The Timing of the Rapture

First of all, I want to say that I am pro pre-tribulation rapture. Pro pre-trib in the sense that I would greatly prefer to not endure any of the tribulation, however there is a certain passages in the Bible that cannot be ignored. The pre-tribulation rapture view is largely popular and preached by most churches and televangelists throughout this country, but does Scripture support it? I’m not going to present the pre-trib rapture view, as it is widely known and held by most rapture believing Christians. I am also not going to point out the problems with this view. Like I stated earlier, I am differently pro pre-trib rapture, but we must not adopt a view because it is what our itchy ears want to hear. We must search God’s Word with an open heart and allow Him to reveal His truth to us.

The verse most often used in support of the rapture is 1 Th 4:15-17 “According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Now let’s do something most pre-tribbers don’t do. Turn the page and read 2 Th 2:1-4 “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him . . . Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” This is clearly the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ referred to by Jesus in Mathew 23:15 and by Daniel in Daniel 9:27, 11:31 & 12:11. This passage clearly states that there will not be a secret rapture of the Church prior to the revealing of the antichrist.

Now, most pre-tribulationists agree that the tribulation will last seven years and that the antichrist will be revealed at the three and a half year mark. If this is true (and I believe that it is) the rapture cannot occur prior to the seven year tribulation. Daniel tells us that God’s holly people will endure three and a half years of tribulation, Daniel 7:25 “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a year, two years and half a year.” Jesus tells us in Mathew 24:22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” Now most pre-tribulationists believe this to mean that the tribulation will be a short period of time; seven years. Why did Jesus not say for the sake of everyone those days will be shortened? If the elect are raptured prior to the tribulation, why is it for their sake it is cut short? Maybe, just maybe, the days will not be cut short for everyone, but only for the elect, as stated by Daniel, to three and a half years.

Pre-tribulationist may say that I am confusing the Church and Israel. That Jesus’ warning in Mathew 24 was for Israel and not the Church. Jesus was not speaking to the crowds or Pharisees, but to his disciples. Mathew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” The world will not persecute Israel because of Jesus, but the Church. The world may hate and persecute the Jews, but it is not because of Jesus. No, the you Jesus is referring to is the Church. Once we understand that the you Jesus is addressing is the Church, we can see that Jesus is warning us of the tribulation that is to come. Revelations, Mathew 24, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians harmonize perfectly together if we do not force a pre-tribulation rapture point of view. Mathew 24:15 “So when you (the Church) see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ as spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Paul was addressing the Church at Thessalonica, who were Christians and Jesus was addressing his disciples, who were Christians. Both Jesus and Paul state that the Church will see the antichrist revealed.

I’m not stating that the Church will endure the wrath of God. 1Th 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If we look at Revelations chapter seven, we see that the Church is raptured prior to the pouring out of God’s wrath. Rev 7:2-14 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. . . After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. . . And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” I believe this is the rapture of the Church and takes place at the same time 144,000 Jews are sealed, after the opening of the sixth seal, but prior to the opening of the seventh seal which is the beginning of God’s wrath. An argument can be made that we are currently between the fifth and six seal. It is easy to show that conquest, war, famine, death and martyrdom of saints have taken place in the past, so why make a point of it in Revelations if it was not a future event? I believe the opening of the first seal to be the beginning of the tribulation. It is a time of war, famine, death and persecution of the Church the likes of which have never been seen before. I know this may not be of great comfort and like I stated before I am differently pro pre-tribulation, but we cannot ignore a verse like 2nd Thessalonians:3 because it does not fit into the pre-tribulation view. In fact Paul warns us not to be deceived in any way for the rapture will not occur until the antichrist is revealed. If we believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, are we being deceived? If we are not prepared to endure the first half of the tribulation, how will we be able to “hold firmly till the end our original conviction”?

Most pre-tribbers would say that the mid-tribulation view does not allow for Jesus to return like a “thief in the night”. Paul tells us in 1Th 5:4 “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” Now I’m not saying that the headlines in the paper will read “New World Leader to declare himself God next Tuesday”, but we need to be able to interpret the signs of the Lord’s return. Jesus, admonishing the crowd for not understanding the time of the Messiah, said in Luke 12:56 “Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” The rapture will take the vast majority of the world by surprise, but we as Christians should be ready, awake and sober waiting for our Lord who rescues us from the wrath to come.

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