Times are coming for which many of God’s people are unprepared and eternity will be at stake. We plead with you to study with us the topic of the pre-tribulation and secret rapture in this blog-post. This doctrine -with Catholic roots- has gripped the protestant world and keeps many of His people in darkness for what is about to come.
All the reformers identified the Roman Catholic Church as the Antichrist power, as described in Daniel as the little horn (Daniel 7:8). In defense, the Catholic Church commissioned the Jesuits to come up with an alternative interpretation. It was then that Francisco de Ribera came up with the doctrine of futurism, pointing far forward into the future for the rise of a single individual as the antichrist, taking away the focus on the Catholic Church. The pre-tribulation and secret rapture doctrines are based on this Catholic-made teaching on how to interpret prophecy. It is important to keep in mind that these doctrines are built on the agenda of the Catholic Church, to shift the focus of prophecy of off them. Why? Because you cannot heed Jesus’ warnings to watch, if you don´t know what you are looking for (Matthew 24:4). In this blog-post we will discuss the most used arguments for the pre-tribulation and secret rapture doctrines, and we hope to challenge your thinking, that truth may prevail.
“Jesus will come as a thief”
Yes, the Bible says that He will come like a thief (2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 16:15, Matthew 24:43, 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Now what does that mean? This seems to indicate secrecy, maybe even invisible. This poses a problem as many other texts say that Jesus’ coming will be loud, destructive, and glorious (Zephaniah 1:14-18, Isaiah 13:9-11, Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30-31, Revelation 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Jeremiah 25:30, Psalm 50:3, 2 Peter 3:10). His coming cannot be both quiet and loud at the same time. To solve this problem, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine teaches that the second coming must therefore be in two stages. In the first phase -the quiet coming- it is taught that He will be amongst us on the earth, appear here and there and even secretly takes His people to heaven. This teaching opens up many windows for deceptions as it involves at lot of mystery and secrecy. It makes it very hard for Christians to know and stand for the truth (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, 2 Corinthians 11:14). What would you do if “Jesus” is there with you, and tells you something that goes against the Bible? How will you know what to believe and who to trust, especially knowing that the devil is a master deceiver? Rather, there is an interpretation of the ‘thief’ texts that is much more Biblical and makes a lot more sense.
Who knows when a thief comes? No one. That’s it. It’s not about being quiet, it’s about His coming will be a surprise to many and catch them off guard (1 Thessalonians 5:4, Luke 21:34, 2 Peter 3:10, Matthew 24:42). It says so right in the context of these same texts that say He will come as a thief. The whole parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) emphasizes exactly this point, all will see the bridegroom come, but many are unprepared as they did not know when he would come.
Furthermore, the Bible makes very clear that Jesus’ feet will never touch the ground at His coming, as the believers will be taken up to meet Him in the air, gathered unto Him, not Him unto us (1 Thessalonians 4:17, John 14:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:1). In this way we know that every time someone claims to be Christ in our life time, he is a liar for Jesus will not walk on the earth.
“Christians will be taken, while the wicked are left behind”
Are you sure that is what the verse says (Matthew 24:40-41, Luke 17:34-36)? Does it say which one is saved and which one lost? Does it say which one is the believer and which one the wicked? No. It is the assumption that the saved are the ones taken here that allows the secret rapture to even be considered as a possibility. But what if we tell you that it is actually the other way around?
Read the three verses before (Matthew 24:37-39). Jesus tells us that it will be as in the days of Noah. It says it as clear as day in verse 39, but let me ask you, who were the ones taken away? The wicked. They were destroyed by the flood. Who were the ones left? Noah and his family. The same with Sodom and Gomorra. Who were the ones taken away? The wicked. The ones left? Lot and some of his family. The first born dying in Egypt during the plagues, who was taken? The wicked. Left? The saved. The Bible shows time and again, that the ones taken are the ones who are destroyed (Proverbs 5:22, Ecclesiastes 7:26, Isaiah 8:14-15, Isaiah 24:17-18, Acts 2:23, Matthew 21:39, 1 Corinthians 10:13 Joshua 8:8-17, Joshua 8:21-22, Judges 1:8), and the ones left are the saved (Exodus 14:28, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Isaiah 24:6, Judges 4:16, Matthew 24:2, Mark 12:22).
To bring this point home once and for all, we find a parallel text in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-7. Paul here is repeating the message that Jesus preached in Matthew 24. In these short verses, Paul repeats 9 essential concepts or words as Jesus used in His: left/remain, taken/overtaken, watch/watch, thief in the night/thief in the night, sober/sober, destroyed/destruction, pray/pray, escape/will not escape, unexpectedly/suddenly. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt talking about the same event, and Paul here makes clear that the ones ‘taken’ are those who are ‘overtaken’, the wicked. So, these texts don’t support a secret rapture at all, but rather testify that both groups -just like with Noah- will remain on the earth, while those taken will be destroyed, and the saved will be left for when Jesus comes (Isaiah 4:3).
“The church will be in heaven from Revelation 4 onward”
There is a theory that when God invites John to come in to heaven (Revelation 4:1), that John is a symbol for the church. In other words, the church will be in heaven from Revelation 4 on forward, and everything that follows does not apply to the Christians, but to the Jews. Now there are some major problems with this theory, but we will point out only one issue for now, that on its own tells us that this interpretation cannot be.
The problem is that John is not in heaven all the time from Revelation 4 onward. You see the problem there? If John is a symbol for the church, and the church is supposed to be in heaven for 7 years until Jesus glorious coming to the earth, John should have stayed in heaven until that time. Yet we read in several places that John went back and forth between earth and heaven, as he saw angels descending from heaven -meaning he is on the earth- (Revelation 20:1, Revelation 10:1, Revelation 18:1) and heard a voice from heaven -meaning he is on the earth- (Revelation 14:13) and was carried away in His spirit to be shown the new Jerusalem which is in heaven -meaning he was not there- (Revelation 21:10). To top it all off, John was carried away to the wilderness too (Revelation 17:3). Would this then mean that the church, during the time in heaven, would make a trip to the wilderness? No, of course not. John was invited as a person to show him what must take place, so that he could write it down and that we can read and learn from it today (Revelation 22:10). He did not symbolize the church, he simply received a vision to share with us.
“The falling away is the secret rapture”
Paul is telling us that there will be a great falling away before Jesus returns (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Some interpret this as applying to God’s people, in the sense that they will be secretly raptured to heaven, departing this earth, looking like a falling away of people. However, this theory does not hold up in basically any Bible translation. In many translations the word for ‘falling away’ is translated as ‘rebellion’. The Greek word actually is ‘apostasia´ (646.), meaning apostasy. Yes, many believers will depart, but not to heaven. In the end time many will depart from His church, rebelling against it, choosing the side of the enemy.
“Jesus is coming with all the saved / saints”
Jesus is coming with all his saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13) and it is believed that these saints are those who were secretly raptured earlier. Though His people are called saints too (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Colossians 1:2), it is not these saints that Jesus is coming with. The gospel of Mark of Matthew make it very clear to us who is coming with Jesus, it’s the angels (Mark 8:38, Matthew 24:30-31). When the law was given to Moses, the Lord came with thousands of saints (Deuteronomy 33:2). The Bible tells us only that Enoch was taken to heaven by that time, which does not fit the description of thousands. So who were those saints then? The angels. Jesus will come with His saints, the angels.
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath / God will keep us from the hour of trial”
The Bible teaches that God’s people are not to experience God’s wrath, but will be kept from the hour of trial and should escape what is about to happen (1 Thessalonians 5:9, Revelation 3:10, Luke 21:36). Because God says He will pour out His wrath unmixed with mercy (Revelation 14:10), His people cannot be on the earth, for His people are not to experience His wrath, right? And when they are not on earth, they should be in heaven. And for His people to get in to heaven, they should be taken there before -the rapture. That is the theory. However, there is another way in which these verses can be explained, that we will see is much more Biblical and in line with how God has operated in the past and does not need us to fabricate a doctrine that the Bible does not teach.
It says it all with the word ‘keep’ in Revelation 3:10. This word ‘téreó’ (5083.) does not mean prevent or take away, it means guard, watch over, keeping an eye on and hold fast. We see this confirmed in the statement where Jesus asks God not to take His people out of the world -Jesus is praying against the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture-, but for God to keep -same word- us from evil (John 17:15). How? Not by taking us out of the world, but to protect us while we are there.
God is not going to take His people away, He will protect them through the tribulation (Psalm 91:7-10, Isaiah 26:20-21). We see this coming back over and over in Bible stories. The Jewish people in the time of Esther had a death decree against them. Did God take them away? No, He protected them in it (Esther 8:11). Did God save the three Hebrew boys from going the experience of the fiery furnace? No, He saved them through it (Daniel 3:28). The Israelites in Egypt during the plagues, were they taken out of the land before the plagues fell and God poured out His wrath? No, but God protected them (Exodus 8:22-23, Exodus 9:6, Exodus 9:26, Exodus 11:7, Exodus 12:23). There was a separation made between God’s people and the wicked. In the same way will God’s people be sealed in the end of time with God’s seal, and no plague shall fall on them. God saves His people not from, but through tribulations.
The Bible itself confirms the theory that God´s people in the end will not be taken away before the tribulation, but will go through it. In Matthew 24:21-22 it tells us that there will be a tribulation like the world has never seen, but the days of the tribulation will be cut short. Why? For the sake of the elect. Why would it need to be cut short for their sake, if they are not even there? Jeremiah compares the time of tribulation with Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), where Jacob wrestled with God all throughout the night -the night symbolizing the dark times His people will go through (Genesis 32:24, Genesis 32:28). The Bible teaches that it is those moments of trials that produce desirable fruit in us (James 1:2-3, Romans 5:3, James 1:12, James 5:11, 2 Corinthians 12:10). Will the tribulation be joyful? No, it will be hard and tough and will leave us in despair. But it creates in us a stronger faith, and a hope to look forward to.
Finally, Matthew and Mark make sure there cannot be any more confusion about this point. They tell us literally that after the tribulation, Jesus will come again and His angels will gather His elect from all over the world (Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27). How can they gather the elect if they were taken away before the tribulation? Some will say, it is the Jews and those who got a second chance during the seven years that God’s people were already in heaven. First of all, we have by now seen already that there is no such thing as a secret / pre-tribulation rapture. Second of all, Jesus tells us that those warnings He gave are for ‘all’, not just for the Jews (Mark 13:37).
On top of that, we want lightly to touch on a topic we get into much deeper in another blog-post, but prophecy is not about literal Israel and the Jews. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that God’s people, Israel, is spiritual, not literal. Israel as a nation is no longer God’s special people (Romans 11:7), it is now a body of believers that together make a spiritual Israel. Now everyone is able to become children of the promise (Romans 2:28-29, Romans 11:17, Romans 9:7, Galatians 3:28-29, Romans 11:25-26). It is the Catholic-made doctrine of ‘futurism’ that has made almost the whole protestant world look in the wrong direction, in the wrong time and at the wrong people for prophecy to be fulfilled. Because of this false teaching, Christians are completely missing that prophecy is being fulfilled in front of their very own eyes, and that steps are taken for the deadly wound of the antichrist to be healed again (Revelation 13:3). The reason why that verse says the whole world will follow the beast, is partly because ‘futurism’ has distracted the Christian world from seeing who the beast is.
The call to respond
If we are willing to deal with the consequences and don’t want to hide behind made-up doctrines from uncomfortable truths, we find that the teachings around the tribulation and Jesus´ second coming are much simpler than we think. We want to share this with you in short, and will expand on each detail in later posts. We only mention a few Bible verses here, as many of them have been mentioned earlier in this blog post.
Before His second coming, the people will receive either the mark/seal of the beast or of God (Revelation 7:2-4, Revelation 13:16-17). Those who have the mark of the beast, under leadership of the antichrist, will persecute those who do not have the mark of the beast, but of God (Revelation 12:17). After a certain time God will pour out His wrath through the seven plagues upon the earth (Revelation 16:1). These plagues will not affect the people who have the seal of God, only those with the mark of the beast (Revelation 18:4). These plagues are followed by Jesus second coming (Matthew 24:29-21). It will be noisy, loud, bright, glorious and no one will miss it (Matthew 24:27, Revelation 1:7). The wicked people will be destroyed by His glory (Psalm 50:3, Revelation 6:17), while the dead in Christ will resurrect and together with the saints who are still alive, be caught up with Jesus in the clouds and taken to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). The people of God will be in heaven for a thousand years where they will judge the fallen angels and the wicked (Revelation 20:5-6, 1 Corinthians 6:2). After the thousand years the wicked will rise and hear their judgement (Revelation 20:2-3, Revelation 20:14). All will see that God is fair and that the destruction of the wicked is merciful and just (Philippians 2:10, Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:23). Then the saints will inherit the kingdom for ever more (Matthew 5:5, Revelation 21:1-3).
Until you are confident in the truth yourself, we encourage you to choose the safe option. If we are wrong in our interpretation and we are raptured before everything, we’ll be able to apologize to you in heaven. But if you are wrong… it will leave you unprepared for trouble, risking that you will fall for deception and go on the path to destruction. Many believe they’ll be able to still choose Jesus during the 7 years on earth, as a second chance. What if you’re wrong and don’t get a second chance? Friends, let’s make sure we are ready already today. Let’s be amongst those the below Bible verse describes as the kind of Christians Jesus is looking for: