An Unbiblical “Escape Theory (Part One)
Question: To imagine that the church will be taken to heaven before the Antichrist appears and takes power and the prophesied seven-year tribulation period begins is a delusion, in my opinion. Christ said we would suffer for His sake. The pre-trib rapture teaching seems to offer an unbiblical escape from that suffering. Why should a certain segment of the church be allowed to escape its allotted suffering?
Response: Where does it say that the tribulation under Antichrist is allotted to that fraction of the church that happens to be alive when Antichrist takes power? And why should a certain segment of the church be required to endure suffering at the hands of the Antichrist that no other Christians experienced?
Of course, it could be so. Depending upon their time and place in history, different segments of the church have suffered trials and persecutions varying in both kind and intensity. Believers here in the United States, for example have never (at least until now) been called upon to endure the horrors faced by those who for centuries were tortured and killed in the Inquisitions. Nor did those who were burned at the stake endure the years of imprisonment and slow death by hard labor and starvation that befell millions under Stalin, Hitler, or Mao. But what does the Bible say concerning the church and Antichrist?
There are several clear statements in Scripture that tell us plainly that the church will not be on the earth when Antichrist takes power. First of all, the early church was undoubtedly living in expectancy of Christ’s imminent appearing: “from whence [heaven] we look for the Saviour” (Philippians:3:20); “ye turned to God…to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians:1:9,10); “Looking for…the glorious appearing of…our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus:2:13); “unto them that look for him shall he appear” (Hebrews 9;28), etc. If the Antichrist had to come first, it would make no sense to be waiting and looking for Christ.
This expectancy of His imminent return was first taught by Christ Himself, who also associated any thought of a delay in His coming with evil:
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord…that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately…be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not (Luke:12:35,36,40).
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming…(Matthew:24:48).
If Christ were not going to rapture His saints to heaven before the tribulation period, then He couldn’t be expected until the end thereof. In that case, there would be no hope of Christ’s coming or appearing until after the Antichrist had liquidated the church and the seven-year tribulation period had run its course and Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies of the world and Christ had to intervene to stop the slaughter. Only then could Christ return. Therefore no one would be watching and waiting for His appearing even now, much less in the first century. Such expectant language would not be used in the New Testament at all. It would make no sense
It is also clear that the church is already in heaven before Christ’s second coming at Armageddon. In Revelation:19:7,8 we read, “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white….” This marriage between Christ and the Church is taking place in heaven while the Antichrist is in charge on the earth beneath. Surely the church can’t be in two places at once: being killed by Antichrist on earth and simultaneously present at her marriage to the Lamb in heaven.