A Voice in the
"But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming...[the] master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 24:48-51)
Today we see a proliferation of claims for the "great outpouring of God's Spirit" before His return: Toronto/Vineyard, Laughing Revival, Promise Keepers, Prayer Summits, March for Jesus, Latter Rain, etc.
Along with these cults which are sweeping along thousands of people down the "broad way" (Mt7:13), teachers and authors are peddling a doctrine which guarantees that these same people will not be "watching" for the return of Christ. It is known theologically as "Post- Tribulation Rapture."
As I have noted this trend, it seems that the primary proof-text for this view is Matthew 24:29-31, "after the tribulation of those days...the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven...and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
False teaching on this subject crept up first during Paul's time and he speaks, "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, (2 Thes 2:1-3)
Nor let us be deceived, as we look at this subject briefly from three viewpoints: History & Israel, Scriptures & the Church, Prophecy & Logic.
HISTORY & ISRAEL:
In Mt 24, Jesus is speaking to Israel primarily. He was born as a Jew, to the Jews. His disciples had asked Him a "Jewish" question regarding the destruction of the temple and related events. When vs.31 says His "elect" ...this is referring to Israel. (Isa 45:4,65:9,22) (The "Church" is not the only group referred to in this way.)
These "elect" are gathered from the "four winds." A very interesting expression when we note that it was Israel who was scattered "to all the winds." "...I will diminish you, My eye will not spare, nor will I have any pity. One third shall die of pestilence; one-third by the sword; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them." (Ez5:10,12) We know that Jesus is talking about Israel because Jeremiah further prophesies, "I will gather you from all the nations & the places where I have driven you, says the LORD." (Jer29:14)
SCRIPTURES & the CHURCH:
Those who hold to the "Post-Trib" view also believe that the Church is to be "purified" through the Tribulation. What does Scripture say? "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire...He will sit as a refiner...He will purify the sons of Levi...That they may offer to the LORD; offering in righteousness. (Mal 3:2-3) Who are the "sons of Levi?" Israel; not the Church. Let's not be confused.
So, what of Jesus' words, "In the world you will have tribulation..?" (Jn16:33) Let us look at this word "tribulation." Tribulation = Great affliction, trial, distress, experience that tests one's endurance, patience or faith. Tribulation is something that Christians have experienced down through the centuries.
But this is different from The Tribulation as recorded in The Revelation. "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"(Rev 6:17) Wrath = Agitation, violent emotion, indignation, punishment.
As Paul writes to comfort the "Church" at Thessalonica, "God did not appoint us to wrath.."(1Ths5:9) And if we believe that the Christian experience is a "love" relationship with God, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18) The time of God's Wrath will involve fear. ...[people] "hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev 6:15-17)
If one reads the "whole" of the Old Testament Prophets and compares it to the book of Revelation, one can see striking similarities...and one can come away realizing that this is a time of God's dealing with Israel. The Church needs to be out of the way for this. The Church, at one with the Holy Spirit because of the Holy Spirit's indwelling, is "taken out of the way" (2Ths2:7) ...and [THEN] the lawless one will be revealed.
PROPHECY & LOGIC:
Assuming for a moment that the Rapture [WAS] to be [AFTER] the time of God's Wrath, then Jesus' words describing the "Sign of His Coming"..."of that day and hour [no one knows]" (Mt24:36) would be utterly meaningless. Daniel prophesies, "But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate." This "week" is the 7-year period, fulfilling Daniel's prophecies. We could count 3 1/2 years til Messiah would return. (Dan12:7,Rev12:14) Or, 42 months (Rev 11:2,13:5). Or, 1260 days (Rev 12:6).
But, "of that day and hour NO ONE KNOWS." "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. "For as in the days [BEFORE] the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage..." LIFE WILL APPEAR TO BE NORMAL "...until the day that Noah entered the ark, "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Mat 24:37- 39) And Luke 17:30 speaks of it, "when the Son of Man is [REVEALED]." Remember, the book of Revelation, the whole seven years, is introduced as "The Revelation [OF] Jesus Christ."
"Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."(Luke 21:36)
"Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. "Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Mat 24:40-42
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon [THEM] (not "us")...as labor pains...And [THEY] shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober....putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5)