RAPTURE "WHAT ABOUTS"
-- QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS --
Pastor K. Kirkland Valdez Apostolic Church, Valdez, Alaska
Prophecy has always been one of my favorite subjects. I made an extensive study of it in the ‘60’s and early 70’s. At that time the only books you could find on the subject were Pretrib and Dispensational. As a result, I thoroughly learned Pretrib/Dispensational Theology.
Sometimes we hear generalizations such as “pretribs are cowards, they do not believe the church will enter the tribulation,” and so on. I know for a fact that isn’t always true, not in my case at least. I don’t believe such a generalization even fits Apostolics. Apostolics, most assuredly, are not cowards. They will look the devil in the eye. The very fact that they are Apostolic Pentecostals says a lot. It takes courage to be an Apostolic. They are not afraid to take an unpopular stand, at odds against the whole world concerning the true Gospel, the Oneness of God, standards of Holiness.
When I was pretrib it was not because I was a coward, it was because I sincerely believed Pretrib/Dispensationalism was the truth. A Post-trib now (for 25 years), I can say it is equally wrong when I hear insinuations that Post-tribs are foolhardy masochists. I know that isn’t so. I do not particularly relish the thought of suffering. Here’s where it all really comes down to - what does the Bible really say? It’s not a matter of what I want.
Apostolics are very strong Biblicists. We love the Bible! However, it is my observation that our energies have been focused in one area. Our energies are focused towards evangelism, Godhead, Apostolic salvation doctrine, holiness, and the mechanics of running a church. This we should do, but not leave the other undone. Fact is, very few in Apostolic Pentecostal ranks, busy with doing the other things, have really taken the time to make an in-depth study on the subject of pretrib/post-trib.
Looking back, I can honestly say that my main error was not reading the prophetic sections of the Bible at face value. I was reading them through Pretrib/Dispensational spectacles. I didn’t realize I was doing it, I was reading INTO scripture my preconceived theology, theology I had distilled from many Pretrib/Dispensational books. When I tried reading the Bible without these spectacles I began to see things I never saw before. But, it was only a beginning, I had many questions that I needed answers for. A few answers would not suffice. Those who have studied it know - the subject is not simplistic. There are a lot of " what about this scripture", " what about that…" Here is an attempt to answer the “what abouts:”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What about all those places in the Bible that speaks of the coming of Jesus Christ before the tribulation?
I am amazed how many people actually believe this. Since Pretrib is so popular, surely the Bible must confirm it – and often. There are passages that pretribs might infer a prior removal before the tribulation, but in no place do they have an explicit statement that SAYS Jesus Christ comes before the tribulation. This, in sharp contrast to many passages that does SAY his coming is AFTER the tribulation.
True, the Second Coming takes place after the tribulation, but what about the rapture, the first stage of his coming? There HAS to be a first stage. So Jesus can come FOR the church. So that after the tribulation, he can come WITH the church.
Annotated Reference Bible, p.277 puts it this way, representing standard pretrib
terminology: “The rapture is
the first of the two comings…The rapture
is the time Christ comes for the saints to take them to heaven. The second coming…is
the time He comes from heaven with the saints, having raptured
them at least 7 years before.” Please take note of the use of the word “rapture” to differentiate from the “second coming.” We shall be
discussing this in more detail later on.
Just what are we looking at here? If
there is a coming before the tribulation and one after the tribulation, don't we
have a second and a third coming? Of course pretribs know such terminology is not
in the Bible, therefore they usually give us one or the other (or both) of the
We are to understand that there is not a second and a third coming,
rather, there is only one second coming with
two stages. [Problem.
This is vitally important, if this were true we would expect Paul somewhere to
explain it in such a manner. On the contrary, Paul writes as if the singular
coming of Jesus in Matt. 24 was an assumption. Nowhere do we read where Paul
gives us a dramatic new teaching that the singular coming taught by Jesus needs
further explanation, that it is not one event, but is, in fact, two stages, or
two separate events. ]
are to understand that it is not correct to refer to the
rapture as the Second
Coming. The Second Coming is the post-trib event only. [Problem.
This won't work either.
There is no avoiding the rapture being "the second coming," the
rapture passage (1 Thess. 4:15) calls it "coming," while Heb. 9:28
calls it "the second time" - "And unto them who look for him shall he appear the second time
without sin unto salvation." There is no "third
time" in the Bible. Scripture
points the church to the Second
Cutting through all the pretrib mystic double-talk, despite their protests, what you have with Jesus coming twice is TWO second comings. Here lies the crux of the matter. It is very much akin to the Oneness-Trinity debate. One God or plural “persons?” One Coming or plural Comings?
If Jesus comes twice, then for such a fundamental concept as this we would expect an explicit statement somewhere in the Bible saying so. At least it should say COMINGS, plural, some place. But, here is where the Bible comes solidly down for post-trib, the Bible says only COMING, singular. If the Bible says there is only ONE Coming, and the Bible plainly says that it is after the tribulation, then there can be no other coming (pre, mid, or whatever).
Here’s proof that there has to be two stages. What about the marriage supper of the Lamb? Doesn’t the church participate in this, in heaven, with Jesus, while the tribulation is happening on earth? This means there has to be a pre-tribulation coming.
No, Rev. 19:7, on the contrary, places the marriage supper in immediate association with the post-trib coming. There, on the verge of his coming, after the tribulation, the announcement is made: the marriage supper of the Lamb has arrived. "For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready."
A U-turn for Jesus would have to be read into 1 Thess. 4:15-17 for the church to be in heaven during the tribulation. In that passage, Jesus is said to be DESCENDING. “… For the Lord himself shall DESCEND from heaven…Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to MEET the Lord in the air...” Verse 16.
Notice, he has departed from heaven, nothing is said about him, after meeting the saints, reversing direction, and going BACK to heaven. No, not in this text, nor anywhere else in the Bible is there a U turn for Jesus at his coming:
The saints “meet” the Lord in the air. In Matt. 25:1-13, the only other place in the Bible where this word "meet" is used in connection with his coming, it has the 10 virgins making a U turn, not the bridegroom, not Jesus. The virgins, representing the church, go out to meet him and escort him to the marriage festivities (the marriage supper of the Lamb).
These passages, Rev. 19:7, 1 Thess. 4:15-17, and Matt. 25:1-13, taken together, can have only one meaning: the Lord descends from heaven on his way to the earth, the saints meet him in the air and escort him to earth - and then follows the marriage supper of the Lamb. Thus, we have only ONE coming. The marriage supper does not support the basic pretrib premise that Jesus HAS to come for the church as a separate event, two stages in other words.
But, what about all the
emphasis the Bible puts on the rapture? With so much emphasis, surely a
separate, special event is indicated.
The Bible puts all the emphasis on the coming King: "... at his appearing and kingdom," 2 Tim. 4:1. In New Testament times representatives of a city would honor, or give tribute to an arriving King by going out of their city a little distance, meet the King, and escort him back to the city. THAT is the main purpose of the rapture. It has nothing to do with exemption from the tribulation. The rapture is but an incident of his one coming.
Look at the emphasis in the book of Revelation. At the very outset the emphasis is Jesus himself at his coming, not the rapture: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him,” (1:7). Which coming is chapter 19. Where the rapture is not even mentioned.
It is mentioned elsewhere. In Rev. 14:14-16, a post-trib setting, the rapture is symbolized as a harvest when the Son of man comes upon a cloud. Note the tie-in with “clouds” in Acts 1:9-11, Luke 21:27, 1 Thess. 4:16, and Rev. 1:7 cited above. When you put these verses together you have the connecting thoughts of coming, clouds, judgment, and rapture, described as one event. The rapture in chapter fourteen is not prominent in Revelation, while the coming in chapter nineteen is, the whole book of Revelation flows towards it. Which underscores our point that the emphasis should be on Christ himself, not on an aspect of that event, the rapture.
What about the
distinction between “the Rapture” and the “Revelation?” Aren’t these
two separate events? As everybody knows, “Revelation” is the term for the
second coming after the tribulation.
Here is an actual quote by a prominent Pretrib preacher: "The thrilling event which will both mark the end of the day of Grace and the beginning of the Great Tribulation is the rapture, this is not the Revelation, rather this is the Rapture" This is what we hear everywhere. Jesus’ coming for the church is “the Rapture,” the term used to differentiate from the Revelation or the Second coming.
If Jesus comes twice this is exactly what we would expect.
Yes, indeed, we would expect a special term for the first event as the
pretribs have supplied – “the Rapture.” But, there's just one problem,
it's not there! In
none of the passages regularly cited as proof texts for the pretrib event, do
we find it called “the Rapture.” The important 1 Thess. 4:15-17 passage calls
it “the coming (parousia in the Greek) of the Lord,” not “the rapture.”
Verse 15: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that
we which are alive and remain unto THE [PAROUSIA] OF THE LORD…”
"Parousia," in verse 15, pretribs tell us is equivalent to the pretribulational "rapture." However, parousia is used many times for the post-tribulational event. For instance, everyone agrees this verse is post-tribulational: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his [parousia],” 2 Thess. 2:8. Parousia, or coming, won't work as a special term.
Then what about “Revelation" as a special term for only the post-trib event? This won't fly either. In the following verses, the alleged pretrib “first stage” or “rapture” is the "revelation": 1 Cor. 1:7, 1 Pet. 1:7, 1 Pet. 1:13. The Greek word is "apokalypsis," meaning revelation in these verses. The KJV mistranslates "apokalypsis" in 1 Cor. 1:7 as "coming," and in 1 Pet. 1:7 as "appearing.". Revelation in these verses is the same revelation that is the theme of the book of Revelation – a post tribulational event (Rev. 1:7 & Rev. chapter 19).
So, the shocking truth is the pretribs have no distinctive scriptural term or word to differentiate their first event from the second. "Rapture" won't work, it is an unscriptural description of the alleged first stage. "Coming" and "Appearing" won't work as special terms for the first event, the Bible applies them to the alleged second stage. "Revelation" won't work as the special term for the second event, the Bible applies it to the alleged first stage.
“Rapture” is derived from it’s one-time usage in 1 Thess. 4:17, a Latin word for the “catching up” of the saints. But the “catching up” is but one aspect of the multi-aspect Coming of Jesus Christ. The passage calls the event “the parousia (coming) of the Lord,” NOT the rapture!
Paul and the NT writers weren't writing coded mysticism, they would have used a very distinctive term to distinguish a pre-trib rapture from the post-trib coming if it were true. If we stick to the Bible, then parousia (coming), epiphany (appearing), and apocalyse (revelation) are the only definitive words we have to work with – words which we have found are used variously for the one and same event.
So, yes, there will be a "rapture," but, it is
only a subset of the bigger event, and should not be used in place of the Biblical
terms. In short, pretribulationism, in order to have Jesus coming two times, has
popularized a term for the first event that the Bible never uses.
What about “thief in the night”? Doesn’t this mean there has to be a secret coming, separate from the coming after the tribulation? His coming after the tribulation is his coming in judgment, and certainly not secret.
The “thief” metaphor indicates unexpected suddenness. He comes as a thief, true, but only to the world, only to those who are not watching, and not alert. No man knows “that day and hour” (Matt. 24:36), or as Paul put it “the times and the seasons” (1 Thess. 5:1). It must come as a surprise to sinners. This is the reason it comes as a thief and it's date, or "times and seasons," is purposely not given.
Jesus set the precedent for the “thief” metaphor in
Matt. 24:43, the NT writers simply followed his usage of it. In Matt 24:43,
Jesus’ coming as a thief is tied to the post-trib event, which is back in verse 30, the
only coming in the chapter. So Jesus set the precedent – the "thief"
metaphor is post-trib. Peter’s usage of it in 2 Pet. 3:10 is obviously post-trib, Paul’s usage of it in 1
Thess. 5:2, must have been the same. That
only leaves Rev. 16:15, 16, and it assuredly is a post-trib setting. At the
verge of Armageddon, at the end of the tribulation, and he still hasn’t come
as a thief yet:
”Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
Thus, in every place the “thief” metaphor is used, the setting is post-trib.
Words associated with the “rapture” passage in 1 Thess. 4:15-17: shout, voice of the archangel, the trump of God, give no support to the idea of this being a secret event either. On the contrary, without a doubt this is probably the loudest, most noisy passage in the Bible! Authorities on the Greek tell us that the word “shout” (keleuo) denotes a ringing shout of war, like that of the general of a great army! This is the post-trib shout at Armageddon – and loud enough to wake the dead! The voice of the archangel and the trumpet likewise. Everything about this passage is in opposition to the alleged “secret” rapture.
A public event. Ancient documents have been discovered which shed important light on the usage of the Greek words “parousia” (coming) and “epiphany” (appearing). These words were commonly used for the PUBLIC arrival and appearance of a king. It could carry a double meaning, the King's coming would be judgment for the King's enemies, while at the same time a joyous, gala occasion for the King's friends. For the readers of the NT in those times, these words (parousia and epiphany) could never have been understood to mean a secret coming of Jesus Christ. Rev. 1:7 describes just how public it will be, "Every eye shall see him."
What about "pray that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass," Luke 21:36?
"That YE may be accounted worthy to escape..." Who are the "ye" Jesus is referring to? The "ye" are the same ones, who Jesus says, back in verse 28, must recognize the signs leading up to his coming "and when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up YOUR heads, for YOUR redemption draweth nigh." Their "redemption" is the previous verse, verse 27, the POST-TRIB coming. These are the same "ye" in verse 36. They escape all these things that are coming to pass at their "redemption," the post-trib coming of the Lord. As in Matt. 24, the parallel account, the post-trib coming is the only coming in the entire discourse.
Pretrib's attention is mostly riveted on one word "escape." Another prime example of reading the Bible through pretrib spectacles, assuming the "escape" means escape beforehand, as in a pretrib rapture. The context says otherwise. Their escape is while in the midst of these things, at their "redemption," at the post-trib coming - not a prior escape. This is how "escape" is used in normal everyday speech. Recently in the news a boy and his mother attempted their "escape" from Communist Cuba. And, think of buildings with fire "escapes." Escape from out of the midst of something, not beforehand.
What about "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Thess. 5:9?
The quick answer is this verse is actually a parallel to Luke 21:36, meaning escape from wrath associated with the day of the Lord, obtaining "redemption" or "salvation" (deliverance) at the same time. For a more comprehensive answer, and discussion on the whole question of "wrath," whether God's or the devil's, click on Wrath to take you to our article, "From the day of Pentecost to the day of the Lord."
What about "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth," Rev. 3:10?
How do we "keep" the word of his patience? If we can answer that, then we have the answer as to how God promises to "keep thee from" the time of great trial or tribulation. Because we have been faithful to his word, he will be faithful when the chips are down. In other words, because you have kept my word in the midst of a world that is my enemy, I will keep you in the midst of a world that is my enemy.
The Greek words that "keep thee from" are translated from are unique. John only used them here and in John 17:15 (the only two places in the Bible). John 17:15 says: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." It is reasonable therefore to assume John's usage of these words meant the same in both places. In John 17:15 Jesus meant for us to understand that He desires not that we be removed from this hostile world, but be kept from the evil in it. Contrary to oft repeated claims, Rev. 3:10 does not support a pretribulation rapture, but rather is a promise to being kept through the tribulation - as in Rev. 7:14, "these are they who came out of great tribulation." Summing together John 17:15, Rev. 3:10, and Rev. 7:14 we get the idea of preservation - not prior removal.
What about the fact that the word “church” is not in the tribulation section of Revelation? Since it is not there doesn't this prove the church must be raptured out beforehand?
The word "church" is found often in chapters 1 - 3, but is missing in the tribulation chapters. However, this does not prove pretrib for the following reasons:
The first thing that should strike us is Revelation has more detailed information about the tribulation than anywhere else in the Bible - why such detail addressed to those who are not supposed to be there? The entire Revelation is addressed to the church in chapters 1-3, common sense would dictate that Revelation is addressed to those who are supposed to be there.
The church (the seven churches of Asia) is depicted on earth in chapters 1-3, and is supposed to be no longer on earth, but in heaven in chapters 4-19. The absence of the word "church" in the earthly scenes is supposed to prove the church is now in heaven. But this proves too much for the pretribs, it is a double edged sword. For in depictions of what's going on in heaven during the tribulation, 4:1 - 5:14; 7:9 - 8:5; 11:15 - 12:17; 14:1-5; 15:1-8; 19:1-10, "church" is not there either!. So, the pretrib inference is nullified, the non-mention of the church in heaven during the tribulation cancels out it's non-mention on earth.
Pretribs divide Revelation into very distinct sections: church (chapt. 1-3), tribulation (ch. 4-19), millennium (ch. 20), new heavens and earth (ch. 21 - 22:15), and conclusion (22:16-21).In the conclusion we find "churches:" "I Jesus have sent my angel to testify unto you these things in the churches" (22:16). Since this is at the end of the book, "these things" includes the tribulation, millennium, and new heaven and earth. Obviously, this verse is a summing up of "things" that pertain to the "churches." Why single out the tribulation because the word "church" is absent? It's NOT in the millennium and new heaven and earth section either! Does the Millennium and the new heaven and earth pertain to the church? If so, then so does the tribulation.
A glaring example of the error of making a doctrine out of the non-mention of "church" is Rev. 19:7: "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." We dare not exclude the church here because the word "church" is not there. Is not the church the bride of Christ? What we have here is proof that other words can be used besides "church."
In the first fifteen chapters of Romans, a vitally important doctrinal part of the NT, the word church is not there. And, it's not in the following books at all: Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude! Yet, we all know these books are for the church (especially the epistles) - even though the word "church" may not be there. The church in these books, and in the rest of the NT, is spoken of as "saints," the "elect," God's "people," God's "Israel," true "Jews," Abraham's seed, "servants," the bride of Christ, etc. The same is true for Revelation.
"Saints" are definitely depicted in the tribulation in 13:7,10; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24, suffering at the hands of antichrist. Pretribs say, due to the usage of "saints" instead of "church," that this cannot be the church. But, that it is the church is manifest, for 19:7, 8 says: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the SAINTS." The bride, which all acknowledge to be the church, is arrayed in the righteousness of the SAINTS! The same "saints" Revelation depicts in the tribulation.
The non-mention of "church" in the tribulation section is a faulty inference. The book of Revelation is, after all, only addressed to the seven churches in the province of Asia minor, not to the church at Antioch, nor the church at Rome, etc. - NOT to the church in it's totality. To a provincial church, not to the general church. Thus, a word that designated the general church in the endtimes such as "saints" would naturally be used. ["Saints" is used of the church some 50 times in the epistles.] To symbolize more specific aspects of the church, the bride (Rev 19:7); and the 144,000 "servants of our God" (Rev 7:1-8; 14:1-4), which is God's Elect, God's Israel (the Israel of God, Gal. 6:16), are used.
What about the rapture in Rev. 4:1? John caught up to heaven.
This inference (yes, it is only an inference) is part and parcel of the previous inference, the non-mention of "church" in the tribulation. Here is where the pretribs get the church raptured to heaven.
John is told in Rev. 1:19 to "write the things which thou hast seen (past), and the things which are (present), and the things which shall be hereafter (future)." John's task is to observe, record, and narrate what he has sees past, present, and future. He is taken to heaven in 4:1 so that John can be shown what is going to happen in the future "Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which shall be hereafter." Thats ALL the text says. Nothing more, nothing less. Pretribs have read something into it that's not there.
John is supposed to represent the church, sort of "wheresover John goes, so goes the church," however, this is a far stretch if ever there was one. It cannot be the rapture for John's own narration throughout Revelation depicts him frequently moving between heaven and earth. "As John goes, so goes the church?" Is the church raptured to heaven, back and forth to earth, throughout the tribulation? Of course not. Furthermore, John is never a participant in the events. As he is commanded to do, he simply observes, writes on his scroll, and records everything. Yet, never taking part in the actual events.
What's more, instead of John being in heaven throughout the tribulation (which he should be if he is supposed to represent the pretrib raptured church), in almost every instance he is depicted ON EARTH! Citing only one occasion, John is at the beach: Rev 13:1 "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy." Pretribs shouldn't press "as John goes, so goes the church" too far, else they prove the very thing they deny - the church on earth during the tribulation!
What about the 24 Elders?
At the outset, in 1:7, the book of Revelation announces the one and only coming of Jesus Christ. The tribulation chapters flow toward that conclusion, that one coming, which is in chapter 19. As a subset of that one coming the rapture is depicted (14:14-16) in a post-trib setting. On the verge of that one coming Jesus says he is about to come as a thief (16:15, 16). In the tribulation chapters the church is depicted variously as the elect, saints, and the bride. In such an obviously "one coming" book all pretribs have are a few, very esoteric inferences. One of which is the "phantom" rapture in 4:1, the other is the 24 elders in chapter five which, they claim, depicts the raptured church in heaven.
For the reasons we have stated in the previous paragraph, and for a hundred more one-coming-after-the-tribulation proofs, we know the 24 elders are not a pretrib raptured church. So, who are they?
"Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith, he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount," (Heb. 8:5). Moses built the tabernacle according to the pattern he beheld in heaven. In like manner so is the New Jerusalem a pattern, or the ideal. Paul spoke of the same in Gal. 4:26 calling it "Jerusalem which is above...which is the mother of us all." We believe the New Jerusalem with it's 12 foundations "and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:14), and it's 12 walls with names inscribed of the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12), to be the ideal plan of God from all eternity. The very special number 24 signifies that supreme Ideal (12 apostles and 12 tribes of Israel = 24).
Why "24" elders? Because they signify the same ideal. In but three places in the Bible do we see significance of this number: the New Jerusalem, the 24 elders, and David's tabernacle. David's tabernacle had 24 courses of worshipers (1 Chron. 23, 24)! They praised God around the clock. They characterized Pentecostal worship, in fact James made that very linkage in Acts 15:16. David, a man after God's own heart, was given to know the mind of God concerning real spiritual worship, the tabernacle pitched by him on Mount Zion was a wonderful foreshadowing of Pentecostal worship, prayer, preaching and song. His Psalms reflect Pentecostal worship. But, what was David's pattern for his tabernacle? We believe it was the 24 elders. It is apparent that seeking God "after the due order" (1 Chron. 15:13), motivated David. We believe David's 24 courses was patterned after the heavenly order of the 24 elders.
The four beasts long preexisted the endtimes (Ezekiel 1), the close association of the 24 elders with the four beasts suggests the 24 elders did also. Instead of a just-raptured church of the endtime, they have been the ideal or the heavenly pattern for Pentecostal worship throughout time. The four beasts "Rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," Rev. 4:8). Be assured the 24 elders participate in the same, in fact, they lead the heavenly worship of God (Rev. 4:9-11, 5:8-12).
The 24 elders are angelic beings of a different order, but of the same class as the four beasts. Pretribism, in order to have them be a just-raptured church, makes the 24 elders to be distinct from angelic beings such as the four beasts. However, Revelation refutes this, throughout Revelation the four beasts are seen fulfilling the same function as the 24 elders, an example is 5:8, "... And when he had taken the book, the four beasts, AND four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the Prayers of the SAINTS." Notice, the four beasts and 24 elders are lumped together. Both the 4 beasts and the 24 elders offer up prayers on the behalf of earthly saints. And what does Revelation say about "saints?" They are the church in the tribulation.
But, why are they called "elders?" According to Strong's Concordance #4245, there is human and celestial elders, the celestial, Strong's says - members of a "celestial counsil," a celestial "Sanhedrin," or, we could say a celestial "elders of Zion." It is conceivable then, that, not only worship, but the system of rulership, and leadership in both Old and New Testaments (12 elders representing OT Israel and 12 representing the church) is based on the heavenly model of the 24 elders. "Elders" denotes more than age, rather, the prominent idea is rulership or leadership, overseers (Numbers 11:16; Isa. 3:2-4; Acts 4:5, 8; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2). The angelic overseers, or "watchers" (Dan. 4:13, 17, 23; Jer. 4:16) were probably these selfsame angelic "elders."
"For by him (Jesus Christ) were all things created, that are in heaven , and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be THRONES or dominions, or principalities, or powers," Col 1:16. This verse tells us that there is invisible heavenly thrones, dominions, principalities, or powers. These heavenly principalities and powers are mentioned numerous times in the epistles, Eph. 3:10 for instance: "...principalities and powers in heavenly places." Who else in the book of Revelation, with all it's angelic descriptions, would fit "thrones and principalities" but these elders? Sitting upon "seats" (thrones in the Greek, three times in Rev. these principalities, or "elders," in heavenly places, are seen sitting upon thrones). Rev. says they wear "crowns," which denotes angelic rulership.
Pretribs protest, claiming "elders" is anthropomorphic, we should interpret it as the just-raptured church because of certain earthly descriptions that Rev. gives, which distinguishes them from celestial beings. But this won't work, for if the four beasts, though celestial, are anthropomorphic (celestial beings described in earthly terms: lion, calf, a man, eagle, Rev. 4:7), then the same is true about these "elders." As we have seen, the 24 elders are of the same angelic class as the four beasts. Both the four beasts and the 24 elders are anthropomorphic (celestial elders signifying the earthly). The 24 angelic elders signifying the heavenly supreme ideal in both old and new testaments.
Pretribs, when asked, why "24" elders, will say that "24" stands for Israel and the church. This would mean Israel is included in the pretrib rapture since Israel is represented by the first "12" part of the 24 elders equation. But when does the Bible say Israel is resurrected? Daniel describes their resurrection AFTER the tribulation in Dan.12. He depicted tribulation times in chapt. 11, i.e., the antichrist (v. 36-39) and tribulational wars (v. 40-45), occurring "At the time of the END" (v. 40). And, then said: "...AT THAT TIME shall thy people be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake..." (12:1, 2). The promise of a post-trib resurrection included Daniel for he was told: "But go thy way TILL THE END BE: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot AT THE END OF THE DAYS" (12:13). That "end," Daniel 11 & 12 describes in post-tribulational terms.
Pretribs tell us that the 12 tribes, the 144,000 in Rev. 7, are law keeping Jews just like OT Jews, Israelite missionaries during the tribulation. So then according to their own interpretation, "Israel" must have a post-trib resurrection. But, since Israel is represented by the first "12" part of the 24 elders equation, Pretribs are faced with a dilemma. The fact that there is 24 elders, and that they signify the totality of OT saints and the church, and that Israel is positively resurrected at the end of the tribulation, positively refutes the pretrib rapture, 24 elders, doctrine. For wheresoever Israel is resurrected, there will the church be resurrected also.
What about the pretrib rapture being a "mystery?"
In the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24) Jesus taught only ONE coming, and it "immediately after the tribulation of those days," v. 29. The standard Pretrib answer is the pretrib rapture is not in the discourse because it is a "mystery," it is left for Paul to reveal the pretrib rapture to the church later as a "mystery" in 1 Cor. 15:51-56.
Here is laid bare the heart and soul of pretribulationism. Pretrib is mysterious. It is esoteric (secret). It's mystery lends itself to many inferences, i.e., certain passages that might INFER a pretrib rapture (with such inferences we need assistance from our trusty pair of pretrib "spectacles"). It all comes down to the word "mystery," it characterizes the whole pretrib system. Much like trinitarianism, faced with having nothing but inferences, over against 8000+ references in the Bible to the oneness of God, their standard explanation is the Trinity is a "mystery."
Since Pretribism points to 1 Cor. 15:51-56 we should expect to find something definitive inasmuch as it is supposed to be the special teaching to the church about rapture-before-tribulation. But, alas, when we read it, the word tribulation is not even there! Since this is special information to the church, we agree, here's the place for Paul to give a doctrinal explanation about a two stage second coming - but, it's not there. It's subject is the translation of the church at the resurrection, not a word about it taking place before the tribulation. No information about a two stage second coming.
The discourse is Paul's response to "how" and "what" in verse 35, "But some men will say. HOW are the dead raised up? and with WHAT body do they come?" His response is long, some 23 verses in length. How are the dead raised up? It requires a resurrection. With what body? It requires a bodily change or translation. He begins to summarize in Verses 50-52, "Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, 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."
The "mystery" Paul reveals is not a pretrib rapture, not a two stage second coming, but bodily translation! "Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed."
But, does the passage shed any light as to "when" this resurrection is to occur? Yes, indeed, for while it deals with "how" and "what" Paul also tells us "when." He said a bodily change is necessary to inherit the kingdom of God, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." In other words, whenever the Kingdom arrives, for those who will inherit it, a bodily change must take place. But, when does the Kingdom arrive? The Kingdom arrives when the millennium arrives; when the first resurrection takes place (Rev. 20:4-6). For a more in-depth study on this check out The day of the Lord and the Kingdom section of our article "From the day of Pentecost to the day of the Lord."
More evidence on "when." Paul said the resurrection/translation will take place "at the LAST trump." Jesus spoke of a trump in Matt. 24:31, when he would gather the elect "with a great sound of a trumpet." Why should there be any debate at all over when the "last" trump of 1 Cor. 15:52 occurs? Clearly, this post-trib trumpet Jesus spoke of ("immediately after the tribulation of those days," Matt. 24:29) is the LAST one! Identical to the seventh and last trumpet in Rev. 11:15, when the Kingdom arrives: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." Identical to the trump in the "rapture" passage 1 Thess. 4:16.
More evidence on "when." An Old Testament post-trib cross reference. Paul said when this bodily change takes place, "THEN shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory," 1 Cor. 15:54. Paul is quoting from Isa. 25:8, the context of which, commentators on Isaiah agree, is a post-trib setting. Paul links the resurrection/translation of 1 Cor. 15 to the day of the Lord (Isa. 24) with accompanying cosmic calamities in the sun and moon (24:23), and at the joyous beginning of the millennium (Isa. 25:6).
Where pretribs tell us we should find new, and special teaching, about a different coming from the one Jesus spoke about in Matt. 24, we find it not. Instead, what we find is the revelation of the mystery about the necessity of bodily change at the millennial Kingdom; with Old Testament verification of the same; coupled with a tie-in of the "last" trump here in 1 Cor. 15, to Jesus' "last" trumpet in Matt. 24!
Granted, Paul used the term "mystery," but did he mean it as some sort of Gnostic-like secret knowledge that scripture does not clearly express anywhere else? The Pagan/Gnostic Mystery religions of those times utilized "mystery" as secret, mystic information available only to an exclusive group of people. It is apparent that Paul did NOT follow the pagan usage. He reversed the meaning, making Christian Mystery to be revelation of divine truths "once hidden but now openly proclaimed!" See Rom. 16:25, 26; Eph. 1:9 & Col. 1:26 (made known or disclosed). Post-trib is openly proclaimed throughout the scripture, pretrib is not, it can only be seen as something mystically hidden within scripture. Pretrib is esoteric theory.
Granted, great important truths are given to the church under the name "mystery." And, we could make up a list, including such as the mystery of God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). Pretribs assume 1 Cor. 15:51-56 to be the mystery of the first stage of the second coming, the pretrib rapture, equivalent to other important mysteries in that list. However, it simply is not there. Rather, it is the mystery of bodily translation at the millennial Kingdom; and while revealing this, it makes an affirmation of the ONE coming (post-trib) Jesus taught in Matt. 24.
What about the church "taken out of the way" in 2 Thess. 2:7?
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked [the man of sin] be revealed..." 2 Thess. 2:7, 8 (Brackets are mine)
The assertion is that "he who now restrains" is the Holy Ghost in the church, restraining the arrival of antichrist. The man antichrist (man of sin), and the tribulation are synonymous, therefore, it follows that only after the removal of the restrainer ( the church) can the antichrist appear on the scene, and the tribulation begin.
What can we call this but conjecture or guesswork? Paul does not say that the Church prevents the Antichrist from being revealed, nor does the text say anything about a pretrib rapture.
The KJV translators have made this a most difficult and controversial verse. The archaic "letteth" and "let" befuddles many, modern day readers get the complete opposite meaning from what it meant in the days of the KJV translators. "Let" meant to restrain or to hinder. Likewise, "taken out of the way" has a very different meaning than what the KJV translators have conveyed. There is actually no thought of removal or taken out of the way there.
Post-trib author, Arthur Katterjohn, says concerning 2 Thess 2:7: "There is no word for “taken” in the Greek nor any thought of “taken” implied. It should read 'until he become (or arise) out of the midst.'" This dramatically changes the picture. There is no removal, the church "taken out of the way." The text is simply saying the restrainer restrains until the antichrist arises from the midst (of the mystery of iniquity) "and then shall that wicked be revealed." This explains why the falling away, or apostasy, must precede (see 2 Thess. 2:3) the man of sin. He will be revealed arising out of the midst of that very apostasy (or mystery of iniquity). For this reason Justin Martyr, 2nd century AD, called him "the man of apostasy:"
"Two advents of Christ have been announced; the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which, He shall come from heaven with glory, when THE MAN OF APOSTASY who speaks strange things against the Most High shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians." Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 254. [Please note, this is a post-trib, one Second Coming statement. Apparently Justin Martyr was unaware of the pretrib interpretation of the church "taken out of the way." He, quite matter-of-factly, mentions Christians in the tribulation. His comment is no different from others who wrote in post-Apostolic times, they all wrote as if they had never heard of a pretrib rapture.]
Who is the restrainer? Paul did not say. There is several possibilities. It would seem Revelation would have something to say about this. If so, there seems to be heavenly restraint pictured in Rev. 12:7-13. There, the restrainer is the archangel Michael and his angels struggling against the devil until he is cast down to earth: "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child." At the point the devil is no longer in restraint, being cast to the earth, he begins persecution (tribulation) against the saints. The persecution is enlarged upon in the next chapter where the subject is mainly the beast. Rev. 12:7-13 and Rev. 13, taken together, depict the same thing 2 Thess. 2:6-8 does, restraint followed by antichrist.
Justin Martyr's statement, "when THE MAN OF APOSTASY who speaks strange things against the Most High shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians," seems to fit this first possibility of who the restrainer is. His statement ties apostasy, the man of sin, and the tribulation, to chapter 13 of Rev., the "beast" chapter: Concerning the antichrist "who speaks strange things against the Most High," Rev. 13:6 says: "And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God..." Concerning "venturing to do unlawful deeds against us the Christians," Rev. 13:7 says: "And it was given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them..."
Another possibility would be restraint on earth through divinely appointed human government (with angelic struggles in the spiritual realm going on at the same time). Rom. 13:1-7 supports the concept of divinely appointed human government. It fits the context of 2 Thess. 2:7, for divinely appointed rule of law in human government fully contrasts against "the mystery of lawlessness," and "the man of lawlessness" (the Greek). The rule of law versus lawlessness/anarchy. Were it not for the restraint of constitutional law, right now, true Bible believers would be killed and under severe persecution. This is why, by the way, I am a staunch constitutionalist and I fight against the breakdown of justice and immorality every way that I can.
The identification of the spirit of God as the restrainer poses no problem. "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be," (Matt. 24:37). Noah's day parallel's ours. God's spirit was striving against the wickedness of man (Gen. 6:3) in the days before the flood, He warned of a ceasing of restraint: "My spirit shall not always strive with man." At some point, He simply ceased striving, and the flood began. In like manner today God is striving and restraining, whether in the angelic realm via Michael the archangel and his angels, through divinely appointed human government, through his church, directly, or whatever means he chooses - at some point restraint will cease. At some point restraint will have done it's last, the floodgates will open, and the antichrist will arrive on the scene.
To say that the Church is the sole entity preventing the Antichrist from being revealed is sheer conjecture and guesswork - scripture does not say that anywhere. Even if we say the Holy Ghost in the church is a restrainer, it is not the only restrainer. We have good Bible support for restraints other than the church. Pretribs are a bit conceited in thinking that God has to rapture them as the only restrainers in the world (the pretrib mindset is not that conducive towards restraint anyway, why restrain something you don't think you are going to be around to be afflicted by). If God has to rapture "he that restraineth," Michael and his angels, divinely appointed human government, plus the church, would all have to be raptured.
Lastly, and most importantly, the pretrib "taken out of the way" interpretation contradicts Paul's preceding endtime teaching in 2 Thessalonians. Everything concerning the coming of the Lord, up to chapter 2 verse 7, was a single post-trib coming/ gathering together of the saints event. For more on this click on the Rescued at the day of the Lord, and First the Antichrist sections of our article "From the day of Pentecost to the day of the Lord." Also, on why the Holy Ghost and the Gospel will be very much intact, and not "taken out of the way," during the tribulation, click on The Holy Ghost in the Endtimes section of the same article.
What about "apostasy" in 2 Thess. 2:3 being the "departure," or rapture?
In this verse Paul says the falling away or "apostasy" must come first. Some pretribs say that "apostasy" means "departure" and refers to a departure from earth, or the rapture itself. Thus, the verse is saying in effect, "Let no man deceive you by any means... the rapture (apostasy) must come first followed by the tribulation." (The man of sin in that verse is synonymous with the tribulation).
This is really a far stretch. Apostasy doesn't mean apostasy it means something else. It has long been understood as a word signifying departure from truth - not departure from the earth. The context literally bristles with the explanation of what it means. The immediately following verse says the man of sin, in actuality the "man of apostasy," will ultimately arise as the leader of the "apostasy," leading a rebellion against God by opposing and exalting himself "above all that is called God or is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
Check the Justin Martyr quote in the previous "What about." He represents an authoritative witness from nearly 1900 years ago on the way they understood the word "apostasy" back then. They understood Greek well - with all it's nuances, etc. There is no thought represented from him or from any other ancient source that "apostasy" in 2 Thess. 2:3 should be understood as a pretrib "departure" or rapture.
"That day" Paul spoke about in 2:3, the day of the Lord, included "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him," (2:1). "Our gathering together unto him" is the rapture. So, were we to paraphrase, using "apostasy" as the rapture, Paul would be saying: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day, the rapture, shall not come, except there come a rapture (apostasy) first, and the man of sin be revealed." The rapture cannot take place until the rapture takes place first? It should be readily apparent that pretribism, trying to evade the obvious, has overlooked the exegetical impossibility of "apostasy" being a pretrib rapture.
It is one of the "by any means" Paul warned about, and a deception. The obvious reading of 2 Thess. 2:3 is: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (Jesus' coming and the rapture) shall not come, except there come a falling away (apostasy) first, and the man of sin be revealed (the antichrist and the tribulation)." Putting it in plain words we all understand - Let no man deceive you by any means: Jesus' coming and the rapture shall not take place until after the apostasy, the antichrist, and the tribulation.
What about Imminence? Doesn't the Bible say the rapture can happen at "any moment."
No, the Bible doesn't say that. In fact, it flatly contradicts it. 2 Thess. 2:1-4 issues a warning, using very strong language, against imminent rapture doctrine. Paul addresses the Thessalonians concerning "The Coming of the Lord and our gathering together unto him," 2:1. In the next verse he said not to be "soon shaken," or troubled, that that day was "at hand." And, then, in verse 3 & 4, he was even more emphatic:
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
So "soon shaken" were the Thessalonians that "that day" (The Coming of the Lord and our gathering together unto him) was "at hand" - so caught up with "any moment" hysteria were they, that some had become disorderly busybodies, quitting their jobs, not "eating their own bread:" "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ ...For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." 2 Thess. 3:5, 10-12
The 2 Thessalonians text positively refutes the doctrine of "any moment" rapture before the great tribulation, but there's more. In the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) Jesus depicted the church age in the figure of the long growing season between planting and harvest. Now, everyone knows, or should know, that "harvest" is symbolic of resurrection/rapture; note, please where Jesus places the harvest:
"...The harvest is the end of this world ["end of the age" in the Greek]; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world [age]. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. THEN shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Verses 39-43.
The following things collate together: 1) judgment, 2) harvest, or resurrection, 3) the kingdom, or millennium. And it happens when? At the very close of this age - which is at once, the close of this age and the beginning of the next, the millennial kingdom. Jesus gives not the slightest possibility of a harvest that could occur until the very end of the age! The harvest is not "imminent" until then. Ask any farmer if he expects an imminent harvest during the long growing season and he will probably question your common sense. Pretrib theology actually teaches that the rapture (harvest) could have happened at "any moment" since Pentecost. The parable of the wheat and tares also refutes the doctrine of "imminence."
Not only the long growing season implied in the wheat and tare parable, but in the parable of the talents, Jesus likens his return to the Lord who "after a long time" came back from a far country, Matt. 25:19. Hardly imminent. Paul illustrates the "long time" in 1 Tim. 4:1, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith..." And in 2 Tim. 3:1, "This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come..."
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain," James 5:7. Pentecostals, take a good look at this verse. Pentecostals, the world over, preach the early and latter day outpourings of the Holy Ghost, the latter, which we now experience. Pentecostals, of all people should know that the coming of the Lord cannot occur before the latter rain ripens the grain for harvest! James 5:7 parallels the wheat and tares parable in Matt 13, a long growing season, with a harvest (resurrection) at the very end of the age. There is not the slightest hint of an "any moment" coming in these verses, rather we are commanded to "be patient therefore," for the harvest at the very close of the church age.
Rev. 14:14-16 depicts the same harvest Matt. 13 depicts - at the end of the age. In a post-tribulation setting, after describing these tribulation events:
warnings not to worship the beast and his image, and to receive his mark (14:9-11);
A description of saints who do not worship the beast nor receive his mark, but they "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus," (14:12);
blessings given to martyrs of the tribulation (14:13);
THEN the harvest is announced, "... time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped (14:15, 16). When is the time come to reap? When is the harvest ripe? Answer: at the end of the tribulation, at the close of the age. Remember harvest is equivalent to resurrection/rapture. The time has not come to reap, nor is the harvest ripe until AFTER the tribulation. Only in a post-tribulation setting does the harvest become imminent and the time HAS FINALLY COME to reap!
Confirming evidence that the resurrection/rapture harvest in Rev. 14 is at the very close of the age is that it's timing is in immediate conjunction with Armageddon and the wrath of God at the day of the Lord. It is in immediate conjunction with the harvest that is described next, a harvest of a different kind, however, a judgmental harvest depicting Armageddon and the wrath of God at the day of the Lord, "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great vinepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the space of horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs" (14:19, 20).
Before leaving the subject of imminence we probably should bring up something we hear quite often, Pretribs sometimes use 1 Cor. 15:52 "In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye..." as if it means an "any moment" rapture. But "in a moment" does not mean "at any moment," rather that bodily change at the resurrection will take place instantaneously, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye..."
But what about all the repeated commands in the New Testament to look for the coming of the Lord, or watch for it. How can this apply to a one-only, post-trib coming at the very close of the age? In view of these repeated commands his coming must be imminent, it must occur before the great tribulation.
This line of argument goes something like this, it is supposed to be impossible to look for something that we know must follow after an intervening event. How can we look for the coming of the Lord when we know it comes after the tribulation? Therefore, pretribs tell us, the commands to look for, or watch for, the coming of the Lord, has to apply to a previous, any moment coming.
The following simple illustration shows how faulty this line of thinking is. Can somebody sit down at the table, disliking the spinach and lamb chops in front of him, knowing he has to eat it first, but, yet, looking for his favorite dessert, apple pie and ice cream, he knows awaits him at the end? Of course, then, so can we look for the coming of the Lord even when we know the tribulation must come first; knowing we have to endure it (Matt. 24:13) before we get to the "dessert."
We are told that post-tribbers are in gross error, we are guilty of looking for the antichrist instead of Jesus Christ. Not so, we do look for Jesus Christ, however, through tribulation we know we must endure first. Women relate very much to what we are talking about here. They know labor pains must come first before the joy Jesus said "that a man is born into the world," John 16:21. Jesus used the term within the tribulational context in Matt. 24:8 (sorrow is birth pains in the Greek). Post-tribbers and pregnant women have something in common, we look forward through the pain that must be endured first.
But, some would object saying illustrations like this are not that convincing. Maybe so, we think they make plenty of sense. But the word of God, we all agree, is decisive. Let's examine the three main divisions of the NT about looking, or watching, for the coming of the Lord.
THE GOSPELS. Matt. 24, the Olivet discourse, has several warnings such as "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (24:42), followed in the next verse by a description of his coming as a "thief," and then in verse 44, "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." We should consider first the basic structure of Matt. 24. Verses 4-31 are Jesus' answer to the disciple's question in verse 3 concerning his coming, and the end of the world (age). The rest of the chapter is the spiritual application to verses 4-31, wherein Jesus exhorts to being watchful, vigilant, and ready. Watchful, vigilant, and ready for what? For a secret, pretrib coming? No, no, no. There is only one coming in verses 3-31 - and it is post-trib. There is no pre-trib coming there. Pretribs take the commands to watch completely out of their post-trib setting and apply them to a pretrib coming that Jesus said absolutely nothing about! The coming for which we are to be watchful is the one described in verses 27 and 30 at the close of the tribulation.
THE EPISTLES. Jesus set the precedent to "watch" in Matt. 24, and that his coming would be as a "thief," the epistles do not contradict it. Same as in Matt 24, the command to watch in 1 Thess. 5:6, is addressed to people who look for the coming of Jesus Christ on the day of the Lord - which occurs at the end of the tribulation. Which "day," the day of the Lord, comes as a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2).
REVELATION. Here is the last, and a very important, command to watch, and it synchronizes exactly with the commands in the Gospels and epistles. It has the same command to watch as the gospels and the epistles; the same "thief" metaphor as Matt. 24 and 1 Thess. 5: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (Rev. 16:15, 16).
The commands to watch in the NT are unanimous, watching is commanded for the day of the Lord which comes as a thief at the end of the tribulation. And it will come only after definite signs such as the great apostasy, and the "man of apostasy," arising out of that apostasy, sitting in the temple claiming to be God. Signs for those who are "watching" that the end is near. His coming becomes imminent, or "at any moment," for those who are in the tribulation and are seeing such signs: "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors (Matt. 24:33). When what is "at the doors?" It is talking about the post-trib coming in the previous verses (verses 30, 31). Post-tribulation imminence not Pre-trib imminence.
What about Calculability? With the time periods given us in the Bible can we not calculate with precision the Post-trib Second Coming?
With such time periods as the 1260 days (Rev. 11:3; 12:6), 42 months (Rev.13:5), 3 1/2 years (Rev.12:14), & 3 1/2 days (Rev.11:11), Pretribs reason thusly, since the post-trib coming can be calculated, but, yet, Matt. 24:36 says "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only," then surely there must be another coming, a pre-trib event, a coming that cannot be calculated.
Pretribs make wrong assumptions in this line of reasoning. The first wrong assumption is that that the post-trib coming can be precisely calculated. Even though we are given these time periods, yet, the Bible plainly says it is the post-trib coming which cannot be calculated! There is only one coming in Matt. 24, the post-trib coming, and it just happens to be the one that Matt. 24:36, the incalculable Coming verse, is referring to.
Pretribs cannot have their cake and eat it too. On one hand, they say the pretrib rapture is not in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24); but, yet, on the other hand, they apply the incalculable Coming, in verse 36 of that very discourse, to a pretrib rapture!
This is the coming, the post-trib coming, that, despite the time periods, will come as "a thief in the night." Were the post-trib coming to be as calculable as pretribs think it is, sinners and backsliders would find out about it, and God, most assuredly, is not going to let that happen. Thus, the "day and the hour," or the "times and seasons" (1 Thess. 5:1, 2) are not made known - even to the church... "Of that day and hour knoweth no man." His coming must be as a thief to the world to catch the sinners and backsliders unaware.
But, if we are given these time periods, why shouldn't we know with a high degree of accuracy when the post-trib coming takes place? Matt. 24:22 indicates that the time periods will be accompanied by a high degree of uncertainty: "And except those days [the duration of the tribulation] be shortened, there should no flesh be saved, but for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened." Date setters will be foiled one last time! God, mercifully, will not allow those awful days to run their full course. The time periods serve as signposts to the elect, not to give precise timing, however, but rather approximate.
The post-trib Coming, not an alleged pretrib one, is the one which cannot be calculated.
The post-trib Coming, not an alleged pretrib one, is the one which will come as a thief in the night.
The post-trib Coming, not an alleged pretrib one, is the one which will be "imminent."
The post-trib Coming, not an alleged pretrib one, is the one for which we are to be watching.
What About types and shadows, such as Noah and the flood, and Lot, do they not depict rapture-before-tribulation?
As in the preceding "what abouts" an appeal to Matt. 24 gives us the truth. Jesus spoke of Noah and the flood in Matt. 24:37-39. And Lot, departing Sodom before the wrath of God fell, in Luke 17:28-30. But, remember, there is no pretrib rapture in the Olivet Discourse! Pretribs take so many rapture-before-tribulation notions from Matt. 24 (or it's parallel's in Mark 13; Luke 17, 21), yet, the context is the post-tribulational coming.
Neither Noah or Lot were delivered from tribulation, they were delivered from the wrath of God. There is a BIG difference between the two! This is the common assumption made by pretribs - tribulation is the wrath of God. How can anyone say that the world destroyed by flood, and fire and brimstone incinerating Sodom and Gomorrah, are but types of "tribulation?" Noah and Lot are types and shadows of deliverance from utter destruction, not tribulation; deliverance from the great day of God's wrath - which occurs after the tribulation.
Sometimes people bring up other types, such as Rahab's deliverance at the fall of Jericho, and Joseph in Egypt. Rahab wasn't delivered until the last trumpet blast (as the priests marched around Jericho seven times, blowing trumpets); Joseph was preserved through the famine. Some dispensationalists get a little carried away with this one, however, trying to make the church a "Gentile bride" (Joseph's wife was Egyptian)does not fit the facts. The unanimous testimony of the New Testament is that the church is an elect body of both Jew and Gentile!
What about Enoch? His translation depicts the reward of a man who walked with God. However, to make a "pretrib" rapture out of it (scholars estimate the great flood occurred some 700 years later) is really a far stretch (pun intended)!
Usually, it is flimsy to make a doctrine solely out of types and shadows, too much is left to conjecture and bias. But, in the case of Noah and Lot it's a different matter. With these we have NT interpretation of OT type & shadows by Jesus himself. And, as we have endeavored to prove, it's application is post-trib, not pretrib, deliverance.
To be continued. We will be adding more questions and answers as we go along.
K. Kirkland, Pastor - This article is Copyright © 2000, All rights reserved.
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