If you are reading this blog post, Harold Camping was wrong.
What I am about to say, some Christians may find offensive. In particular, Christians who hold to the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture (even those who do not believe they will be raptured today) may interpret this post as a personal attack against them. Please, let me assure you my intention is not to attack anyone, put anyone down, or belittle anyone on account of their beliefs. I merely ask that you consider what I have to say, and be “more noble” and “examine the Scriptures daily” to see if what I am teaching is true, as the Bereans of Acts 17. If you still disagree with me, we will still meet one day in glory!
There is not a single verse in the Old or New Testaments that proclaims that the Second Coming of Christ is imminent. Rather, the Scriptures give us signs to watch for so we will know when His return is about to occur. No man knows the day or hour, but we can know when the time is near by interpreting the signs. Jesus will not just return, willy-nilly, at any old time (though it might seem that way to some!). All the signs must be fulfilled.
So, can we actually expect the Lord to come for His saints at any minute? No.
Should His saints live as though He might return at any moment? Yes!
In the previous post I went over what Jesus called “the beginning of the birth pains.” I do not think anyone, including unbelievers, would argue that these signs are not all occurring today. Clearly, at the very least we are at the beginning of the birth pains in relation to the Lord’s coming. The world has had several false Christs in recent history (Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.) and there is certainly no shortage of famine or earthquakes. However, there are other signs which must be fulfilled.
After relating these first signs, which are clearly fulfilled in our own time, Jesus gives several signs which specifically relate to what will happen to Christians during the tribulation. What?
Christians aren’t supposed to go through the tribulation, are they?
According to standard pre-tribulation doctrine, Jesus will actually return twice. He will first return “on the clouds” in a secret rapture. Saints will suddenly disappear. Vehicles will be unmanned. Clothes will be left in heaps, not unlike Obi Wan Kenobi’s robe in Star Wars. Later, He will return in glory with the army of the saints behind Him.
I think this is the biggest problem with the pre-tribulation doctrine. Just as no Scriptures proclaim Christ’s return is imminent, no Scriptures explicitly state that Jesus returns twice, or that there will be a secret rapture. Only one return is clearly stated anywhere in the Bible, and it is no secret.
Behold, he is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him… ~Revelation 1:7a (ESV)
At this point, the pre-trib folk would further explain that the Christians who are ready will be raptured, while others will awaken from their spiritual slumber when they realize what happened to all the Christians.These will be the “tribulation saints” who will be saved, but will have to endure the tribulation as punishment for their unbelief. Just like the issues previously discussed (multiple second comings, secret raptures), the problem with this theory is lack of clear biblical basis.
The only way to make pre-tribulation doctrine work is to reinterpret the obvious meaning of words in the Bible (“elect” for example) to fit the doctrine. I believe the most accurate way to interpret the Bible is to take it at face value. Most pre-tribbers would claim to interpret the Bible in the same way, but if this is the case, I am not sure how they arrive at some of their conclusions. One can read between the lines, or one can take words at face value, but one cannot do both.
Back to the signs.
Jesus said, “They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9, ESV)
1. Christians will be delivered up to tribulation.
Nearly every instance of the word “tribulation” (this applies to both the English and the original Greek–look it up) refers specifically to persecution of Christians. Since I, as previously stated, take Scripture at face value, I interpret this to mean that Christians will be persecuted. The rest of the verse also backs this interpretation up. The clear context of “tribulation” here is violent persecution of the saints, with no indication that these saints are being punished.
2. Christians will be put to death during the tribulation.
One Christian martyred every three minutes. Christians are the most persecuted group on the planet.
Clearly, just as the birth pains are fulfilled in the 21st century, these two signs are fulfilled in the 21st century. However, one might argue that these signs were being fulfilled in the time of the Apostles, and these things have occurred throughout recorded history.
There is a sign that has not been fulfilled in our time.
3. Christians will be hated by all nations.
We might be moving in that direction, but at this time no one can honestly claim that all nations hate Christians. I can’t say Harold Camping’s false prophecy helps. This is one more reason I was 110% certain I would not see Jesus today.