“The seal of truth
— Hermann Boerhaave
I sat in the San Diego Sports Arena surrounded by thousands of people – all of them waiting to hear from a diminutive, old-fashioned-looking woman with her white hair pulled into a large, loose bun on top of her head. I had read and experienced the supernatural power of the book, The Hiding Place, so I understood the fascination with its elderly author, Corrie ten Boom. I was anxious to hear what she would say to the sold-out crowd about her experiences in a German concentration camp during World War II.
I don’t recall her short speech in its entirety, but I remember the three simple tenets of her message: Trust God. Love people. Forgive your enemies. This advice came from a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ who knew firsthand the truth of her Lord’s warning: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake…. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:9,25).
Jesus obviously knew ahead of time that after his death a conspiracy would arise among “the seed of Satan.” They would try to make sure that He would not rise from the dead as He had foretold. The Son of God also knew that after His promised resurrection, those loyal to the devil would scramble to think of a way to deceive Jews into disbelieving the testimonies from men and women who had seen Jesus, spoken with Him, touched Him, and watched Him rise up and ascend to heaven. And the Savior knew what the future would hold for those who would cling to the truth, even to the point of death.
When I first began studying Bible prophecy about “the end of the age” (as Jesus’ disciples put it to their Teacher in Matthew 24:3), I bought into the highly publicized theory known as the Pretribulation Rapture. After all, who was I to disagree with well-known Bible scholars, popular authors, and charismatic speakers who claimed to be teaching truth?
The pre-tribulation rapture message is primarily based on a combination of three sections of Scripture: segments of Paul’s writings, documented in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, and a minute portion of Jesus’ revelation to John — Revelation 4:1. Those theses include (1) believers “will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … the dead will be raised imperishable,” and (2) “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath” — a statement that is hotly debated among those “in the know.”
The bottom line of the theory is this: Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will escape the horrors and symbolic events detailed in Revelation 5-20, because everything written by John after Revelation chapter 4 symbolically therepresents God’s wrath. This hypothesis rests on one verse: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this'” (Revelation 4:1).
At the time, I had no doubt that the physical “armor” protecting my body was much less than perfect, so why wouldn’t I believe that my spiritual armor was rusty as well? I had been taught that the only way to improve my spiritual condition was to respect – without question – the teachings of “those in authority” who had earned college degrees and doctorates or who were admired by collective masses of individuals.
But when I suddenly felt burdened to focus on Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, something just didn’t add up. When I read and compared what the first three gospel writers had written, it appeared to me that Jesus was giving a straightforward timeline narrative. I hadn’t noticed anything referring to that in all the V.I.P. books and articles that I’d been collecting. Then, when I discovered writings on the “pre-wrath theory,” the pieces of the rapture puzzle began falling neatly into place.
It seemed odd to me that John had not recorded Jesus’ “end of the age” teaching in his gospel, like Matthew, Mark and Luke had done. I found the answer to my quandry in Revelation 6-7 — not only written by John, but given directly to him and through him. That’s where a teaching appears that’s very similar to the Matt-Mark-Luke perspectives. It is presented in the form of a divine revelation, entrusted to John by his Mentor and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
At that time, the cult of emperor worship was gaining ground in the Roman Empire and persecution of Christians was kicking into high gear. John — the last living apostle — was in exile on the island of Patmos, off the coast of modern Turkey, in a Roman penal colony.
When I started comparing “end of the age” prophecies written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul with John’s “Revelation of Jesus Christ” chapters 5 through 7, that’s when I realized the truth about “the rapture.” And when I compared Bible translations of those writings using Biblegateway.com, I began realizing even more startling truths than any I’d previously discovered.
But don’t take my word for it. I want you to see it for yourself. And as we travel down this road, keep in mind one word: simple.
“Rebuke one who has understanding,
and he will discern knowledge.”
A RUST REMOVER …
What is your preferred version of the Bible? Whatever it may be, remember that the only, truly inspired version of the Old Testament is the original manuscript, written in Hebrew and preserved in the Jewish Torah. The only way to know precisely what the New Testament writers penned would be to read directly from the source letters, understanding the language that was originally used. For most of us that’s not possible, so it’s a good idea to keep a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible on hand to refer to when you are digging deep to discover truth in God’s Word. And it helps to find works by pastors or writers who have studied the culture of that day.