After all my years of going from church to church, Bible study to Bible study, prayer group to prayer group, inevitably I always here something to the effect of, “well don’t worry about it, we’ll be raptured out of here before it even happens.” Over and over again you hear this in Evangelical and non-denominational churches alike across the United States (and usually only here, in America, and in Europe it seems…). I once attended a college service asking the question, what is the church’s role in the End Times? The answer: we don’t have one, because we’re raptured away.
The thing is, I’ve never bought into it. It sounds “right”, it sounds good, and it is extremely appealing, but the truth of the matter is that there is not one verse in the Bible that actually, completely supports the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory”. Just like the Big Bang Theory or the Theory of Evolution, the Pre-Trib Rapture is something that many Western Christians have bought into simply because it’s the most common and publicized opinion on the coming End Times Apocalypse foretold in the books of Revelation, Daniel, Matthew, and all throughout the Holy Scriptures.
There are three concepts that classify how doctrines come into being:
- the text to back it up
- the context of that text (must support the “doctrine” in question)
- the co-text (meaning other texts throughout the Bible that verify the potential doctrine)
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture at first glance has some of this, but in truth has none of them and is often supported by pastors or theologians who have deduced that the Pre-Trib Rapture is the way it must happen. Unfortunately, deduction doesn’t cut it when it comes to doctrine since deduction is based on opinion and not fact.
We’ll get into why the Pre-Trib Theory isn’t reliable as we get further along, but allow me to start out with a quote from Left Behind co-author and Pre-Trib enthusiast Tim LaHaye from his book “No Fear of the Storm” (page 69):
One objection to the pre-Tribulation Rapture is that no one passage of Scripture teaches the two aspects of His Second Coming separated by Tribulation. This is true.
It’s actually incredibly interesting, I’ve found that if you ask most theologians or pastors where the Bible explicitly says that the Rapture will occur BEFORE the Great [7-Year] Tribulation, they will usually, and honestly, tell you the truth.
They can’t show you because it’s not there.
Before we move onto the history of the Pre-Trib Theory, I want to point out two very good, and extremely detailed, sources on the history and Scriptural evidence (or lack thereof) of the Pre-Trib Theory.
First, I would recommend the book The Rapture Verdict by Michael Snyder, which has since banned him from many churches and conferences that teach this theory (even though he’s still united with them in the gospel).
The other source I would recommend is the 4-hour documentary Left Behind or Lead Astray?: Examining the Origins of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Good Fight Ministries which excellently digs deep into the history of this theory, revealing that it was only invented about 200 years ago.
Both of these sources use Scripture (within its proper context) and dig deep into the historical accuracy of the argument. They also helped me a lot when researching this issue in order to write about it here.
If you’re truly searching for the truth, these will help to open your eyes (along with the Holy Spirit and common sense of course).
This being said, when it comes to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory you have to be very thorough because many Pre-Tribbers will throw out things like “we aren’t appointed to wrath”, “we’re in the Church Age”, dispensations, and many other “doctrines” that pull Scripture out of it’s proper context (and that quite frankly are never explicitly stated in the Bible anyway) as a means to re-direct you from what the Word of God actually says about the subject.
In this article we will look at…
- The History of the Pre-Trib Rapture Theory
- What is the Rapture?
- When Will the Rapture Actually Happen?
- Who Are the Elect?
- Who Were the New Testament Prophecies Written to?
- The Greek word “parousia”
- “A Thief in the Night”
- The Anti-Christ, When Will He Come?
- The Trumpets
- We Are Not Appointed to Wrath/Tribulation
- The Great Falling Away
Please bear with me through this article as it will get a little repetitive and long-winded. I assure you, however, that it will be worth it and if you’re willing to accept the truth, it will be revealed to you.
Before you go any further, I would ask that you first pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the Truth, making it plain and simple.
Remember, God is not the author of confusion.
The History of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory
Throughout the history of the Church, believers always assumed that they would have to suffer through the Great Tribulation as Jesus warned in the Gospels and the Apostles taught in their epistles. The Apostle John’s disciple Irenaeus (AD 120-202) wrote about this in his book Against Heresies, Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) and Tertullian (AD 145-220) also said the same thing. Even The Didache, written between AD 50-70 and believed by many Church Fathers at the time to be a part of New Testament canon, taught that Christians would encounter the Anti-Christ, who would make war with them, and would be here during the Tribulation. This was written during the time of the apostles!
In fact, it wasn’t until 1830 that this changed. Almost two thousand years of Church history since the apostles taught that Christians would be here during the time of Anti-Christ & the Tribulation. This change really began when John Nelson Darby first promoted the concept. The funny thing about Darby is that he didn’t actually come up with this theory on his own OR by reading Scripture. He actually first heard it from a 15 year old girl named Margaret MacDonald. Margaret spoke what Darby called a “prophetic utterance” of a secret Second Coming of Christ (Rapture) in which He would gather up His church before the Tribulation would begin and the Beast’s reveal. In fact, what’s even scarier is that Darby, along with others, actually first thought that Margaret’s prophecy was demonic in nature as Jesus Himself warns about false prophets near the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7.
This is only the beginning. The Pre-Trib Theory was first popularized by a man named Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Scofield put out his own Bible called the Scofield Reference Bible, complete with commentary in which he promotes Darby’s ideas. By the end of World War II, Scofield’s Bible had sold 2 million copies throughout all of Europe. This Bible can still be found today.
We here in America didn’t learn much about this theory until the 1970s when a film called A Thief in the Night was released by Russell S. Doughten, which helped spark the concept for Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind series of 16 books that ran from 1995 until 2007. The Left Behind phenomena spread like wildfire through Christian circles and was heavily used by churches (and still is) as propaganda for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture gospel. The Left Behind series spun four feature films, various video games, soundtrack albums, and graphic novels that further pushed the idea of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture into the heads of the Church (as the American Church seems to support anything that labels itself “Christian”). I personally remember reading the Left Behind comic series when I was in middle-school and really enjoying it.
It was everywhere.
Ultimately what matters when it comes to biblical doctrine, teaching, and theology is what the Word of God has to say, but I strongly believe that the history of this theory, as well as Church history, is important to look at as least for context. Again, for a 4 hour in-depth study of the history of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, please check out the film Left Behind or Lead Astray?: Examining the Origins of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture because it’ll really show you, in much greater detail than I can give here, all of the craziness that went on two hundred years ago when the Pre-Trib Theory was invented and what’s gone on since.
I truly don’t believe that most involved with pushing this theory are doing it maliciously. I don’t. I think many are incredibly well-meaning believers as well as people who do genuinely believe in Jesus as their Savior and submit to Him as their Lord.
But if what they’re pushing is a lie, then we need to re-examine some of the things we have come to believe…
What is the Rapture?
To really talk about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position, we really have to discuss what exactly the Rapture is, because people don’t seem to understand the total scope of what it means.
First of all, we need to get this out there and out of the way, don’t look for the word “rapture” in the Bible because you won’t find it. The word “rapture” based on how Christians use it, which means (according to most circles) to “transport (a believer) from earth to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ”. This word actually comes from the Latin word “rapio” which means “to seize” or “to snatch” in the context of transporting from one place to another. The Greek word “harpazo” however doesn’t actually translate into “rapture” but to “caught up” (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The Latin translation of the Greek word “harpazo” comes out to “rapturo”, which is slightly different than “rapio”, from which we get “rapture”. Nevertheless, the actual English word “rapture” never appears in our Bible, much like the word “Trinity” (referring to the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) never shows up in Scripture either. It doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s worth noting.
The Rapture itself is simply the time in which Jesus Christ returns for those who believe in Him, including the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). In Scripture it is referred to as “The Resurrection”. However, Pre-Tribbers refuse to refer to it that way as it contradicts when they believe the Rapture would take place. Revelation 19/Matthew 24 is clear that when Jesus comes back the dead will be raised and those who are alive who believe in Him will be taken with Him. If they call the Rapture “The Resurrection” or even “The Second Coming”, it will ruin the entire concept that the Rapture would happen before the Tribulation because they’d be admitting that Jesus only comes back after the 7 year Tribulation is complete.
When Does the Rapture Take Place?
Like I said above, the Rapture is the same thing as The Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ (don’t worry, I’ll prove it with Scripture), so we know based on simply reading Revelation (which seems to be mostly chronological based on how Jesus describes the Apocalypse in Matthew 24-25/Mark 13) that it takes place after the 7 year Great Tribulation period and right before God’s Wrath is thrust upon the Earth, thus allowing Jesus to establish His Millennial Reign as King.
So, let’s start with Matthew 24:3-31 (because of the length of the passage I will ask that you look at it yourself in your own Bible). The context of this scene is that Jesus had been chewing out the Pharisees in the Temple and had just (in verses 1-2 of chapter 24) prophesied the destruction of the Temple. In verse 3, the disciples come to Him and ask “tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
Now I want to make one thing ABUNDANTLY clear here, they ask specifically about when HE will come and what will happen at THE END of the world. Besides that, Matthew specifically records that the DISCIPLES asked Him.
You following me? How do you become a disciple of Christ? Is a disciple only a Jew? Is a disciple only a gentile? These aren’t trick questions, they’ve very simple, but answer them before you read on because many will claim that the disciples asked a “Jewish question” meant only for Jews. Not one scripture supports that idea, but nevertheless…
As Jesus begins, He talks about all of the “birth pangs” that occur up until the Tribulation, I believe we’re living during those birth pangs right now, but that’s my personal conviction.
Then in verse 14 He said that the gospel will be preached in ALL the world; “and then shall the end come” So the gospel must be shared to the entire world first. We know that.
Verse 15, immediately following, says that when the end comes, AFTER the gospel is shared to the whole world, the Abomination of Desolation (spoken of in Daniel 8 & 9, who is the Beast of Revelation aka the Antichrist) will show up and stand in the Holy Place (the Temple). Notice, the believers are still here on Earth (verse 13 says that those who endure until the end shall be saved).
Verse 21 says that AFTER the Anti-Christ is revealed, “THEN shall be the Great Tribulation”. So the Tribulation only begins AFTER the Abomination of Desolation arrives and believers in Jerusalem flee from him (verses 16-20 say this). On that note, it should be mentioned that Jesus specifically talks to “them which be in Judaea” for verses 16-20 since this is where much of the action will take place, but afterwards He switches gears back to the overall picture of the End Times.
Verse 29 clearly states that “IMMEDIATELY AFTER the Tribulation of those days” that the Sun will be darkened, the moon won’t give light, stars will fall from Heaven, etc. Next, verse 30 says that “then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven”.
Verses 31 then says that He’ll send His angels to gather up His elect. Clearly, when Jesus arrives (at the end of the Tribulation) His angels will gather up those who believe. It’s very clear.
Mark 13:10-27 tells the same story as Matthew 24. The same scene from another perspective.
Verse 10 says, just like Matthew, that the gospel must be preached to the whole world first before the Tribulation. Verse 14 says “YOU [the disciples, who obviously don’t live long enough to get to the Tribulation so therefore the ‘you’ here must be Jesus’ disciples as a whole regardless of time-frame] shall see the Abomination of Desolation”. Again, Jesus is saying that His disciples (anyone who follows Jesus) will be alive during the time the Antichrist appears.
Verse 20 is worth a mentioning too because He says that “NO FLESH should be saved” but that “for the elect’s sake… …He hath shortened the days”. So because His believers, His church, is still on Earth, He’ll shorten the days.
Then Verses 24-27 say exactly what Matthew 24:29-31 say, that AFTER the Great Tribulation that Jesus will return and His angels will gather His elect.
For the sake of time, I won’t go into Luke 21:20-31, but please feel free to read it as it basically says the same thing Matthew 24 and Mark 13 do.
Verse 28 says that Christ arrives in the clouds. This is especially interesting because it doesn’t say “elect”, here Jesus just says “then look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”.
So far, Jesus makes it clear that His people will not be taken up to Him until AFTER the Tribulation. He never once mentions saving anyone from the Tribulation before it starts or before the Antichrist appears. Only after it ends does He make mention of a “rapture”.
Is this clear?
Don’t go anywhere, there’s more…
1 Corinthians 15:42-57 is different than the previous three passages because Jesus isn’t preaching on the End Times here. It’s Paul writing to the Church at Corinth (please keep in mind, he is writing to the CHURCH). Paul is specifically talking here of the Resurrection.
Remember what we said about the Resurrection earlier, it takes place AFTER the Tribulation according to Revelation and the Old Testament prophets (as well as the apostles), which is why Pre-Tribbers always say “Rapture”.
In verse 44, we know that what will be resurrected is a new, spiritual body. This is echoed two verses down. Verse 51 says that not all believers will sleep (this means die in the natural, physical world), but that “all will be changed”. This is referring to the concept of the new, spiritual body talked about in verses 44 and 46. Then verse 52 says that “at the last trump” the “dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed”
Now remember who Paul (by the power of the Holy Ghost) is writing to. He’s writing to the Church, the church in Corinth specifically (which was in Greece), meaning he’s writing to GENTILE believers. He is telling them that not all will die before Jesus comes (verse 51) but that when He does, at the sound of the last trumpet, the dead and the living will be changed (verse 52). He’s only referring to believers here. This entire passage is talking about believers living in the last days who will be given their new spiritual bodies when Christ returns.
Now, some questions for you. Paul believed that it was possible that the people he was writing to (the Church) could live until the Resurrection, provided they don’t fall asleep (verses 42-51). How could these people possibly live up until the Resurrection/Second Coming if they were going to be raptured? We know they would be raptured, if that we a possibility, because he’s writing TO BELIEVERS and believers (the elect) are the only ones taken by Christ before God’s Wrath is put upon the Earth.
In his own human wisdom, Paul mistakenly believed that the Church in Corinth would be alive during that time (or at least some of them might be), but in the Holy Spirit’s infinite wisdom, He know that the Church as a whole, the Body of Christ (us), would be reading 1 Corinthians for centuries and allowed Paul to write these comforting words to reassure the Church of Jesus’ promise to come back for them.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is essentially the same context as 1 Corinthians with a few tweaks. Here Paul writes to the Church of Thessalonica, another group of gentile believers living in Greece, and shares with them the concept of the Resurrection (aka the Rapture).
Verse 15 is assurance that just because some of them (the Church) will be alive at the coming of the Lord (the Second Coming of Christ), that it “shall not prevent them which are asleep”. This means that those of the Body who are alive at the time of Christ’s return won’t prevent Him from raising those who were dead and didn’t last until His coming.
Verse 16 says that the Lord will “descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel”, thus making His presence known, and that the “trump of God” will blow. So again we see the trumpet. This verse also mentions that the dead will be raised first.
Verse 17 says that then those who are alive will be “caught up” (remember, this is where we get the word “rapture” from the Latin translation of the Greek) and will meet with Jesus in the clouds (as He comes in the clouds) and that we’ll be with Him forever.
Pretty straight-forward as this matches perfectly with 1 Corinthians and even Jesus’ prophecy of His return in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
2 Thessalonians 2 is from Paul, once again to the Church of Thessalonica in Greece (gentile believers). I don’t want to harp on this passage much because it only briefly mentions the Resurrection and talks mostly about people leaving the faith and the Antichrist and such, but verse 1 does say that we will be gathered “together unto Him”, which clearly supports each passage we’ve looked at up until now.
But the thing I find very interesting about this passage is that Paul encourages the believers by reminding them of the Resurrection/Second Coming and THEN warns them not to be deceived because the Antichrist and Satan will trick you into leaving the faith. He uses the end of the story as an encouragement to the believers by sharing with them the good news before warning them not to fall for the bad.
Then there’s the Book of Revelation, which we know was written to the Church in Asia (again, the gentile Church) by the Apostle John (who remember, taught Irenaeus who wrote that the Christian Church would be around during the time of the Antichrist and the Tribulation). Let’s recap Revelation real quick. The first three chapters are warnings to the seven churches (which I believe exist in a spiritual-sense now), the next two show John in Heaven right before the seals are opened. Chapters 6 through the beginning of 8 deal with the Seven Seals, which is the time of the 7 year Tribulation. Then chapter 8 switches to the first four trumpets. Chapter 9 is the fifth and sixth trumpets, and then near the end of chapter 11 the seventh (and final) trumpet sounds.
Chapter 11 verse 15 says that the seventh trumpet sounds and a great voice says, “The kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.” At this time, Earth is declared Christ’s and the Devil’s authority over it is revoked.
Verse 18 says that the “nations were angry”, Thy wrath is come”, and that “the time of the dead” is here. The time of the dead? Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like the Resurrection… And it only occurring after the last (seventh) trumpet?…
Let’s keep going.
After the next two chapters talking about the War in Heaven, Satan persecuting the Church & Israel, and the Antichrist bringing about his Mark of the Beast system (which by the way, according to Jesus’ chronological prophecy of the End Times in the Gospels, means that the Beast would have to do all of that either DURING the Seven Seals aka the 7 year Tribulation period or BEFORE).
Then we get to chapter 14 verse 1 which shows Jesus, with the 144,000, on Mount Zion (spelled Sion in the KJV). Then jump forward to verse 12 and from then to the end of the chapter we see Jesus in the clouds sending His angels to gather His elect from the Earth. It isn’t until Revelation 19 that Jesus actually touches down on Earth and fights the Antichrist and his army, but chapters 15 and 16 are clearly seen to be God’s Wrath on the Earth, which more than likely is what causes the Beast and his army to gather for the Battle of Armageddon.
We should note that unlike the Tribulation period, which is often regarded to be seven years, the Wrath period (based on how Scripture reads) seems to happen one thing-immediately-after the other. This can, of course, be argued, but that’s beside the point because the Church is clearly removed at that time since the seventh trumpet is sounded.
Now I want it to be clear that these New Testament passages are NOT the only passages in Scripture to talk about the Resurrection and the Second Coming as it was prophesied about many times in the Old Testament. The reason I chose not to dig deeper than the New Testament here is because Pre-Tribbers don’t use Old Testament prophecy to prove the Pre-Trib Rapture usually because it’s mixed in with prophecy about Jesus’ First Coming as well.
However, Joel 2 is a good example of specific End Times/Second Coming prophecy if you are interested.
Now that we know WHEN the Resurrection takes place, based on Scripture (in context, with co-text), let’s put some other notions to rest.
Who Are the Elect?
One of the biggest oppositions people get from those who subscribe to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory is that whenever someone brings up Jesus own teaching on the End Times from the first three Gospels (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), that person will usually say something like “well, he’s talking about the Jews here, not us” or “the elect is Israel”. I have to admit that this tactic has (almost) worked on me in the past, but the thing is that Scripture just doesn’t support those comments.
If you look at any of the passages we just looked at above, it’s very clear that Jesus, Paul, and John are all talking about it being the BELIEVERS who will be resurrected/raptured, especially since they’re all describing the exact same event and the only common factor between their respected audiences (the disciples were jewish but the churches were gentiles) were that they all followed Christ.
Passages in the Old Testament such as Psalm 80:3, Isaiah 42:1, and Isaiah 45:4 all refer to the elect as Israel. The reason is that during the Old Testament period (and arguably today), Israel is God’s chosen people, His elected/elect, due to His covenant with Abraham and the fulfillment of the promises to Isaac and Jacob (later renamed Israel).
In the New Testament however, the phrase “the elect” doesn’t refer to Israel, instead it ONLY (with one exception in 1 Timothy 5:21 where it talks about God’s “elect angels”) refers to those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God and have been “elected” to salvation, being born of God, entering into the new covenant (1 Peter 1:2/Ephesians 1-2).
Jesus came for “the Jew first, then the Greek” (Romans 1:16). This is because of the promise God made to them in the Old Testament, but once the New Covenant was established salvation became for EVERYBODY, and ANYONE who believed became His elect.
This means that when Jesus is preaching on the End Times to His disciples in the Gospels, because He’s talking to His DISCIPLES (what is a disciple?) and He mentions the elect, this applies to ALL who believe, NOT just Jews.
But Jesus didn’t die yet, so this can’t mean the New Covenant was in effect because gentiles/non-Jews couldn’t be saved… Right?
John 4 clearly shows the Samaritan woman at the well believing in Jesus, and she wasn’t a full Jew! In fact, many people in the Old Testament who were saved weren’t Jews! Abel, Noah, Enoch (who was actually raptured to Heaven before experiencing death according to Genesis 5:24), Abraham, Isaac, and of course Rahab. None of these people were Jews, in fact it can be argued if Jacob was even a Jew or if Jews began with his offspring. Being jewish has never been a qualification for salvation, only faith has (Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, read Hebrews 11) and therefore has never been a qualification for being part of God’s elect.
The elect are those who believe, whom God has chosen. Romans 11 is a great read for those who are confused on this.
Remember Paul’s words to the Galatians…
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
If everyone is “one” in Christ, then I think that makes Jesus’ comment about His elect from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 pretty clear, doesn’t it?
Who Were the New Testament Prophecies Written To?
Whenever you read a book, watch a random episode of a TV show, or jump into the middle of a conversation, it’s obvious that context is important. This is especially true when it comes to the Word of God because unfortunately there are many religious organizations, as well as every-day people, who use His Word out of context and in vein.
In order to really understand passages in the Word on the Rapture, you really have to understand who the intended audience was because that’s who Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and ultimately the Holy Spirit were all writing to.
Now, the Holy Spirit, because He’s God, knows exactly how many people and who would read His Words, which is why I believe the Bible is so clear, because He knew that so many would read it. So we must keep in mind that Jews, gentiles, believers, unbelievers, Evangelicals, Charismatics, Catholics, Mormons, etc. were all going to read this, or at least be exposed to it. This is why John 3:16 is so simple of a verse and easy to quote when you want to share the Gospel, because God is NOT the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)!
However, on the other hand we must realize that while books like the Gospels could be considered “for unbelievers” based on what John says about his reasoning for writing his Gospel (John 20:31), the epistles are clearly written FOR believers (1 John 5:13), and even in the Gospels there are times where Jesus is talking specifically/only to believers/followers/disciples (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are prime examples).
The epistles of 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and the Book of Revelation, which we looked at to show WHEN the Resurrection/Rapture will take place, are ALL written to specific churches that Paul and John were in contact with. They were INTENDED for a Church-audience, for people who already believed and were following Jesus, who were gentiles by birth NOT Jews.
Not that Jews won’t be apart of it, the writers of these epistles WERE Jews by birth and were identifying themselves with these gentile churches. I only make the distinction to clarify.
So now that we know when the Rapture will take place and we know who the intended audience of these prophecies were, what’s next?
Another important element to consider when studying Scripture is knowing what the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages were saying. Since we’re looking primarily at the New Testament, we’ll look at the Greek word “parousia”, which means “coming”, “arrival”, “presence”, or “official visit”.
The theme here is some sort of visitation.
I’m sure there are people reading this far who are angry at what I’m saying because they’re either questioning the Pre-Tribulation Theory, their pastors, themselves, or they just hate my guts (that’s okay too), but this is why I want to bring this up because it’s a huge piece of evidence for the events talked about in Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 2 Thessalonians 2 all being the same event (which we’ve already seen based on the actual verses themselves, but for the sake of argument we’ll talk about it through the Greek lens here).
But before I go any further, I want to say that the discovery/research about the word “parousia” is NOT my own. This comes from the book The Rapture Verdict by Michael Snyder (which again, is an amazing book that simply uses Scripture, and not much else, to prove the Pre-Trib Rapture Theory false). Actually, many of the concepts talked about here in this article come directly from that book. The reason I’m putting it here, the reason I’m writing this article, is so that I can share all this information with a Bible study I had attended to instead of handing them the book. But if you do want a more in-depth study than this article (with the verses actually quoted instead of me making you read for yourself), then I highly recommend Snyder’s book.
Anyway, let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17!
We looked at this passage earlier, this is about the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Dead. If we look at verse 15 under a microscope, we see the word “parousia”, which again means “coming” or “arrival” (you can’t arrive twice)…
For this we say unto you by this Word of the Lord, the we which are alive and remain unto the parousia of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep
Parousia here is translated as coming in the King James Version.
1 Corinthians 15:21-23 likewise is about the Resurrection. Though these three verses only deal with the dead, we know based on looking at later verses in this chapter that the dead and living are brought up at the same time. But let’s look at verse 23 real quick…
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His parousia.
Once again, parousia is translated as “coming” in the KJV.
Matthew 24:3 is Second Coming-related as the disciples ask Jesus specifically about His coming and when it will be.
And He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy parousia, and of the end of the word?
Then later in verse 27, Jesus finally answers their question, using their own words.
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the parousia of the Son of man be.
Only two verses later Jesus tells them that it won’t be until AFTER the Tribulation that He will return and He begins to describe the events that will occur in the heavens to them.
And lastly we’ll look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him.
A few verses later, Paul tells the Thessalonians that the Second Coming (parousia) would NOT come unless there was a great falling away first.
As you can see, all of these passages don’t just share the same circumstances as the other, but they also use the same original language to describe the events being foretold.
“A Thief in the Night”
Another thing that people always point out is that “Jesus could come at any time”, He’ll come like “a thief in the night”. This is a twisting of Scripture by just simply using it out of context (and who is the one who twists scripture?).
Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:5 and see the full context in which that phrase is given.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Here’s the thing, the Day of the Lord, when He returns, will come unexpectedly, but NOT for us! If you actually read what Paul says afterwards it’s clear that for those of us who are “children of light” or “children of the day” that the Day of the Lord will NOT “overtake [us] as a thief”. The thief in the night expression is actually meant to be directed towards the “children of the night” as Dracula would say, or “children of darkness” who belong to Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet.
Jesus even says in Revelation 16:15 that He is coming “as a thief”, but that he who keeps watches for Him is blessed. That he should be all of us Christians, hence why He gave us the Book of Revelation, that we might study it and thus interpret the signs of the times.
One of the biggest lies that Christians say is that “Jesus could come at any time”. I don’t think that people intend to lie here, in fact I think people’s intentions when saying this are actually good, but nevertheless it is not the truth. Let’s go back to Matthew 24 and see what the disciples asked.
…the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
So here we see them actually ask Jesus what the world will look like, what the signs will be, before He returns.
Jesus talks about the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation both being signs signifying the arrival of Christ aka the Second Coming. But what’s interesting is what Jesus says about what happens at the end of the Tribulation, the immediate signs of His return.
Now remember, for those of us who are in the light, we will expect the signs and be able to interpret them accordingly. It’s only those in darkness who cannot and do not, thus the day will come upon them as a thief.
But for those of us who want to know the signs, who keep watch for them, verse 29 says that the sun will be darkened, the moon won’t give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, thus the powers of Heaven will shake. These are the signs Jesus gives here, but are not the only ones we must look for. You can read about more of them in the Book of Revelation as well as the Gospels, Epistles, and the Old Testament Prophets.
Clearly we see that there are specific events that, according to Jesus Himself, HAVE to happen before the Second Coming.
The Anti-Christ, When Will He Come?
Spinning off from our last point, another topic Pre-Trib subscribers will bring up is that Christians (often gentile Christians specifically) won’t have to deal with the Antichrist, the Mark of the Beast, the Beast System (one world government and currency), etc.
But this is simply not true.
In Matthew 24, Jesus clearly teaches that the Abomination of Desolation (a reference to the Antichrist as spoken about in Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11) will show up BEFORE the Great Tribulation and that he will make war with the saints (Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 13:7).
In Daniel he is referred to as the “Abomination of Desolation” (Jesus also calls him this), in 1 John 2:18 he’s called the Antichrist (which is where we get the term from; it also refers to a spirit of antichrist, an evil spirit that opposes Christ), and he’s called the Beast in Revelation 13 as well as the rest of the book. Though he has different names, the “man of sin” is always described in the same ways.
Now we know the saints/elect are the believers in Christ, the Church, and we know that all of these books were written specifically to the Church (minus Daniel), making it abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles, prophets, and Jesus to make mention that His followers/disciples would not only encounter the Beast, but suffer under his rulership as he would “wage war against the saints”. He will arrive before the Great Tribulation, looking like a “good guy”, even entering into the reconstructed Third Temple, but he would soon turn and implement the Mark of the Beast as Revelation 13 foretells.
He who has an ear let him hear…
Going directly back to the concept of when the Rapture actually occurs, one of the most fascinating things about the Second Coming of Christ is what happens when He appears in the clouds. When He appears, there’s a shout, the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the last trumpet blows.
If we look at 1 Corinthians 15:52, it says…
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
So we know here that in the Resurrection, the last trumpet will sound off, marking the beginning of the Rapture with the dead coming back first.
Let’s compare that to 1 Thessalonians 4:16…
For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead shall rise first.
Okay, so here we see that a shout, the voice of an archangel (it says THE archangel so I’m assuming it’s Michael as he’s the only angel explicitly referred to as an archangel in Jude 9), and the trumpet of God sounding.
So once again there’s a trumpet that sounds right before the dead come back to life.
Match this with Matthew 24:31…
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 the heaven to the other.
So once again, a trumpet sounds before the elect are gathered. Keep in mind that the verse previous says that the Son of Man (Jesus) shall come in the clouds of heaven, making this verse a simple continuation of the same thought. Like the previous two passages there’s a trumpet involved and His chosen people being collected.
If we continue this thought on over to Revelation 11:15, we’ll see that this idea continues with the seventh and last trumpet being sounded…
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in the heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Now if we jump over to chapter 14 (as John takes a slight detour as we looked at earlier), verses 14-19 describe angels reaping the dead as talked about before, but only after the Son of Man appeared in the clouds (in verse 14). So as we can see, this can only take place after the Last Trumpet in Revelation 11 which matches with the concept of Jesus’ return in the clouds & the Resurrection of the Dead found in Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and 1 Corinthians 15:52.
Obviously it matches because it’s all describing the same event!
“We Are Not Appointed to Wrath”
This comment is another one of the Pre-Trib Top 10 that is, in my opinion, another misinterpretation of Scripture but I want to make something clear first, unlike the “thief in the night” comment where if actually read in context only applies to unbelievers, this statement is actually true of believers!
I agree. We are NOT appointed to wrath!
Believers in Jesus Christ have been redeemed by His blood and are no longer in condemnation but have entered into life eternal (Romans 8:1-2)! However, the point still remains that this passage is often either misinterpreted or just simply misunderstood.
What is God’s Wrath?
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 says that it’s a “fiery vengeance” that takes hold on whoever doesn’t know God or obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately God’s wrath is Hell. Therefore as believers in Christ, we don’t inherit Hell, but Heaven (this is ultimately what that passage is referring to)!
But what is God’s wrath in the context of the End Times?
Well, that’s a little different. Aside from Death and Hell (and all those therein) getting thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14), God’s wrath is seen AFTER the Tribulation period once all of the Seven Trumpets are blown. Chapter 16 really kicks it off with seven rapid-fire succession plagues which gets the Antichrist mad enough to decide to start a war with Jesus (17:14), which is a really dumb move.
Ultimately, Jesus descending upon the Earth with His fiery eyes and vengeance from His mouth is the “Wrath of God” that the followers of the Beast will have to deal with (Revelation 19).
Remember above when we talked about the thief in the night concept?
Well the “not appointed to wrath” concept comes a few verses later in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 saying…
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
Paul just talked about how wrath will come upon the unbelieving when they least expect it (although we will, or at least should, know the signs and expect Jesus’ return) and he says that these people are asleep, “drunken in the night” (verse 7), but he encourages us by reminding us of who we are in Christ and that because of Him, we aren’t supposed to fear judgment, but hope in our salvation.
This passage doesn’t help prove the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory at all, in fact it helps disprove it because Paul is reminding them that even though these bad things will happen, even though people will not expect Jesus’ return and it will come for them “like a thief in the night”, that they (believers) will be fine because of Jesus. In verse 11 he even tells them to comfort one another because of this!
Something we forget as Christians here in America, even after acknowledging that it happens elsewhere, is that we are supposed to be persecuted! We ARE going to go through trials and tribulations! In fact, James and Paul tell us to rejoice when we have them (James 1:2, Romans 5:3)!
In Revelation 7:9-17, John is shown the martyrs who died during the Great Tribulation for standing up for Jesus, showing once again that Christians are not getting out of the Tribulation. We will be here because it’s NOT GOD’S WRATH!
Jesus says in John 16:33, John 17:14, and John 15:18-20 that we will have to suffer through tribulation. In fact, Jesus tells His disciples in Mark 13:13 that “everyone will hate you because you are my followers”. Remember the context of Mark 13, Jesus is preaching on the End Times, the Great Tribulation, and His Second Coming, so this is obviously in context of the FINAL Tribulation period.
Again, Tribulation. NOT Wrath.
Peter tells us not to be surprised by the trials we go through (2 Peter 4:21) while Paul tells Timothy that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Let us also remember Israel in Egypt during the plagues that God sent in the Book of Exodus. Israel was protected even though they lived with the Egyptians. God kept His people from His Wrath on His enemies, who’s to say He wouldn’t do the same for His people now…
These are only the tip of the iceberg but the point is that never once in ALL of Scripture is it said that Christians would NOT go through tribulation, even including the Great Tribulation of the End Times. No, we are not appointed for wrath, but the Tribulation is NOT God’s wrath, that comes later. Read your Bible carefully.
The Great Falling Away
The last point I want to make is less a point and more of a warning. The Bible warns a few times that in the End Times as well as the Last Days (the time we’re living in now between the First and Second Comings of Christ) that there would be a “great falling away”. In fact, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 says that Jesus won’t even return to Earth unless this happens first. This is a very serious thing that needs to be addressed in the Church because it just hasn’t been.
1 Timothy 4:1 says that in the End Times, people would be deceived by doctrines of demons. This isn’t talking about something like levitation or palm readings being brought into the Church (though sadly that happens too), it’s talking about subtle twists and turns that take the meaning of the Word of God away from the straight and narrow and onto the broad path.
What did Satan say to Eve in the Garden of Eden? “You won’t surely die…” and “You’ll become like God knowing good and evil”. Was he wrong? Yes and no. Adam and Eve didn’t physically die by eating the fruit, that is true, and their eyes were open knowing evil, that is also true, BUT they did spiritually die the moment Adam ate of the fruit and the sad thing was is that by eating it they learned evil. You see, man was created in God’s image, “imago dei”, and He called man “good”. Man was already good before sin, man already knew good before sin, but Satan told him by eating the fruit he would know “good AND evil”.
Do you see the subtlety in that?
Satan made his words SOUND right, SOUND good. He offered a new way of life, he told them they could know good and evil, but the problem was is that Adam & Eve already, and only, knew GOOD! It was something they already had because God created them that way! All the fruit did was reveal the difference between good and evil, spiritually killing them. Yet the Serpent made it SOUND like it was good, he made it SOUND truthful, and it ALMOST was…
This is what the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory does and this is why it’s truly so dangerous. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 tells us that this great falling away happens because people believed a deception that God sent (through the Devil) and they didn’t know the truth because they DID NOT LOVE the truth.
Jesus says in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22 that if it were possible even the elect could be deceived!
The reason I have such a hard time with the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory is, what happens when the Antichrist shows up and the Tribulation starts and the Church is still here?
First of all, those who understand what’s going on will lose faith, but secondly, and more dangerously, those who put all their faith in this Rapture will still believe that it’s coming and refuse to see that they’re living in the End Times that the Bible so clearly warns them about! Even, in my opinion, to the point where might be willing to accept the Mark of the Beast, WILLINGLY, because they refuse to believe the signs of the times, therefore giving up their soul for eternity (anyone who takes the Mark goes to Hell; Revelation 19:20).
This is really scary guys! Are you, those of you who do believe in this theory, going to continue believing this extremely subtle deception or are you going to believe the Word of God for what it actually says as opposed to what others say that it says.
Ultimately it boils down to this, will you obey the doctrines of God or the doctrines of men?
Only one can save you.
I hope you all have enjoyed this little study and that you have all learned something. Watching the Left Behind or Lead Astray? documentary, reading the majority of Michael Snyder’s The Rapture Verdict, and reading all throughout the Holy Bible in preparation for writing this article has taught me a lot about what the Word actually has to say about the Rapture.
It’s funny actually, when I was in college, I went to a college-aged ministry every week. One semester, our theme was the Church. One of the last week’s was about “What is the Church’s Role in the End Times?” and what we were taught was that we don’t have one because we are raptured away. The scary thing was that I knew the truth, but even in my knowing it I was almost convinced by what the speaker was saying. Immediately after this sermon, I got into what the Word said and immediately those thoughts of almost believing in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory were gone. In fact, one of the biggest questions that popped into my head was, “if we are all raptured out of here anyway then why study Revelation at all?” There’d be no reason to, and the only one who truly wants us to ignore that book is the one who is defeated at the end of it.
Sadly, I think that’s the mindset of the majority of the America Church, especially Pre-Trib enthusiasts. I worry about so-called believers here in this country, I worry that they not only will be deceived by the likes of the False Prophet, Antichrist, and ultimately Satan, but that they already have been deceived (by other doctrines, theologies, and ideas as well, not just this one specifically) and are simply on a conveyor belt of lies headed straight for the Lake of Fire.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you’re going to Hell if you believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (if you believe in Christ as your Savior and submit to Jesus as your Lord, I have no reason to believe you’re not a Christian), but I am saying that you have been deceived, and it’s not really me saying it, it’s clearly what Scripture says if you read the text, in context, with co-text.
To the Bible study that I’m basically writing this for, I hope you guys take all of God’s truth in here to heart and to anyone else who reads this and begins to question their faith in the Pre-Trib Rapture, please know that if you seek the Lord, you will find Him and that by drawing near to Him, He will draw near to you. Search the Scriptures.
He who hath an ear, let him hear.