Chapter 15 

The Church in Tribulation –

Timing is Important

 

In the last chapter we dealt with the various positions in terms of eschatology, which means the timing of end times events.  I believe that one of the cornerstones of today’s apostasy is related to the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.  When the rapture occurs may seem unimportant to you, but it may be a critical issue in terms of your readiness.  As Marvin Rosenthal says in his book, The Prewrath Rapture, “It is impossible to effectively train an army for a major battle if the soldiers are told they will never have to participate”.  (Rosenthal, op.cit., p.282)   We should be careful that teachings we have held as true really have a Scriptural basis.  On December 30, 1997, the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hannegraf, was talking about the rapture.  He said he has memorized the Book of Revelation, Daniel and other relevant passages such as Matthew 24 and been studying prophecy for several years.  Although he has not come to firm conclusions as yet, he did say this about the “doctrine” of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.  He said that he had studied all of the arguments for this position, and in his opinion, “not one of these arguments holds up to any standard of Biblical interpretation.”

 

Although I am not going to get into the detailed arguments but just to say that it may be one of the biggest hoaxes perpetrated on the modern church.  It may also be part of the great “last days” deception.  This is not a historic doctrine of the church.  Some say it resulted from the vision of a 16 year old girl in Scotland in the 1830’s and was popularized by John Darby, the famous Brethren leader.  In Doug Krieger’s excellent work on the Eight Visions of Zechariah, he states “Influential rapturists declare that somewhere between chapter 3 and the opening of chapter 4 in Revelation the Church is raptured.  This is pure conjecture, filled with spurious interpretation, human opinion, and bears absolutely no Scriptural credence.”  (Appendix A)

 

Timing is important in a more subtle way because it governs our attitude toward the last days.  The doctrine of a secret rapture is the perfect Laodicean scam.   I believe it has done more to lull the average Bible believing evangelical to sleep than any other doctrine when it comes to prophecy.  It allows us to keep the good life and gives a false sense of security.  We can continue with life as usual and there is no need to plan for some apocalyptic future because, we are comforted by the thought that we will rapture before things get too tough.  This is wishful thinking and escapism.  Only in the modern Western world, could we come up with this “have your cake and eat it to” doctrine.   For those who don’t believe us, don’t take our word for it.  Just read your Bible. 

 

If we are convinced we leave before the Tribulation, any discussion of “last days” prophecy is an academic exercise to the evangelical Christian.  And that is precisely why so many old line evangelicals don’t worry that much about prophecy.  “It’s nice to know” information but will never affect us personally.  It also allows us to conveniently apply verses that should apply to us to Israel or some future “saved” Christians that find the Lord after our departure.  I hear from pastors who tell me their church forbids them to preach on prophecy, or if they do, it falls on deaf ears.

 

If you knew for certain that the “the beginning of sorrows” and the Great Tribulation was going to begin soon and you and your family were going to go through it, what would you do?  Would you do anything differently?  Would you buy a bigger house?  Get a bigger car?  Save for that vacation…that retirement?  Would you spend your time any differently?  Do you have any idea what the Great Tribulation will be like?  Read Matthew 24.  Do you think everything will be hunky dory just because you are a child of God and He will take care of you?  If so, read again.

 

Our “dispensational” teachings allows us to apply all of the verses in Revelation that refer to the saints to Jews or “tribulation saints”.  Again, this is stretching the imagination and sound Biblical interpretation.  Someone wrote me recently and declared that going through the Tribulation was not her “blessed hope” and she was not bound to wrath.   Again, she is confused by Tribulation and the “wrath of God.”  Many who hold our position consider it to be a “pre-wrath rapture”.  I like that terminology because the Lord returns at the same time as the rapture - then the wrath of God is poured out on the earth.  Again, please check out any number of “pre-wrath” rapture sites on the internet, including our own.

 

If you know Church history, you know the real church has been persecuted from the very beginning and still is in most of the world today.  I received an e-mail about the International Day of Prayer to be held on Sunday, November 16, 1997 for the suffering church.  And I quote:

 

“More Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined.(1) Pastors are being arrested and sometimes shot in China and Cuba.  Believers are forbidden to buy goods or own property in Somalia.  Christians who testify  to their faith in Iran or Saudi Arabia may be put to death for blasphemy.  Mobs have wiped out whole villages of Christians in Pakistan.(2) And it goes on.”  (Received on the Internet 11/2/97)

 

Suffering is normal; in fact we are told to expect Tribulation in this world.  But, if the Great Tribulation - the greatest the church has ever experienced may be in our future, think about the personal implications.  As a brother once said, we should live every day with an eternal perspective.  Would we live any differently today in terms of what we do with our time, money and energy, if we knew that within the next few years, the worst tribulation Christians have ever seen was likely to begin?  Should we do anything to prepare?  Or should we just wait and let it happen?  I think the Bible is clear that we are to prepare.  Prophecy is meant to warn us and move us to action.  If we fail to act on the clear prophetic warning of God, we do so at our own peril as events begin to overtake us.

 

Why the Tribulation?

 

As mentioned, people often misunderstand the Tribulation and confuse it with the wrath of God and the judgment of the world.  The Bible says, the church is not appointed to wrath” and we agree with that (I Thes. 5:9) but it also says that “judgment begins with the household of God”.  (I Peter 4:17)  How can God judge the world if the church doesn’t first pass through the fire?  The church is never judged with the world, but “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if {it begins} with us first, what {will be} the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  (I Peter 4:17)  There is a winnowing - a separation of the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats.  Tribulation has always been a part of the Christian life.   John 16:33 says that “in the world you will always have tribulation but be of good cheer.   I have overcome the world.”   Jesus, Paul and all of the other writers of the epistles promised us Tribulation in this world.  That is the normal state.  If the church in the United States isn’t being persecuted as it is in the rest of the world today, maybe there is something seriously wrong with us.  We aren’t normal.  The church no longer stands for truth and righteousness but has chosen to be attractive to the world (seeker friendly).

 

Furthermore, God needs the Church because we are talking about the Great Trial!  The whole earth is on trial and after that, the judgment!  Meanwhile there are two witnesses to that trial (as demanded by God himself): the Church and Israel.  (again for a complete explanation, please see our book, The New Antipas Papers and Revelation 11.)  These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands.  It is essential that the two witnesses, God’s two corporate expressions, be there for the trial. 

 

Why is it called the Great Tribulation and the Tribulation of the Saints?  We seem to have completely forgotten that the Bible talks about the apostateChurch” persecuting the realChurch” just as it has done down through history, but with even more force this time - that is why it is called the Great Tribulation.  This is the time for winnowing - separating the wheat from the chaff - those who claim to be Christians versus those who are willing to lay down their lives for their Lord.  In a recent survey, 60 percent of Americans said they were “born again” Christians, but are they really?  

 

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. many will say “Lord, Lord” and He will say, “depart from me you wicked servant.  I never knew you.”  (Matthew 7:21-23)

 

The Rapture - When Will it Occur?

 

In my over 50 years as a Christian, I have held all positions, but the past 30 years I have become more and more convinced that what I am about to share is the clear teaching of scripture.  We believe in the pre-wrath rapture of the church which occurs at the end of Daniel’s 70th week, but before the judgments are poured out on the earth.  Any straight forward reading of the key scriptures related to the rapture show a clear course of events.   The weight of scripture should all point in the same direction.  Scripture reinforces scripture.  Those who argue for a pre-tribulation rapture use circular reasoning, obscure verses and parables to prove their position.

 

I would like to compare two descriptions and timelines of Daniel’s 70th week.

 

1.      Matthew 24:5 and Revelation 6:1-2 talk about the First Seal rise of the Antichrist who conquers by deception.

2.      Matthew 24:6-7a and Revelation 6:3-4 discuss the Second Seal, the wars and rumors of wars.

3.      Matthew 24:7b and Revelation 6:5-6, the Third Seal, brings famines.

4.      Matthew 24:7c-8 and Revelation 6:7-8, the Fourth Seal, brings earthquake, death and pestilence.

5.      Matthew 24:9 and Revelation 6:9-11, the Fifth Seal, reveals a faithful remnant who are killed for the sake of their testimony.

6.      Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24-25, Luke 21:25 and Revelation 6:12-13 all talk about the same thing - immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.   We quote from Matthew but they all say essentially the same thing - there are these specific signs in the heavens.   Then,

7.      Matthew 24:30-31, Mark 13:26-27, Luke 21:27, Revelation 6:14-17  All three accounts say essentially the same thing.  Matthew says, “and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”  In Revelation, the nations mourn for the wrath of God is come.

 

8.      “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:  and the dead in ‘Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thess. 4:14-17)

 

9.      “Now after the three-and-a-half days (the three and half years or time, times and half a time or forty-two months or the latter half of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, known as the “Great Tribulation Period” whereas the entire seven-year time frame is known as “The Tribulation Period”) the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.  And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘come up here.’  And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them . . . then the seventh angel sounded (the Last Trump); and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:11-12 & 15).

 

It is clear from these verses that there are these cosmic disturbances and the trumpets followed by the return of the Lord and the rapture.  Rather than going into detail, I am going to give you the verses in the Old and New Testament that refer to the “Day of the Lord.”  (Joel 1:15, 2:1-2, 10-11,30-31, Amos 5:18-20, Isaiah 13:6-13, Zeph. 1:14-2:3).  Each one of these verses refers to the same cosmic disturbances, the darkening of the sun, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a time of divine wrath, destruction, etc.  It is clear that our Lord comes on the “Day of the Lord” and this is clearly at the end of the 70th week as noted in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6.

 

Now, we go to I Thessalonians 5:1-3 

 

Now as to the times and epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. 

 

See also II Peter 3:10-12 for another verse on the day of the Lord.   We see another thing the verses above have in common - trumpets.  Joel 2:1 begins to announce the day of the Lord with a trumpet.  I Corinthians 15:51-52  places the rapture “at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”  So we see the cosmic disturbances, the trumpet and the Lord’s return - all on the same day.

 

One of the major rapture passages is II Thessalonians 2,

 

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him” (verse 1) 

 

Please note.  This is one of the main “rapture” verses.  There is no indication that there is a seven year period between these two events.  In fact, the verses that follow deals with the question of when.  It warns us not to listen to people who tell us the day of the Lord has come if these events have not occurred.  We continue,

 

that you may 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.  Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 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.  (verses 2-4).  The passage goes to say that the Lord will take care of the Antichrist by “the appearance of His coming.”  (verse 8)

 

What will not come?  What is “it”?  It should be clear from these passages that the rapture cannot occur until after this event which is referred to in other passages as the Abomination of Desolation.  Just as an aside, most think this refers to offering sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, and that may be but we believe it may refer to the ultimate desecration of the true temple - man.  Please see Chapter 8 of the Antipas Papers for a complete explanation.

 

I would like to conclude this brief discussion of the rapture by a quote from Marvin Rosenthal’s excellent work, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. 

 

“Perhaps here is the ultimate error of pretribulation rapturism.  It holds out the false hope of imminent rapture, instead of the true hope of expectant rapture.   By expectant rapture it is meant that every generation since the first century would have been the generation that entered the seventieth week to experience the Rapture.  Only the generation that actually enters the seventieth week will know the general time period.  To that generation the Lord says, ‘So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things (events of the seventieth week) know that it (His return) is near, even at the doors’ (Matt 24:33)  A careful appeal to verses said to teach imminency (no prophesied events must occur before the Rapture) will reveal that what they actually teach is expectancy.”  (Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, p. 282). 

 

He points out that a pre-tribulation position negates the “God-given” warnings and admonitions to the church.   

 

What are We Really Made of?

 

Tribulation is and always has been the ultimate test for the church.  When the church looks no different than the society it is a part of, something is wrong.  The divorce rate in the church exceeds the divorce rate in America.  So how many of America’s churches are really solid Bible believing churches?  Let me ask you some questions:

 

·      How many Churches believe in the basics of the faith and the Bible as the inspired Word of God?

·      What percentage of those that attend are really committed versus nominal, cultural Christians? 

·      How many are going through the motions? 

·      How many are involved beyond Sunday morning worship? 

·      How many experience the presence of the Lord, get into the Word, and let Him speak to them? 

·      How many have the maturity to stand in the face of adversity? 

·      How many put the Lord first in terms of their time?  Their energy?  Their money?

·      How many have the clear practical priority that our Lord and His kingdom are the most important things in their life? 

·      How many radiate the joy of the Lord? 

·      How many preach the gospel in season and out - regularly? 

·      How many Christians are discipling at least one other young Christian? 

·      How many Christians would willingly give up all their possessions, their bank accounts, their retirement and everything they have ever accomplished in this world to stand for their faith? 

·      How many Christians are willing to suffer criticism and rejection from other “so called” Christians, friends and relatives who seem to be going along with the main stream?

·      How many are willing to turn off their TV to spend time with the Lord? 

·      How many are willing to put off their fishing trip to help a brother move? 

·      How many are minoring in being a Christian and majoring in something else?  (a career, family, etc.) 

·      How many are paying the price today so that they will be ready tomorrow? 

·      How many Christians really think these are the last days?  How many even care?

 

Again Rosenthal says:

 

“Many who name the name of Christ want the church to provide entertainment, not worship.   They want the church to provide a hedged-in, antiseptic, country-club atmosphere, not a Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” philosophy (Luke 14:22).  Apart from some notable exceptions, at the present hour the church is splintered, polarized, carnal, materialistic, humanistic and impotent.  The world is burning, and the church is fiddling (ibid., p. 295)

 

To say that the Lord can’t possibly allow the lukewarm, pleasure loving, self loving, self absorbed, carnal, materialistic, humanistic “Church” to suffer a little persecution is an affront to God and every Christian who has given his life for their Savior.

 

When Will the End Come?

 

I am not some fanatic to say the world is going to end and the Lord will be back by such and such a date.  But anyone, including Herod, could and did read the Old Testament, and knew the approximate time of the arrival of the Messiah.  The Lord upbraided His generation for being able to forecast the weather but not understand the signs of the times.  We are told we won’t know the “day or the hour” the Lord returns, so we use that as an excuse for ignoring the obvious.  The Lord upbraided the religious establishment for not reading the signs of the times.

 

Many Christians felt betrayed when the last days - the last seven years, didn’t begin in 1988, exactly 40 years after the founding of the nation of Israel.  But the Bible says Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the end…and when you see the fig tree bloom - Jerusalem restored - know that this generation would not pass away until all these things come to pass (this is in the context of Matthew 24, the Tribulation and the return of the Lord).  Jerusalem was restored to Israel in 1967 and officially became the capital of Israel in 1981… so the countdown would begin until one of those dates.  This is not my opinion but the observation of many evangelical leaders today.

 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the “signs of the times” not just in terms of wars, rumors of wars, famine, but the Arabs pressing in on all sides on the nation of Israel demanding land for peace.  We know that in the last days, certain events will take place before the Tribulation.  We know a war will precede and set up the conditions for the Tribulation (where Russia and other surrounding countries come down on Israel).  We also know that the Tribulation will begin when the Anti-Christ makes a pact with Israel to guarantee its safety.  So we are not there yet, but we may be close and we know what to look for.  If you believe you are going to “rapture” and are still here after these two events have taken place, you had better quickly reevaluate your position.

 

It seems that Christian leaders would like to protect us from these prophecies lest we become frightened.  That want us to be assured that the Rapture will take care of everything.  They tell us not to worry. - just trust them.  Is this really wise?  No, these prophecies were written for us to read and understand.  There is a special blessing for us in Revelation 1:3, for those who read, understand and heed.  But if we ignore the clear warning of God, we do so at our own peril.  If I am a last days Christian, there is nothing more important for me in the whole world than to understand and pay close attention to prophecy.   If these are the last days, then these prophecies were meant for you and me.  They weren’t that relevant to a Christian living 200 years ago.  But they are to us!  In the last chapter of Daniel, he says that these prophecies concerning the last days were sealed until the end and then they will be revealed to us who really “need to know.”

 

So many Christians, even some close to me, say “we don’t need to worry.  Everything will be okay.  When the time comes, the Lord will take care of us.”  If that were so, then why did He bother to warn us?  Why is so much of the Bible “last days” prophecy?  Why bother to warn us there would be a great deception?… that even the elect will be deceived?… that there will be an apostate church?… that we won’t be able to operate on the surface financially without taking the mark of the beast… and that we will suffer the worst persecution the church has ever seen?  I don’t understand why Christians don’t see that this is very important information to them personally.

 

So we have three groups of evangelicals:

 

1.      The old line evangelical says not to worry - the church will rapture before the Tribulation.

 

2.     The “new” evangelical - believes the church is to take dominion over the earth before the Lord can come back - as a prerequisite to his return.

 

3.     There are a few voices crying in the wilderness like ours.  We are basically old line in our beliefs, but feel the doctrine of the pre-Tribulation rapture is dangerously in error. 

 

This is not a trivial point as some would say they are “Pan-Rapture” - that everything will “pan” out in the end.  This is a serious Biblical question with tremendous personal implications.  It didn’t matter to Paul, or Martin Luther or Dwight Moody.  They are gone.  But it may matter to you and me.  We are ignoring at least one fourth of the Bible - prophecy that applies specifically to the last days Christians and Jews.

 

Most modern evangelical eschatologists (people who study the last days) such as Dwight Pentecost, John Woolvord, etc, agree that the two things must precede the Tribulation (the Gog Magog War and the “Treaty of Hell and Death” between the Anti-Christ and Israel), so the Rapture could not occur until then.   But if those two events occur, and we are still here, it may be too late.  The Church may be too far gone in its apostasy.  Individual Christians may not be ready - either spiritually or practically.  And anyone aware of current events knows, these two political events could happen at any moment.

 

All we are saying is that we must take prophecy seriously.  Don’t take my word for it.  Read it yourself.  Let the Lord speak to you.  Study the Word.  Then ask yourself, if I am an last days Christian, what should I do to get ready?  How do I spend my last few years?  What can I do to help the bride be ready?  What are my priorities?  With time about to run out, what kind of people should we be?

 

 

 

 

 

Continue to Chapter 16

Can Christians be Deceived

 

Notice:   The Book   "Recognizing Deception and Apostasy"   was written by Dene McGriff.   The original source  of  the  book  is  located  at  the web site  www.the-tribulation-network.com  which operates under the name of  "The Tribulation Network"  which is owned and operated by Pergamos  Ministries.    Permission is granted to copy and  distribute  this  book  via  printed  media,  in  its  entirety,  without  any  changes  to  the  original  content  so  long  as  this  Notice  accompanies  ALL  copies  distributed.  Any  web  site  may  link  to  this  article at http://www.the-tribulation-network.com/denemcgriff/Apostasy/recognizing_deception_and_apostasy.htm   It is requested that you do not copy this article into any web site due to the possibility that we may add or delete  to  this  article  at  any  time.  And if you do not have the latest additions to the article, then you might be misrepresenting us.