The Rapture Debate
Israel has a very important role to play in the end-times events of this present age, and these events culminate during a final seven-year period, the 70th week of Daniels prophecy, that was given concerning the Jews and Jerusalem. After these seven years have been fulfilled then the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur and the earth will experience the millennial period, one thousand years of peace and prosperity under the authority of the Messiah, who will reign from the city of Jerusalem and from Mount Zion.
With these facts understood, there still exists a disagreement among scholars as to when exactly the rapture will occur. The traditional view is that believers will be caught up to heaven when Jesus returns at His Second Coming. The view that the rapture occurs on the very same day as the Second Coming is known as the "Post-Tribulation Rapture," because it contends that believers can expect to be raptured after the end-times tribulation period has ended. However, this view is complicated by a number of problems:
1) The rapture occurs for the purpose of taking the Church to heaven, as shown in John 14:1-3, yet the Bible is clear that Jesus and the saints will be living on the earth after the Second Coming. For how long, if ever, will believers realize the promise that they will live in heaven with Jesus and God the Father?
2) The rapture is described as a day that will come unannounced and unexpected. It is the Unknown Day, yet the day of the Second Coming will occur precisely at the end of the 70th Week, exactly 1260 days, or forty-two months, after the image of the Antichrist is set up in the Temple. This is the Known Day, and the wicked anticipate it by gathering their armies to face Jesus at Armageddon. Can the Known Day be the very same day as the Unknown Day?
3) The Bible contains many promises to be kept from the "hour of trial," to be shielded and rescued from Gods wrath and to escape "all that is about to happen." How can these promises lead to a conclusion that Gods believers will experience all of the terrible events of Revelation and then caught up to heaven after the tribulation is already over?
These are but a few of the points that have made it clear to a great many Bible scholars that the day of the rapture of Gods saints to heaven is a day that is separate from the day of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. There is no logical way to maintain that they occur on the very same day. This understanding led to the creation of a prophetic view that is referred to most often as the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture," because it maintains the belief that the rapture will occur prior to the great end-times tribulation period.
Over the years the debate has continued between those defending the traditional view versus those arguing for the logical view. Out of this debate another theory was developed, known as the "Pre-Wrath Rapture," which attempts to reconcile the two views. Its proponents argue that believers will experience the majority of the end-times tribulation upon the earth, but that they will then be raptured to heaven prior to the alleged beginning of the most intense portion of it, during which, it is believed, the majority of the judgments of Revelation will be given.
These three views will be examined in this chapter:
1- The Post-Tribulation Rapture
2- The Pre-Tribulation Rapture
3- The Pre-Wrath Rapture
All of these views will be compared to the new prophetic model that is put forward in this book, referred to as "The Red Moon Rapture."
This chapter will be a highly technical and academic examination of the different views that exist regarding the precise timing of the rapture. It is not meant to be an easy read and should not be considered essential for those who are new to the study of prophecy. It is included for the more advanced students of prophecy who know how important it is to examine every new view that comes up. The finer points of the prophetic scriptures are like the scattered pieces of a puzzle. All of them must fit together and each interpretation must complement the rest. There are no contradictions within the predictions given by Gods prophets.
I. The "Post-Tribulation Rapture" Prophetic Model
The post-trib model maintains the position that the rapture will occur at the end of the tribulation, after the seals, trumpets and bowls of Revelation have all been fulfilled. It holds that the Second Coming of Jesus includes the rapture of the saints into the clouds and that both events occur on the very same day. Furthermore, it puts forth the viewpoint that the Day of the Lord is in fact a literal day of only twenty-four hours during which the wicked upon the earth will all be destroyed. Below is the chart detailing this model.
There are a number of problems, both theological and chronological, as well as simply common-sense logical, with this prophetic viewpoint, but in the interest of brevity only a few of the post-trib positions will be examined.
1. The Sequence of the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls of Revelation
The post-trib position is forced to conclude that the seals, trumpets and bowls as listed in the book of Revelation will all be fulfilled in a random sequence during the end-times tribulation. Revelation puts forth a very precise, chronological sequence for these judgments but the post-trib position believes that the simple sequence of Revelation cannot be trusted and that the judgments will be fulfilled simultaneously and in a scrambled order. Even though this viewpoint goes against the literal interpretation of prophecy post-trib scholars are able to muster a fair amount of Biblical support for this belief.
The post-trib position argues that each judgment sequence ends at the end of the tribulation and bases this conclusion on the fact that the seventh of each series contains very similar events. The seventh seal brings forth "voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake." The seventh trumpet brings forth "lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." And the seventh bowl brings forth "voices, and thunders, and lightnings," "a great earthquake," and a plague of hailstones.
Furthermore, each judgment sequence also contains within it a plague of darkness prior to the seventh of each series. At the sixth seal the sun is darkened, at the fourth trumpet one third of the lights in the heavens are darkened, and at the fifth bowl the beasts kingdom becomes "full of darkness." The usual post-trib position is that these separate descriptions of darkness are all descriptions of the very same darkness.
The Olivet Discourse is also used and Jesus description of the Second Coming is considered by the post-trib position to be reflected within the sixth seal. Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 24:29-31,
"Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."
Here is the sixth seal of Revelation 6:12-17,
"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
Again we have very similar signs. The post-trib position maintains that the sixth seal shows the Second Coming when Jesus will appear in the heavens in plain sight of everyone, thus causing the wicked to flee in terror.
These are all very provocative interpretations, but the similarities are based on superficialities and the conclusions are faulty. The signs of each seventh judgment are similar, but they are not the same. The seventh seal brings forth an earthquake, as does the seventh trumpet, but the seventh bowl causes an earthquake that is very specifically described as the greatest earthquake that the world has ever seen. It is unique and separate from the others. One of the other results of the seventh seal is that the seven angels who blow the seven trumpets are brought forth. The seventh seal initiates the seven trumpets, and therefore the seventh seal could not be the same event as the seventh trumpet.
The plagues of darkness may be similar, but again they cannot be separate descriptions of the same event. The darkness of the sixth seal includes the sign of a blood red moon, whereas the darkness described at the fifth bowl is a complete and total darkness of every light source in the heavens. At this time the moon will not give any light, be it yellow, red or subdued. When Jesus described the darkness prior to the Second Coming He was referring to the complete darkness of the fifth bowl at the end of the tribulation, and He quoted from Isaiah 13:10 which confirms a complete and total darkness. The sixth seal darkness is different than the fifth bowl darkness, and both are distinct from the fourth trumpet darkness, which comes as a result of the astro-physical bombardment of the earth that is associated with the four angels who harm the land and the sea (Revelation 7:2). The fourth trumpet is different because it is only a partial darkness, affecting only one-third of the natural light sources.
The sixth seal represents the beginning of the tribulation and not the very end as maintained by the post-trib viewpoint. It represents the initial outpouring of Gods wrath and mankinds reaction to it, as well as their reaction to the profoundly spiritual effects that will come on this terrifying day that will begin with the rapture. When the people of the earth flee to the mountains they are not reacting to a visible Jesus Christ appearing in the sky, rather they are reacting to the catastrophic shaking of the heavens and the earth that will occur. They will realize within their hearts that God Almighty has acted and they will understand the terrible state of their own souls. They will cry out to be hidden from God the Father, who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of God the Son, who is the Lamb, but their cries will not be because of what they are seeing but because of what they are feeling. They will be so deeply affected that they will think that it is the end of the world! They will ask to be hidden from God the Father who sits on the throne, but they do not actually see Him. Timothy 6:16 records that He is the unapproachable One, and their cries and actions must be understood as motivated by their fears that they might soon be forced to see Him, rather than because the Second Coming has or is occurring.
The simultaneous view of the seals, trumpets and bowls is essential in the defense of the post-trib rapture position, but it creates many more problems than it attempts to answer and it goes against the literal and simplistic interpretation of prophecy. Revelation offers a sequential view of the seals, trumpets and bowls and that is the understanding that should be maintained, even though it shatters the post-trib rapture conclusion.
2. The Length of the Day of the Lord
The post-trib position agrees with the pre-trib position that believers will not have to endure the terrible period of judgment of the Day of the Lord. The post-trib view is unique, however, in that rather than viewing the Day of the Lord as encompassing the entire 70th Week of Daniel it maintains that the Day of the Lord will be an actual day of no more than twenty-four hours that will come at the Second Coming immediately after the alleged post-trib rapture. All of the Old Testament descriptions of the great and terrible Day of the Lords wrath and judgment are believed to fall within this one single day. This view is maintained despite the fact that there are at least two prophecies that indicate that the Day of the Lord must last for at least a number of years.
The first is found in Zechariah 14:1-3,
"Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle."
According to Zechariah, the attack on Jerusalem made by a coalition of forces including "all nations" will take place within the Day of the Lord. The result of this attack will be the capture of Jerusalem and the captivity of half of the residents. After this occurs then some time later Jesus will return to fight the battle of Armageddon. The attack on Jerusalem will be directed by the Antichrist, who will be the king of the New World Order that will include every nation on earth. Daniel 11:40-45 alludes to the attack on Jerusalem as well,
"[The Antichrist] will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land [Israel]. Many countries will fall He will extend his power over many countries He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him."
The beautiful holy mountain is Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and Daniel says that he will pitch his tent there. The Antichrists multinational armies must capture Jerusalem before he can establish himself there, and this capture coincides with the midpoint of the 70th Week when the Jews are evicted from their Temple and the sacrifices are stopped, replaced with the image of the Antichrist in the holy place of the Temple. Revelation 11:2 states that from this point until the Second Coming the city will be trampled on by the Gentiles. There will not be a multinational invasion of Israel after the midpoint of the 70th Week, which marks the time when the Antichrist takes over with his multinational force. No army, aside from Jesus Christ, will ever evict the Antichrist from Jerusalem once he has taken control.
The Day of the Lord includes the events of the midpoint of the 70th Week, and therefore must be a period of judgment beginning prior to this time and lasting for longer than three and a half years and much longer than a single twenty-four hour period.
A second prophecy that indicates that the Day of the Lord will last for a number of years is given by the prophet Joel. He gave a prediction of the terrible invasion that comes as a result of the sixth trumpet of Revelation, which is described as a massive invasion of demons that appear as horses, breathe smoke and fire and kill one-third of mankind. The description of this invasion as found in Joel 2:1-11 is very similar to the description in Revelation 9:13-19. The important point to note, however, is that this invasion is prefaced by the words, "... the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand," and it concludes with the words, "... the day of the Lord is great and terrible, and who can abide it?" Obviously the demonic invasion of the sixth trumpet is an event that takes place within the Day of the Lord.
This invasion may last for exactly "an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year," but regardless of how long it lasts it will end precisely three and a half days after the midpoint of the 70th Week when the Two Witnesses are resurrected (Revelation 11:14). It is a judgment that falls within the Day of the Lord and therefore the Day of the Lord must be a period of judgment that lasts for many years.
(On a side note, it is the authors humble opinion that the invasion of the sixth trumpet, an unstoppable invasion of horse-like warriors, led by four fallen angels, breathing smoke and fire and unable to be wounded, is not an invasion of Chinese.)
3. The Day of the Lord Will Come When People Are Saying "Peace and Safety."
The Apostle Paul seems to give a very succinct rebuttal to the post-trib position in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 when he writes that the Day of the Lord will come upon the world when people are saying "peace and safety." This is a serious problem for the post-trib position that maintains that the Day of the Lord comes at the end of the tribulation, after the most catastrophic time that the world has ever seen, at a time when the armies of the world are gathering for the battle of Armageddon.
The post-trib response is that people need not be experiencing peace and safety, they only need to be saying peace and safety prior to the Day of the Lord. It is conceded by the post-trib position that the people of the earth will not be experiencing peace and safety at the end of the tribulation, but it is imagined that the people of the earth will be anticipating victory at the battle of Armageddon, after which they are deceived to believe that they will finally achieve peace and safety. But is that what Paul was implying when he predicted that people would be saying peace and safety prior to the Day of the Lord? Are they saying it in anticipation of peace and safety or are they saying it because people will indeed be experiencing peace and safety prior to the Day of the Lord?
Jesus Christ settles this argument Himself within His Olivet Discourse. In Matthew 24, after discussing the events of the tribulation and ending with a description of the Second Coming and the final gathering of the elect He then turns His attention to the subject of the rapture,
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." Matthew 24:36-41
The post-trib position maintains that this is Jesus description of the situation at the time of the rapture, that the Day of the Lord is compared to the flood of Noah, and that those rescued in the rapture are compared to those who were saved in the ark. The important point to note is that prior to the flood people were experiencing peace and safety, and they were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage. Jesus says that "so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
Matthew did not record the entire sermon that Jesus gave on this subject, but fortunately more of it was preserved within Luke 17:26-30, to offer further proof that people will indeed be experiencing peace and safety prior to the rapture and the Day of the Lord,
"And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed."
People will be eating, drinking, buying and selling and planting and building at the time the Day of the Lord begins. It will be just like it was at the flood and at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In both of those cases the wicked were living normally and peacefully prior to the outpouring of Gods judgments. Compare the prediction that Jesus made of the situation at the time of the rapture prior to the Day of the Lord, with what Isaiah 24 predicts for the earth during the tribulation and prior to the Second Coming,
"See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The LORD has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish
Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. The new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan. The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth
The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls--never to rise again."
Jesus is clear that people will be experiencing peace and safety, eating and drinking, buying and selling, and planting and building prior to the Day of the Lord. Isaiah says that there will be no partying during the tribulation prior to the Second Coming and that "all gaiety" will be "banished from the earth." This is hard evidence that the Day of the Lord cannot be a day of judgment at the end of the tribulation, but is instead a term indicative of the entire end-times tribulation, beginning after the rapture prior to the 70th Week of Daniel.
4. The Day of the Lord Comes As a "Thief in the Night."
Both Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 and Peter, in 2 Peter 3:10, predicted that the Day of the Lord would come unexpectedly as a "thief in the night." However, Paul continued to elaborate and explained that it will only be unexpected as far as the wicked are concerned, and that believers will not be taken by surprise and will be protected from that day by the rapture because, "God did not appoint us to suffer wrath "
The post-trib rapture position is that the Day of the Lord occurs on the very day of the Second Coming, which will be a day at the precise end of the 70th Week. It is a day that believers will be able to mark on the calendar once the 70th Week covenant with Israel is confirmed, and therefore believers will not be surprised by the Second Coming. The problem with the post-trib view is that by connecting the Day of the Lord with the day of the Second Coming, it must also be concluded that the Second Coming takes the wicked by surprise, and this is a conclusion that the prophetic scriptures do not support.
Satan is also very aware of what the scriptures predict, and they are a source of knowledge for him as well as for believers. Revelation 12:6-12 predicts that at the midpoint of the 70th Week Satan will be physically cast out of the heavens and confined to the surface of the earth,
"The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short "
When Satan is cast down to the surface of the earth he will only have 1260 days during which to vent his fury, and then Jesus will return and have him cast into the Abyss. Satan understands his predicament and "he knows that his time is short." He too will anticipate the day of the Second Coming and this information will undoubtedly be understood by the Antichrist as well. The Bible is clear that the Second Coming is anticipated by the Antichrist, by the kings of the earth and by the armies they command. The sixth bowl of Revelation describes how they are gathered to resist the Second Coming with force of arms, and at least two Old Testament scriptures describe the battle of Armageddon as well,
"Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, I am strong! Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD! Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side." Joel 3:9-12
"Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters. The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath." Psalm 2:1-5
At the end of the Tribulation the wicked of the earth will be in a state of unadulterated willful rebellion against the Creator of the universe. Joels passage goes on to describe the trampling of the wicked armies in the winepress of Gods wrath, which is also described in Revelation 14:14-20. The psalmist predicted that the Second Coming will indeed be anticipated by the wicked and they will actually imagine that they can defeat Jesus Christ, but God will laugh and rebuke them in wrath and anger. The result of the planning and plotting by the people of the earth to defeat Jesus on the day of His Second Coming is described in Revelation 19:19-20,
"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."
Because the people of the earth plot, conspire, prepare for war and then gather for that war in Israel at the end of the tribulation we know that the Second Coming will not take unbelievers by surprise. It will not come as a surprise to the wicked, and therefore the day of the beginning of the Day of the Lord cannot be the same as the day of the Second Coming, as maintained by the post-trib rapture position. If this is true then neither can the rapture take place at the end of the tribulation.
note to writer- *address issues of the first resurrection and the last trumpet*
II. The Traditional "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" Prophetic Model
The common pre-trib view maintains that the rapture will take place prior to the end-times tribulation, prior to the Day of the Lord and prior to the opening of the first seal. It is believed that the 70th Week begins when the rider of the white horse appears at the opening of the first seal, and that the Day of the Lord begins at or prior to the opening of the first seal. The chart below gives a chronological representation of this model:
This prophetic model agrees with the Red Moon Rapture in its conclusion that believers will be raptured off of the earth without experiencing any of the end-times tribulation, but there are problems that need to be addressed regarding the usual pre-trib positions on a number of other subjects.
1. The Church and the Twenty-Four Elders
The foundational pre-trib position has always been that the twenty-four elders, who are shown in heaven prior to the opening of the first seal, act as representatives of the entire body of believers known as the Church. It is argued that if there are twenty-four saved members of humanity alive and in heaven prior to the first seal, then the entire Church must also be present as well. The pre-trib view states that the rapture and resurrection will take place prior to, or at the same time as, the moment when Johns vision of heaven begins in Revelation chapter four.
There are several texts that create problems for this view. First, there is the promise that Jesus gave concerning the rapture,
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:34-36
Jesus clearly states that those who are raptured, who escape the Day of the Lord, will then stand before Jesus. Compare that promise to the description of the twenty-four elders as John first sees them,
"Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads." Revelation 4:4
Those raptured will be standing, but the twenty-four elders are sitting. Some may dismiss this point as overly technical and irrelevant, but there is more to the promise Jesus made than merely the posture of the saints. Jesus also said that those rescued at the rapture would be in the presence of the Son of Man. The Apostle Paul gives this promise as well,
"According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
When Paul speaks of "the Lord," he is referring to Jesus. Jesus will come down from heaven, enter the earths atmosphere, and take up all of the living believers into the clouds. Paul then says that after that occurs, believers will be "with the Lord forever." Raptured believers will first be with Jesus in the clouds, then they will be with Jesus in heaven, standing "before the Son of Man," then believers will live with Jesus on the earth for the millenium of peace after the tribulation, and finally believers will be with Jesus throughout the eternal age that is described in Revelation 21. The Church will never be apart from Jesus after the rapture.
The twenty-four elders cannot be representatives of the Church because they are shown in heaven throughout chapter four, during a time when Jesus is not present. Chapter five then begins when God the Father is shown with the seven-sealed scroll. An angel asks the question, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" The immediate answer is that nobody is found worthy to take the scroll and open it. No one in heaven, no one on earth, and no one in hell under the earth. Jesus is nowhere to be found. Finally, after John weeps and weeps for some time at this hopeless situation, he is roused from his mourning and told that Jesus has triumphed. Jesus is then shown in heaven for the very first time, as a Lamb that had been slain. The twenty-four elders then proclaim,
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Revelation 5:9
So why was no one found worthy to open the scroll, throughout all creation, when the scroll was first shown in the hand of God the Father? There is only one explanation that even attempts to answer this question. We know that John went forward in time and saw the events that will take place at the end of the age, so the only reasonable answer is that John also went back in time, to a time prior to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was His sacrificial death that purchased men for God and made Jesus Christ worthy to take the scroll. If Johns vision began at any time after the crucifixion then a worthy Jesus would have been immediately found. After the crucifixion Jesus descended to hell and set the captives free from Sheol, then He was resurrected and reappeared on the earth, and then after that He ascended to heaven. Yet the angel who speaks out at the beginning of Revelation 5 says that a search was made in heaven, on earth and in hell, and no one was found who was worthy. John must have first journeyed back to a time prior to the crucifixion because only then would no one have been found worthy in heaven, hell or on the earth. And then Jesus first appears in heaven some time after His crucifixion, "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain."
If John first traveled back in time, to a time prior to the crucifixion, then the twenty-four elders could not be the Church. But who could they be? The Bible tells us that God has intervened to save and glorify several of His faithful servants throughout history. We know that Enoch, Elijah and Moses are all alive and in heaven and that God chose them to be at His side throughout history. The Bible does not mention any other specific saints who are in heaven, but this does not mean that He has not chosen others in addition to Enoch, Elijah and Moses. The twenty-four elders who are shown in heaven prior to the appearance of Jesus and prior to the opening of the first seal, may indeed be a unique group of saints from ages past, who, though unnamed, now live with God and serve Him in heaven, watching over bowls of sweet incense which are the prayers of believers today.
The theory that John first went back in time is the best possible explanation for the fact that John was there at a time when no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll. However, this idea is rejected by some based on the invitation that John hears prior to his entrance to heaven. John hears, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." On this basis it is argued that what John sees can only be future events, and travel back in time is impossible. If this argument is valid, then we are left without a good possible answer as to why no one was found worthy to open the scroll at a time after the crucifixion. If this argument is in fact correct, and John witnesses only future events, then there still exists another plausible alternative for who the twenty-four elders might represent:
Matthew recorded what happened at the moment of the death of Jesus Christ, while He was nailed to the cross,
"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people." Matthew 27:51-53
The twenty-four heavenly elders might also be the select group of Old Testament saints who were resurrected from their graves at the moment Christ triumphed through His death. The point that must be understood is that there are several conceivable possibilities for the identity of the twenty-four elders. Identifying them as the Church is not the best option and neither is it the only option. This is not the case, however, with the great multitude that is shown in heaven after the breaking of the sixth seal.
Pre-trib advocates maintain that the great multitude is composed of the souls of dead people who have been martyred after the opening of the fifth seal. The fifth seal does contain a prediction of future martyrs, but there are a number of reasons why the great multitude is not the fulfillment of that prediction:
1. If the fifth seal martyrs and the great multitude are the same group of tribulation martyrs, then why do the fifth seal martyrs first appear without white robes and the great multitude appears wearing robes? Why do the fifth seal martyrs exist under the altar and the great multitude serves before the throne? What happened to bring about this obvious change if they are dead at the opening of the fifth seal and dead when they are seen as a great multitude?
2. From the fifth seal to the events surrounding the end of the sixth must be a rather short amount of time. How does one explain the conversion and subsequent martyring of a great multitude of believers in this short time? This may not be impossible, but it is certainly improbable given the fact that there are only five events within the sixth seal which seem to occur rather quickly, and which, as the text indicates, affect unbelievers.
3. John had no problem identifying the martyrs of the fifth seal as deceased "souls." If the great multitude are members of the exact same group of dead martyrs then why does John decline to guess who they are? John's ignorance as to their identity may be a mystery, but if it tells us anything it tells us that they cannot be members of the same group that he easily identified beforehand.
4. From the descriptions given it is clear that at first the fifth seal martyrs are dead, yet there is no indication whatsoever that the great multitude are only "souls" or are dead believers. In fact the description of the great multitude seems to strongly indicate that they are living believers. They are wearing white robes, holding palm branches, standing before the throne, serving and dwelling with God the Father. If they are alive then they cannot be tribulation martyrs who must remain dead until the post-trib resurrection that is shown near the end of Revelation,
"And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Revelation 20:4
The prediction of future martyrs that is made after the fifth seal martyrs are given white robes is not fulfilled by the great multitude, but by the martyrs who are resurrected after the tribulation ends.
Recall again the words of Paul, who said that the raptured Church would forever be with the Lord, and the words of Jesus, who said that those who escape the Day of the Lord will "stand before the Son of Man." Here is how the great multitude is introduced,
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." Revelation 7:9
There is one more reason for viewing the great multitude as the raptured and resurrected Church: Jesus promised that He would return and take His believers away, to live with Him and the Father in heaven, in the many mansions that He is preparing. It will be a brief period, lasting about seven years, during which saved human beings will live with God the Father in heaven. This brief period will be the only time when believers live with God the Father in heaven, because after the Second Coming believers will live on the earth, while God the Father will be living in heaven. After the millennium a new earth will be created and believers will then enter the eternal kingdom living with God in the new earth. Living believers will only be living with God the Father in heaven during the brief period after the rapture, as promised by Jesus. The great multitude is the fulfillment of that promise,
"Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." Revelation 7:15
The Greek word that has been translated as "dwell" is the word skenoo. Strongs Concordance gives the following meanings for this word, which is always translated as "dwell" in the KJV:
1) to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in
a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
2) to dwell
The great multitude will be the group that realizes the promise that Jesus made to come back and receive His faithful into the Fathers house, to live with Him there in the many mansions that He is preparing. God the Father will dwell with believers in heaven only during the brief time after the rapture and resurrection, prior to the Second Coming.
There are several possible options for the identity of the twenty-four elders, but only one possible option for the identity of the great multitude. They can only be the raptured and resurrected Church that will be taken off of the earth and rescued from the terrible events that will occur at the end of the age, to live with Jesus and God the Father in heaven, in the mansions that are being prepared for them.
note to writer- *Introduce a hypothetical rapture of the
Church prior to the first seal, compared to an identical scene at the sixth seal?*
2. The Day of the Lord
The common pre-trib view is that the end-times Day of the Lord is a period that begins prior to, or at the same time as, the opening of the first seal. This view is largely colored by the pre-trib understanding of the first seal and of when the 70th Week begins, which will be discussed next, but without these presuppositions there is no Biblical support for the common pre-trib view regarding the starting point of the Day of the Lord.
The prophet Joel gave a prophecy that makes the starting point of the Day of the Lord unmistakable. He wrote that,
"The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." Joel 2:31
The prediction of a blood red moon was given only by the prophet Joel. The Apostle Peter referred to Joels prediction in Acts 2:20, but other than that, there is absolutely no Biblical reference to a blood red moon other than Joel and Revelation. Joel predicted the blood red moon, and then Revelation offers a vision of its fulfillment,
"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind." Revelation 6:12-13
From Joels prophecy we can be sure that the Day of the Lord comes after the initial signs that come at the opening of the sixth seal. The great tribulation begins with the opening of the sixth seal, which will be immediately followed by the rapture of the saints "out of the great tribulation," the earthquake, and the cosmic signs of the darkened sun, blood red moon and falling stars. The first events are limited in extent (the local earthquakefirst occurs in Israel if comparable to Ezekiel 38:19), and largely visual (the cosmic signs), but the first truly global catastrophic event comes hours after the rapture in the form of the great shaking of the entire earth. This great shaking marks the starting point of the Day of the Lord, a time described by Isaiah as coming with destruction, wrath and fierce anger, and described by Zephaniah as a day of distress and anguish, of trouble and ruin. Revelation shows that the people of the earth respond to the great and terrible shaking of the earth in a very appropriate manner,
"Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" Revelation 6:15-17
The Day of the Lord will begin at the exact point where Joel and Revelation place it: after the red moon, with the subsequent great shaking of the earth, which causes the people of the earth to exclaim in fear and terror, "The great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
There is no other plausible alternative for the starting point of
the Day of the Lord that can be supported by Scripture. The pre-trib view that the Day of
the Lord begins with, or prior to the first seal, is untenable.
3. The 70th Week
The pre-trib view maintains that the opening of the first seal represents the appearance of the Antichrist and the confirming of the covenant with Israel that marks the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel. Again, this position is held without any solid Biblical support. Chapter six of this work mentioned several other alternatives for what the first seal might indicate. Scripture does not clearly say that it can only represent the public appearance of the Antichrist, and nothing about the first seal indicates or implies the confirming of a covenant.
The prophecies of Ezekiel do offer evidence for the starting point of the 70th Week. Prior to the Magog invasion Israel is Godless and unfaithful, and then the miraculous divine rescue of Israel from the hands of the invaders acts to turn Israel back to God. This new-found spiritual zeal may be manipulated by Israels leaders and other political forces into a desire for the Temple, which is one of the results of the 70th Week covenant. Isaiah 28:14-15 is an indictment of the rulers of Israel, who bring her into a "covenant with death," which may in fact be a reference to the 70th Week covenant. Ezekiel gives added support for the conclusion that the 70th Week begins after the Magog invasion because he predicted that Israel would use the captured weapons of the invaders as a fuel source for exactly seven years, which matches the seven years of the 70th Week covenant.
The divine judgments that are described by Ezekiel that come at the
time of the Magog invasion are the very same as the judgments that are shown in Revelation
as the sixth seal and first trumpet judgments. These parallels offer the only Biblical
evidence for the placement of the beginning of the 70th Week within the seals, trumpets
and bowls of Revelation. If these prophecies are indeed descriptions of the same
judgments, then the 70th Week will begin sometime after the first trumpet judgment of
Revelation, and not at the opening of the first seal.
4. The Beginning of the Great Tribulation
The pre-trib view, as given by many of its scholars, implies that the end-times tribulation will begin gradually, and that massive and direct global judgments from God come only after the tribulation is well under way. Many pre-trib scholars believe that the first five seals all represent distinct periods of different forms of Gods passive wrath. They are events that God allows to happen, rather than events that He directly causes.
The first seal is seen as the moment when the Antichrist is revealed publicly, followed by a period during which he consolidates his visible empire. The second seal is seen as a distinct period of warfare. Some see it as World War III, while others believe it refers to the Magog invasion. The third seal is seen as a time after the period of warfare during which the world will be faced with famine. The fourth seal is seen as a specific and distinct time (a period of "a few months" according to Hal Lindsey) during which one fourth of the worlds population will be destroyed. The fifth seal is seen as a description of a period of intense Christian persecution.
The pre-trib view fails to recognize that the first four seals merely introduce the four horsemen, and that their powers of destruction may be dealt out simultaneously throughout the entire tribulation. They need not represent separate periods of judgment that come one after the other. Another possible view is that the four horsemen correspond to the birthpangs of the tribulation as Jesus described them in His Olivet Discourse, and they do not relate to tribulation events whatsoever.
The pre-trib view also embellishes the fifth seal to describe a unique period of tribulation persecution. The fifth seal does not describe a distinct time of persecution, rather it predicts a time of persecution that will come after the fifth seal (6:11b), which also appears to correspond to the tribulation persecution that was described by Jesus in Matthew 24:9.
Another problem within the established pre-trib view is that it maintains that Gods wrath begins with the opening of the first seal. It is theorized that the people on the earth who react in fear and terror after the sixth seal by crying out "The great day of their wrath has come!" are first recognizing the wrath of God long after it has already begun. This creates the idea that Gods wrath is first poured out secretly and is at first unrecognized by humanity for what it truly is.
The Red Moon Rapture model is much more specific when it comes to the
events surrounding the beginning of the great tribulation. It will not begin gradually,
and there is not a period of Gods secret wrath. The earth will not have time
to react to the rapture that will cause millions of believers to vanish, because other
events will quickly take precedence. The great tribulation will begin with the opening of
the sixth seal, and will be immediately followed by the rapture and the cosmic signs, and
then the catastrophic shaking of the planet earth. There will not be an undefined time
period between the rapture and the Day of the Lord, to allow those left behind to quietly
ponder what has happened. The rapture is a rescue, and those taken make an escape.
Those left behind will be immediately plunged into chaos when the wrath of God is poured
The pre-trib model maintains that the rapture of the Church is an event that will come at an unknown day and hour. Believers will not be able to anticipate the exact time of the rapture, and date-setting is prohibited by Jesus Christ Himself, within His Olivet Discourse,
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." Matthew 24:36-25:13
The Apostle Paul wrote that the rapture was intimately related to the Day of the Lord and that it would come unexpectedly,
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:2
The above passages prohibit date-setting and tell believers that they will never be able to known the exact day and hour of the rapture. In addition to this fact, the Bible does not explicitly describe any particular sign that must precede the rapture. Yes, there are many signs that must precede the Day of the Lord, such as the blood red moon, the appearance of Elijah and the revealing of the Antichrist, as discussed in chapter four, but all of these signs could conceivably be fulfilled in the time period, however brief, after the rapture prior to the beginning of the Day of the Lord. The revealing of the Antichrist is an event that might not occur until after the rapture, because then he would have an audience made up entirely of unbelievers and he would be free to use any sort of mental, visual or spiritual deception that he wanted upon the unsaved and unprotected mass of humanity that would be left.
The pre-trib view believes that the interval between the rapture and the Day of the Lord is of an unknown time period, lasting hours, days, months or even years. The Red Moon Rapture believes this interval will last only a matter of hours, because of the fact that Jesus compared the rapture to the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Jesus said that on both historical occasions the judgment came on the very same day that Lot and Noah were protected, and that it will be the same at the time of the rapture. There will be a delay, but it will be a brief delay lasting only a matter of hours and not longer than one full day.
The Bible does predict many signs that must precede the Day of the Lord, but it does not offer any specific signs that must precede the rapture. The signs that precede the Day of the Lord may precede the rapture, but they also may come after the rapture within the short interval between the rapture and the Day of the Lord.
The pre-trib view takes the fact that the Bible does not give any specific sign that must precede the rapture, and the instructions that believers are to always keep watch, to create the doctrine of Imminence. It is the idea that the rapture could occur at any moment and that believers need to always be prepared for it. The pre-trib view of "Imminence" goes a step further than what is given in Scripture and says that because the Bible does not give any explicit signs that are to precede the rapture, that therefore believers are to never anticipate that any event could occur prior to the rapture.
According to the Apostle Paul, the Rapture and the Day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, as a thief in the night, but he goes on to write that believers are not in darkness, and therefore believers will not be surprised when it happens!
"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, Peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness." 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
The pre-trib view maintains that the light which believers possess is simply the knowledge that the rapture will one day occur. Believers will not be surprised because they are always anticipating that it could come at any moment. But is this what Paul was really saying? If the pre-trib view of "Imminence" is correct, and believers are to anticipate no sign and are without the knowledge of the day or the hour when it will occur, then how can believers be anything but surprised when it happens? Yet Paul says that believers will not be surprised!
Contrary to the pre-trib belief, the book of Hebrews seems to give the idea that the Day of the Lord may be something that believers will be able to anticipate,
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:23-25
The writer of the book of Hebrews goes on to connect this "Day" to the coming of Jesus Christ,
"For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." Hebrews 10:37-39
The Day of the Lord and the rapture is something that believers will be able see coming, even though the exact day and hour may not be known. The Bible may not give any explicit predictions of events that must precede the rapture, but as the day draws nearer believers will be able to understand that it is coming. The Bible may even give implicit predictions of events that believers will be able to anticipate to occur prior to the rapture. Within the Red Moon Rapture model these events are directly related to the nation of Israel. Those who are watching and studying will understand when the rapture is truly imminent and, other than the exact day and hour, there will be no surprise when they are taken, just as the Apostle Paul clearly predicted.
III. The "Pre-Wrath Rapture" Prophetic Model
The pre-wrath view, coming mainly from the interpretations put forth by Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen, is based on a number of provocative premises and arrives at the conclusion that believers will be forced to experience the majority of the end-times tribulation upon the earth. The pre-wrath view believes that the Day of the Lord is a period of about a year and a half at the end of the 70th Week during which the seven trumpets and seven bowls of Revelation will occur, and that the rapture occurs immediately prior to this final period of wrath. The main conclusion that the pre-wrath view promotes is that believers need to be prepared to enter into the 70th Week of Daniel, and that believers can expect to be faced with the rise of the Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast.
The pre-wrath model is a provocative viewpoint that has done much to enhance believers understanding of the end-times, but its most important conclusion points believers in the wrong direction. The chronological chart for this model is shown below, and then the problems of this model will be addressed.
1. The Sixth Seal and the Cosmic Disturbance of Matthew 24:29.
The chronological problems of the pre-wrath view can be traced directly to their assumption that the cosmic disturbance that comes at the opening of the sixth seal is the same as the disturbance that Jesus said would come at the end of the great tribulation.
"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place." Revelation 6:12-14
"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." Matthew 24:29
There are many similarities to these two disturbances. Both describe a darkened sun, falling stars and a shaking of the heavens. However, the important difference is the moon. The sixth seal brings a blood red moon, whereas the post-trib disturbance brings a moon that "shall not give her light."
Another difference can be discovered by examining the prophecy that predicts a blood red moon and comparing it with the many prophecies of a darkened moon. The prophet Joel predicted that the red moon would precede the Day of the Lord, and this is the prophecy that will be fulfilled at the opening of the sixth seal,
"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come." Joel 2:31
Joel then predicted that a darkened moon would come during the Day of the Lord,
"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining." Joel 3:14-15
The prophecies surrounding the Day of the Lord are almost always introduced in the same manner that Joel introduces the darkened moon. An introduction is made such as, "The day of the Lord is near " or, "The day of the Lord cometh " and then the events of the Day of the Lord are then predicted. For instance,
Obadiah 1:15-16, "For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been."
Isaiah 13:9, "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it."
Both of these prophets introduce the Day of the Lord and then predict that it will include the destruction of all the heathen. This compares to Joels prediction where he introduces the Day of the Lord and then predicts that it will include a darkened moon. It is an event separate from the blood red moon that is instead uniquely predicted to appear before the Day of the Lord begins. Isaiah confirms that the darkened moon is an event that will come within the Day of the Lord, and therefore cannot be the same as the blood red moon of the sixth seal,
Isaiah 13:9-10, "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh... For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine."
This was the passage that Jesus used as His reference when He gave His sermon of the end-times to His disciples. The complete darkness and cosmic disturbances that come at the end of the great tribulation are the very same events that are shown at the end of the book of Revelation, prior to the Second Coming. Here again is what Jesus predicted,
"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." Matthew 24:29-30
And here is what Jesus was referring to, that is predicted to occur at the end of the tribulation in Revelation,
"The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible." Revelation 16:10-21
At the end of the tribulation there will be a complete darkness, a shaking of the heavens and the earth, and a shower of falling stars that do not even completely burn up in the atmosphere, but pass through to strike the earth. After this disturbance Jesus predicted that the Second Coming would occur and that He would be seen in the clouds as He makes His return. Revelation predicts the very same thing after the seventh bowl is poured out, when Jesus appears in the sky riding a white horse accompanied by all of the saints.
Viewing the sixth seal as the post-trib disturbance is a false
assumption and it creates a number of chronological problems that lead to even more
tenuous positions. The Red Moon Rapture position maintains that the sixth seal is the
cosmic disturbance associated with the beginning of the Day of the Lord that comes
at the time of the Magog invasion, while the disturbance Jesus predicted comes at the end
of the day of the Lord. The red moon disturbance comes "before the
coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord" and soon after is followed by
cries of "the great day of His wrath has come," while the final darkened
moon disturbance comes "after the distress of those days," and is
accompanied by cries of "It is done," followed by the Second Coming.
Although they are similar, they are clearly two very separate global/cosmic disturbances.
2. The Two Witnesses, the Day of the Lord and the Great Tribulation
To support the assumption that the sixth seal disturbance is the same as the final disturbance described by Jesus in Matthew 24:29, the pre-wrath view is forced to conclude that the ministry of the two witnesses takes place in the second half of the 70th Week of Daniel. They are forced into supporting this indefensible position because the pre-wrath chronology places the trumpet judgments at the end of the last half of the 70th Week, and the resurrection of the two witnesses, three and a half days after their ministry ends, also marks the point at which the sixth trumpet judgment ends (Revelation 11:14).
The pre-wrath view is correct in the belief that the rapture takes place near the time of the opening of the sixth seal, but placing the sixth seal near the end of the 70th Week is wrong. If it can be shown that the ministry of the two witnesses takes place in the first half of the 70th Week, then it can be proven that the sixth seal and the Day of the Lord must also begin at least prior to the midpoint of the 70th Week, thus showing that the entire chronology of the pre-wrath view is greatly flawed.
The 70th Week of Daniel is described within the book of Revelation as two separate three and a half year time periods. The first half is described in Revelation 11:3-5,
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore  days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed."
The first half of the 70th Week of Daniel will be a time during which God will empower the two witnesses to prophesy and to defend themselves against any that might try to harm them.
The second half of the 70th Week is described in Revelation 13:5-7,
"And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two  months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations."
The second half of the 70th Week is a time during which the Antichrist is given power to persecute the saints. This power seems to contradict the power that the two witnesses have to defend themselves, and so common sense dictates that the period of Antichrist persecution is separate from the period of the two witnesses ministry. These two time periods do not overlap but occur one after the other, and the transition is given quite clearly in Scripture.
The end of the two witnesses ministry is described in Revelation 11:7, "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them."
This is exactly how the Antichrists forty-two month period of power begins, " and power was given unto him to continue forty and two  months And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them "
The Antichrists period of unlimited power begins when he is given authority to make war on and overcome the saints, and he first uses this power when the two witnesses ministry ends when he makes war against them and overcomes them. These time periods do not overlap and do not contradict each other. They are separate and distinct, and the resurrection of the two witnesses, three and a half days after they are killed by the Antichrist at the midpoint of the 70th Week, is marked also by the end of the sixth trumpet judgment. This proves that the seven seals and first six trumpets are all judgments that occur prior to this time, and the sixth seal disturbance cannot be the post-trib disturbance that is associated with the final bowl judgments prior to the Second Coming, as described by Jesus in Matthew 24:29.
The pre-wrath view maintains that the two witnesses 1260-day ministry exactly parallels the 42 months of the Antichrists power over the saints, and that both time periods end at the conclusion of the 70th Week of Daniel. The pre-wrath view must support the conclusion that the Antichrist will make war on and overcome the two witnesses after his forty-two months of power to make war on and overcome the saints has already expired.
The basis of the pre-wrath view is that the Day of the Lord is a period of time distinct from the "Great Tribulation," and that it is a period that comes at the very end of the 70th Week of Daniel. The pre-wrath position regarding the timing of the two witnesses ministry is nonsensical and unsupportable, and therefore is downplayed so that it receives little attention. Biblically, the ministry of the two witnesses is proof that the sixth seal, and therefore the Day of the Lord, must begin at least prior to the midpoint of the 70th Week, but this contradicts the pre-wrath viewpoint, which offers up several other arguments for a late beginning to the Day of the Lord. These arguments are not entirely without merit, but the supporting Scriptures do not necessarily confirm the pre-wrath conclusion that the Day of the Lord begins after the midpoint of the 70th Week.
1. The pre-wrath view believes that the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 offers proof that the Day of the Lord cannot begin until after the Antichrist takes over the rebuilt Jewish Temple,
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 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; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
Paul clearly states that the Antichrist will be revealed prior to the Day of the Lord. If the Antichrist is revealed when he sits in the Temple, which takes place at the midpoint of the 70th Week, then the Day of the Lord must begin after the midpoint of the 70th Week.
This conclusion is not as sound as the pre-wrath view makes it out to be. The revealing of the Antichrist could just as easily be a reference to his appearance prior to the 70th Week of Daniel, when his public career begins. When Paul described the Antichrist taking over the Temple he was not necessarily describing the revealing, but was simply giving a further description of the Antichrists career after he is revealed. In the text in question, Paul continues on and supports the idea that the revealing of the Antichrist is the very same as the coming of the Antichrist, which will occur prior to the 70th Week and prior to the Day of the Lord,
" And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders "
The revealing of the Antichrist will come from the working of Satan, and it will be accompanied by power, signs and lying wonders. He will appear on the scene and be embraced by the ten kings of Revelation 17:12-13, to take control of the empire that will conquer the earth. Part of its conquest will include the taking of Jerusalem that is described in Zechariah 14:1-3 as a "Day of the Lord" event, after which Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles for forty-two months (Revelation 11:2). The Day of the Lord includes the events that take place at the midpoint of the end-times tribulation, and is not a separate time period that comes after the allleged "great tribulation" as put forth by the pre-wrath view.
2. The second dubious argument put forth by the pre-wrath view in support of a late "Day of the Lord" period of judgment is the argument that Michael the Archangel is the restrainer of the Antichrist. This comes from 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8,
"And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."
Paul is clear that there is something that acts to withhold and restrain the Antichrist, preventing his revealing. The pre-wrath view argues that this restrainer is the angel Michael, who was predicted by Daniel to rise up for the final three and a half years of Daniels 70th Week (Daniel 12:1,7). It is argued that Michael is the restrainer and that his "rising up" predicted in Daniel 12:1 is actually his "standing down" to allow the Antichrist to be revealed and allowing the persecution of Israel. If Michael is the restrainer then it offers evidence that the Day of the Lord begins sometime after the midpoint of the 70th Week. However, the pre-wrath conclusion on this matter is superficial, speculating on the end-times role of Michael and ignoring the implications of Pauls description of the restrainer.
First of all, the role of Michael the Archangel is the protector of Israel, as clearly given by Daniel. Daniel predicts that he will begin an action at the midpoint of the 70th Week, but this action is not one in which he allows persecution, but one in which he again takes on his job of protecting Gods people. Revelation is clear that Michael will be involved in a battle against Satan at the midpoint of the 70th Week,
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Revelation 12:7-9
This battle will result in Satans confinement to the surface of the earth, and then he will turn against Israel and against other believers, as described in Revelation 12:13-17. This event also corresponds with the abomination of desolation being set up in the Temple. Jesus warned Jewish believers that upon seeing the abomination they should flee to the desert, to avoid the greatest time of tribulation. Those who obey the words of Jesus are described in Revelation 12 as the woman who flees into the desert. She will be protected for 1260 days, for the remainder of the tribulation. This corresponds to the time when Michael will arise again to take up his job as protector of Israel. Michael is not active today, and he does not protect unbelieving Israel, who God describes as "not my people" in Hosea 2:23, but when a faithful remnant of Israel heeds the words of Jesus and flees into the desert at the sight of the abomination, then Michael will arise to protect them for the duration of the tribulation.
The second argument against viewing Michael as the restrainer of the Antichrist is that Paul first referred to the restrainer as neuter in gender ("ye know what withholdeth"), and then later as masculine in gender ("until he be taken out of the way"). If Paul had Michael in mind, he would have said "ye know who withholdeth " because angels are never referred to in the neuter tense.
The restrainer of the Antichrist is simply the Holy Spirit, referred to in both the masculine and neuter tenses throughout Pauls writings. The Antichrist will not be revealed until the Holy Spirit allows him to be revealed. The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth, because it must be present for the conversion of believers during the tribulation, but it will cease to restrain the Antichrist, allowing him to come on the public scene with his terrible deception, Satanic power and counterfeit miracles.
3. The third argument put forth to support the pre-wrath conclusion of a late "Day of the Lord" period of judgment is that the "falling away," described by Paul refers to either the apostasy from the Christian faith after the end-times tribulation has begun, or to a Jewish apostasy away from God to acceptance of the Antichrist.
"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."
Paul was clear that there would be a "falling away" prior to the Day of the Lord, but it is unlikely that he was referring to an apostasy from the faith, or to the "falling away" of the Church from the earth in the rapture, as put forth by some pre-trib scholars. The best explanation for the enigmatic "falling away" is given by author Allen Beechick in his book The Rapture Solution.
"One question remains. Why did Paul choose this word "falling away"? If "rapture" were intended he could have chosen better, because nowhere else does this word mean "rapture." If falling away "from the faith" were intended, he could easily have chosen to add the words "from the faith," because this word always carries a similar qualifying phrase when that meaning is intended. But why did he choose this word as it is?
Paul makes a play on words which you can see in the Greek. In Greek this is a compound word, literally translated "standing away." Now if you look back one verse, to verse 2, you read "as that the day of the Lord is at hand." The word "is at hand" is also a compound word, literally translated "stand in." As we put the two together, we see that Paul makes this catchy statement: "That day will not 'stand in' until the Holy Spirit 'stands away.' " The Greek Thessalonians would spot this play on words and get the message at once.
There is more. The next key word after "falling away" is "revealed." These are the two key words of the entire section as we have seen, and herein lies a second play on words. When a preacher wants you to remember the key words of his outline, what does he do? He alliterates! Paul makes a nice alliteration here in the Greek. Not only do both words start with the same letter, but the first three letters in each word are identical (a-p-o in Greek). These words form Paul's two-fold outline on which he elaborates in the following verses.
There is more. Not only is "falling away" choice because it makes a double play on words, but it also conforms nicely in meaning to what Paul intends to say, "The falling away" matches the parallel phrase in verse 7, "taken out of the way." As we saw above, this is better translated actively instead of passively. In other words, the Holy Spirit "gets out." To "get out" and to "stand away" are very similar in meaning, and in this context they explain each other. Paul could not have chosen a better word."
Beechick makes it clear that the "falling away" is not the rapture and it is not a reference to an apostasy, it simply refers to the removal of the restrainer that allows the Antichrist to be revealed.
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come [stand in], except there come a falling away[standing away] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
The Day of the Lord will not "stand in" until the restrainer "stands away," and then the standing away (apostasia) of the restrainer allows the revealing (apokalupto) of the Antichrist.
The pre-wrath model is built on the shaky foundation that the Day of the Lord begins late in the 70th Week and is separate from the Great Tribulation, and the arguments that are summoned in its defense are far from conclusive and based on interpretations that are either clearly incorrect or vague and inconclusive. The pre-wrath view maintains that the Day of the Lord is the pinnacle of Gods wrath against mankind, but Jesus Himself clearly tells us that the pinnacle of the end-times is reached prior to the final cosmic signs that precede the Second Coming,
"So when you see standing in the holy place `the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." Matthew 24:15-30
Jesus says that the worst time of distress will be over when the final cosmic signs occur, but the pre-wrath view rejects this, and says that the Day of the Lord comes after these cosmic signs. How then can the worst time of distress come after the worst time of distress?
The answer is that the Day of the Lord is the worst time of
distress that the world will ever see, and the cosmic signs described by Jesus occur at
the very end. The Day of the Lord is Gods judgment on the earth, and for the most
part it is the great tribulation. It will begin with a series of tremendous
visible cosmic signs at the opening of the sixth seal and then end with another
tremendous series of similar signs immediately prior to the Second Coming.
3. The Date of the Second Coming
The vast majority of prophetic scholars understand that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will take place at the precise end of the 70th Week of Daniel,
"Seventy `sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy." Daniel 9:24
The end of the 70th Week also marks the end of Jewish transgression and sin, the atonement of wickedness, the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, the completion of vision and prophecy and the anointing of the most holy. All of these events will be fulfilled with the Second Coming of the Messiah.
The pre-wrath view places itself in a bind by holding to the position that the ministry of the two witnesses occurs within the last half of the 70th Week, thus placing the death of the two witnesses at the end of the 70th Week, with their resurrection three and a half days later. To avoid the implication that the two witnesses are taken to heaven and Jerusalem smitten with an earthquake after Jesus has already returned to Jerusalem the pre-wrath view places the Second Coming thirty days after the end of the 70th Week. The text used as a basis for this shift is Daniel 12:11,
"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days."
The pre-wrath view maintains that the seven bowl judgments are then pored out in the 30-day period between the end of the 70th Week and the allegedly delayed Second Coming. It then expands the Antichrists reign of power to an unbiblical forty-three months, and it also contradicts the purpose of the 70th Week and the implications of its fulfillment. The text above does not create a reason to extend the Second Coming to thirty days after the 70th Week. This text simply reveals that the abomination of desolation will stand in the holy place for 1290 days. Jesus will return after 1260 days, at the precise end of the 70th Week but the abomination will remain standing for thirty days after Jesus returns.
For what purpose is this wicked abomination allowed to stand freely in the Temple for days after Jesus returns? For an answer we must examine the events after the Second Coming.
After Jesus has returned and destroyed the Antichrist and his armies at Armageddon He will immediately anoint the Most Holy Place of the Jewish Temple. This must be done, according to Daniel 9:24, at the precise end of the 70th Week. At the same time there will be a gathering of the elect, from the earth and from heaven, to the holy city of Jerusalem for the purpose of the wedding feast. There will also be a gathering of mankind for judgment to the Valley of Jehoshaphat in Israel. The following texts describe these events:
The gathering of the elect-
Isaiah 11:11-12, "In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth."
Isaiah 27:12-13, "In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem."
Matthew 24:31, "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."
Zechariah 2:6 predicts that Israel will be scattered "to
the four winds of heaven" at the time of the end (see Appendix I), and in Matthew
Jesus predicts the final pre-millennial gathering of Israel from the "four winds
of heaven." The post-trib gathering of the elect to Israel is not the rapture of
the church to heaven.
The wedding feast-
Isaiah 25:6-8, "On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken."
Revelation 19:9, "Then the angel said to me, Write:
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! And he added,
These are the true words of God.
Joel 3:1-2, "In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land."
Matthew 25:31-46, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
The judgment of the nations will not begin immediately after the Second Coming because it will take some time to gather them to Israel to stand before the throne of the Messiah. This delay corresponds to the thirty days after the Second Coming during which the abomination will remain in the Temple. When Jesus returns He will immediately anoint the inner room of the Temple, which is the Most Holy Place, but the outer room of the Temple, the Holy Place in which the abomination will stand, will be left alone. The judgment of the nations will then begin thirty days later after all have been gathered to the valley of Jehoshaphat, beginning when Jesus removes the abomination from the Temple in plain sight of all who once worshiped it.
The delay between the Second Coming and the beginning of the judgment of the nations is shown in two texts,
Isaiah 24:21-22, "In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days."
Daniel 7:12, "The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time."
The judgment will begin thirty days after Jesus returns and then it will last for "many days." Daniel 12:12 reveals exactly how long this judgment will last, "Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days."
The judgment will last for forty-five days, from day 1290 to day 1335 after the abomination is first set up in the Temple. The wicked will be punished and destroyed as a result of this judgment, but the righteous who make it through the judgment are described by Daniel as "blessed." Jesus also said He would embrace the righteous who pass through this judgment and say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world "
The thirty day interval is given to allow for the gathering of the
survivors of the tribulation to their judgment. It is a necessary period that will follow
the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The pre-wrath view that the Second Coming comes after
this thirty-day period contradicts the purpose of the 70th Week, and ignores the true
purpose of the interval. There is a very good reason for allowing the abomination to
remain in the Temple even after Jesus returns.
4. The Rapture and the Gathering
The pre-wrath rapture theory believes that the post-trib gathering of Matthew 24:31 is the same event as the rapture described in Matthew 24:36-41. It is believed that the appearance of Jesus in the clouds prior to verse 31 is not the return of Jesus as described at the end of Revelation, and it is also believed that the rapture and the gathering occur prior to the Day of the Lord that allegedly comes after the appearance of Jesus and the worldwide mourning. According to the pre-wrath view Jesus did not give a literal description of the Day of the Lord, or of His return to the earth at the end, within His Olivet Discourse, both of which are subjects that make up the majority of Revelation.
All of the above pre-wrath positions are false.
Here is the post-trib gathering,
"Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 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 24:29-31
And here is the rapture that will come on the day that the great tribulation begins,
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left." Matthew 24:36-41
Luke 17:26-35 recorded more aspects of what life will be like at the time of the rapture,
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left."
The post-trib gathering of the elect is a completely different event from the pre-trib removal of believers. The gathering of the elect will come after the tribulation has ended, during which believers will be forced from society and separated from unbelievers, hunted down, captured and killed for their faith. It will come after a number of extraordinary signs in the heavens and on the earth, and after a worldwide mourning as He is seen making His return.
On the other hand the pre-trib rapture of believers will come while people are eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building, marrying and giving in marriage. It will come while believers are still functional members of unbelieving society, working together with unbelievers in fields and factories, while some are even blissfully sleeping in the same bed as unbelievers. The rapture will not be preceded by extraordinary cosmic signs or by the appearance of Jesus in the sky. Why would a believer lay down to sleep after these amazing events have taken place?
Other points that separate these two events include the fact that the post-trib gathering is made for the purpose of gathering the elect to Israel, whereas the rapture will take believers to heaven. Additionally, the gathering of the elect will come at a known day, whereas the rapture of believers will come at an unknown day. When Jesus begins His description of the rapture by saying, "No one knows about that day or hour," He was making a dramatic shift in context. Luke records that after Jesus mentioned all of the events of the tribulation He then remarked that believers should "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen." This escape occurs on the unknown day of the rapture, when "one will be taken and the other left."
The gathering of the elect after the tribulation, after the cosmic signs and after the appearance of Jesus in the sky is an entirely different event from the unannounced rapture of believers.
The Second Coming
"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30
The pre-wrath view disputes the fact that this is a description of the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the Day of the Lord. According to the pre-wrath theory this only marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord, an alleged period of almost two years that begins after the "Great Tribulation." The pre-wrath position is that the actual return of Jesus to the earth is not literally described by Jesus in Matthew 24. Why would Jesus not mention the most momentous event this world will ever see?
The key to identifying the above passage as an undeniable description of the Second Coming is the reference to the great "mourning" that will take place. This event is also described in Revelation 1:7,
"Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen."
Revelation says that all the people of the earth will mourn when Jesus is seen in the clouds. This is not necessarily grief that comes from repentance, because people also mourn in the face of terror and as a result of frustrated bitterness. Everyone will mourn, but the majority will not be doing so out of repentance. The exception will be Israel. Revelation records that at this event Jesus will be seen by "those who pierced Him," which is a reference to Zechariah 12:10,
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."
This event, when Israel looks upon Jesus and mourns, represents the national repentance of Israel and the fulfillment of the condition that must be met for the return of Israels Messiah, as explained in chapter eight of this book and as put forth in Hosea 5:15,
" I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."
Israel will repent and admit to their rejection of the Messiah the
first time He came, and then, only then, will Jesus Christ return and come to their
rescue. Once Israel repents there will be no delay. Jesus will return and the whole world
will mourn. The pre-wrath view that Matthew 24:30 does not describe the return of Jesus to
this earth cannot be correct, and the gathering of Matthew 24:31 cannot be a pre-wrath
rapture to heaven. It can only be a post-wrath gathering of the elect to Jerusalem
after Jesus is seen on the clouds making his triumphant return at the very end of the
Two "Comings" or Just One?
There is a curious pre-wrath affirmation, put forth by both Van Kampen and Rosenthal, that there is only one "coming" of Jesus Christ at the end of the age. Both of these scholars argue that the "Second Coming" of Jesus Christ will be but a single event that will include both the rapture of the saints to heaven and the return of Jesus to the earth. This position is one that can be logically held by post-trib scholars, who mistakenly place the rapture on the very same day as Christs return to the earth, but the pre-wrath view separates the rapture from the return of Jesus to the earth by almost two years. How then can the rapture and the return be considered as only one "coming"?
There are clearly two "comings" that will involve Jesus at the end of the age. His first "coming" will be when He "comes" to the atmosphere of the earth to rescue believers away from the Day of the Lord as the great tribulation initially begins, and His second "coming" will be at the end of the great tribulation when Jesus "comes" back to the very surface of the earth to destroy the Antichrist and establish His kingdom. There are two "comings" of Jesus, but only one "Second Coming" to the earth. This is made clear by the words of Jesus Himself in John 14:1-3,
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Jesus said that He would "come again" to take
believers back with Him to heaven. If this "coming" results in Jesus, the
saints, and God the Father all living together in heaven for a period of time, then how
can Jesus return to the earth to set up His millennial kingdom unless He "comes"
a second time? The rapture and the Second Coming are referred to throughout Scripture
using the same Greek terminology for each (parousia, erchomai, apokalypsis and epiphaneia),
but the timing, context, description and purpose of the two "comings" prove that
they are separate events and separate "comings."
The Rapture and the Sixth Seal of Revelation
The pre-wrath view falsely equates the post-trib gathering of Matthew 24:31 with the rapture, and it also falsely equates the sixth seal cosmic disturbance with the post-trib disturbance of Matthew 24:29. In making the latter assumption the pre-wrath view places itself in a bind, because the gathering of verse 31 clearly comes after the disturbance of verse 29, and so they must also conclude that the rapture comes after the disturbances associated with the sixth seal. According to the pre-wrath view the rapture comes while people are running to the hills and crying out in fear and terror,
"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" Revelation 6:12-17
The pre-wrath interpretation clearly contradicts the words of Jesus, who said that people would be going about life as normal, partying, working and even sleeping when the rapture occurs. The situation is remedied when it is understood that the pre-trib rapture comes at the opening of the sixth seal, before believers experience any of the catastrophic events that mark the beginning of the great tribulation, whereas the post-trib gathering of Matthew 24:31 occurs after the final disturbance of Matthew 24:29, after the great tribulation has already come to an end.
The rapture precedes the events of the sixth seal, while the
gathering of the elect follows the disturbance of Matthew 24:29. The gathering of
Matthew 24:31 must be separate from the rapture, and the disturbance of Matthew 24:29 must
be separate from the disturbances associated with the sixth seal.
The Wicked and the Day of the Lord
The pre-wrath model, because it places the alleged "pre-wrath" rapture after the sixth seal but prior to the Day of the Lord, must dispute the evidence that the sixth seal contains within it the first "Day of the Lord" event. This evidence is put forth in chapter four of this book, and shows that the Day of the Lord begins with the shaking of the heavens and the earth as described in Revelation 6:14 and Ezekiel 38:20. When the people of the earth cry out in Revelation 6:17 that " the great day of His wrath is come," they are making it clear that the Day of the Lord has just begun.
The pre-wrath view disputes the above interpretation and points out that the original Greek phrase uses the aorist tense which can, in unique situations, be interpreted as future tense. According to the pre-wrath view the proper interpretation of Revelation 6:17 is "the great day of His wrath is soon to come," and the pre-wrath theory maintains that the actual Day of the Lord begins when the seventh seal is opened.
This idea can be more than adequately disputed by pointing out that throughout Revelation the aorist tense is consistently used as indicative of past or present events, and 6:17 should not be an exception. When it comes to the aorist tense the context of its usage should always by the most important factor when it comes to interpreting the proper tense, and the events preceding Revelation 6:17 offer more than enough evidence that the people of the earth are reacting to what has just happened, rather than anticipating something yet to come.
But there is another argument that does not demand knowledge of Biblical Greek to understand, and that is the argument made by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, and Peter in 2 Peter 3:10. Both of these Apostles make it clear that the Day of the Lord will surprise the wicked like a thief in the night. Paul specifically uses the word "surprise" and says that only believers will be ready for that day. The wicked will never anticipate the Day of the Lord, running to the hills and mountains in order to be hidden from it. Instead, it will come upon them suddenly while they are saying "peace and safety," and Paul says that "they will not escape."
Revelation 6:17 cannot possibly refer to a group of unbelievers
verbally anticipating Gods wrath and taking action to prepare for the
Day of the Lord. They can only be unbelievers who have just experienced its
catastrophic beginning and they cry out and react because of it. The Day of the
Lord begins within the sixth seal after the blood red moon, and because all sides
agree that the rapture precedes the Day of the Lord it must also be agreed that the
rapture of the great multitude cannot come after the sixth seal. This makes it clear that
the gathering of Matthew 24:31, that comes after the disturbance of Matthew 24:29, cannot
be the rapture.
"If those days had not been cut short "
The pre-wrath view, utilizing the above passage from Matthew 24:22, maintains that the "Great Tribulation" will be cut short by the rapture of the saints, and that the Day of the Lord will then begin after the "Great Tribulation" has ended. It is understood that at the midpoint of the 70th Week the Antichrist is given authority to persecute, capture and kill the saints for three and a half years. This is made clear by two texts,
Daniel 7:25, "He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time."
Revelation 13:5-10, "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints."
The prophet Daniel first gave this prophecy hundreds of years before Jesus, but the pre-wrath view believes that Jesus revealed that this three and a half year period of persecution would be "cut short" by the rapture of believers out of the hands of the Antichrist. However, decades after Jesus ascended to heaven He gave the Apostle John the vision that is described in the book of Revelation, and again Jesus made it clear that the Antichrist would have authority over the saints for three and a half years, or forty-two months. The pre-wrath view that the Antichrists hold over the saints will last for only twenty-one months, or twenty-two or twenty-three, is contradicted in Revelation, and not clearly supported by Matthew 24:22.
When Jesus said that the days of great tribulation would be cut short He was not saying that Daniels prophecy was wrong and He was not contradicting the vision that was later received by John. When Jesus said that those days would be cut short for the sake of the elect He was simply saying that if He did not return then the Antichrist would ultimately succeed in destroying everyone on the earth. The end-times revolve around Gods days, as opposed to Satans days. Satan, through the Antichrist, will offer mankind visions of a perfect utopian society under his control. He will say that his kingdom will be eternal and that the New Age will last forever. God will give the Antichrist 1260 days, and those are Gods days, divinely revealed and not to be contradicted, but Satans days, if not for Gods intervention, would last forever and would end up destroying everything. Those are the days that are cut short.
The pre-wrath view believes that Gods days, the time he limits the power of the Antichrist over the earth, are cut short, but this cannot be the case. The Antichrist will be given exactly three and a half years, or forty-two months, during which he may do what he pleases to those who believe in God. Jesus Christ may not intervene to rescue the saints until the time that God gives the Antichrist has expired.
This is proven by the fact that the rapture includes a resurrection. If the rapture takes place during a period of the Antichrists persecution then those killed at the hands of the Antichrist will also be resurrected. However, the martyrs who are killed by the Antichrist will not be resurrected until after the Second Coming,
Revelation 20:4, "I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
God does give many promises to His people that believers will be rescued prior to the tribulation, but after it begins He offers no such promises. After it begins believers are told that they must continue on until the very end, and they must endure the full length of the Antichrists reign of terror,
Matthew 24:9-13, "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."
Revelation 13:5-10, "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints."
Revelation 14:11-12, " There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.
The above passage from Matthew reveals that even prior to the abomination believers are told that they must stand firm to the end. They have no promise of a rapture and therefore the rapture must have preceded this worldwide persecution. The passages from Revelation reveal that those who are threatened with the Mark of the Beast must also endure patiently and they also lack the promise of a rapture. Those who die for resisting the Mark are then shown resurrected in Revelation 20:4, after the tribulation has ended. There is no "pre-wrath" rapture to rescue or resurrect tribulation saints.
The forty-two month period of the Antichrist's power over the saints prohibits any rapture from taking place during this time. This is his time. The saints are his.
The Big Question: Will Believers Be Forced to Endure the Great Tribulation?
This is what it all boils down to. Should believers today prepare for the end-times tribulation? Is it a good idea to stockpile medicine, water, food, guns and ammunition to prepare to resist and hold out against the New World Order? Will believers be present on this earth to explain to unsaved friends, family and loved ones the fulfillment of prophetic events as they occur? Can believers assume that they will be here to counter-act the most appealing and most deadly deception that humanity has ever faced? If the reader is convinced of the pre-wrath or post-trib views regarding the timing of the rapture then the single answer to these questions is "Yes."
According to the post-trib and pre-wrath views the rapture will come after believers have endured the most dangerous time of tribulation, catastrophe, distress and persecution that the world has ever seen. The first half of the 70th Week will be tough, and Christian persecution will become the official policy of every nation on earth (Matthew 24:9). But then the midpoint of the tribulation will be reached, and the second half will be even more traumatic. The Antichrist will invade Israel and take over Jerusalem, proclaiming himself divine in Gods holy city. In the wake of this blasphemous outrage the Mark of the Beast will be adopted by every nation on earth. It will be introduced for economic reasons, but taking it will be evidence of a spiritual decision to reject the true Savior and to accept the satanic false savior, thus condemning ones soul to hell for eternity.
The Mark of the Beast will be a tattoo or a microchip that will lock everyone into a global economic system, and Revelation 13:17 clearly states that buying and selling will be absolutely impossible without the Mark. Those who refuse it will be branded as subversives, terrorists, cultists and criminals and many will be killed. Believers will be forced out of public society and into an underground network, either far away from human habitation or into a state of constant paranoia. Jesus said that during the tribulation "the love of most will grow cold," and Christian morality, the basis of our easy and comfortable Western society, will be rejected in favor of a cold-blooded lie.
During this time believers will be starving for lack of food and hiding from unbelievers and from the Antichrist, or locked in concentration camps awaiting "re-education," forced to endure psychological drugs, infuriating lies and unmerciful torture, all while waiting for the inevitable decapitation that is promised to those who remain true to God. That is how it will be during the tribulation, and the horrors of this period cannot be exaggerated because Jesus said that it would be the worst time of distress that the world has ever seen, or will ever see again.
This is when the rapture will occur according to the pre-wrath and post-trib viewpoints. It will be a rescue from out of the depths of unparalleled despair. Is this correct? Is it what the Bible teaches? What about the promise that believers will "escape all that is about to happen," that they will be "kept from the hour of trial," and that believers are "not appointed unto wrath," but to receive salvation?
How is it that Jesus describes a rapture scene where believers and unbelievers are living, working and even sleeping together? Where is the terrible persecution, the greatest that the world has ever seen? Jesus compared the situation at the rapture to the situation prior to Noahs flood and prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Were Noah and Lot experiencing great tribulation when they were protected from destruction? No, they were having a good time and enjoying life, eating to their hearts content and safely interacting with unbelievers. Lots wife enjoyed herself so much that she mourned her citys destruction, looked back and was destroyed because of it.
The fact is that Jesus offered more than enough evidence that the rapture will occur on an ordinary day, when life is going on as normal and while believers are interacting with unbelievers as usual. Jesus describes no tribulation at the time of the rapture whatsoever. People will be eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building and also sleeping just as every other day, when the rapture occurs. However, Jesus did give a very clear warning of what people need to be aware of, that might keep them from the rapture when it occurs,
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:34-36
According to Jesus, believers need to be careful that they are not carried away with "dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life," because if they are then the Day of the Lord might sneak up on them unexpectedly. Paul tells us that true believers will not be surprised by the Day of the Lord, and so those who are surprised are not truly saved, although they may claim to be.
So according to Jesus the biggest threats that believers need to be aware of prior to the rapture are the temptations of drunkenness, the anxieties of life and dissipation. The KJV uses the word surfeiting. Here are the definitions according to Websters College Dictionary, 1997,
Dissipation: The act of dissipating dissolute way of living, esp. excessive drinking of liquor; intemperance.
Dissipate: To indulge in extravagant, intemperate, or dissolute pleasure.
Surfeit: Excess or overindulgence in eating or drinking to indulge in something, as food or drink, to excess.
If Jesus gave this warning in the context of a rapture that is to occur while believers are enduring the greatest time of persecution ever, unable to buy food, driven from society and hiding from the Antichrist, then the warning that Jesus gives is a very sick joke. The message is "Dont let eating and drinking dominate your lifestyle," or simply, "Dont get carried away with the pleasures of the flesh." Is this an applicable warning to a Church being murdered in the great tribulation? Hardly.
But it is a very important warning if the rapture is to occur before the end-times tribulation. It is a warning that believers need to understand today. We are not to get carried away with our parties and our cheap and plentiful food, and we should avoid drunkenness. Jesus made it an even broader warning when He said not to be weighed down by the "anxieties of life." It is doubtful that He was referring to the Mark of the Beast as a mere anxiety. No, the rapture will occur far prior to that terrible time. The anxieties of life are the anxieties we face today. Am I making enough money? Do I have the right job? Are the Steelers going to win on Monday night? Should I buy a new car? Am I getting fat? Are we keeping up with the neighbors? All of these "anxieties" are petty and insignificant compared to the areas that Christians are truly called upon to focus on, and Jesus simply warns that believers must not be preoccupied with things that might distract us from what is most important.
The rapture will be the most amazing event that believers will ever experience, and we dont want to be drunk, or consumed by selfish desires, petty grudges, or irrelevant problems when it occurs. We want to be able to escape all that is about to happen, to stand in heaven before the Son of Man. Those who let this world completely distract them will be left behind.
Back to index
Contents are copyright protected
by U.S. Law and International Copyright Law.
Copyright © 2001
with all publishing rights reserved by publisher Peter D. Goodgame
in accordance with U.S. and International Copyright Laws.