If you would just kick back for a moment , close your eyes (after reading this, of course) and imagine a clear, cool brook flowing at the bottom of a gently sloping, grassy hill. At the top of this hill sits an old rustic, yet well kept cabin. You notice hung on the porch are two slightly rusted buckets used to haul water up from that clear, cool brook. Grabbing these buckets, you joyfully run down to hill to get some of that refreshing water for later use. Upon your return trip up the hill you notice the chore of carrying those two buckets becomes suspiciously easier. Glancing down as you near the top of the hill, you notice, to your dismay, that there's a hole in the buckets and nearly all the water has leaked out.
Now, you may wonder what this allegory has to do with theology? Say for instance that the water is the refreshing word of God and the cabin represents where we live. Then what use are the buckets if we have the word and a place in the world to live? Unfortunately, this is all that many Christians see of any importance. Why have a theology? It only seems to complicate our lives anyway. But this little allegory represents the way many of us live, with buckets full of holes! (The buckets, by the way if you haven't yet figured this out, represent theology itself). The word of God can only be practically refreshing, "where we live", if we have a sound and tested theology. Otherwise we only have an ideally pretty, pastoral scenery of no practical value.
I think you're beginning to get the picture. Theology is of a very practical use in our daily lives. But, how do we acquire a practical theology with personal convictions. Every time we're handed a bucket (er..a theology) we must test it before we can trust it to do the job. The obvious way to test any theology is to see if it "holds" the word of God. Next, does it practically meet real needs where I live? If only we could all be like the Bereans. "These (Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). We read what Paul says about those Thessalonians: "... that you may not be quickly shaken from your mind or disturbed either by a spirit or a word or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come" (2 Thess. 2:2 NASB). The Thessalonians had actually thought that the day of the Lord had sneaked upon them as a thief in the night and that they had actually missed the rapture and God's judgment was upon them! And after all that Paul had taught them both by his presence and by letter! A little crisis in the form of some persecution comes along and their whole theology falls apart. It is clear too, from Paul's teaching, that the day of the Lord (with the rapture) can not commence until "the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2 Thess. 2:3, 4 NASB). Here, clearly, Paul is discribing the abonomation of desolation that occurs at mid-point within the seven year period know as Daniel's 70th week (c.f., Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15). If our theology is weak and without conviction the same will happen to us, just as with the Thessalonians. Therefore it's imperative that our theology is sound and we're sure of this as the day of the Lord approaches. Just because a theology is popular doesn't mean it is necessarily sound. History proves this fact true. "Let no one in any way deceive you..." (2 Thess. 2:3 NASB).
Therefore let's examine the pre-tribulational rapture theology to see if it "holds" the water of the word. First, adherents of this view say that there is a "secret" rapture apart from the day of the Lord when Jesus returns for judgment. If these are indeed two separate events, then which verses specifically refer to the rapture (parousia) and which to the day of the Lord with His appearing (epiphany)? Any true "Berean" would find this a hopeless venture of futility. On Christ's appearing (epiphany) and His coming (parousia), we have a quote from Dave MacPherson's The Incredible Cover-Up: "Referring to this article entitled 'On the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Gathering of His Elect', Rowdon's The Origins of the Brethren (1967c.), pp. 30-31, points out that, interestingly enough, later Brethren writers completely reversed these terms; to them the parousia was the rapture and the epiphany Christ's return to earth. One might ask: are there really two stages to the Lord's return if such terms are so evidently interchangeable?" (Notes # 4). Paul even associates these events together as one: "Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming (or presence; see marginal reference in NASB) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him,...to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." (2 Thess. 2:1). Again we clearly see that any view other than, as the holy scriptures state, the rapture happening on the very same day of the Lord is a fantasy of human invention and leaves the body of Christ totally unprepared and in the dark as to the truth. "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief ..." (1 Thess. 5:4). This so- called "secret" pre-tribulational rapture must be very secret indeed if we can not even find it in the scriptures! This bucket (er...theology) must definitely have a hole in it.
At Christ's first advent He exhorts His disciples saying, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16:2, 3). Today, in Matthew chapter twenty-four we have a clear, chronological order of events and signs in reference to His return in response to the disciples question, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming (or presence), and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:3). Yet, the pre-tribulational rapture advocates insist on ignoring this obvious truth. Many signs and events precede our Lords coming and our rapture, "...and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other" (Matt. 24:30, 31 NASB). Preceding His expectant coming and our rapture we have many signs and events. First, the birth pangs (Matt. 24:4-8), followed by tribulation (Matt.24:9-14) and the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15). Immediately subsequent to this is the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:16-28) and the sign of the sun and the moon and the stars (Matt. 24:29). The church has remained in darkness about this truth since the inception of the pre-tribulational rapture in the 1830's and popularized by the Scofield Reference Edition Bible of the early 1900's.
How long can the church go on crooking their necks while waiting for an elusive, signless, imminent rapture as Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth" book promised us? How long can an imminent rapture remain imminent and retain any meaning? Hal Lindsey's definition was forty years from Israel's birth in 1948. 1988 has come and gone! The church is then told to "occupy" until this wearying, unexpected, "as a thief in the night" event never seems to happen. As a result many Christians have given the command "occupy" a whole new meaning by living in exclusive neighborhoods, attending their exclusive social club "churches" and acquiring expensive status symbols to find their approval and place amongst peers and family. The church has lost her way, always "busy" with meaningless activities and programs that don't really work; serving their children by meeting their every demand and taxiing them to and fro (as if our children learn to be servants by us serving them!). Husbands submit to constantly pleasing their wive's sometimes selfish desires (indeed, we are to love our wives, even as Christ loves the church, His own body), rather than courageously and maturely being the spiritual leaders God calls them to be. The church has become self-serving and has lost the ability to respond (i.e., responsibility) to God and others in a meaningful way. The proverb thus comes true: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick,...", but if we have the truth: "but desire coming is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12 NASB).
It's now time to follow those such as Francis of Assisi and give back the very clothes off our back, to end our obligations with the world, and walk out naked (if necessary to ending these obligations). "Let us begin to serve the Lord", he exhorts us today from the past. As with the past reformers, the time may have come, if we too can not reform our religious institutions, then to leave their corruption and start afresh, rather than be conformed by them. Blessings have always ensued. Such a movement as this is certainly Holy Spirit motivated and pleases God rather than men! Who will have the courage to say with conviction as Joshua, "And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
As a final positive note, it appears as though such a movement may be stirring Godly men in our nation today through an evangelical organization known as the Promise Keepers (note: not Promise Makers) founded by Coach McCartney. This Holy Spirit lead organization calls for a reconciliatory heart toward both God and man. All revival comes with a negative cost however. This "negative" cost begins with a sincere heart felt conviction of sin, as all substantial revivals require. It is also directed toward men as the head of their household, just as Christ Jesus is our Head. The Promise Keepers deserves our full attention, participation and prayers as God's tool for the hope of our nation. "If a nation is to change, men's hearts must first change." Whether the Promise Keepers succeeds or fails, we must always remember to keep in mind that our first accountability is to God and then our second to man. If these values are reversed, then declination is guaranteed.
Lest we sweep these thoughts under a rug, a few scriptures of warning in reference to our accountability: "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more" (Luke 12:47, 48). And concerning how we spend our time, "...each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time but wait, until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God" (1 Cor. 3:13-15; 4:5). And this praise will be in the form of eternal glory, for "there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory" (1Cor. 15:41). "And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).