If you’re honestly interested in the timing of the rapture, and if you’re brave enough to face the truth, here are some of the results of years of my own “no nonsense” study on the subject. I was a “pre-trib” believer for twenty-eight years. I now know how misinformed and wrong I was. Get the facts, and stop believing the hype…*
Are “the holy ones” who return to earth with Jesus Christ the raptured Church, as pre-tribulation preachers claim? This post is related to earlier ones in the series which concern the Bride of Christ.
THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN
At or very near the end of the tribulation Jesus Christ will appear in the sky for the whole world to see. We read in scripture that he will come with a multitude, sometimes described as a “cloud”. Some Christians believe this prophesied multitude is the Church. The Church will have been in heaven with Jesus Christ for at least seven years, they say, and now she’s going to return with him to help defeat his enemies and claim the world.
We read in Revelation chapter 19:11-16 that the “armies of heaven” follow Christ into the skies of earth from heaven. They’re not named or identified, but they’re riding white horses, and they’re dressed in fine white linen, just as the Bride of Christ is given to wear earlier in the chapter (verse 14). I’ve seen numerous paintings or drawings of believers in flowing white robes, riding white horses to the earth for battle. As if to confirm the conviction that this army is the Church, 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 and obvious assumption that this is the raptured Church riding from heaven to the earth with Christ. However, it really isn’t that clear-cut, and I offer here some considerable contrary observations to this view.
When the text says that the Lamb’s followers will be “with him” (17:14) it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be a part of what we could call “the Armageddon attack-force” from heaven. It may just mean that Christ’s victory is their victory, and that they’re going to be “with him”, in his presence, for eternity as his bride, because they’ve been faithful to him in the world.
Secondly, even if the Church is to be part of the Armageddon attack force, the attack will occur, according to Revelation, when the beast and his ten kings are making war against Jesus Christ-and not before (verses 12-14). Therefore this event is not pre-tribulational. It’s not even before the mid-point of the “seven year tribulation”. It’s near the end of the last three and a half years, and probably at the end of them. We know that because this is the allotted time for the beast to hold power over the world:
“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months”(Revelation 13:5).
There is therefore no clear reason to assume from chapter 19 that the Church has already been in heaven for seven years. If what we read about is really the Church leaving heaven on white horses with Jesus, it could just as well have been in heaven for a week, a month, or a year or two-there’s no way of knowing from this passage.
Thirdly, we can’t identify the riders just by what they wear. It’s not just the redeemed who wear clean white linen: angels do also:
“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 those armies! (19:14).
PAUL’S CLEAR STATEMENT ON THE MATTER
Fifth, Paul describes Christ’s coming in vengeance, not “with us”, but “with his powerful angels” or “mighty angels” (KJV). We can’t assign these labels to the Church, because Paul makes a clear distinction in his letters between the Church and the angels of heaven. This distinction is first made in his first letter, when he prays that when Jesus comes to bring vengeance, Christ will see the believers of Thessalonica as being blameless:
“…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).
In this above verse we have the Thessalonians in clear distinction from the “holy ones” coming with Jesus.
In his second letter, Paul tells believers that they will be avenged and rewarded when Christ and his angels arrive in blazing fire:
“He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled…”This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7).
NOT THE CHURCH!
Why did Paul make this distinction if the “attack force” from heaven is the Church? Again, notice what Paul did not say. He did not say “…on the day he comes with his holy people and all of us who have believed”. Paul’s statements demand two different sets of followers-the attack force and the rescued.
Jesus said that when He comes in power and great glory, it will be the angels who will come with him (Matthew 25: 31). He didn’t say “you will come with him” or “the Church will come with him”. Jesus will send his angels to gather his elect (Matthew 24:30-31; 13:40-43). Perhaps the Bride will have made herself ready for the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9) but not to fight the battle of Armageddon! As I asked rhetorically in a previous chapter, how many grooms have wedding celebrations and then immediately take their brides out onto the battlefield?
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 people: they may be angels who did not fall with Lucifer. But even if we were to understand the word ‘saints’ to mean “believers” or “Church” the pre-tribulaion position gains nothing, because ’saints’ are seen to be persecuted throughout the Tribulation! (Revelation 13:7-10).
*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, is available on Amazon. However, it’s also being published here piece by piece, in an updated and edited form. This post is part 19. Stay tuned or follow me to continue. Thanks for your time.