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We’ve all heard it before- the church will mysteriously disappear at the rapture, then the antichrist will rule for seven years at a time a physical temple exists. He will make a peace covenant in the Middle East which he breaks after three and a half years, then there will be a horrific three and a half years where people who don’t get a microchip in their arm are killed and this will all end with the second coming where the Jews are saved. In reality though, the whole idea of the rapture being different from the second coming has virtually no biblical basis. In fact, people who support the idea of the rapture often have to look for “hidden” meanings in Jewish weddings and in Revelation. Here’s 5 reasons you shouldn’t buy into the idea of a pre-trib rapture which is so common today amongst evangelicals.
FACT 1: THE GATHERING OF THE ELECT TAKES PLACE “IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE TRIBULATION OF THOSE DAYS” (MATT 24:29)
We’ve all heard pre-tribulationists quote Matt. 24:36 that “no one knows the day or the hour” of Christ’s return, a day where one will be taken while working in a field while another left behind (Matt. 24:40). Since you don’t know the day or the hour of the rapture, this cannot take place after the tribulation they argue because the tribulation is a set 7 years! If we simply look at the context of this passage, Christ is referring to Matt. 24:29–31 as “that day” where the elect will be “gathered from the four winds” (Matt. 24:31) and which He says will take place “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24:29).
The idea of a rapture before the “abomination of desolation” mentioned in Matt. 24:15 is simply not in the text. Maybe we have to question the exact length of “the tribulation of those days” rather than assuming this relates to a pre-tribulational rapture since we don’t know the day or the hour and contradicting the text in making that assumption.
Interestingly it is this very coming like a thief which leads to the end of the world as we know it in 2 Peter 3:10, not followed by some sort of 7 year gap in between! 2 Peter 3:13 adds we look forward to “new heavens and a new earth”, brought about by this coming like a thief- not some mystery rapture which removes us from this earth.
FACT 2: THE “SNATCHING AWAY” OF 1 THESSALONIANS 4 TAKES PLACE AFTER THE “MAN OF LAWLESSNESS” IS REVEALED (2 THESSALONIANS 2)
Another common verse used by pre-tribulationists is 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, which describes the dead in Christ rising from the dead and meeting those who are alive, to be caught up in the clouds with Christ. They argue this cannot describe the second coming as the second coming according to Acts 1 and Revelation 19, involves Christ coming to earth, so it must refer to a pre-tribulation rapture.
Instead of creatively adding our own events into Paul’s letters, we would save ourselves a lot of trouble by reading 2 Thessalonians 2 and his response to the Thessalonians’ reaction to his first letter where some of them had stopped working in anticipation of the rapture. Paul is clear he is referring to “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1) which he spoke about in 1 Thessalonians 4 and states in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” Paul could not possibly been any clearer, that the man of lawlessness, commonly known as the antichrist, will be revealed prior to “our being gathered together to him.” He is not writing to Jews but to Gentiles and refers to the coming of Christ and the gathering as one event!
You will notice with this context of 2 Thessalonians 2 in mind what little sense it makes to think of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 as the church. It would be completely contradicting what was said by Paul a few verses earlier. Moreover, the restrainer is referred to in the masculine tense but the bride of Christ would carry a feminine tense. If the restrainer verse is the best verse to be put forward for the pre trib rapture I am very concerned indeed. One only needs to read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
We also note the parallels between 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 and Matthew 24:29–31 which takes place “after the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24:29). Both contain angels, a loud trumpet call and the gathering of the elect. Furthermore, the fact there is a cry of command, voice of an archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God (1 Thess. 4:16), hardly makes it sound like a secret event!
Regarding the “contradictions” between the rapture and the second coming, it is important to note first we are dealing with passages which use imagery from the OT from places such as Daniel 7 and we should be wary of taking them very literally with no room for symbolism. Second, it is not contradictory to say Christians will meet Christ in the air and escort Him to earth. Either way, this is a very weak argument from pre-tribulationists, given Matt. 24:29–31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, evidently refer to a time after the tribulation.
FACT 3: THE TRIBULATION WAS A PRESENT REALITY FROM WHEN REVELATION WAS WRITTEN
A commonly used verse pre-tribulationists use is Rev. 4:1 where John is told to “come up here” and see “what must take place after this”. This shows that the church is no longer on the earth for the tribulation as the church is only spoken of in chapters 1–3.
This is another very weak argument. First, John describes himself as a “partner in the tribulation” (Rev. 1:9), indicating it is a present reality. Second, he is writing about things that he has “seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this” (Rev. 1:20). This illustrates, the images he uses refer things “that are” including a 7 headed beast of whom 5 of the seven heads have already fallen at the time of writing (Rev. 17:10) and a beast head that already “was and is not” (Rev. 17:11)!
Third, he is writing about things which “must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1), indicating immediate importance and relevance to the seven physical, historic churches he was writing to. Fourth, Revelation is highly symbolic after chapter 3 so to say that because the word church is not used is a weak argument indeed. Churches are described as lampstands in Rev. 1:20 and we see the use of lampstands again in Revelation 11:4. Moreover, we read of a great multitude from all tribes, tongues and languages, saved by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9), coming out of the great tribulation (Rev. 7:14). In addition, nations are used symbolically throughout Revelation- Babylon is not taken literally by most pre-tribulationists so why take Israel as literal physical Israel and not as symbolic of the church? Indeed the church is the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), the circumcision (Philippians 3:3), the temple of God (Eph. 2:18–21), a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9), the twelve tribes in the dispersion (James 1:1) and those brought into the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12–13) through Christ. The church is also referred to as a woman in the Bible (eg. Eph. 5:22–33) and we read of a woman in Revelation 12.
Another weak argument for the rapture from Revelation is that the church is the male child taken up to heaven in Rev. 12:5 before the 1,260 days of 12:6. The male child rules the nations with a rod of iron as does the Messiah in Psalm 2:9. Psalm 2 is so clearly a Messianic passage speaking of the anointed (v1) and the Son begotten by God (v7) that there is no real question the Messiah is the male child of Revelation 12. Moreover, the child is taken to God’s throne (singular!) in Rev. 12:5 just as Christ is at the right hand of God after His ascension (Acts 2:31–35).
FACT 4: THERE IS NO 2,000 YEAR GAP IN DANIEL’S 70 WEEKS BETWEEN WEEKS 69 AND 70 (Dan. 9:24–27)
Pre-tribulationism by and large rests on a certain interpretation of Daniel 9:24–27, whereby there is a large gap between the 69th week which ends with Christ being cut off and the beginning of the 70th week which begins with the antichrist making a peace covenant. There are a number of issues with this view. First, there is simply no gap between the 69th and 70th week, it is inserted by pre-tribulationists. They assume there is no gap between the 62 and 7 weeks mentioned and separated in Daniel 9:25 but conveniently add in a 2,000 gap between the 69th and the 70th week.
Second, the abomination of desolation it refers to happened in 70 AD to the literal physical temple, Jesus’ disciples asked Him about in Matthew 24:1–3 and which Jesus said would take place within a generation of those who were listening (Matt. 24:34), differentiating it from His second coming which He did not put a time frame on, instead explaining no one knows the day that will happen (Matt. 24:36). Third, where is the idea of a rapture in this text between the 69th and 70th week?
Fourth, the context of Daniel 9:24–27 is a Messianic prophecy as per verse 24 and contains a Jubilee theme of seventy sevens. Unlike the visions Daniel has in chapters 7 and 8 which alarm him (Dan. 7:28, 8:27), we see no such negative reaction here. I would argue verse 27 is simply a parallel of verse 26 which expands on it in greater detail. This is consistent with the new covenant which comes through Christ and the subsequent desolation of the temple in 70 AD as a result of Israel’s rejection of Him (Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:8–13; Luke 19:41–44 etc.).
Finally, Revelation 1:9 and 12:6–14, re interpret this final 3.5 years time period as being the time when the woman (ie. God’s people) are in the wilderness attacked by the devil. A present reality to the audience (Rev. 1:9), indicating a non-literal time frame.
FACT 5: ALL ARE RAISED ON THE SAME DAY, BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS
We have already read about the trumpet that will sound after the tribulation in 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24 after the tribulation. We also read of it in 1 Cor 15:52, where the dead believers are raised imperishable. At this time, death is defeated (1 Cor. 15:54–55), so how can Christians on earth still die after the rapture while they await the second coming? It makes no sense at all. Furthermore, in John 5:29, Jesus speaks of the resurrection of judgement and the resurrection of life occurring on the same day which mirrors Daniel 12:2 and Matthew 25:31–46 which speaks of how when Christ comes after “the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24:29), He will judge believers and unbelievers.
Peter adds the audience’s salvation will be revealed at the “last time” at the “revelation of Jesus” (1 Peter 1:5–7). If our salvation is revealed at the last event of time on this earth, how can there then be another 7 years until the real “last time”?
It should be evident based off these 5 facts, the gathering of the elect taking place after the tribulation, the man of lawlessness being revealed before the snatching away of the elect, the fact the tribulation was a present reality when Revelation was written, the fact no 2,000 gap exists in Daniel’s 70 weeks and the fact the righteous and unrighteous are raised on the same day when the trumpet sounds and the elect are gathered, that the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture lacks any strong Biblical support and should be readily dismissed by all who seek to take the Bible’s teaching on this matter seriously.
Let us not, however, forget the main application of Jesus’ teaching in this area. We must be prepared to face persecution in a godless and evil world (Matt. 24:10–13), being ready for the day of His return by placing our hope and trust in Him, the One who has made a way to eternal life for us by being lifted up on the cross (John 3:14). It is my prayer that we “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matt. 24:44).