I’d meant to do another post on Bullinger today, but didn’t get a chance. So instead, I thought I’d post an essay I wrote a while back discussing the potential pitfalls of both pretrib and prewrath Rapturism.
I say both because pretty much any theological position on any matter has its potential pitfalls. For example, on the subject of God’s grace, we have to walk a fine line between legalism (a potential pitfall of an emphasis on our duty to our Redeemer in His commandments) and lawlessness (a potential pitfall of an emphasis on God’s Grace as the sole means of salvation). It doesn’t matter how correct one’s view on a subject is, we have to make sure that we are aware of and carefully navigate through the pitfalls. This is certainly the case whatever one’s belief about the timing of the Rapture.
Let’s pick on pretrib first: The two biggest potential hazards are pollyanism and unpreparedness.
By pollyanism, I mean the essence of the old saying, “He’s so heavenly-minded that he’s no earthly good.” Pretrib lends itself to a kind of escapism mingled with pride. “Christ wouldn’t leave His Bride to suffer,” we hear, or, “What kind of blessed hope are we supposed to have if we know we have to suffer first?” This attitude is remarkably provincial, somehow assuming that the (American) speaker’s own experience in a free society absent of any serious religious persecution is somehow the norm for the Ekklesia as a whole. Never mind the millions around the world who are persecuted, enslaved, tortured, and killed for their faith in Messiah.
Why is it that the Laodicean church expects the reward of Philadelphia, which has faced its trials and come through with flying colors?
Out of this Pollyanna view necessarily comes a lack of prepartion. I’m not talking about physical preparation, or at least not primarily, but spiritual preparation. How can a soldier who is told that they will never face the big battle ready himself to charge the turrets? And how can the millions who believe that pretrib assures them that the blessed hope is to be Raptured out before anything “really” bad happens be expected to stand tall and firm in the face of persecution and/or war on our own shores?
Not all pretribulationists fall into this trap; Chuck Missler has gone on record as saying that while he believes in a pretribulation Rapture, he also believes in pre-Rapture tribulation. In fact, the Koinonia Institute exists for the express purpose of raising up a new generation of Issachar, so that we will know the times in which we live and what must be done; to raise up teachers and leaders who will be able to establish assemblies in their homes when the assemblies in churches are compromised or shut down; to prepare men and women to be living Bibles when the books are burned. It is for this reason that even though I disagree with Dr. Missler on the timing of the Rapture and certain other relatively minor issues, I support his ministry.
Now to pick on posttrib, and by extension prewrath: The greatest pitfall that our opponents will point towards is the tendency to be looking for the coming of the Antichrist instead of the Coming of our King. There’s a certain truth to this, since we regard the appearance of the Antichrist and the apostasy of many from the faith as a prerequisite to the Second Coming, per 2Th. 2:1-8. And certainly, one can easily be distracted by the desire to build a bomb shelter to keep one’s family safe from the tasks our Lord has called us to.
I’ve struggled with this myself. On the one hand, I do believe that fathers have an obligation to provide for their own families’ welfare and safety in times of danger. On the other hand, I could divert the time and funds currently being used to support several ministries into buying a farm, building a fallout shelter, and stocking it with enough supplies to spend the Great Tribulation playing chess with my kids–but isn’t that the very epitome of hiding one’s talent in a hole in the ground?
Besides, all the prep-work in the world won’t do any good if the government to come simply confiscates your property.
Yeshua didn’t tell His disciples to build secret fortresses in the wilderness in preparation for the then-coming siege against Jerusalem, but neither did He tell them to sit around comfortably when the Roman armies came, confident that He would keep them from suffering even within the walls of the doomed city. He told them to prepare to be mobile, to be ready to leave everything at the drop of a hat and, if necessary, move from town-to-town. He spiritually prepared them for the suffering they would face by telling them that they had to be willing to take up an instrument of degradation and shame if they wanted to be His disciples. But He also assured them, and us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”