Why Are There So Many Views of the Rapture?
By Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon
Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Thanks for tuning in.
Currently in this main segment of Search the Scriptures Daily, we’re having an ongoing discussion of Dave Hunt’s book, When Will Jesus Come? Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ.
Dave, for the last couple of weeks, as you know, we talked about the birth and formation of the church and why it must be removed in an event called the Rapture. And last week you went over some of the biblical support for the Rapture, and we talked about the controversy generated by those whose theology and eschatology can’t reconcile a removal of the church, and they actually see the church taking over the world. Now, before you address that, what about the numerous views of the Rapture?
Now, here are some choices: there’s a pre-Tribulation Rapture, a mid-Tribulation Rapture, a post-Trib Rapture, a pre-wrath Rapture, and a partial Rapture, and that doesn’t mean they only get halfway to heaven. Have I left out any beliefs about the Rapture?
Dave: Well, I think the amillennial belief—and, Tom, it varies depending on who defines it, but there really isn’t any Rapture.
Tom: In the amillennial view.
Dave: Mm-hmm. “Ah-”, or “a-”, like a-theist: against God, denial of God—a-millennial: against the Millennium, denies the Millennium. Although some of them would say—it does get confusing—some of them would say we’re in the Millennium now, even though we don’t see lambs lying down with lions, unless they’re in their stomachs.
Dave: And we must be in the slums if this is the Millennium.
But anyway, we believe pre-Trib means the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation. Amillennial view is there is no Rapture. We are already in—well, they don’t say the Tribulation. I don’t know how we got through that, but we’re already in the Millennium.
Tom: Probably 70 AD.
Dave: Could be. So, pre-Trib, before the Tribulation; mid-Trib, of course, in the middle of the Tribulation; post-Trib, after the Tribulation. But again, amillennial, they don’t believe in a Rapture at all, and I don’t find when they believe in a Tribulation.
So here we are. We are—well, some of them would say we’re in the Millennium, but amillennial means against the Millennium, denial. They certainly deny a thousand-year Millennium. That the church now, they say, as you’ve mentioned, is in the process of taking over the world. We’re going to take over the media, take over the schools, and so forth, government. And we’re going to turn this world into a Christian place, and when we have really established the kingdom of God on earth, which is what they believe (the Reconstructionists especially), then Christ will return to take over the kingdom that we’ve established. Not what the Bible says. Only Christ can establish the kingdom. In fact, in Acts 1—I think we read it last week—the disciples said, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Doesn’t sound like the church is going to restore the kingdom, but they think—these people think they will.
So they don’t believe in a Rapture or a Millennium, and we’re just going on till things will get gradually better, and then Christ will return, and apparently it’s heaven on earth.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Two of these other items: some believe in a pre-wrath Rapture, meaning that the Rapture will take place prior to—what—usually halfway through the seven years of tribulation, three and a half years into it, when God pours out His wrath against the world in judgment. So they don’t believe the church will go through that, so it’s called the pre-wrath Rapture.
Tom: And then there’s—well, there’s a partial Rapture, meaning that only those Christians (this is the way I’ve heard it), only those who are worthy, who are…those who are fruitful and productive, and the hundredfolders, or the sixtyfolders…
Dave: Really walking with the Lord.
Tom: Right. Only those individuals will be Raptured, and the others…Is there any biblical support for those views?
Dave: No, Tom. Well, let’s take the partial Rapture—and then there’s the related one, that Christ will only return when the church is cleaned up. We’re back to 1st Century purity. Well, the obvious problem with that is how about the people who were taken to heaven? Paul makes no exceptions: “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Well, the church wasn’t cleaned up before they died. Even these people don’t believe that. They think we’re going to get cleaned up when we get to heaven. But why should we have to get cleaned up before we get to heaven in order to join, in heaven, people who didn’t get cleaned up until they got to heaven at the Judgment Seat of Christ? So it makes no sense.
And the idea that we are going to establish the kingdom and then welcome the King here, that’s just…I don’t know how you could be so proud as to imagine that we could set up the kingdom without the King! No, Christ is going to have to do it. And so, as I quoted, the disciples said, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
So, Tom, there are a number of problems, but let me mention a major problem: if Jesus Christ really is going to catch us up—it’s what it says…
Tom: First Thessalonians.
Dave: Right, chapter 4 beginning at verse 13! And Christ said in John 14, “I’ll come again and receive you unto myself.” Sounds like He’s going to gather them up. And He says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I’m going to take you there,” all right? Now, if that’s the case, and we have Christians who are looking forward to meeting Jesus, not in the air, but with their feet planted on planet Earth, when He has come to take over the kingdom they’ve established, you know whose kingdom that is? They’ve been working for Antichrist, not Christ. And Satan must establish his kingdom on this earth before the Second Coming, because 2 Thessalonians 2, beginning maybe verse 8 or 9, Paul writes (of the Antichrist now), he writes, “Then He who now restrains…” we talked about that last week, “will restrain until He’s taken out of the way.” That’s the Holy Spirit indwelling the believers, and the Rapture will take us all out of the way. “Then shall that wicked be revealed.”
So people shouldn’t waste their time trying to figure out who the Antichrist is, because he can’t be revealed until the church is removed. “Then shall that wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” And with the word of His power, the Lord is going to destroy him. So in other words, there’s no Second Coming until Antichrist sets up his kingdom.
Now, if you’re looking forward…And anyone out there listening, you think you’re going to establish the kingdom, and then you will welcome Christ, and your feet will be planted on planet Earth—He hasn’t come to take you to heaven, He’s come to rule over the kingdom you’ve established for Him—you are not working for Jesus Christ who will catch us up. We will meet Him in the air. But you are working for Satan and Antichrist, who indeed will have a kingdom prior to the Second Coming of Christ, and the Lord will destroy him with the brightness of His coming. So it’s just a sad delusion, but it’s more than just a little difference in eschatology, I think. Some very important issues here.
Tom: Yeah, and they are important, Dave, although some people say, “Well, I believe in a…” What do they call it? Not a pan-Rapture…
Dave: No, “It’ll all pan out in the end.”
Tom: Yeah, it’s all going to pan out in the end. No matter what you believe, you’re going when the Lord says you’re going. At the same time, there are some issues about “blessed assurance” and expectation. We’ve talked about these in the past couple of weeks. So on the one hand, we would say, no, it’s not an issue in which should bring division among believers in churches, and so on…
Dave: Salvation isn’t dependent upon this view.
Tom: No, it’s not. On the other hand, there are so many verses that deal with the Rapture…and again, we are to occupy, we are to be ready for His coming, expect it at all times, look forward to it—it is the blessed hope! It’s something that, as we mentioned, I think, last week or the week before, that my motivation for living in Christ is an expectancy that He’s coming any moment!
Tom: And there’s wonderful joy, there’s excitement in that. And it’s…I don’t care how long it takes, if you love somebody and you’re growing in your love for them, and you can’t wait for them to be here, to come, you’re going to really be fruitful in your life! There’s no way around it. So it’s not an escapist theory, it’s not a “Well, now I don’t have to worry about my mortgage payments,” and all of that. It’s a matter of being fruitful in your life, motivated by a love for Him.
Dave: Mm-hmm. And this shows—I don’t want to get ahead of you, but it shows a difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming. The Rapture, as you said, could come at any moment. Second Coming cannot come until Antichrist is revealed.
Now, the pre-wrath, their theory is that, “Well, Antichrist has to come, and we’ve got to face him. We’re not going to get off totally free,” you know. Look at the suffering that Christians in Nazi Germany went through over there, under Mao Tse-tung, and so forth. So we’re going to have to face the Antichrist. And then, only then, can the Rapture occur. Well, the Bible doesn’t say, “Looking for the Antichrist,” it says, “At such an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Now, if the Antichrist must come first, we’re not looking for Christ, we’re looking for Antichrist.
Furthermore, the imminency—the teaching of imminency has been destroyed. Jesus said in Luke 12, for example, He said, “Let your loins be girded, your lights burning, and you [yourselves] like those who watch for their Lord.” He could come at any moment. Again, Jesus said, “At such an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Well, if He’s going to come right after the Antichrist, then that could hardly surprise me. Or if He’s going to come at the end of the Great Tribulation when the world’s practically destroyed and all the nations of the world are surrounding Israel, about to bring her down, that could hardly be a surprise. “Oh, well, I don’t think the Lord’s going to come now.”
So, if the Antichrist must come first, we’ve lost the element of surprise. I’m not looking for Christ, but when I see Antichrist, then I’ll shape up and look for Christ to come. So there are some serious practical consequences in our lives also. If Christ could come at any moment, that will have a powerful effect upon me, much more powerful than if I believe, “Well, He can’t come until this happens, or until that happens.” And in fact, twice at least in the gospels, once in Matthew 24—I think it’s verse 45, somewhere around there—and in Luke also, Christ says, “And what and if that wicked servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming…” Because He’s talking about a master who has left his slaves in charge; he’s gone into a far country to receive a kingdom, and Jesus says, “Some servants might say, ‘Well, my lord is not here now! What if he delays his coming? Well, then I’ll just live as I please.’”
So 1 John says, “Everyone that has this hope in him purifies himself.” The hope of an imminent Rapture has a purifying effect in my life. I don’t want to get caught doing something I shouldn’t be doing. But the thought of a delay, then that lets me maybe have a little time to get involved in things I shouldn’t be involved in, and then when Antichrist appears, then I’ll clean up my life and get ready for the Rapture. So there is some practical importance to these different views.
Tom: Sure. And, Dave, that’s one of the byproducts, if you will, of faith. You’re going to do, in most cases, what you believe. So consequently, perhaps the most popular of these views, you would think it would be the pre-Trib, pre-Millennial Rapture…
Dave: You’d think so!
Tom: …because of expectation, any time. But really, Scripture says that’s going to go on the wane. Fewer and fewer people are going to believe that. But the most popular view, I would think, would be the post-Tribulation view, and we’ve seen the product of that belief. I know men in ministries who have looked to issues of catastrophe, wars, something like that, and said, “This is it!” because they’re looking for the Tribulation. And they say we have to go through the Tribulation, and their concern is that if you don’t believe that view, you’re not going to be prepared to go through the Tribulation!
Dave: Yeah. There again, Tom, you touch on something important: the critics of the pre-Trib imminency say, “Well, now, wait a minute—if you are so confident that you’re not going to face Antichrist, suppose Antichrist comes but he pretends to be Christ. You could be deceived!” Well, simple logic: Antichrist could never deceive me into thinking he was Christ unless he could catch me up off of this earth and take me to the Father’s house of many mansions! Why would I imagine that some guy who comes along here and wants me to follow him, and he’s setting up a kingdom, an earthly kingdom—he’s going to give me a big job in this kingdom, seems to have all kinds of power (all the power of Satan)—why should I imagine that he is the Christ who the Bible says will catch us up and we’ll meet Him in the air? So that’s one simple criteria that just eliminates anybody else.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, skeptics…the view, or the view that doesn’t take seriously anymore, and even is critical of, a pre-Trib Rapture—what kind of effect is that having on the body of Christ today?
Dave: Well, Paul said, Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God our Savior, Jesus Christ.” I don’t see how I can be in that attitude of anticipation of the coming of Christ if the Antichrist has to come first! I just quoted John, who said, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself.” If I’m expecting that Christ could come at any moment, I’m going to live a pure life; and if I don’t think He’s going to come for a long time, or if I don’t think He can come until Antichrist appears…
Furthermore, in 2 Timothy 4, Paul says that—well, let me quote him: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I’ve kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.”
Well now, just a little simple logic: there is a special reward, special crown for those who love His appearing. End of the Great Tribulation: this world is practically destroyed; the world police are on your tail. You’re running as fast as you can, hiding, eating out of garbage pails, and if they catch you, they’re going to kill you. And you’re joyful, anticipating, really looking forward—you really love the appearing of Christ? I don’t think there would be a special reward for that! What else would you want?
But if the stock market is going up, your investments are gathering momentum, you’ve bought a house a few years ago and wow! it’s getting higher and higher in value! Business is going well, family’s going well, you get to take your vacations and so forth, and then you love His appearing? I think there would be a special reward for that. And certainly not loving His appearing at the end of the Great Tribulation, or even in the middle of the Great Tribulation, but loving His appearing when there is so much else that should be attractive to you, but you turn your back on it and you want to be with Christ in heaven. So there again is a powerful argument for a pre-Trib, certainly not for a post-Trib.
Tom: Right. Dave, I’ve heard people say, “Well, you know, you don’t want to be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” Well, that’s a problem! I mean, we could take that apart. But the point I’m making here is focus of the Rapture is on heaven, it’s not on the earth! And I think that’s why some people take exception to it.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Tom, it almost sends chills up and down my spine when I’m at a church and the pastor wants to explain to me his five-year plan, ten-year plan, and it almost gives me chills when people say, “Well now, tomorrow we’re going to go and do this,” or whatever. James says, “You who say, ‘Tomorrow we’ll go into the city and buy and sell and get gain,’ you don’t know your life is but a vapor! You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Tom, I can truthfully say this: I cannot remember the last time I heard a pastor or the elders, people in a church, say, “If the Lord has not come. We’re going to do this if the Lord has not come. If He spares us.” I wouldn’t talk about ten minutes from now except if the Lord spares us, if the Lord hasn’t taken us out of here. But that seems to be sort of a disturbing thought for many people. It would interrupt plans…
Tom: Accomplishments, Dave. People say, “Well, I’d really like to experience this, I want to accomplish that,” and so on. What kind of trade-off is that with heaven?
Dave: Jesus said if you gain the whole world and lose your soul, it’s a bad deal, of course. And to imagine that instead of being heavenly minded, as you say, instead of seeking heaven and those things that are above where Christ sits at the right hand of God, instead of that, I’m eager for the things of this world, all that is in the world…we quoted last week, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, but that’s what I want!” No, when I get really old…Tom, I’m not old yet, I hope you know that. I haven’t even reached 80, not for another couple of months!
Tom: Can’t argue with that, Dave!
Dave: But when I get old, you know, and I don’t have much appetite, and I’m not really interested in this and that, or if I’m confined to a hospital bed or, you know, I can’t do much—boy! It would be wonderful if Christ would come then, wouldn’t it? But no, when I’m younger and having a lot of fun, and building my kingdom and doing what I want to do, I don’t want Christ to come now. It would interrupt my plans. That is the attitude of many, Tom. They don’t say it in so many words, but they really live it.
Program Number: 1952