Tag Archive: WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE BE?


Greetings brothers and sisters in the faith. None of us has been “left behind” by the rapture-yet-so we still have time to read up on it!

Did you ever wonder if what people say about the rapture is true? My new book is the result of years of soul-searching and scripture study on the subject. Posts on this blog published over the past few years formed the foundation of the book, which contains far more insight and detailed commentary than all the posts put together. I believe I’ve also made the whole subject much more understandable than I did before.

Available in paperback or e-book. Take a look:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1730805078/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1541373020&sr=1-13&keywords=when+will+the+rapture+be

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As I noted in part one of the series, I held to the pre-Tribulational view of the Rapture for most of my Christian life, until I opened up my mind to the possibility of an alternative, and began to study the scriptures accordingly. This series reflects my change of mind.

If pre-Tribulationists are right about the timing of the Rapture, there’s no logical reason for them to get upset with anyone who disagrees with their position (but they do). If they are wrong, they are responsible for encouraging millions of Christians to stick their heads in the proverbial sand and ignore the huge challenges which they should be spiritually preparing for.

CLUES FROM 1 THESSALONIANS 3

Paul’s wish and prayer was that the Thessalonians would remain, “blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thess. 3:13). This thought is echoed by John in one of his letters:

“And now, dear children, continue in him so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2: 28).

When, according to Scripture, will Jesus come with all his holy ones? Is it in a pre-Tribulation Rapture or at his visible appearing to the world? Paul answers the question himself:

“God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thess. 1:6-7).

The “relief”, says Paul, does not come before the Tribulation, but at the visible appearing of Jesus Christ to bring judgment.

Both references separate believers from the “holy ones” or “powerful angels”. Therefore, believers cannot be the holy ones who the Lord comes with, and neither are they the “powerful angels”. that the Lord comes with.

Jesus describes his visible appearing to the earth this way:

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds…” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Here Jesus speaks of his revealing to the world, and his sending of the angels to gather his people. This is almost a carbon copy of Paul’s statement that Jesus will come with “all his holy ones” (John said that he will “appear”), and his prayer that on that occasion, the Thessalonians will be blameless.

This directly contradicts the concept of a pre-Tribulation Rapture.

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CLUES FROM 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 4

Sometimes we get the impression from prophecy experts and movies that at the Rapture we will be taken up into heaven to meet the Lord, while at the visible return of Christ to bring judgment Jesus will come down to the earth.  In truth Paul said that at the Rapture Christ will descend from heaven:

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds…” (See 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Pre-Tribulation proponents argue that this event has to be different from Christ’s visible appearing to the whole world, because at the Rapture (above) he meets us “in the clouds”, whereas at his visible return he descends to the earth. As I noted in part one, this is no evidence for two separate events, unless we are to assume that millions of believers have to catch buses and trains to get to where Jesus is at some physical location on the earth’s surface. As a quick reading of Matthew 24:30-31 shows, Christ will “send his angels to gather his elect” when he returns visibly. Angels don’t need to drive buses as a rule, and they’re used to travelling above ground.

Now read what Jesus had to say about his visible return to the earth, and compare it to Paul’s words above:

“…all the nations…will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:31-32).

The words of Paul to the Thessalonians which speak of the Rapture share certain themes with Jesus’ account of his visible return to the earth in the Matthew passage:

1/ Christ descends from heaven;

2/ there’s a command/sending;

3/ angels are involved;

4/ there’s a trumpet call;

5/ clouds;

6/ the gathering of his people.

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CLUES FROM 1 THESSALONIANS 5

One of the major passages of Scripture recognized by most evangelicals to be referring to the Rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds…” (See 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Then, after speaking about the Rapture in chapter 4 Paul goes directly on to the subject of “times and dates” in chapter 5 (verse 1). In other words, what he is about to say in chapter 5 directly relates to what he has just said about the Rapture in chapter 4. He asks the question “when?” for the Thessalonians:

“Now brothers, about times and dates…” (verse 1)

He then answers it by saying…

“we do not need to write to you …for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (verses 1b-2).

I already pointed out in part one that according to Paul’s own words, the “thief in the night” phrase is a reference to the “day of the Lord”, not a surprise Rapture (1 Thess. 5:2).  Peter also likened “the day of the Lord” to a “thief” (2 Peter 3:10), and he placed that “day of the Lord” after the sun being darkened and the moon turning blood red (Acts 2:20). The day of the Lord includes the time of Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, and 2 Peter 3:3-10).

In chapter 5 verses 1 and 2 Paul is linking the Rapture (chapter 4) with the “day of the Lord”. Therefore it seems logical to conclude that the Rapture will be at some point during “the day of the Lord”. If not, Paul is changing subjects, mid-sentence, from a pre-Tribulation Rapture to a later time of judgment. He would, in effect, be saying in verses 1 and 2:

“Now we do not need to write to you about when the Rapture will occur, because the judgments will fall like a thief in the night”.

This passage can only make sense if the two are together.

And what is the timing of the day of the Lord? The answer is given to us in 2 Thessalonians 2 verses 1 and 2.  Paul said that it would not come until two things happen first:

1/ the rebellion occurs, and;

2/ the man of lawlessness is revealed (antichrist).

In other words, Paul is actually giving us a sequence of events:

1/ the rebellion or “falling away” (and if you think about it, if the Rapture has already happened, there’s nothing to fall away from);

2/ the antichrist is revealed;

3/ the day of the Lord begins, during which (and no-one knows the day or the hour), the Rapture will take place.

WHAT PAUL DID NOT SAY!

Paul said that the day of the Lord will not come as a surprise to believers, because we do not live in darkness: we are sons of the light (1 Thess. 5:4-5). Tellingly, he did not give as a reason for there being no surprise for believers that “we will already be in heaven”. This is no small detail!

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EVIDENCE FROM 2 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 1

The Thessalonians were suffering “persecutions and trials” (2 Thess.1:4). This is despite the fact that they were “not appointed to wrath” (1 Thess. 5:9).

Paul said that they would be given relief (verse 7) not before the Tribulation, but at the same time as they will be avenged – at the end of the Tribulation:

“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels (verses 6 and 7).

EVIDENCE FROM 2 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 2

Paul writes, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” in chapter 2. It’s very important to bear in mind that these two subjects are the reason for his following discussion. They are connected with the “day of the Lord” (verse 2).

Then he says about the day of the Lord:

“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” (verse 3).

Paul is anxious to calm the fears of those who had been told that the day of the Lord had already come, and informs them that that day cannot come until two things happen first: the “rebellion” (or apostasy, or falling away – depending on your translation) and the revealing of the antichrist to the world (verse 3).

This is not a case of Paul talking of an event which believers had been wrongly led to believe they had missed, as some are teaching, because if that were the case, he would surely have said something more along the lines that “that day will not come before we are gathered to him”. Instead the two unmistakable signs are the “falling away” and the revealing of antichrist. Again, he would be changing subjects in the space of a few words (verses 1 and 2) from the Rapture to the day of the Lord – if indeed these were two separate times.

Think about it – what he is saying in these first three verses is not only that the Lord will not come (verse 1) until the apostasy and the revealing of antichrist has occurred, but that our being gathered to him (also verse 1) cannot happen until these things have occurred.

Again, what Paul did not say is instructive. He did not say:

“That day cannot come until we are first gathered to him”.

He did not say:

“Don’t worry about the day of the Lord at all, because we will be Raptured by then”.

Instead, Paul describes the events to look out for which precede the day of the Lord (verses 3 and 4), and reminds Thessalonians that he had already discussed these signs with them (verse 5).

The “coming” that Paul speaks of is the event at which antichrist is stopped and judged (verse 8). He does not speak of the “gathering” as a separate event.

DELUSION

In the same chapter as Paul warns of apostasy being a sign that the day of the Lord was coming, he speaks of a time of delusion and deception accompanying the revealing of the antichrist:

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders…” (2 Thess. 2:9).

There are strong parallels between Paul’s discussion of the revealing of the antichrist, as given in 2 Thess. chapter 2, and Jesus’ warnings given to his disciples about the end times. Just as Paul warned of apostasy, Jesus warned of apostasy:

“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:10);

Because of the increase of wickedness the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Just as Paul warned of delusion and deception, Jesus warned of deception and counterfeit miracles:

“…false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect- if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew 24:23-25).

Considering such parallels, is it not possible that Jesus and Paul were warning the people of the same times – the same events – and that disciples living in the end times would witness them?

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE MEAN WHEN IT SAYS THAT CHRIST WILL BE “REVEALED”?

Several passages speak of Jesus Christ being “revealed” in the Last Days. What is this “revealing”? Does it occur at the Rapture, at his visible return to earth, later, or all of the above? A few references to Christ being “revealed” seem to get rather specific in answering this question.

For example, Peter says that a believer’s faith now will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

These statements of Peter’s are remarkably similar to one of Paul’s, and contain the same reference to a specific event :

“God is just: 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” (2Thessalonians 1:6-7).

Most importantly, the above passage defines the meaning of the term “revealed”. The “revealing” of Christ, according to Paul, is Jesus’ visible return to the earth. Notice that the relief which the Thessalonians and Peter’s readers receive does not come “before the Tribulation” or “before the day of the Lord”.

There also seems to be a parallel between Peter’s words, “when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13), and Jesus’ own account of his return to the earth:

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24: 30-31).

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WHO ARE THE SAINTS OF REVELATION CHAPTERS 4 TO 21?

There are “saints” in the Tribulation – we read about them being persecuted by Antichrist, the dragon, and unbelievers. For an example, see Revelation 14:11-12. The question is: who are these saints? Pre-Tribulationists claim that they are not Church age believers, but some other form of saint, perhaps specially anointed Messianic Jews, or Gentile believers saved after the Rapture. I commented on the “end of the Church age” in part 1, so please refer to that for a complete understanding of part 2.

In truth, the same Greek word translated “saints” is used throughout the New Testament, and it doesn’t change after Revelation chapter 3. Saints are saints. Not only that, but the Tribulation saints are “faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). How can they not be Christians? Alright, they are not called “Christians” by John, but then, John did not use the term “Christians” anywhere else in Revelation, including Christ’s letters to the churches (and neither did Jesus or the angel), or in his epistles, or in his gospel. The word “saints” is, however, used many times throughout the New Testament for Church-age believers, for example:

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“Paul…to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi…” (Philippians 1:1-2);

“On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints…(not the churches) ”… in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them” (Acts 26:10);

“As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda” (notice that Luke did not say that Peter “went to visit the church in Lydda” Acts 9:32).

Antichrist will make war against the “saints”- and not the “churches” – because his design is not just to eradicate organized gatherings, but to wipe out believers completely:

“He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them…This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (Revelation 13: 7a and 10b).

THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS

Famous “last days” prophecy teachers speak and write about the “Mother of Prostitutes” of Revelation chapter 17 as though she had been killing saints (and the scripture doesn’t say “churches”) over the two millennia since Jesus was on earth. The corrupt church and false religion has persecuted saints down through history, they say. Alright, if this is true (and it is), then the “saints” killed by the Harlot are regular Church-age believers, are they not? So what makes them any different from the “saints” mentioned in other places in Revelation, such as those who are called to patiently endure, in 14:12?

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THE SAINTS WHO BORE TESTIMONY TO JESUS

Why would we think that it’s just “coincidence” that the same term applied to those killed by the Antichrist:

“…those who bore testimony to Jesus” (Revelation 12:17)

…is also applied to the saints of Church history killed by the Harlot…

 “…those who bore testimony to Jesus” (17:6) …

…AND is applied to John and his companions by the angel relaying the revelation:

“I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus” (19:10).

Here is evidence of an undeniable oneness between all the believers of the real Church age-including the Tribulation. There are no second-class believers consigned to be “left behind” for the Tribulation.

ISRAELIS ARE NOT THE MARTYRED BELIEVERS OF REVELATION

It’s not accurate to see the saints of Revelation as the people of Israel or the 144, 000, because they are seen to be separate in the dragon’s persecution of them. When he fails in his attempt to wipe out Israel in chapter 12, (and this is long after the beginning of any seven year period-verse 14), he turns his efforts to trying to wipe out Christians instead:

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17).

Thanks for reading part 2.  Part 3 will appear soon.

RAPTURE – WHEN?

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BEFORE, DURING OR AFTER…?

This is an updated version of an earlier post of mine on the Rapture. It contains more subject matter, and so the need for two or three parts, but I think I’ve made it easier to read. It  may receive occasional edits. This version assumes that you already know something of what the Rapture is about.

I apologize for making part one so long. You may want to scroll down to find a sub-heading that takes your fancy. Subsequent parts will be considerably shorter.

For the first twenty-eight years of my Christian life I believed the Pre-Tribulational view of the Rapture. This post reflects my changed position on the Rapture’s timing, and the more I’ve tackled scriptures I used to only glance at, the more I am convinced I was wrong for twenty eight years.

To those uninitiated into Rapture thinking, I say that I am not a “survivalist”, and I do not condone or encourage any violence or preparation for violence. This is purely a Scriptural study. While some material preparation for Tribulation may be beneficial and wise, you need to spiritually and intellectually prepare yourself and 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 as though they were the owners of truth.

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 a pre-tribulational rapture. God’s will is not necessarily to deliver us from suffering in this world, but from the eternal consequence of sin, which is separation from God – far worse than temporary physical suffering. Multitudes of Christians have suffered in the past, and many suffer and are martyred even now in some parts of the world. Tribulation saints will be persecuted and martyred (Revelation 12:17; 20:4), but this is plainly not God’s wrath upon them:

“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).

Jesus said:

“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).

This is the same point Paul was making to the Thessalonians. God’s wrath will fall and does fall on unbelievers, not believers.

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You may rightfully raise the objection to my reasoning that the wrath which God will express during the Tribulation is one of physical destruction and suffering, and not the wrath of eternal separation from God. So, lets take a look at when that destructive wrath falls, because if it’s physical wrath that you believe you will be delivered from, its advent may be a clue to the real timing of the Rapture. Well-known pre-Tribulationists tell us that the first half of the ‘seven year” Tribulation is a time of peace. So even in their own words they are admitting that there is no wrath at this time:

1/According to Zechariah, God’s wrath will not fall until Jerusalem is surrounded by the armies of the world and facing defeat (Zechariah 12 and 14). This will be after any “covenant” or peace deal arranged by the Antichrist, and so is not seven or more years before the visible return of Jesus;

2/ According to Jesus, God’s wrath will fall after the Antichrist makes himself known in Jerusalem and begins his own destructive onslaught (Matthew 24:15-30). This is not seven or more years before the visible return of Christ;

3/ According to Paul, the Day of the Lord – the Day of his wrath – comes after Antichrist is revealed in Jerusalem (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). This is not seven or more years before the visible return of Jesus;

4/ According to John, God’s wrath will fall at the very earliest when the seven seals are opened, and possibly not until after the sixth seal, that is, when destruction from God (not that of the Antichrist) is falling upon men:

“They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'”

THIEF IN THE NIGHT: 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).

The phrase ‘thief in the night’, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4,  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.

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However,  the “thief in the night” phrase is taken out of its proper context, because according to Paul in verse 2 it was the ‘day of the Lord’ which would come like a thief in the night, not Christ and the rapture. Peter also likened ‘the day of the Lord’ to a ‘thief in the night’ (2 Peter 3:10), and he placed that “day of the Lord” after the sun being darkened and the moon turning blood red (acts 2:20).

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. Therefore, the phrase “thief in the night”, has nothing to do with a secret, pre-Tribulational rapture.

Paul went on to say, “you are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). This means that those who know God and their Bible will not be uninformed about the events taking place around them.

The idea that believers can only join Christ in the air if the rapture is before the Tribulation is not logical, because 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.

DOES THE CHURCH GO TO HEAVEN WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 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’. One view drawn from this verse 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, before the Tribulation.

It seems to me that when He is ‘taken out of the way’ (verse 7) He may simply stop restraining, and not necessarily leave the earth at all: there is no statement there about the Holy Spirit leaving the earth.

Second, the Antichrist will not be 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).  This is the time when the restraining power of the Holy Spirit is removed, mid -way through the Tribulation – and not before it.

Paul spoke to the believers in Thessalonica as though they would witness this event. In fact it’s 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).

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THE IMMINENCE OF CHRIST’S COMING

Pre-Tribulation believers say that Christ’s coming is ‘imminent’, so that we cannot know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36-42), which obviously proves that the rapture comes before  anything else that’s prophesied, because in contrast, there will be plenty of warning signs before His visible return to the earth. If Christians were around when the “seven year” Tribulation starts, they say, we would know that it would be exactly seven years to the coming of Christ. The same people will tell you that there are plenty of signs of the coming Tribulation to be seen now. Hmmm!

In response, I would first like to point out that this view assumes 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 first unmistakable signs that the of 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. 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.

Secondly and more importantly, this view assumes that if we were to see the signing of the covenant, the rapture would have to be at exactly the same time as Christ’s visible return to the earth. There is no reason to make such an assumption. Also the three mysteriously different number of days given to Daniel (Daniel 12), further confuses the issue, so that we really do not know the day nor the hour, wherever we place 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”.

I’ve heard a prophecy teacher say that when  Jesus said 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, but not Gentiles. I instantlly realized that Jesus was in truth talking to his closest disciples who, although Jewish, were born-again, 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. Paul gave the same message to the Thessalonians, who were for the most part Gentiles (Acts 17:4; 1 Thess 1:9-10).

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IS THE CHURCH MISSING FROM REVELATION CHAPTER 4 ONWARDS?

Pre-Tribulationists say that while the Church is spoken of in the early chapters of Revelation, which they claim represent the Church age, the word “Church” is nowhere mentioned in the rest of Revelation, which covers the Tribulation. This is taken to be evidence that it 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)? Who are “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, if they are not Christians?

When Christ returns to the earth with those dressed in fine white linen – those who most evangelicals regard as the Raptured Church (Revelation chapter 19) – the word “Church” is not used to describe them.

The word “churches” is, however, used by Jesus after chapter 4, and after all the prophecies, when he declares:

“I Jesus have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches” (Revelation 22:16).

We first hear of this “testimony” at the beginning of chapter 1, where we are told that Jesus Christ’s revelation was concerning “what must soon take place”, that is, not just the letters to the churches, but future events. And, “He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (verse 1).

So one message is told throughout the book, being told by the same angel, and includes not only the letters to the churches, but the details of Last Days events. The book is a unit – not divided in two – and is as relevant to the Church as it is to Jews or anyone converted during the Tribulation. The prophesies, says Christ himself,  are for the Church, and not for others who are “left behind”.

The word “Church” is not used in a singular sense even in chapters 1 to 4 of Revelation, but is only used to speak of “churches” in a plural sense. These words speak of organized gatherings of believers. Perhaps the word “churches” is absent from chapters 4 to 21 because there will be no churches. They will be outlawed. Instead, there will be individual “saints” struggling to survive in a hostile world in which they cannot congregate.

It’s never mentioned that John did not use the words “Church” or “churches” at all in his first or second epistles (or in his gospel), even though they were written to Christians of his day. When he did say “churches” he was referring to an organized gathering. This is the same definition used by Paul and others, for example:

“Paul… and all  the brothers with me , to the churches in Galatia (Galatians 1:1-2).

The term “saints” is used for individual believers, and compliments or contrasts the term “churches”:

“To the church in Corinth…together with all the saints throughout Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1).

There are common terms and phrases used in John’s words in both Revelation and his other New Testament writings. John used the phrase “testimony of Jesus”, in Revelation seven times, as well as using the word “testimony” separately several more times. “Testimony” was a common theme in his gospel (e.g. John 21:24), much more common than it was in any other gospel or the writings of Paul. He also used the concept of “the testimony of Jesus” in two of his epistles to Church age disciples (1 John 5:6-11; 3 John 13), just as he used it to describe Christians living through the Tribulation in Revelation.

Similarly,  John spoke of the Tribulation saints ‘who obey God’s commandments’ (Revelation 12:17 and 14:12). We can’t necessarily describe this as a reference to Jews, because in John’s letters he used the same Greek word when he wrote to Church-age believers 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).

WHEN IS THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE?

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 very pertinent question here would be, “when does the hardening of Israel end, according to Bible prophecy?”. 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, considering 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 will still be preached during the Tribulation (Revelation 14:6), so how can we arbitrarily put an end to the Church age before it?

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NOAH AND LOT

Noah’s escape from the Flood is seen as type of a pre-tribulational rapture, in Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24: 36-39). Jesus certainly did use it to illustrate the imminence of His return.

However, 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 Jesus did not intend to use the example of Noah’s escape 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).

Similarly, the example of Lot’s escaped from the destruction of Sodom, in Luke chapter 17, is used to support a pre-trib. rapture. However, Lot 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 years before, and 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” (equivalent to the Flood and the destruction of Sodom) will begin 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).

What did Paul NOT say? Paul 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.  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).

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 an escape from the Tribulation, and as I already noted, Jesus said that the first sign of trouble would be mid-way through the seven year covenant spoken of by Daniel, not before  it.. 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 (in fact, us) who live in comparative ease before the Tribulation should be considered ‘worthy’ to escape it, while those who live through it will not be. Aren’t we all sinners saved by grace?

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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 certainly be identified as the Church (although the term “Church” is not used) 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, if this is the Church, it in no way confirms any pre-Tribulational Rapture. The Rapture could just as easily have happened a week before the visible return of Christ, since there is no mention of it.

Secondly, angels wear clean white linen (15:6).

Third, Christ leaves heaven with ‘the armies of heaven’, but the words “Church” and “Bride” are not used (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”,  and not “before the Tribulation”.

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’ translated as “believers” the Pre-Trib. position gains nothing, because ’saints’ are seen being persecuted throughout the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7-10).

Paul seems to have made pretty clear that the “Holy ones” who would come with Christ to bring the vengence of God are not us believers, when he speaks of believers as being separate from the holy ones:

“…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, martyrdom (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”.

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 (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 (19:2).  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 calim 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 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 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?

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, and as the Antichrist will prevail 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.

This is just faulty thinking. Many thousands or even millions of Christians have been persecuted and killed for their faith over the centuries of history since Jesus. So either Jesus was wrong to make this statement that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, or saints being martyred is not the gates of hell prevailing against it! The Church will remain no matter how succesful Antichrist will appear to be for a time.

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 the Rapture, showing that the Church will similarly be called into heaven before the judgments take place.

In response, we can observe two 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 as a mortal.

REMAINING TRUE TO THE END

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 at that time 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?

Copyright © June 2013 by Nick Fisher

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