A Bible Perspective

Short Answer

  • Christians, and thus the Church[1], do not pass through the tribulation – they have been saved from the wrath of God and are caught up (raptured) to heaven prior to the Tribulation.
  • Believers have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18, 19) and are therefore saved from the wrath of God because their sins have been forgiven, in full (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9, 1 John 2:12 etc.).
  • The purpose of the tribulation is to bring to an end to wickedness – the regenerate born again Christian, justified by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9), has brought to an end to wickedness and therefore has no need of judgement (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19-20).
  • The Rapture is imminent – Jesus himself pointed this out; the coming of Christ could be at any moment.
  • The latest point at which the rapture can occur is at the signing of the seven year covenant between Israel and the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27; Isaiah 28:14-22), after which the wrath of God will be poured out, ending in the second coming of the Christ.
  • ‘Rapture’ is the term which is used to translate the Greek word meaning caught or snatched up – the word is Latin – and is the event when Christians, both dead and alive are taken heaven.

Arguments for the answer

  1. No Bible passage mentions the church in the Tribulation. In relation to the Tribulation the last mention of Church of any kind is Revelation 3, being an admonishment to the lukewarm modern liberal church. Saints of the Church are mentioned in chapter 4. The next mention is after the Tribulation in Revelation 19-22. Not once in verses in the Bible that speak of the Tribulation is the Church mentioned.[2]
  2. People will become saved in the tribulation – they are call saints, but never called church saints. In Chapter 7, the believers of Israel (as per Romans 11) will arise and evangelise the world. Tens of thousands of people will come to the saving knowledge of Christ and be saved. These are “Tribulation saints”, not “Church saints” and these will suffer enormous persecution during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7; 16:6).
  3. Jesus speaks of the consequence of the rapture: in the discourse on the Mount of Olives he states that every single person on the face of the earth shall be entailed into the terrible events of the tribulation:

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  (Luke 21:34-35)

In order to escape the tribulation, one needs to stand before the Son of Man:

Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36).

This provides evidence that in order to escape the wrath of God, a believer must be sanding before Jesus Christ – this take place when the church saints are taken to heaven – the rapture.

Paul states believers are to be delivered from the Tribulation;

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
 (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

  1. The letters to the Thessalonians were to deal with the false teaching that Christ had already come for his saints – and as a consequence they were waiting for the Tribulation, rather than waiting for the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from the wrath to come. This is a specific wrath – it was the wrath to come to the whole earth and the Thessalonians would have interpreted this to mean the Tribulation wrath.
  2. The wrath of God does not fall on Christians:

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9).

This is both the general wrath of God – where the unsaved will be cast into hell at death and the coming Tribulation where the world is judged (Revelation 15:1 etc.).

  1. The Christian has escaped the wrath of God, because the Lord Jesus Christ has paid in full the debt of our sin; he bore the wrath of God on himself at Calvary. Paul discusses the fact the Thessalonians would not go through the Tribulation, after speaking about the rapture itself in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

  1. Note that Paul writes to comfort these saints – they were not to worry about the Tribulation because the Church saints would be raptured first. They had not missed the coming of the Christ, nor would they be punished in the Tribulation, because the church is raptured prior to the wrath to come.

 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)

  1. The Church is promised not to pass through the tribulation – referred to as the hour of trial.

Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial [testing] which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  (Revelation 3:10)

  1. The Hour of Trial can mean no other than the Tribulation – it is the great subject of Revelation, and is the terrible judgement that will fall upon the whole earth. Furthermore, it is from the “very hour” – which means they are kept from the very beginning of the trial. Within the context of Revelation 6 – 19, it is therefore not surprising not to find the church mentioned in any form – because she has been kept from this time of trial.
  2. Note that Christians are not told they will not suffer tribulation, in the general sense. This is one reason anti-pretribulationists state when attempting to refute the coming work of Christ. There is a vast difference in the judgement that is to take place during the Tribulation of seven years, and the persecution of individuals due to the work of the enemy of God- Satan., which was foretold by Christ and the Apostles many times, and is evidenced in the Book of Acts. Indeed Jesus comments on the persecution of the Christians in the Church in Smyrna – and he prophesies that more would be thrown into prison – this is not the Tribulation, but the continued consequence of the fallen world we live and the work of the Evil one.

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

  1. Some have tried to make Revelation 2:10 to mean that the church will be kept from trials – this is patiently obviously false in two ways.
    • Revelation prophesies that huge numbers of believers will be murdered (Rev 6:9-11; 11:7; 12:11; 13:7 & 15, 14:13; 17:6; 18:25). If these saints are church saints, then Revelation 3:10 is not true and God is a liar. These passages mean that the church saints are distinct from the Tribulation saints, and the church saints are elsewhere – not on this earth, since the Tribulation encompasses the whole earth (Luke 21:34-35).
    • A cursory glance at history shows the horrendous persecution of church saints – both in modern times under Islamic rule, Communism and its modern replacement - Socialism and in the past under Roman Catholic rule, to name a few.

From the time of Jesus Christians have suffered – Stephen was martyred by the second chapter of Acts – at a time when the Church had been barely established. That the church will be raptured is not some vague theory so Christians can avoid testing, but rather it is the plan of God; Christians are and will be tested (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9; 1 Peter 1:6 etc.), the Tribulation on the other hand is judgement to bring to an end to wickedness and the wicked ones (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19-20), to deal with those who have hated the Jews (Deuteronomy 30:7),  and to deal with Israel in order to bring them to faith (Romans 9-11). He judges the nations who have rejected Christ and not heeded the 144,000 Israeli’s who evangelised the world during the Tribulation (Revelation 7:1-17), thus fulfilling Matthew 24:14.

  1. In speaking of the time Christians have upon this earth, it is always spoken of as a short while, then we will be with the Lord.
    • Jesus told Peter that the Messiah could come at any moment – he was to be ready – for even at the time of Jesus speaking, Peter was told he could see the rapture occurring happening (John 21:20-23). Only God knows the exact time.
    • The Apostle Paul indicates that the work of salvation is very near – that is, the final act of glorification of believers is at hand (Romans 13:11-13). This necessitates Christians being taken to heaven.
    • The Apostle James viewed the coming of Christ to be near – Christians were to be mindful of this, and hearts are to be prepared for an imminent return of Christ (James 5:7-9).
    • Imminency of the coming Messiah is also highlighted in Revelation 22:20. This also means, that when he comes, what he will do, will happen immediately – there is no delay.
  2. In heaven John sees a vision of the raptured church – he sees 24 elders, all of which have crowns (Revelation 4:4-10). In 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 5:3 and Revelation 2 & 3 we see Christians receive rewards which includes crowns[3] – the elders could not have received their crowns unless the resurrection had taken place, and this clearly has taken place before the Tribulation has started, thus have been raptured.

When does the rapture occur, if not in the Tribulation?

All evidence from Scripture points to the rapture occurring immediately prior to the Tribulation. Christians are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34) – once removed evil beyond all what has been witnessed to date will break forth – because that which is currently withstanding the evil (albeit very weakly) are born again Christians. In another sense, at the same time as the rapture, the Holy Spirit withdraws, because as we speak today the Holy Spirit indwells all Christians, so when they are taken to heaven, so the Holy Spirit is removed from this world.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)

Currently the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin – albeit which is taking His advice less and less – thus we see an exponential declension in morals and values in all corners of the world today. Furthermore, once the Holy Spirit leaves there will be no righteousness and nor judgement (the Greek is krisis – meaning justice, literally separation, in this case separating right from wrong) of, thus chaos will ensue.

There are two principle events that need to occur prior to the tribulation:

  1. All gentiles who are to be saved within the dispensation of grace must have been saved (Romans 11:25). This is obvious – those that God predestined for salvation need to be saved before judgement befalls the earth, else his predestination is partial and false – it’s not!
  2. Israel must be prepared to sign a ‘firm covenant’ between the Antichrist and Israel (Daniel 9:27). This passage fits with Isaiah 28:14-22, where Israel makes a covenant with the powers of darkness, which means death and is the Antichrist, the counterfeit messiah who will mimic Jesus Christ

Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves." (Isaiah 28:15)

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate."  (Daniel 9:27)

If the rapture is to occur immediately prior to the Tribulation, and the Tribulation requires certain events to have occurred or at least to be ready to occur, thus Christians will have a good sense the end of the world is near. Thus the wars and rumours of wars spoken off by Jesus that will befall the earth during the Tribulation will be evident to all prior to the rapture, as will the increase in earthquakes and other natural phenomena (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7). These do not just suddenly occur, but as evidence shows, these phenomena have exponentially increased over the past decades.

The rapture is spoken about in various terms in various passages in Scripture. The main issue here is to ensure the Scripture being used as evidence for a rapture of the Church is actually speaking about the Church, and not Israel, and is speaking about the rapture and not the Second Coming.

John 14: Promises the rapture and the protection by the Holy Spirit until that time. Jesus promises to go away and prepare a place, as a Bridegroom would his Bride, and then return.

In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  (John 14:2-3 ESV)

Acts 1: The angel tells the disciples who saw Jesus ascend into heaven that he would return in the same manner he left.

And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11)

The picture in Acts is clearly of the rapture, for in Revelation Christ returns as Judge, and all will see him – it is not the coming Tribulation described to the disciples in Acts. In the Tribulation the Bible tells us he comes as Judge and all will see him;

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

 

Appendix

Other articles on the subject

The Rapture is not the coming of Christ

 < http://www.life-everlasting.net/pages/messages/Eschatology/The%20rapture%20compared%20with%20the%20appearing%20of%20Christ.php >

Andy Woods

https://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2012/02/rapture-part-1.htm (accessed 27 January 2019)

See also: https://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/p/andy-woods.html (27 January 2019)

Arnold Fruchtenbaum

The Rapture of the Church < http://javathescript.com/documents/RaptureOfTheChurch.Fruchtenbaum.pdf > (27 January 2019)

Also, The Footsteps of the Messiah from Ariel Ministries < https://www.ariel.org/books/the-footsteps-of-the-messiah > (27 January 2019)

References

[1] In this I mean born again persons who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and thus are Church for the purposes of the counsels of God (See Ephesians 1 & 2). In no way does the Church mean Israel nor has she replaced Israel. The Bible has three chapters on this topic – Romans 9 through 11. The five covenants of the Old Testament pertaining exclusively to Israel have not been annulled – indeed they cannot be annulled (see Hebrews), and thus they have either been fulfilled or will be executed by Jehovah (the Mosaic Covenant was conditional – it required the obedience of the Children of Israel, thus its fulfilment is human orientated). These covenants are also non-transferable - this means Israel must be Israel. The Church is established under the New Covenant – the convent of grace and which Jesus is the mediator (Hebrews 11:24).

[2] Twenty-four verses in the book of Revelation refer to the church, and of these, 20 concerns the church today (Revelation 1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7, 8, 11, 12, 17, 18, 23, 29; 3:1, 6, 7, 13, 14, 22; 22:16, 17). In the later part of Revelation, after the Tribulation two verses refer to the church at the marriage of the Lamb, which  takes place in heaven (Revelation 19:7, 8). Two verses refer to the church in the eternal state (Revelation 21:2, 9). From chapter 4 to 19 there are no references to the church.

[3] There are five crowns – which are rewards, (stephanos), not a crown of authority or king (diadem): Incorruptible crown (1 Cor 9:24-25), Crown of rejoicing (1 Thess 2:19), Crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:7), Crown of life (James 1:12), and Crown of glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).

David L Simon
27 January 2019
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