Tag: WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE BE?

RAPTURE 13: THE REAL END OF THE CHURCH AGE

Pre-tribulation teachers say that the Church’s purpose will be finished on the earth before Daniel’s “seventieth week”, also known as the Tribulation, begins, and that the focus of God’s plan will then once again be the remnant of Israel. Is this teaching clearly supported in the Bible?

File:Hortus Deliciarum, Das Gebäude der Kirche mit den Gläubigen.JPGHortus Deliciarum, Das Gebäude der Kirche mit den Gläubigen, by Herrad of Landsberg (1125-1195)

Last time I wrote a little about the Bride of Christ in relation to the rapture, and said that I will be getting into the subject of the Bride in more detail. But first I must cover other relevant detail concerning the Church of Jesus Christ.

WHEN WILL THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE BE?

The common understanding of the Church Age acknowledges that since the time of Jesus Christ, and specifically the Day of Pentecost until now, the world has been living in the “Church Age”. Pre-tribulation teachers insist that the Church Age will end before  the beginning of the tribulation, and that the consideration of any other possibility is almost heretical. The rapture will occur, and God will be finished with the Church on the earth. Jews will live through the trials of the “seven-year tribulation”, while the Church will be partying in heaven, enjoying the wedding supper of the Lamb. After this the Church, now the consummated Bride of Christ, will return to earth as a ferocious army to destroy the antichrist and his army. Is this all clearly stated in the Bible, or is it perhaps a hopeful patchwork of assumptions?

It certainly is true that Israel and the remnant of Jews will be the focal point of many activities in the tribulation, and that they are important to the fulfillment of much of Bible prophecy. There are numerous prophecies throughout the Bible indicating clearly that one objective of Antichrist will be the destruction of the state of Israel and its removal from Jerusalem, or its surrender of power over the city. Daniels “70 weeks” prophecy really does partly concern this. However, there’s no statement or obvious suggestion from Daniel’s prophecy or anywhere in the Old Testament that a multitude of Gentile believers will vanish from the world before the tribulation: the concept has to be read into such passages. New Testament scriptures used to show the same idea are very questionable. Neither Jesus Christ or Paul or Peter  mentioned anything about a seven year period of tribulation, or the disappearance of the Church before it.

THE FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES

As the scriptural hub of God’s plan during the tribulation will be Israel, does that automatically mean the predominantly Gentile Church has no place in the tribulation? Are Gentile believers really conspicuously missing en-mass from the last-days scene? Is it really all about Israel, or should we still consider Gentiles to be a concern of God at that time?

Paul wrote about the temporary setting aside of the people of Israel due to unbelief (Romans 9 to 11). This was begun during the first century. Jesus, overlooking Jerusalem, cried out:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ ” (Luke 13:34-35).
Later, in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple and the city, which occurred in 70 AD.

Paul likened Israel to the branches of an olive plant. Some of the branches -unbelieving Israel-had been “broken off” or rejected, so that “wild” branches, representing the Gentiles, could be “grafted in”. The grafting in of the wild Gentile branches has been in process for the last two thousand years. However, the rejection of Israel said Paul, was temporary:

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

At some point in the future, the people of Israel will no longer be hardened, and they will be restored, says Paul. This will happen “when the full number of Gentiles has come in”. This is a very significant clue normally overlooked or ignored.

Once again, pre-tribulation teachers use some circular reasoning here, by saying that since we “know” the rapture of the Church is before Daniel’s seventieth week, and since we “know” the Church is absent from the outworking of the prophesies of Revelation, we also “know” that the fullness of the Gentiles being come in; the process of grafting in Gentile branches to the root, will have been accomplished before the tribulation. This, they are sure, must be the end of the Church age, because the Church is said to be gone from Revelation, and only Israel and those late-comer “saints” are left behind. Is this all true?

First, please refer to my significant analysis of John’ s testimony in a previous post, in which I showed that the claim that the Church is absent from Revelation is not valid (posts “RAPTURE 8” and “RAPTURE 9”).  

Next, if we go back to the account of the multitude “who have come out of great tribulation”, which occurs after the sixth seal and before the final seven trumpet judgments (Revelation 7:9), we see an amazing fact. This multitude is: 

“…from every nation, tribe, people and language” (verse 9)!

They aren’t just a Jewish remnant. Also, we need to acknowledge that this great multitude, apparently from all ethnic and national groups and not just the Jewish race, having lived through at least some of the tribulation, has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, just as we are saved now in our own time:

…they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (verse 14).

Since the fullness of the Gentiles being come in is contemporaneous with the end of the hardening of Israel, as stated by Paul in the verse above, a very pertinent question here would be, “When will the hardening of Israel end, according to Bible prophecy?” The answer to this question will more accurately mark the end of the “Church Age”, if indeed there is an end to it at all. The real answer is surprisingly accessible.

The prophesies of Zechariah give us a very clear picture of a last-days attack on the land of Israel and specifically Jerusalem, by the nations of the world. It’s when things look blackest for the Jews during the tribulation that their Messiah will, says God through Zechariah, make his appearance, and deliver the remnant. It’s at this time, and not before, that the people of Israel will receive an outpouring of the Spirit of God. They will realize just who their Deliverer is, and that they are guilty of his death on the cross:

On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child… (Zechariah 12: 9-10).

When Christ appears to destroy his enemies and the attackers of Israel, God himself will pour out his Spirit on the Jews, opening their eyes to the truth of the Son of God, who they “pierced” and have ignored as being a false prophet for two thousand years. His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). This event occurs at the end of the tribulation, at the time of the battle of Armageddon. The sequence of these events fits perfectly into New Testament accounts of the physical, visible return of Jesus Christ: He will come down from heaven, he will defeat his enemies, and his feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives.

Here is an unmistakable indicator as to the timing of the end of the hardening of Israel, and therefore to the real timing of the end of the Church age, if there is an end. Remember, Paul said:

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

The two go together.

As, then, the hardening of Israel ends at the visible return of Jesus Christ, which is at the end of the tribulation, how can we say that the full number of Gentiles being grafted in will end at least seven years before this event? How would those multitudes from all tribes and nations-predominantly Gentiles- come to saving faith, if the full number of Gentiles had already come in seven years earlier

Will there not still be Gentiles left on the earth during the tribulation? Of course there will. And will God not care any more about Gentiles in Daniel’s 70th week, or any part thereof? Of course he will: his son died for them. They will still have a chance to repent and become saints. How then can they not be a part of the Church? What else could they be a part of? Having willingly been persecuted for their faith and their testimony and for resisting the world, the flesh and the devil, are they now going to be excluded from union with Christ? Such a conclusion is unreasonable, unscriptural and hard-hearted, all for the sake of invoking an escape from trials which the rest of Christianity has not been provided through the last two thousand years.

We’ve already seen the gospel, called here the “eternal gospel”, being preached by an angel all over the world, and not just to Jews:

…he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people” (Revelation 14:6-7).

The angel can’t be said to be preaching in some past time period, or only in the commonly prescribed “Church Age”, because it’s clear from the language and message of the immediate context that his ministry is during the tribulation, and he says himself:

Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment has come”.

The angel’s preaching is situated between the sealing of one hundred and forty-four thousand and a warning about the mark of the beast. It is not, therefore, before all tribulation events.

What would be the point in preaching the gospel to a world which God has already given up on? Those who may respond to the gospel at that time are contrasted with those who accept the “mark of the beast” (16:9).

Here is an unmistakable evidence to the effect that the full number of Gentiles has not yet come in at this late point of the tribulation, and will not be in until Jesus Christ appears to his Jewish remnant, causing their hearts to be softened. Jesus said to the Jews:

…you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”( Matthew 23:39).

Thanks for reading this long post. It’s an excerpt from my book “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon. This post is actually an up-to-date edit. You’re getting a “second edition”, free, on this blog, and in time the entire book will be published here. Follow my blog to get notifications. Please find previous excerpts by typing in the search box. The most recent series is numbered, eg “Rapture 3”; “Rapture 4”, but you can probably enter a relevant search term such as  “The Wrath of God”.

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RAPTURE 12: TWO MORE MULTITUDES

Greetings fellow truth-seekers! Today’s post is a continuation of my series on the rapture of the Church, and more specifically, a brief look at two more of the heavenly  multitudes found in Revelation.

Those new to my blog should be aware that I was a zealous defender of the pre-tribulation rapture for twenty-eight years, until I was of the mind to bravely face up to opposing scriptures. Herein is the twelfth excerpt from my book*

The second multitude discussed here concerns the Bride of Christ. The subject of the Bride is a big and important one in relation to the rapture, which will be covered in more depth in subsequent posts.

220px-The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)

A MULTITUDE OF ANGELS

After we meet the twenty-four elders and other beings around the throne, we read about millions of angels, also close by around the throne (Revelation 5:11). They’re praising the Lamb of God, and are joined quickly by “every creature in heaven and on earth” (5:13). The word translated “angels” means “messenger” and can refer to human messengers, but normally refers to spirit beings. There’s no reason given to assume that these are raptured Church people around the throne. They’re not identified or named in the book as people, the Church, the bride, saints, or even martyrs. All Bible versions such as the NIV, the KJV, the NASB and the ESV translate this word as “angels”. Since they are joined in praise by every creature in heaven and on earth the significance of this praise-party is thrown wide open. It may just be a symbol of the fact that all of nature is designed and created to worship God and will do so. It could be a millennial praise event, in which the whole earth will be under the authority of the Lamb.

John and the twenty-four elders are the only people, or representatives of people, around the throne. This is not a scene of the Church raptured before the tribulation.

A GREAT MULTITUDE AND THE BRIDE

A great multitude in chapter 19 praising God is commonly identified in pre-tribulation theory as the “Bride of Christ” also known as the Church. They are there, it is assumed, since before the tribulation, and now, it is also assumed, they’re enjoying the wedding supper, and preparing to go down to earth with Jesus Christ to attack his enemies. However, this great multitude is not named as the Bride or as the Church in Revelation. More importantly, the multitude is speaking about the Bride in the third person-even in the King James Version. Those in the multitude are not  speaking of themselves:

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (19:7).

This fact cannot be ignored by those insisting that the twenty-four elders of chapter four are speaking of their own redemption, and are saying “you have redeemed us” (see the previous post-part 11). Given that they were speaking of themselves,  it’s clear that the multitude here in chapter 19 is speaking of someone else, and not themselves. The pre-tribulationists can’t have it both ways.

The bride is “ready” in chapter 19. Wasn’t she ready in chapter 4 or 5, when John, it is believed, was also “raptured” before the tribulation events, and when the twenty-four elders-the representatives of the Church-were seen in heaven? The Bride and the Church were  not mentioned there. And why wasn’t she ready before the seals… the seals of judgment…were opened? What does it mean that she has “made herself ready” anyway? What can believers possibly do to ready themselves for marriage to Christ? There is only one thing they can do: they can accept the gospel and live lives worthy of him. This has been done throughout the centuries. They can also give up their lives for the sake of Christ: something multitudes will do in the tribulation.

Stay tuned for more examination of the Bride in relation to end-times events.

*All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, by Nick Fisher, available on Amazon.

RAPTURE 11: THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS

DO THE 24 ELDERS IN REVELATION CHAPTER FOUR DEPICT THE CHURCH HAVING BEEN RAPTURED BEFORE THE TRIBULATION? This is one of the questions I examine in chapter 7 of my book*

220px-The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)

(The Four and Twenty Elders Casting their Crowns before the Divine Throne, c. 1803–5. William Blake)

Chapter 7 of my book is entitled “Multitudes In Heaven”. It examines the major scenes we read throughout Revelation in which there are large numbers of people or angels gathered. Who are they, and what is their significance? I will just excerpt the most relevant sections of chapter 7 on this blog, the first excerpt being today’s post.

THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS

When John is called up into heaven after Jesus dictates to him seven letters to seven churches, he sees around the throne of God (among many amazing sights) twenty-four elders, all seated on thrones. Some pre-tribulation teachers believe that these elders represent the raptured Church, or the raptured Church plus important Old Testament figures. Because the elders are there in heaven with their white robes and crowns before any of the tribulation events are described, experts see this as evidence that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture, which John, they say, had just demonstrated for us by being called into heaven.

The elders sing of redemption (5:9-10) and the NIV translates certain words in their song to ‘they’ and ‘them’, suggesting the elders are referring to the redemption of others who are not present. Pre-tribulation teachers insist that these words ought to be translated ‘we’ and ‘us’, just as they are in the King James Version, meaning that the twenty-four are actually the people who’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In other words, the redemption the elders are singing of is their own, and that of the entire Church. This scene, say the experts, signifies that the Church will be in heaven before the tribulation, because it’s described before any of the tribulation events are described, and before any of the seals of the scroll are opened.

There can be no doubt that the elders do represent the Church, because angels are not redeemed, but humans are:

…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (5:9 KJV).

However, the observation that these elders are in heaven before the seals of the scroll are broken does not automatically prove a pre-tribulation rapture. To aid in a different way of interpreting this scene, we can ask if the seals, as they break, are setting in motion the real future events they foretell. Was John transported not only to heaven but forward in time, to witness real-time implementation of the judgments of the book? Or was he being given a prophecy; a fore-telling; a representation of the events yet to come? Was he seeing a picture; a vision of the future, rather than the real thing?

My first observation in answer to this is to recall that John had to see the entire sequence of Revelation events, or he would not be able to relate them to us. There would be no point in him being taken into heaven mid-way through the Revelation events, if it was his job to relay it all to us: he would only know half of the story, as would we. And without meaning to take this point to the absurd extreme, there would be no point in him being taken to heaven at the end of all the events for the same reason. He had to see the whole thing. The reason John was taken to heaven before any of the seals are seen to be broken is that he had to witness all the events Jesus wants us to know about.

Next, notice that when John arrives in heaven and surveys the scene, the elders are already there and settled in. They didn’t arrive at the same time as John in his ‘rapture’ (chapter 4 verses 4 and 9 to 11). Therefore, if the rapture takes all believers, living and resurrected, why did John arrive late for the party? Why are the twenty-four already sitting there like they belong, while he’s only just arrived and wondering what it’s all about? Why isn’t the entire raptured Church there, instead of just a small representation? Isn’t Jesus “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? Then why isn’t he one of the twenty-four elders? Why isn’t he sitting there on one of the thrones with a white robe and a crown on his head? Why doesn’t he say, “Oh, Hi Peter! Hi Thomas! Hello Paul-good to see you! Oh look-there’s me over there!

And why didn’t any one of the twenty-four say to John “Hey John-it’s great to see you-we’ve been waiting for you!”

The twenty-four elders are not only settled in, but they already know everything about what’s going on and proceed to tell John (5:5; 7:13-21). This seems strange since John was an original member of the Church, and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But on the scene he isn’t even invited to take his place with them. Surely, there should have been twenty-three elders and one empty chair for John?

The answers to all of these questions must be that these elders John sees are not the literal Church or literal Church founders or apostles, they only represent them. It isn’t literally Peter and all the others of Jesus’s inner circle sitting there. John has not traveled forward in time to see the actual, live, real-time events of the tribulation. Instead he’s watching something like an informative, inspirational documentary; a staged vision which represents the most significant aspects of the tribulation.

On top of that, The prophecies of Revelation are not all in chronological order from chapter 5 up to the end: they’re told and re-told. The story is told in some detail, then we’re taken back to see some different detail.  Some of the events and scenes and characters of the Revelation are not just of tribulation events, but they span the entire history of mankind. For example, consider the Harlot: Mystery Babylon. She’s been “riding the beast” of human history. She’s been an integral companion to the kingdoms of the world all the way along.

Some prophecies in Revelation speak of the past, and some of the future: they’re  not all events of a seven-year period. Therefore it’s not necessary to conclude that the representatives of the redeemed in heaven are, by their presence, foretelling a pre-tribulation rapture. The fact that the twenty-four only represent the Church, and that the entire Church does not seem to be present, must be significant. Why would only twenty-four Church members sing of their redemption, if the entire Church is there? Why do only twenty-four represent the Church in this scene, if all are there? Shouldn’t they all be described as being one body at this point, if the entire Church has been raptured?

Moreover, the fact that the Church is not mentioned by name in heaven is very significant evidence against the pre-tribulationist’s claim that the Church is not mentioned as being on earth in tribulation passages of Revelation. The Church is no more “mentioned” by name in heaven than it is on the earth. 

It seems most likely that this scene is speaking of the status of the Church in a history-wide sense, and of the future authority the Church will have when they reign with Christ.

*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by NICK FISHER, is available in paperback and electronic form on Amazon.

THE RAPTURE: A SUMMARY SO FAR

At some time in the future a lot of Christians are going to wake up to a very serious reality: the preachers of the pre-tribulation rapture theory were horribly wrong…

Rays Of Light Coming Through The Clouds And Over The Mountains And ...

I’ve been excerpting my book on the rapture. But it may have been all too much for some of you, and if I’ve been far too long-winded, I apologize. This summary- a summary of  excerpts from my book published on this blog-assumes that the reader has some knowledge of the issues involved. The book gives a more complete picture* as do the excerpts.

WRATH

When Paul  wrote that we are “not appointed to wrath” in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he was not speaking of a pre-tribulation rapture, but contrasting salvation with the judgment of the wicked, who were and are “the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Christians have been persecuted all through the centuries, including this one, but were not under God’s wrath.Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...

The manifest wrath of God will not fall on day one of a seven year period. In Revelation the kings of the earth only acknowledge that the day of God’s wrath has come upon the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:15-17).

If the four horsemen of the apocalypse are considered as an outpouring of God’s wrath at the beginning of a seven year period, this is in conflict with the view of Antichrist being a peacemaker, since the Four will take peace from the earth.

According to Paul, The Day of the Lord cannot begin until Antichrist is revealed, which will not be until three and a half years before the physical return of Christ, not seven (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4;  Revelation 13:5).

CLEAR STATEMENTS IN SCRIPTURE

The saints who are persecuted in Revelation are “blessed”. They are not cursed and are not said to have been “left behind” (Revelation 14:12-13).

Paul told the Thessalonians that they will receive reward and relief from persecution “when Christ is revealed in blazing fire”, not before (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). This is a clear statement of the timing of the rapture, ignored by the “experts”.Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...IS JESUS A THIEF?

Jesus’ coming like a thief relates to judgment, not rapture (Revelation 3:3).

It is “the Day of the Lord” which will come like a thief, not the rapture (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Jesus’ coming will be like a thief, but Jesus is not a thief. He will not “steal” his Church. He will bring judgment suddenly and without warning, just as a thief does.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

There is no statement in Scripture saying that the Holy Spirit will be taken to heaven with the Church: it’s an assumption. The Spirit does not have to be taken to heaven in order to allow Antichrist to be revealed.

Antichrist will not be revealed until three and a half years before the end of the tribulation. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will not be “taken out of the way” until that time. With pre-tribulation reasoning that the Church will go to heaven with the Holy Spirit, this fact moves the date of the rapture to the mid point of the proposed seven year period, not the beginning of it.

The gospel will be preached during the tribulation, and there will be “saints”, but t isn’t possible for people to be saved apart from the  Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Why would God leave tribulation saints behind to fend for themselves against persecution? How could they stand firm in the faith without the Ho(y Spirit?Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...IMMINENCE

The doctrine of imminence cannot be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture, because Jesus declared that even those who see the tribulation events will not know the day or the hour of his coming (Matthew 24:28-36).

If the tribulation saints were to see or know that the rapture had occurred, they would know which day and hour it happened, and so be able to calculate (by pre-tribulation reckoning) exactly when Jesus would return. But he has said that they will not know. This is yet another strike against pre-tribulation theory.

SEVEN YEARS?

Jesus, speaking about the signs of his coming, did not mention a seven-year period, and did not mention a “peace treaty”. The first signs Paul and Jesus gave to look out for were a falling away from the faith and the “abomination of desolation”.

REVELATION AND THE CHURCH

The word “church” is not even used to describe anyone in heaven during tribulation events.  Therefore the claim of pre-tribulation teachers that the Church is not mentioned in tribulation chapters of Revelation is of no value.

The same chapters contain no mention of any gatherings of tribulation saints on earth, or of the Jewish remnant. This also discounts the use of the lack of the word “church” in the same chapters.

The entire Revelation-including the tribulation chapters-is given “for the churches” (Revelation 22:16). The prophecies are all to be known by the churches. Why do the churches need this information if they will not be present on the earth? Why do preachers talk so much about the end times if we will not be here?

Tribulation saints are referred to as “those who hold  to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:16; 17:6).  However, John, a first-century. born-again, Spirit-filled Christian being persecuted for his faith, described himself in exactly the same way, and the angel speaking to him described John and his contemporaries with exactly the same words (Revelation 1:9; 19:10). John commonly used the word “testimony” in his writings to first century believers. Tribulation saints will be no different to us. They may even be us.Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...JOHN’S RAPTURE/ SAINTS

John’s calling into heaven in Revelation cannot rightly be seen as a type of the rapture, because he came back to earth as a mortal and died. John had to see all the events prophesied in order to report them, which is the reason why he went to heaven at the start of them.

Those martyred over all the centuries by the Harlot are described as “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”. Therefore tribulation saints, described in the same terms, are no different to us. They may be us.

The word translated “saints” to describe believers in tribulation chapters is the same word translated “saints” throughout the New Testament.

SAINTS AND REMNANT

The tribulation saints “obey God’s commandments”, a fact which some have used to suggest that they are the Jewish remnant and not the Church. However, John wrote in his letters to first century born-again Christians that they were to obey God’s commandments (1 John 2:3).

The saints of Revelation cannot be simply the Jewish remnant, because both groups are seen to be separate and distinct (Revelation 12:14).

*Stay tuned for more excerpts. My book, “All Left Behind:The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, by Nick Fisher, is available in paperback and electronic form on Amazon:

 

 

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RAPTURE 10: THE SAINTS OF REVELATION

We read in Revelation chapters four to twenty-one about “saints” being persecuted by Antichrist, the harlot, the dragon, and unbelievers. The important question is: who are these saints? 

File:B Osma 117v.jpg(“La Femme et la Dragon” by Martinus, 1086)

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

Welcome to part 10 of my latest series on the rapture* In part 9 I showed plainly that John and his contemporaries were regarded as “Those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, just as saints in the tribulation will be. I also discussed reasons why the word “church” is not found after chapter 3 of Revelation. You can find each part of the series in the search box, for example, Rapture 4, or by using key words such as “imminence”.

THOSE WHO OBEY GOD’S COMMANDMENTS.

Pre-tribulation doctrine implies or states that the tribulation saints found in Revelation are a Jewish remnant, partly because they “obey the commandments”. It’s Jews who have to worry about commandments, says this view, while we “Church-age” believers are saved by faith. Therefore, goes the logic, the saints of Revelation are not Church-age saints, and the Church is clearly not around at that time. However, while we are indeed saved by faith, other words penned by John pop that bubble of misinterpretation. Jesus, in John’s gospel account, told his disciples that if they really loved him they would keep his commandments (John 13:34; 14:15; 15:10). And when John wrote his epistles, he clearly saw the keeping of God’s commandments as paramount:

“We know we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him”, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3 NIV).

If we keep His commands we are demonstrating that we really have faith and really love Him.

Pre-tribulationists claim that the “saints who hold to the testimony of Jesus” aren’t Church-age believers, because we “know” the Church will be raptured before the tribulation. This, again, is circular reasoning. Instead, says PT reasoning, these saints must be some other form of saint, perhaps specially anointed Messianic Jews, or Gentile believers saved after the rapture. However, 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 aren’t 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. Neither did he use the word “believers” anywhere, except once in his gospel.

The word “saints” is, however, used many times throughout the New Testament for Church-age believers, for example:

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” (Acts 9:32). Notice Luke did not say that Peter “went to visit the church in Lydda”.

Antichrist will make war against “saints”, and not “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 this “Harlot” had been killing saints over the two millennia since Jesus was on earth. Notice that she had been killing “saints” and not “churches”. The Harlot in the form of the corrupt church and false religion has persecuted saints down through history, say the experts. Alright, if this is true, and it is, then the “saints” killed by the Harlot over the centuries 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?

If we take the quote at the top of this post from Revelation chapter fourteen in its component parts, we can see that God’s people of all ages are no different to those being persecuted during the tribulation. There is no reason not to assume that we also are, or should be, those who patiently endure, who are saints, who obey God’s commandments, and who remain faithful to Jesus. The tribulation saints are not another breed of saints who are left behind by a rapture, but are the body of believers who happen to be alive at that time.

THE SAINTS ARE NOT THE JEWISH REMNANT OR ISRAEL

If we assume the normal evangelical view of end-times prophecy in an analysis of Revelation chapter 12, we find an interesting separation. When the dragon-Satan-is hurled to the earth from heaven, and knows that his time is short, we see that he immediately pursues “the woman” described at the beginning of the chapter. This woman is usually identified in evangelical circles as the nation of Israel, or the remnant, and I would agree with that interpretation. Verse 14 tells us that the woman is somehow transported to a place in the desert (this may just be figurative language) and miraculously protected. Then, once the dragon sees that his plan to destroy the woman is thwarted, we’re told that he turns on “the rest of her offspring-those who obey Gods commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (verse 17). So the question needs to be asked: since the woman-considered to be the Jewish remnant- is being protected in a specific location, who are these other believers who the dragon turns on?

Consider the “great multitude” from every nation, tribe, people and language standing in front of God’s throne (7:9). They’re normally believed to be people saved during the tribulation as the result if the witness of the 144,000, but one of the elders present in front of the throne gives us a different answer:

These are they who have come out of great tribulation…” (7:14).

…out of great tribulation…” Does this perhaps mean that they somehow avoided great tribulation and were raptured, or does it mean that they were right in the middle of it, being assaulted by the dragon and all his human minions? Could they not be “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, who the dragon turned on after failing to destroy the remnant of Israel? Could they be those mentioned in chapter 6, killed “because of the testimony they had maintained”, matching those who “held to the testimony of Jesus” and were attacked by the dragon? They are given white robes to wear-probably very much like the white robes worn by those around the throne in chapter 7. In any case, it seems that the remnant of Israel and “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” are two distinct groups of people.

Also relevant to our study is that the scene in heaven, whether the martyrs under God’s throne in chapter 6, or the multitude in front of it in chapter 7, is actually after the fifth and sixth seals respectively. This is not a period of time before the tribulation: it’s immediately before the seventh seal, which entails very severe trumpet judgments (chapter 8). Even if those around the throne in chapter seven are rapturees and not martyrs, there’s no indication that the rapture happens before the first five or six “seal” tribulation events.

*Thanks for reading excerpt 10 of my book, “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”. It’s available on Amazon in paperback or electronic form. However, the whole thing, re-edited (and easier to read) will eventually appear here, completely free. My older blog posts on the subject are not so complete. Part 11 will appear soon.