I have heard many pretrib reasons that purport to teach an “imminent” rapture. One of these reasons was given by Mark Hitchcock today on Gary Stearman’s Prophecy Watchers program at the timestamp 9:15 below.
He claimed that it is a test of faith to believe in the imminent rapture. I agree with him, it is a test of faith, because the Bible does not teach it!
Seriously, what Hitchcock and Stearman are suggesting is that the reason God did not provide signs before a supposed rapture is so the church would not look to signs but have only faith, as if the two are irreconcilable.
This sounds pious, but it is not biblical reality.
The Bible gives reasons why there are signs before Jesus returns for his church. Of course, pretribs will immediately reply by dismissing any passages for the church if the passage in question mentions signs. See the circular reasoning? It’s like pointing out to an atheist evidence of the supernatural, and having the atheist reply that the supernatural does not exist! In other words, they refuse to even consider the evidence.
The sad irony is that pretrib teachers reinforce a “signless” return of Jesus in their teaching setting up pretrib believers not to discern the seasons and signs, consequently making them vulnerable to the threat of deception and apostasy.
Jesus does not teach a signless, imminent rapture. There are key discernible events/signs that must happen before Jesus returns for his church. This is all described in my book Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord.
So why did God give his church signs for Jesus’s return?
Here are a few reasons:
First, to distinguish false messiahs from the genuine Messiah:
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time. So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him. For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near, right at the door.” (Matt 24:23–33)
Second, to give hope to his church in the midst of celestial-terrestrial upheaval.
“And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth nations will be in distress, anxious over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves. People will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the other trees. When they sprout leaves, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near.” (Luke 21:25–30)
Third, to give peace in the threat of false teaching concerning the Antichrist and Jesus’s parousia.
“Now regarding the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God. Surely you recall that I used to tell you these things while I was still with you.” (2 Thess 2:1–5)
Fourth, to warn of the threat of the consequences of apostasy.
“A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.” This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus.” (Rev 14:9–12)
Fifth, to persevere in the faith to the end.
“And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. But the person who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt 24:11–13)
Sixth, to take action when the Antichrist is revealed.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation–spoken about by Daniel the prophet—standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.” (Matt 24:15–20)
Seventh, to discern what must first happen before the end arrives.
“Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mark 13:6–7)
More reasons could be given, but these suffice to demonstrate God’s purposes of giving signs to his church.
The Bible contradicts Mark Hitchcock’s suggestion that believers are faithless if they look for signs. Rather, God gave signs to the church as an act of grace. And it is an act of faith in trusting in God’s purposes for those signs. Let’s praise our Good Shepherd that he guides our direction with signs helping us to recognize his voice from deceptive signs. Let us also pray that his Spirit will give us the discerning ears to recognize—not ignore—them.
May we heed our Master’s ominous warning: “Remember, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt 24:25)