Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, has recently produced a series of videos about the rapture. In these videos she encourages believers and sends out a beacon of hope, leaving them instruction in case they are ‘left behind’ when the rapture occurs. Considering the influence of Anne Graham Lotz’s ministry, and the upcoming reboot of the Left Behind movies, I thought this might be a good time for a healthy discussion.
Fist of all, I am greatly encouraged by Anne’s ministry. She has demonstrated great faithfulness to Jesus, calling the Church to prayer and action, and the fruit of her ministry can be seen in the lives that have been ministered to across denominational and generational lines. My thoughts and cause for discussion are not a criticism of Anne, but rather a call to corporately seek after clarity on what I believe to be an important issue to our generation.
In one of Anne’s videos, she records what she would say to those who are left behind after the rapture. The view that a rapture (taking up) of Christians before the tribulation comes from a doctrine called Dispensational Pre-Millennialism. Without going into a full detail of the doctrine, all Pre-Millennialists believe that Jesus will return to rapture the church before the Millennial Kingdom (a literal 1,000 year period that Jesus will reign on the Earth). Another aspect of Pre-Millenialism is the belief of a literal tribulation, which will conclude the final seven years of the end-times and is often referred to as ‘the last days’. Dispensational Pre-Milennialism claims that a third component of the end-times, the rapture, will take place before the start of the tribulation.
I am a Pre-Millennialist. I believe it is vital to take a literal approach to the Bible, except where the text of the bible defines a particular context as figurative or allegorical. There are other views on the end-times that do not allow for a literal interpretation of Scripture, but these I will leave out of today’s discussion for time’s sake. However, I do not in general hold to dispensational beliefs, and this includes my eschatology (study of the end-times).
I do not deny the rapture, but I believe that the Church will remain on earth for the vast majority of the tribulation. The tribulation strikes fear in most believers because we do not understand the role of the Church during the tribulation, and I am concerned that a pre tribulation rapture view creates apathy and an escapist view regarding God’s sovereignty. The tribulation is not a blanket judgment on the earth that happens after believers exit. The tribulation is a divinely calculated assault on the works of Satan and the kingdom of darkness.
The bible makes it clear that Jesus will return at the sounding of the last trumpet, and the last trumpet does not sound until the tribulation is almost complete. The Church is called to stand in that hour of history as faithful witnesses of the testimony of Jesus. The book of Revelation accounts for martyrdom during this time, but the reality is that this will be the Church’s finest hour amidst the pressing. We will walk out the fullness of supernatural ministry, prophecy, and proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus’ sovereignty throughout this time will not be reduced to ‘escape and pour out wrath’. Wrath does come, but it comes through Jesus revealing mercy to the lost through His church. Wrath comes only because people continually reject the mercy of God which triumphs over judgment. Jesus will give the lost every opportunity, and the Church is vital to this process of opportunity. He desires that none shall perish, and He will show mercy until every last person has had the opportunity to repent and be saved. His mercy is so great that it is devastatingly unfortunate that any would reject His kindness.
If God can keep a man standing when a thousand fall at one side, and ten thousand at the other, cannot God in His great sovereignty preserve His beloved Church in the midst of great judgment against the Anti-Christ? Is it not the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel to the end of the age? The idea of leaving a video for those ‘left-behind’ is evidence that we do not believe newly saved Christians will survive and thrive without the guidance of mature Christians. Wouldn’t it be better for a supernaturally empowered and mature Church to personally help new believers withstand the most difficult hour of history?
I believe the pre-tribulation rapture view sets a dangerous precedent for complacency and lack of reverence to the mercy of Christ regarding the lost.
He will not ‘beam us up’ at any moment. We cannot live like those expecting to escape. We must live like those willing taking up our cross, fully prepared to go anywhere into any danger for the sake of God’s mercy toward others. This, beloved, is what it means to love our neighbor as ourself. Love is defined through the laying down, the merciful heart, suffering for another’s sake, and contending earnestly for love to take root in another’s heart. Part of the tribulation judgments against the works of Satan will display to the nations God’s unrelenting desire to destroy the systems, governments, and sins that oppress mankind and hinder love. Jesus will be greatly revealed to the nations of the earth during this time, and I believe that we will be present to be His witnesses on the earth.
While I don’t agree with Anne that we will miss out on the tribulation, she offers some great advice for anyone who finds themselves living on the earth during this time. Read the article here, or watch the video below.
-J. S. Marek