Main article: Preliminary Events in Prophecy
Related: The Great Tribulation
“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: 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.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17
The very next foretold event that the Bible says will occur is the Rapture. This stupendous event is described in 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16-17, 2 Thess. 2:1; and John 14:3. There are no “prophetic events” that we are waiting for before the rapture can occur. This is important because God would have us to live in the “any-moment” expectation of Christ’s return.
The true hope of the Church is the coming of Christ, not an event. The Church is so closely identified with Christ, and so closely linked to Him by the Spirit of God, that the Father has given Christ Himself to be the Church’s hope. This hope was lost for around 1700 years of the Church’s history. The Church lost the hope of the Lord’s coming, and began to look for death at the end of the pathway. The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25 traces this out. It wasn’t until the late 1820’s that the Spirit of God began working through various individuals and aroused the hearts of God’s people to hold afresh the hope of Christ’s return.
O blessed, coming Saviour!
Speak, then, the joyous word,
To which our hearts responding,
“For ever with the Lord.”
For ever with Thee, Saviour —
For evermore shall be —
In deepest, fullest blessing,
For ever one with Thee.
Will the Church go through the Tribulation? No. The Church will be taken out through the Rapture before the Tribulation begins. Here are three simple reasons why I believe the Church will not endure the Tribulation:
- The express statements of scripture. We read of the assembly in Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Rev. 3:10. Surely, the “hour of trial” refers to the judgments of the Tribulation period. The Church will be kept out of it. Then in 2 Thess. 2:1-12 we find that the Day of the Lord (Appearing) cannot come until the great apostasy takes place, and the Antichrist is revealed, and that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth! The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth until the Bride is raptured (Rev. 22:17). Therefore, the Church will not be on earth for the Tribulation! Finally, the we read in 1 Thess. 1:10 that Jesus has “delivered us from the wrath to come”, referring to the Tribulation judgments, and in 1 Thess. 5:9 that “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”.
- The absence of the Church in Tribulation Passages. The scriptures that deal with the Tribulation either state that the Church will be kept out of it (Rev. 3:10), or they connect the Tribulation with Israel (Jer. 30:4-7; Dan. 12:1), the Gentiles (Rev. 7:9), or the faithful Remnant of the Jews (Matt. 24:3-29). The book of Revelation is primarily a book of judgment which foretells the judgments that God will pour out upon the earth in the tribulation period. It is written to “the seven Churches of Asia”, in order that they should know what was coming on this world, and that the light of prophecy would have a moral effect on their conduct. The book is divided into three parts; “the things which thou hast seen” (Rev. 1), “the things that are” (Rev. 2-3), and “the things which shall be hereafter” (Rev. 4-22). Rev. 1-3 directly apply to the “churches”. Within the third section, the chapters that deal with judgment falling on the earth are ch.6-19… not once do we read of the Church on earth in those chapters! We see the same thing with Daniel’s seventy weeks; the Church was not on earth during the first 69 weeks, and neither will she be during the 70th week. She is only on earth in a parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks!
- The heavenly calling and hope of the Church as distinct from Israel. Believing that the Church will endure the tribulation comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about the Church, and how the Church is distinct from Israel. Israel was an earthly people, with an earthly calling, earthly hopes, and earthly blessings. The Church has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), heavenly hopes (1 Thess. 1:10), and heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3). By mixing up the Church and Israel (a fundamental error of Covenant Theology), and by confusing verses that apply to Israel with the Church, many well-meaning believers have come to the erroneous conclusion that the Church will endure the Tribulation judgments. We must see from books like Ephesians and Colossians that the Church is the unique companion of Christ, His body and His bride, whom He will have by His side for all eternity. The Tribulation judgments are the wrath of God. A man might punish his disobedient child, but it would not be fitting for him to discipline his bride! It is a totally different relationship. Apostate Israel is like a disobedient child. Apostate Christendom is like a immoral woman making false claims of relationship with Christ. They will be judged in the Tribulation… not the true Church of God.
The Rapture and Appearing distinguished. There are two parts to the second coming of Christ: the Rapture and the Appearing. The scripture often distinguishes them as:
The Rapture could take place at any moment; but the Appearing of Christ will not occur until at least 7 years after the Rapture. As Christians we are looking for both: “Looking for that blessed hope [the Rapture], and the glorious appearing [the Appearing] of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13
Changes after the Rapture. When the Lord’s coming occurs, all who do not know Him as their Saviour will be left behind on earth to enter the Tribulation period (Matt. 25:10-12). The “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) which promises justification from all things and membership in Christ’s body (the Church) for all who believe will no longer be preached (Titus 2:13). Instead, the gospel of the kingdom will be preached (Matt. 24:14) like in the days of John the Baptist.
Will there be a second chance to receive the gospel after the rapture? For those who reject the gospel of the grace of God, there will be no second chance. However, for those who do not have the opportunity to hear the clear gospel of the present dispensation, they will have an opportunity to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom, which we are told in Mark 16:15 will be preached “to every creature” in “all the world.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 makes it clear that those who “receive not the love of the truth” and “believed not the truth” but have “pleasure in unrighteousness” will never be saved. What will be the end of these ones? “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.” Even if they “made a big mistake” in not believing the Gospel, these ones are not going to repent after the Rapture. Instead they will be deceived by the lies of the Antichrist. But the delusion itself comes from God. God will judicially blind them to the obvious truth, and harden their hearts as He did Pharaoh’s so many years ago. Also, it says ALL. There won’t be any that change their minds after the rapture and repent. The Word of God doesn’t hold out any hope for future repentance for those who reject the gospel now. See also Luke 13:25-27 and Hebrews 2:3.