By Jack Kinsella
There are at least five distinct views
within the Church concerning when (or whether) the Lord will return for His
Church in an event commonly called "The Rapture."
The proponents for each view are all sincere, believing Christians who believe their interpretation is right to the exclusion of all others. I understand and appreciate that more than a few of the members of our fellowship hold to different understandings of the Rapture and I respect their scholarship.
However, we know that things that are different cannot be the same. No matter how kindly or charitably one tries to frame it, while all are sincere, at least four of these views are sincerely wrong.
How can this be? Is not the same Holy Spirit guiding us all? How can there possibly be so many different understandings of the same doctrine?
If there are five different views of the Rapture, does that suggest the doctrine itself is weak?
In brief, the five views of the Rapture are as follows:
1. Pre-Tribulational: The Rapture of the Church takes place before the start of the Tribulation Period, defined as two consecutive periods of 1280 days each. (Daniel 7:25, 9:2712:7 Revelation 11:2, 11:3 12:6, 12:14, 13:5)
It begins with the revelation of the antichrist as the guarantor of Israel's security with the confirmation of a seven year peace agreement.
The dividing point between the first and second parts of the Tribulation is the cessation of Temple sacrifices (Daniel 9:27)
2. Mid-Tribulational: This view sees the Church being Raptured at the half-way point when the Temple sacrifices are suspended by the antichrist, but before the Great Tribulation of the 2nd half.
3. Pre-Wrath: This also puts the Church through the first half of the Tribulation, but the dividing point is not the Temple sacrifices, but the judgments, specifically, the Sixth Seal judgment, the "Blood Moon."
4. Post-Tribulational: This view sees the Church put through the entire Tribulation, with the survivors being Raptured at the Second Coming.
5: There is no Rapture. This is the default view of amillennialism and post-millennialism and probably the majority view of world-wide Christendom today.
Only one view can be correct. So why five? Different methods of interpretation of prophecy affect the conclusions that are drawn from prophetic passages. If one reads a passage of prophecy and interprets it literally, one comes away with a different conclusion than if one reads the same passage symbolically.
There are places in Scripture where something is intended to be understood symbolically and places where it is intended to be literal. Context and usage generally make the intent obvious, but the best rule of interpretation remains the old adage, 'when the clear sense makes sense, seek no other sense.'
But it should be obvious that those who draw their conclusions based on a symbolic understanding of Scripture arrive at different conclusions than those who view Scripture from a literal point of view.
"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:" (Ephesians 1:10)
What is the 'dispensation of the fullness of times?' Literally, the phrase means the final dispensation, or the Millennial Kingdom.
"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:" (Ephesians 3:2)
What is the dispensation of the grace of God? Literally, that is the Church Age.
"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God." (Colossians 1:25)
It seems clear to me that when interpreted literally and with a clear understanding of the Dispensations of God, one arrives at the conclusion that the Rapture of the Church must take place before any part of the Tribulation begins.
There is a clear Dispensational division between the Church Age and the Time of Jacob's Trouble, or the 70th Week of Daniel. The Church Age MUST end so that God can pour out His grace upon the whole House of Israel.
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." (Romans 11:25)
When Scripture references "a mystery" it refers to something not previously revealed by God now being revealed to the Church. The first to use this word was Christ Himself in Mark 4:11:
"And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables."
The Dispensation of the Age of Grace is acknowledged even by those who argue against Dispensationalism. It must be acknowledged, since it cannot be ignored.
Without Dispensationalism, there can be no reconciliation between the Old and New Testaments. The problem with that is that, without the harmony of the Scriptures, it would mean the same God didn't inspire them both.
Is it, "an eye for an eye"? Or is it "turn the other cheek?" Does God demand blood sacrifices in payment for sin? Or has the blood sacrifice demand been satisfied?
It depends on whether one is under the Dispensation of the Law, or the Dispensation of the Age of Grace, does it not?
If one is under the Dispensation of Grace, it follows that, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28)
But the Prophet Daniel says that during the Tribulation Period, the Law will be in effect. The Temple will be restored -- as will the Temple system of animal sacrifices. Is that literal? Or symbolic?
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease . . .
An 'oblation' means 'a thing presented or offered to God." If the 'covenant' is literal, and the 'week' is a literal shabua (week of years) then it follows that both the sacrifice and the oblation are just as literal.
In 1st Corinthians 3:16,17, and 6:16, Paul points out that during the Church Age, believers are the Temple of God.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
"If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
The Apostle Paul writes of the restored Temple (the only place where Daniel's prophecy of sacrifice and oblation can be valid) and the antichrist's desecration of it thusly:
"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2nd Thessalonians 2:4)
Notice that Paul refers to it as the "Temple of God." Is Paul speaking of all Church Age believers in which the antichrist takes a seat? Or a literal Temple of God?
Let's ask Jesus.
"But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:" (Mark 13:14)
The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet is when the antichrist defiles the Temple, causing the sacrifice and oblation to cease. It is the same abomination of desolation that Paul is referring to in 2nd Thessalonians 2:4 -- when the antichrist desecrates the Temple by sitting down in it proclaiming himself to be God.
Daniel says the Third Temple is legitimate in the eyes of God. And it is desecrated halfway through the Tribulation Period. It cannot be desecrated unless it is holy and it is God who calls it an abomination.
Jesus Christ says the abomination spoken of by Daniel takes place in "the holy place" and says when that happens, it is time to flee Judea for the mountains.
Paul says that this desecration is perpetrated by the antichrist and it takes place "in the Temple of God."
So, on the testimony of three witnesses; Daniel, Jesus Christ of Nazareth and the Apostle Paul, during the Tribulation to come, the antichrist desecrates the Temple of God.
And, on the testimony of the Scripture, we are told three times that during the Church Age, WE are the Temple of God.
Things that are different are not the same. We find that the Temple of God, during the Church Age, is NOT a building, but the Temple of God, during the Tribulation, IS the literal Temple building.
Daniel said so. Paul said so. JESUS SAID SO.
If Daniel, Jesus and Paul say the Tribulation's Temple of God is a building and a legitimate holy place that is capable of being desecrated, then what happened to the Church Age Temple[s] that the SAME Apostle Paul defines as Church Age believers?
The Scripture offers only one explanation that answers those questions without contradicting itself elsewhere.
"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 which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
The Rapture of the Church is one of the most divisive doctrines within the Church today. And, as I've said many times, NOBODY is saved by their understanding of the timing of the Rapture.
So why do I keep hammering away at it? Because the Scriptures exhort me to.
We live in the most terrifying time of uncertainty in human history -- the wrong move by the wrong guy could set off a chain of events that could potentially exterminate the human race. We have but a short time to spread the message of salvation, and it doesn't help if we are paralyzed by fear.
The Lord knew the conditions that would exist just before His return. Which is why Paul ends his explanation of the Rapture with this exhortation:
"Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18)