"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (Jesus’s prayer John 17:15).
The above prayer of the Lord Jesus could not be clearer and yet some theologians came along in the 1800s and created a false doctrine that is completely opposite of our Lord's prayer in John 17:15. It is the teaching of a pre-tribulation, pre-Antichrist, pre-mark of the Beast rapture of the church to heaven. It sounds nice and is very pleasing to the flesh, but undermines God's purposes for His end-time church. It has created a people who are not prepared to face persecution and the difficult times ahead. It has also robbed a sense of urgency for believers to get themselves ready to give answers to the unsaved during the darkest time in human history. True Christians should want to be here as long as possible in order to win as many to Jesus Christ as possible. This was Paul's conclusion as well when he wrote, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you" (Philippians 1:23-24).
Don't misunderstand what I am saying here. I do believe there will be a rapture or catching away of the true church and I do believe that the rapture and coming of Jesus Christ at Armageddon are two separate events. However, according to what the Apostles Paul & John wrote in the Scriptures, those two events happen on the SAME DAY at the END of the Great Tribulation NOT BEFORE! How do I know this? I know this because this is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 24 and John 6. Three times in John 6, the Lord Jesus Christ stated that the resurrection of the righteous will be "...AT THE LAST DAY". He didn't say "the last days" or "before the last days" no... He said, "...THE LAST DAY." "And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at THE LAST DAY" (John 6:40). the Apostle Paul wrote that the rapture/resurrection would happen "AT THE LAST TRUMP" and AFTER the Antichrist revealed himself in the rebuilt Jewish Temple (1 Cor. 15:51-53 & 2 Thess. 2).
The idea that "Jesus could at any moment" in a surprise rapture has NEVER been correct teaching. Paul made this clear in 2 Thessalonians 2. Paul stated (by the Holy Ghost) that the coming of Jesus and OUR GATHERING together unto Him WOULD NOT happen until the falling away and the Man of Sin i.e. the Antichrist would reveal himself. So according to Scripture, Paul taught that Jesus could not come at any moment!
"Now we beseech you, brethren by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by OUR GATHERING TOGETHER unto HIM" (2 Thess. 2:1 KJV)...."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; (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV).
Paul then goes on to tell us how the man of sin i.e. The Antichrist will reveal himself. It is when he steps into the rebuilt Jewish Temple and declare himself to be God. In other words, the rapture will NOT happen until sometime AFTER the Antichrist steps into the Jewish Temple and takes over. And Rev. 13 and Daniel 9 puts that event at the midpoint of the last seven years. In addition to those references, we have the Lord Jesus in His end-time outline in Matthew 24 also showing us that the rapture will happen 1) AFTER the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place (the Antichrist in the temple like Paul taught) and 2) "immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days."
This post-tribulation and post-Antichrist rapture truth was also confirmed by the Apostle John in Revelation 20 when he saw those Christians who died for resisting the MARK of the BEAST being in the "FIRST RESURRECTION." And let's remember that Jesus, Daniel and John taught that there would be only TWO MASS RESURRECTIONS in the last days (See Daniel 12, John 5, and Rev. 20).
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the BEAST, neither his image, neither had received his MARK upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the FIRST RESURRECTION. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6 KJV).
So, if the FIRST resurrection contains the righteous believers who resisted the mark of the Beast, then how could the rapture (the first resurrection) take place before the Antichrist comes to power and issues the mark? The answer is simple: There is not a resurrection/rapture before the first one! Thus, there is not a pre-tribulation, pre-Antichrist, pre-Mark of the Beast rapture.
The Chronological End-Time Outline of Jesus
As I mentioned, the teaching of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 24 is the foundation for all of the above passages from the apostles. They did contradict the teaching of Jesus concerning the timing of the rapture in the sequence of end-time events. In Matthew 24:1-32, the Lord Jesus gave a chronological breakdown of the signs of His coming and the end of the age. We know it is chronological because the Lord mentions wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and says these are the BEGINNING of sorrows. He then proceeds to use the word "then" which means "after this" as He goes through the chapter. By verse 15, the Lord Jesus gives the sign of when we "...see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place." This is a direct reference to the final Antichrist entering the third Jewish temple at the midpoint of the last seven years and declaring himself to be God. But still the Lord Jesus has not mentioned the rapture of His church.
In verse 21, the Lord shows how the "abomination of desolation" kicks off a time of great tribulation (the last 3 1/2 years). The Lord goes on to mention the rise of false christs and false prophets doing great signs and wonders. We know this Revelation 13 shows the false prophet who works with the Beast doing demonic miracles to deceive the world. And Revelation 13 pinpoints the timing of the start those things as when the Beast has "42 months to continue" or 3 1/2 years. And yet, there is still not any mention of the rapture from Jesus.
It is not until come to verses 29-32 that Jesus tells us EXACTLY the rapture takes place in sequence of end-time events. Jesus said, "Immediately AFTER the TRIBULATION of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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 (Matthew 24:29-31 KJV).
So, Jesus made it clear that the worldwide gathering of His people (the elect) by the sound of a trumpet would take place immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days not BEFORE. And the term "elect" refers to the church over and over in the New Testament. In fact, all but two uses of term elect refers to the church while one refers to Jesus and another to the angels. So, the assertion that Matthew 24 is only for the Jews is a ridiculous false teaching.
Bad Hermeneutics & False Assumptions
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Isaiah 28:9-10).
One of the first rules of "rightly dividing the word of truth" is that a Bible doctrine is not built on one verse or passage alone. We are to search out all the Bible passages on any particular subject and put them together precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little and there a little; to get the complete picture of what God is saying about any issue. They must harmonize.
One of the biggest errors of Biblical interpretation is taking one or two verses while ignoring other passages. We cannot build doctrines on passages that are somewhat vague or lack details and ignore the passages on that subject that do give the details. This tendency usually comes from preconceived or pre-programmed doctrines or bias. This error is also compounded by ignoring many other Bible passages that GIVE THE CLEAR DETAILS of a doctrinal issue. I see this played out all the time when it comes to the false teachings of the pre-tribulation rapture, once saved, always saves no matter what, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and tongues, the lie that a Christian cannot have a demon, and Biblical cosmology just to name a few. To discern true Bible doctrine on any issue, we must look at all the passages without adding to or taking from what the Bible says.
This is the case with the passage in Luke 21:36 that mentions the word "escape." Even though the passage doesn't say anything specifically about the timing of the rapture/resurrection of the church in the last seven years, pre-tribbers are quick to assume that Luke 21:36 is talking about a pre-tribulation rapture. The problem is that to do that they must ignore all the other passages in the Bible that are VERY SPECIFIC about the timing of the rapture in last seven years. And once you look at ALL the passages that are specific about the timing of the rapture then you can put Luke 21:36 into its proper context.
The pre-tribulation rapture is doctrine has been built on wishful assumptions, isolated/out-of-context passages, bad hermeneutics, Jewish traditions and ignoring passages that clearly prove it wrong. One example of this bad theology is the assertion that Revelation 4:1-2 is the rapture of the church when the verse has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rapture! It is simply, God taking the Apostle John into heaven to give him the book of Revelation. Here's the passage: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne." Nevertheless, the proponents of the pre-tribulation rapture have turned this passage into one of their main "proof text" by adding another lie that the church is not mentioned after Revelation 3. However, the terms "saints", "the Bride", and those who have the testimony and faith of Jesus Christ are used after Revelation 3.
Another passage used incorrectly as a proof text for a pre-tribulation rapture is Revelation 3:10. Speaking to one of the seven churches, Jesus says this, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will KEEP thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." And though this verse may sound like it is referring to a pre-tribulation rapture, all we have to do is look up what the word "KEEP" in the Strong's Greek Dictionary to know exactly what Jesus means. It is the word means to guard by keeping the eye upon and to preserve. So, Revelation 3:10 is not a proof text for a pre-trib rapture. "Kept from" does not mean "to take out" in the original Greek. It means "to guard or protect." And this is exactly what God did for His people that remained in Egypt while He was judging Egypt with the terrible plagues of His wrath.
Furthermore, this same problem of assuming things and creating theological positions out of thin air is also seen in the pre-trib rapture folks trying to use the examples of Noah going into the Ark and Lot being dragged out of Sodom as "proof text." However, if we look at what actually happened in both of those accounts, neither Noah or Lot left the earth. They were not taken to heaven while God judged the earth. Instead, we see God protecting them as He judged the wicked. This is consistent with the correct definitions of "keep" in Revelation 3:10 and what God did for His people in Egypt as He poured out His wrath on Egypt.
The Great DAY of God’s Wrath
Another false assumption of the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is that the ENTIRE last seven years is God's wrath and they seem to think that God cannot judge the wicked unless we are removed. Do think God might accidentally drop a hail stone on one of His children? But just a quick glance at the Seven Vials of Wrath shows that they do not happen to the true followers of Jesus Christ. For instance, the first plague is poured out on those who took the mark of the Beast. They break out in grievous sores. The second and third plagues are when the sea and rivers become blood. This is the same type judgment that happened in Egypt while God's people were still there and they survived. The fourth plague is heat from the sun scorching men who blaspheme and refuse to repent. That doesn't sound like Christians to me. The fifth plague of God's wrath is darkness on the seat or headquarters of the Antichrist so that one doesn't affect believers either.
The great day of God's wrath or His indignation is just that..it is the final day of the Great Tribulation. It is the DAY of the 7th Seal, the 7th Trumpet, and the 7th Vial. It is the DAY that ALL the islands disappear and ALL the mountains fall. It is the DAY that ALL the cities of the nations FALL. It is the DAY of the earth's greatest earthquake. It is also the DAY that God rains down huge hailstones on mankind as He comes to fight at Armageddon. But it starts with 30 minutes of silence in heaven and that is when the rapture takes place: just prior to the battle of Armageddon.
As Paul stated, we are raptured at the last trumpet or the seventh trumpet in "moment in a twinkling of an eye" or in a micro-second. But once you compare the Seventh Trumpet and the Seventh Vial of Wrath, you see that they happen at the same time and describe the same events. Here is what happens at the 7th Vial of Wrath as Jesus descends to fight at Armageddon:
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, IT IS DONE. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a GREAT EARTHQUAKE, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the CITIES OF THE NATIONS FELL: and GREAT BABYLON came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And EVERY island fled away, and the mountains WERE NOT FOUND. And there fell upon men a GREAT HAIL out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great" (Revelation 16:15-21).
The uncanny similarities between the Seventh Trumpet and the Seventh Vial of Wrath are because they happen at the SAME TIME. But in the passage about the 7th Trumpet we see John say that the "time of the dead" has come and the time to "give reward" to God's servants. This is a direct reference to the resurrection of dead saints i.e. the rapture and the judgment seat of Christ where He judges His people.
Revelation 11:15-19, "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and THY WRATH IS COME, and THE TIME OF THE DEAD, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest GIVE REWARD unto THY SERVANTS the prophets, and to the SAINTS, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and (on the same day) shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, (the same thing said in Rev. 16:18) and an EARTHQUAKE, and GREAT HAIL (also stated in Rev. 16:21).
Then, when you take out Revelation 17-18 as those chapters are just identifying Mystery Babylon and it's final judgment as a parenthetical statement, we can move from Rev. 16 straight to Rev. 19 for the continuation of the story:
“And after these things (the 7th Trumpet and the 7th Vial) I heard a great voice of MUCH PEOPLE IN HEAVEN (the raptured church), saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore (John sees this great multitude in heaven AFTER the judgment of the Great Whore at the end), which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever” (Revelation 19:1-3).
It is AFTER the judgment of the Great Whore at the 7th Vial (which is also the time of the last trumpet) that we see the Bride adorned in white which is the judgment seat of Christ. Again, this takes place at the 7th Trumpet and the 7th Vial which is the END of the Great Tribulation. This is the bride's time of being hidden on this day of wrath as great hail stones fall and earthquakes cause ALL the cities of the nations to fall. This is when the Bride gets ready to accompany Jesus at the battle of Armageddon at the end of that final day. So whereas Isaiah mentions the rapture, Revelation 11, 16, 19 and Matthew 24 pinpoint WHEN it happens in relation to the last seven years and the final day of the great indignation of God.