Tag: WILL THE CHURCH GO THROUGH THE TRIBULATION?

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.

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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*

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(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.

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.

RAPTURE 9: JOHN’S TESTIMONY CONTINUED

Are Christian believers really going to be raptured before the troubles of the tribulation begin? That was my conviction for twenty-eight years, until I was of the mind to check if what I had believed was actually true. Here is the ninth installment of my own findings on the subject*. If you missed the first eight, you can locate them easily in the search box. This current series is numbered as above, for example, “Rapture 3”.

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THE SAINTS WHO BORE TESTIMONY TO JESUS

If it’s true that the Church is nowhere to be found on earth in the prophesies of Revelation, just who are “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, being persecuted by Satan and Antichrist in those chapters (Revelation 12:12; 14:12; 20:4)? People killed by the Antichrist are identified by John as “those who bore testimony to Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). And it’s important to see that this phrase is not reserved in Revelation for those being persecuted during the tribulation. The same term is also applied to the people who are commonly identified by pre-tribulation experts of today, and others, as the saints of all of Church history who have been killed by the Harlot. They were

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

I’ll discuss this evidence a little more next time, under the subtitle “The Blood of the Saints”

The term is even applied to John and his companions-who were first century Church-age Christians-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).

Let that sink in. Let that sink in because it’s very important. John and his brothers in the first century were described in the same words as those who will be living through the tribulation, as are those who will be persecuted by the Beast.

John, a first century, Church-age believer, also applied the term to himself at the beginning of the book, and related it to the suffering of his own persecution:

I John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the testimony of Jesus(Revelation 1:9).

Here is clear evidence of an undeniable oneness between all believers of the real Church age-including the tribulation: between all who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. There are no second-class believers consigned to be “left behind” for the tribulation.

Similarly, John spoke of the tribulation saints “who obey God’s commandments” (Revelation 12:17 and 14:12). It’s no good describing this as a reference to law-abiding Jews or Messianic Jews as some prophecy teachers want to (though it may relate to them also) because in John’s letters-to first century Church-age believers, he used the same Greek word when writing about 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). True Christians of John’s century were those who obeyed God’s commandments, just as the tribulation saints will obey God’s commandments. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

WHY ARE THERE NO CHURCHES IN REVELATION 4 ONWARD?

We’re told that the Church is nowhere mentioned in the prophecies of the tribulation, and so therefore it must be absent from the world at that time. Note again, however, that the words “Church” and “churches” are not mentioned in any heavenly scenes in Revelation either, until after the tribulation. If the Church is in heaven at this time, why is it not explicitly mentioned as the “Church”?

When you read chapters 1 to 3 of Revelation you find that the word “Church” is not used in a universal sense even in those letters addressed to first-century churches. The word “church” is only used to speak of individual churches, and for the gatherings receiving letters from Jesus. So the word “Church” in its universal sense is absent from all of Revelation including the first three chapters, not just from chapter 4 on. 

The word “church” in a local sense speaks of organized gatherings of believers. Strong’s concordance defines the word translated “church” thus:

…church, congregation, assembly, a group of people gathered”).

It’s possible, considering that the prophesies of the tribulation in Revelation speak of a time of persecution of Christians, that the word “church” is absent from chapters 4 to 21 because there will be no churches. There will be no open gatherings: they will be outlawed. There may be some secret gatherings, but they will be at the risk of discovery by the anti-Christian task forces and world citizens eager to fulfill the will of Antichrist. They may even be outlawed before the tribulation, considering the direction of the “free” world at this present time.

One evidence of this from scripture is that while there will be “saints who bare testimony to Jesus” during the tribulation and the reign of Antichrist, there’s no mention of any gatherings of those saints! This alone is a significant fact. Since there will be believers, is it not powerful evidence that there is no mention of their gatherings? Similarly, while we believe that there will be a remnant of Jews, there’s not even a mention in Revelation of synagogues, but only a reference to the Jerusalem temple. This shows that either there will be no open gatherings, or that they are simply not mentioned by John or those dictating to him. This, then, easily explains why “churches” are not mentioned during the prophecies! Whatever reason there is that gatherings of “saints” or Jews in the tribulation are non-existent in Revelation after chapter 3 is the same answer to the question of why churches are absent. Instead of churches, or open gatherings of saints, there will be individuals, struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile world where they cannot congregate because of persecution and opposition.

Moreover, it’s never mentioned by the prophecy “experts” of today 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 write the word “churches” he was referring to an organized gathering.

This is the same definition of “church” used by Paul and others. For example, when referring to groups of believers Paul did not always use the word “churches”. On this occasion he did:

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

However, Paul used the term “saints”-the word used for those who hold to the testimony of Jesus in Revelation- for individual believers, and complimented it or contrasted it with the term “churches”. In this way he was making a distinction between gatherings of believers and individuals:

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

There was a “church” in Corinth, but there were “saints” throughout all Achaia.

Paul used the term “saints” many times for individual believers, which substituted nicely for the word “church”, which he didn’t use at all in this example:

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).

He also used the word “believers” at times, in place of “church”:

“…let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

*This post is an excerpt from my book “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, available from Amazon in paperback and electronic form. The entire book, edited and improved, will eventually be excerpted here on this blog.

RAPTURE 4: IS JESUS A THIEF?

For twenty-eight years I was a believer in and fierce defender of the “pre-tribulation” rapture: not any more. If you find yourself in that camp, I sincerely hope you can open your mind a little to the idea that the pre-tribulation rapture theory has some serious flaws, and that the consequences for us as believers are very considerable…

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This post is a part of chapter three of my book* It’s rather lengthy, but you can scroll down and get the gist of it if you want.

WILL THE SECOND COMING BE IN TWO STAGES?

Experts see the second coming of Jesus Christ happening in two stages. In pre-tribulation theory, these two stages are separated by a time period of at least seven years. The first stage of Christ’s second coming, say the experts, 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 second stage, it’s believed, will be for all the world to see, and to bring judgment on those who were left behind by the rapture and who didn’t repent during the tribulation (Revelation 19:11-16; Matthew 24:30; Zechariah 12:10).

I have to wonder why God wants to spend seven years punishing the world, when he’s going to be judging each and every individual when he returns anyway. Does he have a mean streak? Is he sadistic? Does he want to prolong the suffering of the lost on earth before he sends them into the lake of fire? No, Jesus is not sadistic: the tribulation time is a time of division. It is the last opportunity for man to repent , or to be eternally lost.

The phrase ‘thief in the night’, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, is used by prophecy experts to conjure up visions of Jesus secretly snatching away his Church before any tribulation starts, taking everyone by surprise, leaving traffic-jams with empty cars and pilot-less planes to fall from the sky. All sorts of scenarios have been imagined to explain the sudden disappearance of millions of people around the world, including a mass alien cleansing of the earth before the aliens come to straighten planet earth out.

As a new believer I was terrified that I may do, say or think something which would jeopardize my rapture status, leaving me behind in a hostile world devoid of the Holy Spirit and other Christians, to deal with the mark of the beast and persecution. Beside fearfulness, this kind of thinking can produce a class mentality: a world in which you have the good rapture candidates, and those who aren’t going to make it. They aren’t committed enough, or they aren’t spiritual enough, or they’ve had a sip of alcoholic drink and failed the test.

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IS JESUS A THIEF?

Are we to see Jesus as a “thief”? Will he “steal” his people from the world when nobody is expecting him to? Jesus did say, a few times, that he would come “like a thief”. The first such simile in the book of Revelation is found in his letter to the first-century church at Sardis:

If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I come against you” (Revelation 3:3 ESV).

Without doubt Jesus is likening his coming to that of a thief. However, he is here threatening to come against the church in judgment or discipline, not to rapture it away. He’s not promising to “snatch up” all the compliant faithful congregants leaving the rest behind. He’s not preparing the church for rapture.

As far as I know no pre-tribulation teachers suggest that the church in Sardis directly represents the last-days Church universal, though some do say that all the letters to the churches of Revelation speak of it in some way, directly or indirectly. Certainly the weaknesses of man are universal, and Jesus did say repeatedly, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:6). We do all need to learn from their failures and their successes, and from the direction of the word of God.

The second time in Revelation that Jesus said he would come like a thief is in chapter 16:

Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake…” (Revelation 16:15).

The timing of this statement must be significant. It’s just after…and not before…six of the seven bowl judgments-final judgments-very possibly concurrent or synonymous to the seven trumpet judgments, in which the sea has been turned to blood, and several other terrible plagues have take place. It’s also just before the beast and the kings of the earth are gathered together in the place called Armageddon, where Jesus Christ will engage them upon his glorious return in power and glory. Remember that we found that after the sixth trumpet the kings of the earth realize God’s wrath has come (Revelation 6:12-17). Incredibly, the final gathering of armies is a last-gasp and futile human effort to prevent Jesus Christ returning (19:19).

The seven trumpet judgments of wrath are arguably contemporaneous with the seven bowls of God’s wrath (16:1b). One reason for believing this is that they both are said to fulfill the wrath of God:

(TRUMPETS)

There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished” (Revelation 10:6-7).

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ…’” (Revelation 11:15).

(BOWLS)

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven last plagues-last, because with them God’s wrath is completed” (Revelation 15:1).

The significance of the above facts is that on both occasions in Revelation in which Jesus says that he will come like a thief, the topic is judgment and wrath. Someone is about to be judged-not raptured!

Jesus also spoke of his coming as being “like a thief” in his Olivet Discourse. Warning his disciples not to become complacent and fall into sin, he gave the example of Noah and the flood, in which all the wicked were judged. He told them to keep watch, just as a house owner would keep watch over his house if he knew a thief was about (Matthew 24: 36-44). More on Jesus’ example of Noah later.

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WHAT IS A THIEF?

Think about what a thief is. A thief is someone who does something no-one likes: he takes what is NOT his. But Jesus Christ’s Church is his property, his bride. Is he really calling himself a thief in the above passages? Should he be thought of as a thief, or that he wanted to be known as a thief?

Jesus didn’t actually say, “I am a thief”, or “I will be a thief”. Instead he said “I come like a thief”. Jesus does not steal what is not his. Instead he comes in the manner of a thief: suddenly; unexpected; without warning; unannounced; uninvited.

THIEF IN THE NIGHT

The “thief in the night” phrase is today taken out of its proper context. It doesn’t refer in scripture to the rapture at all, as believed by millions of Christians. According to Paul it’s “the day of the Lord” which will come like a thief in the night-not the rapture:

“…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

So what exactly is the day of the Lord? Paul described the day of the Lord not as the “snatching up of the Church”, but as the time of destruction of the unsaved:

While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…(verse 3).

The truth will dawn on the unbelieving world, though they had been thinking that their own great leader had everything under control-that is, the man and the kingdom about whom Daniel says:

When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power (Daniel 8:25).

And John tells us that the people of earth, in admiration of him, will say:

“Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (Revelation 13:4).

The God they had insisted didn’t exist will suddenly be knocking very loudly on their door. It will be the ultimate shocking realization for them.

Those in rebellion against God will for a time think they have the world to themselves (they do now!). Instead they’re going to get a severe shock when the day of the Lord comes upon them, “like a thief in the night”.

Peter also likened the day of the Lord, not Jesus or the rapture, to a thief:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire…(2 Peter 3:10).

Luke’s account of Jesus’ parable concerning the master who appears and takes his servants by surprise also uses the “thief” metaphor, but Jesus wasn’t using it in positive terms. In fact, he said that a wise house owner “would not have let his house be broken into” (Luke 12:39). This imagery would be conflicting with the pre-tribulation understanding of the “thief in the night” if it were true, suggesting that the wise house owner would not let Jesus-the thief-inside to rapture him.

Picture Jesus as the thief coming to rapture you, and you locking the door so he couldn’t get in! Surely that analogy does not make sense as rapture talk.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON IN PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. PART 5 WILL APPEAR SOON