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  • Pastor Steve Conley

Dealing with Pre-Trib Misunderstandings

My reply to Allen Beechick's "Seven reasons why the rapture cannot come after the tribulation"

By Steve Conley

My Reply to Allen Beechick

Allen Beechick, on his web site, published an article entitled “Seven Reasons Why the Rapture Cannot Come After the Tribulation”, in my ongoing attempt to answer every proposition presented by the plethora of pretribulationist teachers out there today, I’m going to answer each of his seven reasons. Please find below, Beechick's article (presented in its entirety under fair use) followed by my response to each of His assertions.

“Seven Reasons Why the Rapture Cannot Come After the Tribulation”

The best thing my mother did for me, as a boy, was teach me Bible verses. But she also tried to get me to eat peas. I hated peas. Still do. My mother often said, "Try these, Allen. These peas are different." But somehow they never were.

Well, now that I'm an adult, I get to say, "These arguments are different." Instead of proving that the rapture comes before the tribulation, these arguments prove that the rapture cannot come after the tribulation. Instead of going in the front door, I'm coming through the back door.

Try these arguments. They're different.

1. The known day and the unknown day cannot be the same day.

"But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36). "In such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes" (Matthew 24:44).

In contrast to the unknown day, we also read about a known day. The 1260 days (Revelation 12:6) coincides with the 42 months (Revelation 13:5) or three and one-half years (Revelation 12:14). Unlike schemes of today that pretend to predict the time of the trumpet sound, this future timetable has a clear starting point, a clear duration, and a clear ending point. It begins at the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15–16), and it ends at the return of Christ (Revelation 19:20).

The known day and the unknown day must be different days. The rapture cannot occur on the known day.

Some try to dull the sharp point of the known day by saying the time is shortened (Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20). In other words, the 1260 days will turn out to be less than 1260 days. But the "shortened days" has at least two other interpretations that do not contradict other Scriptures. Why pick the one interpretation that contradicts several other Scripture passages? No, the 1260 days will turn out to be 1260 days, exactly as prophesied.

You may ask, doesn't a close look at the context reveal that the unknown day appears in a context after the tribulation? Doesn't Matthew 24:29 say, "after the tribulation"? Yes, you are right. But a closer look at the context reveals a double reference. And this double reference reinforces the idea of two different days.

My response

Allen, I’m afraid you are misunderstanding a few things which are causing you to see Christ’s coming as a known day.

First, all the times given in the Scriptures concerning the events of the seventieth week will be exactly as represented. However, not one of these is firmly connected to Christ’s arrival at His parousia. The parousia (arrival and continuing presence) of Christ takes place between the unprecedented persecution of the church and Israel (great tribulation), and the beginning of the pouring out of God’s wrath on the day of the Lord. This happens at an unidentified time during the second half of the week. The great tribulation begins, when the Beast defiles the temple, causing the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, in the midst (middle) of the week. This unprecedented persecution will continue until Christ comes, rescuing His elect, after which He tribulates our persecutors. The seven years are not shortened, the 42 months that the Beast continues are not shortened, all that is shortened is the persecution of the elect (believers [Matt 24:9], those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ [Rev 12:17], those whose names are written in the book [Dan 12:1]). Our persecution is shortened by removing us from the earth in what we call the rapture. There is no contradiction whatsoever.

Concerning the activities of Christ as seen by John in Rev. 19, this is not Christ’s arrival at His parousia. This is the destruction of the Beast and the armies of the nations that follow him at the end of the week. It is a frequent assumption and error to confuse this with the glorious appearing of the Great God, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Rev 19:11-21 is Christ’s ongoing activities in the day of the Lord not His arrival.

Parousia is not erchomai. Parousia refers to much more than the approach of something or someone. It refers to the arrival and continuing presence. Just as Jesus’ first coming was more than His conception or birth, it included His life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, forty days showing Himself alive, and ascension, so also will His second coming be more than His arrival.

2. At the end of the age the unbelievers are taken first.

"In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather together first the tares.... the harvest is the end of the world.... As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 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.... So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just." (selections from Matthew 13)

Separate the wheat from the tares? No. Separate the tares from the wheat? Yes. The order of gatherings at this time is opposite to the rapture.

My response

When Christ gives a parable, it is usually used to hammer home a single truth. The truth that this parable emphasizes is seen in Christ’s explanation of it to His disciples. It is that the wicked shall be removed from Christ’s kingdom at the end of the age. The end of the age takes place at Christ’s second coming also known as the day of the Lord. It would appear that the end of the age refers to the general period of the day of the Lord and not exclusively the day of Christ’s arrival.

3. Those taken on that day end up as corpses for vultures to feed on.

"I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Luke 17:34–37).

"Eagles" is better translated "vultures." "Body" means "corpse" according to the parallel passage Matthew 24:28. Those taken on that day end up as corpses for vultures to feed on. This cannot be the rapture.

You may answer that the birds of prey gather around those left rather than around those taken. Consider two points. First, Revelation 19:17 shows that the birds of prey gather to a certain spot rather than being scattered to find whoever is left. Jesus' answer here in Luke 17 also speaks of such a gathering.

Second, when the disciples asked "Where?" it naturally implies "Where are they taken?" We already know where they are left. That's obvious. We know where the bed is, where the mill is, where the field is. That's where they are left. So the disciples wanted to know where they are taken. The only time the other meaning makes sense is when you ask, "Where did I leave my glasses?" But in this context where people are snatched away from various places, the natural question is "Where are they taken?"

It is those taken who end up as corpses for vultures to feed on. This is the opposite of the rapture.

My response

It is important to consider Christ’s use of the same saying in Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse. The context is the same. Jesus is warning them not to believe all the false reports that He has come and is in such and such a place. He says that just like the lightning is seen by all, so His arrival will be unmistakable. When they ask where, He says you'll know it every bit as much as a vulture can smell a corpse.

Mat 24:23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

Mat 24:24 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.

Mat 24:25 Behold, I have told you before.

Mat 24:26 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.

Mat 24:27 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.

Mat 24:28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

The saying is that the carrion eating birds will not miss a dead body. So also, will Christ’s arrival be unmistakable. It will be obvious.

4. If all unbelievers are destroyed, then who will populate the millennium?

"[Noah] entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. ... the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:27–30).

"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" (Matthew 13:41).

"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape [strong dual negative in the Greek]" (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

"When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ... That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 1:7b–8; 2:12).

"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Malachi 4:1).

Present-day believers will be in the millennium, of course, but as rulers, not as subjects. We'll have glorified bodies, not decaying bodies. Who will we rule over? Who are the subjects with natural bodies, who bear children, who are subject to sin and death, and who finally rebel after the 1000 years are over? (Isaiah 65:20, Revelation 20:7–9)

According to the several Scriptures quoted above, only believers enter the millennium. These believers have children, and apparently some of these children do not become believers.

Where do the original believers come from? They aren't raptured believers. They must be after-the-rapture believers. If the rapture were at the end of the tribulation, then there would be no believers left with natural bodies. Therefore, the rapture cannot come at the end of the tribulation. Believers who populate the millennium are those saved after the rapture and who survive the tribulation period. By the way, those killed during the tribulation are resurrected before the millennium; so they will have glorified bodies for the 1000 years.

Some argue that Israel gets saved as Christ returns, just moments after the rapture, but just in time to get saved and avoid destruction. That's pretty close timing. Impossible timing, in fact. According to the Bible, Israel does get saved at the end, but it's just before the end. (Hosea 5:15, Matthew 23:39)

But beyond Israel, the Bible also teaches that many nations will populate the millennium. (Zechariah 14:16–19, Revelation 20:8) How do they get there?

A rapture at this time just doesn't fit.

My response

Zachariah 14:16 says that there are people left of all the nations that came up against Jerusalem and they will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King. These apparently had not received the mark nor worshiped the Beast. The millennial kingdom is occupied by these, Israel, and us when we are employed as priests and kings. Our home will be New Jerusalem, but we will work as rulers here upon the earth in Christ’s Kingdom.

The judgement of the nations referred to in Matt 25 shows that not all the unbelieving among the nations will receive the mark or persecute the elect and Israel. In that judgement the sheep shall be separated from the goats based upon how they treated the elect and Israel.

5. Revelation 3:10 clearly says, "I will keep you from the hour."

"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from [out] the hour of temptation [testing], which shall come upon all the world, to try [test] them that dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 3:10).

What could be clearer than that? It doesn't say "take out." No, "take out" and "keep out" have entirely different meanings. It doesn't say "keep in." No, "keep in" and "keep out" have entirely different meanings. It doesn't say "keep in and take out." No, it takes twice as many words to express those two distinct ideas. God chose this simple word combination to communicate as clearly as possible.

Some say this means believers are protected during testing instead of from testing. But I answer, protected from what? Believers during that time are killed, not kept. (Revelation 6:9, 13:7) Some may respond, they are protected from God's wrath, not Satan's wrath. But I answer, look at the verse again. It doesn't talk about God's wrath. It talks about testing. Testing precedes wrath. The outcome of testing is wrath or reward, as the case may be. Saints at that time are tested. Even post-trib theologians warn us to prepare ourselves spiritually for that testing. They are the same ones who teach us (and correctly so) that God's wrath focuses at the end of the tribulation, leaving us with the question, "Protected from what?"

Let's think deeper. The reason for the promise illuminates the purpose of the promise. The reason ("because you have already demonstrated patience in testing") prompts the purpose ("I will keep you from further testing"). Is God saying, "Since you have shown patience, I will now give you a bigger test?" No, He is saying, "You have already passed the test. Congratulations!" You have shown patience, haven't you? You have leaned on God's Word during testing, haven't you? Then this promise is for you.

Answering the objections is easy enough, because the verse is clear, but what really drives me crazy are those who throw up their hands and say that we can't know the meaning. Have you ever read something like, "If the theologians disagree on this, then you and I can't possibly know the meaning"? That effectively takes the Book out of your hands. How dare you read the Book for yourself! How dare you claim to interpret it for yourself!

No, rather than take the Book out of your hands, I want to put it back into your hands. God says Revelation is unsealed. (Revelation 22:10) How dare I seal it back up again. Yes, Revelation has many symbols. Some symbols are explained within the book, some are explained in the Old Testament, and some are left unexplained. But in Revelation 3:10 we don't even have symbols to worry about. It is a clear statement in an unsealed book.

My response

The misunderstanding of this verse comes due to eisegesis, that is the reading of an errant eschatological model into the text. However, there is plenty enough information there to be absolutely certain concerning its meaning. All we need to do is ask the right questions, those questions which make for sound hermeneutics.

Who is speaking? Christ Jesus our Lord. To whom is He speaking? The Church at Philadelphia and all the churches. What is being communicated? Because they (the church in Philadelphia and any Church) obeyed the Word (the commands of Christ found in the Holy Scriptures) manifesting Christ’s cheerful endurance, He will keep them from (keep out of) the notable period of trial that will come upon all the world. What is this notable time (well-known hour) of testing? He says the whole world will face it. He further identifies this notable trial by declaring its purpose, to test the earth dwellers. So, this well known, worldwide test, is focused upon the earth-dwellers.

Who are the earth dwellers? Earth-dwellers are those unbelievers, who worship the beast, and take his mark (Rev 13). They dwell in apparent peace and safety (1Thes 5:3) as they persecute the elect and Israel (Matt 24, 2Thes 1:6-7; Rev 12). They are those who will be buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and planting and building until God’s wrath falls suddenly upon them (Luke 17:26-30). They are those who will rejoice at the death of the two witnesses (Rev 11). They are those upon whom the day of the Lord comes as a snare (Luke 21:35).

The elect however will not be caught unawares like a thief catches the home dweller. We are not in darkness that the day should overtake us as a thief (1Thes 5:4). The day of the Lord will not be a snare to us, only to the earth-dwellers. We are not appointed unto God’s wrath (1Thes 5:9).

This, hour of temptation, is not the great tribulation, which we will face. The great tribulation is the wrath of Satan (Rev 12:12) through the Beast, the False Prophet, and their followers, upon the elect and Israel. The hour of temptation in context is God’s wrath upon the earth-dwellers. They are two different periods of time. Beginning in the middle of the week comes unprecedented great tribulation then the Parousia of Christ involving our being gathered to Him, then His wrath is poured out in the trumpet and bowl judgments of the day of the Lord.

6. By Revelation 19, the wife is already ready.

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [literally righteousnesses, plural] of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called [invited] unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7–9b). How do we know she is ready? Well, just look at her. She's arrayed in fine linen. What is she ready for? The marriage supper. The invitations are about to go out.

According to some, the marriage supper is over by this time. But for a marriage supper to be complete, you need the bridegroom, bride, and guests. The supper waits not only for the bride to get ready, but also for the guests to be invited.

But that's beside the point. The point is that the wife is ready by Revelation 19 before Christ descends to earth. The wife is the church. (2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:31–32) For the wife to be ready, she must be in heaven. Fine linen awaits heaven. Her wedding gown is complete. She is ready.

You may ask me, isn't the wife ready long before Revelation 19? I think so. Then why isn't she mentioned until now? For the sake of contrast. The wife in 19:7 contrasts the harlot in verse 19:2. The fine linen, clean and white, in 19:8 contrasts the purple and scarlet in 17:4. The marriage supper in 19:9 contrasts the supper of the great God in 19:17. So it fits the narrative here.

The marriage process in the days when Revelation was written consisted of three parts, the engagement, the processional, and the feast. When Luke 12:36 says, "return from the wedding," it speaks about the return from the wedding processional. (The Greek and the KJV simply say "wedding," not "wedding feast.") Luke 12:36 backs up Revelation 19. A return from the wedding implies a return before the wedding.

My response

Revelation 19 describes Christ’s ongoing activities in the day of the Lord not His arrival in that time. The statement made here speaks against the traditional post-trib yo-yo rapture/return teaching not the Biblical pre-wrath model. The pre-wrath model recognizes ample time to accomplish all that is written of Christ’s interaction with the church between the rapture and the setting up of the kingdom in which we will reign with Him.

7. By Revelation 4, the crowns are already awarded.

"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats [thrones]: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads [victory] crowns of gold" (Revelation 4:4).

Who are the elders? Some may think that the elders are angels. But God doesn't award victory crowns to angels. These crowns are reserved for sinners who overcome by faith. You can say the elders are the church, or Israel, or a combination of both, or the New York Yankees, minus one player. I don't care. But definitely human. Crowns come when Christ comes. (2 Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 22:12)

Therefore, Christ must have come prior to Revelation 4:4, but after Revelation 3 when the church is still on earth. Somewhere in between there.

My response

The 24 Elders are just that, 24 men of old who believed God, were redeemed, and are now glorified and in His presence. It is nothing more than foolish speculation to say that the 24 represent the future raptured church. It is one of many attempts to find support for a bankrupt eschatological system by reading it into the text.

Concerning these being already glorified and crowned, notice that the OT saints that Paul uses for an example of God’s power and faithfulness in working all things together for good, are said to be glorified (past tense) in Rom 8:30. Also the Scriptures record that Moses and Elijah appeared “in glory” on the mount of transfiguration as Luke records.

The church is seen in Rev 7:9-17 standing before the throne of God having just been resurrected or changed and raptured. This takes place at Christ’s revelation in the clouds after the cosmic sign of Joel appears as seen by John when the sixth seal was opened.

In closing, I wish to express the reason for which I post these rebuttals.

The widespread belief in a great escape for the church, before persecution becomes unprecedented, has professing believers unprepared to suffer and die for the name of Christ. They have been told, having said a prayer for salvation, that they're safe and nothing that they do could cause them to be lost. I have even heard some highly esteemed and very well known pastors who have said that even taking the mark of the beast couldn't cause one of these to be lost. I believe in eternal salvation. Once a child of God always a child of God. However, if one takes the mark or worships the beast, he or she was never a child of God, nor regenerated. Such a one never belonged to Christ and is eternally lost having received the mark.

Pretribulationism has effectively excused the church from some of the most sobering of warnings. It says don't worry about Jesus' warnings in Matt 24, they are for the Jews. Don't worry about the warnings in most of the book of Revelation, they are for the "tribulation saints". Those who do such have unwittingly become tools of the enemy, and are setting the "professing" church up for the notable falling away (departure from the faith). I believe, many, if not most, within the evangelical churches of the west are "professors" whose faith is yet to be tested. From Christ's testimony, the test (unprecedented persecution) will make it known that the good seed had fallen upon stony ground. Many will be offended when persecution comes and fall away.

These that have gladly received the word, yet have no root, are among us in the churches. They have a profession, but no possession. It is they who stand to be deceived, for it is impossible for the elect to be deceived into worshiping the Beast (Matt 24:24). These must be warned and told that if they deny Christ before men, He will deny them before the Father. They must be told that if they seek to save their lives they shall lose them, but if they lay down their lives for Christ and the Gospel's sake they shall save them.

Rev 14:9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, Rev 14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

Rev 14:11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

All praise, honour, and glory be unto the Lord Jesus Christ

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