In view of the tremendous interest in Biblical prophecy since the tragedy of September 11, 2001 in New York, the war in Iraq, the recent mega hurricanes in the Caribbean and the great earthquake in Pakistan, this article explores the fascinating area of Biblical prophecy for a period of history we may very well be living in, the end times.
We will first examine whether a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is Biblical with a detailed analysis of the arguments for a pre-tribulation rapture and compare them to those for a post-tribulation rapture. The fictional “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins a few years ago exposed millions of readers to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture world view. Is this perspective substantiated by the teachings of Jesus, Luke, Matthew, Mark, Paul, the Book of Revelation and the Old Testament prophets or is it a hopeful myth?
In connection with the Rapture such topics as when will Jesus return, the apostasy, the mark of the beast, the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, will the Church escape the tribulation, who are the “saints” and the “elect”, the issue of God’s wrath, Noah and Lot, the seven Churches in Revelation will all be looked at.
RAPTURE, SCRIPTURAL OR DELUSIONAL MYTH?
As tensions once again increase in the Middle East and the never ending turmoil of that cradle of civilization and birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam spreads to the very shores of the United States, American evangelicals search the Bible to see if current world events correlate with Bible prophecy and if we are close to the time when Jesus the Christ will return, bring about world peace through divine intervention (by ruling “with a rod of iron”) and usher the millennium.
Of particular interest to many evangelicals is whether true believers of Jesus
Christ will be removed, the PRE TRIBULATION RAPTURE, before that seven year
period of God’s judgment upon the earth known as " the
Great Tribulation ", a
period when an entrepreneurial, evil world tyrant, a wolf in sheep’s clothes,
will require all to have a “mark” on
people’s right hand or their forehead in order to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16)
and require all to worship his statue, a time when nation will rise against
nation culminating in the great battle of Armageddon between
the Kings of the East and the Antichrist and his armies, a time of great natural
“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be
shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then
all the tribes of the earth will mourn (as their evil ways will be come to
an abrupt end ), and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the
sky with power and great glory (Matthew 24:29-30).
For Christians TRUTH is revealed in the Bible, which consists of 66 books written over 1500 years by more than 40 human authors from three continents in three languages but containing one Integrated Message System with similar ideas, themes, concepts and structure. The argument can be made that it is clear that man did not write the Bible because the Bible teaches principles which are foreign to man’s unredeemed nature. The New Testament for example represents Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God. Jesus gave us unduplicated supernatural miracles such as healing the sick, multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands, raising the dead, stilling a storm, delivering those in demonic bondage. But he also taught us such divine principles as turning the other cheek, forgiving those who hurt you, blessing those who curse you, principles which are contrary to man’s nature which are “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, “I don’t get mad, I get even,” “make my day” etc…
The Bible is also a book of prophecy. A major proof that the Bible was supernaturally
inspired is that it contains hundreds of prophecies which have been fulfilled
(see “Powerful Evidence For The Deity of Christ” under “Prophecy
Fulfilled” and “The
Prophetic Odds”) many which will yet be fulfilled. The Bible is
the inerrant Word of God. All the prophecies in the Bible will be fulfilled.
Human beings are errant. Mistakes are made by errant humans in interpreting
prophecy, in trying to “put God in a box”, in misinterpreting the “signs of
the times” and in being “fast of the trigger”. With respect to the second coming
Jesus said no man knows the time or the hour but only the Father knows.
RAPTURE IS BIBLICAL:
All Christians believe in a Rapture because the Bible is clear that a rapture will occur because “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:29), “He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matthew 24:31).”
Clearly here there is a taking away by God’s angels of the elect after the “tribulation of those days”. The argument can be made that the elect are the followers of Jesus Christ who have survived the cataclysms of the Great Tribulation. Those espousing a pretribulation Rapture will argue that the Church has been removed and the “elect” referred to in this verse are those who have come to Christ during the Great Tribulation after the Church is removed prior to the commencement of the Great Tribulation. It is interesting to note here that some Bible scholars believe the Great Tribulation does not consist of the entire seven years but the last three and a half years of this seven year period, the last “week” of Daniel.
DEBATE IS WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE OCCUR?
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that NOAH ENTERED THE ARK, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24:37-44).” This will occur “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:29).
“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. (1Thessalonians 5:1-7).
APOSTASY MUST COME FIRST:
With respect to when the “day of the Lord” will arrive, Paul writes to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2: 2-15):
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4).
Here we should note that Paul is referring to the AntiChrist. There is no shortage of candidates for this job in the political arena. There are many men, including many former Bible believing Christians, who have sold their birthright for political power and wealth. The allure of the world was too much for them and they have sacrificed the laws of God for the adulation of fallen men, making themselves “gods” with a small “g”. Actually many politicians are scrambling at this time in history for the “privilege” (eternal damnation) of holding the title of AntiChrist. What the Word of God considers sacrosanct such as traditional marriage, a code of ethics based on the Commandments and the overriding Commandment “that you love one another”, the sanctity of life is mocked. Viable fetuses are aborted while child molesters and murderers are released from crowded prisons to commit more atrocities. Through meditation, chanting and humanism men “turn within” looking for God in all the wrong places.
“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed who the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2: 6-8).
Some have tried to argue that it is the Holy Spirit embodied in the Church who is the restraining influence to the rise of the man of lawlessness and that when the Church is “raptured” this evil world ruler will appear.
Paul refers to a person “he who now restrains” as the restrainer, undoubtedly the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. There is no reason however for the Church to be raptured for the man of lawlessness to appear. God in his sovereign will can take His spirit “out of the way”. This doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit will be removed but the Holy Spirit’s restraining function may cease. There will be a major apostasy, a turning away from God, even within the Church as there will be a great deception. In Matthew 24:24 we are told, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
Referring to the man of lawlessness Paul tells us: “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved, and for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2: 9-12).
There will be a great “falling away” and the Holy Spirit will be quenched. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, will certainly not be removed, but because God allows man to choose to sin for a period of time, God will allow man and woman to reap the consequences of their evil choices. As one sows so shall he reap. The Church does not have to be “raptured” for the man of perdition to appear, but it does have to be defiled and compromised.
In many instances the Church in the West has embraced the morals of the world.
Europe, once a light to the nations, is now a pit of darkness and immorality.
Societal restraints are largely cultural, the vestiges of a Christian culture.
Young people long for a moral core but all they’re offered from their elders
is moral relativism. The continent of Luther, Wesley and Calvin has wholeheartedly
embraced humanism and New Age (see “Detractors From The Simplicity
of Salvation”). Providentially missionaries now come from Africa and parts
of Asia to preach the gospel in Europe.
North America is certainly not a vestial virgin. Flaunting God’s Word “Christian” denominations institutionalize alternative lifestyles by wholeheartedly accepting them. The movie industry in too many instances exports “the filth of her fornications” and violence to the four corners of the earth corrupting the human race. “Christians”, even evangelicals and fundamentalists, have the same percentage of parishioners engaged in adultery and fornication as nonChristians. Business ethics among Christians are as reprehensible as those “in the world”. The divorce rate is as dismal as those “in the world”. Where’s the Church? If the Church is “the salt of the earth” there certainly is not much salt around to keep the meat from spoiling. It’s been said that if God does not judge us he would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is the “Church” which expects to be raptured?
Yet throughout the West there remain and regularly rise strong Bible based churches composed of committed individuals who do their best to live righteously and bring up their children according to the moral code of the Bible. These people try to keep their families from the greed, violence, lust, exploitation and self deification of the world. Where it is darkest their light shines the brightest. These people are the true servants of the Living God who face a relentless attack to undermine everything they stand for. Despite their weaknesses they are covered by the Blood of the Lamb and are the true salt of the earth.
MARK OF THE BEAST - 666
The Church has always thrived in periods of persecution, because that’s when the men are separated from the boys and the wheat from the chaff. According to the Book of Revelation the AntiChirst will force everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, “which is the name of the beast or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16). Very likely this “mark” will represent an implanted biochip of the type used to track animals (dogs, mountain lions, bears, whales).
Somehow worshiping the AntiChrist (the embodiment of Satan) will entail accepting this implant as a form of submission to his system. Although Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to worship the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up on the plain of Dura and were willing to be cast into the furnace of blazing fire (Daniel 3) many modern “Christians” including evangelicals won’t think twice about taking the AntiChrist’s “mark”. We will simply rationalize that this is just a momentary inconvenience we’ll have to go through prior to filling our SUV with gas and going waterskiing on the lake. After all, what’s the big deal? The rapture hasn’t happened yet so this can’t really be the “mark”. It’s just a technological “convenience”.
Revelation 14: 9-12 argues that accepting the mark is a BIG DEAL and a one way ticket to an eternal barbeque in which you will serve as the roast – FOREVER: “Anyone worshiping the Beast from the sea and his statue and accepting his mark on the forehead or the hand, must drink the wine of the anger of God; it is poured out undiluted into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. The smoke of their torture rises forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they worshiped the Beast and his statue, and have been tattoed with the code of his name.”
So perhaps you should take a minute or two of quiet reflection before you accept that little biochip or mark. There are major consequences if you do, much greater than not being able to go waterskiing, buying a chocolate cake, or for that matter the latest sequel to that exciting Christian fiction series on the “rapture” and not heeding the warning of doing so.
Paul admonishes the Church, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us,” (2 Thess. 2: 15).
2 Thess. 2:13: “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Those who stand fast in these perilous times and believe in Christ are covered by his blood and have eternal salvation.
More information on the Mark of the Beast, 666 on the Nostradamus Page/Mark of the Beast~666.
EVENT WILL COME LIKE A “THIEF IN THE NIGHT”?:
To answer this question all we have to do is read 1 Thessalonians 14-18:
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God
will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say
to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the
coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the
Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (THE RAPTURE)
together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall
always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Therefore a) the bodily resurrection of the dead and b) a snatching, a catching up, a rapture will occur on the “day of the Lord”, which will come like a “thief in the night”.
It will come a time when a false peace will exist. It is not clear whether this will be a false Middle East or worldwide peace. The language used “we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord” may be indicative of those who are alive and remain after a trial, those who have survived an ordeal, a remnant.
The coming of the Son of Man will be just like in the days of Noah when Noah and his family were taken away before the flood struck and the rest went into a watery grave.
Jesus draws an analogy in Matthew 24:38 to the “days of Noah” just before the flood. People were eating, drinking, marrying. In other words life was proceeding normally, except that the days of Noah were exceedingly evil.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’” (Genesis 6:5-7).
Likewise prior to the Great Tribulation (“For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall” (Mark 13:19)) men and women will have grown exceedingly degenerate and evil.
As to the exact time when all this will occur Jesus states: “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32).
END TIMES AS PORTRAYED BY THE LORD IN MATTHEW, MARK AND LUKE (quotes from the
American Standard Version):
Matthew 24:1-44 And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall
be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these
things must come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places. But all these things are the beginning of travail. Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name's sake. And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. But he that endures to the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come. When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains: let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak. But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath: for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But
immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and puts forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Then shall two man be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: two women shall
be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left. Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.
13:1-37 And as he went forth out of the temple, one of his disciples
saith unto him, Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings!
And Jesus said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be
left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down. And as he sat
on the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and
Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall
be the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished? And Jesus
began to say unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. Many shall come
in my name, saying, I am he; and shall lead many astray. And when ye shall hear
of wars and rumors of wars, be not troubled: these
things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be earthquakes
in divers places; there shall be famines: these things are the beginning of travail.
But take ye heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and
in synagogues shall ye be beaten; and before governors and kings shall ye stand
for my sake, for a testimony unto them. And the gospel must first be preached
unto all the nations. And when they lead you to
judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak:
but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not
ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother shall deliver up brother to death,
and the father his child; and children shall rise up against parents, and cause
them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake:
but he that endures to the end, the same shall be saved. But when ye see the
abomination of desolation standing where he ought not (let him that readeth understand),
then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains: and let him that is
on the housetop not go down, nor enter in, to take anything out his house: and
let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak. But woe unto
them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye
that it be not in the winter. For those days shall be tribulation, such as there
hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation which God created until
now, and never shall be. And except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh
would have been saved; but for the elect's sake, whom he chose, he shortened
the days. And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or,
Lo, there; believe it not: for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets,
and shall show signs and wonders, that they may lead astray, if possible, the
elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have told you all things beforehand. But in
those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall
not give her light, and the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers
that are in the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man
coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send forth the
angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost
part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now from the fig tree learn
her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves,
ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see these things coming
to pass, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto
you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished.
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that
day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son,
but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. It
is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his
house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also
the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house
cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning;
lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto
21:5-36 And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly
stones and offerings, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days
will come, in which there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that
shall not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying, Teacher, when therefore
shall these things be? and what shall
be the sign when these things are about to come to pass? And he said, Take
heed that ye be not led astray: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am he;
and, The time is at hand: go ye not after them. And when ye shall hear of wars
and tumults, be not terrified: for these things must needs come to pass first;
but the end is not immediately. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against
nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be great earthquakes, and
in divers places famines and pestilences; and there shall be terrors and great
signs from heaven. But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on
you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons,
bringing you before kings and governors for my name's sake. It shall turn out
unto you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate
beforehand how to answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your
adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay. But ye shall be delivered
up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of
you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for
my name's sake. And not a hair of your head shall perish. In your patience ye
shall win your souls. But when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know
that her desolation is at hand. Then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the
mountains; and let them that are in the midst of her depart out; and let not
them that are in the country enter therein. For these are days of vengeance,
that all things which are written may be fulfilled. Woe unto them that are with
child and to them that give suck in those days! for there shall be great distress
upon the land, and wrath unto this people. And they shall fall by the edge of
the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations: and Jerusalem shall
be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
And there shall be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth distress
of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the billows; men fainting
for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for
the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of
man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin
to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth
nigh. And he spake to them a parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees:
when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know of your own selves that the summer
is now nigh. Even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye
that the kingdom of God is nigh. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall
not pass away, till all things be accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass away:
but my words shall not pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest haply your
hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life,
and that day come on you suddenly as a snare: for so shall it come upon
all them that dwell on the face of all the earth. But watch ye at every season,
making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall
come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
THE CHURCH ESCAPE TRIBULATION?
In all the preceding three sections from the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus is addressing his disciples. Luke 20:45, not quoted above, tells us Jesus is speaking to his disciples as well. The disciples are the founders and comprise the first members of the Church. Pretribulationists will argue that when Jesus is addressing the disciples here he is addressing national Israel, but this notion is farfetched.
In Matthew 24:9-12, after the appearance of false Christs, wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, famines and earthquakes, what Jesus calls “the beginning of birth pangs”, Jesus tells his disciples: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and will kill you, and will be hated by all nations on account of My name. And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (NASB). He furthermore tells his disciples “But the one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Note Jesus informs his disciples they will go through tribulation. The gospel of Matthew (Matthew 24:3) states that Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives when the disciples came to him privately asking what will be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age. Jesus then instructs them about what will happen prior to His return including the appearance of false Christs, wars and rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes and that they will be delivered up to tribulation and be killed. Again, “they” refers to the disciples, who are the founders of the Church. He is telling the disciples if they endure to the end and not fall away they will be saved.
To this argument pretribulationists will quote Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (King James). They will argue that Satan, represented by Antichrist and his world police state, will not prevail against the Church because the Church will have been raptured. If so, referring to the little horn with a big mouth, the Antichrist, why does Daniel prophesy, “And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One” indicating resistance by the saints to a boastful, evil, manipulative man who will change times and laws. Daniel informs us the worn out saints will be given into his hand “until a time and times and the dividing of time” (Daniel 7:25).
The Book of Revelation provides a running account of what occurs in heaven and judgment comes upon the earth. Of the martyred saints, Revelation 6:11 states, “And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.” Revelation 20:4 states, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who have been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” These verses indicate the “saints” will resist the lawless agenda of the Antichrist including his mark without which they will not be able to buy or sell and his desire to be worshiped as God. These saints undoubtedly will not be in a position to engage in physical combat against the police and military forces of the Antichrist, but they will engage in passive resistance and undoubtedly speak out against a degenerate moral agenda. For that they will be persecuted and martyred. The true Church has always thrived on persecution.
As the martyred saints come back to life and reign with Christ over the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). Jesus Himself makes quick work of the Antichrist and the false prophet: “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse (Jesus the Christ), and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast (perhaps a computer biochip containing such data as your personal history, education, beliefs, medical information, possessions and allowing you to be tracked by global positioning satellites???) and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Revelation 19:19-20).
The victory of the saints is made clear in Daniel 7:27, “Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.” That victory, as on the cross, comes through Christ’s intercession and not by the works (in this case opposition to the Antichrist) of the saints. Clearly the gates of hell do not prevail against the Church.
ARE THE “SAINTS”? CHRISTIANS, JEWS OR BOTH?
In Matthew 24:22 Jesus says that unless these days are cut short, no life would be saved. However, for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.
Pretribulationists will argue that the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation and that the “saints” are not the Church but Jews who accept Christ after the Church is raptured or those who accept Christ after the rapture.
There is plenty of Biblical authority that the Jews will turn back to their true Messiah, Jesus the Christ (Joshua). The principal authority is Jesus Himself:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gather her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” (Matthew 23:37-39).
Jesus is prophesying that at some future time the children of Jerusalem, the Jews, will bless Him and thereby accept Him. Then they will see Him.
Paul tells us in Romans 11:25- 27.
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.’”
Paul clearly informs us that “all Israel will be saved” and uses verses from Isaiah (59:20-21) as his authority. He states that the branches of the olive tree which were broken off (Israel) will be grafted back in with the wild branch which was grafted in (the Church). He also cautions the wild branch not to be conceited (verse 20) or it “also will be cut off” (verse 22). The branches which were cut off will be grafted back in “for the sake of the fathers” (verse 28) and because God’s “gifts and the calling of God” to the branches which were cut off are “irrevocable” (verse 29). Since the “calling of God” is irresistible this grafting back into the olive tree is assured. Both will partake of the “rich root of the olive tree” (verse 17).
As part of this grafting process to the branches which were broken, God seals one hundred and forty four thousand, twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:3-8) for special ministry.
The prophet Zechariah (12:2-3) prophesies of the end times “I will make Jerusalem and Judah like a cup of poison to all the nearby nations that send their armies to surround Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be a heavy stone burdening the world. And though all the nations of the earth unite in an attempt to move her, they will be all crushed.”
He continues with this Armageddon scenario: “The Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal line will be as God, like the Angel of the Lord who goes before them! For my plan is to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
“Then I will pour out the spirit of grace and prayer on all the people of Jerusalem, and they will look on him they
pierced, and mourn for him as for an only son, and grieve bitterly for him as for an oldest child who died” (Zech. 8-11). Jesus is “him they pierced” on a cross. The Roman soldiers did the piercing but the Pharisees manipulated his murder with their spiteful accusations.
God also sends two powerful witnesses to preach to the whole
world (Revelation 11:3-12) including the Jews:
I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve
hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive tree and
the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if any one desires
to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and
if any one would desire to harm them, in this manner he must be killed. These
have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the
days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into
blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.”
After their ministry is finished, the beast that comes out of the abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city “which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8). They will then be resurrected after three and a half days and ascend to heaven in a cloud.
Pretribulationists (“Pretribbers”) generally like to restrict the ministry of these two witnesses to Israel but this does not appear to be the case from the language used even though they may die “where their Lord was crucified” in Jerusalem. The word “may” is used as this is a “mystical” great city.
Do the “saints” referred to in Matthew, Luke, and Mark not include the Church but only the Jews grafted back into the tree during the Tribulation as well as those who come to Christ after the rapture?
Pretribulationists will argue that in Matthew 24 Jesus addresses “Jerusalem’s children” and that the Church was not formed until the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The gospel of Matthew tells us Jesus was talking to the apostles privately. Granted the apostles were Jerusalem’s children but they were also His apostles and as such His Church. Even if the Church was founded on the day of Pentecost, Jesus is prescient and saw in the apostles His Church. The argument that Jesus was not referring to His Church when he addressed His apostles but was referring to national Israel and therefore that Israel and not the Church will endure the Great Tribulation holds little substance.
He very clearly told them “they will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you” (Matthew 24:9), “when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say” (Mark 13:11), “they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake” (Luke 21:12). For those who view the Word of God as inerrant, authoritative and reliable, to argue that you is not referring to the apostles as the Church but to Israel is a misinterpretation of scripture.
Very clearly both the Church and Israel will go through the Great Tribulation.
The apostle John relates in Revelation 7:9: “I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.”
One of the elders informs John, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). Pretribulationists will intepret this verse as a vision of the raptured church, but another interpretation is that these are those, “who had come off victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name” (Revalation 15:2), and “the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand” (Revelation 20:4). We are told that this great multitude are the ones who “come out” of the Great Tribulation. We are not told how they’ve “come out.”
One could argue that the Church is referred to in Revelation 7:14 as their robes have been rendered white by the blood of the Lamb, meaning that they’ve gained eternal life not by their own righteousness but by having their sins covered by the blood Christ shed on the cross for each person’s sins. Incidentally, if you have not accepted God’s provision for eternal life in your life you can do so by simply repeating this prayer, “Jesus I want you to come into my life, forgive me for my sins, I accept the blood you shed for me on the cross, and ask you now to come into my life and take charge.”
On the other hand we are told in Revelation 7:14 that these are the ones who COME OUT of the Great Tribulation, meaning they had to be in it to leave it. Perhaps they went through part of it or all of it but the language states they were
Perhaps those referred to in Revelation 7:14 can be distinguished from those referred to in Revelation 20:4 because the latter were “beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years,” while martyrdom is not referred to the “great multitude” of Revelation 7:14. Scripture isn’t clear however if these two groups are one and the same.
One should note here that Revelation 20:4 disproves the doctrine of “soul sleep” or a sleep after death prior to resurrection and judgment. John saw the souls of the martyrs in heaven just prior to when “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” In 2nd Corinthians 5: 7-8 Paul further supports this point, “For we walk by faith, not by sight – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” To be absent from the body is to be with the Lord, not sleeping in a state of unconsciousness.
Jesus says to Martha in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life; he
who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes
in Me shall never die.” Walter Martin in his book "Kingdom of the Cults", states,
“The Greek is extremely powerful in verse 26, for our Lord deliberately used
the double negative, a construction which intensifies with great emphasis that
to which it is applied. Jesus could not grammatically have been more emphatic
in stating that the believer, who is alive both physically and spiritually,
can never experience loss of communion or fellowship as a spiritual entity,
though his body may ‘become’ dead.” (Chapter entitled “The Puzzle of Seventh
Day Adventists”, subsection “The Sleep of the Soul and the Destruction of the
APPOINTED UNTO WRATH
A favorite verse for pretribulationists is 1 Thessalonians 5:9 in which Paul states, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is an end time verse as Paul refers to “the times and epochs” (verse 1) and in verse 2: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” and in verse 4: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief.”
Those who believe in a posttribulation rapture do not see any clues of a rapture here but mainly an emphasis on an imminent arrival of the “day of the Lord” which will happen suddenly, as a thief in the night.
Those who believe in a pretribulation rapture will interpret the preceding as follows: Paul is clearly discussing end times. He urges the Church to be alert and sober. He’s saying the Church is not destined to wrath when the day of the Lord comes. The Great Tribulation, also referred to as the “day of the Lord”, will be the time of God’s great wrath. Therefore, the church will be removed out of wrath’s way.
Revelation 6:15-17 states: “And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence 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 is able to stand?”
In his book “The Rapture Question” John Walvoord states: “The character of the judgments which will fall is such that they will affect everyone-famine, pestilence, sword, earthquake, stars falling from heaven. The only way one could be kept from that day of wrath would be to be delivered beforehand. The same context in 1 Thessalonians 5 also affirms that the believer will not be overtaken by the day of destruction like a thief in the night and that the believer is not to be included with the children of darkness (verse 4) who are doomed for destruction. Instead of being appointed to wrath and sudden destruction as children of darkness, believers are declared to be appointed to salvation and to living together with him.”
In 1Thessalonians 1:9-10 Paul relates how the church of the Thessalonians, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, who He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
A greater wrath for a human being than the Great Tribulation is an eternity without
God as a result of sin, which Paul could be referring to here (see, “Detractors
From The Simplicity of Salvation” under the subsection “A Place Called Heaven – The Reward of Salvation”).
Those who don’t believe in the pretribulation rapture will agree that we are not destined for wrath per 1 Thessalonians 5:9 as per John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” They’ll argue that 1 Thessalonians 5:9 does not mean the Church won’t go through the Great Tribulation and that such an interpretation is too broad and attenuated. The argument can be made that Paul is merely urging believers to stay on the “straight and narrow” and not give in to immorality and dissipation of the latter days prior to the day of the Lord, a time when good will be called evil and evil will be called good. Nowhere in Paul’s text is the removal of the church stated or implied.
1 Thessalonians 5: 23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” may give some comfort to those who believe in a pretribulation rapture as the argument could be made, “How can your body be preserved complete through the Great Tribulation when most of humanity is destroyed?” On the other hand those who believe in a post tribulation rapture can argue that we’re talking here about a sanctification process, a trial by fire, through the Great Tribulation and if one endures one will face Jesus Christ without blame at the end of the Tribulation.
THAT YOU MAY HAVE THE STRENGTH TO ESCAPE
Jesus in Luke 21 (above in its entirety) when discussing the last days to his
disciples (verses 9-11) tells them, “Keep on the alert at all times, praying
in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about
to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Jesus like Paul is urging
Christians to be alert and refers to strength for an escape. In light of the
pervasiveness of the cataclysms in store an “escape” in this context could
very well be a “snatching” or “rapture”. This verse could mean a physical escape
rather than a rapture as no man can have enough strength to rapture himself.
Jesus could also be referring here to a spiritual “strength” which comes from
being empowered by the Holy Spirit through the experience of being “born again”
which involves accepting Christ as your personal savior and having a personal
relationship with the God of the Universe through Him, the second person of
the Trinity (see, “The Simplicity of God’s Plan For Eternal Life” -
“The Importance of the Trinity” and “Scriptural Proof of The Trinity”, also
see “The Spiritual Road” - “Being Born Again” and
“Powerful Evidence For the Deity of Christ” - “Establishing
A Relationship With God”).
Interestingly enough the persecution of believers occurs prior to the appearance of false Christs (verse 8), wars (verse 9), earthquakes, plagues, famines, terrors and great signs from heaven (verse 11). Luke 21:12 makes this clear, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.” The Great Tribulation will be a just God’s response to man’s pervasive evil in the latter days. True Christians will stand against this evil and be persecuted. They will be thrown in prisons and sentenced before kings and governors (as Paul was). Just before God brings judgment could it be He will remove his people by snatching them away?
Scripture has many illustrations of individuals who walked by faith who were delivered from the visitations of judgment which overtook the unbelieving. The Lord told Noah, “You alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Genesis 7:1) and spared him and his family from the flood.
Lot is called a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:6-9.
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority” (2 Peter 2: 4-10).
Genesis 18 tells us that the Lord and two men (angels) appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. Abraham serves them a meal. The Lord tells Abraham that Sarah, who was old and past childbearing, would have a son in a year. Sarah laughed for she was afraid and the Lord answered, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) (Editor’s note: Similarly a “Rapture” of the Church is not too difficult for the Lord. The issue is, is the Rapture backed by scriptural authority?).
After the meal the men rise up and look down toward Sodom. Abraham walks with them to send them off. The ensuing takes place (Genesis 18: 17-33) per the American Standard Version of the Bible:
Genesis 18:17-33. “And Jehovah said, Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do; seeing that Abraham had surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. And Jehovah said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Jehovah. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou consume the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure (translated “What if”) there are fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And Jehovah said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sake. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes: peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for the forty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for the twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for the ten's sake. And Jehovah went his way, as soon as he had left off communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.”
Abraham’s questioning of the Lord gives us a good insight into the Lord’s merciful nature. The Lord would not destroy Sodom if fifty righteous individuals remain in Sodom or for forty five righteous individuals remaining, or for forty righteous, for thirty righteous, for twenty or for ten. In Genesis 19:21-22 the angel of the Lord agrees to Lot’s request to flee to the small town of Zoar, telling Lot, “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” The angel cannot destroy Sodom until Lot and his family arrive to Zoar.
This passage offers hope for a pretribulation rapture but not authority for one as it does not concern the end times.
TO THE CHURCHES
In the Book of Revelation the apostle John addresses the end times. With respect to the second coming of Jesus John declares, “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM, EVEN THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM; AND ALL THE TRIBES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN OVER HIM” (Revelation 1:7).”
Postribulationists will argue that this verse only addresses only one coming of Christ, a coming in which every eye will see Him. Pretribulationists will argue that there are actually two comings, this one and a prior coming for the rapture when Jesus will come as “a thief in the night”. To the “thief in the night” position Postribulationists will argue that Jesus only comes once, he comes suddenly, unexpectedly and as such comes as a “thief in the night”. In other word Jesus’s coming as “a thief in the night” cannot be interpreted as two comings, but simply the manner in which He comes.
Postribulationists will use the following verses to substantiate that the Church does go through the Great Tribulation:
To the Church of Ephesus: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2: 7). What Jesus is calling “overcoming” here for Postribulationists is the trials of the Great Tribulation, including resisting the numbering program of the AntiChrist, the lies of the false Christs, the deceptions of the age etc…
To the Church of Smyrna: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). God has always tested his followers and the Great Tribulation will not be an exception.
To the Church of Pergamum: “To him who overcomes, to him will I give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receive it” (Revelation 2:17). Here the term “overcome” implies “overcoming” a trial to Postribulationists, the trials of the Great Tribulation.
To the Church of Thyatira: “Nevertheless, what you have, hold fast until I come. And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS” (Revelation 2:26). Here Jesus is talking about overcoming and persevering, doing his work, until the END. There is not a hint of a “removal” or “rapture” before the end.
To the Church of Sardis: “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels” (Revelation 3:4-5). Again Jesus is using the word “overcoming.” No mention is made to a “rapture” prior to the time of testing. In fact for those who do not “overcome” He offers hot coals and the fires of hell associated with “erasing” their name from the book of life.
To the Church of Philadelphia: A favorite verse for those who hold to a pretribulation rapture is the message to the Church of Philadelphia which states: “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10). Rapture advocates will argue that the “hour of testing” is the Great Tribulation. A better interpretation of this verse could be that these Christians will be kept from the hour of testing, because they know the Word of God and have obeyed it. They will not be tempted during the time of testing and therefore will not succumb to the testing. For them this time of tribulation will not be a test to their faith as they will be well anchored in the Word. Nevertheless their physical bodies will be sorely tried.
The problem with the Pretribulation interpretation comes from the following two verses: “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown” (Revelation 3:11). If you have been raptured and in the presence of Jesus in the heaven lies why would you have to “hold fast” so that no one take your crown? How could anyone take your crown once you’re in heaven? In heaven to use legalese your rights will have “vested”.
Furthermore Revelation 3:12 reads: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it any more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” Again “overcome” what? The time of testing.
To the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:21): “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on his throne.” This is indeed a powerful argument against the rapture as Jesus is urging us to overcome as he overcame. Jesus’s overcoming was by being nailed on a cross! This verse certainly doesn’t give support to a painless, instantaneous, convenient and easy “rapture” in which your clothes, glasses, dental fillings and maybe a wedding ring will be left behind! In Revelation 3:18 Jesus advises us: “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire.” The Great Tribulation is a judgment of fire, just like the flood was a judgment of water. Revelation 3:19 tells us why the Church will go through the Great Tribulation: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.”
The argument is made by pretribulationists that while the Church is mentioned nineteen times in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation it isn’t mentioned once as being on earth from Chapters 4 to 19 when God pours out his wrath. The counterargument is that in His message to the churches Jesus is consistent about “overcoming”, “holding fast until He comes”, “persevering”, “being faithful unto death”, “not fearing” and “being faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” The Church will very well be in the process of resisting and being decimated on earth until it reappears gloriously as a body in heaven, “coming out” of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:9) through a baptism of fire.
Revelation 14:9-12 after describing the eternal punishment of those who worship the Beast and his mark encourages God’s people “to endure patiently every trial and persecution, for they (YOU) are his saints who remain firm to the end in obedience to his commands and trust in Jesus” (Living Bible v. 12).
Paul in First Corinthians 15:51,52 tells us, “Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and the mortal must put on immortality.”
Pretribulationists believe in two comings of Christ and will use the above verse as their authority. Posttribulationists will argue that the dead will be raised at the time of Christ’s return and Christ only returns after the Great Tribulation. He does not come back twice. Their authority is Matthew 24:29-31 which tells us when Christ returns, “But
immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the POWERS OF THE HEAVENS WILL BE SHAKEN, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels WITH A GREAT TRUMPET AND THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER HIS elect FROM THE FOUR WINDS, FROM ONE END OF THE SKY TO THE OTHER.”
Therefore Jesus returns after the Great Tribulation. For those whose authority are the scriptures the Bible states so unequivocally.
Jesus continues a little further down in Matthew 24:40-42, “Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Again, Jesus is addressing the apostles, his followers, those who believe in Him. He told them in Matthew 24:19 they will be delivered to tribulation and killed prior to his return. Despite the horrors of the Great Tribulation tens of millions will come to Him at that time and will be rejoicing in heaven by its end. Some will survive this time of Tribulation and remain loyal to Him to its end. Those who’ve survived in rebellion to His authority will be judged as enemies of the King.
The editor commenced writing this analysis firmly believing in a pretribulation rapture and wanted to expose all the arguments for it. However for balance the postribulation arguments were also examined. After examining these arguments my certainty in a pretribulation rapture wavered and now in light of scriptural evidence I can only conclude there probably will not be a pretribulation rapture but a great time of testing of those who wear Christ’s mantle and judgment for everyone else.
The most important issue however is not whether one believes in the pretribulation rapture or not but whether one has accepted Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Messiah as one’s personal savior. Only this will assure you eternal life and keep you from an eternal wrath without God.
The bottom line is that if there is no pretribulation rapture God will see you through the Great Tribulation. He is big enough for it. So why not trust Him now by accepting his provision for sin, His Son? Certainly pray for a pretribulation rapture but prepare for a tribulation “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matthew 24:21).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abded-nego when faced with the threat of the fiery furnace answered Nebuchadnezzar: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). The Church today needs this type of commitment and not delude itself with an easy way out of the tribulation which lies ahead.