12 Oct 2014 by Lim Poh Ann –
Can believers rest in the security that we will be raptured before the Great Tribulation? Let us re-examine first-hand the passages on rapture.
By personally scouring the Bible for passages related to the rapture, we get a better understanding of this controversial subject. More importantly, by examining these verses without any preconceived ideas from others, we can arrive at our own conclusion—whether the rapture is before or after the Great Tribulation.
But first we need to ask God for wisdom. We also need a spirit of independent inquiry. Indeed, if we have the open-minded attitude of the Bereans, we will surely come to a knowledge of the truth.
Though the word ‘rapture’ is not found in the English Bible, the concept of believers being airlifted to safety remains clear in the minds of believers who are looking forward to this blessed hope.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the passage universally agreed by all as most descriptive of the rapture, ‘caught up’ is translated from the Greek word harpazo, which means ‘to seize upon with force’ or ‘to snatch up’.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17)
Though this passage gives us the clearest picture of the rapture, it does not provide us any idea about its timing in relation to the Great Tribulation.
Next we focus on the passages on rapture with chronology mentioned—after the Great Tribulation:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24: 29-31)
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. (Mark 13:24-27)
Notice the close similarity between the above passages in 1 Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24 and Mark 13:
- Jesus descends from heaven.
- Trumpet sounds.
- Angelic beings are God’s agents.
- Gathering of the elect (God’s chosen ones).
Some contend that the passages in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are not descriptive of the rapture account in 1 Thessalonians 4. They say that Christ’s second coming and the rapture belong to a different timeline altogether.
I beg to differ. Isn’t it clear that Christ makes His appearance from heaven in all three passages? Aren’t the trumpets, angels and the concept of believers being ‘caught up’ / ‘gathered’ evident in all three passages (Matthew 24, Mark 13 , 1 Thessalonians 4)?
Is there anyone among you who is a statistician? What is the probability that the passages in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are not referring to the rapture account in 1 Thessalonians 4?
With four features which are similar, it is highly unlikely that Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are not descriptive of the 1 Thessalonians 4 rapture account.
Using the analogy of a traffic accident, each witness provides his or her own perspective of the incident. A male witness would probably focus more on the make and engine capacity of the vehicles involved and who is likely to be the offender whereas a female witness would probably focus on the colour of the vehicle and the drivers’ appearance and response. You cannot possibly have an identical portrayal of an event when different ones give their own accounts. Nevertheless, the witnesses are all referring to the same event.
Similarly, the parallel passages (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and 1 Thessalonians 4) do provide for us a picture of the rapture, albeit with some minor differences.
And when we combine all these three passages, we discover the sequence of events is crystal clear—the rapture comes after the Great Tribulation.
The authors of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—each provide their own perspective of an event / teaching. Sometimes, for example, something which is covered in great detail by Luke is barely covered by Mark. However, there is a strong parallelism among the three Gospels in content. And by piecing together the three versions of the same event / teaching, we get a better understanding—and sometimes even the sequence of events become apparent.
Antichrist—the main protagonist in the Great Tribulation—must precede the second coming of Christ
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4)
Paul tells us that Christ won’t come again until the Antichrist—the main protagonist in the Great Tribulation—has made his appearance. Thus the sequence of events outlined in 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4 is not incompatible with the sequence found in both the Matthew 24 and Mark 13 accounts (Christ’s second coming/rapture follow the Great Tribulation).
Notice further, in 2 Thessalonians 2: 1, Paul mentions the second coming of Christ and the gathering of believers (rapture) in one breath as if they were consecutive events (one event closely follows the other), thus affirming the view of Christ’s second coming/rapture in the Matthew 24 and Mark 13 accounts.
Supportive evidence that believers will be raptured when Christ returns, thus saving them from earth’s sorrows, is described by physician Luke:
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21: 27-28).
What redemption? Deliverance from the Great Tribulation.
If you are still unconvinced that the rapture comes after the Great Tribulation, let me ask you three questions.
Firstly, is there any verse or passage which spells out clearly for us that after the rapture comes the Great Tribulation? Answer: None. The case for a pre-tribulation rapture is based on indirect inferences, not direct, clear passages as the ones found in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 which spell out clearly for us, AFTER THE TRIBULATION.
In a court of law, evidence that is adduced has different weightage and reliability. Surely, a blood-stained knife at the crime scene (on which DNA testing of the blood can be used to trace the murderer) is considered superior and strong evidence. On the other hand, there may be less conclusive evidence such as this—the murder suspect was seen talking to the victim on the evening the crime occurred. Or the former may have a motive to kill her because she rejected her advances five years ago. Finally, the judge and jury will have to assign greater weightage to superior and strong evidence rather than base their verdict on hunches and circumstantial evidence.
By now, I hope you get my point. I believe pre-tribulation rapture is based much more on indirect evidence and reasoning rather than solid evidence—direct, clear passages as in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 which spell out clearly for us, AFTER THE TRIBULATION.
Let me reiterate. There is no scripture to show us clearly and convincingly that after the rapture comes the Great Tribulation.
If we search for various references related to the word ‘tribulation’, we will be hard pressed to find a verse which explicitly tells us that rapture precedes the Great Tribulation.
Secondly, if believers are already raptured and are safe and secure in heaven, who is the Antichrist going to oppress and persecute? The Antichrist utters blasphemies against God and makes war against the saints (Rev. 13:6-7). The Antichrist is against everyone that is for Christ, including those who believe in Him. But if all the saints are raptured, who is he going to ‘anti’? It’s only logical that there must be believers around on earth for him to go against.
Believers who are overcomers are mentioned in Revelation 20:4: “Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
These overcomers are rewarded for their ability to stand up against the Antichrist who has made it impossible for anyone to buy or sell unless he or she has the mark of the beast (Revelation 13: 6-17). This mark is a seal for the followers of Antichrist and the false prophet (the spokesperson for the Antichrist).
Believers who are overcomers are also mentioned in Revelation 7: 14: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They did not escape but rather had to endure the Great Tribulation.
Thirdly, do you believe Jesus would make it so difficult for us to understand end time events? As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3)? Would He make it so difficult for His children?
He has already spelled out clearly for us in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 but many refuse to believe that Matthew 24: 31 and Mark 13:27 refer to the rapture. They choose to believe that His second coming and rapture belong to a different timeline.
- “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31)
- “And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven” (Mark 13:27).
Rather than accept Jesus’ words at face value, some prefer to listen to great theologians’ arguments why the rapture has to be before the Great Tribulation.
Why is it important to have a right understanding that believers will have to go through the Great Tribulation? Is it merely an academic exercise?
Certainly not. A right understanding that believers will go through the Great Tribulation before we are raptured will motivate us to pull up our socks, spiritually speaking. We are less likely to be complacent. We will then humble ourselves and yearn to know God more intimately. Hopefully, our lives will become more circumspect, intentional and purposeful as we aspire to live out His calling for our lives. We will build ourselves up in the faith so that we are able to endure when the Great Tribulation descends upon us. Because only overcomers receive the prize.
So let us be watchful.
“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
The current atrocities happening in the Middle East make us cringe in fear and revulsion. But the suffering that awaits believers during the Great Tribulation is going to be far more horrendous and unimaginable.
The above article is of the opinion that there will be a post-tribulation, pre-wrath rapture for believers.
A popular teaching tells us that Christians will not have to go through the Great Tribulation because they will be raptured first. But is such a ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ view valid? Is it true to say Christians will be airlifted to safety before the Great Tribulation begins?
To live soberly and purposefully during these perilous end times, we need to arm ourselves with wisdom and discernment.
Sometimes, we don’t like to admit that trials are an integral part of the Christian experience as much as blessings and victories. However, the process of growing into maturity involves learning to persevere through trials and arriving at a place of unshakeable faith.
Spiritual decline is characteristic of the end times we are now living in. Will believers be affected by this turning away from the faith?
Does “feel good” teaching prepare believers to face trials?
FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY
“I am afraid too many today are being lulled into thinking that when things get really bad, we as believers will be suddenly snatched out of it all (“the great snatch,” the rapture is sometimes called). This is indeed poor preparation for what is yet to happen—and a serious misreading of the prophetic message.”
In China, the Christians were told, “Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated — raptured.” Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly, “We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes—to stand and not faint.”
OTHER RAPTURE REFERENCES
Passage hinting about ‘gathering’ and ‘separation’ of good and evil people
Next, we look into passages which hint of a gathering and separation of good and evil people—but no mention is made about its time relationship with respect to the Great Tribulation.
Jesus will gather the elect during the rapture before He brings judgment on those who are evil. In other words, there will be a separation. Jesus’ return in the clouds of heaven ushers in a day of reckoning—salvation of His people and judgment of the wicked.
Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:40-42)
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:41-43).
Other parallel passages on gathering and separation:
Parable of wheat and tares– Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
Parable of sheep and goats—Matthew 25: 31-33
Parable of dragnet—Matthew 13:47-52
Sickle used to reap–Revelation 14:14-20
Passage about rapture with special reference to putting on new bodies
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15: 51-53)
Post-tribulation rapture movie:
Source of Article : http://limpohann.blogspot.com/2014/09/rapture-revisited.html
ABOUT Author: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul
|Share The Good News|