Is there a Secret Pre-trib Rapture?
“The secret rapture is a lie, that proceeds from the father of lies, which is nothing more than a form of the modern prosperity gospel, which teaches glory without suffering.” Pastor Conley
Glory without suffering was the very same error that the first century Jews had concerning their expectation of the coming of the Messiah. They wanted the glory of a conquering king to free them from Roman rule, but instead received a suffering servant to free them from sin, at which they stumbled. This same type of foolishness is believed and taught among the Laodicean churches of the West. It should be noted that the persecutions in the West are minimal, and few and far between, so, they believe that they are exempt from the future severe persecution of the Beast which comes before Christ's return. It is true that believers are exempt from the wrath of God upon the day of the Lord, that will come suddenly upon the unbelieving Beast worshipers (1Thes 5:2-3, 9-10), but we are not exempt from the wrath of Satan, when he has been cast to the earth in the middle of the week (Rev 12:12). This wrath of Satan, or unparalleled persecution of the elect and Israel through the Beast (Rev 13:7; Matt 24:22, 24), is called great tribulation by Jesus (Matt 24:21), a time of trouble by Daniel (Dan 12:1), and Jacob's trouble by Jeremiah (Jer 30:7).
There is only one future coming (parousia = return and continuing presence) of Christ (Heb 9:28). Jesus doesn't come secretly before the parousia. Christ's return will be recognized by all; it will be unmistakable (Matt 24:26-28). Every eye shall see Him, when He comes in the clouds with all the holy angels (Rev 1:7). In fact, before they see Him, the beast worshipers will begin to hide when the cosmic sign of Joel 2:31 and the great earthquake takes place (Rev 6:12; Isa 2:19). These signs announce that the day of the Lord has arrived (Rev 6:12-17). It is at these signs that the believer is told to look up and lift up his head for his redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:25-28).
The secret rapture is Satan's lie to cause the church to be unprepared for great tribulation. During that time of intense persecution and great deception, a great many will fall away (Matt 24:4-13, 24; 2Thes 2:3). They will no longer identify with Christ but, will identify with the Beast (the Antichrist), having received his mark. The fear of starvation, being ostracized, or having their heads cut off (Rev 20:4) will be enough for multitudes to apostatize. On top of that, the false prophet will be doing miracles, even lying wonders which will deceive many (Rev 13:13-15; 2Thes 2:9-10).
Western evangelical pastors are preaching the great escape instead of fortifying their people against the coming great persecution. If you are reading this right now, you most likely will face the choice of "do I starve or take the mark" or "do I take the mark or have my head cut off". Today in Islamic lands, followers of Jesus face very similar choices. If people are not told and prepared, the multitudes among the churches that are near to salvation will stumble when persecution comes and they will fall away (Luke 8:13). They need to be told to choose now, become a true disciple of Jesus Christ today.
Mar 8:35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
Mar 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Mar 8:37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mar 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Rev 12:12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
There is not a single reference to a secret catching up of the saints among the historic Christian writings prior to ~200 years ago. They expected to see the Antichrist (the vast majority of them had identified some figure in their time that they thought was the man of sin), experience great tribulation (they thought they were in the great tribulation that Jesus spoke of) and after that, at any moment, be rescued by Christ at His coming before He pours out His wrath upon the unbelieving world. That historic view is called "imminent intra-tribulationalism." The classic post-tribbers have claimed these historic saints because they thought they had identified the Antichrist and were experiencing the great tribulation, but pre-tribbers claimed them for their expectation that Christ's return was imminent (could come at any moment). They both were wrong.
References to the imminent return of Christ by the early church were predicated upon their believing that the Antichrist was present and that they were experiencing the great tribulation. Eckerty in “The Case For the Pre-Wrath Rapture” gives some examples of the early eschatological beliefs of the church:
Tertullian: “That the beast Antichrist with his false prophet may wage war on the Church of God....Since, then, the Scriptures both indicate the stages of the last times, and concentrate the harvest of the Christian hope in the very end of the world.”
Justin Martyr: “The man of apostasy...shall venture to do unlawful things on the earth against us, the Christians.”
The Pastor of Hermas: “Happy ye who endure the Great Tribulation that is coming.”
Irenaeus: “And the ten kings...shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight.”
Barnabas: “Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are called of God, we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the Kingdom of the Lord.”
Hippolytus: “Now concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary. That refers to the 1260 days during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church.”
Each of these historic saints associate the church with the “great tribulation” persecution of the Antichrist. Not a single one exempts the church from the Beast’s reign of terror. There is no mention of a great escape of the church from great tribulation.
The great tribulation and the wrath that God pours out upon the day of the Lord, are distinct from each other. They are separated by the cosmic sign of the sun, moon, and stars going dark (Joel 2:31; Matt 24:29; Rev 6:12-17), the physical return of Christ into the clouds to reveal himself to all the world, resurrect the dead in Christ, and gather the elect (every believer) unto himself, and take us to stand before the throne in the Fathers house (John 14:3; Rev 7:9-17).
Below, is the order of events, on the beginning day of the "day of the Lord" or "the day of Christ."
1) Great tribulation ends (Matt 24:21, 29).
2) The cosmic sign and great earthquake take place (Matt 24:29; Luke 21:25-26; Joel 2:31; Rev 6:12-17; Isa 13:6-11; 2:19-21).
3) Christ returns in the clouds with the holy angels, and reveals Himself for every eye to see (Matt 24:30; 16:27; Mark 8:38; Luke 21:27-28; Rev 1:7).
4) The dead in Christ are resurrected and the living saints are changed. This is the first resurrection (1Cor 15:23-24, 51-52; Rev 20:4-6; Dan 12:1-3).
5) The resurrected saints and those who are alive and remain are caught up (raptured) together by the angels to be with Jesus in the clouds (Matt 24:31; 1Thes 4:15-17; 2Thes 2:1).
6) We are taken to the Fathers house to stand before Christ at the throne of God (John 14:3; Rev 7:9-17; Luke 21:36).
7) The seventh seal is opened and there is a half hour of silence in heaven then the first trumpet is blown (Rev 8:1-7).
8) God's day of the Lord wrath begins to be poured out with the first trumpet judgement. The rest of the trumpet and vial judgements follow but not on the same day (1Thes 5:2-3; 2Thes 1:6-10; Rev 8, 9, 16-19).
All the above happens on the same literal day (Luke 17:26-30; 2Thes 1:6-10). Note: I didn't include the sealing of the 144,000 Jews who will remain protected upon the earth through the trumpet and vial judgements which also happens on the same day (Rev 7:1-8).
All praise, honour, and glory be unto the Lamb.
By Pastor Steve Conley