Scripture is clear
Down through the history of the Church true Christians have always believed in the rapture especially when persecution, severe affliction and testing had been prevalent in their lives. To say there is no rapture is to rob Christians of their hope and there are those today who are telling us that there will be no rapture. According to the Word of God the Rapture will happen. Every born again believer in Christ will be suddenly snatched away and caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air when he comes again to this earth. They will accompany Him back to earth. Scripture is absolutely clear on this point! The rapture itself is not in question. However, the timing of the rapture is in question because it is important for every believer to understand what the Bible really teaches. Many who insist on holding to a pre-tribulation rapture may possibly even fall away from Christ when the Antichrist comes on the scene and the Church is still here! Why? Because they were told they would be taken out before the Antichrist comes. In this study we will look further into why the rapture cannot happen at any moment.
Is it really taught in scripture?
The purpose of all of these studies is to look at whether there will be a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. There are multitudes of Christian believers and excellent Bible Scholars who hold to this position tenaciously and at times aggressively. However, is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church really taught in scripture?
God permits the righteous to suffer
So far we have seen that God is Love and a God of Love but He does permit the righteous to suffer and die and preserves them through the affliction and does not always choose to deliver them not from it. While He does miraculously deliver certain individuals from persecution on the whole He permits it. He permitted His Son to go through the awful agony of the cross did He not? All of the apostles except John were horribly martyred. Down through the history of the Church millions died for their faith in horrific circumstances. In this century and in the last century alone untold millions have died for their faith in Christ yet in all of these things God is a God of Love and always has only the very best in mind for His children. His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts. He sees the bigger picture. Also true believers are aliens and strangers in this world and the world itself is hostile to Christians as it is to the Lord Jesus Christ.
To be kept through it
We have also seen that God will often keep His faithful servants through severe trial and persecution and not always deliver them out of it. Scripture and history are full of these instances. To be “kept from” can also mean “to be kept through” as defined in the following scriptures (Revelation 3:10) (John 17:11, 15). In the book of Revelation we see that for a short time the Beast System of Government spearheaded by the Antichrist has power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. The word “saints” being the standard New Testament word for Christians.
After Revelation chapter four
We have also seen that while the word “Church” does not appear after Revelation chapter four verse one that does not mean that the Church does not appear after chapter four. In fact there are three specific references to the saints after chapter four and other references to believers as well. While Revelation chapter four verse one sees John raptured it cannot be made to show that it symbolises the rapture of the Church at the end of the Church age. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents imply this even though the text does not mention it. John’s rapture does teach us something about the final rapture but it is not a reference to the Pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church itself. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents have to find a way to support their specific system of Eschatology and they try to use Revelation chapter four verse one as one of their “proof texts” to support their view of the rapture.
Noah and Lot
Also we have seen that Noah and Lot were saved just prior to the wrath of God being poured out and that the flood in Noah’s time swept away the wicked in judgement and the idea of one taken and one left behind had nothing to do with a secret rapture. This is again another “proof text” the Pre-Tribulation proponents use to support their view that those taken are Christians. Furthermore when the scripture talks about the Lord Jesus coming “as a thief in the night” it is referring to the expectancy of His coming. In other words He will come when He is least expected therefore we are to watch and be ready. The people in the time of Noah and Lot were not ready and could not have cared less. The people in Noah’s time were all swept away by the flood and the people in Lot’s time in the cities on the plain were all incinerated. Both of these cataclysmic events teach us about what will happen at the end of this Age just before the Lord Jesus comes back. We also discovered that for true believers God has not appointed them to suffer wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. True believers will never suffer the wrath of God. Before the wrath comes down every true believer will be rescued as we saw in the case of Noah and Lot. Now let’s continue with study three which follows on with point five.
5. The next line of defence used by the Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents is to say that the Lord Jesus will come in an hour when He is least expected (Matthew 24:44). This is true. However, what they mean is that He can come at any moment to rapture the Church. But can He come at any moment? Is this what scripture teaches?
Now if you or I as believers die tonight then Jesus has come for us. We go to be with Him. However, will Jesus come secretly to snatch His Church away first before He comes back? In other words are their two Second Comings of Jesus? One when He sweeps the surface of the earth to gather the saints to Himself and then seven years later returns visibly and physically to earth with His saints to judge the world? Scripture does not teach this! It cannot be substantiated by clear texts of scripture at all! There is only one Second Coming and this is clear in the prophets, in the gospels and in the epistles. (This is a separate subject in itself) There will be nothing secret about the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus Himself said so. Listen to what He said; “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27) What is “secret” about what He said? He said it would be like lightening! There is only one second coming and there are many plain texts to support this view.
The Pre-Tribulation proponents tell us that if Jesus coming (the rapture) wasn’t imminent then we would have to know when He was coming back. They might even quote the Lord Jesus who said that No man knows the hour or the day of His return, however He did not mean that we could not know the times or recognise the signs of His coming. He simply meant that no-one knows the exact date or the hour of His coming.
According to Matthew chapter twenty four before the elect are gathered certain things must happen. The Lord Jesus said, “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24: 29-31)
It is clear from the context and from other co-texts that the distress He is talking about is the Great Tribulation also called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. (Matthew 24:21-22) (Jeremiah 30:3-7). The constellations will not give their light and meteorites will fall to the earth and the heavenly constellations themselves will visibly shake. At this time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. It will be His Second Advent. Clearly this is the Second Coming described. Now notice when the elect are gathered and caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. It is at the end of the Great Tribulation. The elect are not just Jews or tribulation saints but all believers in Christ.
The word “elect” is the standard New Testament word for the Church. Furthermore, they are gathered “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” This is not a local rapture of Jewish believers but a global one. Now it mentions that the elect are gathered “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” The Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents could say, “See they are already in the air therefore they have already been raptured seven years before.” However, what do they say about Marks account of what Jesus said concerning the same event? Let’s look at the text. “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:24-27)
Notice what it says, “from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” In this account the elect are gathered from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. This is the resurrection and the rapture clearly mentioned. Those who are gathered from the ends of the heavens are the saints already with the Lord because they had died physically but the saints gathered from the ends of the earth are those still alive in their bodies. All are changed in the twinkling of the eye, all receive glorified bodies and are all gathered to meet the Lord Jesus at His Coming again. This is clearly supported by scripture. Look at the text here! It is very clear!
The apostle Paul wrote; “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
He also wrote; “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
Notice that at the sound of the Last trumpet the dead saints will be physically raised to life and the living saints caught up along with them to meet the Lord. In the book of Revelation the seventh trumpet announces the Return of Christ. (Revelation 11:15-18). At that time the elect will be gathered to Christ and return to the earth with Him to fight the nations gathered against Jerusalem.
Furthermore, we have a clear view of the rapture and the resurrection being the same event in the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus on the Mountain. He appeared in the sky with Moses and Elijah together. They all shone with the same glory. Years later, Peter in his epistle relating this experience, clearly connects it to the coming of the Lord Jesus in glory. Moses represents those who have died physically while Elijah represents those who did not die physically (Elijah was raptured alive). They both appeared with the Lord Jesus at the same time in glory. They were both transfigured like Jesus and shone with the same brilliance that Jesus did. The rapture cannot occur until there is a radical change in the constellations and according to the text that will not happen until right at the end of the Great Tribulation. Now let’s look further…
6. The next line of defence used by the Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents is to quote what Jesus said, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36) So they imply that through the Rapture believers will escape the horrible things that will happen on earth.
Whenever we look at any text we must always look at it in the context it is given and not look at it in isolation from its context and co-texts. This is a fundamental principle in understanding the Bible properly. To isolate texts to prove our theological views and opinions or to boost our system of Eschatology is not rightly dividing the Word of God. What the saints will escape from is what comes after the rapture which will be the wrath of God. For the most part the Great tribulation will be the wrath of Satan as it says of him; “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury because his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12) At the time the devil is cast down to the earth he goes after the woman (Israel) but God preserves Israel and the time is the Great Tribulation because it also mentions, “for a time, times and half a time.” (3.5 years) Because he cannot destroy Israel the devil goes after the offspring from Israel, Jewish and gentile believers in Christ namely those “who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” This could only be said of Christians. The saints will be kept through the time of persecution by the Antichrist but have to persevere. As it is written, “He who has endured to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) The end the Lord Jesus refers to is the end of the present age culminating in His Second Coming.
The Great Tribulation for the most part will be the wrath of Satan. Right at the end of the Great Tribulation it become the wrath of God and just before those bowls of wrath are poured out the saints will be snatched away. As it is written, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to obtain salvation (rescue implied as well) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We will still be around when the armies attack Jerusalem and the wars, earthquakes and famines and pestilences are increasing in frequency and intensity but when the big global Earthquake comes and the huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fall from heaven on the inhabitants of the earth we will be out of here! (Revelation 16:18-19, 21) Christians will not escape the wrath of Satan but they will most definitely escape the wrath of God! We have His word on that!
7. The next line of defence used by the Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents is similar to the last one we looked at. They say that the Tribulation is the wrath of God. They say that the saints are not destined to face the wrath of God therefore they say because the Tribulation is the wrath of God Christians will be raptured before the Tribulation happens.
Now we need to understand that you cannot prove from any clear text that there is a seven year Tribulation period. You can only prove a three and a half year Tribulation period. Whenever we see the number seven in the Bible it is always connected to a finished and complete work of God. Now the seven year tribulation period is based on how one interprets Daniel 9:27. There are two ways of looking at this verse and the ones that precede it. (See the article “Seventy Weeks have been Determined” on this website).
It is true that the saints will be delivered from the wrath of God, but it is not true that the Great Tribulation is the wrath of God. There is no scripture to back this view. If you look at Revelation chapter six it corresponds to Matthew chapter twenty four verses 1-31. In Revelation chapter six the wrath of God begins at verse12 when the sixth seal is opened. In verse seventeen it clearly tells us that it is the time of the wrath of the Lamb!
(Revelation 6:12-17) “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
At that point between the sixth and the seventh seal we see those “who have come out of the Great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (They had to be in the Great Tribulation to come out of it). They are seen with the Lord. It would seem the rapture occurs between the sixth and the seventh seals. When the seventh seal is opened we see the seven angels with seven trumpets. The seven trumpets correspond to the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The trumpet judgements are the harbinger of the bowls of God’s wrath to come. The seven trumpets and the seven bowls are separate yet connected. The seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl both see the return of Christ. They are describing the same events.
The seventh trumpet: “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, and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:15-18)
The Seventh Bowl: “Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of His wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.” (Revelation 16:16-21)
In Revelation chapter seven we see believers coming out of the Great Tribulation. This is the true Church called the Body of Christ, the redeemed, the believing Jews and Gentiles in Christ. Also we see in the same chapter 144,000 sealed from the Tribes of Israel. It would seem these are Jewish believers yet they are connected to the great multitude in white coming out of the Great Tribulation. The 144,000 also appear in Revelation chapter fourteen. They are clearly defined as those who have been redeemed from the earth. They are spiritual virgins (pure virgins-See 2 Corinthians 11:2). They, follow the Lamb and were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. They are pure in heart. Here the 144,000 are clearly identified with all of the redeemed. The 144,000 and the great multitude are all of the one family having all been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb their Messiah, their Saviour and their Lord.
Remember that believing Gentiles have been grafted into Israel. The wild olive shoots (Gentile believers) have been grafted into the olive root (believing Israel) Even though they are of one flock it does not cancel out God’s covenant promises to the Nation of Israel itself to establish it as the chief Mountain (kingdom) above and over all of the other mountains (kingdoms) in the Millennial Kingdom of the Messiah.
To sum up
How can the pre-tribulation rapture proponents say that the Church does not appear after Chapter four verse one. According to Revelation chapter seven the Church is right in the thick of the Tribulation and is taken out of it by the Lord Jesus as He returns to earth. When compared to the co-texts the Body of Christ is taken out right at the ends of the Great Tribulation just before the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out on the inhabitants of the earth.