Should I Prepare Or Will A Pre-Tribulation Rapture Sweep Me Away
So, I am stacking dried rice package number one thousand and two on my prepper shelf when, outside of the bunker, I hear a loud trumpet blast. The rapture is here and away I go into the clouds to meet my Lord. I guess I didn't need to do survival prepping in that scenario after all. That's okay, my pre-tribulation theology friends can have the last laugh. I would be quite happy to fly off into rapture in the ultimate bug out.
Is that the way that it will be? That is the best case scenario. To be raptured as a Christian before the period of time that theologians call the great tribulation. Friend, if you are counting on the best case scenario unfolding in front of you, then maybe you should read what I am about to say. Preppers don't prepare for the best case scenario, they prepare for the worst. In this case, the worst is having to go through the Great Tribulation.
Most Christians, fellow believers (I am a believer also), believe that sometime in the very near future there will be a trumpet call that will summon us into an incredible transformation event called the rapture. The rapture will transform our natural bodies into a spiritualized form. I am not saying an immaterial form but rather, a mysterious spiritualized, like resurrected form that will then ascend into the sky and meet the Lord Jesus Christ. Will the spiritualized transformation happen the moment we hear the trumpet or will it occur as we ascend or as we meet Him? I don't know, but it will happen. This is the rapture.
Majority opinion says that this event will occur before a period of time called the Great Tribulation. This is a period of what is believed to be 7 years in which the world is undergoing tremendous upheaval and catastrophe unlike anything ever experienced to date. In the great tribulation the world will be ruled by a man called the anti-Christ. He will be totally evil and he and his government will persecute and kill anyone they catch who does not commit to their worldwide kingdom by taking an identifying mark. During this time, there will also be tremendous cataclysmic ecological disasters on a global scale that are sent by God as judgements. In the end, Jesus Christ will come and destroy the anti-Christ and his forces and set up a new peaceful kingdom on earth.
Majority view, prevailing opinion and common interpretation says that the rapture will occur before the tribulation. However, is this correct? You may be saying, “Of course that is correct. That is what my church teaches. That is what my paster has told us.” Brother, sister, I respect your church and your pastor. However, I am asking you to pause and hear why I personally question the interpretation of a pre-tribulation rapture. What either of us believe on this matter will effect what we believe we should do in preparation for the future that is coming.
I am not an expert. I sit in the pew and also listen to Christian radio like many of you. The teaching of pre-tribulation rapture is something that I have heard many times. However, I feel like after all of these years, I am still waiting to hear a really good argument in favour of this position.
What shocks me when I do listen to popular Bible teachers is the intensity with which so many of them are adamant that there must be a pre-tribulation rapture. Before I get into my reasons for questioning this view I want to say that Bible study requires interpretation of the texts of scripture. We should all pray to God that He would help us understand what He is telling us in His holy Word, the Bible. It is important to realize that not all of the Bible is written in the same form. Some of it is historical writing, some of it is poetry, some of it is parables, some of it is letters to churches and some of it is prophecy. All of scripture requires interpretation, but to various degrees. What do I mean? Well, historical portions of scripture perhaps require the least amount of interpretation because it says exactly what it means in straightforward language. Prophecy, on the other hand, requires the most amount of interpretation because it is filled with pictures, images, and symbolism. Some prophecy is relatively easy to interpret because the events that it speaks about have already occurred and we are looking back in time at those events. For other prophecies that are yet future, filled with analogies, symbolism and, perhaps, unrevealed meaning, we need to apply, with God's leading, a high degree of interpretation to understand them.
Because future prophecies require a high degree of interpretation, we should take a very humble posture as we attempt to proceed. We don't approach prophecy as geniuses. Rather, it would seem to say this, but we could be wrong. Even the Apostle Paul, when speaking about understanding the future, said
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12 King James Version (KJV)
So I am not adamant; I see through a glass darkly, but there are some things that make me question believing in a pre-tribulation interpretation of end-time prophecy. Why do most theologians accept pre-tribulation?
Most theologians will say that the pre-trib view is necessary to maintain a belief in the “Imminence of Christ's return.” In other words, for us to believe that Christ's return is immanent, His return has to be before the tribulation, because the tribulation is yet future. This is a sticky issue because Jesus does say “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44). Jesus does want His followers to be ready for His return. Could it be that many have read more into the Imminence argument than what was intended? Yes, be ready, we see through a glass darkly and don't know precisely when He will return. It is good and right to be ready. However, is there really a great theological conundrum over the idea that some things must come before Christ's return and that hampers our belief in imminence? Pre-trib advocates would say, “Oh yes, if the tribulation comes first, then it means we can project the time of Christ's return and, if we can project, then it is no longer 'But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.' (Matthew 24:36) and then we would also lose the sense of imminence, so pre-trib must be correct.” Hang on a minute. Does our understanding of “day and hour” have to come right down to the minute? Do we really know with absolute certainty that the tribulation period is exactly seven years? Even if it is exactly seven years, when the tribulation begins, will we be able to pinpoint its beginning to the very minute of its beginning and thereby be able to pinpoint the very minute of Christ's return? No, we wont.
I would suggest that in a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation scenario, we still will not be able to pinpoint these numbers with concrete accuracy and, therefore, there is no violation of us not knowing the day or the hour. That means that we will still not know the time of His return. We will still need to be ready. There is no conundrum. If pre-tribers still think that there is a great conundrum over this, I would ask, do pre-tribulation advocates apply the same logic to the prophecy in verse 14 of Matthew 24 which says; “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”? This says that the gospel must be preached in all the world for all nations to hear before the end. Has that happened yet? Not quite. Does that create a great conundrum because it destroys imminence? I would say, no. I think that we have read too much into the imminence argument. We can agree that we see through a glass darkly and let's be ready for His return.
What are some other reasons many believers accept pr-trib teaching? It is commonly taught that having believers go through the tribulation is not consistent with the mercy and grace of God and that “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,”(1 Thessalonians 5:9 King James Version KJV). Yes, praise God that we as believers are not appointed to wrath. Wrath here means eternal judgement. It is not a reference to the great tribulation. How could it be? What about believers today who are living in Muslim nations where they are enduring persecution every bit as great as those who will endure the tribulation period? Today there are believers who are abducted, tortured, and told to renounce their Christian faith or be executed. Then they are killed for refusing. It happens in may places today in these years that we are living in now. Can you tell these believers that you have an interpretation of the Bible that says that it is against the character of God to allow His followers to suffer this kind of tribulation? Aren't we somehow missing the point of Jesus' instruction? Read again His great discourse on the end of the age in Matthew 24. How many times does He warn His followers that they will suffer persecution and great difficulty in this end-time hour? The warnings are there in verse 9, and again in verse 13 and then again in verses 16-21. Pre-tribers would say “Oh those are not pre-rapture Christians but rather believing Jews that were converted after the rapture.” What are you saying then? Is it inconsistent with the mercy and grace of God, a violation of His nature, to allow His pre-rapture followers to suffer tribulation but wholly acceptable and consistent for Him to allow His post-rapture followers to have to endure it? Are you saying “I am glad that we His pre-rapture followers, are not appointed to wrath like His post-rapture followers are.”? It doesn't make sense. What if we are actually missing the whole point of what Jesus was trying to say in His Mathew 24 discourse. Read Matthew 24 again. Yes, He gives His followers some indicators of what and when the last days will be here but then He soberly warns us to be prepared for the difficulties and the tribulations. What if this is actually His main point and intended to be our main takeaway from the instruction and we have actually missed His main point because of our common interpretation?
Are there other reasons that believers accept pre-tribulation interpretations of scripture? One thing that I am hearing a lot is that “The generation that sees the reunification of Jews to the land of Israel and their re-establishment as a nation will not pass away before the rapture.” That event occurred in 1948. This claim would mean that those who were alive at the time of 1948 cannot die off before the rapture. They base this idea on verse 34 which says;“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
I am hearing this interpretation a lot lately. I scratch my head and have to ask “How do you get this from that?” What is there in this verse or in any of the verses prior, that identifies this generation to the generation of 1948? This one really disturbs me because it was not that long ago that the Jehovah's Witnesses used the same verse to say that the generation that saw the events of 1914 would not pass away until the end of the age. They taught this for decades until that generation did eventually die off and then they had to drop their interpretation. How is it that otherwise good Bible teachers and pastors are now using the same verse in the same way with a different date?
This disturbs me. Lets go back to the verse;“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” I am dumbfounded. Where is there any reference to the re-establishment of Israel in this verse or any of the preceding verses? What from the text would establish that? How do you get this from that?
Granted this is a mysterious verse. Jesus speaks of a generation that will not pass away until the end of the age. Who is this generation? I don't know. If the word for “generation” here actually means generation then it obviously was not the generation that sat around Jesus while He was teaching them but had to be a future generation. However the greek word here can also be translated”race.” Could it be that Jesus was saying that the Jewish race would not pass away before the end? I don't know. I would not presume to speak definitively here.
We see through a glass darkly. We can't be fully sure exactly what He meant here. However to bring Israel's 1948 re-establishment into this verse is really going out on a limb.
Well, if these reasons are weak reasons to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, what then would be strong reasons to suggest a post-tribulation rapture? Key word, “suggest.” Remember our humble posture of not being absolutely sure. This is prophecy, yet future prophecy. It requires interpretation. God help us as we attempt this difficult task.
I have been discussing Jesus' discourse in Matthew chapter 24. This is the best place in the Bible to start such a study. Why do I say that? Because this chapter is Jesus Christ Himself directly teaching us on this very topic. It is also His longest discourse on this topic. Therefore it is the best place to start. There are other smaller passages or verses throughout the scriptures written by prophets and apostles but let's interpret those pieces in light of the main discourse that Jesus Christ Himself has given us, not the other way around. Mathew chapter 24, reads;
Matthew 24 King James Version (KJV)
24 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3 And as 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 coming, and of the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
25 Behold, I have told you before.
26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
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 heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What are the main points here, relating to the end of the age? 1)Jesus warns them that there will be imposters posing as Himself but not to believe them because Jesus' return will be a dramatic event in the sky that can be seen by all.
2)Before His return there will be wars, earthquakes, famines, etc.
3)Jesus' followers will be greatly persecuted at that time.
4)People will become heartless and cold.
5) Those who endure to the end will be saved.
6)Before the end the gospel will be preached throughout the world.
We are to look for an event called the “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, ” This event will be a cue, or a last call, to flee to the hills.
There will be a great tribulation unlike anything that has ever been.
Now focus on the next part. We are told in verses 29-31;
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
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 heaven to the other.
Notice the chronology of these verses. It says “ after the tribulation of those days” Jesus will be seen “ coming in the clouds” and He will “gather together his elect”. Does this not say that there will be a tribulation, followed by Jesus returning, followed by a rapturing of the church? Pre-tribers would say no, don't interpret it chronologically. Yea but why would someone not interpret it chronologically? Is there a reason from the text or is the reason because it doesn't fit with their already accepted interpretation? A straightforward chronological interpretation would be that after the tribulation of those days Jesus will be seen coming in the clouds and then gathering His elect.
What else does the scripture tell us about the end of this age? Another great rapture passage is found in 1 Thessalonians 4 verses 16 and 17;
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.”
Notice that the rapture is preceded by a trumpet going off. This also goes well with 1 Corinthians, 15 verses 51-53;
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all 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.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Again, the rapture, and notice it is preceded by a trumpet blast. Notice that this trumpet is called “ the last trump”. This is what the Apostle Paul tells us about the rapture. What does the apostle John tell us about the tribulation period? The book of Revelation contains an incredible account of a perilous period of time on earth of unprecedented hunger, death, and war that also includes colossal ecological damage as a result of God's judgements being poured out on a rebellious world. There will be persecution and great battles between the Devil and the people of God.This incredible account stretches from chapters 6 to chapter 19. Most theologians consider this to be the Great Tribulation period. One very interesting detail is that in this period there will be great trumpet blasts to announce God's judgements. These begin in chapter 8 and end in chapter 11. The last trumpet actually is to announce the beginning of Christ's having acquired the kingdoms of this world and His eternal reign.
Now, isn't this something. John tells us that this period of tribulation is marked by trumpet blasts, the last one announcing Jesus to the world and Paul tells us that the rapture of the church is marked by a great trumpet blast and actually the last trumpet blast.
It is hard not to associate these trumpet blasts. The last trump in these separate passages both announce Christ and finish the age. One trumpet blast announces the end of the tribulation and the other announces the rapture of the church and in both cases they are the last trumpet blast. Does this mean that the rapture comes at the end of the tribulation? If it doesn't mean that then how is the 1 Corinthians 15 trumpet the last trump?
Another great rapture scripture is 2 Thessalonians 2 1-10 (King James Version KJV);
2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 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;
4 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.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8 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 coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
So don't we have it right there. We see “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,” is the rapture. And “for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”, that's the antichrist. So doesn't that say it right there? The anti-Christ comes first followed later by the Lord and the rapture. Doesn't this passage lay it out simply? Oh I am sure that there are many schooled experts who can get complicated and do the scriptural gymnastics and somehow spin this around. However, if you were just to read these verses without any preconceived position would you not come away believing that the anti-Christ comes first, followed later by the Lord and the rapture?
In the end, you must decide for yourself what you are going to believe. Just make sure you are choosing to believe what you see in the Word. Does it matter what position you and I come to? Consider this scene, a post-trib believer is sitting on a bench talking to a pre-trib believer. The post triber says “Oh well, if I am wrong and you are right, then I'll just go up in the rapture and escape the tribulation.” That's not an “Oh well,” that's a “Oh yes!” Then the pretriber says “Oh well, if I am wrong and you are right, then I'll just go through the great tribulation.” That's not an “Oh well,” thats an “Oh no!”
If the great tribulation is somewhere around the corner for us all to experience then would we not be wise to prepare? We could prepare. We could make plans to live remotely or plan to bug out.We could store supplies to get us through seven years. We could store agricultural supplies to equip us for growing our own food during this time.
Can we escape the anti-Christ? Isn't it inevitable that he will hunt us all down? I would say “be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word,” start making a plan. When the anti-Christ comes on the scene he will be very busy trying to bring all of the big cities of the world under his control. We may not be able to participate in the economy, but I would think that it is unlikely that his enforcement reach will go all the way to the far flung small remote communities that you and I could be securing property in now. It might be possible to prepare a get-a-way for you and your family and then stock it with what you will need. In fact, isn't this kind of like what we read in Matthew 24? When we see the abomination of desolation, what did Jesus say to do? “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:” That means bug out. Lets give heed to His instruction. Let's prepare to flee into the mountains.Prepping is a wise use of time now when things are more stable and secure. Let us be ready. However, if we are hunted down, let us resolve now that we will not submit to the anti-Christ.
And, of course, be ready to meet our Jesus. “ Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.“ Matthew 24:42.
Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible.