WHAT IS THE POST-TRIBULATION RAPTURE VIEW?
One of the most popular views with respect to the timing of the rapture of the church is known as Post-Tribulationism. The rapture takes place when Jesus returns to the earth after the great tribulation period. The church, which consists of both Jews and Gentiles, must therefore undergo the time of trouble which the rest of the people on earth experience. The church will suffer great persecution but will be more or less exempt from the wrath of God which strikes the inhabitants of the earth.
The rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Christ are seen as two parts of a single complex event. The rapture occurs as the Lord is descending from heaven, when Jesus meets the living saints in the air and together, they come to the earth.
Thus, the Post-Tribulation view is different from the Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Pre-Wrath view as there is no interval between the catching up of the church and the Second Coming. In fact, they are seen as one event.
Those who hold to the Post-Tribulation rapture position do not all share the same view as to what occurs after the Second Coming of Christ. Some believe there will be a literal thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth. They are also known as pre-millennialists because they believe the return of Christ will occur before a literal Millennium.
There are other Post-Tribulationists who do not believe that when Christ returns there will be a literal thousand-year time of peace and reign on the earth. They are known as Amillenialists. They believe the eternal state follows the return of Christ.
There is clearly no agreement among Post-Tribulationists as to whether the return of Jesus Christ will lead to the establishment of a literal thousand-year period of peace upon the earth, a literal Millennium.
In addition, there is no agreement as to what people will populate the kingdom when Christ returns. Will it be believers only, or will unbelievers also enter the kingdom? There is no consensus on this.
There is also a dispute over the types of bodies of those people who will enter the kingdom. Will they be human bodies, or glorified bodies, or both?
While this is not a problem for the Amillenialists who do not believe there will be a literal Millennium here upon the earth, the pre-millennialists who holds to a post-tribulation rapture do not have a satisfactory explanation as to who will populate the Millennium.
If there will be a literal thousand-year period of peace on earth when Jesus Christ returns, then someone has to populate the earth at that time. According to many promises in the Old Testament there will be both Jews and Gentiles living together during that period. These people live in the same type of bodies we have now; non-glorified human bodies.
Though the curse on the earth will be partially lifted, people will still sin, and they will one day die. They have not received glorified bodies like the believers who receive these bodies at the rapture of the church. There are a number of passages make it clear.
Indeed, the Bible says that at the end of the thousand years there will be rebellion against the Lord from many of those living on the earth.
“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore” (Revelation 20:7-8)
This certainly describes people in a non-glorified human body since a glorified body of the believer can neither sin nor can it die. Where do these unbelievers come from? They are the offspring of those who entered the thousand-year period as believers. They will make their own choice as to whether they will follow Jesus.
Thus, the various views cannot be combined to come to a consensus view of the Post-Tribulation rapture doctrine. While this does not make the doctrine untrue, it does cause one to hesitate in calling this position “the standard view of the church.”
We will state the main arguments which are usually given in support of Post-Tribulationism. As always, we will try to find the best evidence used by those who embrace this system.
- The Argument From History
The historical argument is often the first one listed by those who advocate Post-Tribulationism. Simply stated, it is claimed that the view of Post-Tribulationism has been the historic view of the church. The great majority of Bible commentators, no matter what denomination they belong to or theological system they hold, believed and taught that the church will not escape the great tribulation period. This is still true today.
It is wrong to label the Post-Tribulation rapture as the historic view of the church. There was no unanimity of opinion among believers with respect to the timing of the rapture. In church history, the issue is either ignored or dealt with in the most cursory of ways. Many of the statements made by church leaders of the past are contradictory.
Actually, there was no attempt to provide a systematic understanding of this issue until the nineteenth century. Thus, there is certainly no consensus of opinion on the matter.
- There Is Only One Coming Of Christ
Post-Tribulationism stresses that there is only one coming of Christ, not two. The rapture of the church occurs with Second Coming of Jesus Christ and this coming is after the great tribulation.
“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
They claim that there is not one passage of Scripture that clearly teaches two separate comings of Jesus Christ. Whenever the Bible speaks of the coming of Christ it is always speaking of the same event. Most of them contend that the burden of proof is on those who see two different comings. There is no need for them to prove there is only one coming.
Post-Tribulationism has never really given an adequate explanation as to why there is such an event as the rapture of the church. In their scenario, Christ takes the living and dead believers to meet Him in the air on His way down to the earth. It seems so unnecessary.
Why raise the dead at this time? They are certainly not in jeopardy from the battles being waged at Armageddon.
However, if the rapture of the saints has just happened then the separation of the sheep from the goats has already occurred! There would be no need to separate the saved from the lost because this has just been accomplished. Therefore, the rapture seems so unnecessary in the Post-Tribulational view of the coming of Christ.
- The Resurrection And The Return Of Christ
Another argument for the Post-Tribulation rapture has to do with passages which equate the resurrection of believers with the coming of Christ. The Bible often speaks of the resurrection and the return of the Lord in the same passage. In the Old Testament we read the following.
“But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise– let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy– your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer” (Isaiah 26:19-21).
We find Jesus doing the same thing. In the gospel of Matthew, He is recorded as saying the following about His return to the earth.
“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31).
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he said something similar. He stated that the transformation of our bodies will be at the coming of Jesus Christ.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20,21).
These passages seem to make it plain that the coming of the Lord occurs at the same time as the resurrection of the dead. To many, this is clear evidence of a Post-Tribulation rapture. Since Scripture says the dead are raised at the coming of Christ and this coming is after the great tribulation period then the rapture must occur after the great tribulation.
The Bible however, often mentions several events together which do not occur at the same time. In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of the two comings of Jesus Christ as one event. For example, the two comings of Christ are linked together in these two verses in Isaiah.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Two thousand years have already separated Jesus’ birth from His return to the earth. Since we find examples in Scripture of this type of telescoping of events we should not be surprised if we discover this to occur in passages dealing with the Lord’s return.
Consequently, it is possible that the events listed in a particular passage do not all happen at the same time. Therefore, the verses which seemingly place the resurrection of Christians at the time of the Second Coming of Christ can be understood in another way.
- The Resurrection Of The Righteous Is A Single Event
There are three passages which seem to prove that the resurrection of all of the righteous believers occurs at the same time. First, Daniel puts it this way.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:1-2).
Next we discover that Jesus Himself spoke of the “hour” of the resurrection when the believers would be raised together. He said.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29)
The righteous are raised first then the unbelievers are raised. The Book of Revelation says that the unbelieving dead were not raised until one thousand years after the righteous were raised. John wrote.
“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5).
If the rapture occurs any time before the Lord returns, as in the Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, or Pre-Wrath view, then what will happen to the people who become believers after the church is caught up to meet the Lord? There does not seem to be any time where they can be raised from the dead if they are martyred.
- The Same Greek Words Are Used To Describe
We also find that the same Greek words, parousia, epiphaneia and apokalupsis, which describe the rapture of the church, are also used in other contexts to describe the Second Coming of Christ. Since each of these three words describe both the rapture and the Second Coming the logical conclusion seems to be they are describing the same event. The burden of proof is on those who want to understand it otherwise.
The fact that the same Greek words are used to describe both comings is however irrelevant since we are not dealing with technical terms. In addition, since the rapture and the Second Coming whether, one event or not, are both considered to be the “coming” of the Lord, it is not surprising to find the same words describing both.
- There Is No Imminent Return Of Christ
Another formidable argument in favour of Post-Tribulationism is the seeming impossibility of the imminent return of Jesus Christ during the early years of the church. From the New Testament, we find that a number of events would have to take place before Christ could return. They include, but are not limited to, the following.
Jesus said that Peter must grow old and die. Consequently, the rapture of the church could not happen until the death of Peter. This would involve a period of time.
Jesus also said that the gospel must be preached to the entire world. Until the entire world was evangelized, it would not be possible for rapture of the church to occur.
The Apostle Paul said the Holy Spirit showed him that he must visit Rome. Thus, until Paul set his foot in Rome the rapture of the church could not take place.
This is just a sample of what the writers of Scripture predicted must occur in the future. Since these things had to take place, it was not possible for an imminent or any moment return of the Lord for the church. Therefore, it is folly to say that the rapture was looked upon as an “any moment” event for the early church.
In the New Testament there was however an expectation that Christ could come at any moment. We find no indication that believers were looking forward to persecution and tribulation before the coming of the Lord.
The believers were looking for Jesus Christ, not the final Antichrist. Paul wrote to the Philippians that he was eagerly awaiting the coming of the Savior.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
It is difficult to see how Paul can be earnestly awaiting the Savior if he first must experience the seven-year period of persecution, possible martyrdom and then the wrath of God poured out upon the earth.
Indeed, there is an “any moment” expectation of the return of Christ. This could not be true if the church had to go through the great tribulation period.
Careful students of Bible prophecy recognize that the seventieth week of Daniel starts with a signing or the confirming of an agreement between the coming leader of a revived Roman empire, known as the “man of sin,” and the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:27).
Exactly three and a half years into the seven-year agreement the pact with Israel is broken. Three and a half years later, Jesus Christ returns.
The problem with this scenario is that Jesus said nobody knows the day or hour of His return.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).
Yet it seems for those who insist that the rapture takes place at the same time as the Second Coming the day could be calculated. It would be exactly seven years from the time of the signing of the agreement or three and a half years after the treaty is broken. Thus, it contradicts the words of Jesus that nobody can know the day or hour of His coming.
- The Nature Of The Tribulation Itself Gives Evidence For A Post-Trib Rapture
There are those who teach that this present age in which we live is “the tribulation.” Thus, the church is already passing through tribulation.
Consequently, the “great tribulation” consists of the trials and persecutions which the church is experiencing during this present age. There was great persecution or tribulation for the early church and it has continued until today.
Others say this tribulation is not unique to this age. Indeed, they say it actually goes all the way back to Adam. Whether one accepts that the great tribulation goes all the way back to Adam or that it is unique to the church age, the end result is that the church will pass through the time of tribulation before Christ returns. While it may be more intense before the Lord returns, tribulation is occurring right now. If this is the correct definition of the great tribulation then any rapture of the saints will occur after the tribulation period or at the very least, during it.
However, there are other posttribulationists which see the great tribulation as a future time of trouble which will occur shortly before the return of Christ. They do not believe that this particular period has occurred as of yet. Most posttribulationists would hold to this position.
There is clearly no agreement as to the doctrine of the tribulation. Is it a future time of wrath or is this divine wrath going on right now? If it is going on right now, we may rightly ask when did is start? Was is at the beginning of the church age or does it go all the way back to Adam and Eve?
Post-tribulationists are divided over this. If the great tribulation is going on right now, then will there be an unprecedented time of trouble in the future?
There can be no meaningful discussion concerning the church going through the tribulation until there is some agreement on what is meant by the tribulation. Post-Tribulation does not give only one answer to this question.
- Believers Are Never Promised Escape From Tribulation
There is also the issue of believers escaping persecution and tribulation. The Scripture does not teach that Christians are immune to such things. In fact, Jesus said that Christians would face troubles.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The Apostle Paul made the same point. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).
Unfortunately, they confuse trials and tribulation, mainly as part of sanctification, with tribulation that relates to the wrath of God. Verses such as the following are ignored:
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
- There Are Believers On Earth During The Future Tribulation Period
They emphasize that God’s people can remain on earth while escaping His wrath. Scripture gives examples of God’s protection of His own in the midst of judgments. The children of Israel were protected from the various plagues which struck Egypt; they were not removed from the scene. Something similar will take place during the great tribulation. Thus, there is no need to remove them by means of the rapture.
Furthermore, every rapture theory acknowledges that there are believers, both Jews and Gentiles, on earth during this time before Jesus returns. Nobody denies that there will be believers during this time. The question to be answered is the “identity” of these believers. While those who hold to Post-Tribulationism contend it is the church, there are others who reject this idea. They believe the reference to saints during this period is to “tribulation saints.” These are people who have believed in Jesus Christ after the rapture has occurred.
By misidentifying these people, Post-Tribulationism assumes that the church will remain through the entire period of tribulation.
- The Wrath Of God Does Not Occur Until Late In The Seventieth Week Of Daniel
One of the central arguments of the Post-Tribulation rapture position concerns the wrath of God. They usually place the wrath of God at the very end of the tribulation. They do not see the wrath of God as being poured out at the beginning of the period as Pre-Tribulationists do.
Yet we find the wrath of God occurring at the very beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel. Indeed, with the opening of the first seal we read the following judgment.
“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest” (Revelation 6:1-2).
While this intensifies as the time of the Second Coming draws closer, it is wrong to say that it does not occur until the very end of this seven-year period. If the entire seventieth week of Daniel is a time of God’s wrath being poured out upon the earth, then we would expect the church to be removed during this specific period of judgment.
- Scripture Makes No Clear Distinction Between Israel And The Church
Most of the people who hold to the Post-Tribulation view do not keep the nation of Israel and the New Testament church as distinct entities. Rather they see the church as a continuation of Israel or the “new Israel” because Israel forfeited their promises of God by rejecting Jesus the Messiah. These promises now belong to the New Testament church.
In support of this idea, it is argued that during the great tribulation period we find both people from the nation of Israel as well as the church saints on the earth. Each of these groups is experiencing the sufferings of this unprecedented time.
Contrary to other views, they do not see the great tribulation as a time in which God mainly deals with the nation of Israel.
The nation of Israel was however specially selected by God to be the people through whom He would reach the world. When they rejected Jesus as their Messiah God temporarily set them aside. His work is now accomplished through the New Testament church which is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. While the nation Israel has been set aside, this will not be forever. During the time of the great tribulation, or the seventieth week of Daniel, God will again deal with the nation Israel.
The full last seven years are however a time when the Lord deals with Israel as a nation as He did during the Old Testament period. Indeed, the angel Gabriel made it clear that it was the future of Daniel’s people which was in view.
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city” (Daniel 9:24)
“Your people” is Israel while “your holy city” is Jerusalem. We are now in an interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel, the church age. Once the church age ends, then the Lord will again deal with Israel. This is crucial to understand.
Since God’s dealings will be mainly through Israel at this time, it is not necessary for the New Testament church, the Christians, to exist on the earth. This is why many believe the rapture will take place before the seventieth week of Daniel.
The Old Testament calls it the “time of Jacob’s trouble” or “distress for Jacob.” The following is recorded in the Book of Jeremiah.
“How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).
- The Last Trumpet Of First Corinthians Is The Same As The Last Trumpet In Revelation
There is also the argument about the timing of the trumpet. In First Corinthians we read about rapture occurring at the time of the “last trumpet.” Paul wrote.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
This last trumpet is defined in Revelation. John put it this way.
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)
Furthermore, the context in Revelation 11 indicates they are the same trumpet. Indeed, we find that this seventh trumpet takes place the time of the resurrection of the dead. We read.
“The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small–and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18)
Consequently, John is describing the same event which Paul wrote about in First Thessalonians 4 and First Corinthians 15; a Post-Tribulation rapture and a resurrection of the dead believers.
While the trumpet reference in First Corinthians is often equated with the last of the trumpet judgments in the Book of Revelation there are some problems with this view.
For one thing, the Book of Revelation had not even been written when Paul wrote to the Corinthians! Therefore, it seems unlikely that Paul’s audience would understand the last trumpet to be equated with future trumpet judgments which had not been revealed yet.
In addition, the trumpet blasts in Revelation are calls to judgment. The sound of the trumpet in Corinthians is a call to meet the Lord. Indeed, it is a joyful sound, not something to be dreaded. This trumpet signifies that the dead in Christ as well as the living believers will be given a glorified body. This allows them to enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.
To sum up, it appears that the Post-Tribulation position does not have adequate answers to all of the objections. While at first this theory may seem like the best way to understand the coming of Jesus Christ, the more one looks at the Scripture the less convincing the arguments become.
Therefore, for many who have looked deeply into the issue of the rapture of the church, the Post-Tribulation answer has not been convincing.
(Main Source: The Rapture – Don Stewart)