“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
In the near future, Bible prophecy indicates that the sudden and instantaneous mass disappearance of millions of people around the world will occur in an event known as the rapture. It is also clear that these people will have ascended into Heaven and will be in the very presence of God. Scripture is also clear that the only people who will be a part of this staggering event are those who are “born again” … or said another way, those who have personally received Jesus Christ. Mainline theologians have long taught that the rapture of New Testament Christianity is imminent – that is, at any moment. When scripture is examined in a panoramic and intellectually honest way, one has no choice but to conclude that the rapture will occur before the horror of the seven-year Tribulation commences. Some insist that the rapture will occur in the middle of the Tribulation, while others insist on the rapture occurring at the end of the Tribulation. A mid or post-tribulation rapture would not be imminent. If any predicted and scripturally prophetic event had to occur immediately preceding the rapture, the church would be awaiting that event instead of the shout and trumpet sound. If we did not keep ourselves diligent, we might not have an incentive to keep ourselves in a state of anticipation as the bible encourages us to be in. The teaching of Jesus that no man would know the day nor hour would be invalid. However, this does not mean that there will not be signs, or even intense ones, that will indicate that the rapture is drawing near. Jesus and the New Testament writers gave us signs to watch for indicating the approach of the Tribulation period. Obviously, if the rapture occurs before the Tribulation and the the signs of it’s approach are abundant as they are at this present time, then that by necessity indicates that the rapture is that much sooner. Over the past approximately 50 years, however, novel interpretations of the rapture have emerged. Some scholars teach a mid-tribulational rapture, while others teach a post-tribulational view of the rapture. Some even teach a pre-wrath view of the rapture. The “Pre-Wrath” view of the Rapture argues that the first three-fourths of the Tribulation is the wrath of Man and the wrath of Satan, and not the wrath of God. Therefore, the proponents of this view argue that the Church will suffer through the first three-quarters of the Tribulation since the Church is promised protection only from the wrath of God. Those who espouse this viewpoint of the rapture’s timing believe that the seal judgments are the wrath of man and Satan and that they continue throughout the first half of the Tribulation and into the second half, right up to the three-quarters point, or shortly thereafter. They place the trumpet judgments in the last quarter of the Tribulation and the bowl judgments in the first 30 days following the end of Daniel’s 70th Week of Years. But in this study, a more refined and more detailed scriptural examination of the rapture will confirm the conservative view of a pre-tribulation rapture. It revolves around the the New Testament teaching that the church is the bride of Christ and is separate from Israel, the historically wayward wife of God. Those who teach that the church will go through the tribulation, seemingly, do not understand the difference between the church and Judaism.
The Ten Virgins
The most definitive account is shown in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 …
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom (verse 1). “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (verse 5). “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (verse 6). “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (verse 10).
The parable of the ten virgins offers a vivid view of the rapture. It is a belief among many that the ten virgins represent born again, saved Christians who have been left behind despite being a part of the body of Christ. The general theme of this assumption is that carnal Christians who are not “living right” or are not pure enough in their walk with Christ will be left behind. However, this notion would indicate salvation through works, a doctrine that biblical scripture repudiates. Note that the story does not mention the bride, only the bridegroom and the bride’s attendants. Why? Because the story was originally told for Jewish ears. It was too early to reveal the mystery that the bride was going to be comprised mostly of Gentiles. It is very apparent that the ten virgins represent Judaism. Those who were left behind paid a heavier price for the oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, than just the purchase of it. They missed the marriage. It is a common belief that the Jews who reject the Gospel will go through the horrific tribulation. Toward the end, however, many will repent and accept Christ. At Armageddon, Jesus Christ will return with his wife to rescue Israel. At that time, Jesus will establish a world-wide kingdom with Jerusalem as his capital city.
Children of the Bridechamber
Christ also sidesteps the subject of the bride in another passage. There, he only discusses the subject of the children of the bridechamber …
“And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark 2:19-20).
Again, the bride is not identified. It is evident that Christ did not want the Jews to know that he planned to take a Gentile bride. Instead, he focused upon the children of the bridechamber – relatives of the groom – a reference to Jews.
Friend of the Groom
In the next reference, John the Baptist actually mentions the bride, yet the focus is upon himself as the friend of the groom …
“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29).
John refers to himself as the friend who rejoices over the bridegroom’s choice of a bride. The bride, however, remained a mystery to be revealed in later years. According to Jewish custom, there were two friends of the groom. One would serve as an attendant to the groom, as John the Baptist implied. The other would take care of the bride and present her to the groom. The apostle Paul regarded himself as the one who would present the bride to the groom. As the apostle to the Gentiles, he wrote to the church at Corinth …
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
This is a reference to Gentile Christianity in it’s role as the mystical bride of Christ. Paul finally reveals what was, heretofore, a mystery. In Jewish custom, a marriage was arranged with the payment of a price (mohar). Essentially, the groom actually bought the virgin from her father. In like manner, Christ paid the ultimate price for us – his own
blood. Following the financial arrangement and the signing of the marriage contract (ketubah), the groom would return to his father’s home where he would build a bridal chamber (chuppah). When it was prepared, he would return to fetch her for the marriage. This fetching was similar to elopement. In the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel, Christ promised to prepare a place for us, then return and take us to the Father’s house. It is a direct reference to the Jewish wedding …
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).
We presently await the return of Christ for us. If it only took six days to make the heavens and the earth, one can imagine how magnificent our mansions will be after 2,000 plus years of preparation. This brings us to a description of our future home.
The Lamb’s Wife
In the closing chapters of Revelation, the church is seen in our eternal home, the New Jerusalem …
“And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9).
John is taken to the holy city, which is described as a great and high mountain …
“And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. (Revelation 22:10).
In the final reference to the bride, we are shown the intricate relationship between the church and the Holy Spirit …
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
This is an important association. Like the servant of Abraham, who went to find a bride for Issac, the Holy Spirit has been choosing those who comprise the bride of Christ in every era of church history. As the book of Revelation opens, we are given a view of the church in the form of a seven-lamp Menorah. Christ, our high priest, stands in it’s midst and says …
“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).
The following seven letters to the seven churches are a pictorial overview of church history during the past 2,000 years. Each letter depicts certain aspects of the church age:
Ephesus – the church of the first century.
Smyrna – suffering persecution to A.D. 316.
Pergamos – under imperial favor, A.D. 316 to the end.
Thyatira – the papacy, A.D. 500-1500, plus a believing remnant.
Sardis – the Reformation, A.D. 1500 to the end.
Philadelphia – the true church in the era of missions.
Laodicea – the final state of apostasy.
In chapter one, we are informed that the Menorah represents the seven churches and in chapter four, we see that the Menorah standing before the throne of God …
“And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5).
Here, the Holy Spirit is associated with the seven views of church history. In every era, from Ephesus to Laodicea, the Holy Spirit has exhibited his ministry of choosing and preparing the bride. Both the church and the Holy Spirit work in concert to issue an invitation to the unsaved. Together, we proclaim the gospel message of salvation from eternal damnation through receiving Christ and his sacrifice upon the cross. Let us be reminded that in chapters 1-3, the church is on earth. However, in chapter 4, we see the seven-lamp Menorah standing before God’s throne. This means that we, the true church, have been raptured at this point prior to the events which follow – a pre-tribulation rapture.
The Selihot Ritual
The seven letters to the churches remind us of the Jewish “selihot” services which begin on Sunday before Rosh Hashana. In “The Jewish Holidays,” Michael Strassfeld writes …
The end of Elul is marked by Selihot – special penitential prayers – recited during the week before Rosh Hashana. It has become customary to begin selihot at 12 o’ clock the Saturday night before Rosh Hashana. In many synagogues, the cantor and/or choir will give a foretaste of the High Holiday services. Some synagogues have study sessions preceding the selihot services. Every day after that until Rosh Hashana, selihot is said just before sunrise or early in the morning. The selihot service is composed of prayers asking for forgiveness. The day before Rosh Hashana marks an intensification of the preparations, reflected in an extra-long selihot service” (pp. 97-98).
Is it possible that John’s mention of the “Lord’s day” in chapter 1 corresponds to the Sunday before Rosh Hashana? Viewed as a seven-lamp Menorah, the church appears to be already in the presence of Christ as the Revelation opens. Are we raptured before Jesus appears to John? When John arrives in Heaven in chapter 4, the Menorah is already standing before the throne of God. How and when did we get there? Did we arrive with John in chapter 4 or were we raptured previously? During the selihot ritual, Jews will gather in groups of four to initiate a bet din – a court from whom one asks absolution from any unfulfilled vows from the past year. Usually, each of the four takes a turn asking the other three to serve as judges. Some Jewish groups observe selihot throughout the entire month of Elul. They contend with God over who has offended whom. Malachi appears to be somewhat of a selihot as God pleads with Israel. The sixth chapter of Micah carries the same theme. In each case, it is God who initiates and wins the argument. The pot has no right to question the potter. God is the offended one. Again, Michael Strassfeld writes …
“We are ready to move on to Elul, a prelude to the high Holiday season with it’s themes of renewal and return. In fact, the period of Elul embodies a process of courtship between us and God … estranged from each other … Israel and God rediscover each other and initiate the slow and at times painful process of becoming lovers again” (p. 93).
In each of the seven letters, the Lord reveals a similar theme. To Ephesus he said, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4). To Smyrna he said, “… ye shall have tribulation ten days” (verse 10). To Pergamos he said, “I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam” (verse 14). To Thyatira, he said, “I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel … to seduce my servants” (verse 20). To Sardis, he said, “I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:2). To Philadelphia, he said, “… hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (verse 11). Finally, to Laodicea, he said, “I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (verses 15-16).
The Jewish selihot ritual is typical of (represents) the Judgment Seat of Christ which the church is destined to encounter after the rapture event occurs. The apostle Paul teaches about the Judgment Seat of Christ in three epistles. He warns that each of us will give an account for the way we have lived our lives in service to Christ. To Rome Paul writes …
“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).
Again, Paul reminds the church at Corinth that Christ himself will be our judge…
“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
If the seven letters do not prophetically reflect the characteristics of the Judgment Seat of Christ, then one wonders where else in the book of Revelation would it fit?
An important feature in the Jewish marriage concerns the day upon which marriages were allowed to occur. Marriage with a maiden was commonly celebrated on a Wednesday afternoon, which allowed the first days of the week for preparation … marriages were not celebrated either on the Sabbath, or on the day before or after it, lest the Sabbath-rest should be endangered. Marriages were not allowed on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Prophetically, this constraint may be understood by viewing the days of the Jewish week as typical of a Shavuah – the Sabbatical cycle of seven years. Also, the weekly Sabbath was a prophetic type of the seventh year which was designated as a Shmitah, or Sabbatical Year. For instance, Daniel chapter 9 refers to 70 weeks which were actually set to seven years each – a total of 490 years. Though they appear in our English Bible as “weeks,” they were not weeks of seven days, but years. From this chapter we may observe the relationship between the seven-day week and the seven-year week. One is typical of the other. Each concludes with a Sabbath rest. From that perspective, we may conclude that the rapture could not take place in the sixth year of the Tribulation, or the seventh year, or even the year after Christ’s return. That also
eliminates the rapture at the beginning of the Tribulation, or the year before which is a Sabbatical year, or possibly even two years before. Since Jewish weddings typically took place on Wednesday afternoon, we may consider the possibility of the rapture occurring as early as three and a half years before the Tribulation period begins. From the fact that Jewish marriages occurred in the middle of the week, one might be thinking that a mid-tribulation rapture is in order. Not so. When one considers that Christ will be fulfilling his role of High Priest during the course of the Tribulation, the High Priest will have no time for his wife during the Tribulation period. The duties of High Priest are spelled out in the liturgy of the High Holy Days.
How Long Before?
John F. Walvoord writes in his book “The Rapture Question” that there is clearly an interval between the rapture and the beginning of the seven-year tribulation. He writes concerning the restraining power described in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 …
“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 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, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8). “If the Holy Spirit is identified as the restrainer, a chronology is set up that unmistakably places the translation of the church to Heaven before the tribulation. The passage teaches that the order of events is as follows: (1) the restrainer is now engaged in restraining sin; (2) the restrainer will be taken away at a future point in time; (3) then the man of sin can be revealed. Inasmuch as the man of sin is identified with the world ruler, the ‘ruler who will come’ of Daniel 9:26, it should be clear to students of prophecy that the restrainer must be taken away before the beginning of the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy” (page 80).
Dr. Walvoord’s statement implies some passage of time between the removal of the church and the establishment of the Antichrist. Large scale political movements cannot develop in a day or two. At least months, and perhaps years, are required for the necessary changes in the power structure. The removal of the restrainer (and the church) is only the bare beginning of the Antichrist’s rise to power. J. Dwight Pentecost, in his massive work, “Things To Come,” says essentially the same thing about the above passage of scripture …
“The indication here is that as long as the Holy Spirit is resident within the church, which is his temple, this restraining work will continue and the man of sin cannot be revealed. It is only when the church, the temple, is removed that this restraining ministry ceases and lawlessness can produce the lawless one (the Antichrist). It should be noted that the Holy Spirit does not cease his ministries with the removal of the church, nor does he cease to be omnipresent with her removal, but the restraining ministry does cease” (page 205).
In “The Footsteps of the Messiah,” author Arnold Fruchtenbaum makes one of the more lucid statements to be found on this subject. He notes that, regarding the time of Christ’s appearance, there are two circumstances that must be considered …
“First, the rapture does come before the tribulation. Since the tribulation begins with the signing of the seven-year covenant, the very latest point in which the rapture can occur would be at the time of the signing of the seven-year covenant. The rapture will not occur beyond that point. Second, the rapture is imminent. It can come at any moment, and it need not wait until the signing of the seven-year covenant. Combining this information, the conclusion is that the rapture will occur sometime between this very moment and the signing of the seven-year covenant … it means that the specific span of time during which the rapture can occur is any time between right now and the signing of the seven-year covenant. Therefore, the church may see some more pre-tribulational events just as it has already seen three, but it may not see any more, depending on exactly at what point the rapture will occur” (page 106).
The three events he refers to are World War 1 and World War 2, the establishment of the modern state of Israel and Jerusalem established as it’s capital. In a concluding paragraph, he comes to the heart of the point …
“The relationship of the rapture to the tribulation must be clearly focused in the mind. The rapture precedes the tribulation, but it does not begin the tribulation, a fact confused by many pre-tribulationists. It is not the rapture, but the seven-year covenant which begins the tribulation. The rapture will merely come some time before this, and may very well precede the tribulation by a good number of years” (page 107).
Think about the weight of these last few words. The church may be taken out of the world “a good number of years” prior to the tribulation. This should be a great encouragement to pre-tribulationists. As already revealed above in the “Wednesday Afternoon” section, an important feature in the Jewish marriage concerning the day upon which marriages were allowed to occur solidly confirms the idea that the rapture will occur at least three and a half years before the tribulation begins. The rapture cannot occur at any point during the tribulation just based on that information alone. If there is an interim period to allow time for the one-world government and religious system to develop and the Antichrist to be revealed, believers will not be present to suffer it’s worst outrages. But this naturally raises another question. Is there any way we can more closely gauge the length of this interval?
Prelude to the Seven-Year Tribulation
In pursuit of this question, one must attempt to reconcile the obvious gap between the rapture and the tribulation by referring to events mentioned in the Bible. In particular, one must investigate the opening chapters of the book of Revelation. In no way is this investigation to be considered a dogmatic presentation of final truth. Rather, it is intended to stimulate general thinking on the subject of the rapture. The interim period following the the departure of the true church from earth to Heaven in the rapture event cannot be a random matter; God does not work that way. When Jesus came the first time, he was on a moment-by-moment schedule that had been laid out long in advance. His actions were foreshadowed in the Feasts of Israel. He became our Passover … at the very moment the Passover lamb was being slain in the Temple. He became the “… firstfruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:20) on the very day of Firstfruits. His Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. Therefore, when he comes for the church in the rapture event, it will be according to a master schedule at least as complex as this. This brings us to the heart of the matter. Revelation appears to be laid out in a way that prophetically corresponds to the Jewish festival or Rosh Hashana. Preparation for this event involves a period of reflection and penitential prayer. Jews believe that the books of judgment are opened at this time. They greet each other with a blessing: “May you be inscribed for a good year in the book of Life!” They believe that one must be spiritually prepared for the coming time of spiritual scrutiny. On the eve of Rosh Hashana, a shofar is sounded in a special series of blasts designated to strike terror into the heart of the hearer. This is the festival that marks the Jewish New Year. It is observed for two days (regarded as a single long day), followed by a fast on the third day – the Fast of Gedaliah. Rosh Hashana is the biblical Feast of Trumpets. It initiates the ten Days of Awe that culminate in the Days of Atonement – Yom Kippur. These days commence with the idea of “beginning anew.” They end with repentance and the dramatic confession of God’s sovereignty. They close with a gravely serious prayer, imploring the Lord that they be sealed in the Book of Life. It hardly needs to be pointed out that this is the progression of events that we find in Revelation. It’s judgments begin with the opening of the book and end when Israel is besieged by the nations. Only the acknowledgment of Christ as divine sovereign and his second coming finally saves them. Then the books are opened and judgment is consummated. Those found worthy are written in the Book of Life. In the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation, the redeemed are seen in Heaven. John has been taken on a journey through time to that future day of historical transition from the church back to Israel. These two chapters serve the purpose of showing that the events of the Tribulation are founded in actions taken at the throne of God. Furthermore, they are witnessed by the redeemed. If they are witnessed by the redeemed as scripture clearly indicates, then this too is a solid proof that the church is in Heaven before the Tribulation ever commences. Chapter four takes place in Heaven before God’s throne. Here, we see the elders (representing the redeemed) as they offer their thanks, praise and worship to the Lord. That they have been brought as a body before the throne is testimony that the work of gathering them has come to completion. This is a dramatic setting that radiates with the air of anticipation. Chapter five continues the same heavenly scene. It opens with the search for one worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll. At first, John is grieved because it appears that the worthy one is not to be found. Then, one of the elders informs him that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” has obtained victory and is able to break the seven seals and open the book. His appearance is like a slain lamb, reminding us of Passover and the events that precede the Exodus from Egypt. The Lamb is then declared to be worthy to receive the blessings of the coming Kingdom Age.
The Four Horsemen
With these preliminary events having taken place, we come to Revelation 6 which features the opening of the book’s first six seals. Seal number one is, of course, a representation of the Antichrist, who rides forth on a symbolic white horse …
“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2).
The language here strongly suggests that this is just the bare beginning of the Antichrist’s rise to power. But the restraint is now removed; he is able at last, to begin to fulfill his evil desires. However, the closing words of this verse, “to conquer” suggest that the bulk of his conquest remains yet future. The obvious question, at this point, is whether or not he has signed the covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27. There is no indication that he has. In fact, having just begun to ride forth, the implication is that he has not. The second seal is a red horse of war. By far, the most significant major last days war prophesied in the Old Testament is seen in Ezekiel 38 & 39. It is said to be the only prophecy that actually mentions a modern nation – Russia – by name, then consigns that nation to condemnation. According to both Daniel and Revelation, the entire seven-year tribulation can be viewed as a series of battles that finally lead up to the conclusive Battle of Armageddon. The first in this series seems to be the Russian invasion of Israel … probably represented by the red horse. The black horse of seal number three, depicts a major financial upheaval. Perhaps this will involve runaway inflation that will render the unbacked currency of the day (currently the U.S. dollar), virtually worthless. Here, we see either food shortages or rationing on the basis of a financial depression. A global war precipitated by the preceding horse could easily precipitate such a condition. Seal four is death. The pale green horse is the color of a ghastly horror show. Perhaps as a result of famine and disease on the heels of a global economic depression, there comes a massive plague of fatalities. Again, war could easily account for the events that lead up to such a condition as this. These “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” have long been seen as an inseparable set of four events. They are commonly seen as happening together, in a coordinated movement that initiates God’s judgment. One thing is clear: out of this chaotic mixture the Antichrist, alone, is the conqueror. He and his emerging system seem to profit from this muddle of catastrophes.
Two More Seals – Two Groups of People
The fifth and sixth seals are quite different from the first four. They refer to two specific – and very different – classes of people. Seal number five, for example, deals with a group of souls beneath the altar of the heavenly Temple. They are given white robes, the biblical symbol of righteousness. But since they have not yet been resurrected, they must have died following the catching away, or rapture, of the church. They are heard to ask an impassioned question …
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10).
They are told to wait a while; the suffering would have to continue for some period of time. If judgment and vengeance have not yet taken place, has the Tribulation period even begun? It would seem not. This question is augmented by the next seal. As it is opened. As it is opened, some truly supernatural events are triggered. The sun, moon and stars are affected, as well as the heavens themselves. Mountains and islands are observed to move. God has begun to change the very systems of the earth, itself. The group of people addressed here are obviously the unredeemed. They represent the unsaved nations and every class from the high and mighty to the most lowly servant. In a state of stark terror, they hide from the coming judgment. After this seal is opened, an announcement is made …
“For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17).
Apparently, it is not until this time that the “Day of the Lord” breaks forth in full heat. Here, it could be argued that this is when the tribulation actually begins. The strong suggestion is that the first six seals are a prelude to the seven years of Tribulation. It is not until the opening of the seventh seal that the trumpet is actually blown.
Rosh Hashana and Deliverance
The ten days that begin with Rosh Hashana – The Feast of Trumpets – typify the terror and judgment that will sweep the world during the tribulation. For years, commentators have written that the ten plagues of Moses are a type of the afflictions of the great tribulation. It is certainly no coincidence that the number ten is seen in both cases. Although there is not a demonstratable point-by-point connection, the ten plagues in Exodus grimly foreshadow the tribulation. They are blood, frogs, lice, flies, cattle disease, boils, fiery hail, locusts, darkness and death of the first-born. The tribulation will magnify these plagues a thousand times. Pharoah placed Israel under bondage. Egypt, an Old Testament type of the world system, fell under God’s judgment. After Israel experienced great hardship, Moses the deliverer took his people to the Promised Land. In like manner, the future deliverance of Israel from the bondage of the world system will be accomplished only after the persuasive plagues of the tribulation.
Periods of historical transition between the dispensations are the rule rather than the exception. For example, nearly a hundred years elapsed from the birth of Jesus until the death of John, the last Apostle. Near the time of Christ’s public ministry, John the Baptist came forth preaching the baptism of repentance. Perhaps four to five years before the ascension of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the infant church, John began to announce the coming Messiah …
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:1-4). “And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (verses 7-8).
It was to be nearly three-and-a-half years later before John’s words came to fulfillment in the imparting of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the early church at Pentecost. John (the baptist), who has been called the last of the Old Testament prophets, ushered out the waning days of the Dispensation of the Law. The Apostles ushered in the infant church, refining it’s form and outreach, while giving the world the New Testament. Perhaps a similar time period awaits future fulfillment following the removal of the church from the earth. It stands to reason that a transitional period will be necessary for the Antichrist to establish himself in the eyes of the world. He is one of the four horsemen,
after all. He rides forth with war, economic upheaval, famine, plague and death. In the midst of this chaos, he spectacularly rises to world dominating power with false Satanic signs and wonders. The first six seals present this very kind of picture. The next time the Antichrist is seen – in Revelation chapter 13 – his power is secure and he places the entire world (but Israel, in particular) under bondage. Shades of Pharaoh and the ten plagues of Egypt? There is no question that it is. It is just prior to the opening of the seventh seal that “the great day of his wrath” is said to have arrived (Revelation 6:17). With the opening of that seal, the first trumpet sounds and the Day of the Lord comes forth in fullness. If the first six seals are transitional, might they occupy a period of some three plus years? If the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur are a model for this time period, perhaps three of the days include the transition from rapture to tribulation. This would leave seven, corresponding to the number of years in the tribulation.
One Thing Is Certain
An honest and dissecting look at scripture reveals one thing – The man of sin (the Antichrist) of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will not be revealed until the restrainer is pulled aside. That fact, combined with his advent as one of the four horsemen, tells us that his unveiling coincides with a great war, perhaps the battle of “Gog, the land of Magog,” as described in Ezekiel 38 and 39. This being the case, the church is certainly not going to be involved with that war. Nor will we be any part of it’s aftermath. In the light of these thoughts, it becomes clearer just why the rapture is referred to by Paul as the “blessed hope” …
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:12-14).
With the rapture of the true, born again church occurring as much as three-and-a-half years before the very first seal of Revelation 6 is ever broken, it is very accurate to say that the “blessed hope” of the rapture that Paul mentions is even more of a blessing than we have previously thought.
“Rest With US”
The entire focus of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians is to bring comfort to the Thessalonian Christians who are experiencing various trials, including persecution for their faith:
“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10).
Here, he correctly points out that the revealing of Jesus described here is decidedly not his visible second coming at the end of the Tribulation. Paul is explicitly comforting those who were at that time being persecuted, and by extension, Christians throughout the Church Age. He says that we will be at “rest” during the Lord’s Day of Judgment. Furthermore, he notes the pronoun distinction that Paul often uses to differentiate the saints from their worldly contemporaries. Those being troubled are said to “rest with us,” while the Lord takes “vengeance on them,” that is, the unbelievers. To enjoy rest while the world is being judged is the central idea in the pre-tribulational rapture view of scriptural interpretation. This passage also describes Christ as coming, “to be glorified in his saints.” In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had already described the rapture as occurring simultaneously with the resurrection of the saints, here expressed as glorification. Thus, the subject of the letter is clearly laid out. Paul’s message to these saints extends across the centuries to us. We, too, find that we are continuously suffering rejection and ridicule for our simple willingness to believe prophecy literally. Jesus, who will come to judge the nations, has promised to come and take us home before he brings this, the Day of the Lord, to pass.
You’ve Missed The Rapture
The real debate begins in the second chapter, where two key expressions are found: First, “the day of Christ,” and second, “a falling away.” To understand what Paul is saying, it is necessary to take these two expressions in their order of appearance in the text …
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 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, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10).
Here, we learn that even in Paul’s day, there were deceivers abroad. They were teaching that the horrors of the Tribulation were already present and about to fall upon the world with full force. Naturally, this would have been a source of real anxiety for the struggling members of the early church. No doubt, they already knew about the prophesied future day of judgment. Through the prophets of the Old Testament, they well knew of the perils that would be wrought upon Israel and the world during the Day of the Lord, called in the King James version, “the day of Christ.” In a moment, we shall see that this alternative reading has caused much misunderstanding. If this day had indeed already been present, the hope of being kept from judgment would evaporate. But why would anyone want to convince the faithful among the early church that they had missed the rapture? Paul had earlier assured them that the Lord would return with a shout, prior to the Day of the Lord, which he said would come “as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). This, they had been well taught, even as Paul reminds them when he says, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5). Knowing the mind of Paul as we do, it is absolutely certain that he left no doubt among Christians that they would be taken out of the world before the Day of the Lord. However, certain false teachers undoubtedly wanted to draw a congregation to themselves. Through the incitement of panic, they falsely promised their deceived followers that their only hope was to abandon Paul’s leadership. In other words, they used fear to build an empire around themselves, for fame, power and profit. Once you’ve convinced someone that catastrophe is just ahead, they begin to depend upon you for their security. The verses above are well known to prophecy watchers, who link the actions of the Antichrist to the abomination of desolation” spoken by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, which quotes Daniel 9:27. Finally, another view of the same event is described in Revelation 13, with the detailed description of the Antichrist. Imagine the duplicity of false teachers who were trying to convince early Christians that the disasters of the Old Testament prophets were about to overtake them. Given the dark and dramatic nature of the Old Testament prophecies, these deceivers were able to wield a powerful influence. Every generation seems to have it’s share of these false teachers. Even today, some have tried to convince believers, true born again saved Christians, that they will be subject to these prophecies. The question is why? Probably the most straightforward explanation would be the pride associated with enduring through the Tribulation, and surviving until Christ’s Second Coming. This pride likely fuels a misinterpretation and observance of what scripture actually reveals.
Day of Christ or Day of the Lord?
Paul refutes this notion of born again, true Christians enduring through the Tribulation by pointing out that the “man of sin,” the Antichrist, had not yet been revealed. To this day, that explanation still holds. However, for modern readers, there is a further element of confusion in the text. Contemporary scholarship insists that the true reading of the phrase, “the day of Christ is at hand,” should be “the day of the Lord is at hand.” There is a huge difference between these two terms as they are commonly understood. But in 2 Thessalonians, the context carries greater weight than the term itself, as we shall see. It is in this area that Dr. E. Schuyler English, a scholar whose impeccable credentials qualified him to speak authoritatively on the fine distinctions of New Testament Greek, makes a special contribution, beginning with an explanation of “the day of Christ.” Virtually every new version of the Bible (the New King James version is a notable exception) substitutes “day of the Lord” at this point. Speaking as a New Testament editor, he points out that only one Greek text, the Textus Receptus, uses the word “Christ.” The rest use “Lord.” Which is it to be? This question will continue to be argued by textual experts. Dr. English goes on to point out that “these two expressions are not synonymous at all,” one referring to salvation and rejoicing; the other to darkness and judgment. But regardless of which way one reads the text, the point that it makes is very clear: Whoever was circulating those false epistles was attempting to convince the readers of the letter that they had missed the rapture. In one sense, it makes little difference which title is used, since the chapter begins with an exhortation to be encouraged by “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In this opening statement, Paul uses his divine title, his proper name and the designation of his Messianic office. Christ is the Lord, and the Lord is Christ; he will act as both deliverer for his body of saved, born again believers and as judge for the world system. So, which title is correct, and how critical is this argument, relative to the true understanding of the rapture? Dr. English points out that the common New Testament usage of “the day of Christ” is always optimistically encouraging. It speaks not of judgment, but of deliverance, such as in the following example …
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).
Here, Paul writes to the Philippian Christians in a prayer for their spiritual growth. Implicit in his desire for this group is the assumption that their development will continue … up to a point. That point, “the day of Christ,” is a reference to the rapture. If it were, in fact, a reference to the Tribulation, Paul would have prayed that their growth would continue through that day, not until that day. As if that weren’t sufficient explanation of the event in question, just a few verses earlier there is a similar expression …
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Again, Paul’s message is unmistakable. It is not the Tribulation and Christ’s visible Second Coming that is being spoken of here. It is the rapture. Only up to that event will the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer be necessary. After that, during the Tribulation, the Spirit will be taken aside. His work is “until,” not “through,” that day. Another example of this type is seen in the second chapter of Philippians. Yet again, it is a prayer for spiritual success among Paul’s followers …
“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain” (Philippians 2:15-16).
If this were a reference to the Tribulation period, Paul certainly would not rejoice in it. Far from the Tribulation, this is, in fact, the escape from the Tribulation. It is the rapture. On yet another occasion, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to the same day, this time in the context of his explanation of a change in his plans. Again, he associates the “day of Christ” with rejoicing …
“As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus” (2 Corinthians 1:14).
The Old Testament “day of the Lord” denotes judgment; The New Testament “day of Christ” speaks of hope, blessing and comfort. Having established this distinction, we are still faced with the modern manuscript debate. Except for the King James and New King James Bibles, virtually every Bible printed today translates the phrase in question as “the day of the Lord is at hand.” The manuscript debate continues. If “Lord” is the correct term, is Paul referring to the rapture, or judgment? After clarifying the meaning of “the day of Christ,” Dr. English acknowledges (as stated above) that only one Greek text (the Textus Receptus) uses this expression. The rest use “Lord.” Suppose for a moment that “the day of the Lord” is correct here. In this case, Paul is telling his followers that they shouldn’t fall for the false teaching that the Tribulation has already arrived. He says, “Let no man deceive you … “ into believing that this is the case. On the other hand, if “the day of Christ” is correct, Paul is telling them that the rapture has already taken place, a dire circumstance indeed from the perspective of those left behind. But in either case, no matter which term is used, the fate of the believer is the same. He has missed the rapture and must now face the Tribulation. Neither the context of the letter, nor it’s stated intent – to comfort the believer – supports this reading. Then Paul immediately adds another qualifying statement, an expression by which his readers may discern whether the Tribulation has actually arrived. He describes an intervening event. Today, it is vital that we understand the true nature of this event. This event is mentioned by Paul as …
“The” Falling Away
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition …” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 has been the subject of some controversy in regards to the timing of the rapture and whether it will occur before the Tribulation starts or at some point during or after the Tribulation. The first thing to take note of is the fact that Paul is not teaching here that the falling away and revelation of the man of sin have to take place before the Rapture takes place. What he is stating here is that the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin, or the Antichrist, have to take place before the Day of the Lord begins, not the rapture. The implication being that the Antichrist would already be on the world scene and in a position of power before the Day of the Lord and the seven-year Tribulation period begins. He would have to be in a position of power in order to make or confirm the covenant with Israel at the very beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period. Certainly, Israel would not enter into a confirmed covenant relationship with this man if he weren’t in a position of authority or power to confirm such a covenant with him. So Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 is not saying that here are two things that have to happen before the Rapture: the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin or the Antichrist. What he is saying is, here are two things that must take place before the Day of the Lord begins, not before the Rapture begins. One must remember that the Tribulation doesn’t begin until the Antichrist signs the treaty with Israel. Furthermore, convincing evidence suggests that the phrase “falling away” is likely referring to the rapture itself. It is better translated as “departure.” The use of the definite article “the” lends support to the view that the falling away is the rapture. The basic function of the article “is to point out an object or to draw attention to it. Its use with a word makes the word stand out distinctly,” (Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, page 137). Paul is not speaking of A falling away, but THE falling away. In all probability, Paul is referring to some subject he has previously discussed with the Thessalonians. The use of the definite article the seems to mean that Paul had already previously spoken to the Thessalonians about it” (Word Pictures in the New Testament, IV, 49). If this is the use of the article in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, one would expect to find a place, either in 1 or 2 Thessalonians, where Paul previously referred to a departure from the faith. Upon examination, there is no known mention or reference to the Thessalonians of a previous departure from the faith. However, there is previous mention or reference to the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1. So, the word which is translated “falling away” can refer to a physical departure … as in the rapture. Paul’s style of writing in this chapter also lends support to the idea that the “falling away” is the rapture. In verse 3, Paul states that two events must occur before the day of the Lord can come, namely (1) the “falling away,” and (2) the revealing of the man of sin. Paul’s reference to this second event seems to be more fully described in verses 8–9. If, indeed, this is Paul’s style, then verses 6 and 7, which describe the removal of the Holy Spirit and the church, would be a more detailed explanation of the first event in verse 3 (the “falling away”). Paul’s purpose in writing lends support to the view that the “falling away” is the rapture. One must always remember the setting of the Thessalonians. The Thessalonian believers were being persecuted for their faith, and they thought they were in the Tribulation. Paul writes to tell them that they can’t possibly be in the Tribulation because two things have to occur before the Tribulation can begin: the “falling away” and the revelation of the man of sin. If religious apostasy is a means by which Paul expects the Thessalonians to know whether or not they are in the Tribulation, then he has failed to prove his point because there has always been religious apostasy, even in the time of the apostle Paul, and the Thessalonians were not in a position to distinguish any present apostasy from “THE apostasy.” However, if Paul was referring to the rapture of the church, then the Thessalonians could know with certainty that they could not yet be in the Tribulation. If both the removal of the Restrainer and the “falling away” refer to the rapture of the Church, then 2 Thessalonians 2:1–10 offers two proofs for the rapture occurring before the Tribulation. Furthermore, Dr. English’s exposition of Paul’s use of the term “falling away” is indeed a classic. He convincingly points out that Paul explicitly mentions the rapture as a pre-tribulational event. He writes … “Two events must occur, and in a specific order before the day of the Lord: (1) the (this definite article, hee, is in the Greek) falling away; and (2) the revelation of the man of sin. It is the former of these two phenomena that we would discuss as pertaining to the subject of this treatise. He continues, “The Greek words, translated ‘a falling away,’ are “hee apostasia. It is directly from the noun that we obtain our English word “apostasy.” Apostasia generally carries the meaning of defection, revolt or rebellion against God. These are the primary meanings of the word, as found in most lexicons. But, there is a secondary connotation in Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, namely: disappearance, or departure.” He goes on … “It is from the verb that we obtain the root meaning of a noun. Apostasia, the noun, comes from the verb aphisteemi, which means to remove, or in the casual sense, to put away, or to cause to be removed. This root verb, aphisteemi, is used fifteen times in the New Testament (Luke 2:27) (Luke 4:13) (Luke 8:13) (Luke 2:29) (Acts 5:37-38) (Acts 12:10) (Acts 15:38) (Acts 19:9) (Acts 22:29) (2 Corinthians 12:8) (1 Timothy 2:19) and (Hebrews 3:12). Of these fifteen occurrences of the verb, only three have any reference to religious departure. In all three of these cases, by context (Luke 8:13), and by descriptive phrases, “from the faith” and from the living God” respectively (1 Timothy 4:1) (Hebrews 3:12), religious defection is designated. In eleven of the fifteen New Testament occurrences, the actual word “depart” is used in translating aphisteemi, in relation to such modes of departure as that of the angel who, having delivered Peter from prison “departed from him” (Acts 12:10), and of Paul’s prayer that his thorn in the flesh “might depart” from him (2 Corinthians 12:8)” In the light of this interpretation, think about the comfort that this letter would have brought to it’s initial readers so many centuries ago. In addition to the normal doubts and fears brought by the oppositions of the pagan culture that surrounded them, they were worried about the impending Tribulation. Then, Paul reminded them of something that he had carefully laid out before, in his first letter, and before that, when he personally taught them. He told them that the departure would come before the revelation of the “man of sin,” and the Day of the Lord. In plain language, first would come the rapture, then the Tribulation. Dr. English writes, “It is evident, then, that the verb aphisteemi does have the meaning of to depart in the New Testament, in a very general sense which is not specialized as being related to rebellion against God or forsaking the faith. And, since a noun takes it’s meaning from the verb, the noun too may have such a broad connotation. The departure is assuredly the acceptable translation of hee apostasia and is, in our opinion, the proper one.” Many early Bibles, including the Tyndale (1526), Coverdale (1535), Cranmer (1539), The Geneva Bible (1557) and the Beza Bible (1565), translated this term as “departure,” rather than “apostasy.” The heart of both Thessalonian letters is “comfort.” In the first, Paul uses this word four times. Perhaps the ultimate comfort for the true, born again Christian is the promise of the rapture, or as Paul labeled it, the blessed hope. Indeed, it is the blessed hope of the rapture that we are to look forward to according to the clear and concise teaching of Holy Spirit inspired scripture. Most convincingly, Paul uses it relative to the rapture. After explaining it, he said, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). From that day to this, the promise of the rapture is a great comfort. In his second letter, he concludes his explanation of the Antichrist with these words …
“To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
Speaking of comfort, Dr. English points out another detail to consider in Paul’s important statement. If it is true that the King James version’s “a falling away,” should be rendered, “the departure,” it must be assumed that the Thessalonians knew which departure Paul was talking about. For example, if Paul had mentioned “a departure,” it would have referred to one departure out of many possible departures. If someone says, “I’m going to meet you at a store,” it immediately raises the question, “Which store?” In other words, the statement would require a subsequent clarification. If Paul had used the expression “a departure,” his readers would have immediately said, “Which departure?” By using the definite article, “the,” Paul was invoking the one and only departure that he had ever taught them about, namely, the rapture of all born again believers, or what we call the true church or body of Christ. In his first letter to them, he had gone into great detail about this specific departure. In the fourth chapter of his first letter, he carefully laid out the comforting idea that a single event, which we now refer to as “the rapture,” will radically change the world in an instant. Not only will the church be taken home in a meeting with the Lord in the air, but the righteous dead will be raised and glorified with us. Then, in the fifth chapter of First Thessalonians, he carefully explains the situation that will exist with the coming of the Day of the Lord, mentioning in the process that we, the righteous believers, will have no part in it …
“But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9).
In these two verses, Paul twice refers to our future salvation. Positionally, the Thessalonians had already obtained their salvation through faith in Christ’s effective sacrifice. But they were anticipating the ultimate salvation, which is clearly scheduled to take place prior to God’s wrath, even as Paul writes here. As earlier mentioned, he writes to them in the spirit of comfort and assurance. Taking these two letters as parts of a continuing discussion, it is very persuasive to consider that Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians clarifies the first by referring back to something he thought he had made clear in the first: The departure comes before the Day of the Lord and the rise of the Antichrist. In the modern world, this assurance is demeaned. Many people who do not ascribe to a pre-tribulation rapture often make the point and ask the question of how anyone would get saved during the Tribulation period (as scripture indicates) when the Holy Spirit is supposedly not here. Since the Holy Spirit works through the church, that would mean that the church will be here for the Tribulation. As we all know, scripture is clear that without the presence of the Holy Spirit drawing the unsaved to Christ, no one can be saved. It is a question and a point that is easy to answer with a little bit of deeper study, or at least a closer look at this particular scripture. Indeed, there are multitudes who do get saved during the Tribulation. The question of the Holy Spirit not being present during the tribulation results from a misunderstanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:7, which reads …
“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
Right now, prior to the tribulation, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is the restraint of evil. In verses 8 and 9, we learn that the restraining power of the Holy Spirit holds back the “lawless one” (Antichrist) so he is not revealed before God wills it. The passage says the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain the growth of evil, but that does not mean He will have no ministry whatsoever during the Tribulation period. Therefore, this is how a multitude will get saved during that time. We also have the two witnesses being sent during the Tribulation.
The Big Hint
“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2).
It was no coincidence that the first thing to happen after John has described the seven churches (which represent not only a message to each individual church, but also to the seven periods of church history) is his being taken up into Heaven. Inasmuch as John was the last remaining apostle and a member of the universal church, his elevation to Heaven is a picture of the rapture of the true, born again church just before the Tribulation begins. It is also noteworthy that the invitation comes from Christ himself, who is the one who “first spoke” to John “like a trumpet” (1:10). Note how similar to this event is the promise of Christ to his disciples near the end of his life about taking them to his Father’s house …
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Everyone knows that God is in Heaven, and Jesus ascended to Heaven where he is at today at the right hand of God. Paul tells us himself that when he himself died, he (his spirit and soul) would “depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). He also said, “For
though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit” (Colossians 2:5). Obviously, then, when a person who has been born again in Christ dies, his or her soul and spirit goes to be with Christ in the Father’s house, this is, in Heaven. His or her body, of course, remains in the grave until the resurrection, which for the born again believer is at the end of the Church Age just before the Tribulation. That is why the rapture is located at this spot in the flow of events in the book of Revelation. There are some who claim that Christ’s statement in John 6:39 indicates the rapture of the body of born again believers takes place at the end of the Tribulation because of his statement that he will lose none but “raise them up at the last day” …
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
Jesus then repeats the statement in the following verse (verse 40) when he states …
“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day”
The conclusion of a post-tribulation rapture is reached because of the two words “last day.” Some automatically assume that this is speaking of the last day of the Tribulation period. But this cannot be so, for it would contradict all of the other pre-tribulation rapture evidence already discussed. This can only be speaking of the last day of the current church age in which the resurrection of the dead will take place in the rapture event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. In the rapture event, we notice that the “dead in Christ” are raised first …
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
The Rapture of born again believers is not explicitly taught in Revelation 4:1, but definitely appears here chronologically at the end of the Church Age previously described in chapters 1-3 and before the Tribulation described from chapters 6 forward. The first thing to occur in this vision of the future before the Tribulation is that John is called up to the Father’s house in Heaven; this fact has to be instructive by necessity because of the chronology of the entire vision. John obviously represents the Church, and because the door opening in Heaven and the personal invitation of Christ himself to “com up here” certainly parallels other prophetic passages like is seen in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 mentioned above. These factors all detail the Rapture of the Church. Many, if not most, prophecy scholars are reluctant to say that Revelation 4:1-2 are a direct teaching of the Rapture because it does not specifically say so or give us any additional details about that event. However, since John is the seer and is writing about future events even in his day, what better way to allude to the rapture at this specific time – particularly since it is located right after the description of the Church Age and just prior to the revelation of the Antichrist in chapter 6 and the beginning of the Tribulation? The Apostle Paul was the special writer that God chose to reveal to the Church the details of the rapture, when all born again individuals, both the dead and the living, will be “caught up” (or raptured) into Heaven to be with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Jesus mentioned it only once in John 14:2-3 (see above). He spoke of his Second Coming many times, but in every other instance he had the climactic event Paul calls the “glorious appearing” in mind. That is usually the event that most people think of when they speak of the many promises in the New Testament regarding the second coming of Christ. Care must be taken when examining Second Coming passages to determine whether they refer to the Rapture or the Glorious Appearing. Upon observation, there are references to two different phases of the Second Coming. Most of those that describe the Rapture come from the writing of the apostle Paul. When all of the promises of the Second Coming are pieced together, the Bible teaches one coming of Christ in two installments. The first is his coming in the air to rapture his body of born again believers prior to the Tribulation period, and the second describes the Glorious Appearing, when he comes to the earth for everyone else at the end of the Tribulation period, just before he establishes his 1,000 year kingdom.
With the structure of the Bible being what it is, it is interesting to note that John is “caught up” to Heaven off the Isle of Patmos in Revelation 4:1 with the sound of a trumpet. As we’ve already seen, the rapture will be accompanied with the sound of a trumpet as seen in 1 Thessalonians 4 (described above) and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. The terminology used here in Revelation 4:1 also uses the term “caught up,” which is also used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 describing the rapture event. It is clear from what is going on here that this is meant by God to convey the fact that the Rapture of the church will occur at this point in Revelation 4 before the judgments of Revelation 6 (also describing the same events in Isaiah 24) occur. John’s “catching up” in Revelation 4:1 is an intentional picture of the rapture of the church occurring at this point.
In summary, the exciting picture to see here is the fact that the rapture will occur at this point before the Tribulation begins. Furthermore, we also see the use of the two words “after this” used before the description of the Revelation 4:1 “come up here” spoken to John as he was “caught up” into Heaven. The obvious question that would surface in anyone’s mind is “after what? The obvious answer at this point is after the exact moment that the current church age technically ends. Also obviously, that would mean before Revelation 6, not the opening of Revelation 6 as many contend. It is clear that a sequential order of events is being displayed here in regards to the timing of the rapture.
Matthew 24 Hyperventilation
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
“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 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 24:30-31).
It is well-known that the bulk of Matthew 24 is describing the events of the Tribulation period. Many point to the above verses of this chapter and conclude that the “elect” spoken of here is proof positive that the church will go through the Tribulation. But this would, yet again, contradict all of the other scripture that indicates a pre-tribulation
rapture. The elect here in Matthew 24:31 are not Church saints but the people of Israel who have been scattered throughout the world, perhaps even more specifically the faithful remnant of Jews who have become believers in the Lord during the seven year Tribulation period and are still alive on the face of the earth at His glorious second coming back to the earth immediately after the Tribulation period. He will gather together this faithful remnant of Jews from all over the world back to the land of Israel with the sound of a great trumpet.
There is a second reason that the elect of Matthew 24 is referring to the elect of Israel and not to the Church elect or Church saints. The whole context of Matthew 24 is a Jewish context, not a Church context. Post-Tribulationists are guilty of overlooking some extensive revelation that is given to us in the Old Testament. There are passages in the Old Testament wherein God calls the whole nation of Israel “His chosen,” literally “His Elect.” Then there are prophetic promise passages in the Old Testament that reveal that in the end times he would gather together His chosen ones, his elect, particularly the believing remnant of Israel from all corners of the earth, gather them together even from the four winds, gather them together again so that they could go into the Millennial Kingdom with the Messiah whenever He reigns. A promise that God delivered to Israel through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 27:12-13 further confirms that the elect spoken of in Matthew 24 are not the church elect …
“O ye children of Israel, and it shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria and the outcasts in the land of Egypt and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:12-13).
Here, God was promising that in the end times he is going to re-gather His scattered people of Israel from many different places around the world and will do it in conjunction with the blowing of the great trumpet. We see in Matthew 24:31 the very same statement regarding his elect being gathered with a great sound of a trumpet …
“He shall send his angels with the sound of a great trumpet and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31).
In light of those Old Testament parallels, there is no doubt that the elect here in Matthew 24:31 are not Church saints, but the people of Israel who have been scattered throughout the world, perhaps even more specifically the faithful remnant of Jews who have become believers in and have trusted on Christ for their salvation during the seven year Tribulation period and are still alive on the face of the earth at His glorious second coming back to the earth immediately after the Tribulation period. He will gather together this faithful remnant of Jews from all over the world back to the land of Israel with the sound of a trumpet. Furthermore, the New Testament Church, made up of Gentiles, wasn’t yet revealed when Christ gave the Matthew 24 prophecy to these Jews that he was speaking to. The Church did not actually start until the upper room in the book of Acts.
There is a second reason that the Matthew 24 elect is referring to the elect of Israel and not to the Church elect or Church saints. The whole context of Matthew 24 is a Jewish context, not a Church context. Jesus, as we saw in verse 15, speaking ahead of time to Jews of that future Tribulation period, said …
“When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place …” Who had the holy place? The obvious answer is that the people of Israel did. This is a reference to a temple of God in Israel, “standing in the holy place, then let them which be in Judea [these are Jews living in their own land of Israel] flee unto the mountains. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house,” etc. He then says to them that they really ought to be concerned that their flight not be on the sabbath day, verse 20, “but pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.” Here, he is clearly talking about Jews and how this will affect Jews. The whole context is a Jewish context, therefore, the elect are Jewish people whom he will gather together through His holy angels from the four winds. The idea being expressed is from all four directions, under the heavens here on planet Earth back to their homeland of Israel in conjunction with His second coming.
Throughout this article, you have read a few times that only those who are “born again” will be a part of this stunning and magnificent event we call the rapture … while those who are not “born again” will be left behind to endure the horror of the Tribulation period. At this point, it is of utmost importance that you personally are ready for this quickly approaching event so that you may escape the coming nightmare that will suddenly fall upon Planet Earth (See videos below).
THE WAY OUT AND YOU
In order to accept the offer of God’s grace and his salvation, you must take the crucial three steps of …
1. Agreeing – A belief and agreeing with God in all that he says in his word, the Bible, about the fact that you are separated from God, as every man and woman on the face of the earth are before accepting his salvation. The Bible reveals that all are separated from him in a spiritual state of death, or in another way that the Bible puts it, in a state of sin, that will result in eternal damnation. Agreeing with God in your heart that you are in need of his salvation. The Bible reveals that God looks upon the heart of a man, and thus, responds accordingly to the man or woman who comes to him for salvation in recognition of his inability to save himself. The Bible makes these facts very clear – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The Bible describes these three kinds of death: physical death (the state experienced when life leaves our bodies); spiritual death (spiritual separation from God caused by our state of spiritual death, or state of sin that results in outward acts of sin on a daily basis as the Bible also puts it – the state of sin is received from the first man Adam); and finally eternal death (the fixed state entered into by the individual who dies physically while he or she is dead spiritually). It is eternal death, in particular, which is the horrible result of receiving the wages of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ frequently described such a death as being eternal (without end) in a destiny which he called Hell. He described Hell as a literal place of judgment (Matthew 13:42); a place of everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8); a place of torment (Luke 16:24,28); a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50); a place of remorse (Mark 9:44-48); of bitter memory (Luke 16:25), and a place originally prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). In fact, Jesus more often warned about Hell than he spoke about Heaven. It is not God’s will or desire that any person should be consigned to perish in Hell (2 Peter 3:9), but rather that all should come to repentance of unbelief toward him and believe on him for the salvation of the individual’s soul. But God’s justice requires that the “soul who sins” (remains in it’s state of death or state of sin) is the one who will die eternally (Ezekiel 18:4). So, agree with God, admitting that you are unable to save yourself and in a state of sin under God’s just condemnation for that sin and that you are in need of his salvation.
2. Believing – Then, believe that God does not want you to perish eternally in the torment of Hell because of your sin. Believe that God loves you so much that he provided a way whereby he could still be a just, holy and righteous God, and yet pardon you. Believe that God did not just overlook sin, but that he sent his only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to provide salvation by personally paying the penalty for sin. Believe that Jesus Christ, whose life, death, burial and resurrection is the best-attested fact of antiquity, did come to earth to live, die, rise again and ascend to Heaven in order to provide justification and salvation for all who trust him. Believe that he, and he alone, can save you because he has fully satisfied the just demands of God. Believe that you can’t become righteous in God’s sight by your own effort. Believe that he wants to save you and that he will save you. The Bible provides a solid basis for such belief …
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
“But God demonstrates his love toward us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
God presented him (Jesus Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man or woman who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures … ” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“Jesus answered, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out [drive away]” (John 6:37).
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
3. Calling – It is not enough to agree with God, admit your need, and believe that Christ can and will save you. You must act upon those facts. You must repent of the sin of your unbelief toward him and actively call upon him for the salvation of your soul based on the fact that you cannot save yourself because of your sins. You must be willing to completely turn from your own efforts to save yourself or from any other hope. You must come to Christ, calling upon him for salvation and counting on the fact that he will do what he has promised. This means simply taking the gift of pardon and eternal life which he offers. Merely believing about Jesus Christ without coming to him makes as much sense and is as effective as believing that a medication can successfully treat a fatal disease, but failing to take it. Yet again, the Bible emphatically and authoritatively provides the basis for such statements:
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
The word translated “believe” here means to “rest one’s entire weight and trust on the object or person in which the belief is placed.” It requires action in keeping with the intellectual assent of that belief.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
” … but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The logical question you may be asking at this point is: “how do I come to Christ and call upon him?” The answer is that “calling upon the Lord” is just another term for praying, or talking to God. To talk to God is not a complicated process, dependent upon some special rituals. God has invited people to approach him through his Son in simple, straightforward terms. In fact, Jesus approved of the dishonest, despised tax collector who simply prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” While the exact words of your prayer to God are not of vital importance (since God sees and knows the attitude of your heart), the following is the kind of prayer that you could pray in calling upon God for salvation …
“Dear Lord Jesus: I realize that I need you. I admit that I have sinned and that I deserve your just, eternal punishment for that sin. But I am sorry for my sin and I am turning to you and asking for forgiveness. I believe that you died and rose again to pay sin’s penalty on my behalf. I come to you and open my heart to you. I ask you to come into my life, forgive me for all of my sin and make me your child. I invite you to take control of my life and to cause me to be the kind of person you would have me to be. I thank you for doing this because you have promised that whosoever calls upon you, as I am doing now, shall be saved. I pray this in the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, I urge you to sincerely and genuinely express it to God as your prayer. The Bible makes clear that when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in our heart, God forgives our sins and counts us righteous, and that when we openly confess with our mouth what we have done in our heart, God gives us assurance of that salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7).
For some of the latest prophetic developments, click link below.
Questions or comments can be left by scrolling down at the very bottom of this page.