“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake…but He who has endured to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:9, 13).
Immediately after the tribulation
Today there are multitudes within the wider Body of the Messiah who are insisting that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture of the faithful Body of Messiah before the Time of Great Tribulation comes. However, before the Middle of the 19th Century this idea of Messiah coming for His Church secretly and then coming visibly with His Church to earth seven years later cannot be found in the Word of God. In fact the apostles never taught this neither did the first century Body of Messiah embrace such a doctrine. In any doctrinal matter in the Word of God we always begin with what is clearly and plainly taught before we look at what might or might not be implied in a Biblical text.
Tragically this whole man-made doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture was perpetrated upon the Body of Messiah back in the 19th Century and perpetuated in recent times by the Left Behind series of books, videos and movies. The clearest explanation we have of the rapture and resurrection happening right at the end of the Time of Great Tribulation lasting three and a half years is found in Matthew Chapter 24:1-31. We see the gathering of the elect saints of all ages by the angels of God immediately after the tribulation of those days and not before (Matthew 24:29-31). The rapture and resurrection are the one and the same event (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
Messiah has only One Bride
Those in the pre-tribulation rapture camp who see the elect being gathered by the angels try to restrict “the elect” to Jews and other Gentiles who believe in the seven year tribulation period after the Church has been removed. The problem with this is that nowhere in scripture are we told that Israel and the Church are two separate groups. In fact the word “elect” is the standard New Testament word used for all New Covenant believers in Messiah both Jew and Gentile as one corporate spiritual Body united in the Holy Spirit. Messiah has only one bride and He will come for her when He returns. She will have made herself ready for the bridegroom (Ephesians 2:15) (Revelation 19:6-8, 11-14).
Complete in Messiah
The Old Testament saints are spiritually completed by the New Testament saints and collectively they are one body who have all been redeemed by the Blood of the Lord Jesus the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed. (Hebrews 11:39) (1 Corinthians 5:7). Gentile believers in the New Testament are spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel symbolised by the Olive Tree in scripture (Romans 11:17-19) (Ephesians 2:11-22). All who believe, whether Jewish or Gentile, are one new man in Messiah and together are all spiritual decedents of Abraham the father of faith and of all who believe (Ephesians 2:14-16) (Romans 4:11, 16-17, 23-25).
Gentile New Covenant believers then are branches spiritually grafted into the Olive Tree Israel and share in the blessings of the New Covenant made with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah, not with a predominantly Gentile Church! There is only one body of believers united in the redeeming work of Messiah and unified by the same Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31) (Galatians 3:13-14). They are complete corporately as one body in Messiah, one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16).
The “Mystery” of the Gospel Revealed!
The plan of God from all eternity was to bring Gentiles into the bond of the New Covenant made with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah and this was the mystery revealed to the Apostle Paul and that formed the foundation of his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:6) (Romans 11:13). In the book of Acts James and the other apostles at Jerusalem saw in the prophet Amos the same mystery that was revealed to Paul, that God’s intention was always to see Gentile believers spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel and not as a separate group from Israel (Amos 9:11-12) (Acts 15:13-18). Denominations are man-made, not God ordained!
The Dispensational system of eschatology taught by Darby and undergirded by Scofield makes a radical separation between Israel and the Church which scripture doesn’t make! The Mystery revealed to the apostles that Messiah has one redeemed corporate body of believers being Jew and Gentile corporately is completed when the seventh and last trumpet sounds. This will be the rapture and resurrection of the Body of Messiah which will be the mystery fully revealed and complete! (Revelation 10:7) (Matthew 24:31) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) (Revelation 11:15). The trumpet blast is mentioned in all of these references which collectively directly relate to the rapture and resurrection of the faithful Body of Messiah when the Lord Jesus comes back to earth. When that last and seventh trumpet is blown it will also announce the Second Coming of Messiah and that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and that He will reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15). There is only one visible second coming of Messiah! (Matthew 24:27) (Revelation 1:7).
“Kept through but not from”
In fact in Revelation Chapter 7:14 New Covenant believers go into the time of the Big Trouble but are seen coming out of it in the present continuous sense in the Greek text. To be coming out of something means you have to already be in it! Since the first century the Body of the Messiah has always been in tribulation and those New Covenant believers who have died, either through sickness, age or through martyrdom have already been raptured to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Their physical resurrection is still to come when the Lord Jesus comes back to earth and the rapture and resurrection occurs. It is the one and the same event that occurs with the blast of the last trumpet (Matthew 24:31) (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) (Revelation 11:15).
New Covenant believers will be kept through the hour of trial coming upon the whole world but they are not kept from it. This is the meaning of Revelation 3:10. The Greek word for “to keep” in Revelation 3:10 is the same Greek world used by the Lord Jesus when He was praying for His disciples not to be taken out of the world but “kept” from the evil one while they were still in the world (John 17:15). This is still true today for every New Covenant believer in Messiah who is in the world but not of this world. They will be kept by the Lord Jesus as they persevere in tribulation to the very end (Matthew 24:13).
“One taken and the other left”
As for “one taken and the other left” in Matthew Chapter 24:40-42 does not refer to a pre-tribulation rapture which will see the believers taken away to heaven but in its Biblical context actually refers to the wicked being swept or taken away in judgement, and the ones left behind being the righteous going into the Millennial Messianic kingdom. It is the wicked who are taken or swept away in judgment (Psalm 28:3) (Proverbs 10:25) (Zephaniah 1:23) (Psalm 73:19) (Psalm 58:9) (Psalm 90:5) (1 Samuel 12:25). This is exactly what happened in the flood and the context of one taken and the other left!
After the revealing of the Man of Sin
The rapture and resurrection is coming but it will not be before the revealing of the man of sin. Paul wrote about this in his second letter to the assembly at Thessalonica and he most certainly was not entertaining any idea of an escape from tribulation, nor having an escape mindset because he knew of the intense persecution which the assembly had already been experiencing. The persecution was so bad that they thought the Lord Jesus had come and left them behind and this was further fermented by those who were teaching that the Day of the Lord, which included the gathering of His saints to Messiah in the air, had already come, and they had been left behind.
The Coming of the Lord Jesus is directly connected to the faithful Body of Messiah being gathered around Him in the air at His Second Coming. Paul says “that day”, the day when all believers are gathered to the Lord Jesus, cannot occur until the last apostasy occurs, the man of sin is revealed, and whose coming is preceded by a flood of all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders instigated by Satan. The text is plain! (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4,8- 9).
“The Tip of the Iceberg”
These Biblical references that do not support a pre-tribulation rapture are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ being a few of the texts in their context that clearly show that the rapture and resurrection cannot happen until certain things occur, some of which have been mentioned in this Bible prophecy article. In light of the fact that the Bible does not teach a pre-tribulation rapture we need to keep in mind that since the first century the faithful Body of Messiah has been in tribulation and during the last three and a half years it will intensify and multiply in every nation and will only be ended at the Second Coming of the Messiah. In fact for the sake of His elect and for the survival of the human race God will cut those days of great tribulation (thlipsis) short! (Matthew 24:21-22).
The “Offspring” of the Woman
The whole idea of an ‘escape’ from suffering mindset sits well within the boundaries of comfortable Christendom in the western democracies that are not accustomed to persecution. In every Muslim country, in North Korea, in China, and in Russia faithful assemblies are being terribly persecuted, something that the Lord Jesus said would happen to His followers that happened to Him (John 15:18-21). Why should we in the western assemblies be sheltered from persecution? We are told by the apostle Paul that it is “through much tribulation (thlipsis) that we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We do not have to seek it because in God’s time frame it will come to us. This is why fellowship in the Holy Spirit around the Word of God and the Lord’s Table is vital to our spiritual survival!
In the Book of Revelation we are told that the dragon (Satan) with his tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth (Revelation 12:4). This may well refer to the last and final falling away taught by the Lord Jesus and the apostles that will precede the revealing of the man of sin. In the Bible stars represent believers in both Testaments (Genesis 22:17) (Philippians 2:15).
In Revelation Chapter 12 we see the dragon persecuting the offspring (plural, not singular) of the women. The woman is Israel, and the woman’s offspring are those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus, and these are the ones Satan is persecuting. These are New Covenant believers spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel (Revelation 12:17). While as New Covenant believers we are destined for tribulation (Greek-thlipsis) we are not destined for wrath (Greek-orge/thumos) Tribulation is not wrath! They are different words in the Greek text. These words appear in (1 Thessalonians 3:3) (1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1:10) and in (Revelation 16:1).
Hated by All Nations
Dear brothers and sisters in Messiah no one relishes the idea of suffering and it is not something natural and pleasant that we should seek to experience. However, as the age comes to a close persecution will become more frequent, more intense, more widespread and on a global scale, and experienced to a greater or lesser degree within every nation. The time will come, and is now fast approaching, when faithful New Covenant believers in Messiah within western Christendom will be hated by all nations for the sake of staying faithful to Him (Matthew 10:22; 24:9).
Multitudes of our fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah living comfortably in the western democracies sincerely believe that they will escape all of the unpleasantness associated with persecution and that Israel will be in firing line of the man of sin, the Antichrist. They also believe that there will be people saved in this time of Tribulation but they themselves as the Church will be kept from it but they are being deceived.
Already for the most part in most parts of the world the wider Body of Messiah is already in tribulation and it can only become more frequent, more intense and more widespread which is going to happen before Messiah our Lord Jesus returns to earth. When the man of sin is revealed and the Body of Messiah is still on earth what will the pastors who have taught the pre-tribulation rapture have to say to their congregations? Tragically many will fall away from the faith in wholesale lots because they were not prepared for it by those who had been teaching them otherwise.
The Body of Messiah corporately will be kept through the Time of Great Tribulation, not from it, and come out of it at the end of it immediately before the wrath of God is poured out upon a Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting world. In the case of the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace of persecution and affliction we see them walking around with a fourth man in the fire being the pre-incarnate Messiah Himself (Daniel 3:29). They went into the fire, the Messiah went into it with them, and they came out completely intact! We also as God’s elect saints are “chosen in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). This in itself is a deep subject.
The Spirit of Glory and of God!
Brothers and sisters in all of these matters we must also remember that when the time of the Great Trouble comes, as foretold in the prophets and in the New Testament, that God’s power will rest heavily upon those who are persecuted for the sake of Messiah. The supernatural power to testify and to persevere will be given at the very hour the trial comes and not a moment after. Added to this the Spirit and glory of God will be resting upon us! (Matthew 10:17-23) (Luke 21:12-19) (Mark 13:9-13) (1 Peter 4:12, 16-19). Also it needs to be said that in a time of persecution God will allow some to escape and they will take the message of the gospel of the kingdom with them (Matthew 10:23). Even in the time of Great Tribulation the Lord will have places of refuge for those who manage to escape martyrdom.
Our End is known to God
Our future is known to the Lord and He knows how we will end our days on this earth and has prepared everything we will need beforehand for our spiritual survival and eternal reward. Whether we are here when Messiah returns or we fall asleep in Him before He returns, we win!!! (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). For the most part being a New Covenant believer in Messiah will ultimately become an eternal reality for His Body, the faithful assembly corporately in the world. As the late veteran missionary Ken Craig used to say; “It is not how we start but how we finish that counts!”
Keeping Things in Perspective
In the midst of praise and worship and the hearing of the Word of God and rejoicing in the Holy Spirit do we also make room for the fact that persecution is coming to the western Body of Messiah in the nations traditionally and historically associated with Biblical Judeo-Christianity? Having said this should not discourage us as God will provide everything we need for this life and in the life to come. As the apostle Peter writes; “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).
Our Blessed Hope!
As New Covenant believers in Messiah we should enjoy worship and fellowship, to hear the Word of God, to celebrate the Passover meal together, to share openly and honestly with one another and to be able to do these things openly and without fear of arrest and imprisonment. This is a great privilege to be able to do this and go safely to and from our homes. In the euphoria of the praise and worship, which is spiritually uplifting and edifying, it is also spiritually sobering to reflect on the fact that we must lay aside “an escape mindset” and soberly reflect on what the Apostle Paul wrote that “all who desire to live godly lives in Messiah Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). The real escape will come when Messiah returns to the earth to rapture and resurrect all His saints of all the ages, to rescue Israel, to destroy all opposition and to inaugurate His Millennial Messianic Kingdom on earth of which we will be a part in our immortal, indestructible and glorified bodies! This is indeed our Blessed Hope as the redeemed Israel of God! (Titus 2:13).