What Will Come First, Rapture or Tribulation?

What Will Come First, Rapture or Tribulation?

When discussing the end times and Christ’s second coming, I am often asked whether or not Christians will experience the tribulation. I won’t give a quick “yes” or “no” answer, but I do want to unpack the background  and also offer some pastoral thoughts as we explore this question.

The devil has two modes of attack against the church of God: as a serpent, he is a deceiver, and as a dragon, he is a persecutor. His first method is almost invariably deception, because if he can deceive a man into teaching lies, he can get him condemned.

(Jeremiah 48:10) “Cursed is he who does the work of Yahweh deceitfully.”
(James 3:1) “My brothers, do not be many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”
(Revelation 21:8) “and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Not only this, but the devil can also condemn all those who follow false teaching, because they are led into error.

(Isaiah 9:16) “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and those who are led by them are destroyed.”
(Matthew 15:14) “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Concerning the second coming of Jesus and the post-tribulation rapture, the Devil has been very subtle, and deceived many into believing one of two very serious error: the pre-tribulation rapture or the mid-tribulation rapture. Jesus once told a parable about ten virgins who waited for the bridegroom to come (Matthew 25:1-13). Five were wise and were prepared for his coming, but five were foolish and did not have enough oil in their lamps (v8). When the bridegroom came the wise went in with him to the marriage, but the foolish were shut out (v10). This is a parable about Jesus’ second coming, warning us to be prepared. If the Devil can ensure that we are not prepared, then he can get us shut out when Jesus comes, just like the foolish virgins. In order to do this he has deceived people into believing in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. Many believe that they will not have to go through any tribulation, and so have not prepared themselves for it, and like the foolish virgins they will not have time to prepare if they realize their mistake too late. Even in this parable the bridegroom did not collect some virgins one time and then others at a later date, they were either taken in at his only coming, or they were shut out. With this one deception the Devil will get many of those who believe this false doctrine rejected when Jesus comes. I urge anyone who believes in a pre-tribulation rapture to prayerfully meditate on this study and allow God to show you the truth of it. This study has one main aim – to prove from the scripture that the rapture will not come before the tribulation, but will occur on the last day of this pre-millennial age. That is the day when Jesus returns for his church, and destroys the Beast and his army who fight against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:12Revelation 19:19-21).

So What DO You Mean By Tribulation?

Before we can answer this question, we  need to know what the “tribulation” is. Many Christians believe that the 70th week (seven year period) described in Daniel 9:24-27 still awaits, and during this time,  evil will reign and God’s wrath will be poured out on the world before Jesus’ return at the end of the seven years. Those who hold to this view typically see the Book of Revelation as covering this seven year period and the various elements discussed in this book as happening during this period. This period would also feature great persecution of God’s people with the antichrist (the beast of Revelation) in power, forcing all to follow him or suffer dire consequences (including death). Because there are discussions about three and a half years in Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6, 15; and 13:5 (also see Daniel 9:27 and 12:11), some view the last half of these years to be exceptionally bad. It would seem safe to say most people would prefer not to experience these situations!

Why Would Christians Experience Tribulations?

Matthew 24: 1-25, Jesus took time to explain to his disciples what will happen? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

Some who teach about this time period say that Christians will be spared from the tribulation because the church will be “raptured” (raised to heaven to meet Jesus in the clouds as discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17) before these events take place — in fact, in this view the the rapture will mark the beginning of the tribulation. Something to note is that there is no particular verse to point to for this teaching as it is built upon a few key ideas. First of all, those who believe this view often note that Revelation 1-3 talks about the church, but the church is not mentioned again after Revelation 3. Revelation 4 talks about the Apostle John being brought into heaven — could this be a symbol and sign that the church will be removed before these events take place? The reasons for this removal would be that the time of the “parenthesis” (between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel 9) has ended and God is now finished with the “time of the Gentiles” and goes back to working out His plan for Israel. Another verse that is used to support the view that the church will not be present during this time is Revelation 3:10: “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” Finally, another significant idea in this viewpoint is that God will pour out His wrath during the tribulation, and believers in Christ cannot experience God’s wrath because it has been poured out for them on Jesus. 

However, others who hold to this seven-year period would say that the Bible does not teach that Christians would be raptured or removed before these events. They note that God’s wrath is not necessarily being poured out during the tribulation time; that wrath is what awaits at the end. A variant of this argument is that the first three and a half years of the tribulation are the wrath of Satan, while the last three and a half are the wrath of God, so it is at that mark that Christians are removed. Those who hold to this “mid-tribulation” rapture view also point out that Revelation 12:14 speaks about being guarded for three and a half years and that Revelation 14 would seem to be a better point for a call of a “rapture” than Revelation 4 since that is when the 144,000 are in heaven (the seventh trumpet discussed in Revelation could connect to the trumpets discussed in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Others, however, have seen this “rapture” event happening at the end of the tribulation, as Jesus says in Matthew 24:29-31 that after this tribulation, Christ will send out his angels to gather his elect. They would also see all the events discussing Jesus’s return and final judgment essentially happening at the same time…not separated over the course of years. Those who believe Christians would be removed at the middle or the end of the seven year period would note that Revelation 3:10 does not mean that one has to be removed from the situation. To “keep from the hour” could mean to protect and persevere through the situation, perhaps akin to the way that God watched over the people of Israel when the plagues came upon Egypt. In fact, Jesus prays in John 17:15 for believers not to be taken out of the world but to be kept from the evil one.

Christians will go through persecutions

Something that should be noted, regardless of one’s view, is that Christians will face sufferings in this world; we will have trials and tribulations. Jesus told us so: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul told us so: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). We should not fear suffering as Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). The apostles took these words to heart: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). Many of our brothers and sisters around the world regularly face suffering and persecution. While we may desire to be spared from great suffering in the future, we need to recognize that suffering is not antithetical to the Christian life, but rather part of the normal Christian life as we follow Christ in this world. We may or may not experience this “tribulation” period, but we will go through tribulation, so let us heed the call to the church in the Book of Revelation to hold fast to our faith in all circumstances. Jesus continually tells us that we should be ready because he will come at an hour we do not know and do not expect. Our lives could end at any time or he could return at any time, so let us remain faithful and remind others of this important truth.

This article gives you plenty of scriptural proof for the post-tribulation rapture of the church. In view of these facts, I invite anyone who reads this article, who would like to contribute any constructive comments, either to enhance, or to correct, or to contribute in any way that will help others, and bring this study closer to the complete truth, to contact me. As seems appropriate, I will use any information offered freely to refine this study for the glory of God.  then please tell your friends about this website. For further questions on this topic, you may kindly e-mail to david@davidkedode.com and I will be glad to answer and discus further.

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