair and wonder if Jesus is really coming for us anytime soon. Are there not days when it seems as though we are already experiencing Tribulation conditions?
At a time of great discouragement and much heartache in my distant past, I focused on biblical promises and wrote several reasons in my journal of why I still believed in the Lord in spite of my awful circumstances. Perhaps it’s time for another declaration of faith, this time concerning why I still believe that Jesus will come for us before the start of the Tribulation.
I still believe in a pretribulation Rapture!! I say this because of these biblical truths.
Premillennialism is a Biblical Certainty
Any case for a pretribulation Rapture must begin with the biblical certainty of premillennialism, which includes beliefs in a literal seven-year Tribulation, the return of Jesus to setup His thousand-year reign on the earth, and the glorious future restoration of a kingdom for Israel. One cannot get to a pretribulation Rapture if one begins by denying these basic scriptural truths.
Those who reject such truths utilize allegory, which retrofits biblical prophecy with interpretations foreign to the purpose of the authors at the time they wrote. Because belief in Jesus’ imminent appearing depends on interpreting passages according to their meaning at the time the Lord inspired them, coding passages with symbolic meanings blocks all paths to convictions regarding this hope.
I wrote about my conviction regarding this in another post, 7 Reasons Why Premillennialism is a Biblical Necessity.
The Church and Israel Are Separate Entities
Another fundamental error made by amillennial pastors (those who deny the glorious restoration of Israel) is that of equating Israel with the church. If one starts with the assumption that Israel and the church are the same entity, it again washes out the road to a pretribulation Rapture.
If one errs in confusing the two, then seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27 becomes a moot point. However, since there’s coming a time when God is going to deal with Israel to bring about the repentance that the prophet Zechariah wrote about in 12:10-13:1, then it makes perfect sense for the Lord to remove His church before this time begins and turn His attention to bringing the Israelites to salvation.
There are still many more reasons why I still believe in a pretribulation rapture.
The Rapture Cannot be the Same Event as the Second Coming
Once we establish premillennialism and reject the misleading allegorical interpretations of biblical prophecy that confuse the church with Israel, it becomes clear that the Rapture and Second Coming are distinct, separate events. They cannot occur at the same time.
With the Rapture, the resurrection of the dead in Christ happens first; but when Jesus returns to the earth, the resurrection of Tribulation saints happens after a series of many time-consuming events; it may not even occur on the same day as the Second Coming. This is just one of many key differences.
Since there is a millennium, which we established as essential to even begin making a case for a pretribulation Rapture, this necessitates that a separation of time must exist between the two events so that tribulation believers can enter the Lord’s kingdom in their natural bodies. If the Rapture and Second Coming are the same, then all believers would receive resurrected glorified bodies. If this is the case, then who does Jesus rule over with a rod of iron (Psalm 2)?
Jesus’ Promise to the Church at Philadelphia
During the past several months, Jesus’ promise to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:10-11a has risen in importance regarding my conviction that the Lord is coming for us before the Tribulation begins.
“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon.”
Please notice that the “trial” Jesus refers to is not a persecution of the church; it’s something that comes upon “the whole world.” Because most of the following chapters in Revelation describe a time of God’s wrath on the earth, I believe they depict the “trial” that will someday impact the entire planet (chapter 6-18).
The next phrase, “those who dwell on the earth” also emphasizes that this time of tribulation is not for the New Testament church. John uses this phrase eight other times in the book of Revelation (6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8–12, 14; 14:6; and 17:8) and in each and every occurrence after Revelation 3:10, it refers to either people impacted by the Tribulation or to those refusing to repent of their sins during it.
John never refers to the church as being on the earth during this time, but instead uses this phrase to identify people living during the Tribulation.
Jesus’ words, “I am coming soon,” depicts the quickness of his appearing rather than nearness in the sense of time. Jesus will deliver us from this global time of wrath by taking us to heaven (John 14:2-3). Why would He refer to His coming in this context if not to keep His church out of the “trial” that will impact the entire planet, the tribulation?
The New Testament Posture of Imminency
New Testament passages that refer to Jesus’ return for His church have one prominent theme in common: They characterize it as the eager anticipation of the saints. In other words, they regarded Jesus’ appearing as something imminent that could happen at any time.
In Philippians 3:20–21 Paul wrote:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.”
The Greek word for “await” in verse 20 points to an “intense anticipation” or an “excited expectation” of a future event.
In 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul used the same Greek word for “wait” as he did in Philippians 3:20 to indicate his readers’ heartfelt longing for Jesus’ appearing, “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Despite the immaturity of the saints in Corinth, they excitedly awaited Jesus’ return for them.
In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul prayed, “Our Lord, come.” The word for this phrase in the original text is the Aramaic maranatha. This signifies “a petition to Christ that He should return now — at any moment. Paul used it in this letter to Greek-speaking (mostly Gentile) Christians in Corinth because it expressed an idea that had become universal in the early church. Christ could come at any moment, and Christians called upon him to do so.” The early church belief in imminency became a prayer for Jesus to appear in the immediate future.
The Grief of the Thessalonians
A close look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 reveals the recipients of Paul’s letter not only believed that the Rapture could happen in their lifetime, but mistakenly assumed that it would happen before they died.
We see this in the way that Paul addresses the unnecessary grieving of the new converts in Thessalonica over the deaths of some in their midst.
If their grief had stemmed from a lack of belief in the future resurrection of their loved ones, Paul would have responded in much the same way that he addressed this issue with those in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians chapter 15). Instead, he attributes their sorrow to a lack of information about the Rapture rather than an absence of faith in the promise of a future resurrection.
The apostle answers their lingering sadness by giving them further revelation regarding the Rapture, emphasizing the role of the “dead in Christ” during Jesus’ appearing (1 Thessalonians 4:13–16). Not only would their departed loved ones not miss the Rapture, but they would also be the first participants in it.
Paul’s emphasis in these verses reveals the source of the problem: The Thessalonians mistakenly thought that the dead in Christ would miss out on the joy of the Rapture.
“God has Not Destined Us for Wrath”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:2–3, Paul tells his readers that the start of the Day of the Lord will surprise people on the earth “like a thief in the night” with its “sudden destruction” from which “they will not escape.” The day of Lord, primarily Old Testament term, refers to an extended time of the Lord’s wrath on the earth leading up to and including Jesus’ return and His reign over the nations.
If the day of the Lord began at any time after the seal judgments of Revelation 6 commence, this day wouldn’t catch anyone by surprise. No one will be saying “peace and security” (v. 3) after the pestilences, famines, pandemics, and wars of the seal judgments kill one-fourth of the earth’s population, perhaps as many as two billion people.
Furthermore, in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, the apostle assures his readers, and us, that we will not experience this time of God’s judgment upon the earth: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since the seal judgments are a part of God’s wrath, the Lord must come for us before they begin.
This promise seals the deal for me, but there’s much more behind why I still believe in Jesus’ appearing before the seven-year Tribulation.
The Need for Witnesses During the Tribulation
If the church remains on the earth during the Tribulation, why is there a need for other witnesses to the saving message of the gospel?
In a radio interview with Jan Markell on November 7, 2020, someone questioned the need for the two witnesses of Revelation 11:1–13 if the church remains present on earth at the start of the Tribulation. Isn’t it the job of the church to bear witness to the good news during this current age?
In Revelation 14:6–7, John adds this:
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Why does the Lord need to send an angel to proclaim the gospel to people on the earth during the Tribulation if the church is present on the earth? This only makes sense with the absence of the church during this time. Otherwise, it would remain the task of believers to fulfill the Great Commission.
What about the 144,000 Jews that God will seal during the Tribulation (Revelation 7:1–8), whom many believe will act as evangelists during that time? And, if the church is still present on the earth during the Tribulation period, there could be no distinction between believing Jews and other New Testament saints (Colossians 3:11).
The sealing of the 144,000 witnesses tells us the church cannot be present on the earth during the time in which they serve the Lord. Otherwise, they would be a part of the church that is already sealed by the Holy Spirit in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14).
I could mention many other reasons why I still believe that all who know Jesus as their Savior will miss the entire seven-year Tribulation, but perhaps the above items are sufficient for now.
I realize that since the majority of my readers are aware of the nearness of the new world order along with the events paving the way to it, I do not have write anything more about the precarious times in which we live. You, like me, already see the grave dangers that underlie the headlines of our day and do not fall for the lies of the mainstream media, although many Christians do and remain unaware of the times in which they live.
I find tremendous reassurance and comfort in the fact that Jesus could snatch me out of this world at any moment and change my body into one that’s imperishable and glorious (Philippians 3:20-21). Yes, I may experience difficult times and great persecution in my remaining time on earth, but I know that I will miss the terrors or the Tribulation.
Can there be any greater hope or encouragement as we face a lawless and violent world? I don’t think so! Paul did not instruct the Thessalonians to “encourage one another” with the truths of Jesus’ appearing because they would have to endure the day of the Lord wrath, but did so because they would miss the terror of that coming time.
Yes, I still believe in a pretribulation Rapture of the church. I feel much better already!
Difficult days may lie ahead for me, but I will not face God’s outpouring of wrath in the coming Tribulation period.
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