Many if not most well-known Christian authors of both fiction and non-fiction works dealing with end-time events assume that the rapture will occur prior to the seven years’ Tribulation that will occupy the seventieth week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). This matter, however, is by no means settled, nor does it represent a boundary between Christians and non-Christians. I know many committed Christians on both sides of this particular fence. At one time or another, I also have been on both sides. As I continue to learn, I may change sides yet again.

 

Not very long ago I held to a pre-Tribulation rapture. My reasons for this position were twofold: first, the narrative of the Book of Revelation begins with the Church, wherein the first three chapters are concerned with nothing but the Church, after which John (representing the Church, as many think) is taken up to heaven in the Spirit and nothing more is said of the Church on earth; second, Paul suggests in 2 Thessalonians 2 that there will be a general falling away into gross godlessness coincident with the apparent removal of the Holy Spirit, this removal itself suggesting that the Church, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, has been removed from the earth.

 

There also is the popular mid-Tribulation view of the rapture, wherein the Church experiences some of the Tribulation events, including wholesale persecution, but leaves at the middle of the seven-year period when the Antichrist apparently reneges on Israel’s peace treaty and demands worship as God and attempts to establish absolute, repressive control over every human being remaining on earth, kicking responsive plagues and general mayhem into high gear.

 

On the other hand, the rapture certainly involves resurrection. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of the first resurrection, suggesting that it occurs at the end of the Tribulation (after the great temptation of the mark of the beast has occurred). This hint of a post-Tribulation Rapture necessitates, for consistency with 2 Thessalonians 2, a falling away of the Church well before the final seven years. One theologian places it during the medieval era, when the Church had fallen into wholesale corruption.

 

I had been able to reconcile my late commitment to the pre-Tribulation view of the rapture with Revelation 20 by noting that the falling away of the medieval Church was only a foretaste of the much more violent and extensive falling away now beginning to take place. In this context, I visualized the rapture as occurring at one time at the beginning but then being an ongoing event, continuing at a lower level from that time until the Second Coming of Christ.

 

There is a danger in my view of the timing of the Rapture, and that is the following: if the Rapture actually occurs at the end of the Tribulation, then those who adhere to pre-Tribulation view may be in the midst of the Tribulation without recognizing that it has already begun. Consequently, they may be tempted to accept the mark of the beast without understanding that it is indeed the foretold mark.

 

For that reason I recognize the importance of keeping an open mind regarding end-time events, especially recognizing that a post-Tribulation Rapture is a distinct possibility. I also periodically review Revelation Chapter 14 to maintain an understanding of the penalty one incurs for accepting the mark. I, for one, anticipate drawing the line of acceptance of any cashless system, refusing it when it reaches the point of identification being tagged anywhere in the body, regardless of whether or not it overtly represents a specific system suggestive of an antichrist. I also pray for the strength of the Holy Spirit upon me and you if things come to that point in our lifetimes.

 

By the time I had written the forward to my novel Cathy, the danger noted above had so influenced me that I had shifted my position to a post-tribulation view of the Rapture’s timing. I include that forward below for another side of the story.

 

“As with all Christian novels, this book reflects the author’s particular vision of God. Given the numerous differences in our backgrounds and the manner in which each of us has come to know and appreciate his God, and, above all, the pronounced myopia that afflicts our view of the spiritual realm, our individual understandings of God will differ. I don’t know to what extent the Holy Spirit has influenced my own perceptions, so I cannot claim any special understanding as to His nature above that which is common to all Christians. If the reader chooses to view God in a different way than I, he certainly is entitled to consider his own vision to be as accurate as mine. This difference of opinion should not prohibit the reader from enjoying my book, which, after all, is just a novel.

 

“Yet my particular vision, being so very useful in bringing me closer to my God, urges me to share it with others in the hope that if they have not yet experienced the joy of loving God with all their hearts, this novel will encourage them in that direction.

 

“My next caution is more specific and includes a warning of a very real danger to the superficially-informed individual. An assumption is made in this novel that the Rapture will occur at the end of the seven years’ Tribulation that will occupy the seventieth week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). This matter, however, is by no means settled, nor does it represent a boundary between Christians and non-Christians. I know many committed Christians on both sides of this particular fence. At one time or another, I also have been on both sides. As a matter of fact, until very recently when I had the opportunity of hearing Irvin Baxter’s highly rational explanation of his post-tribulation stance, I had wholeheartedly endorsed the prevailing pre-tribulation viewpoint.

 

“My reasons for my earlier acceptance of a pre-Tribulation Rapture were twofold: first, the narrative of the Book of Revelation begins with the Church, wherein the first three chapters are concerned with nothing but the Church, after which John (representing the Church, as many think) is taken up to heaven in the Spirit and nothing more is said of the Church on earth; second, Paul suggests in 2 Thessalonians 2 that there will be a “holding back” of rampant debauchery until a removal, after which the world shall experience a general falling away into gross godlessness. This “removal” is commonly attributed to the removal of the Holy Spirit from active intervention in the affairs of man, which itself, given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within each Christian, suggests the removal of the Church from earth.

 

“In my mind, Irvin Baxter effectively neutralized both reasons. As to the first, the sharpness of the break with the preceding three chapters may merely indicate, as Baxter suggested, a transition of the narrative from the present into the future. And, as he also noted, the Church on earth is indeed represented in several chapters of Revelation prior to Jesus’ return to earth. Most notable to me is Revelation 14:9-13. Regarding the second reason, Baxter suggests that it makes more sense in the context of the passage to attribute the “holding back” to the timing of God rather than to the removal from earth of the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, there is much to suggest that a departure of the Holy Spirit from earth is contradictory to the nature of that beloved Entity.

 

“Yet further, the Rapture certainly involves resurrection. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of the first resurrection, suggesting that it occurs at the end of the Tribulation (after the great temptation of the mark of the beast has occurred).

 

“Regardless of which theological stance regarding the timing of the Rapture is correct, in my view there is a significant danger of pinning one’s hope on a pre-Tribulation Rapture. Consider the following: if the Rapture actually occurs at the end of the Tribulation, then those who adhere to pre-Tribulation view may be in the midst of the Tribulation without recognizing that it has already begun. Consequently, they may be tempted to accept the mark of the beast without understanding that it is indeed the foretold mark.

 

“For that reason it is important to keep an open mind regarding end-time events, especially recognizing that a post-Tribulation Rapture is a distinct possibility. It also is important to read Revelation Chapter 14 to acquire an understanding of the penalty one incurs for accepting the mark. I, for one, anticipate drawing the line of acceptance of any cashless system, refusing it when it reaches the point of identification being tagged anywhere in the body, regardless of whether or not it overtly represents a specific system suggestive of an antichrist. I also pray for the strength of the Holy Spirit upon me and you if things come to that point in our lifetimes.”

 

My waffling on this issue is rather humbling. Next week I may take issue with Baxter for any number of reasons, and thus return to a pre-trib stance. The week after than, who knows? The whole thing tells me that I’m less than an expert in this area. But at least that admission beats having to defend an untenable issue because of ego.