The Rapture

The Rapture

Dangerous Ideas in the Church of Christ


Many dear brothers and sisters I know believe in the rapture before the great tribulation or pre-trib rapture as they call it. The main text used for this comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

In light of all the world events of the moment, apart from comforting words, I see dangerous or treacherous ideas emerging from this. And I will explain why in a moment.

My Viewpoint

Well, those who venture into this subject will have to answer for themselves, right? What is my position in terms of the rapture? I can be brief about that. I am not 100% convinced that this rapture speaks of a secret taking away of Christians before the great tribulation.

Yes, I am convinced that Jesus will return just as He left, but the pre-tribulation rapture, is an idea that still has quite a few theological question marks as far as I am concerned.

Fortunately, the idea of the rapture is not a beatific [BIE-AA-TI-FIK]doctrine. When standing before the throne of God, the Lord will not likely ask us whether we have believed in this theory or not. Our salvation comes from Jesus, by grace alone, and not because we hold all the correct ideas about, for example, baptism, communion, the rapture, or the idea that we live in dispensations. Thank goodness for that! Otherwise, very few of us would be found fit to inherit eternal life.

So where do I stand now? I’ll just be completely honest. I don’t really know, but I have resolved to read a little more about this in the near future. Let me say this, like many of my dear friends, I sincerely hope that Jesus takes us away just before all the misery begins. But I won’t be surprised if the Lord did mean it differently than we had thought. We can come up with fancy ideas, but the Lord is in control always.

Proverbs 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

My Concerns

I have no problem with the idea of Jesus taking us away before the great tribulation. As mentioned, I have dear friends who believe this wholeheartedly. Great! What worries me, however, is the fact that we see more and more Christians taking this idea way too far.

Some seem to think—fuelled by one-sided sermons and Bible studies—that God wants to shield them from any kind of tribulation. The word tribulation appears quite a few times in both the Old and New Testaments. In all cases, or let me put it more carefully, in most cases it refers to the tribulation that believers face from outside. They were, are, or are going to be afflicted by those who do not belong to God.

We have seen this both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. We’ve seen the church grow explosively through great tribulation. That tribulation first came from Judaism and then from the Roman government. But what of today? Christians worldwide are going through all sorts of tribulations. Sometimes small, like name-calling, but in many parts of the world big, like the massacre of more than 80 Congolese Christians in the week of the 4th to the 8th of June, 2024.

Tribulation is not the same as the wrath of God. More and more Christians confuse the great tribulation with the wrath of God. A Christian has been bought and paid for by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we are indeed no longer under the wrath of God. But that has nothing to do with the wrath of the world.


Now suppose we are indeed taken up before the great tribulation—and again, I am not ruling this out—does this mean we are immune from earthquakes, robberies, corrupt governments, persecution, beatings, dispossessions, diseases, and floods? Oh! And what about not being able to buy anything with cash any more, mandatory vaccinations, or even being killed? Have I pretty much described all the miseries of the great tribulation described in Revelations?

No, of course we are not exempt from that! We are already seeing these things happening on a large scale. We may not hear much about it in the west, but even here, as a Christian, you have to be careful what you say in public. It was not so long ago that in America a baker could close his business after he didn’t want to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Yet, I have heard several brothers and sisters say that they do not expect all this misery to happen to them. After all, this misery belongs to the great tribulation and Jesus takes away before then.

In the past we used to hear sound theology on suffering in the church, that is almost completely absent today. Instead of studying Biblical suffering, many Western Christians are now much more concerned with what it will be like to stay with Jesus while there is great misery on earth.

This is a dangerous attitude because how will these Christians keep their backs straight when misfortune strikes? What is their attitude towards the Lord at such a time? Surely Jesus would take them away from it, right?

Western Problem

Back in 2001, my wife and I had the privilege of smuggling Bibles and other biblical material into China. In many provinces of China it was strictly forbidden to possess these materials. The persecution and oppression was severe. And therefore the Chinese Christians were longing for the return of Christ!

Entire families were torn apart. Fathers and mothers had to go to re-education camps and the children were scattered to government-loving families. There we met Samual Lam. This little Chinese man had spent most of his life in prison. His crime? Preaching the Gospel.

Brother Lam told us, with a glint in his eyes that his church grew steadily when he was in prison. He said, if it meant more people would be saved while he was in prison, he would walk back to his cell with joy. He praised God for his imprisonment. Brother Lam did not see the Lord’s return before he died. We were massively impressed by his view of suffering.

In many African countries too, we hear brothers and sisters saying that they are looking forward to the coming of Jesus. Until then, they are prepared to face whatever suffering they might encounter. Almost everywhere in the non-Western world, Christians are prepared for great suffering. But in the West, we think it will pass us by!

For our brothers and sister in, for example, Congo, North Korea, Ukraine, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Iran, the words in Revelation 2:9-10 are very relevant:

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Theology of Suffering

We don’t like the word ‘suffering,’ do we. There is also something demonic in suffering. According to the Bible, demonic powers are the instigators of much suffering. Christians must be prepared to suffer, as Jesus had foretold. He spoke of bearing the cross and undergoing tribulation.

We have to go through many difficulties to enter the Kingdom.

Acts 14:22

strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said

Pressure was already present in the church of Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8), but the book of Revelation also shows that Christians are coming under increasing pressure. Followers of Jesus must therefore be prepared to suffer.

Especially those working in the service of the gospel, such as Paul and Timothy. Paul’s path was often blocked by Satan, the great adversary of God.

1 Thessalonians 2:18

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.

Christ has set the example—Christians can follow in his footsteps.

1 Peter 2:21

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Because He received divine glory after His suffering, we can be encouraged by the fact that we will share not only in His suffering but also in His future glory.

1 Peter 4:13

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

The most glorious spiritual gift is to be able to suffer for Christ.

1 Petr. 4:14

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Much More

Of course, we can talk a lot more about the rapture, tribulations, and sufferings. But, above all, let us remain vigilant. It is fantastic to think and talk about these things together! Really, I enjoy that. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Satan goes around like a roaring lion, devouring whoever he can devour.

Don’t let yourself be lulled to sleep with fine words of peace. Don’t be surprised when a time of tribulation arrives. I think it was Corrie ten Boom who said:

God does not promise a calm journey, but a safe arrival!

Until the Lord returns, we may hold fast to His promise.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


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