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  • Pastor Steve Conley

The Great Tribulation, The Day of the Lord and the Rapture of the Church

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

What happens when you realize that you have believed a lie all your life? The answer is very simple. You praise God that you now see the truth. I rejoice today with a great enthusiasm for the truth that God has been so gracious to allow me to see from His Holy Word. Today I am forty-nine years old, and from my childhood I was taught that Jesus could come at any moment and snatch all the Christians away from the Earth. In fact, I lived with that sobering teaching every day, thinking that unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, Jesus would rapture His church. As a very young believer I can remember the question coming to my mind when those I expected to see around me were suddenly missing without explanation: had the rapture come, was I left behind? Today I have a much different understanding based entirely upon the Holy Scriptures.

The eschatological model that I followed, and for many years excelled at teaching, was that which the vast majority of western evangelicals hold. It is called the “Pre-tribulational Rapture” position. For the last hundred years or so the Pre-trib position has gained popularity standing opposed to the more traditional Post-trib position of the timing of the rapture. As may easily be deduced, the Pre-trib position teaches that the catching up of the saints, or rapture as it has been called, takes place before a future tribulation period. The post-trib view teaches that the rapture takes place after a future tribulation period. Even though these two have been the major eschatological models followed by evangelical Christians in more recent history, there is also another position that some have adopted called the Mid-trib rapture position. This position teaches that the rapture happens before the “great tribulation” begins in the middle of “the tribulation period.”

I have found that even though there is some truth that is distinct to each of these models for the timing of the rapture, there is still significant problems with each of them. This paper was written to correct these errors, some of which I taught for many years.

Not appointed unto wrath

The primary reason that I held, and with much conviction taught, the Pre-trib position was the fact that the Scriptures say that the saints are not appointed unto wrath. There are three verses which are very unambiguous concerning this truth.

Rom 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

1Th 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

The last of these three verses, without a doubt, is given in the context of the final seven years of this age. The Scriptures plainly say that those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ are not appointed unto wrath but to be saved from it. Seeing this and believing it, kept me from even considering that the church would go through or even into the seven year “tribulation period” during which I believed God’s wrath would be poured out.

Many years ago, when I first began to pursue a complete and thorough understanding of the Scriptures I recognized that there were difficult passages to explain while holding to the pre-trib rapture model. In my quest to know and understand these challenges I began searching out and reading the foremost “experts” in the realm of pre-tribulational teaching. These included the works of men like Dr. Thomas Ice, Dr. Dwight Pentecost, Dr. John Walvoord, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Richard Mayhue, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Ed Hindson, Dr. Wayne Brindle, Dr. Renald Showers, Dr. David Hunt, Dr. Charles Ryrie, Dr. C. I. Scofield, Dr. Clarence Larkin, and many many others.

I scoured the theological journals for any scholarly work pertaining to the subject. I spent a lot of time going through the digital archives of the pre-trib research center, which I believe is the tip of the spear when it comes to defending the pre-trib rapture position. The things I learned there, I taught with great conviction. In fact, I had become very adept or skillful in what today I call “hermeneutical gymnastics”, which is necessary to make the Scriptures fit into the pre-trib model.

Even though I had taught biblical hermeneutics and was very familiar with the various concepts of Bible interpretation I didn’t realize at that time that I had a wrong hermeneutic and that I was involved in eisegesis instead of exegesis. I was doing exactly what I preached against. Like so many others, I was reading the pre-trib model into the text. I thought, after all, the Holy Scriptures are a monolithic whole and it plainly says that we are not appointed unto wrath. Hence, I taught so as to make everything fit into that misunderstood paradigm.

“The Tribulation Period”

As with most errors this one is built upon a handful of subtle falsehoods or misunderstandings. One of the most prominent is the classification or naming of Daniel’s seventieth week. It has been called “The Tribulation Period” by pre-, post- and mid-tribbers alike. This unfortunate nomenclature has led to much error among the saints in understanding the final seven years of this age as the Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles have described them to us.

In the New Testament, the word tribulation is translated from the Greek word thlip'-sis. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionaries tell us that it refers to pressure (literally or figuratively). The word is found 45 times in the NT where it is translated with the words: afflicted, affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, and trouble.

One doesn’t need to look at all 45 occurrences to easily conclude that God’s people have always been the subject of tribulation. In fact, Jesus says that his followers shall have tribulation.

Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Paul taught that godly living will result in tribulation (being persecuted).

2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

When the Thessalonian believers were greatly concerned about the level of persecution being brought to bear upon them, Paul reminded them that the followers of Jesus Christ are appointed thereunto.

1Th 3:3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

1Th 3:4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

Biblically speaking, from the beginning of the church believers have suffered tribulation. It can rightly be said that we today are living in the tribulation period. However, we are not presently in Daniel’s seventieth week nor are we in that time Jesus identified as “great tribulation” and Daniel identified as a “time of trouble.”

The Great Tribulation begins in the middle of the week

Mat 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

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.

The great unparalleled time of tribulation (persecution of the saints) that Jesus and Daniel mention doesn’t begin until the Antichrist (man of sin, the Beast, etc) is revealed in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, in the middle of the last seven years of this age, demanding to be worshiped as God. Jesus said, “then shall be great tribulation.”

Mat 24:15 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:)

2Th 2:3 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;

2Th 2:4 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.

Dan 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Daniel’s Seventieth Week is not equal to the Day of the LORD

The use of the phrase “Tribulation Period” to refer to the seventieth week of Daniel has caused much confusion. While it is true that wars, famines, pestilence, and death (Matt 24:6-7, Rev 6:1-8) will be on the increase after the seventieth week begins, there is no mention of any uniqueness until Satan and his angels are cast out of heaven (Rev 12:7-12) and the Antichrist begins to persecute Israel (Rev 12:13) and the elect (Matt 24:21-22) both of which take place 3.5 years into the seven-year period.

By calling the seventieth week “The Tribulation” it has morphed into the unparalleled period which the prophets called the “Day of the LORD.” Most pre-tribbers view the Day of the LORD as beginning when “the prince that shall come” confirms the covenant with many (Israel) initiating the last seven years of this age (Daniel 9:27). It is true that the confirmation of a covenant by the Antichrist shall begin the seventieth week, but with absolute certainty, I can say that the Day of the LORD does not begin then.

When does the Day of the LORD begin?

The Day of the LORD is spoken of all throughout the Scriptures, in fact more than any other event. It is the day of God’s fierce wrath. I do not believe there is any debate at all concerning this fact, because it is spoken of so often. It truly is the day of God’s wrath. All the debate centers around when it begins and how long it lasts.

For me the timing of the Day of the LORD was the most important thing to grasp in determining the position of the rapture in relation to the events of the seventieth week. You see like many other pre-trib teachers I had concluded, without all due scholarship mind you, that the Day of the LORD began when the seventieth week began. This was accomplished with some circular reasoning that went like this:

The Day of the Lord is a day of God’s wrath. In a future time, God’s wrath will be poured out upon the Earth. As Jesus opens the seals in Revelation 6, John sees war, famine, pestilence, and death. Since death appears to come to one-quarter of the earth; this must be God’s wrath. So, the Day of the LORD must start at the beginning of the seven years because that's when the seals begin to be opened by Jesus Himself.

That all seems logical and straight forward especially when one is trying to read the pre-trib position into the text. The bad thing is that the Scriptures plainly tell us when the day of the LORD begins and no amount of deduction, whether circular or not, is necessary.

To be continued.....

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