I briefly attended a church once that believes we have to go through at least the first half of the Tribulation Period. I noticed that some of their doctrine began to take hold of me and I found myself getting depressed and stressed out about it. And then I would get convicted about not being willing to suffer for Christ. That led me to understand that one of the reasons the devil has planted this fallacy among believers is to rob them of their joy and freedom in Christ. I also believe it’s there to diminish one of the greatest evangelistic tools of all times: the sudden and eminent return of Christ in the air to Rapture his Church.
All this motivated me to revisit my own beliefs on the End Times, and especially my convictions about the pre-Tribulation Rapture. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I’m not so cemented into “non-essential” doctrines that I can’t be convinced otherwise. In my forty-six years of salvation, I’ve always believed in the “getting Home quicker” option, not just because it was more comfortable, but because I believe Scripture backed it up.
But now that my belief had been challenged, I’ve had to dig deeper. In doing so, I’ve discovered that my theology on the subject was at best, undeveloped and that if I was challenged to defend my position, I would be unprepared and would lose the debate. In re-examining the subject, I went straight to the most defining and understandable Scripture text on this: 2Thes. Chapter 2. The Thessalonian believers feared, because of all their present-day persecution, that the Day of the Lord, or the beginning of the Tribulation had already begun. The main purpose of Paul’s letter was to assure them that it hadn’t. He said, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first. The Greek word for “rebellion” is apostasia, which means, “departure.” I believe this word was specifically chosen by the Holy Spirit for its dual application, that is, as we near the Tribulation, where the world will increasingly become more wicked and suffer the birth pangs of the coming judgment, that many believers will depart from the faith. But I believe this “departure,” or another translation has it, “a quick snatching away,” is also describing the Church being snatched away to heaven by Jesus before the judgment of this world begins. Many have debated back and forth about the meaning of apostasia, as if it had to be one or the other. I believe it can mean both.
The second part of that verse says that the Day of the Lord, or the Tribulation Period, cannot begin until the anti-Christ, “the man of lawlessness is revealed.” And how will he make himself known? By brokering a seven-year peace treaty between Israel and her Arab enemies, which will signify the beginning of the seven years of Tribulation. So, in this one verse, Paul is saying that the Tribulation cannot begin until after a great falling away of believers, the Rapture of the Church, and until the antichrist is revealed. If all one had to go on was this single verse, properly interpreted, it would be sufficient to settle the matter.
But some believe, however, that the term, “that day,” refers to the day Christ returns for his own, not the beginning of the Tribulation, and so they mistakenly place the Rapture AFTER the anti-Christ is revealed, requiring the Church to go through at least part of the Tribulation. This argument falls flat because the New Testament definition for “that day” means the “day of God’s wrath,” not the day Christ returns for his Church.
In this same chapter, Paul goes on to say that this “mystery of lawlessness,” the works of the antichrist spirit, are already present in our world, “only he who now restrains it will do so until he is taken out of the way.” And who is this “restrainer” that holds back the full fury of the antichrist but the Holy Spirit that inhabits the Church. Once the Church is removed, the salt and light, Evil will have full reign to do its worst. So, the Day of the Lord cannot begin while the Church, the “restrainer,” is still here. I believe Satan also anticipates the Rapture of the Church, for he can’t take full dominion of the world until she is gone.
Paul writes further about the Rapture in 1 Cor.15:51: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” Now, this is going to get more in the weeds, but I’ll try to keep it simple. Many of those who believe in a mid-Tribulation Rapture, believe that this “last trumpet” is the same as the last trumpet judgment of Revelation 11. But these two trumpets are not the same. The main difference between them is that Paul’s “last trumpet” of the Rapture is announcing a gathering together of God’s people in preparation for a glorious departure, while the trumpet of Rev.11 is about God’s wrath and judgment.
According to Amir Tsarfati, a Messianic Jew, this truth about the trumpets is illustrated in the Jew’s exodus from Egypt and their desert wilderness experience. With three million people to manage and no modern means of communication, they used an assortment of different trumpet blasts to communicate their messages. This same idea is seen today when the conductor of a train sounds three short horn blasts to signify to the rest of his crew in the rear that he’s ready to pull out. When Moses wanted his leaders to assemble, he had a single trumpet blast sound. If he wanted all the people to gather, he had two trumpets sounded. Another set of blasts signified a warning of sudden danger. And, when it was time to break camp and move out, a final trumpet blast was sounded. Tsarfati believes this is the picture Paul had in mind when he wrote about the “last trumpet” of the Rapture in 1 Cor. 15.
Another inconsistency of the mid-Tribulation doctrine is in their belief that the first half of the Tribulation won’t be too bad, and only the second half will be what is called “The Great Tribulation” and the “great day of his wrath.” That doesn’t work either, because the first half of the Tribulation contains the seven seal judgments, which include severe worldwide famine, the killing of a fourth of mankind by pestilences, the sword, and wild beasts. Some believe these “wild beasts” to be the demonic giants of Old, the Nephilim, who will be released in the Tribulation and will cannibalistically hunt people down, especially “Purebloods,” those who haven’t taken the vaccines and so haven’t begun the process of “trans-humanizing.” One way or the other, this will be a time where multitudes will be martyred, many who will be beheaded for their faith in Christ. This doesn’t sound like a “not so bad three-and-a-half years” to me. But this also doesn’t work because the terms, “the great day of his wrath” and the “Great Tribulation,” appear in Revelation chapters six and seven, well before what they believe will be the mid-point of the Tribulation in Revelation 11.
The Church is absent from Rev.4 to Rev.19, not coincidently, the same time as the Tribulation Period. Then, after that time, the Church will return with Christ at the End of the Age, when he comes to defeat the antichrist and revenge the Gentiles for their treatment of Israel. Some have referred to Daniel 7:21 to prove that the church will be in the Tribulation, because it says, “As I looked, this horn [antichrist] made war with the saints and prevailed over them.” But the “saints” mentioned here are not the Church; these are those who converted to Christ during the Tribulation, possibly through the preaching of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. And how could the antichrist prevail against the church when Jesus said that the gates of hell will NEVER prevail against them?
Many of these same people also believe that the Church will be in the Tribulation because Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse, “But for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.” But the “elect” in this instance refers to Israel, not the Church, since they are the focus of this judgment in the first place. I’m not addressing the post-Tribulation believers, because that gets into “replacement theology,” believing that somehow the Church has replaced Israel, which is even more bizarre.
In Daniel 9:25, God gives Daniel a picture of the Last Days. He tells him that from the time the decree went forth from King Cyrus to rebuild the temple, God says that 70 weeks, 70 weeks of years, or 490 years are determined for his people (the Jews). Sixty-nine weeks, or four hundred and eighty-three years later, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and was crucified. From that time to the present, there’s been about a 2000-year gap, which is called the Church Age, which will end at the Rapture. So, where’s that 70th week? After the Church is removed, the time clock for Israel will be restarted to complete those last seven years, which is the Tribulation Period. Again, this final week of Daniel’s prophecy, the last seven years, is all about Israel, the Church has already been removed and is dressed in fine linen, pure and bright. These last seven years are called “Jacob’s Trouble,” not the “Bride’s Nightmare.”
Only a pre-Tribulation Rapture makes the rest of the Bible fit perfectly into place. To believe otherwise, you would have to torture other scriptures to make the pieces fit the puzzle. Rev.3:10 says, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole earth.” How can this be? Because Jesus took the wrath of God for us. To say that believers must endure years of the wrath of God is to say that Christ’s blood wasn’t sufficient enough to deliver us from it.
I’ve long believed that differences in “non-essential” doctrines shouldn’t separate genuine believers, and I still do. But when a church adopts a mid or post-Tribulation position and this comes over the pulpit, it creates a totally different spirit in the church. From what I’ve witnessed, many people in these churches, though sweet and strong believers have a heavy, depressive spirit, one of foreboding and doom. You can see it on their faces; they just want to be encouraged and built up, but instead, they’re reminded at every church service that they have to go through a Catholic-like purgatory for several years, where they’ll be hunted down like wild animals. I don’t think this is what Paul believed when he said to “encourage one another with these words as you see that day approaching.” Unless you have some bizarre need to participate in a spiritual version of the Hunger Games.