The Pre-Tribulation Rapture (Part 1)
Many Christians argue that the doctrine of the Rapture is not important because it has very little or nothing to do with one’s salvation. This is not entirely true.
Although belief or non-belief in the doctrine of the Rapture does not determine whether one is saved or not (faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross settles salvation – Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:8), it does have a considerable bearing on your hope in a world that is exponentially falling ever deeper into an abyss of godlessness and anarchy. Moreover, the Rapture encapsulates to perfection the saints’ uttermost salvation (Hebrews 7:25).
Whenever the Bible speaks of hope it very often does so in reference to the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3; 1 Peter 1:13; Titus 2:13).
One of the most important duties of a child of God, apart from his responsibility to preach the unadulterated Word of God so that lost sinners may be saved, is to watch in preparedness for the coming of the Lord at the Rapture. This is the glorious hope of all believers who love his appearance at the Rapture (2 Timothy 4:8).
Reformed theologians (Calvinists), who uphold Augustine’s a-millennial view of God’s Kingdom on earth (and hence the Roman Catholic exposition of the Millennial Kingdom) as he explicated it in his book “The City of God,” believe that the Millennial Kingdom is not a literal 1000 years with Christ reigning from the throne of his father David in Jerusalem (Luke 1:31-32) but a symbolic one.
The little more than 2000 years that have elapsed since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are symbolic of the reign of Christ in heaven together with his church on earth, they dare say. J Dwight Pentecost says the following about the decline of Premillennialism In his book “Things to come:”
With the rise of Romanism, committed to the idea that their institution was the Kingdom of God, premillennialism declined rapidly. Auberlen says:
Chiliasm disappeared in proportion as Roman Papal Catholicism advanced. The Papacy took to itself as a robbery that glory which is an object of hope, and can only be reached by obedience and humility of the cross. When the church became a harlot, she ceased to be a bride who goes out to meet her bridegroom; and thus Chiliasm disappeared. This is the deep truth that lies at the bottom of the Protestant, anti-papistic interpretation of the Apocalypse. (Cited by GNH Peters, Theocratic Kingdom, I, 499).
It may then be briefly stated as a self-evident fact, that the entire spirit and aim of the Papacy is antagonistic to the early church view, being based on coveted ecclesiastical and secular power, on extended jurisdiction lodged in the hands of a Primate. . . . when a system was founded which decided that the reign of the saints had already begun-that the Bishop of Rome ruled on earth in Christ’s place; that the deliverance from the curse would only be effected in the third heaven; that in the church, as a Kingdom, there was “an aristocracy” to which unhesitating obedience must be rendered; that the prophetical announcements respecting Messiah’s Kingdom were fulfilling in Romish predominance, splendor, and wealth; that the rewarding and elevation of saints was not dependent upon the Sec. Advent, but upon the power lodged in the existing Kingdom, etc., etc.,- then it was that Chiliasm, so distasteful and obnoxious to these claims and doctrines, fell beneath the powerful and world-pervading influence exerted against it. (GNH Peters, Theocratic Kingdom, I, 521)
John Calvin, who ruled Geneva with a popish iron fist was heavily influenced by Augustine and also had visions of God’s Kingdom already being on the earth where everyone (man, woman, and child) lived according to the will of God. Unfortunately, the Geneva burghers were placed under heavy duress to do God’s will according to the Geneva Pope, John Calvin, and many lost their lives because they failed to comply with Calvin’s will. He defined the Kingdom as follows:
“God reigns where people have promised/submitted themselves to his righteousness/sovereignty by striving for the heavenly life through self-denial and contempt for the world and their life on earth. The kingdom thus consists of two aspects, namely that God is to change our evil desires through his Spirit, and that God is to reform our senses so that we can obey his sovereignty.” (Inst. 3.20.42). “The kingdom of God is where God reigns supreme through his Spirit.” (Catechism, 269 – see Calvin (1981)
God does not reign where people have promised to submit themselves to God’s righteousness and sovereignty. That’s pure nonsense. The Israelites promised Moses to do everything God commanded them but failed dismally (Exodus 19:8; Jeremiah 42:6)).
Note very carefully that Calvin does not say that repentance and faith toward Christ and his Gospel are the two main prerequisites to enter into God’s Kingdom. Such a view would have compromised his stance on predestination and election.
The two main conditions are, according to Calvin, a monergistic regeneration when God changes the elect’s evil desires through his Spirit (unconditional election) and when he reforms their senses to obey his sovereignty (which effectively discards free will).
God does not rule where peoples’ god-given free will is abused and dictatorial decrees force them to submit to his sovereignty. His kingdom is one of righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17) where everyone willingly, obediently and out of love for God the Trinity do his will (Matthew 6:10).
Calvin believed that his Geneva Vatican was the ideal Kingdom of God where He reigned supreme, even though it was necessary to compel the inhabitants, by decree, to live in complete submission to the sovereignty of God.
These decrees included bizarre rules and regulations that ranged from how high women ought to wear their hair to how many kitchen utensils they were allowed to use on their tables. With Augustine, he rejected the doctrine of a future thousand years of peace (chiliasm) as a “childish” idea (Inst. 3.25.5) (Quistorp, 1941:161-166).
Augustine’s and Calvin’s eschatological views are still in vogue, not only in the reformed churches but also in the Emergent church.
Pre-Trib, Mid-Trip or Post-Trib?
Shortly before his departure to be with the Lord a good friend and brother of mine in Christ sent me a couple of articles on the Rapture written by reformed theologians to which I commented as follows:
It is rather curious that everyone who rejects the doctrine of a Pre-Trib Rapture and sticks to a Mid-Trib ofr Post-Trib or even no Rapture at all feels compelled to associate Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4: 17, “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” with some kind of a Rapture.
How else are they going to explain the magnanimous phenomenon of being caught up to meet our Lord and Saviour in the air? The main reason why most Christians hold to a Mid-Trib and/or a Post-Trib Rapture is because they fail to distinguish between the persecution of the Body of Christ (all believers) and the wrath of God that’s coming upon the entire world (Revelation 3:10).
Indeed, there are passages in Scripture where our Lord describes how Christians are going to be persecuted and slaughtered during the seven year tribulation period and in particular during the last three and a half years (Matthew 24:9-13), but these Christians will be Jews and Gentiles who are going to be saved during the Great Tribulation and not the saints who are presently living or have died in this dispensation (Revelation 7:13-14)
In his article Who Remains Behind?” Rev. Rob Visser wrote the following:
The Lord Jesus returns from heaven to the earth at his Second Coming. Then everyone who lived on the earth will be resurrected. The persons who are still alive on earth will be changed. The believers of all ages are then plucked off the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. They welcome their God and Saviour and return to earth with Him where He is going to judge everyone and to create a new earth.
Accordingly, the opponents of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture agree that the Second Coming of Christ Jesus is going to occur in two phases – i.e. the Rapture to meet Him in the air and his immediate return with all the believers to the earth to judge the nations. There are, however, a few fundamental problems with this particular view.
First of all, it asserts that everyone (believers and unbelievers) is going to be resurrected and judged simultaneously whilst the Bible emphatically declares that they are not going to be resurrected and judged at the same time.
Secondly, the notion that all the believers are going to meet Jesus Christ in the air as some kind of welcoming party, only to return immediately with Him to the earth to judge the nations, leaves no room and time for the consummation of the Bema Throne judgment (only for the saints) and the Marriage of the Lamb.
“That’s not true” some of you would probably want to say, “The Marriage of the Lamb occurs when Jesus Christ returns at his Second Coming to the earth subsequent to the Rapture at the end of the Great Tribulation.”
What do the Scriptures say? According to Revelation 19:7, the Marriage of the Lamb will already have been a fait accompli when Christ Jesus returns to the earth at his Second Advent. The word “erchomai” (has come) denotes something that has already taken place.
The word, when it is used in conjunction with people, does not mean that something is about to occur or in the process of taking place; it means that something which has already taken place, has come from one place to another, in this case the marriage of the Lamb which will have come from heaven to the earth.
It indicates that the Marriage of the Lamb will already have been consummated in heaven when Jesus Christ returns to earth with his bride to appear in the public eye of those who will have survived the holocaust during the Great Tribulation. Verse 8 of Revelation 19 proves this in saying “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
She (the Bride) will be adorned with fine linen, clean and white, which are the righteous deeds of the saints when she returns with her Bridegroom at his Second Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation, just prior to the inauguration of the Millennium of peace on earth.
The fine, clean and white linen garments, as we’ve seen, refer to the saint’s righteous deeds. There is only one way to determine whether the deeds of the saints are righteous and acceptable to the Lord, and that is the judgment seat of Christ called the Bema Seat judgement which will occur after the Rapture.
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. ( 1Corinthians 3:13-15)
Indeed, the Bema Throne Judgment will occur in heaven prior to the Marriage of the Lamb so that when the Bride returns with her Bridegroom from heaven to the earth she will already be arrayed in clean and white linen garments.
Revelation 19:14 confirms this by saying: “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Some say that the armies are angels. It cannot be angels because they are not going to be arrayed with fine, clean and white linen garments (righteous deeds) because there is no need for God’s angels to be judged at the Bema Throne Judgement Seat. One of the oldest prophecies in the Bible also confirms Revelation 19:14.
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (Jude 1:14)
If, as the quoted passages above affirm very strongly, the Bride of Christ returns with Him to the earth at the end of the Great Tribulation to judge the nations and to establish his Millennial reign on earth, it follows that she (the Bride) must have been raptured before the seven-year tribulation and not during or at the end of the Great Tribulation.
The Rapture cannot occur at any other time than before the seven-year tribulation because the Antichrist will only be able to reveal himself as Israel’s false Messiah when the saints have been taken out of the world (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). Another passage that proves that the saints will return with Christ to the earth, already arrayed in their fine, clean, and white linen garments (righteous deeds) after the Great Tribulation, is Luke 12:35-36.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
Of particular and great significance is the fact that Luke also affirms that the wedding of the Lamb shall be a fully accomplished and completed event when Jesus returns, not in the air as in the Rapture, but to the earth at his Second Advent (Zechariah 14:4). We may be pretty sure that Jesus’ wedding won’t be a marriage ceremony by proxy.
His Bride will be at his side when He presents her to his Father in heaven. If it had been a wedding by proxy we could have assumed that his warning to have the loins girded and the lights burning was addressed to his Bride, which means that his Bride will still have to be on earth when He returns from his wedding ceremony by proxy.
Nonetheless, I really don’t think that Jesus would be satisfied with a wedding ceremony by proxy and hence we must conclude that He does not address his Bride in Luke 12:35 and 36 but someone else.
Whereas Luke 12:35 and 36 say that the wedding ceremony itself is going to occur in heaven after the Rapture, Revelation 19:7-16 suggests that the marriage feast or banquet will take place on the earth.
Several parables in Matthew, among them the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins in chapter 25 and the parable of the person who was caught entering the wedding feast without a wedding garment in Matthew 22 prove that the wedding banquet (the entire Millennial age of peace on earth) will take place on earth.
Bearing in mind that the seven-year tribulation is primarily a time of trouble for the Jews (Jeremiah 30:7) it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was addressing the Jews and not the Bride of Christ in Luke 12:35-36. We may transliterate it as follows.
Let your [Jacob’s, the Jewish nation’s] loins be girded about, and your [Jacob’s, the Jewish nation’s] lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding [with his Bride whom He raptured before the seven year tribulation]; that when he cometh and knocketh, they [Jacob, the Jewish nation] may open unto him immediately.
When Jesus returns with his Bride at his Second Advent to the earth, He is going to separate the chaff from the corn and this, as we’ve already seen, will be accomplished according to the two parables in Matthew 25 and 22. Matthew 25’s ten virgins are the Jews who will know for certain, through the many signs in the seven-year tribulation, that their Messiah’s return is imminent.
Some will be ready (having enough oil for their lamps) while others won’t be ready (not having enough oil for their lamps). The latter are professing Christians who will have the appearance of godliness but who will deny the need to be saved through the power of God, i.e. the cross of his Son.
Matthew 22 describes a scene during the wedding banquet when a person, presumably a Gentile, enters the feast without the appropriate wedding garment (Isaiah 61:10). The Jews, being the natural heirs of the Kingdom, will be the first to be invited to the wedding banquet but sadly most of them are going to decline the invitation (Matthew 8:11-12).
As seen in the rest of the parable, the King then sends out his servants to the highways and byways to invite the Gentiles. Many will heed the invitation but some will try to enter the banquet without the appropriate wedding garment. Like the five foolish virgins, they too will have an appearance of godliness but will deny the power of God’s salvation by means of the cross of his Son (2 Timothy 3:5).
It is therefore obvious that if the wedding of the Lamb and the judgment of the Bride at the Bema Throne judgment Seat and her adornment in fine white linen garments will be completed events when Jesus returns together with her at his Second Advent to the earth, then the bide must have been taken to heaven before Christ’s Second Advent (John 14:1-3).
It is very important to point out that the return of the Lord at the Rapture goes hand in hand with rewards (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). This brings us to the meaning of the Bema Throne judgment which cannot possibly be associated with the White Throne judgment in Revelation 20:11. The Bema is just for believers while the White is just for unbelievers.
The Word of God makes it very clear that there are two types of resurrections – the resurrection of the righteous/just unto life ( John 5:29) and another of the unrighteous unto the second death. Some interpret Acts 24:15 as a single and simultaneous resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
However, when we turn to Revelation 20:5 two very distinctive resurrections are described – one of Christians who are going to be beheaded during the Great Tribulation for their testimony prior to the Millennial reign of Christ on earth and that of all the unbelievers who are going to be resurrected after the thousand years reign of Christ on earth to be judged at the White Throne judgment seat.
But, what should we make of the resurrection of the dead at the Rapture? (1 Corinthians 15:52). Is it not the first resurrection? Many make the mistake to interpret “first” and “second” as two sequential and chronological occurrences while the Bible has no intention to do so. First and second have a qualitative and not a quantitative meaning in the sense that the “first” leads to eternal life and “second” leads to eternal damnation.
The resurrection of the deceased believers in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as well as the resurrection of the slaughtered tribulation saints just before the inauguration of the Millennial Age of peace on earth are all part of the first resurrection.
The only difference is that the resurrection described in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 leads to a judgment – the Bema throne judgment of Christ. The purpose of this judgment is to determine who will receive rewards and crowns.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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. (1Corinthians 3:11-15)
There is absolutely no doubt that the Bema Throne judgment is for believers only. The personal pronoun “we” in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 proves this over and over again. Only “we” the believers:
- “have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”
- can be given “the Spirit as a guarantee.”
- can experience “mortality being swallowed up of life. “
- can always be confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” and “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. “
- can “walk by faith, not by sight.”
Every believer’s works shall be tested by fire to determine who will receive one or more of the following rewards:
- An incorruptible crown for those who overcome their carnal nature. (1 Corinthians 9:25).
- The crown of rejoicing for the winner of souls. (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
- The crown lf life for those who endure temptations because they love the Lord. (James 1:12).
- The crown of righteousness for those who love his appearance at the Rapture (2 Timothy 4:8).
- An incorruptible crown of glory for those who are prepared to give the lambs and sheep the right spiritual food (1 Peter 5:4).
The Marriage of the Lamb
It is evident from Scripture that the wedding of the Lamb occurs after the Bema Throne judgment in heaven whilst God’s judgments are poured out on the nations under the yoke of the antichrist during the seven years of tribulation on earth.
If it were true that the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ to the earth are one and the same and simultaneous event (Post-Trib), there would have been no time for the Bema Throne Judgment and the wedding of the Lamb.
The word “then” (“at that particular time”) is a very important word because it denotes the immediate sequential occurrences of events in the last days. Of the 588 times it occurs in the New Testament, 130 is in Matthew, i.e. 22.11%.
It pretty much proves that the time element of the chronological events in Matthew 24 ad 25 are very important and that we dare not twist them to suit our own interpretation. The only feasible interpretation is the literal interpretation of events. Consider the following, for instance:
Matthew 24:16: “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains . . .” (The event that precipitates the flight into the mountains is the abomination of desolation in the most holy of holies of the newly built temple in Jerusalem).
Matthew 24:21: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (The event that follows immediately after the Antichrist’s abomination of desolation in the holy of holies, is the last three and a half years leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth and the inauguration of his Millennial age of peace on earth).
Matthew 24:30: “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. ” (When the last three and a half years of the seven years tribulation have elapsed the immediate even to occur then is the appearance of the sign of the Son of man in the heavens when He, together with his Bride [Jude 1:14-15], returns to earth to judge the nations and individuals [Zechariah 14:4])
Matthew 25:1: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” (Immediately after His Second Advent to the earth His Kingdom will finally be established on earth).
None of these events which follow one another in close succession provide enough time for the Bema Throne judgment and the marriage of the Lamb to transpire. They must therefore be two separate events and, most importantly, events that take place outside the earthly realm where God’s judgments are going to cause misery, death, and mayhem as the world has never seen and experienced before and never will see and experience ever again (Matthew 24:21).
No bridegroom, least of all the Bridegroom among all bridegrooms, will reward his bride with gifts that surpass all other gifts and then marry her in an atmosphere of death, mayhem, wars, pestilence, and disasters. Indeed, the Bridegroom who exceeds all other bridegrooms in magnitude, brilliance, beauty, magnificence, and splendor is going to take his fiancÃ© completely out of the earthly realm to make her His eternal bride.
Are Today’s Saints Going To Go Through the Tribulation?
One of the major issues most Christians have with a Pre-Mil Rapture is that it allegedly disavows the biblical concept of persecution, affliction, and tribulation. Calvinists in particular believe that their perseverance to the end (Matthew 10:22) is the evidence of their election (salvation) and cannot accept the notion that today’s saints are going to escape the tribulation that is coming upon the entire world (Revelation 3:10).
No thoroughbred Calvinist would want to be deprived of an opportunity to authenticate his election, especially when the tribulation is so severe as it will be during the Great Tribulation. There is a difference between the tribulation of saints and the Great Tribulation of which Matthew 24 speaks when God’s wrath is going to be poured out on the entire world for its rejection of Christ.
We shouldn’t confuse the two meanings. The tribulation of the saints is purely for their refinement. God is ceaselessly putting on the finishing touches on His children before His Son returns at the Rapture, and He often uses persecution, tribulation and suffering. The Great Tribulation is purely for God’s judgments to be poured out on the entire world (nations).
The most popular view among Christians is that God is going to protect them from the Antichrist’s murderous persecution in much the same way He protected the Israelites in Goshen when He poured his judgments out on Egypt.
Therefore, God is not going to remove or take the saints completely out of the danger zone but will protect them while they are in tribulation. In Revelation 3:10 the words ek (ex) hÅra (from the hour) do not convey the idea of on-location protection but protection that involves the complete removal of the saints from amongst those who are left behind. The same word “ek’ is used in Mark 9:9-10
And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead (“ek ekron,” out from among the dead) should mean.
The resurrection of the dead was a common accepted doctrine of the Jews because the Old Testament teaches it very clearly (Hebrews 11:17-18; Job 14:1-13; 19:25-26; Psalm 61:8; 49:15; Hosea 5:15-6:2; 13″14; Isaiah 25:8; 26:19; Daniel 12:2′ John 5:28-29; 11:24).
Why then, should we ask, were the disciples perplexed, questioning one another what the rising from the dead meant? It was the “ek nekron” (from among the dead”) that puzzled them. Having been under the impression that the saved and unsaved are going to be resurrected together and simultaneously, they could not understand why Jesus said, “from among the dead.”
It suggested that the resurrection of the saved and the unsaved do not occur at the same time because the unbelievers remain behind when believers are resurrected from out amongst them. Even Daniel 12:2-3, when it is interpreted correctly, proves that the resurrection of the saved and unsaved do not occur simultaneously.
The correct interpretation is that those who shall awake unto everlasting life, and those who shall not awake (remain behind at that stage) shall be unto shame unto everlasting contempt. Therefore, one may safely believe that “ek hÅra (from the hour) also indicates that the saved are going to be removed from without the season of tribulation while the unbelievers are going to remain behind.
Amillennialists (Preterists) place the Tribulation in 70 AD when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Roman General, Flavius Vespasianus Titus. If their view is correct then Jesus lied when He said: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21).
Anyone who is prepared to use his God-given intelligence will realize that Hitler’s extermination of 6 000 000 Jews was far greater and worse than the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. The Jewish historian, Josephus, claims that 1 100 000 people were killed of whom most were Jews and 97 000 were captured and enslaved.
Moreover, the siege in 70AD was restricted to Jerusalem and the temple while the tribulation depicted in Matthew 24 will be a worldwide phenomenon of massive proportions “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” The Great Tribulation couldn’t possibly have occurred in 70AD because the events immediately subsequent to it never occurred.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)
The Rapture of the believers to meet Jesus Christ in the air is a unique event that differs from his Second Coming to the earth in several ways. I shall point out these distinctions in the following article of this series