Not long ago, this statement was said forcefully and without hesitation by two television preachers. Too many assume that if someone is on television then most likely what they are saying is true. This perception of validity is heightened if the teachers are both sincere and authoritative in their presentation. But when we get passed the enthusiastic presentation, we just might find that the supporting biblical argument is lacking.
Most of us like it when we can firmly believe in things that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt (“proof positive”). But since I, and most reading this article, don’t hold to a Post-tribulational rapture view, we immediately doubt the reality of their declaration. What was the biblical evidence used to support their statement? A couple of points were made which when they are investigated are not compelling. The following may not be new information for our readers, but every now and again it is good to refresh our thinking; or as the Apostle Peter said, “to stir up our pure minds by way of remembrance.”
However, before we look at their reasons, I think we should note a significant technique that is used by some, and it sounded to me that these two preachers were using it. Often those making presentations like this one make it clear that they have come to their conclusions in spite of being previously indoctrinated in another position. This apparently is done to bolster both their credibility and scholarship. In this case, both of these men said they used to be Pre-tribulational in their view of the rapture, having been raised on that teaching. But now, after they gave serious thought to the Pre-tribulational position, they abandoned it. They happily pointed out that when they raised questions about the Pre-tribulational rapture, no one was willing or able to give them clear answers. (This is not surprising since there are plenty of believers who hold to theological positions which they simply cannot give a reasonable answer for). We might point out that these two television preachers apparently were asking the wrong people about the matter because credible and able biblical scholars have presented strong and compelling arguments for the Pre-tribulational rapture position.
But getting back to the proof provided for a Post-tribulational rapture. The discussion began with a rather confusing analysis of the coming tribulation. One pointed out that there could not be a mid-tribulational rapture because the tribulation will only be 3 ½ years in length and there is no place found for a rapture half way through that period. (Now it is true that the emphasis is on a 3 ½ year period called “the great tribulation”). Unfortunately, the term “tribulation” has been regularly used for the entire final seven years; which is why many of us prefer to call these years “Daniel’s 70th week”. But this cumbersome title has not generally caught on. One of the preachers acknowledged that a seven year period of time does begin with the signing of a treaty with Israel. (One dropped in the tidbit that Donald Trump is now ready with such a document—this brought an excited gasp from those gathered!). But frankly, it was unclear what the relationship to the rapture event that all of these “facts” had.
Basically, two points were made. First and foremost, was the Matthew 24:29 verse where “after the tribulation of those days”, Jesus would come back to the earth. With that we would agree, but it is not the rapture event in view. It is the 2nd Coming of Christ to the earth in judgment. These preachers just assume, without proof, that this is the rapture of the church. But at the rapture, believers meet Christ in the air and return to the “Father’s house” (not to the earth). This is a wonderful time of blessing and deliverance. No such things are referenced in Matthew 24:29 where the emphasis is on judgment; judgment which continues when He sits on His glorious throne and judges the nations (Matt. 25:31). When believers return to heaven with Jesus, two important events take place, as recorded in Revelation 19. First, is the judgment seat of Christ where believers in the church are rewarded, receiving “fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (19:8). This is the necessary preparation for the second event which is the marriage of the Lamb (19:7). The Post-tribulational view as held by these two television preachers have a terrible time trying (if they even try at all) to give a reasonable explanation for the timing of these events. Clearly these events are nowhere in Matthew 24.
Another reality is that these two simply ignored the context of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. The disciples asked Jesus questions related to the future of Israel (likely based on Zechariah 12-14). They knew nothing about the “body of Messiah”; that is, the church made up of saved Jews and saved gentiles. They were not asking about the church (as they had no understanding of that unique organism) and Jesus was not giving them an answer about the church. This is a fundamental mistake made by many, even some in the Pre-tribulational camp.
The preachers continued their presentation by noting that in Matthew 24:31, Jesus gives the order to gather “His elect” from all over the world. They said that the “elect” in the NT refers to church saints. This is not always the case (e.g. Luke 18:7). Of course, in dealing with the church age as the NT does from Acts onward, the term will most likely apply to believers in the church age. However, there will always be theological confusion when the assumption is held that it is always the case. The context determines its meaning. In the Matthew 24 context, the subject is Israel. One must assume that the church is still on earth in order to have the church gathered together from all over the earth at the 2nd Coming of Christ. The context of Matthew 24 is those people who become believers in the seven year period. It should also be noted that the term “elect” for 1500 years had applied primarily to Israel, when Christ spoke these words. (e.g. note Deut. 4:37; 7:7). Their argument was clearly circular: “the church is in the tribulation period, having not been raptured out before that time, and so, the elect refers to the church which proves a Post-tribulation rapture”.
After leaving Matthew 24, the other “proof” was found in Revelation 20:5 where the martyrs of the tribulation period are raised in the “first resurrection.” The word “first” was used to show that the resurrecting of people only starts at the 2nd Coming. Since believers are indeed resurrected at the rapture event, and since this is the first resurrection, then it shows that there could not have been a resurrection (rapture) before this moment. Therefore, there can be no rapture before the tribulation; only at the end of it.
The term “first resurrection” has caused some confusion for believers. What needs to be observed here is that the words “first resurrection” refers to a category of resurrected people rather than a chronological order. It is chronological only in that it is the resurrection of believers which, in fact, is prior to the resurrection of all unbelievers at the end of the millennial age. So the term “first” is used more to characterize a kind of resurrection; namely the resurrection of the righteous. The fact is that the righteous were resurrected beginning with the Righteous One Himself, the Lord Jesus. He is first fruits of the resurrection harvest. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus is part of the “first resurrection.”
But when Jesus was raised from the dead, we learn from Matthew that quite a number of other believers were raised from the dead at that time. Matthew 27:52-53.
“AND THE TOMBS WERE OPENED; AND MANY BODIES OF THE SAINTS WHO HAD FALLEN ASLEEP WERE RAISED; AND COMING OUT OF THE TOMBS AFTER HIS RESURRECTION THEY ENTERED THE HOLY CITY AND APPEARED TO MANY.”
While this “aside” from Matthew raises some interesting questions, what is clear is that at the time Jesus the Righteous One was raised bodily from the dead, so were many other righteous ones. While we do not know who they were exactly or how long they appeared in Jerusalem, we do know that here are resurrected people. Those in Revelation 20:5 are not the first human beings raised, receiving resurrection bodies. Later, we believe, at the Pre-tribulational rapture event, millions of believers are raised from the dead, according to 1 Corinthians 15:52.
And while these two television preachers can hold to a Post-tribulational view if they want to, what they cannot claim is that they have “proof positive” for such an event. The subject of this article is not the Pre-tribulational rapture, but there is compelling theological and biblical arguments for the rapture taking place prior to the 70th week of Daniel.