“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (2 Thess. 1:4-5).
There is a wildly popular teaching called the Rapture which declares that the church, as the Bride of Christ, will not go through a seven year tribulation period, which is soon to come. Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, recently made headline news around the world when she articulated this point of view.
“Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, warns the Rapture is coming and will cause “mass chaos.” In a recent blog posted on her website titled “Is God’s Judgment Coming?” Graham Lotz wrote God’s “judgment is coming on America and on our world, and it’s going to be ugly.”
“I believe Jesus is soon to return to take all of His followers to Heaven with Him in what is referred to as the Rapture,” she wrote. “While this will be deliverance for His people, can you imagine the impact on our nation, let alone the world, when suddenly every single authentic Christian disappears?” (Newsmax, May 21, 2015).
Anne Graham Lotz is a good woman with a good heart. She has a worldwide ministry for Christ. But she also has some very unorthodox views, in a variety of important areas, despite holding six honorary doctorates. Mrs. Lotz is one of many modern day prophetic teachers giving false hope to Christians, especially in the Western world, by promising divine deliverance through disappearance, while Christians in the Middle East spill their blood in the sand for being faithful to their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Anne Graham Lotz speaks of deliverance, by Rapture, for “His people”, referring to Christians. But are not the suffering saints in the Middle East, “His people” too? Are they not Christians? Are they not the Bride of Christ? Indeed they are.
Because Christians in the Middle East are part of the church, let them hear the same gospel promise given to the suffering saints of the first century going through great tribulation. Let the word go forth. The church of Christ shall emerge triumphant over the forces of evil. Dear suffering Christian, whoever you are, wherever you are, your testimony shall not be in vain. For Christ “must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).
And, if the Lord Jesus asks you to be a witness even unto death, be faithful, for you shall yet live. John wrote, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4). Suffering Christian, you shall live, and reign with God no matter what happens.
Individuals who embrace the Rapture of the church, base their understanding on a false premise. The false premise is that Christians will escape the great tribulation. The word tribulation is found at least twenty-six times in the Authorized Version, and each time the Bible assures believers that tribulation shall be part of the Christian experience.
Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Paul taught the church that Christians, “through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Nevertheless, the hope lives that the Bride of Christ will not go through any part of the great tribulation. Jesus said just the opposite.
The suffering Christians in the Middle East are a testimony to the truthfulness of Jesus, and the teaching of the apostles. Christians will, and do, suffer through all the great tribulations that come to nations, and yet they prevail. From AD 70 to the year 2015, Christians prevail, and they always come out of great tribulation with the banner of Christ’s love and faithfulness flying high.
“Ah,” says the Dispensationalist. But we are talking about THE great tribulation”. But what greater tribulation is there than to be beheaded for Christ? And that is now happening to the Bride of Christ. So do not talk about Christians escaping THE great tribulation, while the blood of martyrs is still dripping.
An appeal is made by prophetic pundits to 1 Thessalonians 5:9. The apostle Paul wrote, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
For the Dispensationalist, the wrath Paul speaks about in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is the wrath of THE great tribulation, referring to a future seven year period of special judgment. But this is a modern understanding based upon presuppositional conditioning.
The wrath of which Paul speaks is not a temporal wrath of seven years, but the eternal wrath of God on the wicked, who do not repent of sin.
Armed with a false hope of not suffering, and a misunderstanding of 1 Thessalonians 5:9, prophetic teachers can convey to others their erroneous beliefs, and false hopes.
“I believe that in my lifetime, if I live out my natural lifetime, I believe I will live to see the return of Jesus in the rapture when he comes back to take us to be with Himself, which means preceding that there are going to be some signs, there are going to be some warnings,” she said.
Then, with a slight acknowledgement to those who are suffering even unto death, Anne Graham Lotz, like all modern prophetic teachers, covers herself by saying, “And like the Israelites in Egypt when God sent the 10 plagues on Egypt and forced Pharaoh to let His children go,” she said, the Israelites also suffered under some of the plagues.
“They still came under some of the judgment,” said Anne Graham Lotz. “So before Jesus comes back, He may allow the church to go through some judgment because it purifies us. It helps us get our priorities straight and increases our focus and also our compulsion, I think, to share the Gospel with the people around us.”
“They still came under some of the judgment?” Wait a minute. The System teaches that “His People”, the “Bride of Christ” do not come under the judgment. They do not come under the wrath! The Rapture, of which Anne Graham Lotz believes, insists that the Bride of Christ is to be removed. The church is not appointed to “some of the judgment.”
That is the problem with erroneous teaching. It is impossible for everyone trying to teach it to be consistent. The System of Dispensationalism affirms what it denies, and denies what it affirms.
Here then, is the truth of the matter. The present beheading of Christians by ISIS, the stoning of believers, the confiscation of their property, false imprisonment, the destruction of church property, and the driving of Christians into exile is the tribulation of which Jesus foretold. The Bride of Christ is not appointed to eternal wrath, for the wrath of God is reserved for the nonbeliever.
But Christians, through much tribulation, and in every generation, must enter into the kingdom of God.
It is irresponsible to give false hope to non-suffering Christians in the West, when the evidence abounds that the Bride of Christ is at this present hour going through great tribulation.
Ironically, an appeal for belief in the Rapture, whereby Christians leave, and the wicked are left behind, is based on the Biblical illustrations of circumstances similar to those in the days of Noah, and the days of Lot.
But something has been lost in the analogy because in the days of Noah the wicked were taken, and the righteous were “left behind.” Likewise, in the days of Lot, the wicked were taken and the righteous were “left behind.” When Dispensationalism gets through with the Scriptures the analogy is turned upside down. The righteous are taken, and the wicked are “left behind”.
There is something else. Neither Noah, nor Lot, and those associated with the righteous were removed from earth. They went through the difficult days and were preserved. During these dark days when the Bride of Christ is caught up in the wrath of God being poured out upon the Islamic nations in the Middle East, as the LORD of Hosts moves Arab to kill Arab to reflect the bloodlust of their god Allah, the Christians will emerge triumphant. The prophet Mohammed is dead. Osama Bin Laden is dead. ISIS shall also be destroyed. All who oppose Christ and His church shall perish. “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same” the name of Jesus Christ shall be great” (Mal. 1:11).
Take hope suffering Christians. The church of the living Lord shall yet be victorious. And then one day, the Lord shall return, the second time, for all who believe (Heb. 9:28). The Lord will return in glory and majesty, not to disappear for seven years, and then come a third time. No, no. Jesus is coming the second time for all who believe. That is the historic faith of the church. It is not the Rapture Christians are to look for, but the return of Jesus in glory, and in the same manner in which He went away (Acts 1:11).