We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty… And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16, 19 NIV)
Since Adam and Eve, the weakness of listening to humans rather than obeying God has been a major character defect. We swallow cleverly invented stories and disregard the prophets. Masters of argument take the spotlight while truth-tellers are denied an invitation.
One evening, after a rousing performance before a Christian crowd, I asked a popular preacher a simple question: “According to the Bible, who will appear first to receive the praise of millions of adoring worshipers. Is it the Antichrist, or will it be Jesus Christ?” Then I listened for his answer. There was a long pause. I was non-confrontational, but it was a direct question, one for which every believer should have a ready answer. I posed this important question to a preacher who boasts of hundreds of memorized Scriptures.
Instead of saying Christ will come first or the Antichrist, the Pre-tribulation Rapture (PTR) teacher and preacher replied, “You are Pre-Wrath Rapture (PWR) aren’t you? I know all about Rosenthal and the other guy.” (He was referring to Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen, the pioneers who first presented the PWR position.) My question was deflected by his. Instead of answering with the Bible, I was labeled. Our conversation was officially over.
Do not confuse good preachers or debaters with sincere truth-seekers. Truth-seekers are humble. They do no self-promoting and little talking. They listen and ask probing questions. Like the Bereans with Paul, in Acts 17:11, “…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” They examined the Word, not the playbook, not the notes, or the book on the Bible by their favorite author. For the Bereans there was only one source of authority, what we call the Old Testament.
Herein, lies a major problem with contemporary Christianity. We have piled up learning on the New Testament, but we lack the knowledge that serves as a foundation for truth. Most of the first 39 books of the Bible are missing from our faith. As a result, our building only goes up 27 floors and starts on the 40th floor. How can we discern truth from error if, in Jesus’ words, a rebuke to the Sadducee’s, “You don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God”? So preachers or teachers can say whatever and call it New Testament doctrine, but it does not square with Genesis through Malachi. One of the five basic rules of interpretation is “Before we arrive at truth, all seeming Scriptural contradictions must be harmonized.” This rule applies to all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
Let’s return to the question I gave the preacher. It is my way of separating truth-seekers from dogmatists or ideologues. If a PTR follower answers “the Antichrist,” then they have undermined their keystone “any-moment return of Christ” argument. If they say Christ appears first, they are in error. (Consider for a moment the implications of being wrong.) The reactions are interesting when I offer prophetic evidence for the truth:
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together with him, do not let anyone deceive you… for that day cannot come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)
Truth-seekers will take it in, examine the passage and ask for more. In that case, we could go to Daniel 7:23-27 and 8:23-25, then follow up with Matthew 24:15-31. It is my experience years of human indoctrination will outweigh the Biblical contradictions. A truth-seeker is a rare and priceless jewel. They will appreciate the correction.
(Amillennialists who reject a literal interpretation of end times prophecy are even more difficult. They have been taught to use reason and dismiss everything pertaining to Jesus’ glorious return to earth.)
Most trained in PTR doctrine are cult-like. They muddy the water then shift focus from Paul’s teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2. Some become upset. Some use insults or change the subject and walk away. They teach Bible study three times a week, yet are unwilling to acknowledge the truth. They “cherry-pick” the Bible looking for support of what they believe. They avoid Scriptures that challenge their version of the truth.
Recently, God led me to a Christian TV program where I witnessed PTR experts in action. There was no real debate of opposing views. Instead, the moderator posed PWR arguments, serving them up like softballs to his expert guest. My interest was piqued when the moderator went to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. There was no reading of the passage or breaking it down or comparing it with other Scripture. There was only a general statement that Paul’s teaching was being used against the PTR position.
The guest was ready. Words came faster than the mind could process. He said, “So glad you asked me” as if the question was not prearranged. Each sentence could have been challenged, but the format made it impossible. After a verbal barrage, the expert cited a meaning for the Greek apostasia, in verse 3. Most English translations have “apostasy”, “the falling away” or “the rebellion”. His translator was an unknown (probably a PTR advocate) who translated apostasia “departure.” That was all the guest needed. With a word like “departure” that could mean “departure from the truth,” he gave it a twist and out came an emphatic “the saints depart, and there is your Pre-tribulation Rapture!”
Everyone on the show was happy. They went home satisfied PTR was right; their argument won. Clever. A brilliant invention. The only casualty was truth.
What went wrong? We have to go to Jeremiah in the Old Testament to hear it from God.
A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it that way. But what will they do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)
What will the masters of argument, or their disciples who love their ways, do in the end?