By Hank Hanegraaff
The pre-tribulational rapture theory, popularized by John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century, con- tends that God has two distinct people and two distinct plans for their two distinct destinies. The church will be raptured seven years prior to the second coming of Christ, and Jews will suffer tribulation. Beginning with Darby, rapture theorists held that, due to the murder of Messiah, Jews were in for a time of unprecedented suffering referred to as the “Great Tribulation.” Dr. Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series, describes the coming Jewish holocaust as “Antichrist’s ‘final solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem.’” According to LaHaye, “the mind-boggling terror and turmoil of the Tribulation” will be a nightmarish reality far exceeding “even the Holocaust of Adolf Hitler in the twentieth century.” Concurrent with the carnage, a “soul harvest” will emerge due to the proselytizing prowess of 144,000 Jewish virgins. Multiplied millions today hold firmly to this belief. But is it biblical?
First, it is significant to note that the pre-tribulational rapture theory is without a biblical basis. There is not a single passage in Scripture that speaks of Jesus coming to rapture the church seven years prior to His second appearing. Our Lord’s own words negate the notion: “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28–29). The plain and literal sense of our Lord’s words suggests a moment in the future when both the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected and judged together. The notion that some believers will come out of their graves at the rapture and others 1,007 years later is clearly an imposition on the text.
Furthermore, there is no biblical basis for a coming seven-year tribulation during which a vast majority of Jews will die. That, of course, is not to suggest that Jews have not faced such tribulation in the past. Who can forget the terrible seven-year tribulation suffered by Jews during the beastly reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes? He plundered the temple treasury, dedicated the sanctuary to the Olympian god Zeus, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. The annual Hanukkah celebration ensures that the world will always remember the seven-year tribulation during the reign of the abominable Old Testament antichrist. Had God not supernaturally intervened through Judas Maccabaeus, the epicenter of Jewish spiritual and sociological identity would not just have been desecrated but destroyed.
Two centuries later, the Jewish Jesus looked back to “the abomination that causes desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (Matthew 24:15) to warn His followers that another tribulation was in store. From the great fire of Rome to the fiery destruction of the great temple in Jerusalem, the Roman Beast unleashed its fury against a fledgling Christian church. In the end, Peter and Paul themselves were persecuted and put to death at the hands of the Beast. On August 30, AD 70, seven years after the beginnings of tribulation, the second temple was set ablaze. By September 26, all Jerusalem was in flames. This time the blood that desolated the sacred altar flowed not from the carcasses of unclean pigs but from the corpses of unbelieving Pharisees. This time the Holy of Holies was not merely desecrated by the defiling statue of a pagan god but manifestly destroyed by the pathetic greed of despoiling soldiers. This time no Judas Maccabaeus intervened. Within a generation, the temple was not just desecrated; it was destroyed. Jesus emphatically placed the time of “Jewish Tribulation” in the first century (Matthew 24:34). His words must never be used as a pretext for a Jewish holocaust in the twenty-first.
In short, there simply is no biblical warrant for a fatalistic preoccupation with a future seven-year Tribulation. Nor is there warrant for a rebuilt temple and reinstituted temple sacrifices. Scripture forbids Christians to take part in or encourage the building of a third temple, which would occasion the trampling of the holy Son of God underfoot by counting the blood of the covenant a common thing through the offering of unholy animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10:29). Indeed, the shekinah glory of God will never again descend upon a temple constructed of lifeless stones; it forever dwells within “the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God” (1 Peter 2:4). As the apostle Peter went on to explain, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 5).
Finally, just as there is no biblical warrant for a pre-tribulational rapture or a future seven-year Tribulation, so, too, there is no biblical basis for believing in a second chance for salvation after the second coming of Christ. Christ is clear: all given to Him by the Father will be raised up on the last day (John 6:37–40). Likewise, Paul pointed out that the liberation of creation goes hand in hand with the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18–25). Thus, we can be certain that no one will be saved following the second coming of Christ. The notion that our bodies are redeemed at the rapture and the earth is liberated from its bondage to decay approximately 1,007 years later is without biblical basis. At the second appearing, the bride of Christ—the church universal—is complete. No one else can be saved.
While the notion that twenty-first-century Christians are destined for seven years of bliss and Jews are in for a holocaust of unparalleled proportions is being trumpeted in current Christianity with great bravado, it is simply not great Bible.
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 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 NKJV
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, AfterLife: What You Need to Know About Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (Brentwood, TN: Worthy, 2013); and The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says About the End Times . . . and Why It Matters Today (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2007).
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