The Rapture: Pre- or Post-Tribulation?
The specific timing of Biblical events takes on great significance as we seek to confirm our understanding of what awaits us at the end of time. For those who hope to be with Christ at the end, knowing the timing of the Rapture becomes as important as understanding the chronology of the Tribulation. It is safe to say that everyone would like to believe that the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation. Sadly, after intense study, we have concluded that is not the case.
In The Great Rapture Hoax, Nathaniel West states, “The Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory is built on a postulate… repudiated by the early church, contradicted by the testimony of eighteen hundred years, and condemned by all the standard scholars of every age.” We tend to think Mr. West is correct. My intent in this blog, as well as in my book, America's Role in Armageddon, is to rebut the pre-Tribulation escape theory because of potentially soul-damning dilemmas awaiting those who look for Christ to return and save them before the Tribulation.
We’ve determined that the Rapture occurs on the final day of the Tribulation – or, as Paul described it, “at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed,” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Bible tells us the “last trump” is the seventh and final trumpet, and when it sounds, the saints will be raptured to meet Christ for His Second Coming, in the air. According to John in Revelation 20:4-6, only the martyred Tribulation saints take part in this Resurrection, rather than all who are dead in Christ. If any of Christ’s people are alive at that time, they then will be “caught up,” after the dead in Christ rise up (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
We must all be prepared for the trauma and deception that awaits us in the Great Tribulation. We must not expect Christ to come for us before it begins, because then we might not recognize the Tribulation when it is actually upon us. Looking for Christ, we could make the ultimately tragic mistake of accepting the Antichrist instead, as our returning Savior.
In this time of moral disintegration and earthly disasters, we must be ever-more vigilant, knowing that the Tribulation will start soon, and we will not be saved until the very end. Many Christians in this age of relative ease find it hard to believe they could be called upon to suffer and die for their testimony. They also believe themselves too cunning and perceptive to let an Antichrist deceive them into taking his mark. Although they have no Biblical proof that a Pre-Tribulation Rapture will ensure their escape, they find it much easier to believe they can avoid the death and delusion of the Tribulation.
We, like those overly-optimistic Christians, would love to escape the horrors of the Tribulation. We wish we could count on it. Sadly, Biblical evidence does not support it. Based on careful and logical evaluation of pertinent Scriptures, we must dismiss our selfish desires, and prepare instead for a post-Tribulation Rapture.
The Rapture and the Day of the Lord
The pre- or post-Tribulation debate often hinges upon the placement of either three and one-half or seven years between the Rapture and the day of the Lord. This timeframe is a critical concern, for we know that Christ’s triumphant return to Earth occurs after the Tribulation, on the day of the Lord: “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it,” (Isaiah 13:9). In addition, we can consult Jude 1:14-15: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed.” No matter how badly we might want to escape this horrific event, we cannot arbitrarily slide extra years in between the Rapture and the dreadful day of the Lord.
Paul called the elect’s last-minute evacuation the “blessed hope” – an event he said would take place when Christ appears openly and visibly in judgment, after the Tribulation. In a letter to Titus, Paul linked the Rapture with Christ’s appearing: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:13). Then, in his second epistle to Timothy, he again spoke of the appearing of Christ, but this time in connection with judgment: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom,” (2 Timothy 4:1). Therefore, since the blessed hope occurs at Christ’s appearing and since His appearance is also marked by vengeance, obviously the Rapture must coincide with the day of the Lord.
Removal of the Holy Spirit
Before the man of sin is revealed, another momentous and often misunderstood event must take place. The force that currently prevents the Antichrist from dominating the world must be removed: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed,” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). I believe that “he who now letteth” is the Holy Spirit, and it makes sense that His departure would coincide with the arrival of Satan on Earth.
Jesus Warns the Elect
Christ said in Matthew 24 that the elect would still be here in the middle of the Tribulation, for they would witness Antichrist’s proclamation of deity: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place,”(Matthew 24:15). The Lord even disclosed when the Rapture would take place: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light… and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send 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,” (Matthew 24:29- 31). From this, the very words of Christ, there can be no doubt; the gathering of the saints of God will be “after the tribulation.”