The Christ in Prophecy Journal

Rapture Conflict: A Book Review of “Not Afraid of the Antichrist”

Book Review

I am sorry to announce that Dr. Michael Brown, whom I highly respect, has recently co-authored a book attacking the concept of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. His writing partner is Dr. Craig Keener, who is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

A Basic Premise

The book’s title, Not Afraid of the Antichrist, sums up one of their basic arguments against the Pre-Trib Rapture. Basically, what they claim is that those of us who believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture are a bunch of sissies who are unwilling to suffer for the Lord, and therefore, we have deceived ourselves into believing that we will be supernaturally taken out of this world before the Tribulation begins.

This, of course is a classic straw man argument. I know a lot of Bible teachers and professors who believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture, and I cannot think of one whose belief is based on fear of the Antichrist. Instead, their belief is based upon the Bible’s precious promise that at any moment Jesus may return as a Bridegroom to take His Bride, the Church, out of this world (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). And they believe that the best inference of Scripture is that this event will happen before the Tribulation begins.

In pursuit of their unfounded thesis, the authors spend a lot of their time relating stories of terrible persecution suffered by Christians in places like China and Nigeria. They also devote themselves to quoting verses that assure us that if we truly stand for Jesus, we will suffer persecution. They then ask why true Christians in America should think they will not suffer similar tribulation someday.

Dr. Craig Keener

Dr. Craig Keener

A Significant Difference

The answer to their question is that there is a major difference between tribulation (John 16:33) and the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14). No one I know of who believes in a Pre-Trib Rapture also believes that Christians are immune to harassment, persecution and even murder. We Christians in the Western world have been blessed to live in relative peace compared to believers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But those days are over. Today, throughout Western Europe and all across our nation and Canada, Christians are being marginalized and are encountering increasing persecution. And it is going to increase in frequency and intensity due to the paganization of our culture.

Those of us who believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture fully expect to suffer Satanic persecution from society. But the Bible promises us protection from the eschatological wrath of God — the ultimate type of God’s wrath that God pours out on all the world.

God has exercised that type of wrath once before in the worldwide Noahic Flood. He has promised it once again at the end of the Church Age, in the form of a series of judgments of unparalleled horror that will last for a period of seven years.

Believers have been promised immunity from this type of God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). And those of us who believe that promise look forward to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church. Our hope is based on a promise of Scripture and not a fear of the Antichrist.

Not Afraid of the Antichrist

A Second Flimsy Argument

A second theme of this anti-Rapture book is that a belief in a Pre-Trib Rapture is based solely on erroneous teaching and preaching because it could never be arrived at by just studying the Scriptures. Another straw man!

The authors base this allegation on their own experiences. Both grew up in churches that taught the Pre-Trib Rapture, and both came to the conclusion later in life that the concept could not be supported by Scripture.

Well, I have news for them. I grew up in a militantly Amillennial church whose leaders were so dogmatic about their belief that if anyone had the audacity to disagree with them, they were subjected to ridicule. In fact, if they persisted in challenging the Amillennial viewpoint, they were formally disfellowshipped!

I came to a Premillennial understanding of God’s Word through Bible study, and not through teaching and preaching. And in the same manner, I came to the conclusion that the Rapture described in 1 Thessalonians 4 had to be an event separate and apart from the Return of Jesus described in Revelation 19.

Nor am I the only person who has ever come to these conclusions based solely on the study of the Scriptures. In a recent book by Dr. William Watson titled, Dispensationalism Before Darby (2015), he proves that there were many people in the 17th and 18th Centuries who also concluded that the Rapture and Return were two different events separated in time — and some even believed the Rapture would be before the Tribulation.

Dr. Watson concludes that by the beginning of the 19th Century, the belief in a Pre-Trib Rapture “was held not only by Baptists…but also by leading Anglicans…and even by Scottish Presbyterians” (page 262). In other words, It was not just some fanciful concept that popped into the imaginative mind of an English theologian named John Darby in 1830, as the authors claim.

Dispensationalism Before Darby

Without Dr. Watson’s detailed evidence, an historian by the name of Dr. Paul Boyer had already come to this conclusion in his book, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern America. This book was published by Harvard University Press in 1994. He wrote:

In a sense, Darby’s system contained nothing new. His focus on the future fulfillment of prophecy followed the eschatology of the early Christians…

Even Rapture doctrine…can be found in the writings of early interpreters…But Darby wove these diverse strands into a tight and cohesive system that he buttressed at every point by copious biblical proof texts, then tirelessly promoted through his writing and preaching tours (page 188).

Another Off-Base Argument

Another of the straw men constructed by Drs. Brown and Keener is that a belief in the Pre-Trib Rapture produces apathetic Christians who are content with sitting on the sidelines waiting for the Lord’s appearing while ignoring evangelism and societal problems.

Nope — I don’t know any of these folks either! In fact, the leading advocate of the Pre-Trib Rapture in recent years — Tim LaHaye — was one of the foremost Christian political activists who was heavily involved with the Moral Majority Movement. And his wife, Beverly, founded Concerned Women of America, a conservative Christian women’s activist group.

The Book’s Biggest Flaw

The greatest weakness of the Brown-Keener book is its handling of imminency. The authors literally dance around the issue, and of course, there is good reason for them doing so.

The Bible makes it clear that the Lord could return any moment and that we as Christians are to live looking for His return. That’s called imminency. But if you reject the Rapture and believe only in what’s called the Second Coming, there is no imminency. That’s because there are so many prophecies that must be fulfilled before the Second Coming can occur. To name only one — there must be seven years of Tribulation!

Those who reject the Rapture in favor of a belief only in the Second Coming are living looking for the Antichrist. Those of us who believe the Rapture is an event separate and apart from the Lord’s return to earth are living looking for Jesus Christ — not the Antichrist.

The Rapture Comic

The Authors’ Concept of the Rapture

So, what do the authors do with the Rapture that the Apostle Paul describes in detail in 1 Thessalonians 4? They combine it with the Second Coming. Thus, they argue that when the Lord appears in the heavens, believers will be raptured up to meet Him in the sky and then will immediately return with Him to the earth to reign with Him for a thousand years in the Millennium.

There are many problems with this Post-Trib Rapture concept. For one thing, as I have already pointed out, it destroys imminency.

Another problem is that it does not provide a population for the Millennium. Why? Because if the Rapture and the Second Coming are all one event, then every believer, both Jew and Gentile and both living and dead, will be glorified at the time of the Lord’s return. All others will be consigned to Hades. That means there will no people in mortal bodies to enter the Millennium and repopulate the earth.

This is not a problem with the Pre-Trib Rapture concept, for according to it, all Church Age believers, living and dead, will receive glorified bodies at the time of the Rapture — before the Tribulation begins. Then, during the following seven years of the Tribulation, many people will accept Jesus, and even though most of them will be martyred by the Antichrist, there will be a remnant of both Jewish and Gentile believers who will live to the end of the Tribulation. It is this group that will be allowed to enter the Millennium in the flesh. They will repopulate the earth and those of us in glorified bodies will reign over them.

Again, the Post-Trib Rapture provides no one to reign over during the Millennium.

A Concluding Observation

I will conclude with a quote from one of my favorite Bible prophecy teachers, Dr. Ron Rhodes. Several years ago he was one of the featured speakers at our annual Bible conference. He was asked to speak on the Rapture, and when he got to the point of reviewing the Post-Trib Rapture concept, he began by reminding the audience that the Apostle Paul concluded his description of the Rapture by saying, “Therefore, encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

He then summed up the Post-Trib Rapture concept with these words:

Let’s imagine for a moment that Post-Tribulationism is true. Here’s what this view of the Rapture is saying:

  1. You will go through the seven years of God’s wrath.
  2. You will suffer through the terrible reign of the Antichrist.
  3. You will experience the agonizing Seal, Trumpet and Bowl Judgments — which will grow progressively worse and increasingly painful.
  4. Most of you will die painful deaths as martyrs.

“Therefore, encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). I’m sorry, friends — it just doesn’t work!

All I can say is Amen!

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Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan serves as the Founder and Director of Lamb & Lion Ministries. He is a life-long Bible student, teacher, and preacher whose sermons have been distributed worldwide and has led over 45 pilgrimages to Israel. Dr. Reagan is the lead host of the television program Christ in Prophecy.

11 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • DR. REAGAN,
    I agree that God will not put Born Again Christians through the Tribulation. It bothers me when I hear pastors make the statement Pre-Trib is impossible. One that has really upset me is Carl Gallups. I listened to his radio program on youtube so I don’t know when it was recorded. He said the Pre-Trib Rapture is impossible. Then I listened to him on your archived prophecy conference 2015 I think. He spoke about America and its downfall, but he encouraged the audience with the words that we Christians will not suffer God’s wrath. What wrath was he talking about? Should it bother me so much that I no longer listen to him? I enjoy his writing, and ever time he is on your program it is a blessing. I AM CONFUSED.

  • Dr. Reagan and Mr. Jones:
    May God bless you for all you do, with this one exception of advocating Pre-Trib. I have emailed you previously on this subject and I realize you have a large body of published works which would be very difficult and somewhat embarrassing to amend if you would be persuaded to change your opinions. Plus you have long-time Pre-Trib fellow travelers who could become alienated. But I also know that truth trumps all of that.
    In my opinion God deliberately and cleverly constructed His Word so that several competing interpretations and conclusions could be reached which all seemed logical and rational to some degree. He wants us to study like Bereans, run to and fro until the time of the end approaches and He then inspires some researchers to refine His message (knowledge increases).
    Please keep open minds and read two seminal books by Nelson Walters, “Revelation Deciphered” and “Rapture: Case Closed?”. He shows detailed proofs of a Pre-Wrath Rapture after the opening of the Sixth Seal at the end of the sixth year of the general seven year “Tribulation” (or as he prefers to call that time period, Daniel’s 70th Week).
    Thank you for your consideration.

    p.s. Dr. Reagan, your “Christ in Prophecy” is a tour de force.

  • Thank you Dr. Reagan, I agree 100% with your point of view. I had been for many years studying and following the best teachers in this matter of the end time prophecy, and also listening to others teachers and preachers with a different approach and I say that only the pre-trib doctrine make always sense all the time, in all aspects of the Word of God.
    May God bless your precious life, bro. David, and keep you strong and clever & wise like today for many more years, we neede you. Thank God for all the good sevants, people like: Ron Rodes, Robert Jeffres, Jan Markell, J.D. Faraq, Tommy Ice, Jack Hibbs, Hal Lindsey, Tim Lahaye, and many other standing for the right understanding of the scriptures. I dedicate to you all, and specially for you Dr. Reagan, this verse in Daniel 12.3 “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever”.
    Blessings,
    MARANATHA

  • Assuredly, the apostle Paul tells us that we’re “not appointed to wrath”:

    1 Thessalonians 5:9- “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,”

    What is the “wrath” which we’re not appointed to? The DoTL. He tells us as much in verse 2, as that’s the theme of 1 Thess 5:

    1 Thessalonians 5:2- “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

    A careful examination of Scripture reveals that it does indeed give us a timetable for the start of the DoTL:

    Matthew 24:29- “Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:”

    Here, The Lord tells us that the heavenly signs follow the tribulation. Then Peter (in quoting Joel 2:31), tells us that the DoTL follows the heavenly signs:

    Acts 2:20- “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, BEFORE that great and notable day of the Lord come:”

    So the sequence of events is:

    Trib–>heavenly signs–>DoTL

    Also keep in mind that in 1 Thess 5:2, Paul said that the DoTL would come like a “thief”. That parallels what the Lord said in Matt. 24:42-44. But few realize that the Lord is telling us to “watch” for His coming like a “thief” as late as the 6th vial:

    Revelation 16:15- “Behold, I come as a THIEF. Blessed is he that WATCHETH, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

    Which is the same vial in which the wicked armies are being gathered to Armageddon:

    Revelation 16:14- “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”

    Therefore, according to Scripture, the “wrath” which we’re “not appointed to” is the post-trib, post-70th week DoTL.

    The “unknown day/hour” is Jewish idiom for Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets). It’s not random. Two watchmen would wait on the wall, and as soon as they spotted the new moon (which occurs within a two day window), they would immediately report to the high priest, and sound the shofar.

    Many people like to quote Pseudo-Ephraem to argue for an “anytime” coming, but they don’t realize what that author said about the unknown day/hour:

    “And when the three and a half years have been COMPLETED, the time of the Antichrist, through which he will have seduced the world, after the resurrection of the two prophets, in the HOUR which the world does not know, and on the DAY which the enemy of son of perdition does not know, will come the sign of the Son of Man, and coming forward the Lord shall appear with great power and much majesty”

    The early church most assuredly taught a post-trib rapture. Here are but two examples (among numerous quotes):

    Irenaeus (140-202): “And they [the ten kings who shall arise] shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the CHURCH to flight” (Against Heresies, V, 26).

    The following is from Cyprian’s Epistle 55:

    “You ought to know and to believe, and hold it for certain, that the day of affliction has begun to hang over our heads, and the end of the world and THE TIME OF ANTICHRIST TO DRAW NEAR, SO THAT —>WEFOLLOWS<—TO AVENGE OUR SUFFERINGS AND OUR WOUNDS…LET US BE ARMED, BELOVED BRETHREN, WITH OUR WHOLE STRENGTH, AND LET US BE PREPARED FOR THE STRUGGLE WITH AN UNCORRUPTED MIND, WITH A SOUND FAITH, WITH A DEVOTED COURAGE. LET THE CAMP OF GOD GO FORTH TO THE BATTLEFIELD WHICH IS APPOINTED TO US.”

    Regarding who populates the millennium in a posttrib rapture:

    Zechariah 14:16- “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is LEFT of all the nations which came AGAINST Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.”

    These come to believe as they see the Lord coming on the clouds, but not soon enough to be raptured/“changed”. They aren’t a part of the wicked armies, and have not received the “mark”.

    Regarding 1 Thess 4:18, I think it’s disingenuous if not intellectual dishonesty to claim that the “comfort” Paul was referring to had anything to do with avoiding the tribulation.

    The context of 1 Thess 4 was not the timing of the rapture. It unambiguously describes the event, but not the timing. What was the context? The Thessalonians were distraught at the thought they'd never see their dearly-departed, believing loved ones again. What was Paul's comfort to them? That not only would they see them again by the resurrection at the Lord's return, but they'd be raptured right alongside living believers.

    Again, the context?

    1 Thessalonians 4:13- "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, CONCERNING THEM WHICH ARE ASLEEP, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

    The comfort had nothing to do with living believers, as if to comfort them/us about any persecution/tribulation we get to avoid. It was about the righteous dead, who obviously wouldn't have to worry about the tribulation anyway.

    Do you see the points?

  • As always, solid teaching that blesses and encourages. Thank you Dr Reagan for providing this timely critique and solid defense of the what Gods word plainly teaches.

  • Thank you for this very clear explanation of the truth regarding the pre-tribulation rapture! The only thing I’d like to encourage you in brother is that the understanding of His return is to understand the feasts. And the Feast of Trumpets is the return time frame of Jesus Christ. Blessings to you! And be ready, Feast of trumpets is September 30th through October 1st.

  • The following is my belief after much time studying the scriptures, however I am no authority on scripture. (given with prayer for understanding)
    I understand that we will not have to endure Gods wrath as believers as in 1 Thes.
    The 7 year tribulation as I see it begins with 3 1/2 years of suffering due to the seals in the first six chapters of Revelation; judgement on the churches, The pair of scales indicating rationing – a quart of wheat for a days wages or two quarts of barley…these things are not wrath they are trials within the 7 year tribulation. The wrath comes after the antichrist seats himself in the holy place and then the angels begin pouring out the vials of Gods wrath during the remaining years. So it would appear that as per 2 Thes.2 as Paul states- the Lord will not come (as in rapture?) until this event of the antichrist seating himself in the holy place (let the reader understand) and the thing that restrains him is removed (the church?).
    I know one may suggest that that could not be because it represents something which must preclude the imminent return of Christ – but so does the spreading of the gospel to all tribes – but that return may be His final return for the war of maggedo. One must not assume the tribulation consists entirely of Gods wrath, as Jesus says there will be trials and tribulation…you will have to suffer much for My name sake. so perhaps the begginings are trials to purge and refine saints as in Daniel. Daniel also mentions times of 3 1/2 years for certain things (during the tribulation) to occur and that blessed are those who attain to the 1290 days, even more- to 1335 days. What does it mean? Perhaps no buying/selling or trading for a period PRIOR Gods wrath for 45 days and the rapture – which would occur before the wrath.
    So it may unfold as:
    Trials in the start of the tribulation, antichrist sets up system 3 1/2 yrs. into tribulation, a brief time of endurance of difficult commerce for all who do not accept the mark of antichrist-perhaps the 1290 days into the tribulation until the 1335 day.(45 days)? followed by the rapture – but BEFORE the wrath, then the 7 vials (bowls of Gods wrath poured out on the remainder on earth.
    I also believe there is no indication in scripture that believers will be safely taken away prior to any part of the tribulation – only Gods wrath will we not be required to endure. The tribulation it would seem is not ALL Gods wrath but begginning with trials and tribulation.
    Yes, Thy kingdom come oh Lord! Amen

  • Revelation and Daniel all happen between the time of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. – Christ said Himself that it would be a time of destruction the world would ever have witness.

  • Red heifer is 2 Aug 28 next year.. at two years and one day she will be able to be sacrificed.. temple takes 6 months to complete. RFID chip will be mandatory law in Arkansas once it passes the next house. Already being used to buy and sell in other countries like India that’s all but a cashless society. I wonder. R u going to fine with taking the chip if you don’t get your paycheck without it… So u can pay bills and buy food. I mean. Since obviously the mark of the beast can’t possibly begin until after the rapture so it must be safe to have the chip put into your hand so u can survive in a very short time. Since rapture is first then the chip CANT be the mark of the beast even tho it’s already being used to buy and sell. It’s good that so much is written about the events of the tribulation to those who do not believe the Bible so they have never read it and likely won’t read it then. If Christians can’t seem to understand it now that DO read it it’s interesting that so much effort is put in it of what events will be happening to the luke warm that don’t have time to read it now. But since Baptist believe once saved always saved and they believe pretribulation rapture the Luke warm spat out must mean something entirely different to them ever being saved. So as long as u accept Christ as a child u r saved for life anyway.
    Or maybe when u only THINK u r saved but u never really were it explains alot. So that u may have to always wonder if it’s only u THINK u r saved because if u fall away u never were so if u come back u don’t know for certain if cares of the world u may let it choke out the word u once believed so since God knows who will not fall away He only allows some to have a feeling they r saved but they actually r not. So maybe having a theology that is in obvious error and saying a denomination that believes in no such thing as falling away also believes in rapture without having to see the events to unfold that r coming to reality each day. Maybe it’s a good idea to not take that chip just in case your theology of all 7 years being the wrath of God not the wrath Satan will pour on the world. Not believing we will survive during a tribulation but willing to die if we must.. I wonder. If u r right we get a great relief we were wrong. But if u r wrong. Is your faith based that u do not have to suffer even to death. Will u have food when events unfold or if u see your theology is incorrect will u be able to pray manna from heaven.

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