There is a lot of talk about the end times and much of it is around the timing of the rapture. Some hold that we will go through the tribulation completely as Harold Camping did. Many believe in a Pre-Wrath position such as my former pastor, Mike Bickle does. However, I believe the most biblical view is the Pre-Trib view within the context of the Pre-Millenial view.
There is at least 50 reasons in scriptures that we will NOT be present during the times of testing. While I do plan to repeat all of them that John Walvoord gave us; I do want to point out seven key reasons that I believe we will not be present.
The Church is never mentioned!
When we read Revelation, the faithful are not mentioned on earth from Revelation 3 to chapter 19. It is very interesting that John did not see any believers at any point in his prophetic experience during the times of testing. The reason for this is simple: we are not here on earth.
In fact, the only mention of the Church after Revelation 4 is found at the end of the last chapter of the book.
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches…. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:16-17
The reason that we do not see the Church mentioned or even indirectly implicated is that we are taken up in the catching up of the saints before hand. This is also critical for the coming Jewish Outpouring in Israel.
Where is the “Restrainer?”
Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 2 Thess 2:5-7
Who is the restrainer? There is a lot of discussion about this but the scripture interpreted properly points to the blood bought Church being the one holding back the man of lawlessness. Once the Church is removed or “taken out of the way,” the man of lawlessness will have full reigns.
The best understanding of the passage is that the Holy Spirit is the one holding back restrainer through the blood bought, water impressed, tongue talking Church that is in a state of revival.
We know this because of a few reasons: 1) The restraint must have omnipotent power 2) Holy Spirit is always considered a male in writings while the Church is considered female 3) Genesis 6:3 and Galatians 5:16-17 says the Holy Spirit is the restrainer of evil 4) Holy Spirit empowers us, the Church to be the salt and light of the world as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we have to be removed in order for the man of lawlessness to have full power to destroy. In other words, the Rapture has to happen before the times of testing.
What about Divine Wrath?
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Revelation 3:10-11
Why would Jesus say that He would keep us from the hour of trail or the times of testing if we was going to be on the earth during it. The only way that the Global Church could be kept from it is if they were in Heaven. The challenges are just that vast.
While some might point to this being fulfilled in some historical event, (Fall of Jerusalem is not possible), I do not believe there is any real historical foundation to believe this to be truth. There has never been a crisis that was global or “whole world” was effected by it. World War II does not even provide this.
In other words, the Church would be have to be home in Heaven before Revelation 6 to be kept from the hour of trail coming. The first seal is opened and released the white horse that will empowered the resurrection of the Catholic Church as the primary power of the globe.
One of the most discussed things among theologians is about who is and who is not the 24 elders. What we do know is no matter who they are, they are talked about at least in 12 different places in the book of Revelation. Are they angels? Is it Irseal? The Church? What about the Redeemed?
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. Revelation 4:4
What we do know about them is that are Elders or in the Greek, presbuteros. This is where we get the word Presbyter from. One of who oversees a collection of churches is known as a presbyter in today’s church world. In the same way, elders are people who watch over the faithful.
According to 1 Chronicles 24, the Levitical preisthood had thousands of priests. Not all of them could do their duties as a result. How they did it was split then into 24 different groups. Someone from each of them served in the temple for 14 days at a time.
Another interesting factor is that they are on thrones. Revelation 3:21 tells us that the ones that are victorious were sitting at the throne. It is the Church that is on the thrones.
All things considered, I firmly believe that Revelation teaches the 24 elders are in some way connected or prophetic imagery of the Holy Ghost Church.
Rapture vs Second Coming
This is where people start to have real problems. Some people actually think believing in a rapture is basically have two different Second Comings.
You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. Zechariah 4:5
In the prophecy of Zechariah, we see clearly that the Lord will come and all the holy ones, or saints will be with him. In order for us to come with Him in the Second Coming; we have to first be caught with Him in the air before hand.
What we do know is the Christ will come in the air (1 Thess 4:16-18) for the saints, claim His bride at an imminent moment and it will be a time of great blessing. Meanwhile, we also know the Second coming will Christ on the earth, comes with the saints, is expected by many signs, is about judgement, and Satan is bound. As you can see, these are two very different events.
The Rapture is Imminent
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Revelation 3:11
The New Testament is full of passages that tell us to look, wait and watch for His coming to take us home. There is no question that the early church lived with an expectation to take caught up in the air very quickly. They did not expect to die of old age before He returned.
It is impossible to believe that you can expect the Lord to coming soon and very soon while also believing we will endure the times of testing which will be around seven years. Imminent is now!
The centrality of hope for the early church or the apostolic follower was that Jesus was coming very quickly. They lived for it to happen, they expected to happen and they were motivated by it to happen.
The Blessed Hope is ours!
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people….while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us..and to purify for himself a people that are his very own….1Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Titus 2:11-15
The blessed Hope is the appearing of our Lord who gave Himself for our redemption. This was a call to wait out seven years of hell on earth where we will face martyrdom on a daily basis. Redemption is about just that: redeeming the people of God.
We read in many places about the use of the word, Maranatha in the New Testament. This word literally mean, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” Believers greeted each other with a reminder that the Lord was coming quickly to take them home!
I simply can not see in the scriptures, the lives of the early church, history or systematic theology any basis for the blessed Hope not being imminent.
Welcoming dialog in the Saints
While I believe that scripture points to a catching up or Rapture BEFORE the times of testing; I have many friends who hold different values. As stated, I was pastored by Mike Bickle for years that holds very strongly to a Post-Trib view. I always welcome that discussion as long as it is civil.