Tag: WILL THE CHURCH GO THROUGH THE TRIBULATION?

DOES JESUS’ “GATES OF HELL” QUOTE PROVE A PRE-TRIB. RAPTURE? (RAPTURE 26)

Hi everyone. And when I say “everyone” I’m well aware that only a very small number of people are the tiniest bit interested in the rapture of the Church. And only a tiny fraction of that tiny fraction is the slightest bit interested in asking whether their dearly-held pre-tribulation rapture  is a valid view. However, undaunted, I plow on with my critical expose of this teaching, because, having once been a pre-trib. believer myself, I can see how dangerous and myopic it is. More on that at a later date. Here, in an uncharacteristically short post, is excerpt twenty-six of my book on the rapture. 

Jesus, talking about the Church, said that “the gates of Hades (‘hell’ in KJV) will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). The modern claim in support of a pre-tribulation rapture says that since we know Antichrist will overcome saints on the earth during the tribulation, according to Daniel 8:12 and Revelation 13:7, the saints of Revelation cannot be the Church, because Jesus said that the gates of hell will not overcome the Church. Therefore the Church, it is claimed, must be in heaven at that time. 

Think about what will happen to the saints alive during those trying times in Revelation. They will be persecuted, and some or many of them will be killed. So what’s new? Thousands or even millions of Christians have been persecuted and killed for their faith over the centuries since the time of Jesus, and the opposition to the Church goes on today. So either Jesus was wrong to make this statement that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, or persecution and the martyrdom of saints is not the gates of hell prevailing against the Church! Jesus said to his original disciples, and so to us:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).

The persecution of the believer is not by any means a victory of Satan or his minions. In fact, those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus” and are persecuted in Revelation are anything but defeated. Even those who will be killed in this persecution will not have been “prevailed” against, in fact, quite the opposite. At the beginning of the reign of Antichrist, we read the following:

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’” (Revelation 14: 13).

The Church, consisting of all true believers of all time, will not be conquered, even in the physical death of its members, but will be raised to life, and will reign with Christ for a thousand years (20:4). The Church is an entity which cannot be defeated or harmed, no matter how much it is opposed or persecuted. The Bride of Christ is eternally secure, and the overcoming of the saints’ temporal earthly existence has no effect on her status at all. 

RAPTURE 25: FALL AWAY FROM WHAT?

Welcome readers. Here’s another installment of my book* on the timing of the rapture. I was a pre-tribulation believer for twenty-eight years: I now know how wrong I was to unquestioningly accept everything the “experts” taught. The good news is that this post is considerably shorter than most…

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Paul wrote that a preliminary and unmistakable sign that the Day of the Lord was beginning or about to begin will be a “falling away”, or a “rebellion”, followed by the revealing of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3). What exactly this “falling away” will be is a matter of some debate, though it’s generally considered to be a falling away of nominal believers from the faith.. Some have attempted to interpret it as being the rapture. More likely it’s a movement of those loosely associated with the faith away from it. This is the most common view and makes the most sense, but the exact interpretation of what the falling away may be isn’t the subject of this post.

Imagine this: the rapture has taken place before the tribulation. The Church is gone. Besides the millions and billions of unsaved people on earth, only nominal believers and hangers on are “left behind”. In this case, I want to ask the question: What will there be for anyone to “fall away” from? If the Church is gone, and with it the Holy Spirit, what is there left to fall away from?

Is it the Church? How can you fall away from a Church which has already gone? How can you lose a faith you didn’t really have anyway? How can you rebel against God or against Christ if you’re already so weak in the faith or hypocritical that you missed the rapture? And in that case, if the Church were raptured and then all the weak “left-behind” people fall away, where do “those who remain faithful to Jesus” spoken of several times in Revelation, come from (Revelation 14:12)? We would have to assume that these weaklings suddenly become the toughest, most fearless and faithful believers in history. So why didn’t they get raptured? We ourselves, supposedly the ones to be raptured, are not that tough. We aren’t out there sharing the gospel in the midst of severe persecution. Is it because they just happened to be going through a phase of spiritual weakness that they didn’t get raptured? Haven’t we all experienced that? If this is the case, Jesus is willing to “dump” us if we experience a time of discouragement and weak faith. Isn’t he more faithful than that? Doesn’t he uphold us? Didn’t God say “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5,6)?

With all the persecution going on and the mark of the beast being instituted in the tribulation, it has to be nothing short of remarkable that those saints living at that time will have such incredible faith that they’re prepared to die for Jesus! How can there be any “falling away” during the tribulation if the Church is already gone, and “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” are prepared to die for their Lord?

If we try to say that the “falling away” will happen before a pre-tribulation rapture in order to escape this conundrum, we only create another conundrum, because Paul, giving the initial signs of “The Day of the Lord” here, surely would have said something like “that day cannot come before there is a falling away first, and we are all changed to immortal, and then the man of sin be revealed”. Also, if the falling away is to come first, before tribulation, the rapture would not be so “imminent” and unexpected, would it? Why would Paul speak of the falling away, and then go straight to the revealing of Antichrist, giving these two signs as the initial signs of the Day of the Lord, without mentioning the rapture, if it is supposed to come before either of these events?

If the rapture has already occurred at the point Paul is speaking about-that is, before the falling away and before Antichrist is revealed, why did Paul not mention it to the Thessalonian church in the same chapter? He had already mentioned the rapture in his first letter to these believers when speaking of the coming of the Lord: it was not a hidden mystery to be kept from the Church. Surely, that would be an ultimate sign of the arrival of the day of the Lord, particularly to anyone “left behind”? He wrote to them about the rapture in his first letter, and it’s no longer a “mystery”: why not mention it now? If the rapture is indeed the first “sign”, which it would have to be if it’s “imminent” and must come first, why not mention it when speaking of what to look out for as signs of the Day of the Lord coming?

THE CAUSE OF REBELLION

The most logical answer to all these questions is that the Church will still be around when Paul’s initial sign-events of the Day of the Lord take place, and that those who are weak in the faith and who attend church for something to do, or who are trusting in their church organization or favorite teachers instead of Jesus, will rebel against the true Faith when the going gets tough. This will be the “falling away”. The tribulation will be a divider between the people of God and those who don’t want to know God. Jesus said that there will be such great deception and distress in those times that if it were possible even the elect will be deceived. Those who are not the elect will be deceived. They will be the ones to fall away. There will be a sharp division between the saved and unsaved.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND:THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

RAPTURE 23: RESURRECTION AND PAUL’S ORDER OF EVENTS

Last time I wrote that Revelation provides for only two resurrections: one at the return of Jesus Christ, and the other a thousand years later after the Millennial reign of Christ. Pre-tribulation rapture theory has to assert that the first resurrection is in stages separated by years of time, because the first resurrection in Revelation includes those who will be martyred during the tribulation. See part 22. Today I will continue the theme of resurrection in relation to the rapture. The fact that Paul listed the order of resurrection events is usually overlooked, but not here!

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I apologize once more that this is a long post. It’s also a little bit involved, and not an “easy” read. It is, therefore, helpful only for those who strongly want to know what the rapture is about Biblically-the intention of my book*. 

Before Paul told the Corinthians that they would be changed in the twinkling of an eye, he discussed the resurrection and the necessity of faith in it. Here Paul laid out an order of resurrection events in plain terms for us. He introduced his order of events by saying that as in Adam all die (speaking of the result of the Fall of man) so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, he wrote, there is an order of resurrection:

…each in his own turn” (verse 23).

Is this perhaps evidence of a “staged” first resurrection? Paul is enlightening us on the subject of “turns” here, including who will be raised first and second. He’s going to tell us in what order these fundamental happenings take place.

FIRST: “Christ the firstfruits” (verse 23a). Paul had already clarified that Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (v 20). He was the first to be raised permanently.

SECOND: “Then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (23b).

THIRD: “Then the end will come” (24a).

A shallow understanding of this order of events may suggest that the pre-tribulation position is the right one, so that the “end” is considered to be the tribulation and its culmination, which will happen after the rapture when Christ will come for believers. Is this correct?

To help us draw some conclusions about Paul’s “turns”, we need to ask some questions. In which of these three steps is the rapture? Which “coming” is Paul speaking of in the second step: a pre or mid-tribulation rapture, or his visible return in power and glory? Is this resurrection perhaps in “stages”? What does Paul mean by “those who belong to him”? Are those who belong to him just the people who are ready for the rapture while nominal believers have to be “left behind”? If so, where is the turn of those left behind? Which “end” is Paul speaking of? If it’s the end of the tribulation, then the second step could be speaking of an early or pre-tribulation rapture.

THE “COMING” OF CHRIST IS SINGULAR IN PAUL’S NARRATIVE

Why is it that here, where Paul is speaking of the order of events-particularly the resurrection, is there only one coming of Jesus for those who belong to him? This chapter-1 Corinthians 15- is the same chapter in which we read about resurrection and rapture, and that “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (verse 51-52). Paul is sharing the “mystery” of resurrection and rapture with us in the second half of the chapter-and we all see him as being privy to the facts. And yet when he gives us the order of resurrection in the first part of the chapter, there’s only one coming of Jesus mentioned. He said nothing about a split or a staged return, or a split or a staged resurrection. All he tells us is that Christ will come for those who belong to him. Surely, those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus” during the tribulation also belong to him? Surely, they will also be raised to live and to reign with him? The remarkable answer to this question is “Yes”- the saints martyred during the tribulation will be raised and will reign with Christ during the Millennium:

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6 NKJV). 

Significantly, neither is there any split or distinction later in the chapter when Paul discusses the “mystery”. There he’s telling us that for the dead and the living believer there will be instantaneous change from mortality to immortality. But gives no hint that this transformation is for “some” while the rest get left behind for a later, subsequent event in his order of things.

It’s no use saying that the coming of Jesus in Paul’s second event is a pre-tribulation rapture, because Paul says that he is coming for “those who belong to him”. Surely, at Jesus’ return in power and glory when he commands the angels to gather his elect, the elect “belong to him” (Matthew 24:31). And surely, those resurrected martyrs of Revelation chapter twenty also “belong to him” (Revelation 20:4). There cannot be several single comings of Jesus.

Pre-tribulation teachers speak of an in-the-clouds secret coming for the Church and later a visible coming in power and glory. Though Paul in his own words is laying out his meaning of “each in his own turn”– the “turns” of resurrection-he only speaks of one coming of Jesus Christ. There is no step between Paul’s second and third step. There are no “stages”. Paul said nothing like “then it will be the turn of true believers” or “then will come the turn of those who were left behind the first time”, or “then the turn of those martyred for Christ”. If the “coming” of Jesus is in two stages or more, why didn’t Paul say so here, in this chapter about resurrection and rapture?

We’re told in Revelation chapter 20 that all those who belong to Jesus will be raised before the millennial reign of Christ. There will not be any held back from resurrection until after the millennium:

This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them…they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:5-6).

Remember that those who are martyred during the tribulation are considered by Christ himself to be blessed. He isn’t going to count such people out of his first resurrection. And you will recall that in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus commands his angels at the end of the tribulation to gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus isn’t going to leave any of his people out of his Millennial kingdom.

So the most obvious reading of Christ’s coming in part 2 of Paul’s list of events which is in singular terms, is that there’s an all-inclusive coming for all believers in Christ, with no mention of a staged resurrection. But even if this resurrection Paul described in 1 Corinthians is a single reference to a staged or split resurrection, there is still no guarantee that the first stage of the first resurrection will be before the tribulation.

Further, it’s difficult to conclude from Daniel’s book, with any honest conviction, that the resurrection will take place before the work of Antichrist begins. The last five verses of Daniel’s 11th chapter describe Antichrist’s movements in the middle east, saying that “He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain” (11:45). We know that the “beautiful holy mountain” must be the temple mount in Jerusalem, and we know that both Jesus and Paul spoke of Antichrist’s revealing upon his temple mount appearance. It is after Daniel’s prophecy tells us this that it then speaks of the resurrection.

We know that Antichrist is not even revealed until the mid-point of the tribulation, when he enters the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), and we know that Antichrist is given just forty-two months of power on the earth (Revelation 13:5) before Christ returns and throws him into the lake of fire (19:20). Remember that a pre-tribulation rapture necessitates the resurrection of the dead occurring before any sign of Antichrist appearing or fulfilling any prophecy. This would be contrary to Daniel’s view of things, and Paul’s.

WHICH “END” IS PAUL SPEAKING OF?

We’re looking at Paul’s discussion of resurrection, and the order of events around the resurrection of those who belong to Jesus. Now we want to look at Paul’s third point of order. After Jesus comes and the dead are raised, Paul says, “the end will come” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Which “end” is Paul speaking of here? This is a vital question. Is he speaking of the tribulation, transpiring after our second step in which Christ comes for “those who belong to him”? This would signify a pre-tribulation rapture. Or is he thinking of a different “end”? Paul gives us the clear answer himself, in the following verses:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (15:24-26).

Revelation makes clear for us that Jesus Christ will reign on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6b). The last rebellion against God will be put down at the end of that thousand years (verses 9-10) and then death itself-the “last enemy” will be destroyed. This is the “second death (20:14). Then Christ will hand over the kingdom to the Father, as Paul said (Revelation 21:1-4 with 1 Corinthians 15:24). Paul is saying, then, that “the end” is when Jesus has put all his enemies down at the close of the thousand year reign: the final rebellion of Satan, and death itself. Then he will hand over the kingdom to the Father.

The “end” which Paul was saying would come after Christ returns for those who belong to him is not the tribulation, but the end of the millennium -a thousand years after Christ’s glorious appearing for every eye to see; the end of Satan, and the end of death.

In summary Paul’s sequence of resurrection events in his letter to the Corinthians only includes one “coming” of Jesus Christ and one resurrection of believers.

Scriptures about the resurrection do not favor a pre-tribulation rapture. The best we can say about them in this regard is that any proposed first “stage” of the first resurrection would have to be after the revealing of Antichrist.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. Available on Amazon in paperback and digital form.

RAPTURE 22: THE FIRST RESURRECTION

I was a pre-tribulation believer and proponent for twenty-eight years. Therefore I am, I  believe, well qualified to critique this mistaken position. Open your minds to reality, dear Christian brothers and sisters…

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Today’s excerpt from my book* is taken from chapter 14. The chapter is rather long, so today’s post contains a part and the rest will appear next week.

Paul, writing primarily about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, wrote that the dead will be raised “imperishable”, and that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). He gave us more detail of these events in his letter to the Thessalonians. Here he made clear that the resurrection will occur first, and then, “after that” those who are still alive will be taken up to meet the resurrected and the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Therefore, if the rapture were to occur before the tribulation, the resurrection would have to also occur before the tribulation. Conversely, of course, if the resurrection were to be at some time later, say, during or after the tribulation, then the rapture would have to be even later than that. So is it possible to pinpoint the time of the resurrection in relation to the tribulation using scripture?

Pre-tribulation believers have to assert that the resurrection will be in stages, because when we read of a resurrection of martyred believers at the end of the tribulation, occurring after the victorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, it is called in Revelation, “The first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5). There are only two resurrections in total, according to Revelation, and John informs us that if you miss the first resurrection, there’s a long wait until the second:

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (verse 5).

If it were to be the first “first” resurrection (intentional repeat) in which martyrs of Revelation are raised in chapter 20, then the rapture has to be at the end of the tribulation. So pre-tribulation theory has no choice but to say that the resurrection is in stages, that the resurrection of the martyrs is a second or even a third stage, and that the first stage, taking place with the rapture, occurred at least seven years earlier than chapter 20. Are pre-tribulation believers correct in invoking stages for the first resurrection? Or instead, could this resurrection of martyred believers in Revelation chapter 20, labeled by John “the first resurrection” actually be the same event as the resurrection Paul talked about to Corinthians and Thessalonians, which he associated with the rapture?

There’s no doubt that only the martyred are mentioned at this point in Revelation, giving the distinct impression that they’re the last ones left to be raised, and other believers must have been raised at some time before this. However, the fact that they’re the only ones mentioned here doesn’t exclude the possibility that their resurrection is actually just a featured detail; a part of the simultaneous resurrection of all believers. In that case the focus here, as it has been for several chapters of Revelation, is the persecution of all ages under the Harlot, and more specifically during the tribulation, where those living through it- the “saints who hold to the testimony to Jesus”-have been harassed and persecuted by the Beast. In this case their resurrection is most relevant to the account of tribulation events, and so the one in focus at this point.

WHERE ARE THE OTHER STAGES OF RESURRECTION?

Even though Paul had revealed the “mystery” of Christ’s return; the resurrection and the rapture, many years before the writing of Revelation, there’s no other reference in Revelation to the first resurrection before this one in chapter 20. Why not? It’s not at the beginning, or in any of the letters to the churches, or in the account of John being taken up to heaven. There’s no mention in heaven of resurrection before any seals are opened, or during or after them, until this talk of the “first” resurrection in chapter 20, after Christ’s return with his angels in chapter 19.

Verse 4 of chapter twenty, in which we see the martyrs raised, and before the martyrs are mentioned, speaks of “thrones, on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge”. We normally associate judgment with the physical return of Jesus to the earth. Indeed, how can anyone be judged without him? We, even as Christians, are going to receive a form of judgment, without condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:10 with Romans 8:1). So if the “judgment seat of Christ” is going to occur at the time of the resurrection of the martyrs, either the resurrection of the martyrs is a part of the general resurrection occurring simultaneously, or if the rapture occurred years earlier, the raptured have had to wait seven years to by judged. The other unlikely alternative is that Christ keeps getting out his judgment seat for each proposed phase of the resurrection. Why are seats of judgment being brought into view now for the first time in chapter 20? There’s no mention anywhere of any judgment occurring seven years before or at any previous point in Revelation.

Note, again, what Paul didn’t say to the Thessalonians or the Corinthians in the very scriptures we use as evidence of the resurrection and the rapture. He didn’t say, “some” of the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52). He didn’t say that those who are “ready” for the rapture will be taken and the others left. He didn’t say “some” of the dead will rise first and the rest later (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He said nothing in these passages about a two or three-staged resurrection, or a two-staged rapture, or for that matter a two or three-staged return of Jesus.

DANIEL’S RESURRECTION

Daniel’s prophetic book gives us an early, Old Testament glimpse of the resurrection. Chapter 11 first foretells some narrative of military and political struggles in the Middle-East in a chronological order, and then, by the end of chapter 11, we’re brought all the way up to the actual time and location of last-days tribulation events. There we learn a little about the movement of Antichrist and his forces in the Middle East.

Chapter 12 continues the order of events Daniel was shown, speaking of a time of “great distress” for the nation of Israel. This description closely resembles Jesus’ remarks in his Olivet Discourse, in which he speaks of the appearance of Antichrist, and the time of “great distress”, unequaled at no time past or future (Matthew 24:15-22). It also evokes Paul’s description of the time of Antichrist’s revealing which will release all sorts of evil on the world (2 Thessalonians 2).

It’s at the end of the succession of events Daniel is told about, and not at the beginning, that the angel talking to him speaks of the resurrection. First comes the warning of “a time of great distress, such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then”. Then the resurrection is described:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

WILL JESUS KEEP US FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL? (RAPTURE 21)

Will Jesus Christ keep true believers from the coming “hour of trial”, meaning the tribulation? That’s the claim of many people who teach an early rapture. This phrase is taken from a verse in Christ’s letter  to the church in Philadelphia, and the promise applied to believers in our age:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

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I have to wonder just how the Philadelphian church received the benefit of this promise, because if you think about it, they, being first-century Christians, didn’t get raptured before they died. Their bodies still sleep even now while their souls are “present with the Lord”. In the pre-tribulation rapture sense which people now hope for, that is, going to heaven while alive and so escaping persecution and death, there was no fulfillment for the Philadephians. Why would Jesus make a promise of rapture, if that’s what this is, to a first century church?

Could it be instead that the promise is being misinterpreted? Perhaps we could look at it in a different way. And the way I”m going to suggest isn’t going to be popular with some of you: the natural death of those in the first century church was their escape from trial. Isaiah wrote:

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find their rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57: 1-2).

Being human in the twenty-first century West we think that escape from trial should mean instant transport to heaven. But perhaps God has a different idea. Jesus told the Philadelphians that as they’d patiently endured they would be kept from trial, and we think that we deserve the same treatment-that is, rapture-while those “left behind” to live through the tribulation don’t. This attitude isn’t borne out in scripture. Even those who will bravely live through the tribulation, and refuse the mark of the beast, are said to “patiently endure” and remain faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12). At this very point in John’s book we’re told that those who die in the Lord at this time are “blessed”. And in language very reminiscent of the Isaiah quote above, we’re told that their deaths are their “rest”:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”…”Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them” (verse 13).

Here, we’re told what we cannot grasp in our relatively free and safe Western culture-that escape from trial does not have to entail rapture. And the obvious observation must be made that millions of believers through the centuries, and even today in many parts of the world, have not been delivered from persecution by being raptured. Jesus said,  No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:20).

PATIENT ENDURANCE

Here’s that quote from Jesus’ letter again:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

It seems easy to apply this phrase to the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t it? And yet there isn’t really any mention of “rapture” or of being changed and transported to heaven. Perhaps we should look at the context of this phrase before we make a decision. With the first part of the verse in place, it reads like this:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…I will keep you from the hour of trial…” (etc).

The reward of the Philadelphians was in return for their patient endurance. What does Jesus mean by “patient endurance”? When I was first a Christian I was waiting for the rapture to happen any day. I thought I didn’t need to get a job because I would be zipping off to heaven before I’d even signed the application form. I had told my unbelieving family members where I would be when I disappeared along with millions of others around the world, and I’d written out a large “Where I’ve Gone” note for them to find. Is that what Jesus meant by “patient endurance”, or was I missing something? We can get a good idea of what the Philadelphian church was patiently enduring, and what other churches were patiently enduring, by reading through Revelation, particularly the letters. In John’s opening testimony, he wrote:

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 word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

John was suffering persecution because of his testimony-the testimony of Jesus. Because of this suffering he was “patiently enduring”, just as the Philadelphian church was (3:10).

Interestingly, Jesus also expected the Philadelphians to “hold on” to what they had, and he said to them (and to us) “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God” (3:11-12). Despite the fact that they were going to be kept from the world-wide trial which we may see as the tribulation, they were still expected to endure and to overcome. Their lives were not trouble free. They were not delivered from all trouble, and they were not raptured.

Overcoming is a common theme in the letters to the churches. It speaks of enduring persecution (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:21). The Olivet Discourse includes a very relevant passage in which Jesus speaks of those living in those future, last-days times of “distress”. Speaking about all the trials they will experience, he said:

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

These words, “stands firm” are translated from the very same word which is also translated “patient endurance”. The first-century church in Philadelphia lived through their own trials and patiently endured, just as the tribulation saints will be expected to patiently endure, because they will be the ones living at that time. The Philadelphians died nineteen hundred years ago and so by natural death were kept from the future hour of trial which will affect the whole world, if that’s the trial Jesus was speaking of. He may have been speaking about judgment instead.

Again, the “hour of trial”, if it is the tribulation, is not necessarily seven years long. The world will be in some sort of relative peace and security before Antichrist is revealed three and a half years before the return of Jesus, not seven years (Revelation 13:5). Therefore, even if Jesus had meant in his letter to the Philadelphians that we, in our time, will escape the tribulation, there is no guarantee that the rapture will occur seven or more years before the visible return of Christ.

Thanks for reading. This post is the twenty-first edited excerpt from my book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. It’s available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon.