From The Cross in the End-Times
“When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (Jn. 8:44)
Church fathers, biblical scholars, and Christian philosophers have been debating and arguing about end-times prophecies for nearly two thousand years, and still have not managed to reach a consensus. People with high academic credentials have spent lifetimes studying the end-times prophecies in the original languages, and cannot agree with other scholars and theologians on the interpretation of end-times prophetic passages found in the five historical books, the psalms, the prophets, the gospels, the letters to the churches, and in the book of Revelation. I have good Christian friends who are all over the map on the subject of the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation.
Many Christians have the plausible belief that the church will come under the supernatural protection of God all the way to the end of the tribulation, through a physical or spiritual hiding place, without a rapture even occurring. One longtime Christian friend humorously calls himself a “pan-tribulationist”, meaning that it will all “pan-out” in good time through unfolding events, like panning for fine gold in a river bed.
I believe the rapture is separate from the second coming. Paul speaks of what we call the rapture as a mystery, yet everyone in the early church clearly knew about the ascension of Jesus and the promise that He would return in like manner someday in the future. The second coming was not a mystery to first-century Christians. A rapture occurring sometime prior to the second coming, as revealed to Paul, would be a mystery.
In sharing his teachings openly with the other apostles (Gal. 2:2), Paul would have certainly included this revelation regarding the mystery of a lifting-up of the Christian church, those believers currently living and those already dead and buried, off the earth and into heaven. Yet we do not see the slightest hint of any opposition to this teaching that Paul seems to have included within his outreach to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor (Acts 20:20), and that he would have communicated during any one of several occasions to Peter, James, John, and other leaders in the early church in Jerusalem.
It is also important to note here that the pretribulation rapture interpretation is not a paradigm in the sense of a universally accepted working hypothesis in science that must be replaced by a better hypothesis in order to be overturned. No matter how popular the pretribulation rapture teaching may currently be, it is only one of four or five competing end-times prophetic interpretations to choose from.
People inclined to place the rapture part-way into the great tribulation, with the Christian church having a major role in the final decisive debate, do not have to construct an alternate complete scenario to support a rapture occurring sometime in the middle of the tribulation period. The pretribulation rapture scenario is not the orthodox position that must be replaced by a fully formed and explicitly detailed alternative. In my opinion, the best alternative is to admit we do not have the complete end-times picture as yet.
My working hypothesis is the recognition of the great difficulty everyone had figuring out the nature and mission of the messiah prior to the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth. Yet in hindsight everything worked out perfectly according to the designs of God without any dependence upon prior human understanding. Scripture says that end-times Christians will not walk in the night of ignorance (1 Thes. 5:1-11), but this does not require that we have a complete scenario worked out from beginning to end to successfully replace the fully constructed pretribulation rapture framework. The pretribulation rapture teaching is not a paradigm but simply one interpretation among several others.
This book is not an attempt to rigorously examine the end-times biblical prophecies scripture by scripture, in an exhaustive, comprehensive manner. There are numerous well-written books and commentaries that cover the standard viewpoints in the field of biblical eschatology, spanning across recent centuries back to the early church fathers. But I believe that God does have something unique, timely, and applicable to say to us regarding our discipleship as we approach the beginning of the end-times. The goal of this book is to examine some important issues in the current end-times debate from a different perspective, from the viewpoint of our journey of faith with God. This hopefully will enable Christians to stretch their thinking about the challenges ahead and lead to a greater personal commitment in following Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 tells us that before the “day of the Lord” comes, the “man of sin”, the “son of perdition” will be revealed. Because the precise circumstances that would expose the heretofore unrevealed nature of the son of perdition are not given in this scriptural passage, we cannot say exactly how this will occur in the future. But we can make an educated guess that can be insightful to Christians today.
One of the many places where Lucifer, a spiritual being, deceptively hides his true character is within religion (2 Cor. 11:14). Lucifer infiltrates Judaism in the Old Testament, and Christianity in the church age, in skillfully camouflaged attire, because by nature he is a destroyer rather than a builder (Jn. 10:10). Because outward appearances can be so deceiving (Mt. 23:27-28; Lk. 11:44), Lucifer can outwardly project the impression that he is a builder with a positive agenda, which provides a suitable cover for his real intentions of knocking down and destroying the plans of God.
Lucifer hides within religion, in addition to our secular world, because it is one of the best places to conceal his true identity, while at the same time subtly attacking and undermining the work of God. After all, who would expect a religious leader in Jerusalem in the first century or a high official inside “the church” in any century of the church age, to be anything other than a godly person? The cover of religion removes any suspicion.