Recently, I went to see the new Left Behind movie starring Nicholas Cage. This movie clearly shows a theory of the rapture and what some believe will happen. Just like the first Left Behind movie, it was entertaining. That is why I went to see it, to be entertained. But do not mistake this movie or any other for a substitute for Biblical theology. I have no problem with the religious movies that come out of Hollywood as long as we approach them correctly and do not allow them to replace the Bible. I actually like these types of movies because it forces you to think. It offers the opportunity to have real conversations about things that matter. But don’t be fooled by Hollywood, very few of these movies teach correct theology. The whole premise behind the Left Behind series is the pre-tribulation rapture. And where does this idea come from – Daniel 9, verses 24-27.
24“Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.
25 “Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”
This text is known as one of the greatest prophesies of the Old Testament. The problem is that the language is mysterious especially for the modern day reader. To complicate matters, there are many, many interpretations to these few verses and unfortunately, in my opinion, one verse in particular has been forced onto the scene regarding the second coming of Christ to validate the pre-tribulation rapture. This one verse is identified as the sole place where we come up with the 7 year tribulation and the activities of the Antichrist during this 7 year period. This seems unfortunate to me since you cannot find anywhere in these verses where it mentions the Antichrist or the second coming of Jesus.
The pre-trib theory has become very prevalent and popular in recent times. I grew up with this teaching, but never really understood it. But when I started looking more deeply I found a lot of questions and not so many answers. What I did find was a lot of different interpretations and was eventually was lead back to the basics – which is where we should start. I had to draw a blank slate so I could read the passage plainly without all the preconceived ideas. This seems simple enough, but I am here to tell you it is not that simple or easy. When you have layer upon layer of teaching to unwind, it can be quite challenging. But a simple reading of the passage reveals much, and also shows that many of us have been missing the point of passage – Christ!
Let’s face it, some passages are just confusing by themselves. When we add slanted ideas the passages become even more convoluted. I remember the first time I started questioning the pre-trib theory – I would ask where the 7 year tribulation came from? Where is it in the Bible? I did not find it in Revelation anywhere. I was eventually led to Daniel – one verse in Daniel to be specific. This becomes not only confusing but seemed to lack common sense. The depth and breadth of such a theory could not be in fact be based on one verse in Daniel. That would be silly, wouldn’t it? Not only that, the verse is somewhat controversial due to the nature of the many interpretations. Talk about being confused.
I think it is impossible to talk about Daniel 9 without discussing the pre-trib theory simply because the theory is so prevalent. Do I have anything against the theory? No, I don’t as long as it is NOT considered Christine Doctrine. The truth of Daniel 9 causes serious damage to the bedrock of the pre-trib theory. The fact is I do not think Daniel 9 is about the Antichrist, the second coming, or a 7 year tribulation period. Shouldn’t the point be what the Bible actually says? I have found there is a great focus on many “other” things when comes to prophetic verses like you find in Daniel. Other things like the Antichrist. The prophesy is clearly about one thing, better yet, one person. It really is about our Lord Jesus. The main character through the verses is our Lord. It is the most majestic prophesy telling of how great our God is – our Savior and Judge.
Preconceived ideas can be our enemy and can darken our understanding of scripture. This has been my experience particularly with these profound verses. It took me years to unwind my preconceived ideas and I still struggle with it. A plain reading of the text reveals so much and clearly points to Christ. When we move our focus off him we can unwittingly remove all power and authority from him to us. We are suddenly looking for the Antichrist, wondering how we will make the “great escape”, and how the theory fits together. And yet, where is Christ? What do these things have to do with him? Are we not concerning ourselves with “us” instead of Christ. I do not think anyone intends for this to happen, but it does. Let us not rob Christ of his wonder and majesty, let us meet him in these verses. For he is illuminated in every verse, his character is there to be discovered. Let’s meet him squarely where he is and discover his life changing glory and truth.