Why Date-Setting the Rapture is Wrong

Dr. Thomas Ice

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I often encounterpeople that want to talk with me or receive information in the mail about whythey believe the rapture will come soon or on a certain date. They often have complicated schemes andreasons why they believe they are right, even though everyone has been wrong inthe past. One of the key featuresof the pre-trib rapture is that it is signless, meaning that there are absolutelyno signs preceding it. This is whychurch age believers are to always be looking for the Lord, because His comingin the air for us is truly imminent and could happen at any moment. If a believer could learn of the timewhen Christ will shout from the clouds, then the rapture would cease to beimminent. God has fixed a specificday on His calendar when this longed for event will occur, but He will nevertells us since we are told to always be expecting His return. Just like a waiting bride is listeningfor the shout of the bridegroom.

The second comingwill be dateable, once the rapture has occurred and the events of thetribulation commence. It will bedatable since signs and dates (days, months and years) will be a part of theevents that will precede Christ's return. If one becomes a believer in the tribulation, they will be able tofigure where they are on the calendar of prophesied events and have a prettygood idea when Christ will return. This is why Luke 21:28 tells believers at the end of the tribulation, "But when these things begin to take place, straighten upand lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

No Signs for the Church

Whenthe disciples ask Jesus in Acts 1:6 "Lord, is it at this time You are restoringthe kingdom to Israel?" Christ had not yet revealed to them the mystery (i.e.,secret) about the intervening dispensation of grace called the church. Christ's response set the tone forchronological matters in relation to the whole church age. "It is not for you to know times orepochs [seasons] which the Father has fixed by His own authority" (Acts1:7). Notice the "times andseasons" are set having been predestined by God, but for the church we arenot to know them, they are a part of God's secret counsels. Why? I think because "times and seasons," chronology,and signs all relate to God's earthly people Israel. However, for God's heavenly people—thechurch—things related to heaven cannot be discovered or figured out, theymust be revealed. "The secretthings belong to the Lord our God,but the things revealed belong to us [Israel]" (Deut. 29:29). Further, Moses notes that in order tofind out what is going on in heaven, we on earth need someone from heaven tocome down and tell us (Deut. 30:11-12). In other word, we need revelation from God as to what He is doing. What is God's revelation to Hisheavenly people (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:10; 3:10; 6:9; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:5; 3:1-4),the church?

Christ,upon instructing His disciples on how citizens of the kingdom should conductthemselves after His departure until His return, counseled a posture of"readiness," "alertness," "waiting and watching," faithfully engaged inperforming the tasks He left His followers to do (Matt. 24:45-47; Luke12:35-40; Mark 13:33-37). While itis true that these passages from the Gospels refer to the coming of theMessianic Kingdom at the second coming following the Tribulation, it appearsthat the posture of readiness, alertness, watching, and waiting is alsoChrist's will for His church as commanded in the Epistles. Nowhere is there even a hint that signswill relate to the rapture.

Israel's Fall Feasts

Without a doubt,the most popular scheme in our day for those who attempt to date-set therapture is the endeavor to relate the rapture to the fall feasts ofIsrael. This is wrongheaded for anumber of reasons, but foremost is the fact that all seven of the feasts arefor Israel and occur in relation to their calendar and God's plan for His electnation, not in relation to the church. Once again, the rapture is signless and that includes possible signsrelated to Israel's feast cycle.

Sometoday believe that the annual feasts of Israel have typical significance. I, as do most evangelicals, have noobjection to this view. We allagree that the first four feasts (the Spring cycle) were fulfilled at the timeof Christ's first coming, and that the final three feasts (the Fall cycle) willbe fulfilled in relation to His second coming. The difference between myself and some date-setters iswhether or not the church fulfills any of Israel's feasts. I contend that only Israel fulfills thefeasts, all seven, since these feasts were given to Israel.

Yet there arethose today who believe that Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets relates toGod's program for the church, specifically that the rapture will occur on RoshHashanah in the future. Thiscannot be true since it would mean that the rapture cannot come at any time, asthe New Testament Epistles clearly teach. If this view were correct, the rapture would have to occur on the Feastof Trumpets. I agree with TerryHulbert, who wrote a doctoral dissertation on Israel's feasts. "The seven appointed times were givenas a typical presentation of the commitments made to Israel in the AbrahamicCovenant and those which amplified it," notes Hulbert. "As these can be fulfilled only byIsrael, so the typology of the feasts can relate only to that nation."[1] This would mean that a believer shouldonly be waiting for the Lord's return in the Fall of each year, instead of atall times.

Ifwe are going to consistently apply the method of literal interpretation, thenwe cannot see any of Israel's feastsbeing fulfilled by God's program for the church. Why? Becausethese feasts are given in Leviticus 23 to Israel as part of her law. The church has been given the Lord'sTable as the feast we are to celebrate "from now on until the kingdom ofGod comes" (Luke 22:18). Ifwe believe some of Israel's feasts are fulfilled by the church then we haveadopted elements of "replacement theology," since we view the churchreplacing Israel in God's plan. Nowhere does the New Testament speak of the church fulfilling any ofIsrael's feasts. Therefore, sinceIsrael's feasts are fulfilled only by Israel and not by the church, then theFeast of Trumpets cannot involvea prediction of the rapture of the church.

Israel'sfifth feast does not give any insight into the day of the year on which therapture will occur. Instead, itwill be fulfilled in conjunction with the Second Advent when the nation ofIsrael is gathered in at her conversion (Matt. 24:31). Hulbert's summary of the purpose for thefulfillment of Israel's feasts makes the best sense within the framework of a consistentliteral hermeneutic.

WhenGod fulfilled the first four feasts He had provided everything necessary forIsrael to enter into literal kingdom blessing—redemption, separation,resurrection, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Israel's rejection of these, however, made necessary anational change of heart before the Kingdom could be established. Foreknowing this, God included theFeasts of Trumpets and Day of Atonement in the annual cycle. Thus, the Feast of Trumpets predictedGod's alerting of the nation for the impending event which would bring aboutrepentance. The Feast of the Dayof Atonement predicted, not the death of Christ which had already been typifiedin the Passover, but the new reaction of Israel to the Redeemer's death. This change will take place when thebelieving Remnant repents during the Tribulation period. The event which fulfills this sixthfeast is identified as God's intervention to save Israel from destruction asGentile armies attack Jerusalem.[2]

CONCLUSION

Datesetting usually has a negative impact upon many people's interest and theirperception of the study of Bible prophecy. Critics of the rapture and prophecy will use these abuses tojustify to many their opposition to our beliefs. Sadly others who might have otherwise been interested inlearning more about the subject may be frightened away by these extremeapplications.

Thething that bothers me the most about this whole issue is the apparent lack ofunderstanding by the date-setters, who are advocates of pretribulationism, thattheir very date-setting schemes are inconsistent with the New Testamentteaching of the any-moment rapture. They do not seem to realize that by introducing into our futuristicapproach to prophecy ideas and conclusions that flow from the logic of the longdiscredited historicist hermeneutic they are changing and misrepresenting thevery character of rapture theology. Our friends need to wake up and realize the unintended harm they aredoing to the overall teaching on our Blessed Hope—the rapture!

Inspite of many attempts to the contrary, date setting is still prohibited in theScriptures. Christ said, "ofthat day and hour no one knows" (Matt. 24:36). We may believe that we are near the general time of Christ'sreturn since Israel is back in her land and other players are being placed onthe end-time stage. However,Christ's rapture of His church is a signless event that could happen atany-moment. When it does then Godwill complete His plan for Israel as forecasted in the three Fall Feasts ofIsrael. Meanwhile, the Feast ofTrumpets does not in any way relate to the rapture of the church.

Ourcalling as church age believers is faithful waiting for our Beloved Bridegroomto catch us up into the clouds and take us to His Father's house. What a glad reunion with our Savior wewill have. I don't know about you,but I can't wait to see Jesus. This is why I am eagerly awaiting His any-moment return at everymoment. Maranatha!

ENDNOTES



[1] Terry C.Hulbert, "The Eschatological Significance of Israel's Annual Feasts"(ThD dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965), p. 2.

[2] Hulbert,"Israel's Annual Feasts," pp. 2–3.