In his book, The End, Dr. Mark Hitchcock has a chapter entitled “When Will the Believing Be Leaving.” In this section of his book he gives his reasons for a pre-tribulation Rapture and the imminency of the Rapture which I will address in this newsletter. Some believers have a “pan-trib” view meaning it will all pan out in the end and it doesn’t really matter whether we are Raptured before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, or after the tribulation. But in my view Scripture as a whole is clear on a pre-tribulation Rapture and an imminent Rapture and knowing this can bring great spiritual motivation for living each day in light of that Day. I’ll never forget Mr. Coe, one of the folks I used to visit at the Tucker Nursing Home and what he said to me shortly after his wife died. I was offering him my sympathy when he calmly replied: “Yes, she has gone for final exams.” That final exam for us as believers is the judgment seat of the Lord Jesus Christ where each of us, one by one, will give an account of our entire life to our Savior and our Judge. It is not a judgment for our sins and salvation but for rewards or loss of rewards. (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15) And an imminent Rapture means we need to be ready every day, like a pop quiz at school or college.
First of all, we will look at the seven reasons Dr. Hitchcock believes in a pre-tribulation Rapture, one of which is the imminency of the Rapture which I will explain in greater detail. He uses the acronym PRE-TRIB to help us remember the seven points.
1. P – Place of the church in Revelation – “The word church (ekklesia) used nineteen times in Revelation 1–3 is not found once in Revelation 4–18. This absence is arresting and unexplainable if the church continues on earth through any part of the tribulation.” Some commentators teach that when God calls John up to heaven ( Revelation 4:1) it’s a picture of the Rapture of the church. Then we do not see the church on earth again until Revelation 19 when she appears as the bride of Christ and returns with Jesus as He ends the tribulation by destroying the Antichrist, the false prophet and all unbelievers. (See Revelation 19)
2. R – Rapture versus Return (the second coming of Christ) – Dr. Hitchcock lists twelve Scriptural distinctions between the Rapture of the church and Jesus’ return to earth and here are some of the major distinctions.
The Rapture versus The Return of Christ (Second Coming)
Christ comes in the air
1 Thess. 4:16–17
Christ comes to the earth
Christ comes for His Saints
1Thess. 4:16 –17
Christ comes with His Saints
1 Thess.3:13; Jude 1:14
Christ comes to reward 1 Thess. 4:16–17
Christ comes to judge Matthew 25:31–46
Not in the Old Testament 1 Corinthians 15:51
Predicted often in the Old Testament
There are no signs. It is imminent. Titus 2:11-13
Portended by many signs Matthew 24:4–29
A time of blessing/ comfort John 14:1-3 1; 1 Thess. 4:13-18
A time of destruction and judgment 2 Thess. 8-12
Involves church age believers only
John 14:1–3; 18; 1 Cor. 15:51–55; 1 Thess. 4:13–18
Involves Israel and the nations Matthew 25
Will occur in a moment- only His own will see Him
1 Corinthians 15:51-55
Will be visible to the entire world Matthew 24:27; Revelation 1:7
After the Rapture the tribulation begins
After His second coming the millennial kingdom begins
3. E – Exemption from Divine Wrath – This does not mean exemption from trials and tribulations or even martyrdom. More Christians have been martyred in the last 100 years than in all the previous centuries combined and Scripture says this will increase in the “last days” as “evil men will go from bad to worse.” (See 2 Tim. 3:1-13) But trials and tribulations are far different from the direct wrath of God which is what the tribulation is about. After the Rapture of the church, the age of grace ends and God pours out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. Yet even in this time of wrath millions of Jews and Gentiles will come to Christ. (Revelation 7:4-10; Zechariah 13:8-9) But still the great majority of mankind will reject Christ to the end and billions will die and face the Lord at the white throne judgment and go into the lake of fire – hell. (Revelation 6-18; 20:11-15) But Jesus took the wrath of God for us on the cross and Scripture promises us that “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” (1 Thess. 5:9-10; also see 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 3:10)
4. T – Time gap between the Rapture and the second coming – Hitchcock argues against the post-tribulationists who say the Rapture will occur but at the very end of the tribulation and all those saved in the tribulation will be instantly resurrected and glorified. But that does not allow time for believers to appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive or lose rewards (1 Cor. 3:1-15) nor time for the preparation of the bride (the church) to make herself ready for her marriage to Christ. (Revelation 19:7-8) “If the Rapture of the Church takes place at the end of the Tribulation, then no “sheep” will be left on earth to be evaluated (Matt. 25:31-46) when Christ returns to the earth thirty days later to save Israel from annihilation and to set up His Millennial reign over the earth: only the goats will remain. Thus, in the post-tribulation Rapture scenario, only the goats will be left on earth for Christ to judge (thus contradicting Christ’s teaching in Matt. 25:31-46). Because the goats will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, and because the sheep who return to the earth with Christ will have resurrection bodies, then no one would have flesh and blood bodies to repopulate the earth during the Millennial reign of Christ, thus contradicting countless prophecies about Messiah’s reign over the earth.” (Isaiah 65:20-25) http://revelationalive.net/TheImpossofthePost-TribRapt.html]
5. R – Removal of the Restrainer – “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, (the Rapture) 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come (the tribulation). 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.” (2 Thess. 2:1-7) Hitchcock points out that since the restrainer is referred to with both neuter (“what”) and masculine (“he”) verbs (participles) he believes it is speaking of the restraining power of evil by the Holy Spirit (masculine) within the church (neuter). As weak as we are when the church is Raptured all hell will break loose and the evil of man and Satan will be unchecked. Add to this the direct and immediate wrath of God and you can see why Jesus says, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” (Matt. 24:21) Thus this is another argument that the church must be Raptured before the Antichrist appears and the tribulation begins.
6. I– Imminency – “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven..” (1 Thess. 1:10; also see 1 Corinthians 1:7; 16:22; Philippians 3:20; 4:5; Hebrews 9:28; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 1:13; Jude 1:21; Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20, 17, 20) The verb tense for “wait” means to continuously wait for like a parent waiting up for and looking for a child that he or she expects to come home any moment. Likewise Scripture calls us to be constantly “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus ” (Titus 2:13) Why be constantly looking for Christ if He can’t come at any moment. All the Scriptures listed above refer to the Rapture and speak of it as though it can occur at any moment. In summary the imminency of Rapture means 1) it could happen at any moment, 2) without warning and, 3) it is certain, but not necessarily soon. Other prophetic events may take place before the Rapture but no prophetic events must precede it. It does not mean soon; rather it means inevitable. So instead of saying Jesus is coming soon we should more accurately say the Rapture could happen at any moment, it could happen today. “The imminence of the Rapture should fill us with hope, anticipation, and motivation for godly living.” And only pretribulation accounts for imminency. Thus people who take another position other than pretribulation cannot hope or believe that Christ could come in anytime.
7. B – Blessed Hope – See Titus 2:13 above. Hitchcock’s point in this section is that looking for Jesus to Rapture us before the tribulation gives us great hope – the most blessed hope. Whereas if we believe we are Raptured after the tribulation and thus must go through the tribulation Paul and other writers referring to this time would call us to perseverance and endurance but not with words like Jesus and Paul used: Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) * And Paul used these words of comfort to the saints in Thessalonica: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:13-18)
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Procrastinating spiritual growth and obedience to the Lord and thus committing sins of omission with the mindset of “one of these days I’ll get my act together” is less likely to occur if we truly understand the imminence of the Rapture. It gives us a strong motivation to be ready every day for the final exam.
Even so come quickly Lord Jesus,
Len and Kristen