When the church will be raptured has been a common topic of debate among Christians. Will the church be subject to the horrific events described in the book of Revelation? Will it live through it with divine insulation or be supernaturally lifted out of it before the wrath of God is spilled?
Many scholars believe in a pre tribulation rapture based on the fact nowhere in the book of Revelation is the church mentioned after the commencement of the seven year tribulation period. The other point of view (post tribulation rapture) is in part based on an all-encompassing overview of what God has previously done. For example: God left Jacob to work for Rachel’s hand an additional seven years. He left the Israelites to suffer in the desert forty years. He allowed David to be hunted by King Saul for over a decade after being anointed king of Israel. Israel endured hundreds of years of corrupt rulers. The remnant of Israel was allowed to be taken captive by the Babylonians and Assyrians. He did not spare his own son from the torment of excruciating pain, humiliation and death nor the persecution and martyrdom of the saints even to this day. So what makes the church think themselves exempt from mankind’s ultimate tribulation?
St. Augustine rightly observed, ‘greater joy is everywhere preceded by the greater pain.’ It stands to reason greater enlightenment should be reserved for those rescued from a deeper pit. The book of Revelation emphasizes the one hundred and forty-four thousand, possibly the converted Jews, who will be the resounding voice of salvation in that time due to the fact they were previously Jesus’ longest standing opposition.
Someone who was merely lost will never have the same zeal as one who was proactively professing error. Therefore the church will always be more destination-minded than converted Jews, and converted Jews, or anyone with a works-based theology, will always have greater passion for salvation once they are enlightened to the truth. This reasoning lends itself to a pre tribulation rapture as it makes way for the most fervent body of believers for God’s final call. This is not to say today’s church is free from the responsibility of seeking and saving the lost. It simply means the church is more in line with the son who remained home while the Jews play the role of the prodigal.
For thousands of years Jews have preserved and observed God’s laws, but have turned a blind eye to the over two-hundred prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. When Jesus walked the earth the Jews looked for a savior who would free them from the physical subjection of Roman rule. Today not much has changed. God, however, did not send his son to break the physical bonds of others but the spiritual yoke we have placed on ourselves through sin. The error of the Jew regarding God’s plan of salvation is he has placed his hope in something man can do. Being freed from the bondage and debt of sin is something only God can accomplish. Only Biblical Christianity falls under the heading of divine accomplishment. Any doctrine which does not rely on God’s unmerited favor must rely on man’s effort which is contrary to the word of God and should be rejected.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and even many Christian denominations follow works-based doctrine. Islam however is the only belief system whose primary tenets are diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches, in both the old and new testaments, love your enemies while the Koran teaches death to the infidel dogs (any non-believer). The Bible teaches to obey the law of the land (unless that law is to worship other gods). The Bible also proclaims the importance of keeping God’s laws in your heart which inspires believers to obey the law of the land. In so doing, the Christian faith, in theory, keeps order as well as an open line of communication to influence the carnally minded for the sake of potential future unity. The Koran instructs its followers to replace the law of the land with Sharia Law. The Bible teaches salvation by grace which glorifies God where the Koran teaches heavenly reward through works which glorifies man. The disciples of Jesus Christ experienced every torturous brutality imaginable. The Koran encourages Muslims to lie to save their lives when mortally confronted about their faith.
The popularity of Islam confirms man’s incessant need to glorify himself. If a man’s works can earn him heaven then man can control God. Only the ego of a man could concoct something so ridiculous. Only the spiritually misled would teach it. Only the poorest in spirit would believe it. But in defense of works-based reward systems, there is a fine distinction between them and biblical Christianity.
The foundation of works-based doctrine demands “do in order to be”, i.e. What you do determines who you are. Fundamentally speaking, biblical Christianity leads us to “be in order to do”, i.e. What you are determines what you do. Works-based theology looks at life from the outside in which, in the case of Islam, influences physically through both positive and negative reinforcements, e.g. seventy virgins and death. Biblical Christianity views existence from the inside out and influences spiritually through positive and negative reinforcements, i.e. everlasting unity or alienation from God and truth.
Most scholars agree the one hundred forty-four thousand witnesses referred to in the book of Revelation are the converted Jews. This should provoke reexamination of the heart of every anti semitist. We must all be willing to admit we could be wrong each time our thoughts or actions differ with the inspired word of God, especially when everyone believes they know better. If the greater the damage done by a convert fuels the level of passion to proclaim the truth, it should not be surprising to find members of the one hundred forty-four thousand may also be converted members of works-based religions. Neither should it be confounding if converted Islamic terrorists were leading the charge.
In a virtual train station were large gates where all the religions and their denominations gathered. Jews congregated at their gate, Sunni (peaceful) Muslims at theirs, Shiites (Radical Muslims), Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Evangelical Christians all had a space reserved to assemble and wait. The sign looming above the terminal read, “Those who were gracious to those of other faiths remain here for further instruction.” Only the spaces allotted for Christians and Shiites were empty.
Whether you believe the rapture will come before or after the tribulation period is a matter of speculation. Wisdom suggests it is always better to be prepared for disaster which doesn’t come than to be taken off guard. The important question for the Christian community therefore is how should the church prepare itself for the events to come?
We must first acknowledge the one hundred forty-four thousand referred to in the book of Revelation may refer to completed Jews, or any of the worst offenders, oppressors and opposers of the biblical Christian faith by those converted from works-based religions. We must be willing to encourage these, the least of our brothers, for their most important work to come. Least wise, in the instance we are called to suffer, be willing to work with them.