For the first twenty-eight years of my Christian life I believed the Pre-Tribulational view of the Rapture, being convinced that my favorite Bible prophecy teachers must be right about its timing in relation to other prophesied events. In fact, I was unwilling to even try to see it any other way, and there were certain Bible verses that I would skip over because something about them didn’t seem to fit into my pre-Tribulational framework. Finally something made me face up to those nagging doubts and those awkward scripture verses.
I believe this is an important subject, because it seems to me, having compared Bible prophecy with world events for thirty-two years., particularly in regards to Israel’s current predicament, that the time is near (see my post on Jerusalem).
I’ve noticed that people who are pre-Tribulationists do tend to have an “I’m getting out of here” attitude (or as an old friend of mine put it, “Armageddon out of here”), and tend to be sticking their heads in the proverbial sand. I know because I’ve been there myself, and I know they are determined not to consider the possibility of encouontering any hard times. I have heard one prominent prophecy teacher in recent times, having told his listeners for many years that everything’s going to be just great, now asking how they dare expect to live trouble-free lives until the rapture, as though they were the guilty ones.
I’ve come to think that it would be far better to be spiritually and mentally prepared for what is to come than to be unprepared, and to find ourselves in the middle of persecution and trials. There have been terrible times for Christians in the past, particularly under Communism and Islam, and in places like Nazi Germany. The Black Death, which killed a third of the population in Europe, affected Christians and non-Christians alike. There are terrible times now for Christians in many parts of the world. The “free” West is a post-Christian culture and is in rapid moral decline, and there are many in powerful positions seeking to silence the gospel and the Church. It’s my opinion that it’s just a matter of time before the Bible is condemned as “hate speech” since it preaches one way to God only, and condemns certain life-styles.
Although I would far rather not see my family go through the Tribulation, I also believe that living through it would be both highly challenging and exciting for the Bible -believing Christian. The Tribulation would separate the men from the boys. That is, we would soon find out who really wants to associate themselves with the Biblical Jesus. We would have some real fellowship for a change.
It’s not the purpose of this post to tell you what to do to prepare for the Tribulation or just for plain old hard times, except to say that prayer, Bible reading and faith in our God are paramount. Prepare those around you. Arm yourself with the Word of truth, and not with the word of people and organizations who make a good living out of preaching their view of truth.
I want to share some of the reasons I have lost faith in a pre-Tribulational rapture. They are mostly Biblical, with some home-grown reason and logic thrown in. In order to do that, I will outline some of the pre-Tribulational position, and then offer an opposing view. It’s a detailed study, but the alternative is to be unprepared.
NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH?
The most common rejection of anything other than the pre-Tribulational position is the belief that “God has not appointed us to wrath” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:9). People say that as the Tribulation is the time of God’s wrath, then obviously Christians will not be around, becaue God would not allow or inflict suffering on his own people.
Let’s put this quote into its proper context. The complete verse reads,
‘For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Paul’s intention was to contrast wrath with salvation from sin, not to announce the rapture. God’s intention is not necessarily to deliver us from suffering in this world, but from the eternal consequence of sin, which is separation from God. Multitudes of Christians have suffered in the past. Apart from having the normal troubles of mankind, they have been hounded, burned at the stake, beheaded and ostracised. But this was not the wrath of God.
In the context of the passage from which the verse is taken, Paul is observing that the “Day of the Lord” will not come as a surprise to believing, Godly Thessalonians (who were Greeks-Gentiles, not Jews), because the are alert and spiritually prepared.
Pre-Tribulationists will say that the Church is not mentioned throughout most of the book of Revelation because God will remove believers, and not make them experience the evils of the Antichrist, or his own wrath. Oh really? Then why do we find “those that hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ” being persecuted and killed (Revelation 12:17; 20:4)? Do they deserve wrath while we don’t? What makes us any better than them, considering that all salvation is by grace and not by works? Does God love us and not them? We are told of those dieing for their faith during the Tribulation:
“Blessed (and not cursed) are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Revelation 13:12-13. See also 14:12 and 20:4).
Us humans all get ill or involved in accidents, wars or violence, and we all die. We may even be victims of natural disasters, but this is not God’s wrath, unless we consider it all as part of the universal consequence of sin and separation from God (which it is). Paul said that we were all at one time “objects of wrath”, because of the sinful lifestyles we lived before we came to Christ (Ephesians 2: 1-5). This does not mean that we were persecuted and executed, but that we were destined for judgment-in this life and the next-because of our sin. Paul describes on more than one occasion how a determined commitment to sin is itself evidence of the wrath of God. He includes those who opposed Christ and the Christian gospel in their wickedness, and says:
“The wrath of God has come upon them at last” (1 Thessalonians 2: 15-16).
Similarly, to the Romans he said:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who supress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1: 18).
Paul wrote this letter in the first century, at a time when Christians were being persecuted. Paul himself was under constant threat. He was often beaten and jailed. Men were after his blood for preaching the gospel.
It was not giant earthquakes which expressed God’s wrath in Paul’s day, but God reluctantly handing them over to their own sinfulness, so that they would never turn to him and be saved (see verses 24, 26 and 28).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
Without doubt, the wrath of God will come in a physical way on a physical world which has rejected him. But it will not come at the beginning of the seven years, or even at the time when the Antichrist enters the Holy Place. It will come at some time later, when many believers will have already been martyred. See Revelation chapters 6, 8, 15 and 16. In chapter 6 we are introduced to the first six seals of the scroll, and after them (repeat: after them) the unbelievers-that is, those who have rejected Jesus – come to the terrifying conclusion that “the day of his wrath has come” (verses 16-17).
God’s Tribulation will affect everyone. His wrath will fall on unbelievers.
WILL THERE BE TWO SEPARATE COMINGS OF CHRIST?
Pre-Trib. believers see two separate and distinct comings of Christ in the last days. One will be in secret, like a thief in the night, in the air, to ‘catch up’ the Church into heaven: (Revelation 16:15; 2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The other coming will be for all the world to see, to bring judgment on those who are left behind (Revelation 19:11-16; Matthew 24:30; Zechariah 12:10). Thus, they say, this must mean that the rapture is at some time before the Tribulation.
The phrase ‘thief in the night’ is used by teachers to conjure up visions of the Lord snatching away his Church before the Tribulation starts, catching everyone by surprise, and leaving pilot- less planes to fall from the sky. However, it was the ‘day of the Lord’ which Paul said would come like a thief in the night, not Christ and the rapture. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4). Peter also likened ‘the day of the Lord’ to a ‘thief in the night’ (2 Peter 3:10). The day of the Lord includes the time of Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, and 2 Peter 3:3-10). Christ says in Revelation 16:15, ‘Behold, I come like a thief’. This is stated between the seven bowls of God’s wrath, near the end of the Tribulation, just before the battle of Armageddon.
So by using the phrase ‘thief in the night’, Paul was not speaking of Christ coming quietly at night to take His Church away before the Tribulation! Paul went on to say that ‘you are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief’ (verse 4). This means that those who know God and their Bible will not be uninformed about the events taking place around them. When Christ said that he would come like a thief (Matthew 24:42-44; Revelation 16:15), it may have just been His way of saying, ‘Be ready! Be living for me, because those who are not will be taken by surprise!’
Secondly, the idea that believers can only join Christ in the air if the rapture is before the Tribulation is not convincing, when you think it through. Whether the rapture is before the Tribulation, in the middle, or at the end of it, Christ would have to come ‘in the air’ for his saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), unless he comes by road in a big bus, or expects them all to catch buses, planes and trains to get to wherever He is. Yes, He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call at the end of the Tribulation to gather his elect (Matthew 24:31), but that does not discount the possibility that this is the same event as the rapture. At the rapture Christ will descend from heaven with a loud trumpet call of God and with the voice of the archangel (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Perhaps Christ will descend from heaven and send out His angels at the rapture.
When Jesus said ‘No one knows about that day or hour,’ in Matthew 24:36, what had He been speaking of? Was it the rapture? No- in the previous verses He had been speaking solely of the events of the Tribulation and of His physical appearing for the whole world to see (verses 15-35). He was referring to the ‘day of the Lord’.
Jesus did then say that they would not know when he was coming (verse 42). This might just be a reiteration of His point that they did not know when the day of the Lord would come. Even He said at that time that he did not know when it would be (verse 36).
However, He was able to give signs that would mark the beginning of the Tribulation events: signs that they would see, and could recognize if they were watching for Him.
WAS JOHN’S TRIP TO HEAVEN A TYPE OF THE RAPTURE?
The calling of John into heaven before the prophecies of the judgments (chapter 4:1) is seen as a type of rapture, showing that the Church will similarly be called into heaven before the judgments take place.
In response, we can observe three things here. First, there is no statement that John’s trip into heaven represents the rapture of the Church. Secondly, John came back to earth again, or else he would not have been able to pass on the prophecies. We see in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ in Matthew 24 that Jesus spoke to his disciples as though they would witness the events of the Tribulation (see verses 15-27). He warned that the love of most would grow cold, ‘but he that remains true to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 24:13). Why would they have to remain true to the end if they were already in heaven?
In Revelation chapter 12, Antichrist attempts to wipe out the remnant of Israel, but has to give up (verses 13-16 and Zechariah 14:3-5). He then turns on the rest of Israel’s ‘offspring’, who are identified as ‘those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus’ (Revelation 12:17).
DOES THE CHURCH GO TO HEAVEN WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Another scripture used to support the Pre-Trib. position is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8. Here Paul tells us that the lawless one, or Antichrist, can only be revealed to the world when the Holy Spirit of God, who is now holding him back, is ‘taken out of the way’. The view drawn from this is that the Spirit is going to be taken back into heaven from the earth, and since He indwells all believers (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-11), then all those believers must be taken into heaven with Him.
This seems to me to be an extrapolation, or hopeful thinking at best: at worst it is a sticking of one’s head into the sand. First, the Spirit is working to hold back the secret power of lawlessness, which includes the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). So when He is ‘taken out of the way’ (verse 7) He may simply stop restraining, and not necessarily leave the earth at all. Second, the Antichrist is not revealed to the world until the mid part of the Tribulation, at the time when he enters the temple and claims to be God (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:5-6). Paul spoke to the believers in Thessalonica as though they would witness this event. In fact it is given as one of the two signs to believers that the ‘day of the Lord’ had truly come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Jesus spoke of the same initial sign to his disciples (Matthew 24:15-21).
THE IMMINENCE OF CHRIST’S COMING
Pre-Tribbers say that Christ’s coming is ‘imminent’: that we can not know the day or the hour. It can happen without any notice whatsoever, (Matthew 24:36-42). Pre-Trib reasoning claims that this obviously proves the rapture comes first, because, in contrast, there will be plenty of warning signs before His visible return. The same people will tell you that there are plenty of signs of the coming Tribulation now. Hmmm!
If Christians were around when the Tribulation starts, they say, we would know that it would be exactly seven years to the coming of Christ, which is something we cannot know according to Jesus who said ‘you do not know in what day your Lord will come’ (verse 42). The examples of Noah and Lot are given, since both escaped the coming judgments of their time, and were referred to by Jesus to stress his unexpected snatching away of the saints before the Tribulation.
First, this view assumes that the beginning of the final seven years, including the time of day, will be known by all, so that the date and time of the visible return of Jesus could be marked on a calendar. I suggest that that is not the case, partly because Paul said that the unmistakeable signs that the Day of the Lord was coming would be the “falling away”, which can’t be fixed to a time or day, and the antichrist going into the temple in Jerusalem. He didn’t say that the first thing to look for was the signing of the covenant spoken of by Daniel in Daniel chapter 9, and neither did Jesus say that. Jesus said the first unmistakable sign would be antichrist entering the Holy Place of the temple (Matthew 24). We may not know anything about the covenant being signed-it could be an agreement made behind closed doors. Also, the two mysteriously different number of days given to Daniel (Daniel 12), further confuses the issue.
Secondly, this view assumes that if we were to see the signing of the covenant, then the rapture would have to be at exactly the same time as Christ’s visible return to the earth. As we cannot know the day or the hour, the reasoning goes, then we must be gone before the signing of the covenant. Unless the rapture is at the exact same time and on the exact same date as Christ’s visible appearing to the world, we really do not know when the rapture will be: it could be at any time during those seven years. So even if we were aware of the signing of the covenant, we could not mark the rapture’s time and day on a calendar. We could recognise the signs of the times, but not know on what day or in which hour our Lord will come.
It’s interesting to see during the same teaching where Jesus told the disciples they did not know the day He was coming, that he also spoke to them as though they would be the ones who would witness all the events that He had warned about. For example, the word translated ‘you’ (or ‘ye’ in the KJV), where he said ‘when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door’ (verse 33), does actually mean ‘you’, in a plural form. It’s as if Jesus was expecting his disciples to witness the events of the Tribulation which he had just described (verses 15-31).
I’ve heard a prophecy teacher say that when Jesus said that his disciples would see the antichrist in the temple, he was not talking to Christians but to Jews. Jews, he was saying, would be in the Tribulation. I instantlly realised that Jesus was in truth talking to his closest disciples who, although Jewish, were saved, Church age disciples of Jesus Christ. Of course we will not all have to flee Jerusalem and Judea, but worldwide television will show the whole world the Antichrist entering the temple.
When Jesus said ‘No one knows about that day or hour’, which day and hour was He referring to? The answer is that He had just described the events of the Tribulation: the day of the Lord (Matthew 24:15-35). So the day and hour He was speaking of was the time of Tribulation. Yes, He also included the day of His coming in the list of things they did not know (verse 42), but the point is that it was the general time of the Tribulation that he was speaking of. Also, he may well rapture us at some point before his appearing to the world, in which case, we truly do not know the day or the hour, but can only observe the signs and know that the Day is near.
We read in verses 15-17 that Jesus gives to those same disciples a sign which will start a three and a half year countdown to His physical return to the earth: the entering of Antichrist into the temple in Jerusalem (see Daniel 9: 27). It is after this timed event that Jesus’ coming is still future, because Jesus warns His disciples to ignore reports that Christ has appeared in any particular location, since the coming of the real Christ would be fast and universally obvious, like a flash of lightning (Matthew 24: 23-27).
NOAH AND LOT
Look at the following verses (36-39), which recall the example of Noah and the Flood, and which Jesus himself used as an example of what He meant by the imminence of His return.
Noah by choice and purpose entered the ark which he had built at the command of God. He knew that the Flood was coming, and he knew exactly when it was coming seven days before it came (Genesis 7:4), so the example of Noah is not intended to be an example of a surprise rapture! It was the unbelieving world which was not ready for the Flood:
“and they knew nothing about what would happen until the Flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (verse 39).
Noah was in the know: the unbelievers were not.
Similarly, the example of the destruction of Sodom is given in Luke chapter 17. Lot, by faith, left Sodom, knowing that it was going to be judged that very day. The ungodly were living out their usual daily lives when destruction from the Lord took them by surprise (verses 28-29). They were appointed to wrath instead of salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
It’s significant that Noah entered the ark on the same day that the Flood came (Genesis 7:11-13), and not days or months before. He was not taken into heaven. Similarly, Lot escaped from Sodom on the same day that its judgment came, and he didn’t go to heaven. Do we really want to take these events as templates for the rapture? Then we would have to take the “mid-Tribulational” position, because Jesus said that the “time of trouble” will come when the antichrist enters the temple, three and a half years before his visible return, not seven or eight or ten years before it.
WHAT PAUL AND JESUS DID NOT SAY
Paul warned the Thessalonians not to be easily led into the notion that the ‘day of the Lord’ had already arrived. Evidently some such deception was going around at that time.
According to Peter, the ‘day of the Lord’ includes the destruction of this present earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), and according to Paul it will also include sudden destruction falling on an ungodly world of people (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). So the ‘day of the Lord’ includes the Tribulation and following events. Paul then told the Thessalonians what to lookout for as signs that the day of the Lord had really come. He said ‘Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV). So Paul was telling the Thessalonians what to expect to see as signs that the day of the Lord was about to begin.
What did Paul NOT say? He did not say “That day will not come before we are all taken into heaven, so you don’t need to worry about it”. This to me is very telling. It seems like a serious omission of Paul’s, if he knew that there was a rapture coming before the Antichrist is revealed. This fact is compounded when we realize that Jesus gave the very same event, which he called ‘the abomination of desolation’, as a clear sign that the Tribulation was about to begin, and he spoke to his disciples as though they would see that sign. Jesus said nothing about the rapture coming before the “abomination” (Matthew 24:15-22).
ONE TAKEN, THE OTHER LEFT
It’s a common view, as it was mine once, that when Jesus said ‘one will be taken, the other will be left’ (Matthew 24:40-41), he was speaking of a surprise rapture at some time before the Tribulation. Please refer to the above point, because Jesus had given the example of Noah and the Flood to show that it was necessary for his followers to be ready for his coming (verses 38-42). Noah knew which day the Flood was coming, (Genesis 7:4), and he purposely entered the ark on the day that judgment fell (Genesis 7:11-13; Matthew 24:38). Interestingly, believers in Jerusalem and Judea (the ‘West Bank’) are to look for the Antichrist to make his move, and then get away from the area as quickly as possible. This seems to be directly related to Jesus’ example of Noah entering the ark on the day the Flood began, and Lot escaping from Sodom just before judgment fell there. If anything, we could take this passage as an evidence for the mid-Tribulation position. The warning that ‘one will be taken and the other left’, can still speak of imminence. Though believers will know that the signs Jesus foretold are being fulfilled, they will literally not know ‘the day or the hour’ that these events will begin, or when the rapture will come.
DO THE 24 ELDERS REPRESENT THE ALREADY RAPTURED CHURCH?
Some Pre-Trib. teachers point out the twenty four elders who John sees on thrones, initially observed in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, situated around the throne of God. They sing of redemption (5:9-10). The NIV translates certain words in their song to ‘they’ and ‘them’, suggesting the elders are referring to the redemption of others who are still on the earth. These teachers say that the words should be translated ‘we’ and ‘us’, as they are in the KJV. In other words, the redemption the elders are speaking of is their own, and they are believed to be representatives of the Church and possibly Old Testament saints, signifying that the Church is in heaven already, before the Tribulation.
I don’t know enough to comment on whether these words should be translated to refer to the elders around the throne, or to humans still on the earth. I can only make a couple of observations here. One is that when John is taken up to heaven, which Pre-Tribulationists say is a type of the rapture, the elders are already there and settled in: they didn’t arrive with John in his ‘rapture’ (chapter 4 verses 4, and 9-11). They are already telling John what’s going on (5:5; 7:13-21), which seems strange since John was also a member of the Church, and close to Jesus. John did not “take his place” with twenty three others. Secondly, there are still followers of Jesus on the earth, as I have already pointed out.
WILL CHRIST KEEP US FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL?
Those who hold to the Pre-Tribulation rapture quote part of a verse from one of Christ’s letters, found in Revelation, to support their view, ‘I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth’ (Revelation 3:10). The use of this verse assumes that the letters to the seven churches found in the early chapters of Revelation did not only have an application for their day, but to future periods of Church history up to the return of Christ. So this verse is applied to the Church which is on the earth immediately before the rapture, and is considered to be a promise that the Church will not have to live through the Tribulation.
In response, the first part of the verse says, ‘Since you have kept my command to endure patiently…’ I am interested to know what it is that the Church in the West has had to ‘endure’? There is no clear statement here about a rapture, or ‘harpazo’: isn’t something being read into this verse? The promise seems a little too unclear to rely on as a promise of escape from the Tribulation. And what about the multitudes of Christians who will have to endure the Tribulation, according to Revelation 12:12, 14:12-13 and 20:4? It does not make sense that those who live in comparative ease before the Tribulation should be considered ‘worthy’ to escape it, while those who live through it will not. Aren’t we all sinners saved by grace? Are Christians now any more deserving than those who will be persecuted by Antichrist and his world?
WHEN IS THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE?
Another claim is that the ‘Church age’ ends with the rapture, and after it God is no longer dealing with the Church, but turns his attention back to Israel for the final seven years of the Tribulation. Pre-Tribulationists say that while the Church is spoken of in the early chapters of Revelation, which they say represent the Church age, it is nowhere mentioned in the rest of Revelation, which covers the Tribulation. This is taken to be evidence that the Church will no longer be on the earth during that time. If that’s true, why do we read about ‘those who hold to the testimony of Jesus’, being persecuted by Satan and the Antichrist (Revelation 12:12; 14:12; 20:4)? Are those believers not a part of the ‘bride of Christ’? And if they are, they must be in the Church. Also, while the word ‘Church’ is not used in the remaining chapters of Revelation, we do see here, as well as in some other Bible books, that there will be multitudes of people who are followers of Jesus Christ, and that they will be persecuted by the Antichrist’s regime (Revelation 13:7-10; 14:12; 15:2; 16:5-6; 20:4; Daniel 7:19-27).
John did not the use the word ‘Church’ at all in his first or second epistles, even though they were written to Christians of his day. He did, however, use the concept of ‘the testimony of Jesus’ in two of his epistles (1 John 5:6-11; 3 John 13), just as he used it to describe Christians living through the Tribulation (Revelation 12:12; 14:12; 20:4). It was also a more common theme in his gospel than it was in any other gospel, or the writings of Paul, (e.g. John 21:24). Similarly, John spoke of the Tribulation saints ‘who obey God’s commandments’ (Revelation 12:17 and 14:12), and in his letters he used the same Greek word when he wrote of the importance of obeying God’s commandments (1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 3:22-24; 1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 1:5-6).
THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES
Paul said that ‘Israel has experienced a hardening in part (currently) until the full number of Gentiles has come in’ (Romans 11:25). So a pertinent question here would be ‘when does the hardening of Israel end, according to Bible prophecy’, because this will mark the end of the ‘full number of Gentiles’ being saved, and so the end of the “Church Age”?
If we look into some of the Old Testament Prophecies, we find that the Jews will come to realize who their Messiah is when he appears physically over Jerusalem, at the end of the Tribulation (Zechariah chapter 12, especially verse 10). Even then, cocnsidering that salvation will still be by faith in Jesus, is it right to see an end of the Church Age at any other time than his visible return to the earth?
The gospel is still being preached during the Tribulation (Revelation 14:6), so how can we arbitrarily put an end to the Church age before it?
THE HOLY ONES WHO RETURN TO THE EARTH WITH CHRIST
Pre-Tribulationists point to those who come from heaven with Christ at the end of the Tribulation, in Revelation chapter 19:11-16, believing that they are the Church. Since this is the case, they say, the Church must have been in heaven during the entire Tribulation.
These riders with Christ could be identified as the Church because they seem to be the same group who are ‘dressed in fine linen, white and clean’ (verse 14), and the earlier part of the chapter describes the Bride of Christ, which is the Church, as being dressed in ‘fine linen, white and clean’ (verse 8). Chapter 17 verse 4 says when Christ overcomes the Beast, ‘with him will be his, called, chosen and faithful followers’.It seems to be a reasonable assumption that this could be the Church riding from heaven to the earth with Christ, although a few observations can be made here.
First, angels also wear clean white linen (15:6).
Second, Christ leaves heaven with ‘the armies of heaven’, and the words “Church’ and ‘Bride’ are not used here (19:14). Paul describes Christ coming, not ‘with us’, but ‘with his powerful angels’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7), or ‘mighty angels’ (KJV). In fact, Paul said that those being persecuted during the first century would be given relief only ‘when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels’.
Jesus said that when He comes in power and great glory, it is the ‘angels’ who will come with him (Matthew 25: 31) He will send angels to gather His elect (Matthew 24:30-31; 13:40-43). Perhaps the Bride has made herself ready for the Wedding of the Lamb, (Revelation 19:7-9), but not for fighting Armageddon?
The KJV speaks of the ‘saints’ coming with Christ (Zechariah 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 5:8). The word translated ‘saints’ can also be translated ‘holy’ ones, or ‘morally blameless’, so they are not necessarily humans: they could be angels. Even with the ‘saints’ translation the Pre-Trib. position gains nothing, because ’saints’ are seen being persecuted throughout the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7-10).
PAUL SUGGESTS THAT US AND THOSE HOLY ONES ARE DISTINCT GROUPS
Who are the “Holy Ones” that Paul said would come with Christ to bring the vengence of God? Paul suggests that they are not us, when he says:
“…so that you will be blameless and holy the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3: 13).
Thirdly, there is no statement or indication that the Bride, if this is the Bride in Revelation 19, has been in heaven for the entire Tribulation. We do find believers in heaven, in chapter 7, who ‘came out of great tribulation’ (verses 9-17), but this is between the 6th and 7th seals (6:12; 8:1). It is after a great earthquake (6:9-11), the sun turning black, the moon turning red, and stars ‘falling from the sky’ (6:12-14). In the previous chapter, with the 5th seal we see the souls of some who had been martyred. They are given white robes to wear (6:9-11). Are they martyred saints from the ‘Church age’ and before, or are they those ‘out of great Tribulation (7:14)? There is another reference to the souls of believers in Jesus who have been martyred, in chapter 20, and are raised to life after the return of Christ (verse 4). There was a promise given to those who were to be martyred, at the time of the Antichrist’s ascendancy to power, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…’ (14:13), and verse 12, in warning not to take the mark of the beast, reads, ‘This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus’.
Fourth, it seems that the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, which some claim happens in heaven at the beginning of the Tribulation or before, actually happens in chapter 19, just before the visible return of Christ, or later- and at some time after the destruction of the ‘great prostitute’, or false religion (19:2). Since it is the Antichrist and his ten henchmen who destroy her, (17:16), then logically the Wedding supper will be after the mid-Tribulation point which is when they gain power (13:5 with 17:12).
THE RAPTURE OF THE LIVING WILL BE AFTER THE RESURRECTION
Paul said that ‘the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds…’ (1 Thessalonians 14:16-17). If the Pre-Tribulational view is correct the resurrection would be before the Tribulation. Daniel seems to indicate that the resurrection will come after the events of the Tribulation, or possibly during them. He describes key events, including actions of the Antichrist, then the involvement of the archangel Michael to defend Israel, and then the resurrection (Daniel 11:40 to 12:4). In Revelation 20, after the return of Christ to the earth, we read about those believers who had been martyred by the Antichrist being raised to life. This is called the ‘first resurrection’ (20:4-6). Pre Trib. adherents must believe that the ‘first resurrection’ is in stages, otherwise there would have to be several ‘first’ resurrections. Paul said that those who belong to Christ will be raised ‘when he comes’ (1 Corinthians 15:23).
WHICH LAST TRUMP IS THE LAST LAST TRUMP?
Paul, when telling the Corinthians that ‘we will all be changed’, speaking of the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51), said that ‘the trumpet will sound’ (verse 52). When writing to the Thessalonians he mentioned the trumpet again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-19, esp. verse 16). Jesus, when speaking of his physical and visible return to the earth, said that he would send his angels ‘with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds’ (Matthew 24:30-31). Most interestingly, Paul said that the rapture would happen ‘at the last trumpet’ (1 Corinthians 15:52).
A few questions need to be asked here. If, as Paul said, the ‘last trumpet’ is to announce the rapture, when did the other trumpets come, and what events did they announce? If the rapture is ‘imminent’, and there is nothing to occur before it in terms of last days events, then what were the previous trumpets for?
It may or may not be just coincidence that there is a series of seven trumpet blasts in the book of Revelation. These trumpets herald some of the final judgments upon the earth. They will be devastating. In chapter 10 verse 7 we read that when the seventh trumpet sounds, ‘the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets’. It may or may not also be a coincidence that the word used here which is translated ‘mystery’ is the same word used when Paul spoke to the Corinthians about the rapture, ‘Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed’ (1 Corinthians 15:51). This is not to say that Revelation 10:7 is entirely concerning the rapture, but it is worth considering the rapture to be a part of that ‘mystery of God’. When the seventh trumpet is sounded, (11:15), there is no devastating plague hurled to the earth. Instead a declaration is made that ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ’. Other relevant declarations are made, such as, ‘The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints, and those who reverence your name’ (verse 18).
So it is possible that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the ‘last trumpet’ which heralds the rapture. The rapture would then precede the battle of Armageddon, but it would be towards the end of the Tribulation. This is the ‘Pre-Wrath’ view of the rapture. In chapter 15, we see those in heaven ‘who had been victorious over the beast’ (verse 2). This scene occurs just before the final ‘seven bowl’ judgments. They sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (verse 3), suggesting that both Old and New Testament saints are represented.
FALL AWAY FROM WHAT?
Paul said that there will be a “falling away”, or a “rebellion” from the true faith as a preliminary sign that the Day of the Lord had come (2 Thessalonians 2:3). It seems to me that if the true Church and the Holy Spirit is already gone, there’s nothing to fall away from.
DO THE “GATES OF HELL” PROVE A PRE-TRIB RAPTURE?
I’ve heard one popular minister draw attention to the fact that according to Jesus, the “gates of hell” would not prevail against the Church, so as the Antichrist prevails against the saints during the tribulation (Daniel 8:12; Revelation 13:7), this means that the saints of Revelation are not the Church, and that the Church will be gone before the Tribulation.
Again, many Christians have been persecuted and killed for their faith over the centuries: were the “gates of hell” prevailing against them? Are not gates a tool of defence, not offence?
In Revelation 14, in the midst of talk of the beast and his mark (chapters 13 and 14), we read about 144,000 people standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb (14:1). Why are they called ‘firstfruits’ (verse 4), if they had already been beaten into heaven, and the presence of the Lamb, by the rapture of the Church?