• Pastor Steve Conley

The Great Tribulation, The Day of the Lord and the Rapture of the Church Part 3

The Day of the LORD doesn't begin until after the Great Tribulation

Pre-tribulationists believe that the wrath of God extends throughout the whole seven years. However, Jesus said that the Day of the LORD doesn’t start until the sun, moon, and stars go dark. There is absolutely no mention of the sun, moon, and stars going dark before the seventieth week begins. To the contrary Jesus said that the sun, moon, and stars do not go dark until “after the tribulation of those days.” Jesus says the “great tribulation,” that unparalleled time of persecution, is cut short to save some of the elect alive. The great tribulation according to Jesus begins after the revelation of the Antichrist in the Temple in Jerusalem 3.5 years after the seventieth week (the last seven years) begins (Matt 24:15). Daniel says that the same unparalleled time of trouble for God's people comes after Michael stands up; this he does in the middle of the week (Dan. 12:1, Rev 12).

The Day of the LORD begins on the day of the Rapture

The Scripture is very clear, the Day of the LORD is the day of God’s wrath. His wrath begins to be poured out after a half hour of silence in heaven (Rev. 8) which happens the very same day that the Saints (the elect of God) are raptured (Mark 13:27).

Luk 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

Luk 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Luk 17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

Luk 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

Luk 17:30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

Jesus emphatically states that on the same day that the righteous are gathered to Him, He pours out His wrath upon the unbelieving world.

First there is the sign of the sun, moon, and stars going dark. Then the saints that remain alive (not slain by the beasts of Rev. 13) lift up their heads and look up seeing Jesus coming in the clouds. The unbelieving world which have been participating in the persecution of the saints hide themselves “in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains” when they see the bright glory of Christ and the armies of heaven (the angels).

Luk 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

Luk 21:26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

Luk 21:27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Luk 21:28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

Rev 6:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

Rev 6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

Rev 6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Isa 2:19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

A great earthquake precedes the Rapture and the Wrath of God

Oh, by the way, did I forget to say that there is a mega earthquake associated with the sun, moon, and stars going dark. God gets everyone’s attention when he shakes terribly the earth. He turns off all the luminaries so only the piercing Glory of the eternal Son of God is seen. As lightening streaking from one end of heaven to the other, all will see Him; His return is unmistakable.

Rev 6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

Rev 6:13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

Rev 6:14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Isa 13:13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

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.

Mar 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

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:

Jesus then sends forth His angels with the sound of a trumpet to gather His elect from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. However, the dead in Christ shall be raised first in that moment and those believers left alive shall be changed. This is the first resurrection.

Mat 24:31 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.

Mar 13:27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

1Th 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

1Th 4:16 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:

1Th 4:17 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.

1Co 15:52 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.

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.

No Wrath of God at the opening of the fifth seal

There was one specific passage above others that helped me to understand that God’s wrath was not being poured out upon the earth during the opening of the first six seals as I had assumed. The passage describes for us what John sees when the fifth seal is opened.

Rev 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

John sees believers who had been martyred for Jesus. They were crying out to God to avenge their blood on the earth dwellers.

The earth-dwellers

The phrase “them that dwell on the earth” is a technical term which appears throughout much of the eschatological seventieth week passages of Scripture. It always refers to those dwelling on the earth that worship the Beast and receive his mark.

Jesus says concerning the Day of the LORD:

Luk 21:35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.

Note: Paul clearly teaches that the Day of the LORD will not overtake the watching believer as a thief.

1Th 5:4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

1Th 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

So “them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” excludes the watching saints.

John records concerning the two witnesses:

Rev 11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. ...

Rev 11:10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

Note: The earth-dwellers here rejoice at the death of God’s two witnesses, which no believer would do.

Again, John uses this technical term concerning those who are deceived by the false prophet:

Rev 13:14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

Note: The earth-dwellers here are deceived by the False Prophet into worshiping the Beast and receiving his mark, but Jesus said that it was not possible for the “very elect” to be deceived (Matt. 24:24).

Eleven verses in the book of Revelation contain this technical term for those who worship the beast and receive his mark.

No vengeance yet

It is from verse 11 of Revelation chapter 6 which records the Lord’s answer to these martyred saints that we can know His vengeance has not yet been poured out at the opening of the fifth seal.

Rev 6:11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

They ask for their murders to be avenged, but were told they need to wait “a little season” until their fellowservants and brethren should be killed also. Who was doing the killing? The Beast, the False Prophet, and their followers (the earth-dwellers).

At the opening of the fifth seal God’s wrath is not yet poured out. At that time the sun, moon, and stars have not yet gone dark, so the Day of the LORD is not yet come. How much longer would it be before these saint’s deaths would be avenged upon the earth dwellers? Jesus said, “a little season.”

These who were slain are the martyrs of the “great tribulation.” They are part of the great multitude which came out of the great tribulation as they are described by John in Revelation 7. Some of them survive to the end of the great tribulation and are raptured; others were martyred. They loved not their lives unto the death overcoming Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11).

After John sees the celestial signs announcing the Day of the LORD at the opening of the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-17) he sees 144,000 young Jewish men who are virgins sealed in their foreheads; all servants of God, 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel with the exception of the tribe of Dan (Rev 7:1-8). These are sealed to protect them while they remain upon the earth through the period of the trumpet and vial judgements.

Next John describes what he sees in heaven:

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.

At this point it is important to remember that Jesus didn’t tell us how long the period of “great tribulation” would last. The Beast is said to continue 3.5 years however the “great tribulation” is shortened. It could be 6 months, 3 years, or some other difference. However, it is not believed that it could extend much beyond three years because of the time needed to accomplish the trumpet judgements, the fifth trumpet alone consuming five months (Rev 9:5).

When the sixth seal is opened, John sees a mega earthquake, the sun, moon, and stars going dark, and the earth-dwellers hiding themselves from the Father and the soon coming wrath of His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Rev 6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

The day that Jesus spoke about has come. The Day of the LORD has come. John witnessed the earth-dwellers as the celestial signs appeared. Even the unbelieving will know the gig is up when the earth shakes violently and the sun, moon, and stars go dark.

The first thing to happen on that day is the gathering of the saints by the angels. This involves the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the change and catching up of those saints who physically survived the great tribulation. These meet the Lord in the air and are taken to heaven to the place prepared for them by the Lord (John 14:1-6). On that very same day the seventh seal is opened and all heaven is quiet for half an hour (Rev. 8:1). After that the first trumpet judgement falls upon the Christ rejecting world.

Who are gathered by the angels unto Jesus?

Back to the question: how do we know that those who are gathered by the angels at the Lord’s coming (Matt. 24:29-31) are the church and not some group of saved Jews or Gentiles converted during “The Tribulation Period”? First of all, proper exegesis requires that the text communicate what is to happen. We should build our understanding of these eschatological events from the statements of Jesus, the Apostles, and Prophets.

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 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. 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 three 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 upon the saints and physically prevails over them. We know that these elect are those who are in the “great tribulation”. As we have already observed a great multitude of Gentile believers will come out of “great tribulation” (Rev 7:9-17). At minimum, 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 the dead in Christ or believers who remain alive to the end of the “great tribulation” and are raptured. All three of these groups make up 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

Rapture = caught up

Before I continue in this corrective study of the Lord’s coming and the rapture of the church I want to clarify a few things. There are many terms used throughout this study that I take for granted are understood by the reader. One of these is the word “rapture.”

Without getting into the etymology of the word, it is to be understood that when we use the word rapture we refer to a future event in which the saints of God are “caught up” to be with Jesus. This catching up (rapture), translated from the Greek word “har-pad’-zo”, takes place when Jesus returns in the clouds to gather His own unto Himself, just as He promised in John 14:2, 3. This involves both the living saints and the resurrection of the bodies of the saints who “sleep in Jesus.” Even though the word rapture is not found in the English Bible what it refers to is (1 Thes 4:15-16).

To be continued....

#Eschatology #ComingAgain #Rapture #DayoftheLord #GreatTribulation

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