Book Review of A Quick Look At The Rapture And The Second Coming, Tim LaHaye, 2013

Introduction

The timing of the rapture is a hot button topic. Few conversations divide more Christians. God uses this subject to draw many to His Word for answers. The only acceptable standard for church doctrine is the Bible while adhering to sound principles of biblical interpretation.

The future return of Christ is indisputable and the “blessed hope” of Christians (Titus 2:13). The timing however, (pre-tribulational, pre-wrath, post-tribulational, etc.), while important, is not a salvation issue. Nevertheless, one’s doctrinal framework influences their spirituality and how they live their lives.

If pretribulationism is in error, many lukewarm Christians will find themselves spiritually unfit to face the tribulation. Paul warned: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Jesus warned, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21-22).

In this book, LaHaye provides reasons why he believes the coming of Christ occurs before the tribulation and describes an additional coming after the conclusion of the tribulation. His eschatology will be analyzed under the microscope of Scripture.

Chapter One

Jesus Promised to Come Again to Rapture His Church

 

LaHaye begins the chapter: “One of the great promises in the Bible is the promise from Jesus to His disciples (and to us) that someday He will come again to take us to heaven and be with Him” (page 9). Are there passages that conclusively establish that when the rapture takes place, the church immediately is transferred to heaven? LaHaye provides one proof text:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3; ESV).

The passage above was comforting to the disciples and a source of comfort for Christians for 2000 years. Did Jesus imply a transfer immediately to His Father’s house, or was the timing stated, general (“I will come again and will take you to myself“)?

The conversation of Jesus that began in John 14:1 continues until the end of the chapter (14:1-31). Therefore, it’s theologically dangerous to conclude immediately that the church will be raptured instantly to heaven without reading and considering the entire account. The scope of the conversation (14:1-31) identifies a time gap between “I will come again” and “I will take you to myself” (John 14:3b). Here are verses in the same conversation where Christ identifies a time period on earth before he transfers us to our glorious mansion (New Jerusalem):

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (14:18). Jesus was in their presence. His statement “I will come to you” contextually refers to being on earth. If we were standing on earth 2000 years ago and Jesus was in our presence, His words, “I will come to you,” would be taken literally.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23). Christ will come to earth with God the Father and make their home with us! This time period is considered by many (including myself), as the 1000-year millennial reign.

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (14:28). Since Jesus said, “I will come to you,” this should be interpreted literally as understood by the disciples.

Does the Bible contain a passage where Jesus raptures the church to heaven immediately? If you know of such a passage without bringing presumptions to the text, please contact me 🙂 You probably are aware of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In this beautiful rapture account, Paul’s leaves the church hanging in the clouds!

Should a pretribulational rapture occur where the church is ushered to heaven instantly followed by a return of Christ after the tribulation ends, God’s Word must explicitly state this. While LaHaye experienced a distinguished career as a fictional writer, any teaching from his book (or this review) that is not explicitly stated in Scripture should also be considered fictional.

Chapter Two

What and When is the Rapture

 

One page 14, LaHaye provides a list of references which he believes teach a pretribulational return: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, and Revelations 4:1-2. He omitted at least three rapture passages that refute pretribulationism: (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; 2:1-12; & Matthew 24). Because Matthew 24 provides the most detailed account of the rapture, a serious Bible student considers it:

Immediately after the tribulation [when Christ comes] of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, 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” (Matthew 25:29-31). Please know, dear believer that Christ comes, “immediately after the tribulation” (post-tribulation).

Because Matthew 24 makes no mention of a pretribulational rapture and Christ returns after the tribulation (vs. 30-31), some pretribulational believers teach that Mathew 24 is Jewish and not for the church. The practice of throwing chapters out that don’t conform to a theology is upside down. God’s Word should define one’s beliefs. To LaHaye’s credit, he didn’t make the Jewish only argument for Matthew 24.

Some pretribulationists insist that a post-tribulational rapture cannot take place as found in Matthew 24 because “no one knows the hour.” Their rationale is that the exact date could be computed by adding seven years to the first day of the tribulation. But this argument is false because Jesus said he would come “immediately after the tribulation.” So it’s impossible to predict the date.

On page 14, LaHaye lists 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 as a rapture passage. Because it explicitly disengages any hope of a pre-tribulational rapture it should be examined:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.  Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day [day of the Lord] will not come [the rapture of the church], unless [1] the rebellion comes first, and [2] the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 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.  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5).

This passage eradicates any hope of pretribulationism. The church enters the tribulation. Paul is describing the rapture (“the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him“). Secondly, two events must happen before Christ returns: “the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed.” Third, Paul had previously spoken about this subject (verse 5); this makes this passage contextually applicable to us. Because false teachers abound, Paul wrote, “Let no one deceive you in any way” (vs. 3a).

On page 16, LaHaye writes how the rapture occurs before the tribulation without any biblical evidence. Since he is so sure, why can’t he provide proof? Also, page 16 has a chart indicating a pretribulation rapture without any proof. Fancy charts are not authoritative; God didn’t include any in His Word. On this page he writes that Christians in the tribulation will be called “saints.” Did LaHaye know that Christians are also called “saints” in the Epistles and they were not in the tribulation?

There isn’t one passage in the Bible that explicitly promises a pretribulational rapture without presuppositions and extra-biblical arguments. But with authoritative presumptions and poor hermeneutics, God’s Word can teach any doctrine.

 

Chapter Three

Setting the Stage for His Coming and the Signs of His Coming

 

On page 17, LaHaye lifts three verses (Matthew 24:36, 42 and 44) from their inspired context (a rapture account after the tribulation ends; see verse 30) to teach a pre-tribulational rapture. This practice is dishonorable and disgraceful. It’s academic dishonesty to poach passages from one context and assign a new meaning not intended by its author. To keep this review from being longer, these verses (with their surrounding context) will not be covered. Dear believer, if you want to know the contextual meaning of these verses, please read Matthew 24 in one setting multiple times in neutral and allow the Holy Spirit free reign in the interpretation.

On page 17, LaHaye quotes Thomas Ice who claims that the coming of Christ is a signless event: “There are no signs mentioned in the Bible that will indicate the rapture is near.” In the pages to follow (19-25), LaHaye contradicts this by listing several signs found in Matthew 24. LaHaye describes Matthew 24 as “signs of Jesus coming at the end of the age” (page 19) while ignoring the enormous contradiction this chapter brings to pretribulationism. We covered 2 Thessalonians 2 where the “the rebellion comes first” and “the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Matthew 24 has additional signs that must take place before Christ returns. Please read verses 9-29.

An additional precursor to Christ’s coming is found in Matthew 24:30. Jesus said, “the sun” is “darkened” and “the moon will not give its light” (Matthew 24:30). These signs (of the sun and moon) are repeated in Acts 2:20 when Peter preached the first sermon to the church. It’s unwise to discount this inspired sermon.

In his message, Peter quotes a prophetic passage from Joel 2 (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21). This prophecy has two parts. The first prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18). The second phase of this prophecy to the church is unfulfilled (Acts 2:19-21; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 6:12). Acts 2:20 states, “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.” The message that Peter preached in Acts 2 is for the church and these sings will take place before Christ returns on the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Philippians 1:10, 2:16). Please know that the Day of the Lord and Day of Christ are the same day. The Lord Jesus is the same person as Jesus Christ.

LaHaye ignores precursory signs to claim an imminent rapture. Before we examine each reference, (page 17), please know that if there was true imminence, this doesn’t guarantee pretribulationism. Here are the verses:

So that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). According to this verse we are waiting. If the rapture was imminent, Paul could have communicated this clearer.

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come” (1 Corinthians 16:22). If there is true immanency, the Bible must make this argument.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). No mention of immanency is found.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5). So far, this is the first verse that in a vacuum could be interpreted to communicate immanency. But when the weights of all the verses that describe the coming of Christ are considered, along with unfulfilled precursory events, this is not true eminence. Christ could return in our lifetime, but we must wait a little longer.

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The word “wait” is an accurate description of the church. We are in a holding pattern.

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). This beautiful verse describes the state of the bride of Christ for the past 2000 years.

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). “Those who are eagerly waiting for Him” will experience the tribulation. This verse describes one, second coming. Not a “two-phase” event.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:7-9). Just as farmers plant, wait on rain, and for the harvest to mature, so the church must wait. The farmer sees the growth in progress, so the church reads the signs (see also Matthew 24:32-33). We are in the last minutes (or seconds) of the last hour of the last days, “the Judge is standing at the door.”

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). No eminency found.

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (June 21). No eminence or even reference to the rapture.

I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). Jesus Christ will come very, very soon. But this doesn’t spell eminency.

Here are additional verses that LaHaye wants his readers to read eminency into:

And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Since pretribulational teachers don’t have explicit verses, they deploy man-made arguments. One is that the word “church” is absence after Revelation 3, therefore the church is in heaven. This is wrong on several counts. First, it’s a word fallacy to claim something is non-existent because a word is absent. This wrong teaching would make some Epistles not written to the church because the word “church” is absent. Second, using this standard, they cannot find the word “church” in heaven. Third, the word “church” is found at the end of Revelation, where Jesus states His message is for the church: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches” (Revelation 22:16).

Page 17 states, “…the last days must have to do with the tribulation-a time in which God will work through Israel, and not the church” (page 17). LaHaye writes his own Bible. The Bible doesn’t state that the church is removed before the tribulation and that “God will work through Israel, and not the church” (page 17). The church is made up of Jews first and Gentiles second (Romans 1:16). Jesus spoke to the church: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). This truth is further unpacked in Mathew 24 after His disciples asked Him about the end of the age and the sign of His coming (Matthew 24:3). God is not “single track” where He cannot work with Jews and Gentiles concurrently. How can there be another entity outside the body of Christ? The wall of hostility had been removed (Ephesians 2:11-3:12). There are not two bodies (Jewish and Gentile believers), but one.

Another reason that LaHaye is in error is that the Jews as a nation don’t repent until the time of the Gentiles ends, at or near end of the tribulation. There are several passages which taken together seem to teach that they don’t repent until they see Christ, or at the very end of the tribulation. Here are a few, see: Zachariah 8-14 (especially 12:10-14); Romans 11:25-27; Matthew 24:30; Luke 21:24-28; Revelation 1:7; 7:1-8.

More Chapter reviews are in progress. Thanks for reading.

Chapter Four

The Two Stages of the One Second Coming

 

The chapter title is contradictory. If Christ comes for His church and then returns at the end of the age, there are two more comings. He acknowledges this contradiction. He dismisses it by claiming that the first coming is in the air while the second coming is to earth (page 27). This begs the questions, if there are two additional comings, are not both comings in the air? And, are there not a second and third coming?

There is only one more coming: “That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:20-21). Christ will stay in heaven until “the time for restoring all the things [see Acts 1:16] about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” This is the end of the age when Christ comes in judgment and places everything in order.

Several rapture passages contain the word coming. This word sometimes comes from the underlying Greek word, parousia. There are at least two facts about this word that you should know. According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (2001, page 781), this word means, “1. the state of being present at a place, presence,” or “2. arrival as the first stage in presence, coming, advent.” These definitions refutes LaHaye’s claim that Christ only comes in the air before the tribulation (page 27). Secondly, the coming of the antichrist also uses the word parousia (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

Here are some passages where the coming of Christ contain the word parousia (“present” or “arrival“): 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Peter 1:16, 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 3:13, 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7-8; Matthew 24:3, 17, 37, 39.

On page 27, a two-column chart visually illustrates 15 “so called” differences between the “rapture/blessed hope” and the “glorious appearing.” A man-made chart that divides the coming of Christ into two phases is not within the framework of sound hermeneutics.

On page 27-28 LaHaye addresses the enormous contradiction that Titus 2:13 brings to pretribulationism (“glorious appearing“). He attempts to resolve this by forcing the verse to depict two comings (“blessed hope” and “glorious appearing“). He doesn’t explain how incoherent and illogical it is for believers in that day and today to look for both returns concurrently.  Based on rules of grammar and a consideration of context, there is no grounds to artificially impose this division. LaHaye’s theology is driven by his presuppositions. He writes, “It is obvious these two phases are not the same and cannot occur at the same time. The ‘blessed hope,’ or rapture, occurs prior to the Tribulation, whereas the glorious appearing occurs at the end of that seven-year period and includes unbelievers who will be judged for rejecting Christ” (page 28). He submits no evidence for “it is obvious.” LaHaye’s interpretation is outside the boundary of accepted hermeneutics; it should be considered fiction. Satan loves it when teachers like LaHaye assure Christians that they will be raptured off their couch before the tribulation begins. Matthew 24 warns of a great falling away that will occur. Many lukewarm, uncommitted followers of Christ have believed an appealing lie.

For 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, he claims, “the Christians in Thessalonica were concerned that their deceased loved ones has missed the rapture” (page 28). He mistakes the first letter with the second. The second letter was written because some believed “that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thessalonians 2:2b). This is the day that the church is looking for (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Peter 3:10; Philippians 1:10, 2:16).

 

Chapter Ten

Quick Answers to Questions about Bible Prophecy

 

On page 52, the question is asked, “We know that the Apostle Paul gave the details of the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, but did Jesus ever mention the rapture?” (page 52). He answers, “John 14:1-3 cannot be talking about Christ’s glorious appearing, because in that event, Christ comes with His saints, who are already in heaven, not for His saints, as stated in John 14:1-3” (page 52). He states why it cannot be true without any proof. Bible doctrine built on sand has no place in the church. We already covered verses that teach that Christ comes for His saints and the timing provided in not before the tribulation but after (Matthew 24:3-51; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2:1-12; Acts 2:19-21; 3:19-21).

He continues and claims that John 14:3 “is Christ’s revelation of a new mystery: that the church will be raptured and taken to the Father’s house” (page 52). This passage doesn’t state it was “a new mystery.” Christ spoke often of His coming.

On page 53 a question is asked about the validity of the post-tribulational view. He answers are un-objective and contain “smoke and mirrors.” He doesn’t touch one of the many passages we already covered that indicates that Christ comes after the tribulation  (Matthew 24:3-51; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2:1-12; Acts 2:19-21; 3:19-21). He conducts sideshow arguments on how John 14:1-3 is similar to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (this similarity does nothing to disprove a post-tribulational return of Christ or prove a pre-tribulational rapture). He then misleadingly submits Revelation 19:11-21 as a proof text for post-tribulational rapture. I don’t know of one post-tribulational Christian who would submit this passage as a proof text. This passage doesn’t prove or disprove post-tribulationism.

He continues with a chart that demonstrates how 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is similar to John 14:1-3, which proves nothing. He leaves out that Matthew 24 has more similarities to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 than John 14:1-3.

Question number five asks, “What Scriptures show that Christ will come before the tribulation?” (page 54). Instead of acknowledging the established fact that there are no explicit, contextual references for proof, he quotes two verses: “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).

Since these verses don’t explicitly state his premise, he bridges the gap by fusing human arguments into them. He claims that the seven-year tribulation is the wrath that they were promised protection from. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t call the seven-year tribulation the wrath of God. The first mention of wrath during the tribulation is past the midpoint (Revelation 6:16) and from the perspective of the unsaved. God never takes His wrath out on His children. During the tribulation, Satan will be allowed to make war against the saints (Revelation 13:7-10), but this is not God’s wrath against His own children. The context is that believers are saved from the wrath of God when Christ comes: “who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

Thanks for reading this review. May God’s Word be your source of truth for careful end-time study.

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