Those Who are Alive and Remain…
The same scriptures linked together by the “last trumpet” found in the Apostle Paul’s letter also,
connect another truth along with our Lord’s declarations in the gospels concerning His literal
“coming” and the saint’s translation and transformation. Paul makes it clear in both foundational
scriptures used for the meat of the rapture doctrine’s premise, 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, that there will be those saints who are still alive at Christ’s coming (“alive and remain”) as opposed to, those who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ. He comforts those who have temporarily lost their loved ones to death in that, they will not be overlooked at the return of Christ and the conjoining translation and transformation of the saints who are still alive and remain on the earth.
Contrarily, they will receive preferential treatment in being resurrected first and simultaneously, caught up with the surviving saints to meet the Lord in the air, as brought out in both of these scripture references. Once again, the similar references, events, characters and symbols unmistakably, link these scriptures with our Lord’s description of His return in judgment at Armageddon so completely: last trumpet, Archangel, saints being translated who are still on the earth at this time and the Messiah’s appearing. This is the first problem with the doctrine being put forth by the PreTribulation Rapture theory, which divides this return into two distinct events divided by a seven year period. Secondly, the question arises, who are these saints still here after this supposed, initial rapture seven years earlier? Proponents of the rapture doctrine proclaim that these are those who were“left behind” at the time of the rapture because they were not ready, which is to imply that they were not prepared for this secret event.
Either, they were not “saved” (born again Christians) or they are Christians who did not heed the Master’s injunction to “watch and pray, be ready” and believe ardently, in this glorious, exclusive event reserved only for those of such great faith in the “great escape” and thus, are “not appointed to wrath”. Therefore, they must attain salvation the hard and painful way, through persecution and ultimately, martyrdom! Their lack of faith has caused them to be left behind! Much has been made of this assertion particularly, over the past forty years or so, through hyper-dispensational teaching espoused by best-selling Christian authors such as: Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Grant Jeffrey, Perry Stone etc. and other die hard crusaders of dispensational eschatology, the rapture being, the premier icing on the cake for this sordid scheme of Futurism.
Consequently, this has been adopted by the majority of Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches and their leaders (pastors and teachers). It appears to cut across all sectarian lines, being just as prevalent among the “Charismatic/ Pentecostal (“Spirit filled”) churches, as the denominational, seeker-friendly, emergent and community churches. It has been the dearest darling of the Televangelism cult, where nothing sells better than fantasy, escapism and the pursuit of self-indulgent acquisition of all the treasures Heaven is more than willing to heap upon its faithful followers of the 100 fold return, prosperity message! Let’s face it; this is the land of unreserved fantasy and escape, home of Disney World and the American Dream! Fantasy and escape sells especially, on the back of unlimited pleasure and prosperity in the here and now! What do you think, does this sound like the gospel Jesus and His followers preached and for which they laid down their lives?
In the 1970s, several low budget films such as “Thief in the Night” were foisted onto the public at large but ultimately, landed in the ghetto of primarily, fundamentalist Christian Churches who held so passionately to this Pre-Tribulation interpretation of end time events. These sensationalism bent films were used as a tool for hyper-evangelism in hopes of literally, scaring the unbelieving heart into conversion via the abhorrent prospect of being one of those “left behind” to endure the horrific bloodbath of the seven year tribulation period presided over by Satan incarnate, the bloodthirsty Antichrist! The films dramatized the scariest elements of the dispensational teaching and the ominous and vacuous nature of the effects of this rapture event and the ensuing, eerie aftermath left in the wake of millions of human beings, instantly and mysteriously disappearing from the earth in the “twinkling of an eye”.
The macabre theme introduced as the impact of this unforeseen event takes the world by stormy surprise, when all of these people suddenly vanish without a trace! The gravity of this is exacerbated by the emphasis being placed on many of these faithful Christians having occupied extremely, important posts in society ( another distinctly American, Patriotic concept) and subsequently, being lifted out and leaving great havoc behind them. The Governments of nations are left without leadership and planes, trains and automobiles crash into each other, buildings and people, causing unmitigated disaster, as these vehicles were formerly being manned by these evacuated believers, etc.
The wayward world must now figure out how to survive this apocalyptic period of final judgment without the wisdom and influence of these enlightened souls who housed the Holy Spirit in their beings but have gone on to their eternal reward in such a dramatic fashion. They have left the world now, to its own evil devices to fend for itself against the forces of evil which have been mercilessly, released upon an unrepentant world, left only with the cataclysmic prospect of God’s final judgments and the ruthless rule of Antichrist. According to this school of thought, these privileged believers also take back to Heaven with them the most valuable commodity afforded humanity for direction, power and comfort-the Holy Spirit. For, He had inhabited them, so if they are gone then naturally, so is He.
This is based on another distortion of scripture found in 2 Thessalonians 2, regarding the Restrainer who restrains the advent of Antichrist. We will deal with the preposterous nature of this doctrine as well, later on. Suffice it to say, the world is now a monumental mess and possesses only the dismal immediate future of unrestrained disaster and calamity! Many other Futurism/Dispensationalism elements of this school of doctrine are presented disjointedly and mostly, in a very confusing manner, as can only be expected from this doctrine which when truly analyzed from an intelligent frame of mind is nothing but a mixture of far-fetched theories, speculations and unfounded fantasies (i.e. Antichrist covenant with Israel, His seating as God in a newly built Jewish Temple in Israel, 144,000 Jewish witnesses preaching to the whole world, a JFK type assassination and demonic resurrection of a European Union President Antichrist then fully possessed by Satan, all the classic cold war enemies of the United States of America being rallied by the Antichrist and False Prophet to Armageddon. Of course, America and Israel are presented as being on God’s side! Etcetera, etc.)
The majority of the films’ focus however, is based on those sorry, lukewarm, backslidden Christians who got left behind because their faith was not of an adequate measure (whatever that
measure is, this is never clearly defined) and must now scurry to find all those books they didn’t want to read, videos they had no desire to watch and tapes they laughed at and would never have dreamed of listening to, pre-rapture. These were benevolently created by our “heroes of rapture hype” just for this very hour! These were prophetically produced with the foreknowledge that these disobedient deserters of Dispensational eschatology (i.e. rapture doctrine) would need this teaching after the fact, in order to be emboldened and equipped to stand in their hour of tribulation persecution, absent the Holy Spirit and any time to study and mature in the things and Word of the Lord.
This information will now miraculously, transform them into mighty martyrs of the faith, overnight. These former, wishy-washy, weekend warriors, mere Churchgoers if that, will now be ready to lay down their lives for Christ and His gospel in spite of the great delusion that has come upon earth dwellers via the Antichrist and False Prophet and the pressure to conform to the New World Order and accept the mark of the Beast just to be able to do such luxurious things as eating, having shelter, transportation, employment, medical attention etc. No, these born in an instant, brave soldiers of the cross will now stand up in valor, defying the threat of
disenfranchisement (can’t buy, sell or trade without the mark of the Beast) and submit to martyrdom via the guillotine, without fear or reservation!
This is an amazing and miraculous transformation of heart and character “in the twinkling of an
eye”, to say the least, as these could not even be bothered with God or His Kingdom just a few moments earlier! The utilization of the element of fear is very powerful, indeed! Yet historically, has fear ever served as an instrument of God to cause men to rise up in faith and valor or has it proven to be more, the weapon our enemy uses to cause men to cower and submit to his tyranny? He is after all, the lord of the flies, the lord of fear. Is this methodology then, consistent with the God who grants the gift of repentance to rebellious mankind? Well, food for thought.
These themes were embellished upon and made more palatable to the general public and the post-modern Christian mind, as we entered the nineties and a new series of novels which spawned many copycats brought this soon to be antiquated view of world- end -time events into the new technology driven society. The “Left Behind” series, authored by veteran Dispensationalist, Fundamentalist Christian Tim LaHaye and journalist Jerry Jenkins would become one of the best-selling series of novels of all time and actually, form the eschatology for
the next biblically illiterate generation.
I remember viewing a documentary in the early 2000’s, that confirmed that the majority of evangelical Christians credited these self-proclaimed fantasy, fiction novels, as the foundation for their eschatological beliefs and view of their interpretation of the book of Revelation and everything having to do with end- time apocalyptic events. The saddest part being, that most of these people did not even take the time to read the books but rather, took their cue from the updated film noir of the Kirk Cameron productions of the Left Behind novels. These movies lifted this doctrine out of the dusty, old hippy culture it had been associated with in the original hokey films and brought it into a modern day rendering, adding a little better old American, cowboy, gun-slinging patriotism and obsession with futuristic technology. This was much more appetizing for the Generation X crowd, who would never have swallowed the primitive versions of the past. The post-modern transition was achieved but with no less, the cheesy aspects of its predecessors.
Tragically, there has been no major development since this time instead, it seems to have settled deeply into the shallow earth of the 21st century Church who has been otherwise preoccupied with chasing more temporal and immediately gratifying, carnal dreams and visions such as pleasure, prosperity and self-preoccupation and glorification. The rapture promise has been relegated to a mere icing on the cake position at the end of a totally, self-indulgent Christian experience on the earth, serving as the total climax for a self-centered and escapist culture! The Pre-Tribbers additionally, explain the miraculous, full out conversion of these tardy saints, to the point of being willing to be martyred for Christ during this terrible time, as occurring through the witness of the 144,000 Jewish eunuchs taken from the twelve tribes of Israel, as presented in the book of Revelation, chapter 14. There are many problems with this view.
First of all, Revelation 14 says absolutely nothing of these male virgins being utilized by God as evangelists for all the gentile nations all over the world to bring them to the knowledge of the gospel after the Church is taken away. This is way beyond the stretch of imagination! It is on the same level of ridiculousness as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ silly claim that these 144,000 represent the entire remnant that will be ultimately, “saved” and enter the Millennial Kingdom. Such a boast is nonsensical even, within the confines of that misguided organization which has housed millions of members since its inception. They are condemning the majority of their faithful followers all the while, holding out to them an empty promise of salvation!
In the same way, it is an amusing notion at the least, to see these 144,000 Jews as evangelists to the lost gentile nations and their nominal, left behind Christian populations, when scripture hints at nothing of the sort. Practically, this is ridiculously improbable as well, in this time of limitless disaster and calamity, where the whole world is under the iron fist of Antichrist. For, the proponents of this doctrine themselves, teach that no one will be able to buy, sell and trade etc., without having received the mark of the Beast which they propound correctly from Revelation 13. Even if, these distinctly Jewish eunuchs were given such a daunting and impossible commission, how would they get around and witness to all these millions of potential new converts who dwell in so many diverse cultures, civilizations and countries, speaking multitudinous and diverse languages and dialects? This assertion is utterly preposterous and intellectually insulting! Honestly Christians, how can we expect the unregenerate world to take us seriously when we put forth such utter nonsense as doctrine and demand them to acknowledge that we are speaking as representatives of the Most High!
Thirdly, there is absolutely nothing in the content or context of the Apostle Paul’s writings concerning these things that even remotely, gives the impression that there are multiple raptures (being caught up), one before the Great Tribulation period and one seven years later for saints/martyrs produced within this seven year period. Nor, is there any hint of two separate comings of Christ, one invisible, in the clouds before Tribulation for a portion of His Church and then seven years later, a sequel, visible return for those saints who went through tribulation. If there exists such an elaborate, multi-level scenario would not our Lord have inspired the Apostle or another to disclose such a complicated “mystery” to the Church? Rather than waiting almost, two thousand years later, to bring this weighty revelation through a second hand, questionable exegesis or better stated-isogesis (extra interpretation without scriptural foundation).
The fact is, that if you want to try and establish this spurious two-fold event, you are forced to repeat the same scriptures used for the first occurrence and the second, as well. For there are no additional scriptures highlighting a second version of events. Unless, you try to utilize the accounts narrated by our Lord in the gospels which we have already exhaustively proven present the same event, as underlined by the identical signs, symbols, characters, environment and language. There is just no justification for the use of these limited scripture passages to propose the application for both occurrences which are supposedly, separated by seven years in time and such widely ranging differences in people, places, locations and events. Would the Holy Spirit leave such an outrageous, unprecedented, illogical, complicated and arduous task to His people without any other presentation in scripture to confirm or qualify it? The thought is negligible! Why would this so all important Heavenly agenda, not be highlighted
in John’s revelation given to him directly by Christ which appears to deal with every possible aspect and detail of final judgment and Christ’s imminent return? Unless, some additional, inspired scriptures present themselves in a manner, as to completely cultivate a clear and compelling argument for this vacant interpretation of apocalyptic events, then this eschatological stance is just absolutely, unjustifiable! I have spent the good part of thirty years studying these extra-canonical sources, as brought out in my other writings and have yet to find anything even close to supporting this premise. Returning for a moment, to our giant elephant in the room, the identity of these Tribulation saints, who is this multitude whom no one could count, as presented in Revelation chapters 6:9- 11, 7: 9-17, 12: 11, 19: 5-10, 20: 4, who were beheaded for their faith, testimony and obedience to Christ? What distinguishes them from the rest of the Church? Again, how come nowhere else in scripture is there to be found a distinction or separation being made within the Church’s population?
Paul makes no such assertion therefore; this can only surface under the guise of an alternative interpretation of the material presented, amidst many liberties being taken to include additional scenarios to the script which are not inherent therein, lacking scriptural foundation and precedent. This is explained away by Pre-Tribbers, as belonging to those who were either, not found worthy or ready to take part in the Rapture (not believing in this myth) or were not yet converted. These now receive a “second chance” at salvation (another unprecedented and unsupported concept in regard to scripture) and must consequently; achieve this distinction through great suffering and martyrdom under the holocaust of the Beasts of Revelation 13. They have not been found worthy
to “escape” God’s wrath.
In other words, this is a punishment for lack of faith in the gospel message under the “dispensation of grace”. It is therefore, rather odd that the scripture seems to celebrate the faith, courage and faithfulness of these people amid tribulation to the degree of receiving a special, eternal commendation, reward and place of honor in Heaven for their supposed, lack of faith and readiness for Christ’s return. One would think, that instead of being commended for this they would be ranked as second class citizens of the Kingdom for their not having the great faith of their counterparts, who through their valiant belief in the Rapture, escaped this severe punishment. Contrarily, they are praised in Heaven as overcoming warriors of the faith!
This doctrine also, smacks of the school of Purgatory, invented by the apostate Roman Catholic heresy, where those who do not live godly lives during their lifetimes on earth are given a second chance under very adverse and unpleasant, even tormenting conditions to atone through suffering, for their lack of faith and obedience to God. Does scripture support this point of view? Unequivocally, not! “And just as it is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). This doctrine was created in lieu of extorting money from the ignorant, blindly loyal to Mother Church masses that were told that they could free their imprisoned loved ones from this torment through their sacrificial giving, sound familiar? “Every time a coin in the coffer clings, another
soul from Purgatory springs!”(Friar Tetzel- Martin Luther’s Vatican nemesis-paraphrased).