End Times Prophecy

Why The Pretribulation Rapture is Sound Doctrine: A Response to Not Afraid Of The Antichrist, Why We Don’t Believe In A Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Michael L. Brown and Craig S. Keener

There is a new book out, written by two well known Biblical scholars.  Its thesis is that there is no solid Biblical evidence for a Pretribulation Rapture.  The book’s title is Not Afraid of the Antichrist, Why We Do Not Believe in a Pretribulation Rapture.

The authors are Dr. Michael L. Brown and Dr. Craig S. Keener.  They both have impeccable academic credentials and there is no doubt in my mind that they are both very serious and committed believers in Yeshua the Messiah.  I’ve met Dr. Brown and as a Jewish believer in Jesus I’m personally grateful to him for his five volume work Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.  It is an incredible resource and I have referred to it many times over the years.  In addition, several years ago, Dr. Brown made himself available at my request, following the premature death of a prominent member of Charleston’s Jewish community, to address a gathering at The Center for Jewish Studies of The College of Charleston to explain what the Scriptures say about death.  Unfortunately an invitation for Dr. Brown to speak at this gathering was not extended by The College but I was and am very grateful that he was willing to come to South Carolina even on short notice.

However, I do not agree with the thesis of  Not Afraid and that is the reason for this series of blog posts.  Not Afraid does not make the case that there is no solid Biblical evidence for The Pretribulation Rapture of the Church.

Before we get into the details of the arguments presented in this response we need to define certain terms.

Definition of Terms

 I will refer to the seven year tribulation as The Tribulation.  This period of time is the same as Daniel’s 70th week.  The second half of this 7 year period begins with the abomination of desolation.  It is 3.5 years long.  As many authors do I will refer to this second half of Daniel’s 70th week as The Great Tribulation or The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  The Great Tribulation and The Time of Jacob’s Trouble are different names for the same period of time.  When I am referring to tribulation that does not involve The Tribulation or The Great Tribulation I will use the term tribulation with no capitalization.

In this response to Not Afraid of the Antichrist, Why We Do Not Believe in a Pretribulation Rapture I will use Not Afraid to refer to the book instead of the entire book title.  When I am quoting from portions of Not Afraid, whether written by Dr. Brown or written by Dr. Keener, I will simply identify Not Afraid as the source of the quote and the quoted text will be in italics.

Not Afraid states that not a single Bible text explicitly affirms the The Pretribulation Rapture.  Here is a quote from Not Afraid: 

Since explicit biblical justification for pre-Tribulational claims is missing, the best that pre-Tribulationalism can do is construct secondary arguments for why the doctrine is true even though not a single text explicitly affirms it.

Brown, Michael L. Not Afraid of the Antichrist (p. 36). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Not Afraid also has other objections to The Pretribulation Rapture and we will cover the major ones in subsequent posts.  But in this post we will address the objection that there is no explicit biblical justification for pre-Tribulational claims.  

Please bear with me as I tell you a few things that I learned in my 46 years of practicing medicine that are relevant to this discussion.  My specialty was diagnosis.  How does one make the correct diagnosis for a particular patient?  It’s important that we have some knowledge of that because the way we deal with uncertainties in making the right diagnosis for a patient with a medical problem  is similar to the way we deal with uncertainties in interpreting Bible  prophecies involving end time events such as The Pretribulation Rapture.

Let me give you an example of a very common medical situation.  A 60 year old man comes to the emergency room with severe pain in the center of his chest that began 30 minutes before he arrived.  He feels as if there is an elephant sitting on his chest.  The ER doctor immediately considers a diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).  An EKG is performed and shows the classic signs of an acute myocardial infarction.  Blood tests for cardiac enzymes are abnormal and the pattern of abnormality is specific for an acute myocardial infarction.  The clinical picture, the abnormal EKG, and the abnormal cardiac enzymes rule in an acute myocardial infarction.  Because this condition is the result of an acute occlusion or blockage of a coronary artery, an attempt to restore blood flow must be made immediately.  A cardiologist is consulted and takes the patient to the heart catheterization laboratory to determine if the patient needs a coronary artery stent or possibly even bypass surgery to restore blood flow to the area of blood-deprived heart muscle.  The diagnosis, acute myocardial infarction, is established in this patient beyond any doubt and points the way to what needs to be done next which is to restore blood flow as quickly as possible to avoid irreversible death of heart muscle.  The evidence for acute myocardial infarction in this case is explicit and very clear right from the beginning.  There is little room for controversy.

Let’s now get back to The Pretribulation Rapture.  Imagine if this passage was in the New Testament:

Jesus descends from heaven, where He has been since He ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection, but He does not descend all the way to earth.  He stops in the clouds and resurrects all the dead members of the Church from their graves to meet Him in the air.  Less than a fraction of a second later He raptures or catches up all living Church members to meet Him in the air.  Thus the Church, His bride, is with Him in the clouds.  He then takes the Church immediately back to heaven with Him to His Father’s house and each Church member is assigned a glorious dwelling place.  For reasons that we do not yet fully know or understand in addition to the fact that Messiah’s bride is now safe and no longer at risk of suffering horrible things on earth, things that will wipe out a substantial part of the human race, Jesus begins to open the seals of the scroll that will trigger horrible judgements on earth which will last for 7 years.  Jesus will even allow someone called the Antichrist to rise up and orchestrate an attack on Israel and the Jews that is worse than even Hitler’s holocaust and this period, The Great Tribulation, will last 3.5 years.  More will be written about all this by the apostle John in a book he will yet be inspired to write, a book called Revelation.

If there was a passage in the New Testament like the fictitious one above then all who believe the Bible could agree that The Pretribulation Rapture will occur beyond any doubt.

Now let me present you with a different clinical scenario  based on an actual patient who saw me a few years ago.

A 69 year old man, Mr. X, comes to see me complaining of dull abdominal pain when he walks.  He gets the pain at no other time, only when walking.  He has seen several doctors including a gastroenterologist and none of these doctors were able to make a diagnosis.  Physical examination revealed two abnormalities: absent arterial pulses in both feet and a loud noise (a bruit) heard with the stethocope placed over the right carotid artery (in the neck).  Both of these findings suggested the presence of atherosclerotic disease (arteries blocked due to cholesterol build up).  Additional information included a long term history of cigarette smoking, which is a definite risk factor for atherosclerosis.

When a pain comes on with physical exertion, such as walking, a doctor should consider reduced blood flow, ischemia, as a cause of the pain.  Typically when there is poor blood flow to the legs, as this patient likely had (no pulses in the feet on physical examination), walking produces pain in the calf muscles, thighs, or buttocks, but not in the abdomen.  On the other hand abdominal pain due to poor circulation to the gut (the stomach and intestines) usually comes on after a meal, at a time when the gut requires higher blood flow to digest recently eaten food.  But abdominal pain with walking?  I’d never heard of that.

But Mr. X’s abdominal pain was brought on by walking and was relieved by rest, and that sounded like ischemia due to a blocked artery to the stomach and/or intestines.  Perhaps there are collateral vascular pathways between the gut and the legs in Mr. X which allow for diverting of blood to the legs that is intended to supply the gut.  Walking increases the demand for blood flow to the legs.  The increased blood flow “stolen” by the patient’s leg muscles when he walked left his gut without adequate blood flow thereby causing abdominal pain.

What to do next?  I sent the patient back to his primary care physician with a request that an MRI angiogram of his abdominal circulation be done.  The angiogram showed a severely narrowed artery to the intestines.  A vascular surgeon placed a stent in this artery restoring blood flow to normal.

Guess what?  No more abdominal pain with walking!  The patient was thrilled. The diagnosis was subtotal occlusion of the superior mesenteric artery.  I called the pain Abdominal Angina Brought on by Walking.  The fact that opening the culprit artery with a stent brought relief of pain ruled in the diagnosis of Abdominal Angina Brought on by Walking.  

In Mr. X, there was not just one test or one abnormal physical finding that provided the diagnosis.  A whole series of pieces of information beginning with the clinical history of abdominal pain brought on by walking and ending with the response to treatment with a stent to normalize blood flow confirmed the diagnosis of a blocked artery to the gut beyond any doubt.

I could find  no report of another case like this in the medical literature and every doctor I personally queried had never heard of a patient with this problem and one of the doctors looked at me with a facial expression suggesting that he thought I was crazy.  Because nobody had heard of this condition I thought it would be worthwhile to publish this case in a major medical journal.  The patient gave me his permission to do so.  The journal refused to accept my article.  I don’t know why.  Maybe the editor thought that this case was just too fantastic to believe.

The Pretribulation Rapture is like this patient’s case with an important exception: it has not occurred yet.  So we cannot say that The Pretribulation Rapture will occur beyond any doubt.  But I do believe that if we analyze the evidence in the Bible for the Pretribulation Rapture we will see that we can say that it will occur beyond a reasonable doubt.  That’s a pretty high standard of evidence and for me that evidence, mixed with faith, places The Pretribulation Rapture into the category of sound doctrine.

There are numerous passages in the Bible that talk about the The Pretribulation Rapture.  If we use them in a sequential and cumulative manner, as a good student of inductive Bible study methods would do, I believe that they provide compelling evidence that the Rapture occurs before The Tribulation and, in my opinion, this is beyond a reasonable doubt.  Do I have evidence to back this up?  Yes.  But before I give you that evidence, in the posts that will follow this one, I want to quote something that Dr. Brown wrote in another book:

1. Messianic prophecies are not clearly identified as such. There is not a single verse in the entire Hebrew Bible that is specifically identified as a Messianic prophecy. 

Brown, Michael L.. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus : Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections (p. 189). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I don’t believe that prophecies about the The Pretribulation Rapture are any different than prophecies about the Messiah.

Please stay tuned for the next post in this series.

Thanks for reading.

Arthur P. Wolinsky, MD 

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For those interested in the three part series, The Rapture, originally published on this blog, please click below.

What is the Rapture?  Part I

What is the Rapture? Part II

What is the Rapture? Part III

Posted by Art in End Times Prophecy, 0 comments

What is the Rapture? Part III

Let’s rejoin Dr. Kaplan and his students, Josh, Matt, and Sarah, as they conclude their discussion on the rapture:

(For the previous post click here: What is the Rapture? Part II)

“Hi Dr. Kaplan. It seems like an eternity since our last meeting although I know it’s only been a week. I’m just so excited about the rapture. I have a hunger to know more about it,” said Sarah.

“Yes, Dr. Kaplan. I feel the same way,” said Josh.

“Me too,” said Matt. “Can we read the relevant verses in 1 Thessalonians again, Dr. Kaplan?”

“Absolutely, Matt.”

Matt read:

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ESV

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. [16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

“I’m so glad the three of you are here today. This is exciting stuff!” said Ben. “Now if my memory serves me we have established that according to the Bible the rapture is imminent. Jesus could return at any moment but that moment is not necessarily soon. We do not know just when Jesus will return for us. However it could be today. We know that, because Jesus told us to always be ready. I’m going to read Matthew 24:44 again.

Matthew 24:44 ESV

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Now remember that an even better translation for the Greek word ready is prepared. We must always be prepared because Jesus will come for us at an hour we do not expect,” said Ben.

“And to be prepared means to be saved or born again, right?” said Josh.

“And that means to be in Christ, right Dr. Kaplan?” said Matt.

“And that means to be in the Body of Christ which is the Church, the true Church. Right?” said Sarah.

“You are all correct!! So, are we agreed that the rapture is imminent, and that Jesus could come today?” asked Ben.

The 3 students all nodded their heads in agreement.

“So, what about those believers who say that the Church must go through part or all of The Tribulation? If the rapture is imminent, does that prove these believers wrong?” said Josh.

“It does prove them wrong, Josh. Those who insist that the rapture must occur in the middle of The Tribulation, or later on during The Tribulation, or after The Tribulation, destroy the imminence of the rapture, and that can’t be correct because the rapture is imminent. Do you all understand?” said Ben.

“I think so, Dr. Kaplan. The mid-tribulation rapture theory would require that the rapture occur around the time of the abomination of desolation and we know when that will be. It will be after three and one-half years of The Tribulation, meaning the midpoint of the seven year Tribulation. So if the rapture can’t occur until then, it can’t be imminent,” said Sarah.

“And the pre-wrath rapture theory requires that the rapture must occur even later than the midpoint of The Tribulation, so that theory also directly conflicts with an imminent rapture,” said Josh.

“And the post tribulation rapture theory mandates no rapture until The Tribulation is finished which will be at the end of the seven years. That also conflicts with an imminent rapture,” said Matt.

“Right! I think all four of us are on the same page. Because the rapture is imminent, any theory that requires the rapture to occur after The Tribulation starts cannot be correct. In the language that we sometimes use to describe medical test results, an imminent rapture rules out any mandatory mid-tribulation, pre-wrath tribulation, post-tribulation, or any other variety of rapture that requires the Church to enter The Tribulation. This even includes any theory that has yet to be put forth by some future theologian,” said Ben. “We’ll lump all these theories together and for ease of discussion we’ll put them all in a basket labeled Post-Tribulation Raptures,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, I think I’m clear now on how imminence rules out mandatory Post-Tribulation Raptures. But I’m confused about two passages in Matthew 24 and I’m not sure how these two passages bear on the question of imminence. It almost seems as if Jesus is describing two separate second comings. What’s going on there?” asked Josh. “May I read the verses?”

“Sure, Josh. Please go ahead and read the first of the two passages,” said Ben.

Matthew 24:29 ESV

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

“Some key words in this passage are immediately after the tribulation. We will know when The Tribulation begins because the signing of a treaty between Israel and the Antichrist begins The Tribulation and that will surely be a very public event. The Tribulation is 7 years long, a known length of time. Immediately after The Tribulation, awesome cosmic signs appear and then Jesus, the Son of Man, comes on the clouds of heaven. This is the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth and everyone on earth will see Him coming. He does not tell us to be ready for this event because 7 years’ notice will have already been given. This is well described in the Bible and anyone living during The Tribulation can read all about it as Bibles will be widely available and, in addition, the Gospel will be preached again, loud and clear, to all earth dwellers during The Tribulation. The Bible tells us that too. So, if a person is not prepared when He, Jesus, comes on the clouds, there will be no time to do so then. It will be too late,” said Ben. “Notice also that there is no mention of Jesus snatching or taking anyone up from the earth to meet Him in the clouds. No rapture is described here. Again, this is the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth,” said Ben.

“OK, I think I see that, Dr. Kaplan. But what about the last verse in this passage. Let me read it,” said Matt.

Matthew 24:31 ESV

31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

“What is Jesus referring to here?” asked Matt.

“I believe He is referring to the final regathering of Jewish people to the land of Israel. This is described all the way back in the book of Deuteronomy where the LORD speaking through Moses said:

Deuteronomy 30:4 ESV

“If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.”
“Josh, please read the second passage in Matthew 24 now,” said Ben.

Matthew 24:36 ESV

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

“Dr. Kaplan, this sounds like an entirely different event than the Second Coming, doesn’t it?” asked Sarah.

“It sure does Sarah. We cannot know the day and hour of this event. And this event is not going to be immediately after The Tribulation because that is an incredibly horrific time. The time before this event is a time of normal life, as in the days before Noah’s flood. Unbelievers at that time will be blissfully ignorant of what is to come,” said Ben. “Jesus is talking about the rapture in this passage.”

“Dr. Kaplan, why is it that so many excellent Bible teachers, pastors, and theologians, say that this passage does not refer to the rapture. They say that it refers to what happens following the second coming and that the men and women who are taken are unsaved people taken away to be judged,” said Sarah.

“Thanks for that question. I think the reason is that the folks who do not believe that this passage refers to the rapture are taking this whole chapter, Matthew 24, as being in strict chronological order. But I don’t believe that is the case. Note that Jesus says “But concerning that day and hour …..”. I believe that the “But” indicates that Jesus is now turning to another topic, the topic of the rapture,” said Ben.

“This all makes sense, Dr. Kaplan, but an idea has just occurred to me and I’d like your input on it. Imminence rules out any mandatory Post-Tribulation Raptures. I definitely see that. But does imminence rule in a pre- tribulation rapture?” asked Josh.

“What a wonderful question, Josh! Almost nobody ever asks that question and it is an important question to ask and the answer is a most important one to understand. The answer is that, although imminence rules out Post-Tribulation Raptures, imminence does not rule in a pre-tribulation rapture. There is something else that rules in a pre-tribulation rapture,” said Ben.

At the same time, all 3 students exclaimed. “What is that, Dr. Kaplan!?!”

“A pre-tribulation rapture is ruled in by the character of God. You know that I’m Jewish and I know that God loves His Chosen Nation Israel and His Chosen People, the Jewish people, with an everlasting love. But I also know something else. God loves His Church, His Son’s bride, just as much, and Jesus will not allow His beloved bride to enter The Tribulation. But not only that, there is simply no reason for the Church to enter The Tribulation because, by definition, the Church, and by that I mean the true Church, is saved. That includes every member of the true Church. Another name for the true Church is the Bride of Messiah,” said Ben. “It is made up of every believer, both Jew and Gentile, from the time of the crucifixion until the time of the rapture.”

“But, Dr. Kaplan, God loves Israel, His Chosen Nation and the Jewish people, His Chosen People, just as you said. So why would Israel have to go through The Tribulation? Why isn’t Israel raptured?” said Matt.

“Once again, the answer is the character of God. His plans for the Jewish people and Israel are so great that we can’t even imagine how great they are. But in order to bring those plans to pass, the Nation of Israel and the Chosen People must be pure. The Chosen People must be saved, all of them,” said Ben.

“I’m confused, Dr. Kaplan. Are you telling me that the Chosen People are not all saved?” said Sarah.

“That’s right, Sarah. They are not all saved. Remember that not long ago you weren’t saved and you’re Jewish. You had to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and then He saved you. And the Nation of Israel, as a Nation, cannot be saved until every member of that Nation accepts Jesus. There is no other way, for anyone, whether he or she is a Gentile or a Jew. There will come a time when The Chosen People, and the All Israel of Romans 11:26, will be coextensive and then all Israel will be saved. That is one major purpose of The Tribulation. God will accomplish this by breaking the will of His Chosen People as He tells us in Daniel 12:7. At the end of The Tribulation, all Jews who have not been killed will accept Jesus, and so all Israel will then be saved. God will then be able to fulfill all of the promises that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thousands of years ago. That is part of the character of God. He always keeps His promises,” said Ben. “And the love of God for His Chosen People is very much a part of all this. God loves Israel and the Jewish People and He always will,” said Ben.

Josh spoke. “So, Dr. Kaplan, you’ve made a very strong case for the pre-tribulation rapture and you’ve ruled out any mandatory Post-Tribulation Raptures. You’ve explained why the Church will not enter The Tribulation and you’ve explained why Israel will enter The Tribulation. Now, do you think the case for the pre-tribulation rapture is strong enough? Do you believe it? Is faith required to believe it?”

“I do believe it Josh, I most definitely have faith that Jesus is coming to rapture us, and I look forward to it everyday,” said Ben.

“Now, we’ve talked about the rapture for 3 sessions now, but I think there are still a few loose ends such as who are the elect of Matthew 24:22 and 24:24? These elect people are the Tribulation Saints. You see, as we are told in the book of Revelation, there will be a world-wide revival during The Tribulation. Gentiles will be saved as well as Jews. God knows exactly what He is doing.

“And we also haven’t talked much about Daniel’s 70th week, discussed in Daniel chapter 9. And I’m sure there are a few other loose ends too. But I think that for now, we can move on to additional things of importance in the Scriptures. In the meantime, please look into these “loose ends” yourselves and if you have questions I will try to answer them,” said Ben.

“Would you please join hands with me now as we give great thanks to our awesome God who has saved us and who is returning soon to snatch us up as He tells us in John 14:3?” asked Ben.

John 14:3 ESV

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Ben asked Sarah to lead as all four joined hands together and prayed.

Posted by Art in End Times Prophecy

What is the Rapture? Part II

(For part one of this series, click here: What is the rapture? Part I )

Matt, Josh, and Sarah, Ben Kaplan’s medical students, were excited. The time of their weekly meeting with Ben had finally arrived.

“So, Dr. Kaplan, we’re raring to go! Tell us more about the rapture, please,” said Sarah.

“Sure, Sarah,” said Ben. “Let’s start with a short recap. Let me read again the 3 verses in the Bible that most obviously talk about the rapture:

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (ESV)

“As we said last time, because they happen so closely together in time, we’re going to refer to the raising up of both groups, the dead in Christ and the we who are alive, as the rapture. And because the rapture and the tribulation are closely related, we are going to talk about the tribulation today.

“There is coming a time of great tribulation on the earth. The tribulation occurs after the rapture. So when believers are raptured they are saved from entering the time of the tribulation. Although the world has one heck of a lot of tribulation now, The Tribulation will be much worse than any tribulation that has ever happened so far. It will last 7 years and it will be a time during which God pours out His wrath on this planet. The wrath and accompanying judgements will be concentrated and extremely severe. The 7 years of The Tribulation are divided into two equal periods of three and one-half years each. The second half of The Tribulation is even worse than the first half. For that reason it is sometimes called The Great Tribulation and another name used to describe this second half of The Tribulation is The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah.

“Jesus talked about The Great Tribulation in the 24th chapter of Matthew. Matt, please read verse 21, spoken by Jesus,” said Ben.

“Sure, Dr. Kaplan.”

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 (ESV)

“Dr. Kaplan, hasn’t there ever been a time like this already on the earth? What about all the natural disasters and mass murders that have occurred right up to the present time and are still occurring? What about Hitler’s Holocaust and other episodes of genocide since then? ” asked Matt.

“Matt, The Tribulation has not yet occurred and we’ll prove that a little later in our discussion when we talk about something called The Abomination of Desolation, but for now, I’d like you to just keep in your minds the idea that The Tribulation will be bad beyond anything we can even imagine right now. We, the 4 of us here together today, do not want to go through that period of time and, praise God, He has ordained that we will not go through it. He will catch us up from the surface of the earth to meet Jesus in the air, along with our dear departed brothers and sisters who accepted Jesus when they were alive. They will be resurrected, ” said Ben. “Let me read that to you again from the Bible,” said Ben.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (ESV)

“All of this will happen in the blink of an eye, essentially instantaneously,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, how do we know when the rapture will occur? I know that you read 2 other verses last time, telling us that God is going to deliver us from future wrath. The Tribulation is that future wrath, right?” asked Josh. “But if that’s the correct interpretation, can you prove that to us?”

Sarah spoke up. “Amen, Dr. Kaplan. I’d also like to have proof of this timing, proof that the rapture occurs before The Tribulation. I’m already reading, in various books and articles, that many people believe that the dead in Christ and the we who are alive, of 1Thessalonians 4:16-17, will be raptured after The Tribulation, not before. So how do we know for sure that we will be caught up in the clouds before The Tribulation starts?”

Matt spoke up too. “I agree with Josh and Sarah. I’d like proof that the rapture is before The Tribulation, that it’s pretribulational. Can you give us that proof, Dr. Kaplan? Because if you can, that’s going to be something! What an incredible thing it would be if I can know that I won’t be on earth during the time of The Tribulation. And one other thing, Dr. Kaplan. I’ve come across articles that refer to this 7 year Tribulation as the 70th week of the prophet Daniel. What is that all about? Does that fit in with our current discussion?”

“I cannot believe how much the 3 of you are learning! It’s fantastic! And you’re asking great questions! Matt, Daniel’s 70th week surely does fit in with what we are talking about, and thanks for asking about it! We will get to that a little bit later on,” said Ben. “But getting back to what the 3 of you are asking for. You are asking for proof that the rapture occurs before The Tribulation. I believe that the Bible furnishes that proof. In order to understand that proof, we need to talk about something called imminence. A standard English dictionary will tell us that imminence is a state or condition when something is about to happen. But from Matthew 24, we derive a slightly different definition of imminence. Imminence refers to a thing that is going to happen suddenly, at an hour that we cannot know, with no preconditions required in order for it to happen. If we believe that Jesus could come today to catch us up to meet Him in the clouds then we believe that the rapture is imminent. He doesn’t have to come today but He could. We cannot know the day or the hour. But when He comes it will be sudden. That’s what imminence means,” said Ben.

“So the Biblical definition of imminence is a definition deduced from what Jesus said in Matthew 24?” asked Josh.

“Exactly, Josh, and it’s not just from Matthew 24 but for now we’ll stick to Matthew 24. We’ll take this in bite sized pieces,” said Ben.

“So the rapture is imminent and that word is not actually in Scripture but is deduced from Scripture?” asked Matt.

“That’s exactly right, Matt,” said Ben.

“And a Biblical definition of imminence speaks of an event that could happen at any time, of an event that when it occurs will occur in an instant , and of an event that requires no preconditions that have to occur first. Is that right?” said Josh.

“Beautifully summarized, Josh!” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, why is it important to know if the rapture is imminent or not?” asked Sarah.

“Sarah, you have just asked the most important question of the day, or perhaps of the year. Thank you! It is important to know if the rapture is imminent because if it is imminent then we cannot know the hour and if we cannot know the hour, then we must be ready at all times! And as I hope to show you soon, if the rapture is imminent, that means that any theory that requires the rapture to occur after The Tribulation has started has to be incorrect. So our next task is to prove that the rapture is imminent and I believe that we can do that from what Jesus said in Matthew 24,” said Ben.

“OK, Dr. Kaplan. I’m all ears and I can’t wait to hear the proof. But one more question first, please,” said Josh.

“Sure, Josh,” said Ben.

“You said that an imminent rapture means we must be ready at all times. Are you referring to Matthew 24: 44? Can I read that verse to you?” said Josh.

“Please do, Josh,” said Ben. Josh read.

44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 (ESV)

Ben spoke. “The Greek word for ready in this verse is hetoimos. It means prepared. So Jesus is telling us that we must be prepared for his coming for us, that we must be prepared for the rapture. It means, Josh, that we must know Jesus, that we must be born again, that we must be saved. Because if we’re not, we won’t be raptured. If we’re not, provided we don’t die first, when the rapture happens we’ll be left behind and we will enter the time of The Tribulation.”

“Is this ever getting exciting, and serious, Dr. Kaplan!” said Sarah. “But you still haven’t given us the proof, from Matthew 24. I have no doubt that you will though.”

“God has indeed provided us with the proof, Sarah, and we’ll get to that right at the beginning of our next session,” said Ben.

Posted by Art in End Times Prophecy

What is the Rapture? Part I

Please listen to Ben Kaplan, MD, as he and his students begin a dialog about the rapture.

Ben Kaplan always looked forward to meetings with his medical students and they were right on time today.

“Hi, Josh and Matt. What a pleasure it is to see you today!” said Ben. “And I see that you’ve brought Sarah along with you again. What a treat! How are things going with you?”

“I’m born again, Dr. Kaplan! I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour,” said Sarah.

“I couldn’t be happier to hear that, Sarah. What made you finally decide?” asked Ben.

“Everything that you, Matt, and Josh have shared with me makes perfect sense. After I left you last time I began to read the Bible. I’ve been reading from both the Old and New Testaments. I can see that the coming of Jesus to save us was prophesied in many places in the Old Testament and I am now convinced that He is the Jewish Messiah and my Lord and Savior,” said Sarah. “But something else has come up in my Bible reading Dr. Kaplan. I have been trying to understand the meaning of a couple of verses in the New Testament and I’m not getting very far even with help from Josh and Matt,” said Sarah.

“Dr. Kaplan, these verses seem to be talking about something absolutely wild and I don’t understand what they mean,” said Josh.

“Can you explain those verses to us today?” asked Matt. “May I read them to you, Dr. Kaplan?”

“Please do Matt,” said Ben.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

“I can understand why Josh would say these verses talk about something absolutely wild, Matt. They describe the resurrection of the dead and the rapture of the living saints. We’ll use the term rapture to cover both. Have the 3 of you heard of the rapture?” said Ben. “The word rapture is derived from the Latin word rapturo which is itself a translation of the Greek word harpazo, used in the original New Testament manuscripts. It means “caught up” or “snatched up”.

The 3 students shook their heads. All 3 gazed at Ben with expectancy. He’d certainly gotten their attention.

“Let me first say that the rapture is really good news for every believer in Jesus, meaning for every born again person. You see there is a time that will come on our entire planet and it is getting closer every day. It’s called the Tribulation.  Personally, I believe it is quite close at this present time.  The Tribulation is not just trials and tribulations, things that we suffer every day. Without question trials and tribulations can be very bad. They can be absolutely horrific in fact. But The Tribulation is something very different. The Bible has a lot to say about it. It’s going to be a time of judgement on the earth, a time when God will pour out His wrath on all those who have never accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. It will be bad for all people dwelling on the earth but it will be especially bad for the Jewish people and Israel.  It is prophesied in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It will be 7 years long.  It’s going to be a very, very bad time, the worst time in all history.  Nothing before it and nothing following it will be as bad. There will be natural disasters on an unprecendented scale, there will be plagues, and there will be relentless persecution of people, especially the Jewish people, because during this 7 year period of the Tribulation the Anti-Christ will be used by Satan in his final attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish race. The Tribulation will be really bad for everyone but for the Jews it will be much worse than Hitler’s Holocaust and the Anti-Christ will be worse than Hitler.

“The rapture occurs before the 7 year Tribulation. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, when Jesus comes back to the earth, occurs following the Tribulation,” said Ben. “Jesus will actually touch down on the earth, on terra firma, in Jerusalem, at His Second Coming. He does not do that when He comes for believers at the rapture. When Jesus comes for His saints at the time of the rapture He descends only as far as the upper atmosphere and His saints meet Him there.

“Much is predicted or prophesied about the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth in both Testaments but as far as I know there is nothing specific or definite about the rapture in the Old Testament,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, please slow down. My head is spinning,” said Josh. “Can we back up please? What exactly is the rapture?”

“You bet Josh. Let’s take this one step at a time.  We won’t finish this discussion today because there is so much to talk about,” said Ben. “There will come a time, a moment, when Jesus will return for His people to snatch them from the earth and take them back to heaven with Him. All people who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior but have died, “the dead in Christ”, and all people who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and are alive, the “we who are alive”, will be caught up together to meet Jesus in the air. These 2 groups of believers – New Testament believers – are often referred to in the New Testament as being “in Christ” and also as “saints”. Both groups will be snatched up to meet Jesus in the air and in an instant they will all have new bodies that will be imperishable and immortal. That is the rapture, Josh,” said Ben.

“Now 2 other verses tell us that Jesus takes these believers back to heaven with Him. Those verses are in the Gospel of John. Jesus is talking with the Apostles shortly before He goes to the cross to die and the Bible tells us that the words that Jesus spoke then are also for us today, even in the 21st century. Let’s read those other verses now,” said Ben.

John 14:2-3

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

“Let’s now read 2 other verses together. These 2 verses testify to the fact that when believers are raptured they will have new bodies,” said Ben. “Sarah, would you please read these 2 verses?”

With excitement, Sarah read out loud while Matt, Josh, and Ben listened intently.

1 Corinthians 15:52-53

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

“Dr. Kaplan, this is nearly unbelievable! I mean the Bible says it, so I believe it. But this is really something!” said Sarah. “It’s absolutely wild!”

“Yeah!!” said Josh and Matt in unison.

“It is wild Sarah,” said Ben. “We have a great God!

“Now, I think that this has left us all breathless with wonder and maybe we’ve had enough for today. But there is one more thing that we should address today before we go home and that is the timing of the rapture.”

“Do you mean that we can actually know the precise time that we’ll be caught up and get our new bodies?” asked Matt.

“No, Matt. Jesus explained that the exact time is known only to the Father. But we can know the times and seasons of God’s calendar and there is no question in my mind that God wants us to know these times and seasons so that we will be ready when Jesus comes for us.

“What I’m talking about now is the timing of the rapture with regard to the 7 year Tribulation,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, wouldn’t it be kind of intuitive that believers in Jesus would be caught up out of this world and go to heaven with Jesus before the Tribulation starts, that God would not pour out His wrath on us?” said Sarah.

“For sure, Dr. Kaplan! God wouldn’t want believers to suffer through the Tribulation, would He?” said Josh.

“I agree with you both, that God will “rapture us out” before the time of the Tribulation.  But there are others who do not agree including some pretty serious students of the Bible. Their position is that believers will go through part or all of the 7 year Tribulation before the rapture occurs. So I want to try to equip you today to understand why the Pre-Tribulation rapture position is the correct one. It’s important to know that because knowing that we’ll be raptured before the Tribulation begins gives us tremendous hope and you and I surely want and need that hope!” said Ben.

“To begin to understand why the Pre-Tribulation rapture position is the correct position, let’s read another 2 verses together,” said Ben.

1 Thessalonians 1:10

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

“It looks like one of these verses is telling us that Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come and the other verse says that God has not destined us for wrath, right Dr. Kaplan?” said Matt.

“Exactly, Matt,” said Ben.

“But how do we know that these 2 verses are talking about the wrath of the Tribulation?” asked Sarah.

“Great question, Sarah!” said Ben. “It has to do with the context of these 2 verses and we don’t have time to go into that today, but we will, and soon.

“I do want to leave you with just one more thing today to strengthen you. It’s called the Golden Rule of Scripture Interpretation. It was given to us by Dr. David L. Cooper, a great man of God who went home to be with the Lord in 1965. Let me read it to you,” said Ben.

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word, at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.

“If we stick with this rule we’ll do well. Unfortunately many people today, including some Bible scholars and some pastors of very large churches, don’t follow this rule. When that happens, it’s easy to become confused, to go down the wrong path, and to mislead people.”

“This has just been a great meeting today, Dr. Kaplan,” said Sarah. “I can’t wait for the next one.”

“I feel so excited and hopeful,” said Josh.

“Ditto,” said Matt.

“Thanks. I’m looking forward to our next meeting too!” said Ben. “Let’s close today with a word of praise to our Lord and Savior.

“Father in Heaven, thank you for sending the Lord Jesus to save us. We thank you that we will be with you for eternity. And we thank you that you will save us from the Tribulation, from the wrath to come. You are so good Lord. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.”

Posted by Art in End Times Prophecy