The title of this post is a play on the word change of course, as every Bible believing Christian agrees [I hope] that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth, we will all be changed [living and dead believers] and have new bodies. We see a description of what will happen in 1 Cor 15:51-53 and 1 Thess 4:13-17, so the fact is established. The thing that divides however, is the timing of this event – whether it will happen before or after the prophesied great tribulation that is to come upon the earth. Referred to for convenience as pre-trib or post-trib.
The change in our bodies and our gathering together has come to be known as ‘The Rapture’ – a word not found in scripture, but like the word Trinity it is simply a convenient descriptive word for a Bible truth.
I am writing here more as a personal testimony to my change of view from pre-trib to post-trib belief, and I am not alone as I have discovered. It is not an in-depth study of the subject by any means, as others far more knowledgeable in the scriptures than I, have covered it so well and comprehensively. In particular there is an excellent free e-book by Steven Straub that can be downloaded at http://www.theposttribulationrapture.com
As a new Christian 50 years ago, I was taught the pre-trib rapture view, accepted it as fact and never took seriously any other viewpoint – it seemed so right, so why would I? Pre-trib theorists [for that is what it really is] are so convincing in presenting their case that it has become THE most predominant view among Christians. However, for me , there were always little things that made me wonder because they didn’t seem to fit the scenario, but I suppose I just shelved them.
The trigger that forced me into re-examining what I believed and what the Bible actually teaches on ‘the day of the Lord’ and the rapture, happened roughly three years ago when I attended a presentation given by a young woman at my then church. She was very much caught up in the misplaced excitement surrounding Elenin and blood moons at that time [too distracting for me to go into here]. She thought it her duty to warn us that these planetary happenings and related earthly disasters of one sort and another, were signs and indicators that the Rapture could happen at any time soon and come upon us like a thief in the night, so everyone better be ready, with oil in their lamps etc to avoid being left behind. I’m sure you’ve all heard sermons saying exactly the same thing [maybe not the Elenin bit].
What exactly constitutes being ‘ready’ is never quite quantified, so how can we ever be really certain of our ‘readiness’ in order to qualify? Well, of course, we qualify by being a Christian believer, with our righteousness’ in Him’ and not in ourselves ….. you are either born again or you aren’t - you can’t be half-way saved!
I can imagine it was something similar that was exercising the Thessalonians when Paul wrote to reassure them that two things MUST happen before the Rapture on the day of the Lord: a falling away [from the faith] and the revealing of the Man of Sin [Antichrist] 2 Thess 2:1-3 and in 1 Thess 5:1-11 Paul clearly tells them that they already know the times and seasons, so they are not in darkness and fear about it, but they are the children of light and that Day will not overtake them with shocked surprise, like a thief . They are not appointed to wrath, as the wicked are, but that day is to be their day of salvation instead. So meanwhile, they should live soberly, in faith and love, comforting one another with this knowledge.
Just to go back to the ‘falling away’ spoken of in 2 Thess 2:3 - as far as I’m concerned, it has always referred to the apostasy that is to befall the church, brought about by the deception of false teachers/prophets in the last days. So I nearly fell off my chair when I heard the young lady confidently say it means a ‘departure’ or catching away of the church [ therefore happening before the appearance of Antichrist] Wow – so we had it wrong all these years? I don’t think so!
We see then, if we take this verse as it stands, it clearly gives us a timeline for two events: the falling away followed by the revealing of that man of Sin, both to happen before the Day of the Lord. A short study of what will happen on the Day of the Lord/ Day of Christ shows that the rapture and gathering of the saints/church happens alongside the wrath/judgement of God . Good news for us, bad news for the wicked!
If we are unwilling to accept the implications of the plain statements of scripture, meanings have to be changed to fit what we want to believe and that is manipulation of God’s word. If Paul meant the physical removal/departure of the church I think he would have referred to it in the terms he used elsewhere. As it is – a huge ‘departure’ from the faith IS prophesied eg 1 Tim 4:1,2 and 2 Tim 4:3,4 so ‘falling away’ in that sense is in total harmony.
Pre-trib believers also seem to have trouble distinguishing ‘wrath’ from ‘tribulation’. But tribulation is not God’s wrath – in fact it is considered in scripture to be a great blessing and honour to suffer for Christ and be counted worthy to do so. Jas 1:2 & 5:10.11 God’s wrath is poured out on the wicked in judgement on that Day.
In John 17:14,15 after stating that the world will hate His disciples, the lord Jesus prays, not for them to be taken out of the world [Rapture escape route] , but that God would keep them from evil – which I believe to mean with their faith intact. Noah is often used as an illustration of the pre-trib rapture, but Noah and family were still on the earth while all the terror of God’s wrath on mankind was going on all around them. They were safe ‘in Him’ no matter what – the exact opposite of pre-trib teaching.
When the Lord Jesus Christ comes again it will be heralded with the sound of the last trumpet and everyone will see it. God, in His mercy and for the sake of believers ,will cut the Tribulation short by His coming, otherwise, we are told, nobody would be left. There will have been no prior secret removal of the Church, seven or three and a half before the Tribulation, because the resurrection and rapture of believers happens at the last Trump! this is called the first resurrection. The ‘changed’ saints will then rule with Christ in His millennial Kingdom over those who are left, Jew and Gentile, after the destruction of the wicked nations that came against Israel in the battle of Armageddon see Zech 14:16 A most poignant verse is Zech 12:10 ” And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem , the spirit of grace and of supplications and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” This of course links with Matt 24:30
I believe the teaching of a pre-trib rescue for the Church ill – equips believers to be able to face the trials that are to come. We have had an easy time of it in the west when it comes to suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ – but we can see the changes that are beginning to happen even now where our stand on the word of God will bring persecution as our freedoms are being eroded by laws and restrictions. I don’t doubt that the Bible will once again become a banned book for it’s uncompromising truths. No – I do not look forward to persecution, trials and tribulations – in myself, I suspect like many others, I am just a coward. But the good news is that we have a wonderful God and Saviour who is with us in our trials and will show Himself strong on our behalf when we trust Him and believe His word.
During my own ‘sortie’ into the subject I have come across web sites and blogs by Christians who have taken a similar path to myself and I have been pleasantly surprised to discover their thoughts and misgivings have matched my own, which has given me confidence that I’m on the right track. Their own studies have helped me enormously in what could have been an overwhelming task in my old age! I’m sure I haven’t covered everything that may be in question, but I hope it may be something of a stimulation to begin your own ‘as is’ Bible study. May the Lord make us lovers of His truth for His glory. Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts – they are most welcome. Maranatha!