For me, belief in the Rapture played right into my prosperity theology. It made for a perfect package: people could get saved by saying a few words, they could live in luxury and excess throughout this lifetime, and then Jesus would return to take them out of the tough times that others were to experience during end-time tribulation. It was pure escapism. My favorite prophetic passage was, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the son of Man” (Luke 21:36 NKJV).
I liked that verse because it gave me an out. Christians did not really have to suffer. They would be taken home to glory before all the bad stuff started happening on earth. I felt it went against God’s very nature to allow His family to go through the horrors of the Tribulation. Surely He loves us too much to allow that. “Just keep praying, brother and sister, that you may be counted worthy to escape.”
Not only that, but it was easier to raise money if one believed in a pretribulational Rapture. Many sincere Christians who want their lives to count for Christ are easily stimulated to give to ministries when they believe that Jesus Christ could come back at any moment. After all, who wants to send money to a ministry that tells them tough times are coming and you will have to go through them?
In the preface to his book The Rapture Plot, author David MacPherson hints at a link between pretrib theology and money. MacPherson describes belief in the Rapture as “Protestant evangelicalism’s most popular and most lucrative view of the future.” Not surprisingly, most popular prosperity teachers – with a few rare exceptions – hold strongly to a pretribulational view, including belief in a Rapture that will allow believers to escape the calamities to come.
My own thinking on the matter began to change when, in prison, I began a daily, concentrated study of the Scriptures, especially those relating to Jesus Christ. Naturally, I wanted to learn about Christ’s return, so I began searching for those passages that described a rapture that preceds the Tribulation.
To my amazement, I couldn’t find any. Oh, sure, I found Scriptures that I and other preachers had twisted or had imbued with our own interpretations, but when I allowed the Bible to speak for itself, I came face to face with the fact that my preconceived notions of a pretribulational Rapture were baseless. About that same time, God began to impress upon me that I myust warn people concerning the dark days to come.
Over the years since then, I have discovered that I am not alone in my opinion that there is no biblical basis to believe in a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, the esteemed former Professor of Exegesis and Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, wrote, “The Scripture nowhere asserts that there is a Rapture which will take place before the Revelation.”
Dr. Ladd studied the prophetic Scriptures carefully and wrote numerous books on the Second Coming, including The Blessed Hope and A Commentary on the Book of Revelation. In his book The Last Things, Ladd contends:
The only coming of Christ that is spoken of in Matthew 24 is the coming of the glorious Son of Man after the tribulation and the only thing that resembles the Rapture is the gathering of the elect from the four winds (Matt. 24:31). There is not a hint of a pretribulational return of Christ and Rapture of the church before the Great Tribulation.
(To Be Continued)
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 1
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 2
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 3
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 4
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 6
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 7
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 8
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 9
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 10
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 11
Excerpt from Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse
Published in 1998