If you’re new to evangelicalism and its teaching on the end times, you need to understand some jargon to understand what I’m talking about in these blogs.

First is the term “Antichrist”.  He’s the bad guy of the future who will rule the world for seven years, hating and persecuting believers in Christ.

Second is the term “tribulation”.  That’s the name given to the seven years of the Antichrist’s rule over the world.

Third is the term ‘rapture’, Christ’s snatching of Christians out of the world at His second coming.

Traditionally Christianity saw the second coming of Christ (including the rapture) as one event after the tribulation.

In the mid-1800’s a new view arose teaching that the second coming will be split into two parts.  The rapture will be ‘secret’ and will take place before the tribulation (pre-tribulation).  Christ will come only to the sky, snatching up living believers and taking them back to heaven for the seven years of the tribulation. Then after the tribulation, Christ will return publicly, they say, coming all the way to earth to defeat the Antichrist, accompanied by the army of believers.

This view is still popular in conservative churches.  I was taught it in college and understand it.  I don’t believe it’s heretical.  I believe it’s a possible interpretation of the texts.  But I abandoned it for the more traditional interpretation of one second coming after the tribulation because I believe that makes better sense of the relevant passages in the Bible.

If the traditional view is correct, believers don’t escape ‘the tribulation’.

When I first embraced this view years ago, I shared my thoughts with a seasoned missionary friend.  To my surprise he responded, “If I believed I was going to be persecuted, I wouldn’t even want to be a Christian!”  

The last thing Jesus taught the apostles was not that they would escape persecution, but that they should expect it.
            In the world you will have tribulation.
            But take heart; I have overcome the world.  (John 16.33b)

Although the scholars who teach and defend the pre-tribulation rapture view don’t teach that Christians will escape persecution, many in the pews have mistakenly concluded that the pre-tribulation rapture teaching makes such a guarantee.

If you think that the rapture promises that you will never suffer persecution, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do to your brothers and sisters in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Nigeria, Congo, and India (to name just a few) who have to worship secretly, who have had their churches raided and closed, who have been made to “disappear” or are locked up in prisons or camps, who have had their property confiscated, and who, in many cases, have been summarily executed.

Better read again what Jesus really promised – without the rose-colored glasses.




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