“Immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:29).
I am sure most of you know about the series of Books that were written by Tim LaHaye called “Left Behind” which were also made into a movie franchise. This series of books and DVD’s have done much to spread the idea that there will be a Pre-tribulation rapture which will take place before the Antichrist appears and the seven years tribulation begins. Most of us, including myself, were brought up on this teaching that the Body of the Messiah (the faithful Church corporately) will not be here when the man of sin is revealed and the time of a seven-year tribulation period begins.
However, many years ago the Lord revealed to me personally through His Word that the faithful Body of the Messiah will be here for the most part of the time of Great Tribulation. In fact you can only prove from scripture a three and a half year tribulation period being 42 months, a time, times and half a time and 1,260 days. What has been the catalyst for this post has been part of a video produced by Amir Tsarfati titled “When will the rapture NOT take place?”
Before I address the points he makes I would like to say that what I am writing is not a personal attack on him as a brother in the Messiah our Lord Jesus, or upon his character or motives, which I am sure are pure and right. There is no doubt that he is very knowledgeable of Middle-Eastern Affairs and his knowledge of Israeli life and culture beyond dispute. However, in the matter of teaching a pre-tribulation rapture he is wrong and the only reason I have written this post is because this whole teaching is a spiritual deception that is not preparing the wider Body of the Messiah, especially in the western democracies, for the persecution to come at the hands of the Antichrist and his beast empire in which martyrdom will be common place (Daniel 7:21, 25) (Revelation 13:7) (Revelation 6:9-11).
I have titled this post “When the Rapture Will Happen!” The New Testament actually tells us! Let’s now look at what Amir has presented to see if what he is teaching is in fact Biblical.
“War against the saints”
Amir mentions that “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” and that the unsaved will be caught by surprise suddenly and without warning. In this he is correct. However, when he quotes Revelation 13:6 about the man of sin “slandering those who live in heaven” he makes the assertion that this is the raptured Church, an assertion not revealed in the text of Revelation Chapter 13. In the very same passage of scripture in Revelation Chapter 13:7 we are told that for 42 months the man of sin is given power to make war against the saints and to overcome them through severe persecution. The more correct understanding about those “who are dwelling in heaven” would be those saints who have physically died and are absent from their bodies but present with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Those who teach the pre-tribulation rapture will say “well those being persecuted are the tribulation saints who were saved after the rapture during the tribulation period” but again this is according to the dispensational system of eschatology but not according to the specific teaching of the New Testament. The standard word for “saint” in the New Testament is a New Covenant believer in the Body of the Messiah. In fact the saints also include the Old Testament believers. The idea of “tribulation saints” is an inference taken from the dispensational system of eschatology and fuelled by the Left-Behind DVD’s and books, but not from the New Testament. Born again, blood washed, blood redeemed New Covenant believers are called saints in the Bible.
“One taken and the other left”
Then Amir quotes the passage in Matthew 25:40-41 where we are told that “one will be taken and the other left.” The presumption is to assert that those taken away represent the rapture of the church and that those left behind go into the seven-year tribulation period. Once again this is an interpretation and not the context of the passage of scripture itself. We always begin with what is plainly stated contextually and not what might or might not be inferred. Clearly the context of Matthew 25:40-41 is what happened in the time of Noah when the flood came upon the earth and everyone perished except Noah and his family, eight in all. Now we are told that the flood came and “swept them all away.” These of course were those who rejected the ark of salvation which the Ark represented.
“Swept away in judgement”
We also know that Noah was a preacher of righteousness and would have been warning people of God’s wrath to come. Textually and Biblically “those who are taken” are not believers but unbelievers swept away in the flood of God’s wrath. This same idea is confirmed in the following scriptures that tell us God sweeps away the wicked in judgement (Proverbs 10:25) (Psalm 28:3) (Zephaniah 1:2-3) (Proverbs 21:7) (Psalm 73:19). Prophetically speaking, the ones taken away are taken in judgement but those remaining are the saved that enter into the millennial kingdom and ultimately dwell in the final and eternal state after the Millennium has finished. This idea of one being taken in the rapture in Matthew Chapter 25:40-41 cannot be used as a “proof text” for a pre-tribulation rapture.
“Not destined for wrath but destined for tribulation”
Now Amir went on to quote the texts in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 that say; “God has not destined us for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus the Anointed Messiah…who saves us from the coming wrath.” Of course as New Covenant believers we will never experience the wrath of God but we will experience tribulation in this world. Where the proponents of a pre-tribulation rapture get confused is that they do not make a distinction between the word “tribulation” and the word “wrath.” In the New Testament they are different words expressing different meanings. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and in 5:9 the word in the Greek for wrath is “orge” being “a judicial sentencing in a law court from which there is no reprieve.”
The other word used for wrath in the New Testament is the Greek word “thumos” which is used in the Book of Revelation when speaking about the bowls of God’s wrath which happen at the end of the Book. The idea of “thumos” is “an anger that reaches boiling point and overflows and then subsides.” This is also a wrath from which there is no reprieve such as we see in the flood and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Coming out of Great Tribulation”
In the case of Lot, he was in Sodom and experiencing persecution right up until the very day when he was taken out of the city. Immediately after Lot was rescued out of the city the wrath of God fell on those wicked cities on the plain (Luke 17:28-29). The context prophetically is the last days. Lot was taken out of a time of tribulation. Now look at Revelation 7:14 we see New Covenant believers “coming out of Great Tribulation” (present continuous tense). They are seen coming out of great tribulation which means they have to already be in it to come out of it. God has not appointed us as New Covenant believers to experience wrath but He has appointed us to experience tribulation in this world. It is also interesting to note that they are seen coming out of great tribulation between the sixth and seventh seal. This may well be a reference to indicate the timing of the rapture.
“Tribulation in this world”
The Greek word for tribulation is “thlipsis” which is “being pressed down, afflicted, persecuted, oppressed, trials and difficulties in this life” and “that through much tribulation (thlipsis) we must enter the kingdom of God.” The same word is used across the board in the New Testament (Matthew 13:21; 24:21, 29) (Acts 14:22) (Romans 2:9; 5:9; 8:35; 12:12) (2 Corinthians 1:4; 7:4) (1 Thessalonians 3:4) (2 Thessalonians 1:6) (Revelation 1:9; 2:9-10, 22; 7:14). So you see tribulation is not wrath. Where God dispenses His judgement it is given in order to produce repentance. However, when God dispenses His wrath there is no reprieve.
“Encourage one another”
Now Amir also uses the phrase connected to the rapture that says “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” The encouragement for every New Covenant believer is that the Lord Jesus is coming back to earth to rescue His saints from His wrath at the end of the time of Great Tribulation and to inaugurate His Messianic rule on earth. Now Amir goes on to say to his audience of believers “Don’t sell them destruction, don’t sell them the Antichrist, that is not for you.” In other words he is telling believers not to even concern themselves with the Antichrist because as Amir teaches the Church will not be here on earth.
“The faithful Church will still be here”
A careful reading of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 clearly reveals that the coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah is directly connected to our being gathered together to meet Him in the air in the Day of the Lord. We are also told that this Day of the Lord, including the rapture and resurrection of all believers to be gathered to meet the Lord in the air, cannot happen until two things occur, namely the apostasy and the revealing of the man of sin (Vs 3). Now if the Body of the Messiah was to be no longer here on earth then why would Paul have told the assembly at Thessalonica to watch for the apostasy and for the appearance of the man of sin if the Body of the Messiah (the faithful assembly of believers) was no longer on earth? Clearly the rapture is connected to the Day of the Lord, being the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus and the destruction of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:8) This is a separate subject in itself.
“Kept in and through the Tribulation but not from it”
Finally, Amir mentions Revelation 2:10 where the Lord says to the assembly at Philadelphia; “I will keep you from the hour of trial (tribulation-thlipsis) that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” Now the Greek word for “to keep from” can be translated; “to keep through or in.” The same word is used by the Lord Jesus in His prayer for His followers in John 17:15 where He prays that His followers “will not be taken out of the world but that they will be protected (or kept) from the evil one.” They will “be kept and protected from the evil one.” To “be kept” is the exact same world used in Revelation 3:10. It is clear that New Covenant believers will go into the time of Great Tribulation (thlipsis) but be taken out of it right at the end before the bowls of God’s wrath (thumos) are poured out. So then we are destined for tribulation but not for wrath.
“When the rapture will happen!”
So then when will the rapture happen? The clearest reference we have to when the rapture occurs is in Matthew 24:29-31. In verse 29 we are specifically told that “immediately AFTER the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days” that the rapture and the resurrection of all the saints (believers) will happen when the last trumpet is sounded (verses 30-31). See also cross references: (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) (Revelation 11:15). Notice that in all four references the last trumpet is sounded and in Revelation 11:15, in its context, is the Second Coming of the Messiah to earth to set up his Messianic Millennial kingdom on earth. The texts are clear and plain! We will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His Second Coming to earth at the very end of the time of great tribulation lasting three and a half years at the end of this present age.
“Caught up to meet the Lord in the air”
The emphasis of the New Testament is not on some pre-tribulation rapture, or on an escape from suffering and persecution at the hands of the Antichrist and even martyrdom, but on living in such a way that when the rapture and resurrection does occur we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air to be gathered around Him to be with Him forever. It is interesting to note that the phrase “to meet” has the idea of an important dignitary coming towards a city and the people come out of the city to meet him and then immediately gather around him and accompany him back into the city. This is the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
“The apostasy and the man of sin revealed”
Amir is a very dear brother in the Messiah our Lord Jesus but in this matter he is wrong and to keep teaching it is to perpetrate spiritual deception upon the wider Body of the Messiah. This post is not a personal attack on his character or his godliness, far be from that, but it is an attack on a doctrine that is not preparing the wider Body of the Messiah from the time of great tribulation to come which will see the great apostasy with all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders that will usher in the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 9).
“Escape from great tribulation?”
When you consider the terrible persecution of our beloved brothers and sisters in Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea and China, what worse suffering could the Antichrist perpetrate on the Body of the Messiah that is not already being perpetrated on them? It can only intensify which it will in the time of Great Tribulation. Go tell those dear brothers and sisters that they will escape the tribulation! They are already in tribulation! The only event that will rescue the remnant in Israel, rescue the Body of the Messiah and save the world from annihilation will be the Second Coming of the Anointed Messiah our Lord Jesus, “who saves us from the coming wrath.” This is to be our blessed hope as New Covenant believers and fellow companions in the final time of great tribulation to come (Titus 2:13) (Matthew 24:21-22) (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9) (Revelation 1:9). While we aren’t destined for wrath, we are destined for tribulation! In Matthew Chapter 24:29 the Lord Jesus Himself specifically tells us that the rapture and resurrection will happen immediately after the tribulation of those days and not before!