Growing up in the church, I was a strong believer in a Pre-Tribulation rapture of the church. As a teenager, I had seen all four of the movies in the Thief in the Night series: Thief in the Night (1972), A Distant Thunder (1978), Image of the Beast (1981), and The Prodigal Planet (1983), which were earlier versions of the same genre of film as the much more recent The Left Behind Series, and I was convinced, based on these movies and the teachings of the preachers in my denomination, that this is what the Bible teaches. However, when I got older and started studying the Bible for myself, I discovered that the biblical evidence for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is weak at best. Instead, the evidence points toward a Pre-Millennial Resurrection (“Rapture” is the English version of the Latin word “rapio,” or “catching away,” which describes what will happen at the time of the resurrection.)
Reason #1: Yeshua said He’s only coming back ONCE – NOT TWICE
Throughout Yeshua’s (Jesus’) teachings on His return, He consistently teaches that He is only coming back again ONCE – not twice. For example, in His parable of “the Wheat and the Tares” (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43), there is only ONE harvest, not two, and in this harvest, the TARES (the unbelievers) are removed FIRST, and then the wheat (the believers). This is the exact opposite order that is taught in the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory.” Also, in the parable of “the Dragnet” (Matthew 13:47-50), the net is only cast ONCE – not twice. And then the “good fish” and “bad fish” are then separated at the same time. Consequently, then, the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory” contradicts the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus).
In His Olivet discourse, when the disciples ask Yeshua (Jesus) about His return, He specifically tells them,
“Then they will deliver you up to TRIBULATION, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” (Matthew 24:9; emphasis added)
He does not teach that we would be spared from any tribulation, but just the opposite: we would be delivered “up to tribulation.” And then just twelve verses later, He says,
“for then there will be a GREAT TRIBULATION, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” (Matthew 24:21)
And during this time, we are still here, because He then warns us against believing all the false reports that shall arise about “Messiah/Christ” appearing in certain places. Again, if we are going to be removed before the “Great Tribulation” begins, then why was this warning needed? And then in another eight more verses, Yeshua (Jesus) says,
But IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and THEN the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky… (Matthew 24:29-30a)
Again, Yeshua (Jesus) makes it quite clear that His return will happen “AFTER THE TRIBULATION” – NOT BEFORE. Now if we compare the order of events that will happen as given in Matthew 24, they are in the same exact order as Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) gives in I Thessalonians 4, the key text used by most Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents:
Matthew 24:30 – 31
I Thessalonians 4:16-17
30. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
If we compare these two passages, we can see that in both of them, the Lord – the Son of Man – descends from heaven and appears in the sky, there is an angel with a trumpet, and the believers are gathered together from around the world. And in both passages, the order of events is exactly the same. Now just because Yeshua (Jesus) and Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) highlight different aspects of this event, it does not make these passages two different events, like the Pre–Tribulation adherents try to make them. Instead, they are, in fact, the same event.
But in Luke’s version of the same events, Yeshua (Jesus) ends His discussion by saying,
“But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
If Yeshua (Jesus) is going to remove us from the planet before these things happen, then why do we need to “pray to have strength to escape all these things”? And only by having the strength to endure all these things and still remain faithful to the Lord, to stand up for Him in the face of all the coming opposition, will we be able to “stand before the Son of Man” and not feel ashamed and guilty for our actions during our life.
Also, if the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory” was true, the separation of the sheep from the goats would partly happen BEFORE the Tribulation, and also DURING the Tribulation; however, Yeshua (Jesus) makes it quite clear in His discussion of the Judgment (Matthew 25: 31-46) that this separation will happen AFTER HIS RETURN. So again, we find the Pre-Tribulation position contradicting the clear teachings of Yeshua (Jesus).
REASON TWO: THERE WILL NOT BE ANY SECOND CHANCES
In the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory,” people are taught that after the believers in Messiah are raptured (or “caught up”) to meet Yeshua (Jesus) in the clouds, there will be a massive revival that will happen during the Tribulation period. This indicates then that God will give humanity “a second chance” to get saved. However, this contradicts the teaching of Yeshua (Jesus), for He taught there will NOT be any second chances.
For example, in the parable of “the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25: 1-13), the five virgins who were NOT prepared when the Bridegroom (Messiah) arrived did not get a second chance to enter into the Wedding Feast (God’s Kingdom). Instead, when the five foolish virgins come wanting to enter the Wedding Feast, He tells them, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12), and He does not let them in.
And another example of this is Yeshua‘s (Jesus’) comparison of His return with that of “the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26-27) and “the days of Lot” (Luke 17:28-30). In both examples, people were living their lives just like they usually did with no understanding of the destruction that was about to happen. Once Noah and his family entered the ark, the flood came and destroyed everyone. There was no second chances for anyone to get on the ark. And also once Lot and his family was removed from Sodom, then God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and again, there was no second chances for anyone to escape. Therefore, the message of “the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory” that there will be a second chance for people to believe after the Pre-Trib Rapture is a direct contradiction to the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus).
REASON #3: THERE ARE ONLY THREE RESURRECTIONS MENTIONED IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
In the book of Revelation, we find only three resurrections mentioned.
THE TWO WITNESSES:
The first one is the resurrection of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:1-14). These two witnesses will be ministering during the time of the tribulation for 1260 days (Revelation 11:3), and they will be killed by the Beast (Revelation 11:7), their dead bodies will be left in the streets of Jerusalem for three-and-a-half days (Revelation 11:8-9), while the world parties that they are finally dead (Revelation 11:10), but then after the three-and-a-half days, God will resurrect them and take them into heaven (Revelation 11:11-12).
THE FIRST RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS
In Revelation 20, we read,
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they CAME TO LIFE and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is THE FIRST RESURRECTION. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in THE FIRST RESURRECTION, over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6)
So here we find the discussion of the other two resurrections. There will be a Pre-Millennial resurrection for all believers, including those believers who endured and went through the tribulation period. It is clearly stated here that the resurrection that happens at the Lord’s Second Coming is, in fact, the FIRST RESURRECTION.
THE SECOND RESURRECTION FOR EVERYONE ELSE
And then in this same passage, we are told that there will be a Post-Millennial resurrection for everyone else, and this will be for the purpose of them being judged at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), which will determine their eternal state, since it will probably also include those people who have died during the Millennium.
THE FALLACY OF “THE RAPTURE IS NOT A RESURRECTION” THEORY?
Now seeing this is clearly taught here in the book of Revelation, the Pre-Trib Rapture theorists try to argue that the “rapture” and the “resurrection” are actually two different events. However, they try to build their case on pure semantics. Just because they call them by two different names does not mean that they are two different events. If the dead come back to life, then that is a resurrection, no matter what other name you try to apply to it. And the Scripture is clear here in the book of Revelation that the FIRST RESURRECTION will include people who have been martyred for their faith in Christ during the time period of the GREAT TRIBULATION since the reason they will be killed is for refusing to accept the Mark or for refusing to worship the Beast or his image.
REASON #4: THE EARLY BELIEVERS TAUGHT A PRE-MILLENNIAL RAPTURE
In one of the very early teachings of Christianity outside of the New Testament, called the DIDACHE (pron. “did-uh-kay“), or “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles,” which is dated between 75 – 150 A.D., it ends with their view of the endtimes. This means at its earliest, it was possibly written at about the same time period that some of the New Testament was still being written, or as late as about fifty years afterwards. But in this, I am not arguing that this book was divinely inspired, but it does tell us what the early Christians thought about how things would end. In this writing, it ends by saying,
(3) For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate. (4) For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another.” (Didache 16:3-4; J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer’s The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., p. 158)
We can see these things going on in our country and world right now. I think it is really interesting that it specifies that at this time, “the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.” And what is “a wolf” in the Bible? It is someone who disobeys God’s commandments and causes harm to others. And God teaches us in His Word that the way we show “love” to God is by “keeping His commandments.” For over the past 45 years that I can remember, we have been hearing ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists teach on television about how God’s law is “legalism” and “bondage,” and therefore, there are many people who have been convinced by these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that obedience to God’s law is not possible, which is not true at all. Obedience to the commandments does not make one perfect, just obedient.
Then the Didache continues by saying,
“And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before. (5) Then all humankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish; but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself [a reference to Christ, Galatians 3:13]. (6) And then there will appear the signs” of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead – (7) but not all, rather, as it has been said, “The Lord will come, and all his saints with him” [Zech. 14:5; I Thess. 3:13]. Then the world “will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (Didache 16:4b-7; J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer’s The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., p. 158)
As we can see here in this passage, the Anti-Christ, “the deceiver of the world,” is going to appear to the world as “a son of God,” and he is going to “perform sign and wonders,” but at the same time, he is going to “commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.” Notice that it will be then, at that point, when “ALL HUMANKIND” will come to “the fiery test” (a reference to the Mark?), and “many will fall away” and perish; but it will be “those who endure in their faith who will be saved by Christ” at His coming.
Also notice it then talks about “the signs of the truth.” They are the same events discussed by Yeshua (Jesus) and by Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), and they verify the fact that these early believers saw them as the exact, same event:
(1) the sign of an opening in heaven;
(2) the sign of the sounding of the trumpet; and
(3) the sign of the resurrection of the dead.
And these three events are in the same exact order as the Bible describes in Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4, and they are events that will happen at the time of the Second Coming – NOT in a Pre-Tribulation “secret coming” of the Lord.
REASON #5: THE EARLY CHRISTIANS LOOKED FORWARD TO THE SECOND COMING AND THE RESURRECTION – NOT A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE
In another one of the earliest Christian writings, called I Clement, or “The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians,” which according to J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, the translators of the writings of The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., I Clement was written in “Rome around the time that John was composing the book of Revelation on the island of Patmos,” about the years 95-96 A.D.
What many Christians today do not know about I Clement and II Clement is that these two pieces were held in “high regard.” In fact, according to introduction to I Clement,
“It was quoted frequently, and Clement of Alexandria cites it as Scripture. It was even made part of some copies of the New Testament. In the important biblical manuscript known as Codex Alexandrinus (copied in the fifth c.) I Clement (together with 2 Clement) stands immediately after the book of Revelation, and in a Syrian manuscript of the New Testament dating from the twelfth century the two letters are found right after the catholic Epistles (which is how I Clement is explicitly described) and before the Pauline letters. The late fourth-century Syrian work, the Apostolic Canons, lists both I and 2 Clement as part of the New Testament,…” (26).
Obviously, if many Early Christians saw I Clement and 2 Clement as Scripture, then what they say should carry some weight in regard to this issue. There was no discussion, however, why these two writings are not part of our Bibles today. In I Clement, we are told that the believers were looking towards the coming “RESURRECTION” – not a Pre-Tribulation Rapture:
“How, then, can we consider it to be some great and marvelous thing, if the Creator of the universe shall bring about the RESURRECTION of those who have served him in holiness, in the assurance of born of a good faith, when he shows us…the magnificence of his promise?” (I Clement 26:1)
Here we can see that the focus is on the “RESURRECTION” – not on a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Also, note that according to I Clement, it will not be everyone who will everyone who claims to be a “Christian” who will experience the resurrection, but only those “who have served him [Messiah] in holiness, [and] in the assurance of born of a good faith.” If these early believers were eagerly awaiting the “resurrection,” which the Bible clearly teaches will be a Pre-Millennial event, then obviously, they did not know about ot believe in a “secret return” prior to the 7-year Tribulation period.
Also, in 2 Clement, which was actually a sermon that was preached to the believers in the church at Rome, tells us about the Second Coming and them being “gathered together with Him:”
“…but let us come here more frequently and strive to advance in the commandments of the Lord, in order that all of us, being of one mind, may be gathered together into life. (4) For the Lord said, ‘I am coming to gather together all the nations, tribes, and languages.’ Now by this he means THE DAY OF HIS APPEARING, when he will come and redeem us, each according to his deeds. (5) And the unbelievers “will see his glory” and might, and they will be astonished when they see that the kingdom of the world belongs to Jesus,…” (2 Clement 17:3b-5a; emphasis added)
Again, as we can see from this portion of this early Christian sermon, we shall receive our redemption at the Lord’s Second Coming when He will come for all believers, and it will be a time when ALL will see Him. This is not a “secret” coming, but one that will be very public when all will see Him in His glory.
Therefore, based on the above evidence of Scripture and the early teachings of the church, I do not believe any longer in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, but instead, in a Pre-Millennial Resurrection that will happen when the Lord returns at His Second Coming.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
It is important because knowing that we will be here for the coming tribulation period means that we need to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for the coming hard days ahead. We need to get into the Word and memorize what we can since there is a good chance that the government will attempt to take our Bibles away from us, which California already tried to do, and we need to get serious about our relationship with the Lord, especially our prayer life, so that we will have the strength to stand. It is better to plan for the worst, while hoping for the best, then to not plan for the worst at all, and be left unprepared for the devastation and persecution that we will need to face.
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