4. The Rapture
Article contributed by www.walvoord.comRelated Media
Editor’s Note: This is a lightly edited transcription of the audio message. Thanks goes to Marilyn Fine for the transcription work.
We have been having a wonderful time trying to excite you a bit about the Rapture of the Church and give you some of the reasons why I believe it is imminent. First, this is the way it is presented in the Bible in I Thessalonians 4 and other passages. Second, we have the evidence that the Lord is setting the stage for the great events that will follow the Rapture—the reemergence of the Roman Empire, its renewal in the form of ten countries and the leader who is going to come at its head who eventually is going to be a world ruler.
We learned from I Thessalonians 5 and also II Thessalonians 2 that this leader cannot emerge and be recognized until after the Rapture of the Church because the Rapture of the Church begins the Day of the Lord. Remember, that the Day of the Lord is that period of God’s judgment on the world and on the Man of Sin, the lawless one. This ruler of the ten nations and eventually of the whole world has to emerge then in the beginning of the Day of the Lord. Thus we have some good, factual reasons for believing that the Rapture is going to occur more than seven years before the Second Coming of Christ.
Any student of prophecy soon discovers that there is a lot of confusion on prophecy. Rather amazingly, though, the Church has agreed that the Second Coming of Christ is a literal event. It is in their creeds whether Roman Catholic, Protestant or Greek Orthodox and the secular press is very much aware of this. That is why when the Gulf War broke out they had great articles sometimes spread over a whole page. “Is this the Second Coming?” “Is this the final hour?” “Is this Armageddon?” and words to this effect because they saw that the prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ could be fulfilled very soon. Of course, the Gulf War was not the great war that precedes the Second Coming of Christ, described in Revelation 16 and elsewhere, and this sort of dissipated after the Gulf War passed away. But, it illustrates the problem. The problem is that while the Church has taken literally the Second Coming of Christ, they then turn around and say we cannot interpret the prophecies that lead up to it literally, such as the Great Tribulation, and we cannot interpret the prophecies that follow it, the Millennial Kingdom literally. So, there has emerged what we call Amillennialism, which is a denial of the Millennial doctrine and of the fulfillment of these prophecies leading up to the Second Coming and of the prophecies that follow.
Now, out of that has also come what we call post-Tribulationism. I am what we call a pre-Tribulationist. That is, I believe that the tribulation follows the Rapture and the Rapture is first. Thus there is a pre-Tribulation Rapture.
Probably the majority of the Church holds to a so-called post-Tribulational Rapture because all the amillennarians hold that. There are even some pre-millennarians who hold the idea that the Church has to go through the Tribulation. So, when I speak on expectancy, as I have in this conference, people say what do I mean? Don’t you know that the Church has to go through this time of trial and trouble before Christ comes? Of course, they have in mind that there is a post-Tribulation Rapture.
I have been dealing with this subject, of course, for many years and it has been very interesting to see the turnaround in this subject. The post-Tribulational books that came out before World War II, and there were a lot of them, all said in their introductions, without exception, “what do you mean the Church will not go through the Tribulation? We are already in it!” They quoted, of course, Christ, who said “in this world you shall have tribulation.” Now, what is their problem? Their problem is, and it is the characteristic problem of amillennialism, that they do not pay attention to what the Bible says. The Great Tribulation is not what we are in today. The Bible is very explicit in Daniel and Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation. The Great Tribulation is a specific period of time of 42 months that leads up to the Second Coming. We are not in that period now. The events that are surrounding it back it up to the world ruler in charge and to the world worshipping Satan. This is not true today. We are not in this period. This man has not emerged. Of course, I believe the Rapture has not occurred either. We do not have to wait until the end of the Great Tribulation. You see, what the Bible predicts about tribulation is not what we are encountering today.
In every book I ever picked up on post-Tribulationism from before World War II would say we are in the Tribulation already. Then, suddenly something happened in World War II. I cannot give the full explanation, but the world woke up to the fact that with atomic weapons we could kill millions of people over night. The horror of such a judgment from God or from man began to grip the whole world, including our own country. So, suddenly there was a 180 degree turn in the post-Tribulational books. Instead of saying that they are already through the Tribulation, that it has already passed, and we already experienced it, they changed over to a totally different point of view. That is, that there is a Tribulation ahead. Dr. George Ladd and many others that were popular in their post-Tribulational presentation presented that idea.
Now, they ran into another problem. You see in I Thessalonians 5, as I pointed out the other day, it says we are not appointed to wrath. Now, the problem is that the Great Tribulation is a time of wrath. If we are not appointed to it, how can we go through it? So, they had a problem on their hands. How did they solve it? Well, they solved it in a number of different ways. In fact, it has been very interesting to see how post-Tribulational books have multiplied in recent years. Every one of them seems to assume that the previous books have not proved their case and so they have to prove their case all over again. They have all kinds of different ideas. In fact, it is very difficult to cover the field. I have a course on the Rapture of the Church, which I am going to teach again this fall. It is 30-class hours just on the Rapture. We spend about half of our time going through all the different post-Tribulational books because each one is different. In other words, they try to find an escape hatch for their view, but they do not agree among themselves at all as to how to bring it about. Basically, what they say is we cannot take the tribulation literally. It is a time of trouble, but it is not nearly as bad as you say. So, they go on teaching post-Tribulationism.
Now, you know if a truth is biblical you have to find some biblical evidence. I began to search the scriptures to see if the post-Tribulationalists had any basis in fact. Where are the verses that teach this? You know, there are not any, but they try hard and some of them are godly men. They are scholars. They are reputable people who, in many other respects, we can agree with, but this idea of going through the tribulation has gripped their minds. How do they argue? Well, first of all they ridicule our view, they say “what do you mean? Two comings of Christ ahead? Of course not! There cannot be two comings – just one coming.” Now, wait a minute, what happened in the Old Testament? They said the same thing. Only one coming. Were they right? No, they were not. It did not explain how the same Messiah could be a suffering Messiah who died and a glorious reigning Messiah. They puzzled over that and they never solved it. You see, they were wrong in denying a two-coming view.
Two Different Events
In our present day, we have the same problem. The Rapture and the Second Coming are two different events. All you have to do to prove it is to read what it says about them.
What is the Rapture? According to I Thessalonians 4, as we have studied it, it is a catching up of the Church from earth to Heaven. There is no record that Christ’s feet ever touched the earth. There is no record of angels accompanying him. There is no record of judgments on the world. It has one purpose that takes the Church out of the world. You can contrast that to the Second Coming.
What is the Second Coming? The Second Coming is a world-wide event which the whole world will see. The heavens will be aglow with the glory of God. We will be talking about that later this week. It is a tremendous event. Millions of saints and angels will accompany Christ to come to the Mount of Olives from which He ascended. He is going to begin a series of judgments on the world which are preceded by the judgments of the Book of Revelation. Then, He is going to bring in His thousand-year reign on earth literally. You see, that is what the Bible actually teaches. If you take the other view, you have to sort of water this all down so you cannot take it literally.
I decided I had to do something about this. I had written this book on the Rapture question about 30 years ago and I had gone through all the theological arguments that are offered by the various views and tried to prove that the pre-Tribulation Rapture was the right view. But you know, some people do not think theologically. They think more from an expository point of view so I decided to add another 100 pages to the book, which I did. In it I methodically went through every passage that is related to the Rapture, asking the question “Now what does it teach? Does it coincide with a pre-Tribulational Rapture or does it prove a post-Tribulational Rapture?” They used some of these texts in their own proof. So I would like to look at some of them this morning very briefly.
We cannot, obviously, cover all the post-Tribulational books that have ever been written, but they bring up certain proofs. Some of them are found in almost every post-Tribulational book. One of them is the references to the Lord’s coming in Matthew 24.
You remember the background of this. Christ had denounced the Jewish religious leaders and lamented over them. You said you have killed the prophets. You stoned those who come to you and Jerusalem is going to be left desolate until you say blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord. The disciples were upset by this. They thought Christ was a little bit too pessimistic. After all, they were building this beautiful temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish religion was in some ways thriving. So, they pointed Christ to the beautiful temple which was being built. They had been rebuilding it for a long time. Apparently, much of it was complete. Christ just mowed them down as I have indicated earlier. He said, “Not one stone will be left upon another.”
Well, this did not fit their theology at all. They were still expecting Christ to bring in His kingdom. They thought He was going to bring in the glorious kingdom that relates to His Second Coming. They did not understand He had to die first. So, they were very upset by that and they came to Christ, four of them-Peter, Andrew, James and John-the famous quartet, according to Mark’s gospel, and asked Him. They asked, when is this all going to happen? When is Jerusalem going to be destroyed? When are you coming into your kingdom?
This really is two major questions. Well, Christ answers the second question in Matthew 24. In other words, what are going to be the signs of His Second Coming? Luke’s gospel deals with the destruction of Jerusalem (first question).
Well, in the process, you remember, He tells them first of all in Matthew 24:1-14 the general things which would be true of the present age. There would be trouble. There would be martyrdom. There would be wars and rumors of wars. There would be famine. There would be pestilence. All these things are going to take place. Then, in verse 15 He turns to the subject of the Great Tribulation. He says,
“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place, who shall read and let them understand, then that those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Yesterday we discussed Daniel 9:24-27. Verse 27 says in the last seven years (leading up to the Second Coming in which there would be peace in the first part) that the last part would be a time of desecration and great tribulation. That is what is going to happen in the last three-and-a-half years. He says when you see the temple desolated….and apparently what is going to happen is that Israel is still going to build a temple, orthodox Jews are going to reactivate their Jewish sacrifices, and then at the middle of that last seven years this world ruler is going to take over. He is going to desecrate the temple, drive the Jews out and take it over as a place of worship for himself.
Christ is saying here in Matthew that when you see that, “flee to the mountains.” It is a sign that the Great Tribulation is beginning. So, He goes on to describe how it is going to be a terrible time of suffering for Israel. They are going to be driven out of their homes, away from their food, employment, shelter and they are going to suffer. Many of them, of course, will be killed. Now He says this in verse 20 and following, “Pray that your plight may not be in the winter on the Sabbath.” That is, in the winter it would be cold and on the Sabbath it would be very obvious they were fleeing. “For them, there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time nor will ever shall be.” This is very plain. It is not the trials we are in now. This is a future time of unprecedented trouble that will last only for those three-and-a-half years.
This is what He says in verse 22, “Unless those days were shortened or cut off, no flesh would be saved but for the elect’s sake those will be shortened.” I think shortened is the wrong translation. It means to snip off like a scissors cuts something. It means to be terminated. Actually, it is going to be the full three-and-a-half years, not less than that as some have taught, but it is going to be suddenly terminated by the Second Coming of Christ. He goes on here to talk about how He is going to appear in glory in the heavens and not quietly or obscurely.
Then, He says in verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light, the stars will fall from Heaven, the powers of Heaven will be shaken. Then, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in Heaven. Then, all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man coming on clouds of Heaven with power and great glory.” This is the Second Coming of Christ. This is not the Rapture.
Then, He goes on to say how His angels are going to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth and Heaven both. Then, He adds a parable of a fig tree and I do not want to get into that today. Now, He says in verse 37, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” This is the Second Coming of Christ being compared to Noah’s day and the ark and the floods. “Whereas in the days before the flood, they are eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark. So, it shall be and did not know until the flood came and took them all away. So, also, will be at this coming of the Son of Man. Then, two men will be in the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord will come.”
Almost without exception every post-Tribulational book lands on this verse. One shall be taken – is that not the Rapture? Yes, so they say. Is it not the Second Coming? Yes. Well, does not that prove that the Rapture is the Second Coming? The problem is that the situation is totally different. At the Rapture, the person who is taken is taken out of the world so they will not be in the time of judgment that follows. He takes them to Heaven.
At the Second Coming, the selection is for a different purpose. Here, the issue is “who is worthy to enter the Millennial Kingdom?” The ones who are left are the saved and the ones who are taken are the unsaved. Now you say, can there be proof in the Bible? Yes. It is very interesting to me that those are in the same Bible as I have. Post-Tribulationists never, never, ever look up these verses. In Luke 17:34 we have a parallel passage that adds something. He says right there,
“I tell you in that night there will be two men in one bed, one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding together, one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left.”
The same thing exactly is found in Matthew 24. But, here is the difference. When they, the disciples, answering said to the Lord, “Where?” In other words, where are these people taken? Taken to Heaven? No. His answer is “wherever the body is, there will be eagles or the vultures to gather together.” What will they do? Well, they are taken to put to death. They are not worthy to enter the Millennial Kingdom. Yes, it is a selection, but this time it is the selection of the unsaved, not of the saved.
In Matthew 24 it is not talking about a rapture. It is talking about the judgment of people who are unworthy to enter Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. This is confirmed, of course, in Matthew 25 and the judgment of the nations which is also a very interesting study. It tells us that sometime after the Second Coming, not on the day of the Second Coming, but sometime after, perhaps just a few days, that Christ assembles the nations before Him, the Gentiles.
It says in verse 32 that all nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Now, to make a long story short, the sheep and the goats represent the Gentile population of the world. This is two days or more after the Second Coming. The goats represent the unsaved and the sheep represent the saved. What is their situation? They are mingled. That is what it says. He has to separate the sheep from goats because the goats are going to be put to death and the sheep are going to go into the kingdom. They are the redeemed.
Now, you see if the post-Tribulationists are right and there is a rapture at the Second Coming of Christ, this situation would not exist. You see, the sheep would have already been taken out. All you would have left is the unsaved world. You see, there is not any rapture at the Second Coming and there is not any resurrection there either as we are going to see later because the resurrection comes after the Second Coming, not at the time of the Second Coming. On the day of the Second Coming of Christ there is no rapture and there is no resurrection. You see, the two things necessary for the Rapture are the resurrection of the righteous dead and the translation of the righteous who are living, who are given new bodies that are suited for Heaven. Those two things are the Rapture of the Church. Once the Church is raptured there is no more Rapture as far as scripture is concerned. There is resurrection, yes, a series of them but no rapture of the living because at the time of the Second Coming the living are not changed. They are not given an immortal body. They are not delivered from what they were. They move into the Millennial Kingdom still in their natural body where they live natural lives. They build houses, plant crops, bear children, sin and even die. In other words, this is the nature of the believers who enter the Millennial Kingdom. Therefore, there is no rapture at that time. The person who is taken is taken in judgment. Now, as far as I am concerned Matthew never discusses the Rapture of the Church. The Second Coming yes, but not the Rapture.
Now, when is the Rapture introduced? Well, it is very interesting that the post-Tribulationists just assume that the disciples knew all about it. Where is the scripture evidence for it? Zero! The disciples knew nothing about a rapture until the night before His crucifixion. In fact, they did not understand the doctrine of the First and Second Coming. They thought Christ was going to fulfill the glorious promise of the kingdom. They still thought they would sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. They did not understand that that related to His Second Coming. (…..long pause…….) It is interesting that Christ, while He introduces it in John 14, does not explain it. If you remember the background, He had told the disciples that one of them would betray him and this shook them up. They did not know who that was. Then, He said He was going to leave them and they could not follow Him now. Peter said, “Well, I’ll die for you.” Of course, he would not. He was going to deny Him three times and so they all are upset because Christ said He was going to leave them and He had not brought in the kingdom. That is what they have followed Him to do. Here He was not doing it. They could not understand that there was a Second Coming later on in God’s plan.
In John 14, as I pointed out previously, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.” The wonderful assurance is that God is able to do what He promises. Then, He immediately goes into the doctrine of the Rapture. “In My Father’s house are many mansions, many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” That is in Heaven. “And I go and prepare for you and I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also.” What is this? Christ is coming to earth to take His own out of the earth and take them to the Father’s house. There is nothing like that at the Second Coming. At the Second Coming, He comes from Heaven to earth and stays in the earth. There would be no point in taking people back to Heaven at that point.
You see, it is a totally different situation and the disciples just were bewildered. They did not understand it. It was not until later the apostle Paul had the revelation from God concerning the Doctrine of Grace which he did not understand. He was saved and then he had the Doctrine of the Rapture. When he went, he preached that Christ had died and rose again. That was his missionary message. He immediately tells them He is coming again to take us home. That was the two great themes that he had as he preached his missionary message at Thessalonica and elsewhere. So, we find in John 14 this first reference to the Rapture of the Church and, of course, it does not coincide with the post-Tribulational work at all.
I Thessalonians 4, 5, and II Thessalonians 2
Now, as you go through the New Testament, there are references to the Rapture again and again. We have seen some of those already in our study in I Thessalonians 4 and 5 and II Thessalonians 2 and we have seen how in every passage on the Rapture it never mentions a preceding event. They are never told they would have to go through a tribulation first. That simply is not part of the doctrine.
As you read on in the scriptures, you find that the book of Revelation describes this terrible time of trouble. If you are a post-Tribulationist what would you do with this? That is the problem that faces them and they do not agree among themselves as to how to solve the problem. They say you cannot take these prophecies of the Book of Revelation literally. Why not? Well, because they do not believe it. That is not a very good reason, is it? You have to have evidence that there is some reason for not believing it.
So, in Revelation 6, we have the main body of revelation presented to us. I am sure some of you at least have studied the Book of Revelation and understand that first of all we have a parchment with seven seals on it that describes seven different movements of things of judgments of God. Out of the seven seals comes another series of seven called the seven trumpets and the seven trumpets sound and each one of them seems to relate to a third of the earth being judged.
Then, in Chapter 16, you have out of the seven trumpets a third series of seven which are called the Judgment of the Vials or Bowls of the wrath of God. The figure is pouring out a whole bowl on the earth and the cataclysmic judgments end up with the earth almost completely destroyed and most of the people in the world killed. It is a terrible time of judgment. Now, that is how it is if you take the Book of Revelation literally. However, they say you cannot take it literally because it has too many symbols in it. There are symbols in Daniel and Ezekiel and in Revelation that need to be interpreted, but interspersed with them are plain ordinary prophecies that are not hard to understand.
I will not take time to go into all these, but let us suppose you are a post-Tribulationist and you were preaching a sermon on Revelation 6:7-8. Let’s see what it says.
“When he opened the fourth seal, he heard the voice of the fourth living creature say come and see. And I looked and, behold, a pale horse and the name of him who sat on it was Death and Hades followed within and power was given them over a fourth of the earth to kill with a sword, with hunger, with death and by the beasts of the earth.”
Now, there are symbols here to be sure, but what does it say? Killing one-fourth of the world’s population. Just two verses. How are you going to water that down? You cannot. It says a fourth. That is literal. What do they do with it? Mostly ignore it. They just ignore. They do not pay attention to it. A fourth of the world destroyed. If that were true in our present world population, it would be over one billion people, 250 million would be killed. That is a tremendous, tremendous judgment of God.
Then, it goes on to describe the fifth seal and the sixth seal. The fifth seal has to do with martyrs and the sixth seal has to do with the disturbances in the heavens, meteors falling. When the seventh seal is sounded, it opens up this second series of sevens which are trumpets. You can read about that first trumpet beginning in Revelation 8:7 and following.
Each of these is a judgment on a third of the earth. Let’s read verse 7 just to illustrate,
“The first angel sounded and hail and fire mingled with blood and they were thrown to the earth and a third of the trees were burned up and all green grass was burned up.”
How in the world do you get around that? You see, it is very literal. It says something is going to happen. It is going to be a terrible judgment on the third of the earth. So, it goes on to all the other judgments that are mentioned. They form interesting studies if you are studying the Book of Revelation.
Finally, you come to the sixth trumpet, which I think is very, very interesting in Revelation 9:13.
“The sixth angel sounded and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
Four angels bound? Angels are not bound. These are demons. They are Satan’s emissaries, but they apparently have been rendered inactive until this point. Now, they are released. The four angels that had prepared for the hour and a day and a month and a year. In other words, for this specific time were released to kill a third of mankind. You do not have to be an astute mathematician to realize if you take out 25% of the world’s population in the fourth seal then you come to the sixth seal (ignoring all the bloodshed and destruction in between) and take off a third of the remainder, you are down to 50%, aren’t you? Half the world has been destroyed!
Now, they tell us the Church is going to go through this. Is the Church going to go through it? Well, that is not what the Bible teaches. You see in the first place these judgments are not the kind of judgments that just single out unsaved people—when you have famine, war, pestilence and hear warfare.
He goes on to describe the army of 200 million horsemen, apparently people from the Orient that are going to participate in the Battle of Armageddon, and a third of the world is destroyed. You see how this is not just for unsaved people?
In fact, in the Tribulation time, to be a Christian—and there will be many who do come to Christ—to be a Christian you are more apt to be killed than a non-Christian. You see, in the first place you will be exposed to the great catastrophes that cover most of the unsaved. Now, there are a few cases where the unsaved are singled out for special things, but for the most part these judgments are universal. When war hits, it does not just hit non-Christians, you see. When pestilence hits, it does not just single out the unsaved. There is a difficulty here because they are subject to all the ills of the unsaved. Then, on top of that the world ruler is demanding that they worship him or they would be killed. Apparently, thousands of people will be beheaded. That is what we are told is the method of execution because they will not bow to this world ruler and denounce him as their god.
So, the possibility of a Christian getting through this period instead of being obvious—as it is to be post-Tribulationalists, that somehow God is going to protect us—actually has absolutely no evidence for it. You see, sometimes it is God’s will for people to be protected and sometimes it is not. We have had thousands, multiplied thousands, of Christian martyrs in the 20th century. If truth were known, there are probably more martyrs to the Christian faith in our 20th center than in the 19 centuries that preceded. There has been wholesale destruction.
In North Korea they went down the Church roles and killed all the men they could lay their hands on. The same thing is true in Vietnam and other countries. They just slaughtered the Christian population and this has been the characteristic of our 20th century. Sometimes God protects them and sometimes He does not. We have to face the fact that it does not teach that He protects.
The evidence is found back in Chapter 7 where we have the record of the 144,000 of Israel being redeemed. In the opening verses, verses 1-8, God puts a seal on 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes – 144,000 Israelites. The purpose of the seal is to protect them through the Great Tribulation.
You go on to Chapter 14. There they are intact at the end of the Tribulation. God can preserve if He wants to. Then, here in Revelation 7:9, it goes on and John has a vision of Heaven. And it says,
“After these things I looked and, behold, a great multitude which no one could number of all nations, tribes, people and nations standing before the throne, before the Lamb, clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne of the Lamb.”
Then, the question is asked, “who are these people?” Verse 13,
“One of the elders answered and said to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes and where did they come from?” I said, “Sir, I do not know. You know.” He said to me, “These are the ones who came out of the Great Tribulation, washed their robes, made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of our God and serve Him day and night in His temple.”
You see, who are these people? These are people who are unsaved at the time of the Rapture—so they were not raptured. After the Rapture, they came to Christ apparently by the thousands. I believe the Rapture itself is going to result in a lot of people coming to Christ, both Jews and Gentiles. There will be many people saved. Then, when this world ruler takes over and in the judgments that precede it, there are going to be many of these people killed. Here we have the record that the number of these martyred dead in the Great Tribulation is beyond number from every nation, tribe, people and tongue. In other words, does this teach that they are preserved? No, it does not. Probably the majority of those who come to Christ in the time of the end are going to be martyred. This is an awful time of judgment and God permits it.
Let’s get perspective on this. From our point of view, martyrdom is terrible, but you know the people killed go to Heaven. In fact, in Revelation 14, it says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth.” It is much better to be dead and go to Heaven than to endure the terrible trials and troubles of that tribulation time. So, let’s not worry about it. God is still on the throne, but He takes some of His people home, as He did Paul after a life of faithful service. It was His will for them to be martyred and they were.
This knocks out this whole idea that the Church is going to go through the Tribulation unscathed. It is simply does not teach it. In fact, the word “Church” is never used of those in the Tribulation. They are called “saints” which applies to all the ones saved, regardless of dispensation. It is never a reference to the Church as the body and bride of Christ. They are just not here because they are in Heaven.
When you look for evidence in the Book of Revelation, it is simply not there. You will find that different post-Tribulationists have ideas. Someone they will put it way back in Chapter 6 because it says, “the wrath of God is beginning there” and they are trying to keep them out of the wrath of God.
Some find it in one of the trumpet judgments perhaps, and they say that that is when the Rapture occurs. It is not there. Then, you come to Chapter 16 and here we have a real stumbling block because this is so obviously the wrath of God. The seven vials or bowls of the wrath of God that are poured out in Chapter 16.
One of the recent innovations in prophecy, that I believe is a deviation from the truth, is the so-called Pre-wrath Rapture. In other words, they argue that no, we are not going to go through wrath. We are going to be raptured before the wrath. Of course, I believe that part. Then, they say the wrath of God does not come down until Chapter 16. Wait a minute! What does it say back in Chapter 6? Well, a fourth of the world is destroyed. Doesn’t that sound like the wrath of God? Then, later on in that same chapter, Chapter 6, it says that “the unsaved say to the mountains and rocks, fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand.” You see, that is way back in Chapter 6 where I think the Great Tribulation begins. So, you see it simply is not true that the wrath starts in Chapter 16.
It so happens that the book that extols this that was published recently was sent to me in manuscript form by Thomas Nelson, the publisher, and asked my opinion. I said it was a new view that no one else has offered and I suppose it will have a sale and it would probably be going out of existence like a lot of the other books have. They went ahead and published it and it has helped them because of the wealthy man who happened to share this position bought 25,000 copies to give it away and he gave them away. Of course, this has created a lot of reading of this. They said my, this must be it. This is the Pre-wrath Rapture. It is not what the Book of Revelation or the Bible teaches. You do not have to go through the sixth seal and the seventh seal and the seven trumpets and then be raptured. Obviously, the Rapture does not occur then, well perhaps the world has been destroyed already including half the Church.
The idea that the Church is going to go through unscathed simply is not there. It is very interesting to read this book because he just ignores, absolutely ignores every passage that deals with the wrath before Chapter 16 as if it is not there. That is not the way you prove a doctrine. You have to take the scriptures and examine them.
Now, take a look at these bowl judgments. The difference between this and the trumpets is they are very similar except that the trumpet judgments had to do with one-third of the world. The bowl judgments had to do with the whole world. Our time is about gone here I see, but let’s skip down to what I believe to be the final blow in Revelation 16:17.
The seventh angel pours out his bowl of wrath upon the world. It says in verse 18 that there were noises and thunders and lightnings and there was a great earthquake, so mighty and great an earthquake that has not occurred since men were on earth. The great city was divided into three parts and the cities of the nations fell. What does that say? Well, some think the great city is Jerusalem because it is referred to as the great city. I personally think it is Babylon. It is going to be destroyed as brought out in Chapter 18.
Then the cities of the Gentiles, the nations, fall. Just imagine our great cities with their skyscrapers just leveled by this awful worldwide earthquake. It tells us that every island fled away. The whole world is in convulsions. Mountains were not found. This is pretty drastic, isn’t it? If you were trying to write a secular book, a fiction book, and tried to describe a great disaster you would have trouble beating this!
Finally in verse 21 it says, “A great hail from Heaven fell upon them. Each hailstone about the weight of a talent or a weight of a hundred pounds.” These huge blocks of ice beat up the earth and whatever is left after the earthquake is now reduced to rubble by the this terrible hailstorm. Do you think going through this period and being raptured at the Second Coming of Christ is a blessed hope? I personally do not think so.
If he had written the Thessalonians when they were grieving over their loved ones and wondering when they would see them he would say now, “Cheer up, you are going to be raptured. Now, of course you have to go through the Great Tribulation first. Nine out of ten of you will probably be killed. It is going to be an awful time of trouble and it is down the road about seven years, but cheer up. If you are still alive, you will be raptured.” The blessed hope. Comfort one another with these words. Why it is just ridiculous, isn’t it? Yet, that is what they are trying to teach us. The only way they can get around it is by saying this does not actually happen, or by trying to get the Rapture before Chapter 16.
I will pick it up here again tomorrow because I want to turn to the Second Coming of Christ. Again , I want you to see how it does not teach a post-Tribulational Rapture. My purpose in this is not to be negative, not to argue against people, but I want you to see that the Bible teaches that Christ could come any day and that that is the truth you and I should be excited about it and doing something about. That is my point of view.
Shall we pray.
Our Father, how wonderful to have this prospect before us that Christ is coming. Perhaps today. Lord, as we try to put together the Scriptures that teach us, we believe that You intended us to be looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of Christ as a constant day-by-day expectation. Grant that this may be true of us and we not be deviated from this by false views or wrong views of Scripture that tell us that the Rapture cannot occur this soon, that it has to go down the road somewhere else, but rather (help us understand) that what He taught the Thessalonians is what He is teaching us. It should be a comfort to us, a blessing as our loved ones go to Heaven. Our time of separation may be short and we may find ourselves one of these days, almost before we realize it, on our way up to meet the Savior and to be forever with the Lord.
Lord, if there is one here today who has not taken the initial step of a personal faith in Jesus Christ as the one who died on the cross and rose again, we pray that that one may not leave these grounds without trusting Christ, taking Him as their personal Savior. For that reason, being ready when the Lord comes, to be included in that glad number and will be caught up to Heaven. For we ask in Christ’s name, amen.”
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)