пятница, 4 апреля 2014 г.

When the going gets tough, the tough get raptured? (Unanswered questions regarding the doctrine of a pre-tribulational rapture.)

Since the Biblical scholar, Darby, first taught the secret rapture in 1830 there has been a teaching in the evangelical church that the second coming of Christ will be preceded by a seven-year period of suffering and judgment ('the Great Tribulation') and that at the start of this period Christ will come 'for his saints' removing all regenerate Christians from the world.

This is based on the book of Daniel (the 70th seven) and on the book of Revelation (two periods of 3.5 years). The doctrine of a secret rapture is based on the following Scriptures: Matthew 25:40-41 (Luke 17:26-37), 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Phil.3:21; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 3:10; 12:5.

In some circles this teaching is not only held, but is considered a litmus test of orthodoxy. It seems to me there are several points on which the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture is vulnerable.

1. The Lord and the Apostles do teach about tribulation and suffering, particularly in connection with the end times, but where do they teach that "the church" will not undergo such suffering, but be snatched away to heaven? Rather the Lord taught that we must endure to the end and that for the sake of the elect God will shorten the days of the tribulation, not rescue us out of it.

2. Those passages and verses which speak of a rapture (eg Matthew 24:40-41 cf. Matthew 24:30-31) are speaking of an event simultaneous to the "momentous event" of Christ's coming in glory and the final judgment. Where is there any mention of a delay between the rapture and the other climactic events? Where is there any verse which speaks of two comings of Christ, separated by seven years? After the sixth final plague is poured out in Revelation 16 Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming as a thief." Which coming is He talking about, the secret rapture? Where is there any verse which presents the coming of the Lord as anything but the once-for-all end of conflict and evil?

3. If indeed the church has been raptured out of the world seven years before the end, then who are the believers of whom we read in chapters 6-20 of the book of Revelation or indeed in the teaching of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse? Why is it okay for them to undergo the Great Tribulation, but not for the other believers mentioned before and afterwards? If, someone might argue, these are Jewish believers and those who have come to faith after the church has been taken out of the world, how does one square this with Paul's "olive tree" analogy in Romans 11 where branches are broken off and grafted into a single tree?

4. A theological argument used in support of a pre-tribulation rapture is based on 1 Thess 1:10 and 5:9 - i.e. that the church will not undergo God's wrath. Since God's wrath is being poured out in Revelation 6 and following, it allegedly follows that the church is not present. An argument built on such a tenuous logical deduction is always going to be weak. It seems to me that believers clearly are present during this period. Isn't the point of Revelation 7:1-8 that God seals his people prior to the judgments to follow? Moreover it is clear that God's faithful people in the Old and New Testaments have often been present at the same time as God has poured out his wrath in judgment on others (the Exodus, the Exile, Romans 1:18; 1  Thess 2:16).

5. A second theological argument is based on the 'purpose' of the Great Tribulation. The argument goes that the purpose of the Great Tribulation is to save Israel and to judge wicked nations. Since neither of these relate to the church then we have no reason to be there. Again this is a rather tenuous deduction, possibly more of an attempted explanation of why than a solid basis. If we use lower case letters and ask, "Why does God allow tribulation in the life of a believer?" the answer is straightforward and uncontroversial. This is more or less precisely the question posed by the departed saints in glory to the Lord in Revelation 6:9-11. 

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