By Nathan Jones
What is the most controversial aspect about the Rapture?
We asked this question on our television show Christ in Prophecy of Dr. Noah Hutchings, considered "The Dean" of American Bible prophecy experts. He is the director of a Bible prophecy ministry in Oklahoma City called Southwest Radio Ministries, the author of over 100 books, and at 90 years old continues to serve the Lord in his decades long call to proclaim the Gospel.
Nathan Jones: Since we are talking about end time events, let's talk about one of the most controversial end time events — the Rapture of the Church. Could you tell us a little about the meaning of the Rapture and why it is controversial?
Dr. Hutchings: The Rapture as referred to by you and me of course marks the end of the Church Age dispensation. The Rapture is when the dead in Christ shall rise along with we who are left alive, and will go up to meet the Lord. Jesus finally comes for His Church.
The most controversy comes from the several views concerning the timing of the Rapture, and I'm sure some of them are more controversial than others. You can get into a discussion with those who believe in a Post-Trib Rapture, in that the Rapture happens at the end of the coming 7-year Tribulation, and you can get into some rather interesting dialogue with them. Others would say the Rapture is going to happen before the Tribulation. Some will say it will happen in the middle of the Tribulation. Others also say that at the end of the Tribulation the Rapture and the Second Coming will just be one and the same.
I hold to what's called the Pre-Tribulational or for short Pre-Trib Rapture view. I hold to the Pre-Trib position that teaches that when the Church Age has come to an end the Rapture will occur, the Church will be translated to Heaven.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica who were under great persecution, and he told them their final hope would be the Rapture of the Church. The dead in Christ will rise first, and those believers left alive will also rise to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord forever. If the Church was going through the Tribulation as some believe, which would be the Post-Trib position, then why would Paul try to give them comfort by referring to the coming of Christ, because they would still have to go through the Tribulation. I know there's a lot of different opinions, but I believe that the Church Age will end, the Christian era will end, and all before the Tribulation actually begins.
Dr. Reagan: As you well know, the Bible does not say specifically when the Rapture will occur. That's why there is so much difference of opinion. People can honestly disagree about the timing. But, I agree with you. I think that the best inference of the Bible is that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins.
Powerful Argument #1
Dr. Reagan: What would you say from your viewpoint is the most powerful argument in behalf of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?
Dr. Hutchings: Look at the book of Revelation, for example. The first three chapters concern the Church. I think it is a prophetic history of the Church Age. Then you go into Revelation 4, which is the beginning of the Tribulation period. You go through chapter 19 when the Tribulation period finally ends. Between chapters 4 and chapters 19 the Church is not mentioned one time. Remarkably, the Christian is not mentioned even one time.
Dr. Reagan: There believers during the Tribulation are referenced to as Saints.
Dr. Hutchings: Yes, they are references to as Saints, but of course, we're all saints. We are all set apart in Christ when we have put our faith and trust in Him. There will be people saved during the Tribulation, but most will be killed for refusing to take the Mark of the Beast and worship his image. That is not a commandment for today.
So, the Church is not mentioned in the Tribulation setting, but we see the Church mentioned in Revelation again after the Tribulation.
During the Tribulation, we read in Revelation about the 144,000 Jews who will be saved and set apart. There will be saints in the Tribulation, meaning there will be some saved, but that is simply all that it means. You're a saint because you have been sanctified and set apart, but these Tribulation Saints are not part of the Church.
Powerful Argument #2
Dr. Reagan: I've always felt like that one of the major arguments in behalf of a Pre-Tribulational Rapture is imminence. The Bible says that Jesus can come at any moment. Any moment! But, if you don't believe in a Pre-Tribulational Rapture, Jesus cannot come at any moment because there are a whole lot of things that have to happen first, such as there has to be a temple built in Israel. There has to be the Antichrist. There has to be the entire seven years of Tribulation. The only way that Jesus can come at any moment is for you to believe in a Rapture before the Tribulation.
Dr. Hutchings: That is absolutely true. If you study the Pauline Epistles and the messages to the churches, I can't find anywhere in there where Christians are admonished that they have to be careful about not worshipping the Antichrist by taking the Mark of the Beast, or even about a Tribulation period.
Dr. Reagan: We never are we told to look for the Antichrist. We are told to look for Jesus Christ.
Nathan Jones: A Pre-Trib Rapture just makes sense. When we are talking about the Bride of Christ — the Church — we know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loves His Bride. Jesus is to "marry" the Bride spiritually. I heard fellow Bible prophecy teacher Don McGee say this recently, and I thought this was great what he says. Jesus has got most of the Bride with Him right now in Heaven, but part of the Bride, that's us, are still on earth. You don't beat up part of your wife for seven years under your very own judgments and expect afterwards she's going to say, "Yeah, I'm going to marry you." It just doesn't happen. God wants all of His Bride to be with Him up in Heaven and protected from His wrath.
Dr. Reagan: That raises a good point, because there exists with some people this odd idea that the Church has to go through the Tribulation to be "purified."
Nathan Jones: Jesus' blood already purifies us from our sins.
Dr. Reagan: True, and since we're already purified by the blood of Christ, the Church certainly doesn't need the Tribulation.
Dr. Hutchings: There is no reason for the Church to go through the Tribulation. Why should we go through the Tribulation?
Nathan Jones: I hear people all the time say that the Church needs to be there because otherwise the people during that time won't hear the Gospel. But, there's many ways that people will hear the Gospel during the Tribulation, right?
Dr. Reagan: There's going to be Bibles left lying around all over the place. Plus, we've got the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 who in Jerusalem will be proclaiming the Gospel.
Nathan Jones: Then there's the Gospel Angel of Revelation 14:6 who actually goes to everybody alive in the Tribulation and shares the Gospel so that no person by the end of the Tribulation is without excuse.
Dr. Hutchings: Israel as a nation we do know will go through the Tribulation. I've been to Israel many, many times. In Israel today, less than one-third of 1% believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. They still are rejecting Him. The children are asked in Israeli schools, "Would the Messiah have destroyed the Temple? Would the Messiah have collaborated with the Romans to destroy Jerusalem?" They reply, "Of course not. So, Jesus is not the Messiah." Israelis are still looking for the Messiah to come.
Dr. Reagan: You know as well as I do, and as many times as you have been to Israel, there are thousands of guides there who have their heads full of Scripture. They have to in order to be qualified as guides. One day something is going to happen that is going to move that knowledge from their head to their hearts, and that is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation.
In the second part of this interview with Dr. Noah Hutchings on end time events, he'll explain what the Tribulation is all about.