One of the more intriguing eschatological [“End Times”] doctrines within Christendom is when believers are supernaturally snatched away from the earth to escape the horrors of the ‘Great Tribulation’ of God’s wrath upon those who are unbelievers. There are at least three perspectives of this event and the pre-tribulation view is the most popular, where Jesus returns to the earth on the clouds and takes the faithful out of the world as they meet Him in the air. While this popular view may resonate within numerous Christian circles, especially Evangelicals, yet, the position is not clearly well thought out because what would be the impact of people suddenly disappearing, passing or dematerializing through solid objects and ascending up in the sky whose sudden and unexpected departure would most likely have devastating, life-and-death effects? Also, on another level it would seem to be something straight out of a science-fiction novel and it is much too serious to be equated to such mediocrity, but what do the Scriptures reveal about this monumental event?
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus [Yeshua] died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. For the LORD Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ [Moshiach] will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air. And thus we shall always be with the LORD.
1 Corinthians 15: 51-52
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead [in the LORD Jesus] shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Revelation 7: 9, 13-14 says:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Then one of the elders said to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Revelation 11: 15, 18
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our LORD and His Christ [Moshiach], and He shall reign forever and ever. And the time of the dead that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.
Revelation 20: 4, 11-15
Then I saw a great White Throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God [the throne], and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death [Mavet] and Hades [She’ol] delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second Death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life were cast into the lake of fire.
COMMENTARY: The Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians that the saints [including himself] will be changed or rather, clothed in immortality at the sounding of the last trumpet and this would be the “seventh” trumpet mentioned in Revelation chapter 11 and this is also after the Great Tribulation mentioned in chapter 7. Besides all that, the term that is used for being “caught up” (raptured) in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 is interesting because a recurring theme in First Thessalonians seems to revolve around persecution or suffering as a precursor to the LORD’S return (Cp. 1 Thessalonians 1: 14; 3: 4; 2: 19; 3: 13b; 5: 4, 23; 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10). Also, Revelation chapter 7, which is consistent with the Thessalonian letter as well as other Scripture, mentions a great number of believers coming out of the disasters that will befall the earth, which are referred to in the Old Testament as the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Cp. Jeremiah 30: 7).
Romans 8: 35-37
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter (Cp. Psalms 44: 22).
Philippians 1: 29
For to you it has been granted [decreed] on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake.
2 Thessalonians 1: 4-5
So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.
Romans 5: 3-5
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [ha Ruach Kodesh] who was given to us.
As a final point, Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 21: 28
“Now when these things [events of “The Great Tribulation”] begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Matthew 24: 34, 42, 44.
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away until all these things [events of “The Great Tribulation”] take place (Cp. Matthew 24: 3-31, 36-44; 25: 31-46; Mark 13: 29-30). Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your LORD is coming. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
COMMENT: One of the distinguishing features of Christian testimony and witnessing is not giving up in the midst of troublesome circumstances, and certainly “The Great Tribulation” would qualify as ample proof of the grace of God in extreme distress [physical, mental, spiritual], anxiety and adversity. One must keep in mind that when God sent plagues among Egypt the children of Israel were in Goshen and certainly it would not be unreasonable to think that perhaps one or more of those plagues must have affected them, too. The thing is, however, God did not supernaturally ‘rapture’ them out of the land but protected them, as recorded in the following:
Exodus 8: 22a, 23a
“And in that day I will set apart [consecrate to Me] the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell. I will make a difference [distinction] between My people and your people.”
Besides all of this, if the Christians are removed from the earth, then who will proclaim the gospel to the nations because this responsibility was given to the servants of the God (Cp. 2 Corinthians 4: 1-7)? Even Jesus Himself said that the gospel is to be preached throughout the entire world before the ‘End’ comes (Cp. Matthew 24: 14), and who is going to perform it if the believers are not around? Not only that, but the Gospel narratives do not support the notion of the saints escaping suffering or adversity, on the contrary it says just the opposite, and it would be a redundant and unnecessary message if Christians were not expected to be on earth during a future time of persecution and tribulation. It would seem to be incredibly selfish to want God to spare us from the unprecedented calamity to befall the planet Earth while previous generations experienced unimaginable horrors, brutality, cruelty, torture and martyrdom.
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March 7, 2011
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