As the summit of history approaches, filling our field of vision with many fulfilled prophecies of Scripture, it’s becoming increasingly common to hear the term “rapture.” It’s the idea that Christians will disappear “in a flash. In the twinkling of an eye” before the beginning of the end. While more people contemplate and preach about this promised apocalypse at the end of the age, naturally, this rapture and its implications are frequently debated. One pastor preaches the doctrine of a Christian rapture before the event known as “Tribulation,” and another, matching the first in passion and zeal, preaches that Christians must endure the whole Tribulation. What do the Scriptures say? I think there are three perhaps nuanced, but precise, logical revelations in Scripture that detail the rapture of Christians before the Tribulation.
1. God’s Wrath.
What is this ominous-sounding “Tribulation?” Recorded famously in the book of Daniel Ch.9:24-27, the Lord declares that from the moment the decree to rebuild Jerusalem is uttered (probably with Ezra), to the arrival of the promised Messiah, 69 “sevens” or 483 years would eclipse the gap between the two. And that’s exactly what happened. But at the end of the prophecy, one final seven, a peculiar 70th seven, is described, promising a time where a wicked ruler will reign in the shadows and then explicitly for seven whole years. This is the period we call “Tribulation.”
And what precisely occurs during this final hour? It’ll be a horrendous and traumatic time, rife with cataclysmic events and unspeakable suffering. Families will starve to death, men and women will be slaughtered in war after war, and natural disasters of unprecedented proportions will become routine. Earthquakes, asteroids, tsunamis, hail—grand destruction—will ravage the Earth with such ferocity and directional apathy, sparing neither wealthy politician nor poor citizen, that the plagues of Egypt will be regarded as mere appetizers to Tribulation, now the main event. Not only so, but debauchery, perversion, and degeneracy, envelop the appetite of the inhabitants of the Earth.
It’s a bad time.
As we continue to study the revelation, we’re rightfully intrigued by a phrase synonymous with the term Tribulation, “Wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:17). Upon further inspection, we conclude that the term “Wrath of the Lamb” and “Tribulation” describe the same event. That is, the seven-year period of tribulation is the time of the Lord Jesus’ wrath on the Earth. The heavy consequences of Christ’s anger are appointed to the Jews and Gentiles of a rebellious Earth. But what of believers?
Is it possible that Christians can be subject to the wrath of God? How? If Christ suffered the wrath of God at the cross, enduring an eternity apart from the Father in an infinitesimal moment, how can we, those of us who have been justified by Christ’s blood, also endure that same wrath? We cannot! How can we be sentenced to Tribulation if we are not appointed to suffer God's wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9)? If we could, the cross would be meaningless, and God's nature and justice would be violated.
During the antiquity of the early church, the persecution in Thessalonica was so brutal that they thought they’d missed the coming of Christ and were living in the end! In response, the apostle who worked harder than all the others responded with a message of encouragement and assurance:
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8)
The heart of our argument is concentrated in the seventh verse. Babylon’s apex beast cannot rule or reign until “Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.” But who harnesses power sufficient to restrain this beast more powerful and ferocious than Hitler, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, and Attila the Hun? Certainly no military, and surely no mere man. On the contrary, the only one who can chain AntiChrist is Christ Himself!
And where does Christ presently reside? In the hearts of believers. The Holy Spirit, Christ’s equal and advocate on the Earth, dwells in the Christian’s temple, his body, and united with other church members, beats back evil. That is why there must be a great “apostasy” or “removal” of the Holy Spirit before the AntiChrist is allowed to roam. But as we know, once the Holy Spirit comes to live in a believer, that Spirit cannot be taken away. It’s a deposit guaranteeing what’s to come (2 Corinthians 5:5), but if the deposit’s removed, it’s no guarantee at all. Thus, it’s not as though the Spirit can be snatched while the Christian remains. Instead, the believer must be taken away, and the Spirit along with him. Only then can the AntiChrist’s prophesied conquest begin.
3. Inhabitants of the Earth
As Christ Jesus is encouraging the church in Philadelphia, he begins his conclusion with a cryptic phrase, “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10). This cannot mean that the church in Philadelphia would be kept from the fires of persecution—they were already in its midst—but instead, it refers to something else.
The vital phrase of the verse is “those who dwell on the earth.” To understand what Jesus means, we must search the rest of Revelation. In fact, that phrase occurs nine other times in the book of Revelation (6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 12:12, 13:8, 13:14, 14:6, 17:2, 17:8), and every time that phrase is uttered, it refers to the sinful, wicked, unsaved, population of the Earth.
For example, concerning the death of God’s two righteous prophets in Tribulation:
“and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:10).
“And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast…” (Revelation 17:8).
It’s evident these people are not Christians. We who believe in Jesus are no longer of the Earth but are citizens of Heaven. Christ’s language is plain and precise. This hour of testing and trial is not for Christians but for unsaved humanity, and as such, according to the promise of Christ in Revelation 3:10, believers will be saved from it.
All of these arguments present a reality where the Christian is raptured before the commencement of Tribulation.
Tribulation is a time of God’s wrath, but the Christian cannot suffer God’s wrath as a consequence of being justified by Jesus.
In order for the AntiChrist to reign, the Holy Spirit (the Restrainer) must be removed from the Earth. Christians cannot have the Spirit ripped from them, so they must retreat to Heaven with the Spirit.
Jesus calls the Tribulation “The hour of testing for those who dwell on the earth,” a phrase only appointed to sinful, unsaved humanity. If Christ is to be believed when he says that the church will be kept from such an hour, then we must be raptured.
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. (Revelation 3:11).
If you’d like to stay informed about the Christian's perspective of current events, or if you’d like to join our growing community of members who love truth, subscribe here for free!