In February 2015 the radical Islamic group ISIS showed us photos of 21 Christians, all but one Egyptian, whom they had taken prisoner in Libya. They were about to suffer beheading, lined up on a beach somewhere in the Middle East, even though they were innocent pawns. ISIS played a video for the world as each believer, who refused to recant his faith in Jesus Christ, was brutally beheaded.
Claiming to be true Muslims, ISIS has killed numerous Christians throughout Syria, Iraq, and Libya, along with Yazidis, Jews, and other Muslims they don’t agree with. They especially want to eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth.
As I write these words, Christians are still being persecuted and put to death, not only by ISIS, but in many countries around the world by both Muslims and communists. Open Doors USA says more than 325 Christians are being killed—just for their faith in Jesus Christ—every month. Other Christian organizations, such as the Vatican, think the number approached 100,000 martyred in both 2015 and 2016.
The truth is it is impossible to know for sure just how many believers have been put to death the past few years, just as it is impossible to know how many were put to death by the Roman Empire in the first three centuries following Christ’s death and resurrection. One thing we do know is that Paul, while Nero’s prisoner in a Roman jail, warned Timothy, “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
It is probable that until Emperor Constantine, who himself had become a believer in Christ, put a stop to Roman persecution of Christians in A.D. 313, the vast Roman Empire had killed thousands of Christians who refused to deny their faith in Jesus Christ.
Persecution was sporadic depending upon the emperor. Some were kind to Christians, but others, especially Nero, Domitian, Decius, and Diocletian, insisted that everyone in the Empire worship Roman gods or die. Some insisted that they themselves must be worshiped. Believers were crucified, torn apart by dogs, lions, and bulls, and mercilessly burned to death while tied to a stake.
Beheadings were not rare.
Where was Jesus?
Why didn’t he return and prevent thousands of Christian deaths?
Sadly, he couldn’t. He had told the apostles that the gospel of his salvation had to be preached to the whole world–and then he would return (Matt. 24:14).
And the Church has done just that.
Despite 2000 years of persecution!
For the next three centuries the Church endured limited persecution as it rapidly expanded across the Middle East and into North Africa. Some persecution during this period was Christian versus Christian—to the Church’s shame–as opposing views about Christ and other matters forged alliances and hot disputes.
This relative “peace” in the Church changed in the 7th century when, after Muhammad’s death in A.D. 632, Muslims decided to wage jihad and conquer the world for Allah. Despite what some Muslims claim today, jihad has never meant anything in Islam other than fighting and forcing the vanquished to convert, pay a tribute, or die. Muslims haven’t always carried out this brutal duty.
But Muslim armies did, beginning in A.D. 634, when they swept into Palestine. They overran Iraq in 637, Jerusalem in 638, Syria and Egypt in 640, and North Africa in 643. They killed men, women, and children with abandon, in some places razing churches and entire towns to the ground after looting everything of value. They also killed Jews wherever they found them. By the 8th century they had gone into Spain, but were stopped in France at Tours in 732.
The onslaught continued throughout the Middle Ages. Muslims, it seems, were particularly hard on Assyrian (in Iraq) and Armenian Christians. Thousands of Christians were killed in the 12th and 13th centuries, especially in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Armenia. Not all Islamic caliphs (local rulers) were opposed to Christians. Some even helped them and took up arms against Muslim marauders.
But jihad continued.
In the 19th century, Muslim Turks slaughtered thousands of Christians in Greece, Lebanon, and Syria. By the end of the 19th century the massacre of Armenian Christians by Turkish Muslims had begun. When it was over, as the world watched but largely denied it, nearly 1 million had been slaughtered and Armenia had been obliterated as a country. (You can read more about the systematic destruction of Christians and societies in the Middle East in The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam by Bat Ye’or, published by Associated University Presses in 1996.)
Muslims are not the only group that has attempted—but failed—to vanquish Christians from the face of the earth. In the 18th century the French government killed thousands of Christians in an attempt to eradicate Christianity from France.
Some peace existed in the Church following WWI, but it didn’t last long as communism arose in Russia and Lenin and Stalin murdered their millions of innocent Christians. Under Hitler, the Nazis also murdered many pastors who refused to support them and, recently revealed Nuremberg documents show, had planned to stamp out Christianity from Europe. Communists are still persecuting and killing Christians, notably in North Korea, China, and Vietnam. Hindu radicals destroy churches and kill Christians in some places in India. In Muslim countries where Sharia law is a way of life, Muslim governments are the chief persecutors of Christians.
Even though Christians have long established hospitals, schools, care centers, and orphanages around the world, some monitors of Christian persecution today believe that more Christians have been killed in the last 100 years than in all the previous centuries.
This is why I am sometimes asked the question, “Where is Jesus? Why hasn’t he returned for his people?”
After all, the Church, it seems, may be—or about to be—going through a great tribulation. For those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church this is impossible and a great deception from God himself if true.
Hasn’t the gospel been taken throughout the earth? Hasn’t the Church had enough tribulation? Isn’t the antichrist about to appear? Why doesn’t Jesus return?
Well, no, missionaries tell me that there are still pockets of isolated tribes in some parts of the world who have not heard the gospel. Maybe that’s why God won’t allow Jesus to return just yet.
But there are other reasons. I will let Jesus, Paul, and John explain them for us and then state why the pre-tribulation rapture is—shockingly for true pre-trib believers—nothing but a hoax.
First of all, no one, not even promoters of the deception like the late Tim LaHaye and David Jeremiah, can point to even one verse that tells us of Jesus’ return prior to the great tribulation. Not one. These are good Christian men, as are their former professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, all vigorous proponents of dispensationalism with its foundational belief in a pre-tribulation rapture.
But they teach a false doctrine not found anywhere in Scripture. There is no mention of any rapture or Jesus’ return in Revelation 3:10, as many claim, nor in Revelation 4:1, where a voice like a trumpet tells John to come up to heaven. And he does in the Spirit. But just John—and no one else—is invited up to heaven to witness the throne of God with its amazing brilliance and surrounding worshipers. Furthermore, believers in Christ are pictured throughout Revelation, although the Greek word for “church” isn’t used after 3:22 until 22:16.
Paul tells us of the “rapture” of the Church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. He says we will be “caught up” to meet Jesus in the air and those he brings with him–all the dead in Christ, who will rise first.
LaHaye and Jeremiah, as well as all others who believe their teaching, say that this rapture of the Church is prior to the great tribulation.
But Jesus, Paul, and John tell us otherwise.
In Jesus’ discourse on the end times in Matthew 24, where he discusses both the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and his return at the end of times, he comments in v. 21, “Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now . . .” He adds that after a shortened time of tribulation, he will return “as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west . . .” (v. 27).
He comforts us with these words in verses 29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven . . . and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
What a glorious event! The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, our Savior!
The whole world will witness it as he gathers his Church and takes us all home to heaven.
And it happens after the great tribulation.
The problem for pre-tribulation rapturists is that Jesus said nothing of this false belief. Do promoters of this belief know more than Jesus did? They think they do.
But the apostle Paul tells us the same end times story.
In the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul writes that in the future resurrection we will all receive imperishable bodies. And when will this happen? “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality” (15:51-53).
Jesus spoke of the trumpet call of the angels. Paul calls it the “last trumpet.” It’s the same trumpet blast that calls us home at Jesus’ return.
Paul is not finished with his end times comments. In 2 Thessalonians he says that some people were claiming that the rapture Paul had described in his first letter had already happened—and they had missed it. “Let no one deceive you in any way” he writes (2 Thess. 2:1-3). “That day will not come,” he goes on to say, until two things happen.
First, a great “rebellion” (Greek: apostasy) must occur, referring to what Jesus taught in Matthew 24:10-12: “Many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” This has happened throughout the Church’s history in times of persecution, but it will intensify just before Jesus returns.
We can see it happening in the Church already, when liberal scholars and pastors—and even laity–publicly declare their lack of faith in Christ.
Secondly, Paul says explicitly that the antichrist must first appear. “That day will not come unless . . . the man of lawlessness [or sin] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
The antichrist’s rise to power will usher in a horrible ordeal for everyone on the earth, especially Christians. For his coming will be, Paul says, “by the activity of Satan, with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception . . .” (2 Thess. 2:9-10).
So, Paul tells us, Jesus won’t return until some people in the Church are in a horrible state of rebellion against Jesus Christ—rabid apostasy—and the antichrist has come into his power and authority over the earth.
Not to worry, Paul tells us, because when Jesus returns, “the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8).
And according to Paul this is the rapture he told us about in his first letter to the Thessalonians. If there is another, like Jesus, Paul didn’t know about it.
The apostle John concurs with Jesus and Paul about the manner of Jesus’ return. He says of Jesus Christ in his opening address to the 7 churches of Revelation, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Rev. 1:7).
This is the same glorious event Jesus and Paul told us about. There’s nothing secretive about it. Jesus’ return will be visible and glorious and electric—an incredible sight the whole world will see.
John further elaborates on Jesus’ return in the 19th chapter, even though some of the imagery is symbolic. Jesus comes back to earth riding a white horse and leading a great army. The beast (antichrist) and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire. Their armies, which have gathered to make war on Jesus Christ, are easily defeated finally and forever.
How do we know when this happens? First of all, it’s the same general description of Jesus’ return given by him in Matthew 24 and by Paul in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Furthermore, Rev. 19:1-2 tells us of a great multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” God has finally avenged their blood which was shed on the earth as they endured persecution. The marriage supper of the Lamb follows—a glorious time of joy!
Then a description is given of Jesus’ return in triumph at the end of the age to defeat the antichrist and the worldwide forces of evil.
What is this great multitude in heaven?
In Revelation 7 John writes of “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . “ (v. 9).
John doesn’t know who they are, but an elder tells him, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14).
Really? A multitude of people so huge that they could not be counted?
From every nation and every tongue on the earth.
That means Jews, Greeks, and every other nationality.
And they came out of the great tribulation!
Where are the saints who are said to be raptured prior to the great tribulation? They are not in John’s pictures of heaven because they simply don’t exist.
No one is raptured prior to the great tribulation.
During the period of antichrist’s 42-month rule of authority and cruelty on the earth, God showers the earth with catastrophes on the wicked who oppress their fellow human beings. At the same time the antichrist is making war on believers in Jesus around the world.
During this time, Revelation says that God’s wrath will be poured out only on evil doers. Both LaHaye and Jeremiah claim that if Christians are present they too will face God’s wrath.
But this is also a deception—a hoax.
Revelation 7:3, 9:1-4, and 16:2 make it clear that God’s wrath never touches believers in Jesus Christ. They are miraculously protected by an angel. If God protected the Hebrews from the plagues poured out upon Egypt when Pharaoh wouldn’t release them, then God will have no trouble protecting believers in Jesus from his wrath against the world’s wickedness during the great tribulation.
Persecution is another matter. God does not always protect his people from persecution, as the history of the Church informs us. John cautions us in Rev. 14:12, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
The Church will go through the great tribulation because Jesus is not coming back until the end of it. The Scriptures are clear on this.
But why, you might be asking, do I insist that those who teach a pre-tribulation rapture are perpetrating a hoax and not just teaching a falsehood?
The definition of a hoax is “an intended deception.” The pre-tribulation rapture has been a deception since its invention by J. N. Darby in the 1820s. There is no reference to it by any writer in the history of the Church prior to that. Darby invented it as a necessary ingredient in his fallacious scheme of dispensationalism. Amazingly, people like C. I. Scofield of The Scofield Study Bible fame picked up on dispensationalism and heavily promoted it. No time can be given to it here, but it should be noted that without the pre-trib rapture dispensationalism falls apart.
However, many people who believe in the pre-trib rapture are not dispensationalists. They are good Christians who don’t know what the Bible really says because they want to believe the hoax that Jesus will take them from the earth prior to the trials of the great tribulation.
The writings of two promoters of dispensationalism and the pre-trib rapture reveal to us why it’s a hoax. In The Rapture (Harvest House Publishers, 2002), Tim LaHaye, co-author of the famed Left Behind series of books, ignores Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 that he will return after the great tribulation. Amazingly, on pp. 60-65 he catalogues the events of the tribulation in Revelation and conveniently fails to mention Rev. 7, which plainly says that the multitude of saints in heaven are those “who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).
Although this book is about the rapture of the Church and the tribulation period under the antichrist, LaHaye deliberately fails to discuss or even allude to the only two passages in the New Testament which use the phrase “great tribulation.”
This is a deliberate omission from a minister who is known as an end times Bible scholar. It’s an intended deception—a hoax.
In David Jeremiah’s recent book Is This the End?(W Publishing Group, 2016), he also fails to mention Jesus’ assertion that he will return after the tribulation or to discuss the great tribulation saints in Revelation 7.
Another intended deception. A hoax.
Furthermore, LaHaye wants us to believe that in 2 Thessalonians Paul is talking about two separate returns of Jesus. To do this, he completely ignores vs. 1-5 where Paul says he is talking about his previous teachings on the rapture. Jeremiah doesn’t even discuss this passage in his book.
Tim LaHaye and David Jeremiah are learned scholars and good Christian men. They have—and do—minister to many people. But their omissions are obviously intentional in an attempt to prove the pre-tribulation rapture and Darby’s dispensationalism.
They—and others like them who teach the pre-trib rapture—are to be commended for their service as ministers of Christ. But they are not to be commended for their obvious distortion of Scripture.
They are perpetrating a hoax upon unthinking Christians.
Someone might be wondering, “Well, so what if people believe in a pre-trib rapture? Isn’t that better than to believe the Church will go through the tribulation?”
No. A lie is a lie. And a hoax is a hoax. Jesus never deceived us with either. He always told us the truth, because God is a God of truth, not deception.
I know Christians who are already upset that Jesus hasn’t returned. When the antichrist rises to power, how many more will even be angry with God that they are still on the earth? They will be open to antichrist’s wicked deceptions.
On the other hand, God’s truth is always glorious. Jesus said concerning all believers, “You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9). He warns of hatreds, persecutions, even death, but he adds, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (v. 13).
Christians experiencing persecution in many places around the world today—even dying for their faith in Christ—all tell the same story. No one can take the love of God and the joy of knowing Jesus Christ from their hearts! Some have even won their persecutors to Christ!
Jesus will return for his Church. The truth is that only some will have to endure persecution until that time. But Jesus will come back because he has prepared the glories and treasures of heaven for all who believe in him and love the Father who sent him the first time.
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,” (Rev. 19:1).
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