Christian author and retired pastor John Piper expressed his respectful disagreement with the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint, which is depicted in "Left Behind," Nicolas Cage's upcoming movie release - "Left Behind? Nine reasons Christians will not be taken from the world before the Final Tribulation," the theologian tweeted Tuesday.
In Matthew 24:21, Jesus says, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be" (English Standard Version), referring to the destruction of the world. Daniel 9:24-27 teaches that the tribulation will last for seven years, and while the word "rapture" is not found in the Bible, the idea of the church being caught up in the clouds with the Lord is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
There are two main views on when the rapture will occur. Those in support of a pre-tribulational rapture believe that Jesus will come and gather His elect before the great tribulation begins. Those who believe that Christ will allow His people to endure the great tribulation support a post-tribulational rapture viewpoint.
Various Christian scholars have differing opinions on this topic. While end-times doctrine is not considered "essential" to the Christian faith, many theologians find it intriguing and enjoy engaging in friendly discussion on eschatological matters. "Let me stress that the disagreement over pre- and post-tribulationism is not one that I think should threaten our fellowship," John Piper says - "It should not be divisive. The things on which we agree are so stupendous as to overwhelm our hearts in common love for the Lord and his appearing. Let us not make the second coming a center of controversy, but a cause for worship and earnest hope," says Piper, referring to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners so that God could forgive all those who repent from their sins and turn to Him for salvation.
In an archived article on DesiringGod.org, Piper discusses his viewpoint on the matter; he supports the post-tribulational rapture view for several reasons. First, Piper argues that the Greek word used to describe the believer's meeting with Christ describes a scenario where the church will meet Christ in the air with the intent of escorting Him back as King to the earth. This implies that the church would not rapture with Christ and return seven years later, but rather would rapture to usher in His final return.
Piper also notes that if the Apostle Paul had believed that the rapture would occur prior to the great tribulation, he probably would have reassured the church at Thessalonica that the second coming of Christ had not yet happened because Christians were still on earth. Instead, Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that believers would know that Christ's second coming is nearing when the rebellion and the man of lawlessness appear. Furthermore, Piper notes that Jesus' description of end times in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 do not indicate that there would be any kind of rapture of the church; instead, it seems that Christ is warning and comforting believers about the great tribulation.
Finally, Revelation 9:4 suggests that Christians will be protected from being harmed during the great tribulation because they will be marked with the seal of God on their foreheads.
The new movie starring Nicolas Cage based on the original "Left Behind" series is in support of the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint. The movie follows Cage and co-star Chad Michael Murray as they navigate the great tribulation after the church has been raptured. Piper believes that the main Scripture which some believe supports the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint (Revelation 3:10) does not necessarily mean that believers will be taken away from the earth, however; rather, it could mean that God will keep or protect His people from evil during the tribulation (see also John 17:15). What's more, some theologians reason that those taken from the earth in Matthew 13:36-43 are actually non-believers being carried away to judgment, while those in Christ will be the remnant of God's grace left behind.