50 Reasons the Rapture
Takes Place Before the Great Tribulation. A
Rebuttal by Pastor Steve Conley
Over the past 100 years, numerous authors have published lists of what they think are strong reasons why the rapture of the church must take place before the last seven years of this age, which they call “the Tribulation Period”. This belief system is known as the “Pre-Trib Rapture Model”.
The purpose of this post, is to critically examine these supposed proofs through the faithful exegesis of the Holy Scriptures. To achieve this goal, I have chosen to deal with a single list of fifty+ reasons for the Pre-Trib rapture.
Daniel Valles at informedchristians.com has put together a paper called “50 Reasons the Rapture Takes Place Before the Great Tribulation.” It states that “This is a compilation of notes by Daniel Valles, a concise, abridged compilation of notes from Dr. John F. Walvoord's book, "The Rapture Question", and notes by Wendy B. Howard.”
In this rebuttal, we shall look at each of these 50 statements and judge them in the light of the Holy Scriptures. We shall also seek to identify the presuppositions which cause “good godly men” to fail to grasp what is very clear and understandable from a simple reading of the Bible.
1) Jesus Christ told His disciples that His coming will be as the days of Noah - and then Jesus Christ, Himself, proceeded to describe the chronology of those days by explicitly stating that Noah "entered into the ark" before the flood came (Matthew 24:37-39). "so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." - Matthew 24:39.
This is true. However, it is important to note that the Flood is not typifying the Great Tribulation (the persecution of Israel and the Elect by the Beast), it is typifying the wrath of God in the Day of the LORD which follows the Great Tribulation (Matt 24:29).
The false presupposition is that the seventieth week is in its entirety the future period of God’s wrath known as “The Day of the LORD”. So, in the Pre-tribbers mind, the portion of the seven years in which the elect are persecuted, called “the great tribulation”, is just as much God’s wrath as the flood was or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The truth of the matter is that God’s wrath doesn’t begin until the sun, moon, and stars go dark “after the tribulation (great tribulation) of those days”. (Matt 24:29) The “great tribulation” begins in the middle of the seven years (Dan 9:27, Matt 24:15, 21) and continues until it is divinely cut short by the Lord to save some of the elect alive (Matt 24:22).
2) To emphasize this point, Jesus Christ repeated this detailed account in Luke 17:26, recording the detail that Noah "entered into the ark" before the flood, and then "the flood came" (Luke 17:26-27). "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." - Luke 17:30
This is true. However, it is important to note that the Flood is not typifying the Great Tribulation, it is typifying the wrath of God in the Day of the LORD which follows.
The Revelation of the Son of man is referring to His coming in glory and power associated with the Day of the Lord. It is described in Rev 1:7, Matt 24:30, 2 Thes 1:6-10, and other places. This revealing takes place unexpectedly for the unbelieving earth-dwellers (1 Thes 5:1-3) right before His wrath is poured out in the trumpet and vial judgements (Rev 8, 9, 16-19).
The presupposition is the same as that in #1.
3) Jesus Christ also told His disciples that His coming will be as the days of Lot - and then Jesus Christ, Himself, proceeded to describe the chronology of that event by explicitly stating that Lot "went out of Sodom" before God's judgment rained down (Luke 17:28-29). "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." - Luke 17:30
This is true. However, it is important to note that the raining of fire and brimstone is not typifying the Great Tribulation, it is typifying the wrath of God in the Day of the LORD which follows the great tribulation (Matt 24:29).
The Revelation of the Son of man is referring to His coming in glory with the angels, associated with the Day of the LORD. (Matt 24:30, Rev 1:7)
4) God reminds us of these individuals again, and tells us that it is God's nature to deliver believers before divine judgment: Noah, Lot, Rahab, etc. (II Pet. 2:5-9). Note that Peter (who penned the book of Peter) was present when Christ told it to His disciples the first time.
That is correct, we are not appointed unto wrath (The Day of the LORD) but to salvation. (1Thes 5:9, Heb 9:28)
5) Right after that, He tells them about Noah and Lot, He further emphasizes this and describes 2-3 examples (Matthew 24:40-41, Luke 17:34-36) of how some people will be taken, and some will be left.
That is correct, the Lord will gather His own to Himself before He pours out His wrath upon the earth dwellers. (Matt 24:31)
Again, we see that the Pre-trib adherent fails to distinguish between Satan’s wrath (Rev 12:12) through the Antichrist (Rev 13:7) upon the elect (Matt 24:21-22) and Israel (Rev 12:13, 17), and the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:16), poured out in the trumpet and vial judgements (Rev 8, 9, 16-19), upon the earth dwellers (Rev 3:10).
6) Right after that, He warns them "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." If Christ returns at any other time than before the Tribulation, then you would know (to the day) when to expect Him. The fact that He is coming before is what catches people off guard.
There are at least four problems with this statement:
1) You fail to distinguish between the “great tribulation” and the “Day of the LORD.”
The “great tribulation” is Satan’s wrath (via the Beast and the False Prophet), directed at the followers of Jesus Christ, and the Children of Israel. The “Day of the LORD” is God’s wrath upon the earth dwellers, who follow the Beast. The Day of the Lord begins after God cuts the great tribulation short, in the second half of the seventieth week (Matt 24:22, 29). The sign of the arrival of this period of God’s wrath is a great earthquake, and the sun, moon, and stars going dark (Isa 2:12-21; Joel 2:31; Matt 24:29; Rev 6:12-17). After this sign, Christ gathers His own to Himself and seals 144,000, from the 12 tribes of Israel (with the exception of Dan), so that they are protected from the plagues of God’s wrath, while remaining upon the earth. (Matt 24:15-31, Rev 6:12-7:17)
2) The return of Christ, mentioned in this text, is the “Parousia” (Matt 24:37); it is the Lord Jesus Christ’s glorious appearing and continuing presence. Pre-trib teachers distinguish between the “secret rapture” and the “Parousia”. The statement concerning not knowing the day nor hour concerns the revelation of Jesus Christ.
3) The rapture takes place after the great tribulation is cut short (Matt 24:21, 22, 29-31), but before God’s wrath is leveled upon the unbelieving world. Since the length of the “great tribulation” that the saints go through is not given, it is true that no one will know the day nor hour of the “Parousia” of the Son of Man. All that will be known, is that when the falling away has taken place, and the man of sin has been revealed (2 Thes 2:3), then the sign of the sun, moon, and stars going dark which precedes Christ’s return is imminent. That is the sign which announces the arrival of the Day of the LORD, which begins with Christ being revealed, for all the world to see, in the clouds with His angles, and our gathering unto Him (Matt 24:29-31, 2 Thes 2:1-2).
The length of the dominion of the Beast is given to be forty two months after he stands in the Temple demanding to be worshipped as God (Rev 13:4-8; 2Thes 2:4). However, Jesus tells us the unparalleled time of trouble (great tribulation), that will befall the Church and Israel, is shortened to prevent all the saints of God from being killed (Matt 24:22).
4) Paul teaches that the watching believer will not be caught by surprise at Christ’s Parousia (1 Thes 5:4). The believer when he sees all these things come to pass will look up and lift up his head because his redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:25-28). The only ones caught off-guard are the unbelievers (1 Thes 5:1-3) who are having a grand old time: eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, and planting and building (Matt 24:38-39) while they worship the Beast having received His mark (Rev 13:12-17).
7) Right after that, He tells them of the metaphor of the unannounced thief (Matthew 24:43-44), and told His disciples His coming would be in the same manner.
He will come as a thief to the unbelieving among both the Jews and Gentiles.
Paul makes it very clear that the believer will not be caught like a thief in the night at Christ’s return (1Thes 5:1-3).
8) Right after that, He uses the illustration of the unfaithful servant who was caught off-guard by his master's unannounced return (Matthew 24:45-51).
He will come as a thief to the unbelieving among both the Jews and Gentiles.
9) Right after that, He tells them the parable of the ten virgins, and how some were caught unprepared for the bridegroom's unannounced return (Matthew 25:1-12).
He will come as a thief to the unbelieving among both the Jews and Gentiles.
10) Right after that, He warns them a second time, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." - Matthew 25:13
It is of interest to note that this is the Parousia that was asked about by four of Christ’s disciples in Matt 24:3. Pre-trib model advocates will apply this to the fictitious “secret rapture” because they fail to understand that the revelation and the rapture happen on the same day.
11) Right after that, He tells them of the parable of the talents, and a servant who was caught unprepared for his master's return (Matthew 25:14-30).
He will come as a thief to the unbelieving among both the Jews and Gentiles.
12) Here, in one sitting, Jesus Christ plainly explains the pattern of His return to a group of fishermen, and to make absolutely sure that they understand what He is saying, He lays out 2 biographical patterns, 2 pattern parables, and 2 explicit warnings about these pattern (with additional implied warnings woven throughout); the fact that He repeated something they needed to know six times in one sitting should tell us that He wants us to be absolutely clear about it!
13) Any teaching that ignores, contradicts, or reverses this clearly spelled-out pattern will end up ignoring and contradicting other Scripture as well, leading to confusion and deception. Do not hold to any prophetic pattern that goes against Christ's given pattern. The very first words out of Christ's mouth when He sat down to tell His disciples these things was this warning: "Take heed that no man deceive you." (Matthew 24:4).
14) The church is not appointed to wrath (Romans 5:9, I Thess.1:9-10; I Thess. 5:9). The church cannot enter "the great day of his wrath" (Rev. 6:17). Thirteen times in Revelation, the time of the Tribulation is described as a time of wrath (Rev. 6:16, Rev. 6:17, Rev. 11:18, Rev. 12:12, Rev. 14:8, Rev. 14:10, Rev. 14:19, Rev. 15:1, Rev. 15:7, Rev. 16:1, Rev. 16:19, Rev. 18:3, Rev. 19:15).
It is true that the Church will be removed (gathered to Christ) before God’s wrath is poured out upon the earth and its inhabitants. However, you again confuse the whole of the seventieth week, or the portion of it called “great tribulation” with the Day of the LORD. God’s wrath does not begin until after the sun, moon, and stars go dark (Matt 24:29; Rev 6:12-13), Jesus is revealed to the world in the clouds with the holy angles (Matt 24:30; Rev 1:7), and the church is gathered to Him (Matt 24:31, Rev 7:9-17), and 144,000 virgin Jewish men are sealed in their foreheads for protection from the trumpet and vial judgements while they remain upon the earth (Rev 7:1-8).
Notice that there is no mention of God’s wrath in the book of Revelation until the sun, moon, and stars go dark (Rev 6:12-17). It is the sign which portends the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Day of the LORD. It is upon the same day of His revelation that His wrath is poured out.
15) No NT tribulation passage mentions the church (Matthew 13:30, 39-42,48-50; 24:15-31; I Thess. 1:9-10; 5:4-9; II Thess. 2:1-11, Rev. 4-18). Nor is the translation (rapture) of the church ever mentioned in any passage dealing with the second coming after the tribulation.
There is nothing true about this statement whatsoever!
It is the Church who is gathered by the angels unto Jesus in Matt 24:29-31
Jesus tells us that at His appearing His elect are gathered to Him by the Angels. There is no disputing this fact. The only thing that may be disputed is who His elect are in this context. We also see that this rapture coincides with His coming at the beginning of the Day of the LORD. Because the Day of the LORD is the period of time when His fierce wrath is poured out upon the Earth dwellers, we see that these elect, who are raptured do not experience God’s wrath poured out upon the Earth and its inhabitants.
So, the promise made that the saints are not appointed unto wrath includes these who are called “His elect.”
1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Th 5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
It is important to note that Daniel tells us that this deliverance or physical salvation spoken of in 1Thes 5:9 is associated with the 1st resurrection.
Dan 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
Dan 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Dan 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
Paul says to the Thessalonians that the Saints will rest from their tribulation when Jesus is revealed with His angels when He comes to be glorified in His saints even be admired in all those who believe. Notice that it is church age believers that Paul is comforting by telling them they can rest when Jesus is revealed. Their deliverance from persecution or their physical salvation will come at Christ’s revelation. For at that time tribulation, in the form of God’s wrath, will fall upon those who have been their persecutors.
2Th 1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
2Th 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
2Th 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
2Th 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
2Th 1:10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Who are the Elect?
Concerning the identity of the elect who are gathered to Jesus by the angels in Matthew 24:31, we find that Jesus uses the word elect 3 times in this chapter. Since there is no change in the overall context of the chapter we believe that each occurrence refers to the same category of believers. The first use in the chapter is found in verse 22 where Jesus says that the days of “great tribulation” are shortened for the elect's sake, or else none would be left alive.
Mat 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
Remember the “great tribulation”, as Jesus calls it, is a unique time of intense persecution of believers by the Beast. He makes war with the saints and physically prevails over them. We know that these elect, are those who are in the “great tribulation” (Matt 24:21-22).
In Revelation chapter seven John describes a great multitude that he sees in Heaven. This he sees after Christ’s glorious appearing in the clouds with His angels, whom He sends forth to gather His elect unto Himself.
Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
Rev 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
Rev 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
Rev 7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev 7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
Rev 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Rev 7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Rev 7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
Rev 7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Being of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, the great multitude is primarily Gentile believers who have come out of “great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). We are certain that this group of “elect” are not exclusively Jews. In fact, the evidence points more toward these “elect” being the church; believing Jews and Gentiles together.
One of the reasons to conclude that this group of “elect”, which is identified by that name three times in Matthew 24, is distinct from Israel is the fact that in the moments prior to God’s wrath being poured out (Rev. 8) but after the cosmic signs of the Day of the LORD (Rev. 6:12-17) one hundred and forty-four thousand Israelites are sealed for protection from the impending trumpet and vial judgements (Rev 7:2-8). It is inferred that these Israelites remain upon the Earth. A remnant of Israel will be protected through the period of God’s wrath (the Day of the LORD) while remaining upon the Earth.
From Rev. 12 we also know that some portion of Israel is going to flee to the wilderness and be protected there for 1260 days.
Rev 12:6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The Rev. 12 text makes it very clear that these Israelites will be protected from the Dragon and the Beast which he indwells through the “great tribulation” which begins in the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel and also the period of God's wrath which follows it. To the contrary, the elect in Matt. 24:22 are being killed in such numbers and with such speed that the Lord must intervene to save some alive.
In the same interlude where we find the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev. 7), there is a great multitude seen in heaven praising God. These are said to be those believers from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” who “came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are the “elect” of Matthew 24. Many shall be those of whom it was said that they “loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:11) and were slain for the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 6:9). The rest will be believers who remain alive to the end of the “great tribulation” and are raptured. Both of these groups take part in the first resurrection. These are the elect of Matt. 24.
The remaining use of “elect” in Matthew chapter 24, that we haven’t yet discussed, is in verse 24.
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.
Jesus speaks of this future eschatological period as one of great deception. In his answer to the disciple’s three questions (Matt. 24:3) He warns them repeatedly not to be deceived. In verse 24 Jesus says the deception will be so great that if it were possible even the very elect would be deceived. One conclusion from this statement of Christ is that the true elect cannot be deceived by the great signs and wonders done by the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their followers. How does this truth help us identify the “elect” in our text?
Are there any other scriptures which may give us light concerning this special attribute of the elect referred to here in Matthew 24? Paul in writing to the believers in Rome makes a statement which will help clear this up.
Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Rom 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Paul to the Romans made reference to the forensic blindness that Isaiah the prophet spoke of.
Isa 29:10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
Isa 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Notice that Israel in part has been made blind and this blindness shall continue until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Today God is calling out a people, for His name, from among the Gentiles. One day that number will be full or complete. When this is true, then and only then, will blindness be removed from Israel and all Israel shall be saved.
Since we are told that a believing Gentile multitude, that cannot be numbered, comes out of the “great tribulation” (Rev 7:9-17), the period of time in context in verse 24, it is safe to say that the fulness of the gentiles does not come at least until the “great tribulation” is over. This being true we may conclude that during the “great tribulation” Israel in part is still under the decreed blindness of God. Therefore, those of whom it is said that it is impossible for them to be deceived must be the church.
When it is understood that the “elect” Jesus speaks of in Matt. 24 must be, not only, a remnant of believing Jews but also a great number of believing Gentiles who have been graphed in (Rom 11:17), then verse 31 clearly speaks of the rapture of the church.
To be continued.