Here’s the fifth installment of my up-dated study on the rapture of the Church, intended to help you decide where you should stand on the issue…
I was once a “pre-trib.” believer for many years: I see things rather differently now. Please note that I am not an Amillennialist…
ARE PRE-TRIBULATION SAINTS THE “HOLY ONES” WHO RETURN TO THE EARTH WITH CHRIST?
Pre-Tribulation believers say that those who come from heaven with Christ at the end of the Tribulation, described in Revelation chapter 19:11-16, are the Church. They’re dressed in fine linen, just as the Bride of Christ is given to wear earlier in the chapter, and so the assumption is made that the Church must have been in heaven during the entire Tribulation. Chapter 17 verse 14 says that when Christ overcomes the Beast, ‘with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers’. It may seem to be a reasonable assumption that this is the Church riding from heaven to the earth with Christ. However, there are a few “wait a minute” observations to be made.
First, when the text says that the Lamb’s followers will be “with him” (17:14) it doesn’t have to mean that they will be a part of the Armageddon attack force: it may just mean that his victory is their victory; they’re going to be “with him” for eternity as his bride; his followers are faithful to him in the world. They’re living in the same earthly world as the ten kings who side with the beast (verses 12 and 13).
Secondly, even if the Church is to be part of the Armageddon attack force the time at which Jesus’ called, chosen and faithful followers are seen to be with him (17:14) the attack happens when the beast and the ten kings are making war against him. This event is not pre-trib., and it’s not even before the mid-point of the “seven year tribulation”: it’s during or at the end of the last three and a half years. That’s the maximum time the beast will have to mount his rebellion (Revelation 13:5). There is therefore no clear reason to assume that the Church has already been in heaven for seven years.
Third, angels also wear clean linen:
“Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen” (15:6).
Fourth, when Christ leaves heaven with ‘the armies of heaven’, the words “Church” and “Bride” are not used to describe them (19:14). Paul describes Christ’s coming in vengeance, not ‘with us’, but ‘with his powerful angels’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7), or ‘mighty angels’ (KJV). In fact, Paul said that those who were being persecuted in his time would be given relief, not “before the tribulation”, but:
“…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7).
Jesus said that when He comes in power and great glory, it is the ‘angels’ who will come with him (Matthew 25: 31). He did not say “you” or “the Church”, coming with him to make war. 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 to fight the battle of 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 who did not fall with Lucifer. Even with the word ‘saints’ translated as “believers” the Pre-Trib. position gains nothing, because ’saints’ are seen to be persecuted throughout the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7-10).
PAUL’S STATEMENT DEMANDS TWO DIFFERENT SETS OF FOLLOWERS, THE FIGHTERS AND THE RESCUED:
Paul seems to have made pretty clear that the “Holy ones” who would come with Christ to bring the vengence of God are not Church age believers, because he speaks of believers as being separate from the holy ones who come with him to wage war-they are two different groups:
“…so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father… when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3: 13).
There is no statement or indication that the Bride has been in heaven for the entire Tribulation. We do find believers in heaven, in chapter 7, who “came out of great tribulation”, in other words, they were martyred (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), after the sun turning black, after the moon turning red, and after 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, who 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 warning in verse 12 tells believers not to take the mark of the beast:
“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus”.
A LATE SUPPER
Fifth, 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 (see verses 7 to 9), just before the visible return of Christ, and at some time after the destruction of the ‘great prostitute’, or false religion (verse 2). Since it is the Antichrist and his ten henchmen who destroy the prostitute (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 have to 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 make the claim that the ‘first resurrection’ is in stages, otherwise there would be several ‘first’ resurrections.
WHICH LAST TRUMP IS THE LAST LAST TRUMP?
Paul, when telling the Corinthians that ‘we will all be changed’(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), but pre-Tribulationists claim that this is a different set of trumpet blasts entirely. Do they know that to be so, or do they impose that idea in order to preserve their own theory? Most interestingly, Paul said that the rapture would happen at “the last trumpet’ (1 Corinthians 15:52).
Questions need to be asked here. If, as Paul said, the ‘last trumpet’ is to announce the rapture, and the Rapture is before the Tribulation, 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?
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET AND THE MYSTERY OF GOD
It 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 devastating judgments upon the earth. 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 by Paul when he wrote 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). Does this not sound like a resurrection – something which occurs before the Rapture of the living?
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. Surley there has to be a Church – a faith – to fall away from?
THANKS FOR READING!