What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the pre-Tribulation rapture have in common? There is probably a joke in there somewhere, but the punch line escapes me. The answer, though, is that all of them are part of mainstream Christian practice (at least in the West), but none of them have much basis in Scripture. When held up to the light of Scripture, the Jolly Elf, the Whimsical Rabbit, and the Get-Out-of-Persecution-Free Card actually belong more in the realm of legend, myth, and wishful thinking.
There is no need to explain to Christians that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny do not exist. Everyone knows that – and it would be better if our children understood it from the start rather than having to face their first crisis of faith when their kindergarten friends expose the truth. What everyone does not know, or does not want to admit, is that the doctrine of Jesus coming back to snatch His people away from the earth before the trials of the Last Days is not consistent with Scripture. The problem up to now is that there has been no comprehensive reference book written to examine this question from a critical point of view.
Until now, that is. Author Michael Snyder has at last filled the void with his latest book, The Rapture Verdict. It is 268 pages of systematic investigation of the subject from a man who simply wants to sort out the truth. His stark conclusion is stated in the first chapter:
Unfortunately, there isn’t going to be a pre-Tribulation rapture. In fact, millions of Christians are going to die waiting for a pre-Tribulation rapture that is never going to happen.
Depending on the reader’s disposition, such a statement will make him or her angry, fearful, or vindicated. Those with the latter reaction would be the ones who grew up learning about the rapture in church, but who could never shake the nagging doubt that the few dozen verses pulled out of context to justify the doctrine leave far too many unanswered questions.
Snyder makes a commendable effort at answering those questions. His intent is to educate Christians on what their Bibles actually says and motivate them to investigate these things for themselves. Since Sunday churchgoers are his target audience, he uses the language familiar to them. Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers may take issue with referring to Jesus Christ rather than Yeshua ha Mashiach and with other terms, but in truth it is merely a matter of translation. The message is still valid and the book is useful for every reader.
What makes it useful is the decoding of what has become a bewildering topic. That is the point of chapter two, aptly entitled “It Isn’t That Complicated”. Snyder sets the pattern in this chapter of outlining common church teachings on Messiah’s second coming and comparing them to such foundational passages as Matthew 24 and Revelation 19. The plain sense of the Word is that the rapture, which Snyder rightly equates to the resurrection of the saints of God, comes after the tribulation of those days (Matthew 24:29-31). This is the consistent theme he explains, and he does so by consulting Scripture repeatedly and in context.
The importance of context cannot be overemphasized. All too often popular church doctrines like the pre-Tribulation rapture are constructed from isolated verses pulled out of context. When read in context, with corresponding passages from other parts of the Bible, a more complete picture appears. For example, there is a prevailing notion among followers of Jesus/Yeshua that no one can know the time of His coming, and that it will come as a “thief in the night”. Snyder tests that by investigating the context of I Thessalonians 5:2-3, one of the passages where that famous phrase appears. This is a proof text for many who hold to the belief the rapture of the saints will come at a time when no one expects and no one can predict. Yet the context of I Thessalonians 5 says otherwise:
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (I Thessalonians 5:4-5)
As Snyder points out, “Just two verses after we are told that the Lord is coming ‘as a thief in the night’, we are told that we are not in darkness and therefore His coming should not overtake us as a thief.”
This is but one of many passages Snyder presents in context, with commentary. But he does not stop there. After explaining that there is no “secret rapture” of the saints, he then goes on to explain how we can know the season of Messiah’s return. The answer is by learning God’s calendar: the one He developed and explained through Moses. The Feasts of the Lord all have prophetic meaning regarding God’s plan of redemption for the world. Snyder writes of this, indicating how Messiah Yeshua fulfilled the prophetic meanings of the spring feasts (Passover, First Fruits, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost/Shavuot) in His first coming, and will fulfill the fall feasts (Trumpets/Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles) at His second coming. The problem for centuries has been that the church has regarded God’s appointed times as strictly Jewish practice, and therefore they have had little meaning for Christians. Yet, as Snyder explains, an understanding of God’s calendar will go a long way toward solving the mystery of Messiah’s coming in power and great glory to gather His people and judge the nations of the earth.
The Rapture Verdict is not a book for the fainthearted. Those who are afraid of the possibility of persecution for their faith probably will not like it, but they are precisely the ones who should read it. As the author says:
This notion that believers today will never have to face any difficulties before they are suddenly pulled out of here is very much a western phenomenon. In places like China, India and the Middle East, believers have to face trials and persecution on a daily basis.
Is it because they are inferior to us? Of course not!
In war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria, large numbers of believers are being crucified and beheaded by ISIS.
Where was their rapture?
This subject matter may seem a bit different from Michael Snyder’s usual offerings on his blogs, The Economic Collapse, and End of the American Dream. Then again, maybe not. His consistent theme is that very, very bad times are upon us, and the people of God had best prepare to go through them. This begins with spiritual preparation, and that the purpose behind The Rapture Verdict. It is packed with information presented logically in easily digestible portions designed to help everyone find their way through the maze of teachings about End Times prophecy and arrive at an understanding from the plain meaning of the Scripture itself.
Those who are serious about understanding the times in which we live and the coming of the Messiah we profess to follow would do well to buy this book and read it – and while they are at it, buy one for a friend.