I've had many people, including a close family member, disagree with me about the timing of the Rapture (a.k.a the Resurrection). Some have taken a soft approach when trying to convince me that the Rapture will happen before a supposed seven-year tribulation, and some have treated me like I must be some kind of moron. But none of them have ever rendered up a cogent argument from Scripture. I've stayed open-minded, and I've listened carefully, but I have not been swayed. For every one verse that might hint at a pre-Trib Rapture, there are three or four verses that unambiguously contradict it.
There's No Such Thing as a 7-Year Tribulation
What Scripture does teach is that this age will conclude with a seven-year period known as Daniel's 70th week (Dan. 9:26-27). This shemitah (i.e., a "week" of years) is never called "The Tribulation," but the second half of it, the last three-and-a-half years, will be a time of great tribulation for followers of Y'shua (Matt. 24:20-21; Rev. 7:14).
Nothing in the Bible indicates a removal of God's people before Daniel's 70th week, or even before the Great Tribulation during the second half of that week. I defy you to find such a teaching in Scripture.
Rapture = Resurrection
Now let's take a look at some of the top reasons why the Elect will have to wait until after Daniel's 70th week to be "caught up."
My Top 10 List
To make up for this conspicuous absence, the pre-Trib doctrine must rely on forced interpretations of prophetic foreshadows. For instance, pre-Tribbers will commonly claim that the seven-year honeymoon of the Son of God and his bride following the Rapture is the prophetic fulfillment of the seven days during which Noah's family was shut up in the ark, as well as the seven days during which a betrothed Hebrew couple, to consummate their marriage, was sequestered within a chamber or tent (called a huppah).
However, nothing in the Bible suggests that we should take prophetic events which speak of seven literal days and make them out to mean seven years. If anything, we should turn those days into millenniums because the Bible does say that one day is as a thousand years to God. But don't do that, because it doesn't fit the context in these cases. They're just days, and the honeymoon of the Lamb will last for a literal week.
But will the Rapture indeed come as a surprise? Will we be overtaken "like a thief in the night," as pre-Tribbers like to claim? Not at all. Read what Paul has to say about it:
"You yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they are saying, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief." (1 Thess. 5:2-4)
The fact that this passage from Paul has ever been used to teach imminency is a travesty.
In Y'shua's letter to the church at Sardis, he warned them that if they would not watch, then he would come upon them as a thief (Rev. 3:3). This implies that they could decide to be watchful and thus not be overtaken.
We can apply the same logic to verses such as Luke 12:40, wherein the disciples are told to remain ready "because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Y'shua's disciples are to be like the watchful porter (Mark 13:32-37) who sees the master returning when he was yet a speck on the horizon.
Did the porter expect to see the master in the distance on that particular day? No, but he knew that it was a possibility, which is why he kept watch. After spotting the man approaching, the porter could then give the household advanced notice, and final preparations could be made. That beats just having the master suddenly walk through the door, even if you aren't doing anything wrong.
Y'shua and Martha both spoke about the Resurrection being on the Last Day (John 6:39-40, 11:24). We're in it for the long haul, but God is with us.
"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 incorruptible, and we will be changed." (1 Cor. 15:52)
"But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets." (Rev. 10:7)
"I was made a servant... to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations. But now it has been revealed to his saints..." (Col. 1:25-26)
"Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory." (1 Tim. 3:16)
The 7th trumpet of Revelation is the same as the one that announces the bridegroom along with the shout of the archangel:
"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God's trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first..." (1 Thess. 4:16)
"He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." (Matt. 24:31)
When Titus wrote that the saints await "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:13), he linked the Resurrection with the time of Messiah's reappearance. In other words, the Rapture will involve a glorious revelation of Y'shua to the whole world.
"For as the lightning flashes from the east, and is seen even to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.... Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." (Matt. 24:27-31)
"For that day [of the Lord's return] will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God." (2 Thess. 2:3-4)
The Greek word translated as revealed is apokaluphthe (Strong's #G601), which means "to disclose what was veiled." The Antichrist will be on the scene for a while before he shows his real colors. We know this because many prophetic texts describe him as growing from a minor ruler into a global tyrant through a series of military and diplomatic conquests. So when will he finally show his hand and demonstrate his contempt for YHVH's law? It will be exactly three-and-a-half years before the end, when he kills the Two Witnesses, defiles the Holy Temple with the Abomination of Desolation, and sets himself up as God (Dan. 9:27, 11:31, 12:11; Matt. 24:15).
Logically, then, Adonai can't return until after the Abomination of Desolation event at the mid-point of Daniel's 70th week. And if the Lord can't return, then he can't gather his Church (1 Thess. 4:16).
John perceives the souls of those were martyred during the Tribulation, who did not worship the Beast or take his mark, and they are reigning with Messiah during the Millennium. He proclaims that they are exceedingly blessed because they were included in the First Resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6).
The Rapture can't happen before the Tribulation if it includes saints who died during the Tribulation.
This places the timing of the Resurrection firmly at the end of the age, after the three-and-a-half year Great Tribulation.
If many people are going to become believers during the Tribulation, then the new converts must really be on fire with the Holy Spirit. It would take a lot of super-evangelists to restore the Christian population in less than a decade. Will the presence of these super-evangelists not derail the Adversary's plans in the same way that the Christians before them were doing? And how much good are we currently doing, anyway? Enough to keep the New World Order from arising? Doubtful.
What will happen to these Tribulation saints once they die? Since they've missed the wedding of the Lamb, will they not be part of the Bride? Will they be in the Kingdom but rejected from the family of Elohiym from all eternity?
If the Rapture is to save us the Church from plagues and trials during the Tribulation, then why didn't God remove the Israelites from Egypt before he sent the plagues on that land? Instead, he supernaturally protected the Hebrew people right where they were. And why would God let millions of his children be persecuted and martyred over the last two thousand years, yet spare those of his children who happen to be living at the end of the age?
Why should an old man who has sinned liberally throughout his life accept mercy shortly before the Rapture and so be conveniently saved from tribulation on earth, while a young man with few sins who repents after the Rapture must endure said tribulation?
If God's desire is all people to come to repentance, as it clearly is (1 Tim. 2:4; Rev. 14:6, 16:9-11), then why would he hamstring efforts to that end by removing all of the ministers and mature saints from the world? Are the baby Christians who arise after the Rapture going to do a better job than the experienced believers who were taken away?
- The unbelieving Jews are in travail and recognize that they've misplaced their faith
- Isaiah and the other elect ones who have died arise to new life
- God invites his people into his chambers to hide for a short time, "until the fury has passed by"
- Messiah leaves heaven to punish the inhabitants of the earth
So the Bride will only be in the Father's house for a brief period while God's wrath is being satisfied upon the earth.
The Antichrist is the reason that the Jews will be in travail before the Resurrection. Many oracles describe how he will betray a covenant made with them and invade the Promised Land. He will kill many and take others captive to Babylon. Isaiah 14, for instance, is a song that the Jews will sing to taunt the fallen Antichrist after they return from captivity under the protection of Y'shua.
We know that the Antichrist won't repress the Jews until the last three-and-a-half years of the age, so according to the Isaiah 26 oracle, the resurrection of the elect ones must be no sooner than 1,260 days before the end.
(And no, "the Elect" is not a term for Israel. It refers to all people throughout the ages who have repented of sin and trusted in the salvation of YHVH, regardless of ethnicity.)
Conclusion: A Dangerous Doctrine
When the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse hit the earth and Christians must pass through the valley like everyone else, how will they cope with it? Since they have not stored provisions, how will they survive through the years of chaos that will precede the New World Order? Many will decide that they must resort to doing evil in order to make it.
Beyond that, when the Abyss opens up to release demons, and the fallen angels are cast to the earth, and the Beast starts to conquer the world, and Christians are left to witness it, there will be a major falling away from the Faith (just as occurred during World War II).
Unless, that is, we prepare the flock for trouble.
"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)