When will Jesus come to remove the church during the tribulation?
The tribulation lasts for 7 years. During that time there will be a judgment on the whole world like the world has never experienced. Whether Jesus raptures the church before, during or at the end is a matter of interpretation.
There are plenty of scriptures to support each idea so you can weigh them for yourself. I believe the church will be raptured out at the 6th seal, right before the first trumpet is sounded at the 7th seal just after midpoint. Then the elect with the 144000 Jewish converts will be raptured out at the last trumpet before the vials are poured out.
Let’s be honest, to be raptured out before the tribulation is just the most desirable solution. Who wants to be here for that. If we get rescued before all that begins, there is really no point studying up for any of the apocalypse. Not my problem. Here are popular passages supporting a pre-tribulation rapture..
Pretrib advocates say that all the saints can’t be raptured at the end because
“Believers who come to faith in Christ during the tribulation are not translated at Christ’s second advent but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming and building houses, and they will bear children (Isa. 65:20-25). This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the second coming to the earth, as post-tribulationists teach. Because pre-tribulationists have at least a seven-year interval between the removal of the church at the rapture and the return of Christ to the earth, this is not a problem because millions of people will be saved during the interval and thus be available to populate the millennium in their natural bodies in order to fulfill Scripture.”
But a “new heaven and new earth” indicate the time AFTER the millenial reign, and after the great white throne judgment, because the former things are not remembered, and Revelation lays out the new heaven and new earth After both.
The next point this pre-trib defender makes is the “immanent return of Christ”.
“The New Testament speaks of our Lord’s return as imminent, meaning that it could happen at any moment. Other events may occur before an imminent event, but nothing else must take place before it happens. Immanency passages instruct believer to look, watch, and wait for His coming (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter 1:13; Jude 21). If either the appearance of the Antichrist, the Abomination of Desolation, or the unfolding of the Tribulation must occur before the Rapture, then a command to watch for Christ’s coming would not be relevant”.
Basically he is saying, why would you be told to look for Christ if we had some other specific signs that had to happen before he comes. We could just look for those signs, but we are told to expect Christ at any moment.
The next argument made is that Jesus said to the church of Philadelphia that he would keep them from the hour of temptation.
He also argues that after the initial letters to the churches, the church is never mentioned again in Revelation.
The next argument is that the “restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians is the Holy Spirit indwelling in the believers. The argument is that when the believers are removed, the holy spirit will also be removed from the earth, and the antichrist will be free to do his work.
I don’t think the “restrainer is the Holy Spirit”. Paul talks about the Holy Spirit often, and would not suddenly go cryptic on His identity here. More on that later.
I will address these verses again in the mid-trib section.
Here is the full argument for the pre-trib position. https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1117&context=pretrib_arch
The verses supporting a post tribulation belief are stronger.
The verse is pretty straight forward. It says it is the first resurrection. The end.
Then there is Matt 24. Pretty much the whole chapter, but I have some key verses here for your convenience. Just be advised, there are verses missing.
This is more clarification from the wiki article (none of this is my view, I am just presenting the competition)
“For additional references, see also the parallel passages from Mark 13:24-27 and Luke 21:20-28. While the passages in Luke 21 parallels Matthew and Mark, it offers a couple of interesting clarifications. This passage in Luke offers interesting references to some of the major events which are greatly elaborated on in the Book of Revelation. Reading all three books of the Bible in parallel, it would appear that Luke elaborates on the “abomination of desolation” describing Jerusalem being surrounded by the armies of the world and of Jerusalem’s imminent destruction (Luke 21:20).”
Another argument is 2 Pet 3:10-13 (Don’t let it be lost on you that many of these verses are used to support both pre and post tri which is why I say it is a matter of interpretation.)
“Another account which lends support to the idea of a post-tribulation rapture is in 2 Peter 3:10-13, where the idea of “The Day of the Lord” coming as a “thief in the night” comes from. This idea of imminence, according to the post-tribulation view, only applies to the wicked and the spiritually unprepared people that are still alive before the return of Christ. Therefore, only God’s elect will fully have a clear understanding of the timing of the second coming, and Christ’s coming will not catch the believers by surprise, but only those who are spiritually ignorant regarding the truth. In the passage of 2 Peter 3:10-13, Christ’s return is equated with the “elements being melted”, and “the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up”. Two opposing views, pre-tribulationism and mid-tribulationism, see the rapture and the Second Coming (or Greek, parousia) of Christ as separate events; while in post-tribulationism the two events are identical or simultaneous.”
Another key difference between the pre-, mid-, and post-tribulationism is the number of times that Jesus Christ must return. Although it is not directly referenced, in both the pre- and mid-tribulation raptures, Christ must then return a third time, at the end of the tribulation period.”
The wiki article does a thorough job of defending the post tribulation view, and it is quite lengthy. I don’t really want to copy it all down here, but you can read it all for yourself <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-tribulation_rapture> I will also address these verses in the next section.
Most people think that the rapture and the abomination of desolation are not found in Revelation. I think that these events are too significant to NOT be found in Revelation. These events are huge and they are major timeline markers. Find the markers and everything else will line up.
Here are the verses about the abomination of desolation
[Mat 24:15 KJV] 15
Jesus is specifically quoting Dan 12. We know because He included the phrase “whoso readeth, let him understand” which is not an instruction from Jesus, but actually part of the quote in vs 10.
Here are the other three passages from Daniel.
This specific prophecy was fulfilled during the time of the Maccabees. Herod Antiochus entered the temple, declared himself to be god (Zeus actually) and offered a swine on the altar. Then the Jews were also caused to offer abominable sacrifices in their towns and villages where they lived and give allegiance to Zeus. Those who did not comply were slaughtered. Their children which were circumcised were hung and the mothers offered as a burnt offering. This is why the phrase “woe to them that give suck” is included in these passages.
The surrounding passages give details about the perpetrator of this event
So the key characteristics are
- An object considered abominable in a place that is holy so that it is polluted
- The act will cause desolation
- The perpetrator exalts himself as God
- Honors other gods besides God
- Rules through proxies (referred to here as “arms” and in vs. 39 “he shall cause them to rule over many”
- He will war against God’s people (Dan 11:28 Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart [shall be] against the holy covenant; and he shall do [exploits], and return to his own land.)
So now we have enough information to see if there is a person and an event in Revelation that matches.
The beast described in Rev fits our perpetrator in Dan 11. I have highlighted the portions that display the key characteristics listed above.
Also note worthy is that he kills the people who refuse to comply, which was true about the first fulfillment Antiochus.
Also note worthy is the duration of the rule of the perpetrator. Dan 8 says he will make a covenant for 1 week (or 7 years) and in the midst of the week (3.5 years) he will cause the offering to cease. 3.5 years on either side would be 42 months. Revelation gives the beast another 42 months in vs. 5. So the time lengths are matching up.
So the act of this villain that gets referenced over and over is the mark. Those who receive the mark are cursed by God. God will destroy all of them. This is the very definition of desolate. He causes the people to worship a false god, and to receive his mark resulting in them being cut off from the grace of God.
Now the reason we are trying to find the abomination of desolation is because it is a mile marker on the apocalypse time line. So if the mark is the abomination of desolation, the events should match up to the timeline.
Daniels time line is summarized in ch 12
So here there will be A. ceasing of the sacrifice, B. Abomination of Desolation C. Some blessed event
This passage begs the question whether you count the 1335 days from the beginning time mark – the ceasing of the sacrifice, or from the 1290 day time mark – the abomination of desolation
The Sequence of Events in Matt. 24:29-31 Fits the Sixth and Seventh Seals in Revelation
Back to Jesus who was quoting this passage. It gets confusing because there are several passages but they seem to skip around and come out of order. There is three in sequence that line up with Revelation that indicate there is a rapture at mid point.
Sign of the Sun, Moon & Stars
It says immediately after the tribulation. Most people automatically think this is referring to the entire 7 year tribulation, so it would be at the end. I would agree, except the sun is darkened and the moon does not give light. The stars fall from heaven and the powers of heaven are shaken. Revelation has these 4 signs
Now AFTER the tribulation ( the entire great tribulation) there are some similar signs. Near the end, when the vials are being poured out right before the battle of Armageddon, one of the vials is about the sun
And there is a great earthquake. But it does not have all four signs so neatly in order.
Men Mourn the Sight of the Lord
Furthermore, Matthew 24:30 is also included if you continue reading in Rev. 6:15
But the passage continues to hold the sequence of Revelation with chapter 7. Matthew 24:31 mentions the trumpet. And four winds gathering the elect. Revelation 7 is a clear break in the timeline and focuses on something very unusual going on in Heaven with the four winds.
The Four Winds
These people are not the 144000. The passage is very specific that the 144000 is from the tribes of Israel. These people here are all nations and kindreds. But the passage is kind enough to spell it out for us
So just a side note, the Bible called the previous events the “great tribulation” even though we are only part way through the vision with many more terrible things to come.
Now Matthew 24:31 also mentions a trumpet. The next seal is in chapter 8 (lest you think we have fallen into a rabbit trail, John keeps us updated on the time line. The 7th seal is the trumpets.
So there is a little dis-junction here because Matt. 24 lists sun, moon, stars, shaking, son of man in heaven, men mourning, trumpet, four winds and Revelation has the trumpet AFTER the four winds. I cannot account for that, but it is the most similar line up of events hands down. My guess is that the half hour of silence is when the martyrs receive their white robes and the four winds are stilled and the sound of the first trumpet is when the saints are raptured. Not to be confused with the “last trump” which I will get to.
The Church is Present in Heaven
So I think the passage clearly indicates that the church is present in heaven at the sixth seal, and they were not there before. In fact, during the 5th seal, which is the martyrs, the people who have already been killed and are waiting for justice cry out to God and ask how long until they will be avenged and they are told a little longer until their bretheren are killed.
God will not avenge them until the saints are taken out of the way, which fulfills a very important verse that the pre-trib worry about. The seals are not the wrath being poured out, they are a tribulation to test the saints and to make them white.
[1Th 5:9 KJV] 9
The Four Winds Used for Resurrection
Another reason that supports this being the resurrection and gathering of the saints is because of the “four winds”. In Ezekiel, God brings Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones and God resurrects an army from the bones. This is obviously a prophesy of the 144000 coming to the understanding of the Messiah and they will rise against the beast for the remainder of Revelation. But it is noteworthy that the four winds are called to resurrect the dead.
The Great Tribulation is Shortened
The verse used by the Pre-Trib view is actually a very good case for the Rapture in Rev 6.
You see that their days of the tribulation were shortened. This also makes sense of the verses prior in Matt 24
We still have some issues to deal with as far as the resurrection of the believers who are killed after the seals. There are 144,000 Israelites who will be preaching. And Paul refers to the “last trump” which definitely is not the first trump at the 7th seal.
The Judgment of the Great City of Babylon in Revelation 18 comes to completion and God calls out his people.
The voice of the Bride and Bridegroom (an obvious reference to Christ and the Elect) is not heard in the streets of Babylon anymore. There is no more light of the candle (also a reference to the spirit of the churches)
Then, just as we saw after the 6th seal, there is a scene in heaven in Rev 19 with the 24 elders and all the multitudes. The Bride at last has made herself ready and is now in the heavenly court:
And there is a final trumpet. We are told there are seven, but the seventh is never specifically mentioned because it is the sound of the final battle. Like the first trumpet, it seems as though it gets sounded after the resurrection. I have no explanation for that Perhaps it is a simultaneous thing.
The First Resurrection
It is my opinion that this verse is commemorating the completion of the first resurrection which isn’t until AFTER the millennial reign when all the dead, even the wicked as well as those who died during the millennial reign have been resurrected for the great white throne judgment.
Now I will go back through the scriptures for the other views and clarify how they could also be in support of a mid tribulation rapture, or at least, not be disproving it.
[Isa 65:17 KJV]
This verse is clearly referencing
Verse 20 throws us off because it sounds like people are dying, and Revelation says there is no more death. However, looking at other translations, it seems that instead of saying people will die when they are a hundred, that the idea of dying when you are a hundred will be considered a curse.
[Isa 65:20 NIV]
I do not feel this verse can be used to prove an exact time of the rapture.
The next set of verses in the pretrib section alluding to the immanent return of Christ I feel is a weak argument. The return of Christ, like the phrase, “the later days”, the “end of the world” or the “day of the Lord” is a very broad term that can refer to a specific event or a series of events. The return of the Lord is no less imminent because we experience more signs, and even if we are counting the days like Daniel was instructed, we still cannot not know that exact hour. We are constantly in a state of waiting and watching.
Next is the argument that we are not meant to endure the judgments.
So these verses show that there is an intention to keep the elect from the harsh stuff. I feel that this is addressed in Revelation when the elect from the gentile nations are brought to heaven
Clearly God’s people are present during part of the tribulation, and then pulled out. Hence use of the word “time shortened”. So it would be very ill advised to be sitting around saying, we don’t have to worry, because we will get raptured out first. Especially with all the warnings of being killed by both Jesus AND John.
Now on to the issue of the “restrainer”
The point here is that the Holy Spirit in the believers is what is restraining evil in this world. I would argue that the objective of the Holy Spirit is never cited as restraining evil. We DO have scripture that points to another entity that is responsible for restraining the evil one.
The angel ministring to Daniel says Michael came to take care of the Prince of Persia (another spiritual entity keeping Daniels prayers from receiving an answer.
It was Michael who contended with the Devil over the body of Moses
But, the real scripture that puts this argument to rest is that Daniel names Michael as the entity who is associated with the resurrection AND the great tribulation.
After that scripture, I don’t really think it is still a question who the “restrainer” is in Thessalonians, but he is also said to be the one wrestling the dragon in Revelation
Enoch also has Michael binding up evil watchers until what appears to be the prophecy of Revelation
Now to address the last verse that is used to support a post tribulation rapture. All the references to fire and the heavens and elements being dissolved with heat, leads me to believe that this is talking specifically about the great white throne judgment. At that time, all the works will be judged and tried by fire. The devil is cast into the lake of fire. The former things are passed away. It is the end of the end.
So a quick summary, I believe the scripture is alluding that a rapture event will happen with the church at the end of the 6th seal or beginning of the 7th seal/1st trumpet, and a second rapture event will happen with Israel and the tribulation saints at the last trumpet before the vials are poured out. And that a final resurrection for all the dead will be at the end of the millennium for the Great White Throne judgment.