Refuting Pre-Tribulation Rapture with Scripture

 Exploring Prophetic Mysteries

 With Daniel Speck 7.24.15

 

Refuting pre-Tribulation Arguments with Scripture

 

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed.” II Thessalonians 2:3

 

As popular as the invisible return and pre-Tribulation rapture is today, it is still subject to the Lord’s command to test all things and not go beyond what is written. When you carefully study everything the Bible actually says, as well as doesn’t say about the Second Coming and Rapture, these false teachings collapse under the weight of Scripture.

 

Here are some of the most common statements usually given to prove this erroneous theory. They can all be answered by clear Biblical statements and refuted by sound Biblical arguments.

 

1. “The Rapture will happen before the Tribulation”

This teaching is found nowhere in the Bible. It is often stated as fact but there is not a single Scripture that says the Rapture will happen this way. What is more, it contradicts straightforward statements of Scripture that describe a truly Last Trumpet, post-Tribulation Rapture.

Matthew 24:29-31 says the return and Rapture will happen after the Tribulation:29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days...they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

I Thessalonians 2:1-4 says the Rapture will take place after the Antichrist is revealed:  Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.

II Corinthians 15: 51-53 says the Rapture will happen at the Last Trumpet which is sounded at the end of the Tribulation, not the beginning: Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

The Last Trumpet in the Bible is the Seventh Trumpet at the end of the Tribulation according to Revelation 1:15: Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” A pre-Tribulation rapture trumpet could not honestly be called the Last Trumpet with seven more trumpets to sound.

 

2. “The return of Christ will be invisible”

Found nowhere in the Bible. In fact Jesus Himself warns us not to expect a secret return (Matthew 24:23-27). The Second Coming and Rapture are described only as visible and seen across the entire sky by everyone on the Panet.   

"...and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” Matthew 24: 30.

“For just as the lightning that comes from the east and is visible even to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24: 27 (NIV).

Behold He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Revelation 1:7.

 

3. “The Rapture will be instant and invisible”

Not in the Bible anywhere. I Corinthians 15: 51-52 is often cited as proof of this but that passage of Scripture describes only our bodily transformation being instant, not the catching up of believers into the air:

“Behold I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed.”

The subject of all 30 verses before this Scripture are entirely about the nature of the bodies we will receive at the Coming of Christ. The actual catching up into the air is not mentioned anywhere in this chapter.

The Bible doesn’t teach an invisible Rapture either. This idea contradicts Colossians 3:4 which says: When Christ who is our life is revealed, then you will also be revealed with Him in glory.”

How can the Church be revealed at His Coming if the Rapture is invisible?

The prophetic types of the Rapture also depict this event as definitively visible and seen by believers as well as unbelievers.

“If you see me when I am taken from you it will be so…” Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven, Elijah saw it… II Kings 2:9-12.

The popular depiction of millions of Christians instantly disappearing without anyone knowing what happened to them is just not Biblical. The Rapture will  certainly be visible to all as it unfolds at Christ’s visible Coming, and everyone on the planet will know exactly what has happened.

 

4. “The Rapture is not the Second Coming”

Pre-Tribulationists teach that when Jesus returns to rapture the Church and resurrect the dead, this is not the Second Coming but only His subsequent return is. But the Scriptures clearly state that the coming of the Lord and the Rapture happen at the same time.

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the COMING of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 5:15-17.  

“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 14:3.

How could Jesus Himself descend from heaven and this not be His Second Coming? If the Coming of the Lord at the Rapture is not His Second Coming, then which Coming is it?  

 

5. “Revelation 3:10 says the Church will not go through the Tribulation”

No, it says the Philadelphia church of first century Asia minor will not be tested. This is one of the most quoted Scriptures as proof that the Church will not go through the Tribulation:

“I also will keep you (the Church in Philadelphia) from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

This passage is almost always taken out of context by pre-Tribulation advocates. Most quote it without disclosing that it was actually written to the Church in Philadelphia, only one of the seven churches of first century Asia Minor. It is a classic case of cherry picking.  

There is a context of Christ’s impending Return as well as the impending Tribulation in all of the letters to the Seven Churches, not just to the Church in Philadelphia. Most of the Seven are told that they will be going through testing, tribulation or refining.

 

6. “John’s entrance into heaven is a type of the Rapture”

Once again the Bible never says this or gives any real reason to believe it. John is taken up into heaven only in spirit, not bodily. But there is a bodily resurrection and rapture that takes place in the book of Revelation; that of the two witnesses, which they choose to ignore, probably because this real rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation. “And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.’ Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.” Revelation 11:13.

 

7. “II Thessalonians 2 says the Rapture will happen before the antichrist is revealed”

No, II Thessalonians 2 says just the opposite; that the Church will not be gathered up until first the apostasy takes place and the man of sin is revealed.

Now we request you brethren with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together with Him, that you not be quickly shaken up from you composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or by a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… II Thessalonians 2: 1-3.

The whole pre-Tribulation argument hinges on the mistaken notion that the entire Tribulation period is the Day of the Lord, a false claim which Joel completely discredits with his prophesy that the cosmic disasters, identical to those of the sixth seal, will take place before the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31). So it is clear that the Second Coming, Rapture and the Day of the Lord will all happen together, on the same day.

 

8. “The Church is not mentioned after Revelation 3 and so will not be here during the Tribulation”

Because the particular name “church” is not used, doesn’t mean the Church will not be here. The name “Jew” isn’t mentioned after chapter 3 either, but that doesn’t mean the Jews will not be present during the Tribulation. They certainly will be.

The Church is called by many different names throughout the New Testament: the Saints, the Brethren, the Elect, and these names are all used for believers throughout the book of Revelation. In fact the Great Multitude of gentile believers in Christ from every nation who “…come out of the Great Tribulation(Revelation 7:14), are washed in the blood of the Lamb and follow Him as their Shepherd. This is the perfect definition of the Church even if that particular name is not used.

 

9. “Matthew 24 is not for the Church”

This is a common misinterpretation unsupported by any Scripture. It is strange that all pre-Tribulation teachers say this but then quote verse after verse from Matthew 24 (as well as Mark 13 and Luke 21) to warn Christians today of impending Last Days events.

These chapters are describing the Tribulation period, not anything before. If the Church will be gathered up before all these things occur, then nothing in the Olivet Discourse would have anything to do with the Church and so couldn’t be quoted as they often are as if the Church had to heed them.

For instance Luke 21: 28: “But when you see these things begin to take place straighten up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”, is often quoted by pre-Tribulation teachers to encourage believers today, but the context occurs during the Tribulation period when all these things begin to take place.” If the Church is taken up before the Tribulation, we wouldn’t be here when all these things take place because we would be in heaven.  

 

10. “The Rapture and Return are always imminent”

The Bible never uses the word imminent to describe the Rapture. Suddenness is not imminence. The Rapture will happen suddenly and without warning when it does happen, like a thief in the night. and no man will know the exact day or hour. This doesn’t make it perpetually imminent. Imminence means that an event is certainly about to happen. Nothing can be imminent for two thousand years.

“...so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” Matthew 24: 33.

Only when we see all these things” of the Tribulation begin to unfold will we know that the Return of Christ is truly imminent. Until then, “imminent” is not a term that can be used to describe the Second Coming and Rapture before the Tribulation actually begins.

 

11. “Absolutely nothing has to happen before Jesus comes back”

The Apostle Paul might beg to differ:

…with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together with Him…Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed.  II Thessalonians 2:1-3.

Clearly stated by Paul here is the fact that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him will not come until the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, exalts himself above all gods and takes his seat in the Temple as God. It just cannot get any more clear than this.

A list of some of the events that were prophesied to take place before the Second Coming and Rapture, contradicting the theory of perpetual imminence:

1. Paul would take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) and witness in Rome (Acts 23:11)

2. The Gospel would be preached to all the world, (Matthew 24:14, Acts 1:8) which means the whole planet would have to be explored and evangelized, which wasn’t completed until the late 20th century.

3. The birth pains of the Tribulation would begin (Matthew 24:8).

4. The Antichrist would appear (Matthew 24:15, II Thessalonians 2:1-4).

5. The Great Apostasy would occur (Matthew 24:10, II Thessalonians 2:1-4).

6. The Abomination of Desolation would occur (Matthew 24:15, II Thessalonians 2:1-4).

7. The Temple will have to be rebuilt for the Abomination of Desolation to take place, which means that the Jews would have to be in control of the Temple Mount, which means that the Jews would have to return to the land of Israel and secure sovereignty over Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15), which didn’t happen until 1967.

8. The Seven Seals have to be opened: unprecedented war, famine, plagues and cosmic disasters before the Day of the Lord arrives (Luke 21:11, Joel 2: 30-31, Revelation 6-11).

 

12. “The Holy Spirit is the Restrainer who will be taken out when the Church is raptured”

Pre-Tribulation teachers are fond of saying this, but the problem is that there is no Scripture that says the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit or the Church. A careful reading of II Thessalonians 2 actually identifies the Restrainer as the Mystery of Iniquity.

The Restrainer does not keep the Antichrist from coming, but keeps him from being revealed, that is, exposed for what he really is; allowing him to deceive the world. It is the deception of wickednessandstrong delusion the Beast uses so that they will believe what is false.”

Paul gives a detailed description of the Restrainer as the Mystery of Iniquity, reminding the Thessalonians that he had mentioned this source of deception before:

“Do you not remember that while I was still with you I was telling you these things? 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. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” II Thessalonians 2:6-8.

Just as Paul said, he spoke of this restraining deception before, such as in II Corinthians 4:4: The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers…” The Restrainer is neither the Holy Spirit nor the Church so this idea fails as evidence for a pre-Tribulation Rapture.

 

13. “The Tribulation is the Day of the Lord”

Pure invention. Nowhere in the Bible is the Tribulation called the Day of the Lord. This is based on circular reasoning: since the Rapture must happen before the Day of the Lord, then the Tribulation must be the Day of the Lord. The prophet Joel places the Day of the Lord after the exact same cosmic events described in the Sixth Seal, which means the Day of the Lord definitely will not happen before the end of the Tribulation.

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord.” Joel 2:31.

“I looked when He broke the sixth seal and there was an earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood…” Revelation 6:12.

The Day of the Lord begins when Jesus Christ shows up. He clearly states that this Day will happen “…immediately after the tribulation of those days…they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds… (Matthew 24:29-30). First means first, last means last, same with ‘fore and after.

 

14. “The dispensation of the Church and the ‘Jewish dispensation’ cannot take place at the same time during the Tribulation”

There are only two dispensations stated in Scripture: the dispensations of Law and of Grace. The Bible uses the term “age” to delineate the time of the Church, so the end of this present age will be the end of the Church age. The next age to come is the Messianic age. The Bible describes no “Jewish dispensation” during the Tribulation period. This idea comes only from Dispensational theology, not Scripture. The entire seven year Tribulation takes place during the Church age and it will not be over until the Mystery of God (Christ and the Church - Revelation 10:7, Colossians 1:26-27) is finished (no longer a mystery because every eye shall see Him and the Church gathered up - Revelation 1:7, Colossians 3:4). Israel is not restored until Jesus returns later at the White Horse Return. This begins the thousand year Messianic Age.

The rebuilding of the Temple and the reinstitution of the sacrifices during the Tribulation will happen while the nation of Israel is still in apostasy, that is, still rejecting Jesus as Messiah and Savior. It doesn’t constitute a separate dispensation or age at all.  

 

15. “We are not appointed to wrath and the Tribulation is the wrath of God”

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thessalonians 5:9.

The Tribulation is never called wrath or judgment in the Scriptures, it is called a test (Revelation 3:10). After the cosmic disasters of the Sixth Seal (the exact same signs the Lord tells us will occur immediately before He comes on the clouds - Matthew 24:29-31), the wicked say to the mountains and rocks:

Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of Their wrath HAS COME and who is able to stand? 

The wicked obviously see the return of Christ on the clouds here and so realize what this means, that the great day of God’s wrath has finally come. This doesn’t even occur until after six of the Seven Seals have been opened. It marks the end of the Tribulation. Only after Jesus returns and the Rapture takes place will the wrath of God be poured out on the wicked. The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath are the only plagues that are called wrath because they are the only ones that come directly from heaven and the hand of God. They don’t even happen until five chapters (Revelation 15-16) after the Tribulation is completed at Christ’s return (Revelation 11:15-18). The Church will be in heaven while the Bowls of  God’s Wrath are being poured out.    

 

 

16. “The Great Multitude are not the Church but ‘Tribulation Saints”

Pre-Tribulation proponents insist the Great Multitude of Revelation 7 who come out of the Tribulation from every nation are not the Church. They refer to them only as the “Tribulation Saints” but they are obviously gentile believers in Christ who are “…washed in the blood of the Lamb,” and follow Him as their Shepherd. This description exactly fits the Church by whatever name you choose to call them. There is nothing in Scripture that allows for a separate multitude of Gentile Christians who are not the Church. It’s a false doctrine that is wholly unbiblical: “There is one body...” Ephesians 4:1.

They also tell us that Christ would never allow His Bride to go through the Tribulation, but what about the Great Multitude? Is God pouring his wrath and judgment on these vast numbers of Gentile believers in Christ? Are they some kind of second class Christians? Are they being punished for being “left behind”? The Great Multitude is certainly the Church. A rose is a rose by any other name.

 

17. “The Seven Churches of Revelation are seven ages of the Church”

A complete fabrication. There is nothing in the Bible that says this or even hints at this idea. These seven ages were invented by John Darby because Revelation 2 and 3 posed a problem for his fallacious pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine. If taken as clearly stated, these letters portray a Church that is being warned and prepared for the approaching Tribulation and return of the Lord.

Unless an alternative interpretation was fabricated, the letters to the Seven Churches would destroy any notion that the Church will not be here during the Apocalypse, hence no pre-Tribulation Rapture either. Interpreting these as seven church ages pulls the Seven Churches back into history instead of on the cusp of the Tribulation; a clever trick to be sure, but contrary to what the Seven Letters actually describe.

The Church age is spoken of in Scripture as one complete age and never more than one. And behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 21:19. If there were seven church ages, then the Lord would be with us only to the end of the first church age. Absurd of course.

The Seven Churches of Revelation represent the entire Church body as it will be just before the Second Coming. These letters are really a prophecy of the state of the final, completed Church just as the Tribulation period is about to begin.

 

18. “The pre-Tribulation Rapture is so popular it must be true”

It is surprising how often the popularity card is played in pre-Tribulation circles but this is wholly unbiblical and obviously in error. Since when is prophetic doctrine or any other Biblical doctrine correct because of popularity? Salvation by faith alone wasn’t very popular either when Martin Luther started preaching it. The Word of God is the only basis for prophetic truth, period. …learn not to go beyond what is written.”  I Corinthians 4:6. The Seventh Trumpet Rapture doctrine may not be the most popular but it’s the only one that’s Biblical.

 

19. “The 144,000 are evangelists who convert the Great Multitude”

No, the Bible never calls them evangelists or ever describes them doing evangelism. This is pure fabrication without a single Scripture to support it. These are Jewish Christians. The Great Multitude will most likely evangelize the 144,000 and bring them to Christ, not the other way around.

 

20. “The prophetic types in the Hebrew Scriptures show a pre-Tribulation Rapture”

Only a short shrift of the prophetic types in the Hebrew Scriptures could support a pre-Tribulation Rapture. For instance, the battle of Jericho and the removal of Rahab before its destruction is sited as proof of the pre-Tribulation Rapture but the fact that she is not taken out until the seventh trumpet on the seventh day is completely ignored. The seven daily marches and the seven trumpets on the seventh day paint a perfect picture of the Seals and Trumpets of the Tribulation but Rahab’s Seventh Trumpet gathering up is never mentioned by pre-Tribulationists. This story clearly pictures a Seventh Trumpet Rapture and only a Seventh Trumpet Rapture.

 

21. “The Last Trumpet is not the Seventh Trumpet of Revelation”

This argument is used over and over again by pre-Tribulation teachers but this contradiction to what the Bible actually says is so obvious it is puzzling how anyone could believe it. Read the book of Revelation: there are absolutely no other trumpets mentioned after the Seventh Trumpet. It is the last trumpet in the Bible, not to mention the other obvious fact that a pre-Tribulation rapture trumpet could not honestly be called the last trumpet with seven more trumpets to sound!

We find absolutely no trumpets mentioned in the Scriptures that will sound before the Tribulation begins. And where are the other trumpets that must previously sound in order for a pre-Tribulation rapture trumpet to be defined as the Last Trumpet?  We don’t find those mentioned anywhere either. Only the Seventh Trumpet of the Seventh Seal clearly describes previous trumpets to clearly mark it as the Last Trumpet.   

When was Rahab taken out of Jericho, before any of the trumpets were sounded or after the seventh trumpet on the seventh day?

 

22. “The return of the Lord will be in two parts so this disproves a post-Tribulation Rapture”

A two part return is one of the things that pre-Tribulation advocates get right and most post-Tribulation advocates get wrong. The return of Christ will be one Second Coming in two parts: the Cloud return to gather the Church and the White Horse Return to restore Israel and judge the nations.

Behold He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him... Revelation 1:7.  

Behold a white horse and He who sat on it is called faithful and true... Revelation 19:11.

However, these two parts of the Second Coming will be separated by only a few months or a few weeks, not by seven years as pre-Tribulation advocates teach. A post-Tribulation, Seventh Trumpet Rapture is perfectly compatible with a two part Second Coming.

 

23. “The Lord would never allow His Bride to go through the Tribulation”

Or more crudely: “The Lord would not allow His Bride to get beat up by the Tribulation.” This is a common statement by pre-Tribulation teachers but it begs the question that the Tribulation is not a time of testing, which it certainly is (Revelation 3:10). It also ignores the fact that the Church is told throughout the New Testament that they will go through tribulation and testing (I Peter 1:6-7) and history has proven this true again and again. So it is ridiculous to ever say that the Lord would not allow His Bride to go through tribulation. That happens every day. What is even more disturbing is that it assumes that God would be wrong to allow the Church to be here during the Tribulation.

The Tribulation is a test, not wrath or judgment or punishment. Daniel’s three friends were not being punished, they were being tested and were brought safely through the fiery furnace, just as the Lord Jesus will bring His Bride safely through the Tribulation period.  

 

24. “Dispensationalism is a foundational concept in Eschatology. One cannot properly understand God’s Plan of the Ages without knowing this biblical view of history.”

This is an actual quote from popular TV preacher J.R Church*. If any believer is not deeply disturbed by this statement, they don’t realize what he is actually saying here. And yet most pre-Tribulationists would probably agree with him. In other words, Mr Church is saying that unless you are familiar with John Nelson Darby’s Dispensationalism, you will never understand Biblical prophecy. So everything you read in the Bible must be filtered through a 19th century heretic and cult founder’s fault-ridden system of theology to be understood? Too bad for those saints who have never heard of Dispensationalism, but rely solely on what the Bible says; they have no hope of ever understanding Biblical prophecy according to J.R. Church and other pre-Tribulationists. This is nothing less than a denial of Sola Scriptura; that the Holy Scriptures alone must be our source of truth, revelation, prophecy, practice and authority. No one needs Dispensationalism or any other system of theology to properly understand the Bible and Biblical prophecy. The Word of God explains and interprets itself. *Dispensationalism and the Menorah by J.R. Church on July 5, 2010: http://www.prophecyinthenews.com/lesson-7-dispensationalism-and-the-menorah/

 

 

“Learn not to go beyond what is written.” I Corinthians 4:6

 

© Daniel Speck 2015  

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