September 11, 2001 began as just another normal day for most people. People hurrying to catch subways, trains, and buses or whatever other means of transportation they chose to get into the City. Elsewhere along the East coast of the U.S., many people were anxious to get to the airport to catch flights bound for the West coast either for business or pleasure. It was a near perfect late summer day in New York; sunny, warm without a cloud in the sky. People went about their normal routine, some maybe stopping at their favorite deli to get a bagel and coffee on the way to the office. For others, the World Trade Center was to be their ultimate destination. Everywhere on the streets that day you could see the multitudes scurrying to get to work on Wall Street and the surrounding area. Life went on as usual until 8:46 AM when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
Likewise, it was partly cloudy that early Sunday morning on December 7, 1941 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. On that day, most sailors stationed on the island were enjoying a day off from duty. They were most likely resting; catching up on letters; reading newspapers; or preparing to attend worship services. Still others were having breakfast or maybe had just finished their morning chow when the calm was broken at 7:55 AM when 360 Japanese warplanes descended on the U. S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack.
No one in the World Trade Center’s North Tower that Tuesday morning on September 11 could have imagined that they would be engaged in a life and death struggle to survive that day. Nor did any of the occupants in the World Trade Center’s South Tower have any idea what was coming as United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into them at 9:03 AM. In the same way, none of the 1,117 sailors serving on the USS Arizona knew that they would be killed that Sunday morning on December 7.
The events I just described all happened in the past, so what about the future? Both of the aforementioned events happened in modern times, but, are there any analogous events described in the Bible? Can we draw any parallels with events described in the Bible? I believe there are at least two similar events we can point to and they are the destruction of Sodom and the Genesis flood.
We are told that during the days of Lot that people were going about their normal every day routine. They were eating and drinking; conducting business; farming; and working in construction. (Luke 17:28 NASB) Life went on as usual until the day God brought Lot out of Sodom. (Luke 17:29)
And what about time of Noah and the flood? Again, life went on as usual. People were going about their normal routine of eating and drinking; and getting married and raising families. (Matt. 24:38) (Luke 17:27)
Jesus made it perfectly clear to His disciples that His second coming will take the world by surprise just as the flood took the world by surprise during Noah’s time; and as the fire and burning sulfur took the city of Sodom by surprise in Lot’s time. (Luke 17:26-30) Isn’t it obvious that the times leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pearl Harbor are remarkably, if not frighteningly, similar to those events as told by Jesus and recorded for us by Matthew and Luke in the Scripture?
Hollywood has been trying to tell us all along that there will be various apocalyptic conditions that will lead up to the so-called end of the world. If this were true, how then could Jesus say that the world would be going about its normal business at time of His second coming? Hollywood has portrayed the end of the world in terms of a nuclear holocaust; zombie outbreak; alien invasion; climate change; and other unnatural disasters. Do you really think people would be going about their normal routines if a worldwide nuclear exchange were to transpire? I don’t think so. And we all know that life wouldn’t go on as usual if there were to be a global zombie outbreak—okay, seriously…how about a deadly worldwide influenza pandemic.
So how do we reconcile Jesus’ second coming prediction of “just as it happened in the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26) and “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot” (Luke 17:28) with the apocalyptic events described in the Book of Revelation? Of course the answer is pervasive throughout the modern day Church and that is the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. This doctrine teaches that Jesus’ return to earth will be in two phases or stages; the first phase is His secret unexpected return in the air and the second phase is His return where every eye will see Him.1
There are many problems with the 2-stage return of Jesus not the least of which is that Jesus never taught that His return to earth would be in multiple stages. Another troubling fact is that the Rapture or Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church is not mentioned in the Book of Revelation either. I would have expected that such an important event as the sudden removal of all believers from the earth would have been communicated by Jesus in His Revelation to the Apostle John for inclusion in the Bible. Why would such critical information be withheld?
The doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church teaches that all believers who are alive during Jesus’ first phase return to earth will be caught up (raptured) to meet Him in the air. Since it is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, believers can expect be rescued from all the horrors that will be unleashed upon the earth during the seven year tribulation period.
The entire premise for the seven year tribulation period is derived from the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks. There are two schools of thought; one is that the prophecy has already been fulfilled and the other is that it is future fulfilled. The following URLs present a case for each interpretation:
Already fulfilled: http://www.daniels70weeks.com/
On the sites I’ve just provided, you will be able to get some background information on where the Rapture doctrine originated. Since I plan to base my arguments primarily on Matthew 24 and Luke 17 and not on Daniel, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy is more plausible.
I’m sure Jesus’ disciples were troubled by His teaching on His second coming and it would be for us also were it not for the Rapture. But is the notion of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture really taught in Scripture? I plan to explore this question further in the next entry in my series on the End Times.
Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey, (Santa Ana, Vision House Publishers, 1973), 77-78. ↩