End times hitting stage in debate over Christian beliefs
Abortion, a highly publicized debate topic recently, affects hundreds of thousands. America’s Middle East policy, another debate topic, affects millions. Those strange questions about one candidate’s comment about another candidate’s appearance affect almost no one, but still get attention.
But a debate shaping up for Friday night about the end times will affect, in one way or another, well, everyone.
That’s when Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center will be debating Alan Kurschner of Eschatos Ministries on the question of whether the Christian church will face the Antichrist.
The event will be at The Hope Center in Plano, Texas, at 7 p.m.
For the Christian church, the topic long as been subject to debate, and recently, there appears to have been a surge in those who believe the end times’ Antichrist will rise to power while the Christian church still remains.
Traditionally, many American Christians have believed in what is called the “Pre-Tribulation,” which holds faithful Christians will be raptured before the Great Tribulation, thus avoiding the Antichrist and the most severe persecutions of the period. Proponents of this view include Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. This school of thought also received a great deal of exposure in popular culture through the “Left Behind” books and films.
Ice will be defending this position as part of his role as the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center. The center’s purpose, in its own words, is to “research, teach and defend the pretribulational rapture and related Bible prophecy doctrines.”
However, biblical teacher Joel Richardson, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Islamic Antichrist” and the new book “When a Jew Rules the World,” argues a seminal shift is underway.
“Over the past 20 years, numerous thoughtful believers who formerly embraced the Pre-Tribulation Rapture have left that doctrine,” he said. “However, because the majority of the publishing houses and seminaries that place any emphasis on the Rapture hold to the ‘Pre-Trib’ position, it’s been very difficult for this growing number of believers to have any voice in the public forum.”
For that reason, Richardson believes the upcoming debate is very important.
“This will finally give many of those were on the fence the opportunity to weigh the Scriptural basis for these two opposing views,” he said.
Kurschner, the host of the weekly Bible Prophecy Program podcast and the author of “Antichrist: Before the Day of the Lord,” will be representing the “Pre-Wrath” position.
This school of thought holds Christians will experience the beginning of the Tribulation. While Christians will be raptured to escape God’s wrath during what some Christians call the Day of the Lord, this interpretation means even believing Christians will experience the reign of the Antichrist.
Kurschner describes himself as someone “dedicated to teaching biblical prophecy from a futurist, premillennial, Pre-Wrath perspective” and told WND the implications of his position are crucial for Christians because Jesus Himself considered them very important.
“In His teaching, He conveyed to the disciples that it is important they should know the events surrounding His return. He spends more time discussing the warnings of understanding and heeding the events surrounding His return than He does the actual events themselves,” he said.
Kurschner believes salvation may be at stake for many Christians because during the Tribulation, they will be tested by being asked to accept the Mark of the Beast. According to the Book of Revelation, those who accept the Mark “shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”
According to Kurschner, the Pre-Trib position tells Christians they will be spared the Tribulation and persecution. And that, he warns, is nothing less than “dangerous.”
“My opponents will say all these warnings about not taking the mark are warnings to ‘Tribulation saints,’ those who become saved during the Tribulation period after the rapture,” Kurschner told WND. “And so they’ll say, for us today, these are not warnings. And my response is, when the Antichrist does arrive and you’ve been teaching Christians you’re supposed to be raptured out of here before he came, you’re setting yourselves up to be very vulnerable to the deception of the Antichrist. And their faith is going to be very vulnerable.”
Kurschner’s position encourages Christians to prepare for persecution and even martyrdom. The prospect of facing the Antichrist is ominous, and Kurschner describes the grim nature of his teaching as an obstacle to the Pre-Wrath position ever being completely accepted by most American Christians.
“I think for many American Christians, the idea that they will have to suffer, and perhaps even suffer martyrdom in their lifetime, is just so foreign to them,” commented Kurschner. “I don’t see it becoming the most popular view out there just because of that psyche. Of course, with God all things are possible. And when the Great Tribulation does come, no one is going to be on the fence in this issue.”
Still, though Kurschner concedes the Pre-Trib position is a “juggernaut,” he agrees with Joel Richardson and believes many more Christians are moving to the Pre-Wrath position.
“There’s a point where a school of thought really spikes, and it seems like it really spiked in the last year,” said Kurschner. “Even in the last six months, I’m constantly being sent sermons and emails of people who were Pre-Trib and are moving over to a different view. I think pastors are just recently getting alarmed at this.”
Kurschner believes many Pre-Trib pastors and thinkers simply “don’t want to hear anything else” and credits Ice with being an exception in his willingness to engage. One of the most important reasons why this reluctance exists, he believes, is because Kurschner’s warning of the church encountering the Tribulation robs people of what is commonly called the “Blessed Hope.”
Kurschner says that is not true.
“Our Blessed Hope is our new life with Jesus, not the Rapture itself,” Kurschner explains. “To those that say, ‘I’m looking for a Jesus Christ, not an Antichrist,’ the problem is it’s not either-or. Part of watching for Christ is watching for that generation in which the Antichrist will arise.”
For its part, the Pre-Trib Research Center argues its position leads to three positive implications in daily life.
“The first implication of pretribulationism is that it leads to godly living in an unholy age. Next, this New Testament teaching promotes a strong emphasis upon evangelism of the lost. Finally when believers come to understand this eternal perspective, it leads to a zeal for worldwide missions.”
But Kurschner says his own position has the effect of forcing Christians to be more dedicated in their faith.
“The fundamental mistake the opposition takes is they think the Great Tribulation and The Day of the Lord’s Wrath is the same thing. And that’s something I’m really going to be pushing at in the debate, along with other issues of course,” he said.
He continued, “That’s important because when you recognize there’s a biblical distinction between those two things, you’re going to understand the church is going to suffer persecution. And this is nothing new, the church has been suffering persecution for thousands of years. If you relegate these warnings to other people, because the church is going to be raptured out of here, then you are not setting up believers to be overcomers. And the book of Revelation is about overcoming.”
Indeed, Kurschner believes the debate ultimately centers on the larger question of “what does it really mean to be a Christian?”
“The world can do nothing to us,” he says. “But God may call us to experience the events of the Tribulation. He’s certainly going to call the Last Generation to experience these events so we might just get into the proper mindset now.”
Richardson also called for Christian unity, despite specific disagreements.
“We must remember of course that this is not an issue the Christians should divide over, rather we are all called to be Bereans and examine all things,” Richardson told WND.
One of the mistakes made by those who believe the Church will experience The Tribulation is their misunderstanding of what the Tribulation is.
It is the punishment of God on Israel for its apostasy.
Leviticus says, if the people did not do what God required during the period of punishment he would multiply the punishment by seven times over.
But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: … “`If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. …”`If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve…”`If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over… “`If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. …Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
This prophecy clearly takes us right through the time span given in Daniel 9:24. Including the final seven years (The Tribulation). We see the initial 70 years of Babylonian captivity multiplied by 7, making the 490 prophesied by the angel.
Seventy weeks (of years = 490 years) are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
They are all against Israel. And they are all God’s judgement/punishment.
Jesus Christ paid the price of sin for His church. There is no judgement due against us. Therefore the church will not be put through the Tribulation.