By Nathan Jones
Should Christians be divided over the Doctrine of the End Times?
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Calvary Chapel Aventura located in the Miami, Florida area and I will look at the importance of doctrine to the Christian faith and living.
Vic Batista: Nathan, concerning the Doctrine of End Times, can you clarify regarding the modern Pre-Tribulation Rapture view?
Nathan Jones: When we say Pre-Tribulation Rapture, that means before, hence "pre," so a Rapture before the Tribulation.
First, let's define the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven-year judgment that is coming upon the world. The Bible teaches about the Tribulation in many different books, particularly in Daniel and Revelation. It's a time period when God will pour out His wrath upon the world, similar to what He did at the Flood. The Flood likewise was God's wrath poured out on mankind because of their evil. Now another time of God's judgment is coming which is specifically called the Tribulation.
God has set the length of the Tribulation to seven years. Also called Daniel's Seventieth Week, it will last, according to Daniel the prophet, seven years. The length of the Tribulation being seven years long is described in a variety of ways as "one seven" year block (Dan. 9:27), half called "times, time and half a time" (Rev. 12:14), consisting of two "1260 days" periods (Rev. 11:3), or two "42 month" periods (Rev. 11:2; 13:5).
During that seven years God will release 21 judgments upon the world. The purpose of those judgments is firstly to punish evil, but secondly to bring people to their knees so they'll finally have to make a decision for Christ of not. The third reason for the Tribulation is for Jesus Christ to return to defeat evil and set up His thousand years kingdom. So, that is the Tribulation.
Second, let's also talk about the teaching of the Rapture. The topic can be found primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 and some other verses (Isa. 26:19-21; Mal. 3:17; Lk. 21:36; Jn. 14:1-14; I Cor. 15:51-58). These teach about Jesus taking those who believe in Him up to Heaven. They will avoid the Tribulation and so therefore avoid God's wrath. That the Church is exempt from God's wrath should encourage the believer as Paul said to know we will not have to endure those terrible years (1 Thes. 4:13-18 and 1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:4; Rev. 3:10).
So then, let's tie the Tribulation and Rapture together. When you say Pre-Tribulation, that means the Rapture will happen before the Tribulation. The Church will be rescued, or taken out, beforehand. The Rapture therefore then becomes our "blessed hope" as Paul called it.
There are others views concerning when the Rapture will happen in relation to the Tribulation. There are those who interpret the timing to be at the middle of the Tribulation, some 3.5 years into it. Called the Mid-Tribulation Rapture, the midpoint they say is when God will Rapture the Church.
There are others who teach a Pre-Wrath Rapture, with the Rapture occurring only just before the last seven judgments, called the Bowl Judgments. They claim only these last seven judgments are the wrath of God, so therefore the Christians will be raptured three-quarters of the way through the Tribulation.
Then you've got your Post-Tribulation Rapture people. They believe the Rapture happens as soon as Jesus comes back at the end of the seven years.
Then, of course, you have those people who don't believe there is any Rapture at all. They read 1 Thessalonians 4:17 "caught up" or "snatched up" and don't realize the word "rapture" is Latin for "caught up" or "snatched up." And yet, that is where we get the term rapture.
So, there are lots of different interpretations concerning the timing of the Rapture.
I believe when you interpret the Bible literally, and you put all the verses together and you line them up and you see them compared next to each other between the Rapture and the Second Coming, it is very clear that Jesus Christ is coming before the Tribulation comes on this world.
Vic Batista: Exactly what I believe. That is why I agree that my ministry "The Truth Will Set You Free Ministry" here at Calvary Chapel believes the same thing as you do concerning the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. We believe that the Doctrine of the End Times related to the Rapture is sort of essential to our teachings, but it shouldn't divide the Church if someone else believes differently concerning the Rapture.
Nathan Jones: Exactly. I have friends who unfortunately take what is called an Amillennial interpretation. They don't believe that Jesus Christ will come back to rule for a thousand years. They think that the Church Age is it, and when Jesus comes back that is the end of history. I get along with them very well. I also have friends who believe in a Rapture that might take place Mid-Tribulation. I disagree with their interpretation, but again what one holds about the timing has nothing to do with salvation, and so we can agree to disagree.
Funny yet sadly, I have no friends who hold to the Post-Tribulation view. They are very adamant about their view and in my encounters they are very angry at the rest of us who hold a Pre-Tribulation view.
I had a fellow pastor who once said to me that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all the same God in different forms throughout history. This Unitarian view claims there isn't a Trinity, but God is just one being who presented Himself three different ways. That certainly isn't Biblical, and that isn't doctrinally correct. That's when I would have a serious disagreement with them.
Vic Batista: Very good point, Nathan! In most churches what we're talking about concerning the Doctrine of End Times isn't talked about very much, and yet it is something that individuals do need to understand, for they will live through it one day.
I believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, or the Modern Pre-Trib view as some call it. I believe the Lord is going to come first at the Rapture and before the Tribulation. But if another believer or another church member doesn't see my point of view the same way, well we're not supposed to hate them or alienate them. That's not the case.
Nathan Jones: The Church spends an awful lot of time shooting at itself instead of at the enemy. Our enemy is Satan and all the different institutions around the world that he works behind. And yet, the Church spends most of its time fighting against itself. I guess we are easier targets or something compared to the real enemy. All this in-fighting dilutes the work of the body of Christ. It makes us less effective. Just think if we were all working together like we should be. Can you imagine how fast the Gospel would be spreading around the world right now?
Vic Batista: That is absolutely true.
The Real Enemy
Vic Batista: This past Sunday my sermon was out of Ephesians 6 concerning spiritual warfare, because people have no idea about all the strings that are being pulled behind the scenes spiritually.
Nathan Jones: Yes indeed, there is definitely a war going on against the "principalities and powers of the air." Behind every physical war that we see there is a spiritual battle going on behind it.
Vic Batista: Absolutely! This is also mentioned to us and clearly shown in the book of Revelation chapters 9 and 16. The chapters show spirits, some that come right out of the mouth of the False Prophet and the Antichrist. These descriptions of demonic forces at play in world politics are some of what proves that we are in truth in a spiritual battle.
Nathan Jones: Definitely behind the scenes there's a spiritual battle going on between God's forces and Satan's forces. We know, thanks to Bible prophecy, that Satan will lose this war. He's nowhere near as powerful as God. Evil will be defeated in the end. But, right now as we look around the world and are just dismayed by the chaos going on and the evil and the corruption in government and society, we wonder where God is in all of this. This is a battle right now and it's a war, and we as Christians need to be united and stand against Satan instead of spending all of our time shooting at each other.
Vic Batista: Great point! Someone once said that Satan doesn't bother with any dead fish floating downstream. Right? What that means is that we ask our people to pray for you and for me and our ministries, because one of the tactics of the enemy is that he wants to take these ministries out and the wonderful work the Lord's doing through our ministries. We covet people's prayers.
Nathan Jones: Exactly, for prayer is essential. Prayer is our connection to God, as well as the reading of the Word. Without those two a Christian's relationship with God is terrible stifled.
Take this, for example. What if I didn't talk to my wife anymore? I don't think my marriage would be very good. When we don't pray to God, it's the same thing. It's like not speaking to our spouse. We are going to ruin the relationship. So, it's very important that we pray.
I understand that it's difficult to pray and yet never hear a voice back. God may not talk back to most of us verbally, but that's why it is actually biblical to be reading the Bible and praying as you read, because that is how God speaks to us. He teaches us through the Bible. He gives us His will through His Word. We therefore really should couple our prayer time with our Bible reading time.
Vic Batista: Excellent point, and a great word of encouragement to everyone.
The Real Jesus
Vic Batista: If you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I want to encourage you to start one, because the Lord can come at any moment. I don't want you left behind and for eternity to be separated from God.
Maybe you don't have a relationship with the Lord. So, Nathan, can you encourage that person in how they can get a relationship with Jesus Christ today?
Nathan Jones: In the first part we talked about primary doctrine and how it is important to understand who Jesus is. Every time Easter or Christmas comes, Time magazine or some other of these magazines that come out have this "Historical Jesus" they want to reveal. They believe they've discovered who the "real" Jesus is. When you read the Bible and you take the Bible as God's inspired, infallible, authoritative Word, then we can understand the true deity of Jesus. Jesus is both God and man. He was born of a virgin. He lived a life of no sin. He performed miracles.
Through the shedding of Jesus Christ's blood by dying on the cross, we can be redeemed. Redemption means forgiveness. We are forgiven of our sins when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ could have died for our sins because He is God and He is perfect. The perfect died for the imperfect. So, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, He forgives us of our sins, clears our lives, takes away that guilt, and gives us the promise of hope and a future forever with Him.
Vic Batista: The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." If you haven't turned your life over to Jesus and recognized that you are a sinner, then repent of your sins and invite Jesus into your heart. People can call on the name of the Lord wherever they are.
Nathan Jones: Right, it doesn't matter where, but it does need to come from your heart. You have to be truly repentant of your sins and you've got to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sins. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." That is John 3:16, probably the most famous verse in the Bible concerning salvation.
It's so true that our faith in God is essential to our eternal destiny. To think that Jesus has died for our sins and that you can claim that free gift of love at any time. But, I would warn people about waiting. Why wait? We never know when Jesus is coming back. When He does come, the world is going to be in an uproar. You never know if you are going to die at any time, and once you are dead, you don't get a second chance. That's why it is so important to accept Christ and His salvation it in this life, for there's no chance in the next.
Give your life to Jesus Christ. Don't delay!