10 reasons why the rapture comes before the tribulation
In Chapter 4, we studied the Great Tribulation. If the church were to go through this time, I fear that few would survive, and Jesus would return for only a handful of Christians after the Great Tribulation. The rest would have been killed by the Antichrist, the ruler on Earth. Does God send us into the Great Tribulation? Is that the blessed hope we have, and does it bring comfort? In this chapter, we will explore indications as to why Jesus returns before the Great Tribulation.
Before we delve into the indications of the rapture before the Great Tribulation, let's examine whether Christians experience suffering and tribulation.
In the book of Acts, we find an account of the early followers of Jesus. After Pentecost, thousands came to faith and were led by the apostles. The Jewish leaders in Israel were unhappy with the apostles and their teachings about Jesus. Some apostles were brought before the leaders, who, after questioning them, "commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:18). The apostles continued to proclaim Jesus, and the leaders grew increasingly jealous. Consequently, "they laid their hands on the apostles and put them in common prison" (Acts 5:18). They also "beat the apostles" (Acts 5:40). These beatings involved scourging, which are whips with multiple tails used for severe corporal punishment. The apostles endured suffering and tribulation, and it wasn't a one-time occurrence. We read about Stephen being stoned to death (Acts 7:59), John being banished to Patmos (Revelation 1:9), and Paul experiencing much suffering and tribulation. In the following passage, Paul compared himself to false apostles:
"Are they ministers of Christ? – I speak as a fool – I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
The early church endured much suffering, and there are numerous stories of Christians experiencing suffering and tribulation. Both in the past and today, there is suffering, and it will continue until Jesus sets foot on Earth. Unfortunately, suffering and persecution are part of life with Jesus.
"In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I (Jesus) have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Is there any hope for Christians then?
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)
On Earth, Christians may experience suffering and tribulation. If you go through this, you can find comfort in Romans 8:18. Whatever happens, it doesn't compare to the glory of eternal life with God. Life on Earth is temporary. After a few years, we will either pass away or experience the rapture of the church. The glory with God is eternal, and there will be no suffering, pain, or sorrow. The Bible contains more verses about suffering and tribulation, showing that it is part of life. However, there is a significant difference between the “normal” tribulation of today and the Great Tribulation in the future. The Great Tribulation is a time that has never occurred on Earth and will never happen again (Matthew 24:21). It eclipses everything else, and the Bible has prophesied about it extensively. Now, we will explore the indications as to why I believe that Jesus will come to take us before the seven-year tribulation.
Indication 1: Not Appointed to Wrath
In Chapter 4, we read that the Great Tribulation is a period of God's wrath upon the Earth. People will suffer terribly from wars, poverty, famine, deadly diseases, wild animals, and natural disasters (Revelation 6 and onwards). This is not only the work of humans and the devil but also God's wrath upon the wicked. Does the Bible state that Jesus' followers experience God's wrath?
"For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
In the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul talks about the rapture of the church and encourages believers to be watchful for it. Then he says that we are not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation. We are not destined for God's anger and fury but are saved from it because we belong to the Lord Jesus. This applies to all of God's wrath: firstly, eternal wrath in hell, and secondly, the wrath poured out on Earth. God has not destined us for this, and we can know that if we believe in Jesus, God has forgiven all our debts and sins. He did this by placing all our sins on His Son. Through Jesus' sacrifice, we do not have to bear God's wrath, be it eternal wrath in hell or the wrath on Earth.
"Verily, He has borne our sicknesses, and carried our pains. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3-4)
We are not destined for wrath. This is also written by Paul in the first chapter of the Thessalonians letter.
"And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Paul first wrote about the faith of this congregation. He had received positive reports about their faith and their conversion from idols to Jesus. Paul knew that the congregation expected Jesus to come from heaven to save them from the impending wrath. The coming wrath includes the wrath that God pours out on the earth, resulting in plagues, wars, and diseases.
Additionally, nowhere in the Bible does it state that believers are part of God's wrath. There is no warning or explanation about God's wrath upon believers.
Indication 2: Foreshadowing
We have discovered that Christians are not destined for wrath. In this section, we examine two foreshadowing from the Old Testament: Noah and Lot. Were they destined for wrath?
The story of Noah is essential to study. The Lord Jesus spoke with His disciples about His coming to the earth and used a reference to the time of Noah.
"But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:37-39)
In the early pages of the Bible, God looked upon the earth and saw all the works and thoughts of humanity. Everyone was wicked and constantly engaged in wrongdoing, and it was a godless generation.
"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart." (Genesis 6:5-6)
It pained God greatly to witness all the wickedness of humanity. Because of people's sins, God wanted to wipe them all out. God's wrath and judgment came upon the earth. Only Noah lived a righteous and good life, and only he found favor in the eyes of God.
"Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth." (Genesis 6:11-13).
God decided to destroy the earth. God looked at the earth, and it was full of violence, with no one living righteously. How does humanity live today? Is it righteous and doing good deeds? Humanity believes that things are getting better and better. According to humans, everyone can behave as they please, without considering what God wants. At some point, God's patience wears thin, and judgment comes. Humanity doesn't understand this; they are preoccupied with life on earth. They eat, drink, marry, and celebrate life. People fail to realize that the earth is filled with violence and corruption. Suddenly, the righteous are taken away by God, and humanity experiences God's wrath, just as it happened in Noah's time.
Noah was the only one leading a righteous life. God didn't want to destroy the righteous Noah, so He devised a plan. Noah had to build an ark to escape God's wrath. In the ark, he could take his wife, children, and his children's wives. Additionally, God would send animals to go with him. After constructing the ark, 'the Lord said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. (...) For after seven more days, I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made."' (Genesis 7:1-4). Noah and his family entered the ark, and after seven days, it began to rain. Every living creature perished, both animals and humans. Only the righteous Noah and his family survived God's wrath. From this story, we learn the following:
- God's wrath came upon the earth.
- The unrighteous remained on earth and perished.
- Noah and his family entered the ark and were not affected by God's wrath.
Jesus also referred to the story of Lot. When speaking with his disciples about His coming, Jesus spoke of Lot.
"As it was in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built. But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:29-30)
The following story is about Lot, the nephew of Abraham. God had called Abraham to leave his homeland, family, and loved ones to go to a land that God would show him. Abraham departed with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot. God blessed both Abraham and Lot, and they had accumulated much livestock, making it difficult for them to stay together. Abraham and Lot discussed their future and concluded that it was best to separate.
"And Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left." And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom." (Genesis 13:8-12)
Lot decided to pitch his tent near Sodom. It seemed like a beautiful place with splendid scenery and plenty of food for him, his servants, and his livestock. However, Lot overlooked one crucial aspect.
"But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD." (Genesis 13:13)
Lot had settled in a city filled with exceedingly wicked and sinful people. Later, God told Abraham that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was great, and their sin was very grave (Genesis 18:20). In the book of Ezekiel, the sins of the city of Sodom are detailed.
"Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore, I took them away as I saw fit." (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
While Sodom was rich and had an abundance of food, the wealthy did not help the poor and the needy, which was considered evil in the eyes of God. Additionally, the residents of Sodom lived wickedly and sought to engage in a severe form of immorality.
"As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7)
Who did Sodom want to engage in immorality with? We find this in the Book of Genesis. The city was visited by two angels because it was deeply steeped in sin. God wanted to assess the extent of the wickedness in Sodom through these two angels. The angels appeared in the guise of two men and met Lot. Lot offered them shelter for the night, so they could rest from their journey.
"The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth. (...) But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. And they called unto Lot and said unto him, 'Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them." (Genesis 19:1-5, KJV)
The entire city, from young to old, surrounded Lot's house and demanded that he send the two men (angels, although they didn't know this) out to them. They desired to engage in what would have been a terrible act of collective immorality, resembling a gang rape. Furthermore, according to Jude 1:7, such behavior, man with man, is considered wrong, being described as 'strange flesh.' It is highly likely that Sodom was plagued by even more wickedness and sin. Peter noted that righteous Lot was 'vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked' (2 Peter 2:7).
The men of Sodom wanted to engage in immorality with the two men (angels), but the two men struck them with blindness. They then called upon Lot and his family to leave the city so that God could destroy it. Lot, his wife, and daughters heeded this call, but his sons-in-law did not take it seriously. Similarly, even today, Christians are sometimes not taken seriously and may face mockery. Nevertheless, judgment will come, whether believed or not. I believe Lot did everything he could to reach his sons-in-law. He remained in the city until daybreak, perhaps attempting to persuade them.
"And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, 'Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.' And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth and set him without the city. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, 'Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." (Genesis 19:15-17, KJV)
The angels took hold of their hands and led them out of the city. Righteous Lot was not subject to God's wrath; God intended to spare him and his family. On the way, Lot's wife looked back, against the command, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters escaped. God could not bring judgment upon Sodom until Lot was safely away. God's wrath is not directed at the righteous; it was borne by Jesus, and we are forgiven by God.
"Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." (Genesis 19:22, KJV)
After Lot and his daughters were safely taken away, God destroyed Sodom, and everyone perished.
"Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground." (Genesis 19:24-25, KJV)
From this story, we learn several key lessons:
- Sodom was destroyed due to the extreme wickedness of its inhabitants, and God's wrath was poured out upon the city.
- Only Lot was considered righteous. He and his daughters were spared.
- God could not execute His judgment on Sodom until Lot and his daughters were safely removed.
In these two biblical accounts, we see a foreshadowing of the fact that the righteous, like Noah and Lot, do not experience God's wrath. They are rescued from it, while the unrighteous face it without realizing its impending arrival.
Indication 3: Guarded Against Temptation
The following Bible verse is spoken by the Lord Jesus to the church in Philadelphia. Apart from the ancient church in Philadelphia during John's time, this church represents a particular phase in the history of the Church. It is the second-to-last phase, with the final phase being the Laodicean church, characterized by lukewarmness. God spits out lukewarmness. Today, we see both these churches, with the Laodicean church on the rise.
The Philadelphia church, as described by Jesus, may have little influence and power, but they hold fast to God's Word and do not deny the Lord Jesus. They have been and continue to be a faithful church that endures. Because of this, Jesus made the following promise:
"Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." (Revelation 3:10).
The Lord Jesus guards the Philadelphia church, which includes all believers who persevere in Him. They will be kept from the hour of trial, which is the Great Tribulation that will come upon the world. In this verse, one of the characteristics of the Tribulation is mentioned. An Antichrist will arise, performing great signs and deceiving many. During this time, many will be tempted and led astray.
“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast.” (Revelation 13:13-14)
We are kept from this temptation by the Lord Jesus. This does not mean that a Christian will never face temptation on Earth, but it means that a Christian will not have to endure the worst temptation in human history. Just before the Great Tribulation, the followers of Jesus will disappear and will be kept in the Father's house of God.
The following Bible passage is from the book of 2 Peter. Peter compares the false teachers that were and will be among the church with the angels who rebelled against God, the generation of Noah, and the inhabitants of Lot's city. They were all kept from judgment, which befell the ungodly. Noah and Lot were saved by God. Similarly, it will be with the righteous during the time of the Great Tribulation. God will keep them from the temptation, while the ungodly face His wrath.
‘'But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.' (2 Peter 2:1-9).
I believe this passage speaks of the temptations we experience today and, in particular, the temptation that is to come, the Great Tribulation. God will deliver the righteous from the temptation, while the unrighteous will face punishment during the day of judgment, where the Lord Jesus will judge the dead according to their deeds (Revelation 20:11-15), and during the period of the Great Tribulation on Earth.
A quick note on today's temptations: God is not the one tempting us; it is our own desires that lead to temptation. The devil, and in the future, the Antichrist, exploit these desires and tempt us in areas where we are weak. For one person, it might be alcohol; for another, money; and for yet another, power. God helps and saves us from our weaknesses. How gracious our God is!
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Indication 4: The Day of Christ
Another clue for why the Rapture occurs before the Great Tribulation is that Paul speaks about the coming of the Lord Jesus and our gathering to Him when the Day of Christ arrives.
"Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)
2 Thessalonians reassures the members of the church. They thought that Jesus had returned and they had missed the Rapture. Paul tells them not to be easily shaken because they are not living in the Day of Christ. They hadn't missed the Rapture; it was yet to happen. But what is the Day of Christ that the Thessalonians thought they were part of? Let's read some Bible verses to understand.
"I trust in Him who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9)
The Christians partially experience the Day of the Lord, and it is a joyful time for them. The Rapture of the Church is the first part of this day, followed by God's judgments and wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth. After the Great Tribulation, there will be a thousand-year reign of peace, and after that, the wrath will resume with the final judgment of those who did not believe in Jesus. Just as we can distinguish between the birth, ministry, and crucifixion of Jesus at His first coming, we can differentiate various events within the Day of the Lord. The Thessalonians feared that they had missed the beginning of the Day of Christ, the Rapture. They were experiencing persecution and had heard from Paul that during the Great Tribulation, the persecution of Christians would intensify. Hence, they thought they were already in the Great Tribulation, and Paul reassured them that it had not begun yet.
The Old Testament uses different terms for the Day of Christ, such as the Day of the Lord or the Great Day. Zephaniah, an Old Testament prophet, clearly speaks about this day and shows that it involves the Great Tribulation and the Rapture of the Church.
"Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, "or the day passes like chaff", before the LORD's fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's wrath comes upon you. Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s wrath." (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
Zephaniah speaks of the dreadful Day of the Lord. Many people will be swept away, and the people of Israel will face great hardship. However, the Lord says that it's possible to be hidden on the Day of His anger. All the meek of the earth who seek the Lord's justice, righteousness, and humility may be hidden. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that followers of Jesus are not appointed to wrath. At the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the Rapture takes place, followed by God's wrath, which includes the Great Tribulation. This is also stated in Isaiah 26:19-20, which is discussed in indication 5.
Indication 5: Alive before tribulation
In the study of the Rapture of the Church, we saw that the dead will receive imperishable bodies just before the Rapture. Then the bodies of the living will be changed, and both the living and the dead will be caught up to meet the Lord Jesus. This process takes less than one second.
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
In the book of Isaiah, the moment when the dead rise is described, and it's noteworthy that the following verse talks about the wrath of God. This wrath will be poured out during the Great Tribulation on Earth.
"Your dead shall live; together with my dead body, they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain." (Isaiah 26:19-21)
Pay attention to the words 'Your dead will live.' This applies only to the dead who belong to God. In the New Testament, this would be translated as the dead who are in Christ. They will come back to life and receive new bodies. This happens before God's wrath comes upon the earth. Then, God calls His people to enter their rooms and close the doors behind them. They must hide until God's wrath has passed. Is this talking about the people of Israel? Should they lock themselves in their houses? I don't believe so, because Jesus said:
"When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes." (Matthew 24:15-18)
Here, the Lord Jesus instructed the people of Israel not to return to their homes, but to flee to the mountains when they witness the abomination of desolation. It's important to note that Jesus was referring to Judea (and not to the Christians, who have spread throughout the world). Those in Judea are urged to escape and not to lock themselves in their rooms. God is speaking about another people in Isaiah, which is the living followers of Jesus. We take refuge in our rooms, not our earthly homes but our heavenly chambers in God's Father's house.
"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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2-3)
When the Great Tribulation occurs, the followers of Jesus are caught up to their heavenly chambers. We hide there until God's wrath has passed, for afterward, we return to Earth with the Lord Jesus to reign over the Earth. This text in Isaiah speaks of a resurrection of the dead before the Great Tribulation.
Indication 6: Hell Will Not Overwhelm the Church
The Lord Jesus taught the disciples and engaged in many discussions with them. Once, He asked the disciples, 'Who do you say that I am?' (Matthew 16:15). After Peter declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus said:
"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:17-18)
The Lord Jesus promised Peter that he would be the rock on which He builds His church. The Church of Christ is not a building with stones; it comprises all the followers of the Lord Jesus. The Master Builder, the Lord Jesus, constructs this church, and through Him and God the Father, we are added to this assembly. We have also received a revelation that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus pledged that the gates of Hades (or the realm of the dead) would not overpower the church. Firstly, Hades is the place where the wicked await God's judgment; it's a place of death. Secondly, it is an indication of a realm of the wicked, evil spirits, and demons. They will not succeed in overwhelming the Church of Christ, for it belongs to Jesus, who has conquered Hades (Revelation 1:18).
Now, let's read the texts about the Great Tribulation and what occurs during that time. We will see if Hades prevails over the world and its inhabitants in this brief period.
"So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:8).
Hades is granted power to kill a fourth of the earth's population using various 'weapons.' Hades is partially prevailing on Earth. Daniel spoke of the Antichrist as the greatest human adversary on Earth. During the Great Tribulation, he is given authority to overcome the saints. In Daniel's vision, the Antichrist was depicted as a horn of a dreadful beast. We won't delve into the further meaning of this beast and its other horns.
"Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows. I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them." (Daniel 7:19-21)
The horn, the Antichrist, waged war against the saints and overcame them. Who are these saints? Often, followers of Christ are addressed as saints (Romans 1:7 and 15:26), but in the book of Daniel, it's not referring to the followers of Christ who are part of the Church of Christ. Jesus said that the gates of Hades would not overpower the church, while this does occur to the saints in the book of Daniel. The same imagery is found in the book of Revelation, where it speaks of a beast overcoming the saints during the Great Tribulation.
"It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation." (Revelation 13:7)
Chapter 7 delves deeper into those living on Earth. The saints are the people of Israel and the Christians who came to faith after the rapture of the church. This means that the church does not experience the Great Tribulation and is therefore caught up to heaven.
Indication 7: Praying to Escape
The Lord Jesus provided instruction to the disciples about the coming times. He discussed the birth pangs of the end, the rapture of the church, the Great Tribulation, His second coming, and the end of the current heaven and earth. The Lord Jesus said the following:
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. (...) And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." (Luke 21:20-24)
This clearly speaks of the Great Tribulation that will come upon the entire Earth. Then the Lord Jesus tells us what to do in these dreadful times.
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36)
First and foremost, we must be watchful about our everyday concerns and ensure that they do not dominate our lives. We must continue to expect the Lord Jesus, and if we do, the Day of the Lord will not come upon us suddenly with all its wrath and judgments. This day will come as a snare to everyone on the Earth, without exception. Therefore, the Lord Jesus says that we must always watch and pray to be considered worthy, for then we will escape all the things that will happen. The Lord Jesus spoke of all the things that will happen, not just the final judgment after the thousand-year reign. The Lord Jesus spoke of the Great Tribulation and said it could be escaped. The word 'escape' comes from the Greek word 'ek-phugein,' meaning to flee or escape (from). Since the Great Tribulation is a snare for the entire Earth, the followers of Christ must be kept in a different place to escape the Great Tribulation. The same word is used in 1 Thessalonians, where Paul calls for vigilance before the rapture of the church.
"For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief." (1 Thessalonians 5:3-6)
Firstly, Paul speaks of 'they,' referring to those who do not believe in Jesus. They will not escape the destruction, the Great Tribulation. The Lord Jesus said that we can escape this tribulation, and Paul says that the rest of the people will not escape it.
Then the Lord Jesus says, "to stand before the Son of Man." Instead of 'stand,' we can translate this as 'endure' or 'remain standing.' We must pray to endure before the Lord Jesus. This primarily pertains to the final judgment of the Lord Jesus after the thousand-year reign. Who will endure? Who will not be found guilty? Those are the followers of Christ, not because they never did anything wrong, but through the righteousness of Jesus. During the Great Tribulation, the wicked cry out:
"(…) Hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:16-17)
Secondly, the followers of the Lord Jesus stand during the great day of the wrath of the Lord, and they do not need to hide from His presence. The wicked cried this out during the Great Tribulation, and this tribulation continues for a few more years.
Indication 8: We Do Not Belong to the Night
The Great Tribulation is likened to darkness and night in various places. This tribulation represents the night on Earth, followed by the thousand-year reign.
"The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness," (Zephaniah 1:14-15)
"They will roar against them like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and sorrow; And the light is darkened by the clouds." (Isaiah 5:30)
"Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light." (Amos 5:18)
The Great Tribulation is characterized by darkness. Paul wrote about the Great Tribulation (the Day of the Lord) and said that this day would not overtake the believers in Thessalonica because they are not children of the darkness but children of the light.
"For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (...) For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." (1 Thessalonians 5:2-10)
Paul makes a division. On one hand, Paul speaks of 'they,' and on the other hand, he speaks of 'we' or 'you.' By 'they,' Paul means the wicked who are not part of the church of Christ, and by 'we' or 'you,' he means the church of Christ. They think there is peace and safety, but sudden destruction will come upon them, starting with God's wrath during the Great Tribulation. They will not escape it; it's not possible. God's wrath will come upon all the inhabitants of the Earth. They are children of darkness and the devil (1 John 3:10) and belong to the night. They will experience the darkness of the Great Tribulation and will not be caught up by the Lord Jesus. In contrast, we, the followers of Jesus, do not belong to the darkness but to the light. We are children of the light, and the Day of the Lord will not overtake us because we will be caught up to heaven during the Day of the Lord. We belong to the light and the day, with God in heaven.
Indication 9: Antichrist is Restrained
Currently, the antichrist is being restrained from reigning on Earth. He has a designated time to lead the world, and there is something and someone holding him back. Let's read the text.
"Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8)
The Thessalonians believed that the day of Christ had already arrived and that they had missed the rapture of the church. They were facing persecution and hardship, and because Paul had spoken to them about the rapture of the church and the great tribulation, they thought that their current persecution must be the great tribulation. Paul reassured them, saying that it was not yet the day of Christ and that the rapture of the church and the reunion with the Lord Jesus had not taken place. Paul explained that two things must happen first: the apostasy of the church and the revelation of the Antichrist. These events occur before the great tribulation takes place, and the world enters the day of Christ. Paul then continued his teaching and wrote that the Antichrist has not been revealed because there is a restraining force holding him back. Until this restraining force is removed, the Antichrist cannot be revealed, and when the restraint is removed, the day of Christ begins. The restraining force is first referred to as a power or restraining principle, and then as a person who represents this restraining principle. This implies that we should look for a power or institution and a person closely associated with this power or institution. Unfortunately, Paul does not specify what this power is or who this person is, making it uncertain who or what Paul was referring to. The most common answers to the question of who and what the restrainer is are:
|The (Roman) law
|The emperor or a ruler
|The gospel is proclaimed everywhere
|Angel responsible for the gospel
|The church of Christ
|The Holy Spirit
Many Bible scholars believe that Paul is speaking of Roman law and the emperor. The emperor has enacted various laws that every citizen must obey, and this prevents the man of sin, the Antichrist, from being revealed. I believe that the government can ensure that citizens behave well. In the Netherlands, we have laws that prohibit murder, rape, theft, or fraud. However, it can happen that a government enacts less-than-ideal laws, such as legalizing abortion or prohibiting church gatherings. According to this theory, the emperor is the one who is taken out of the way, and then the Antichrist comes into play. The Roman Empire split in two, with a western and an eastern part. The last Western Roman emperor abdicated around 476 AD, and the Eastern Roman part was conquered in 1453 AD. Roman law and the Roman emperor were not the restrainer, since the Antichrist was not revealed in 476 or 1453. Additionally, some Roman emperors were precursors of the Antichrist. Think, for example, of Emperor Nero, known for his terrible persecution of Christians, immoral behavior, and murderous acts. Could such a person restrain the Antichrist?
Then there are Bible scholars who proclaim that the restraining force is the gospel, and the person is an angel responsible for the gospel. This does not seem possible to me. The Antichrist is the leader of the world in the Great Tribulation, which lasts for seven years. The angel of the gospel (if such exists) is taken away, and then the Antichrist arises. The gospel is 'gone,' which means that no one can come to faith anymore. It is precisely about the Great Tribulation that it is said:
"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (...) Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-14)
The gospel will be proclaimed during the Great Tribulation, and many will come to faith. Even the angels proclaim the gospel during that time.
‘And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."' (Revelation 14:6-7)
In my view, the restraining force has nothing to do with the gospel of God or an angel of the gospel.
The Church of Christ and the Holy Spirit
I believe that the restraining force is the Church of Christ, and the restraining person is the Holy Spirit. Let's revisit Paul's text once more.
"And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming." (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8)
Firstly, Paul spoke about the present, at that moment the Antichrist was being restrained. The Church of Christ was in the world during Paul's time and could be referred to here. Today, too, the Church of Christ is present on Earth, meaning that the Church has been restraining the Antichrist for 2,000 years. Secondly, it talks about 'until he is taken out of the way.' This implies that the Holy Spirit will leave the Earth. The Holy Spirit dwells in believers, and a follower of Jesus' body is likened to a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). This means that the body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. When the Rapture of the Church takes place, all followers of Jesus go to the Father's house. The Holy Spirit accompanies them to the Father's house and leaves the Earth. When this happens, the Antichrist gets the opportunity from God to carry out terrible things on Earth for seven years. That the Holy Spirit is in heaven during the Great Tribulation is indicated in the book of Revelation.
"And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." (Revelation 4:5)
After the Church age, John sees the throne room of God. Before the throne of God, he saw seven burning lamps or torches, which are the seven Spirits of God. The number seven is associated with 'completeness,' indicating that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is present in heaven before the throne of God.
The Holy Spirit and the followers of Jesus are taken up to heaven. The light of the world is removed, and darkness comes with the emergence of the Antichrist. Followers of Jesus are likened to the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
"For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth." (Acts 13:47)
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)
When the salt and the light on Earth are removed, what remains? Only darkness. Additionally, John tells us in his letter that a follower of Jesus has something in them that is more powerful than what is at work in the world.
"And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:3-4)
The book of 1 John indeed provides valuable insights into the children of God and the children of the devil. In chapter 4, John starts with the call that we should not believe every spirit but test whether they are from God. Every spirit that denies that Jesus came in the flesh is the spirit of the Antichrist. The spirit of the Antichrist has been active from John's time until today and will not disappear. After the Rapture of the Church, this spirit takes on a visible form, and the Antichrist is revealed. John says that we have already overcome the spirit of the Antichrist today. We are above this spirit. Why? Because the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. The Holy Spirit within us is greater than the devil and the Antichrist in the world. The devil and the Antichrist cannot deceive the Earth because Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, have overcome them. When the conquerors of the Earth are taken away, the Antichrist has free rein and can reveal himself. We read that the salt and light are taken away, and all the righteous leave the Earth with the Holy Spirit. This is the ideal moment for the Antichrist to be revealed. Fortunately, during these seven years, many will come to realize that they need to repent and follow God. To what extent the Holy Spirit plays a role during the Great Tribulation, we leave open for discussion.
Finally, I want to emphasize that the identity of the restrainer of the Antichrist remains speculative. I believe the most likely candidates are the Holy Spirit and the Church of Christ, but I cannot say this with certainty. Time will tell.
Indication 10: The Day Comes Unexpectedly
The observant reader has discovered that it is not difficult to predict the date of Christ's Second Coming. At the moment the Antichrist strengthens the covenant, seven years (one week) will pass until the return of the Lord (Daniel 9:27). At the moment the sacrificial service in the temple in Jerusalem is stopped, and an abomination of desolation is set up there, 1,290 days will pass (Daniel 12:11). It is a simple calculation to determine that the Second Coming occurs approximately 3.5 years after the abomination of desolation. The day of the Second Coming is not unexpected, but can be easily calculated using the Word of God. Today, we do not know this yet, as the Antichrist has not been revealed, he has not strengthened the covenant, and an abomination of desolation has not been placed in the restored temple in Jerusalem. What does the Bible say about the Rapture of the Church? Can it be calculated, or is it unknown to everyone?
The Lord Jesus Christ instructed us to be prepared because we do not know when He will come. He spoke these words to His disciples and the people gathered around them.
"Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Luke 12:40)
In the Gospel according to Mark, we read the same message. Jesus calls us to be watchful.
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:32-37)
The Rapture of the Church is unexpected for everyone, while the Second Coming of Jesus can be calculated. The Rapture of the Church, therefore, does not occur simultaneously with the Second Coming. We will delve further into this in Chapter 14.
In addition to these significant indicators, there are also smaller hints as to why the Lord Jesus returns to take us before the Great Tribulation.
Firstly, the Antichrist will wage war against the saints of God. If the Rapture of the Church occurs after the Great Tribulation, how many people will Jesus come back for? Haven't Christians been largely massacred? I fear that a vast majority of Christians would have been wiped out and would not experience the Rapture of the Church.
Secondly, the Great Tribulation is intended to discipline the people of Israel. The era of the Church is over, and God resumes His plans for Israel. At a certain point, the number of Gentiles is fulfilled, and God the Father decides that the Lord Jesus may gather His followers. Only after this does God continue with the people of Israel, which is discussed in Chapter 4 and 7 of this book.
"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.'" (Romans 11:25-26)
Thirdly, the Church of Christ is not warned about the Great Tribulation. If we were to go through the Tribulation, then Paul, John, or the Lord Jesus would have warned us. They have not done so; in the Bible, only the people of Israel and the inhabitants of the earth are warned.
I believe that the Rapture of the Church occurs before the Great Tribulation. Before this dreadful time begins, the Lord Jesus comes to gather us, and we are allowed to be with Him in heaven. I base this belief on the following indications for a pre-Tribulation Rapture:
- We are not destined for wrath.
- Noah and Lot did not experience God's wrath.
- We are kept from the hour of trial.
- The Day of Christ starts with the Rapture of the Church.
- The dead rise before the Great Tribulation.
- Hell does not overpower the Church.
- We must pray to the Lord Jesus to escape.
- We do not belong to the night.
- The Antichrist is restrained by the Church and the Holy Spirit.
- The Rapture of the Church happens unexpectedly.
This chapter is in the book A Revelation of the End Times. Read this book right now, so that you don't miss anything about the end times, live in expectation and your faith is increased. The rapture of the church is a special prophecy from the Word of God. Due to the many theories and ideas about this event, many no longer know what is and what is not Biblical. Timo Groot takes you through the Biblical data about the rapture and why the rapture is more relevant today than ever before. The rapture is the hope of escaping the terrible things that are going to happen on earth and is the moment when the church will see the Lord Jesus face to face in the father's house of God.