By: Pete Garcia
It is only natural for those who are watching the deteriorating conditions in the world today, too want to abandon the idea of the “blessed hope” in favor of ‘prepping’ for The Tribulation. History has, after all, shown us that fortune favors the prepared. But just as it is with our eternal salvation, our deliverance from this coming time isn’t dependent upon our efforts, but on what Christ has already done. After all, isn’t that what distinguishes Christianity from every other faith-system? In other words, the ‘blessed hope’ goes against man-centered logic, and puts the onus of salvation, completely in God’s hands.
Consider the two examples Christ gave us with Noah and Lot. What manner of prepping (aside from what God told them to do specifically) could Noah and Lot have done to ‘weather the storm’? What bunker or high place could have saved Noah from the flood waters which covered the earth? What fortifications could Lot have done to make his house ‘judgment-proof’? In either case, their deliverance wasn’t dependent upon themselves to find a way through it, but as they were instructed by God.
NOWHERE in the NT epistles does the Church find instruction to prepare for the 70th Week of Daniel. The only way people can come to that conclusion, is if they take information intended for another audience, and then misapply it to themselves. Such is the case with the confusion over the Olivet Discourse and Revelation 4-19.
Who’s who in the Tribulation?
We now turn to Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy for further clarification of who this particular time is for. The future 70th week of Daniel then is a seven year, “week of years” and is the summation of the entire 70 Weeks (490 years) prophecy as was given to the Prophet Daniel by the angel Gabriel. Daniel 9:24 states;
“Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.
If you were to take the whole passage of Daniel 9 in context, it becomes abundantly clear who Daniel was asking forgiveness for and on behalf of…that being national Israel. Here, we see the angel Gabriel comes to assure Daniel that God has a plan for the Jew’s (your people) and for Jerusalem (your holy city).
Again, the Church is nowhere to be seen in this, as Daniel (along with all the other OT prophets) had no concept of who or what the mystery of the Church was then, because it had not yet been revealed, and wouldn’t be, until Christ first does in Matthew 16:17-20. Even then, Christ doesn’t go into the details about the specifics of the Church, He will save that task for the Apostle Paul, many years later. And just as we don’t see the Church in the first 69 weeks, neither will we in the 70th week.
As another point of confirmation, we see in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus addressing the Church (ecclesia) 19 times in chapters 1-3…yet doesn’t mention the ecclesia anymore from chapters 4-19 while describing the 21 divine Judgments that are poured out upon the earth. Critics will argue that this is an argument from silence, but the silence is deafening. Note this as well, the phrase He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches accompanies each of the seven letters to the seven churches. Yet, inside the seven year Tribulation, we see this warning given in Revelation 13:9, which states if anyone has an ear, let him hear. If the Church were still in the Tribulation, this would have been the perfect opportunity to mention it.
At best, critics of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture liken the term ‘saints’ as the Church on the earth during the Tribulation. I’d like to point out, that ‘saints’ is a fairly generic term, which is used before, during, and after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. So the usage of ‘saints’ as an indicator of who one is, must be understood in light of the context in which it is given. Jesus specifically addresses the Church as ecclesia, and is liberal in the usage of it in the first three chapters of Revelation. If the ecclesia is in the Tribulation, why neglect it for the next 17 chapters? If you were reading a story in a book, and a character was regularly mentioned for the first three chapters, and then not mentioned again…wouldn’t that strike you as odd? The burning question it should leave you unsettled with is…what happened to them?
One of the most significant points in understanding why the Church is not inside the confines of the seven year Tribulation, is that Paul exhorts and corrects the Thessalonians in his second epistle that they can’t already be inside that specific time period (as someone had erroneously taught them), because the man of lawlessness had not yet been revealed. The man of lawlessness can’t be revealed, until the Restrainer is removed. The Restrainer can’t be removed, until the apostasia has arrived. See the sequential process in 2 Thess. 2:3-8;
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
1. “Falling away”; apostasia occurs first
2. This occurs in conjunction with the removal of the Restrainer
3. And then the lawless one will be revealed
The apostasia, must be a singular event. Why is that you ask? Well, apostasy has been present in this world since the 1st century as Paul, Peter, Jude, John, early church fathers, etc. all have had to contend with it in their respective days, even until today. If apostasia simply means the KJV rendering of “falling away”….which “falling away” is it then? Paul dealt with Judaizers. John and Peter dealt with Gnostics. The ECF’s dealt with heresies of all kinds. We have Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholicism, and cults of every flavor to contend with these days. The current theory is the ‘general falling away’ across greater Christendom through ecumenism with heretical and non-Christian faiths. So which is it then and why would God give us such an unspecific sign that could be used in every single generation? And why do those who argue against imminence, then use apostasia as a type of imminence in their argumentation?
This author (along with others), believes that the apostasia is the actual departure at the Rapture. This concept of apostasia is tied to the removal of the Restrainer. Consider the identifying characteristics of the Restrainer who is first identified in a gender neutral identity (what is–vs. 6), then in the masculine form (He–vs. 7).
Were this speaking of Michael the Archangel, or the Antichrist himself, or Satan, they could only be referred to as a ‘he’ or ‘him’, since they are masculine in embodiment. Were the restrainer human government or religion, or some other type of institution, the restrainer would be a thing, and not referred to with a personal pronoun. The only One who this could be referring too, is neither male, female, or human in any type of bodily form…yet, is also a living Being, so as to distinguish Him from simply being a ‘thing’…which is God the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a ‘He’ numerous times in John 14-16, and thus we should conclude, that the clues Paul leaves here can only reference God the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, this Restrainer, must be God the Holy Spirit, since evil is present simultaneously all over the created order, and the Restrainer must be powerful enough to curtail it. We see in verse 9; The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders. It first removes the Satan as a candidate, since Satan wouldn’t hinder himself. Secondly, it removes Michael the Archangel since Michael doesn’t (or doesn’t presently) confront Satan with anything more than a rebuke. (Jude 1:9)
It would seem that just as it was in Creation (Gen. 1:2), in Noah’s day (Gen. 6:3), and again before and after Pentecost, (Acts 2), there is coming a time when the Holy Spirit’s active role here on the earth will be changed. To clarify something that often gets misconstrued, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, and so it’s not that He disappears from the earth altogether, but His role changes, just as it had in the past with Creation, during the OT period, at Pentecost, and now during the Church Age. He will be removing (the apostasia) the Body of Christ via the harpazo (catching up) of those He permanently seals and indwells (John 14:16, Romans 8:9, Ephesians 4:30) in order for the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) to be revealed.
I’ve recently had someone argue against the doctrine of imminence, by stating that since Peter was foretold that he was going to have to die in a certain manner that this rules out imminence, since Peter would not expect to be taken up in the Rapture prior to that. (John 21:18-19)
For me, that argument carries very little weight, and seems to ignore the general expectation that Paul, John, James, and the others had in regards to keeping that ‘blessed hope’ alive, even in their generation. Marshall Hawkins writes concerning this “seeming” dilemma;
Time for this gap between Peter’s middle age and his old age is allowed for by the progress of revelation. It was not until the book of James (written just about A.D. 50), and then later in Paul’s writings that the imminence of the rapture is revealed. Twenty years would have elapsed between the prophecy and the writing of James-enough time for Peter to have aged sufficiently….By this time imminence was a viable doctrine for most of the church since they would have no idea whether Peter was alive at any one moment or not….For those accompanying Peter at this time, the rapture was also imminent because Peter may have been seized and martyred at any time, making the rapture possible immediately afterward. Marshall Hawkins, “Rebuttal of the Posttribulational Denial of Imminence” (Unpublished ThM thesis, Capital Bible Seminary, 1979), p. 45. Cited in McAvoy, “Critique,” p. 83
Let me conclude this discussion on imminence with a sampling of passages linking our faith, with the biblical significance of imminence; 1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Philippians 3:20, Philippians 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Timothy 6:14, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 1:13, Jude 21, Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20, Revelation 22:17, 20 [Excerpts from Dr. Tommy Ice’s Imminence and the Rapture]
As mentioned earlier, a believer’s supernatural deliverance in Scripture, is in direct relationship to the size and scope of God’s judgment. When the 70th Week comes, it will encompass the entire world and there will be no place for man to escape to on the earth, thus explaining the reason why the removal of the Church (those born-again believers), has to be off-planet. This reasoning fits exactly with what Jesus states in Revelation 3:10…
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
The Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, and Post-Tribulation views try to promote the notion that ‘prepared’ believers are somehow exempted from the judgments and persecution that will come upon believers during the Tribulation. Yet, we see in Rev. 6:9-11 and 13:7 martyrdom has become global, and that the Antichrist is given permission to overcome the ‘saints’ completely. In fact, the ONLY ones’ who are sealed supernaturally, are those 144,000 Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel, who are listed out by their respective tribes. (Rev. 7:1-8) So the question then becomes….what exactly is the believer ‘kept from’ during the Tribulation? It would seem martyrdom is the only sure guarantee…which negates the idea of being ‘kept from’.
The only view, which ensures and supports the biblical view of imminence, is the Pre-Tribulation view. The Tribulation is a highly chronicled time, broken down by days (2,520), months (42 x 2), and years (3 1/2 x 2) and marked by 21 divine judgments, with a clear halfway-point (Matt. 24:15) that separates the first half of the 70th week, from the last half. The question then is, how can any view outside the Pre-Trib view be considered imminent, (no man knows the day or hour) when there are so many clear signs and markers inside the confines of the 70th Week, which count down to the day the Lord will return at His Second Coming? The only view, which correctly defines the apostasia, the Restrainer, and the role each play in accordance to the revelation of the man of lawlessness, AND also fits perfectly with chronological nature of Revelation 1-6 beginning with the Churches, the Rapture of John, the Throne Room scene, and Christ opening of the Seal Judgments, is the Pre-Tribulation view.
The only view which is in keeping with the biblical purpose of “the why” of the Tribulation, is the Pre-Tribulation view. Jeremiah 30:7-11 and Daniel 9:24-27, very specifically teach that this time is for the Christ rejecting world, and for the nation of Israel. This then correlates perfectly to the obvious absence of the “ecclesia” from Revelation 4 onwards.
The only view which properly defines divine wrath consistently, and in keeping with the principles laid out throughout the Bible, is the Pre-Tribulation view. Again, trials and persecutions in this life are to be expected. That is NOT the same thing as the wrath that God pours out in His indignation.
The only view, which takes the biblical understanding of salvation, both eternal and physical, and puts it solely in God’s hands, is that of the Pre-Tribulation view. Our ‘blessed hope’ isn’t dependent upon our own ability to preserve ourselves, but in placing our faith in a God who is faithful to His word, and that He will not destroy the righteous with the wicked.
Lastly, if the Rapture were in conjunction with the Second Coming, the passage below would make no sense. If the Rapture were at some point inside the Tribulation (which Christ said would be the most horrific time in human history), would makes no sense. The only way this passage makes sense, is if the Rapture happens before the Tribulation begins. Therefore…
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3