A Post-Tribulation Perspective

PDF Version: Why Post Trib View_Dave Brown

Every student of the Scriptures should have beliefs, convictions, and opinions on doctrine and teachings from the Bible. Likewise, there are many times students of Scripture have uncertainties and questions. Studying the book of Revelation results in no shortage of the latter. That being said, below is an outline of my present convictions of an eschatological perspective. Notedly, these are my “present” convictions as I continue to learn and adapt – add and edit my views from studying the Bible.

For Christians, eschatological views should not divide or deter us from affirming the truth of God’s word or spreading gospel hope. In my view, eschatology is a third-tier doctrine that requires important study but not necessarily priority every day Christian living.[1] In all, end time perspectives are helpful to encourage believers to persevere in the faith in glorious hope.

There are three reasons I believe in a post-tribulation rapture of the church: biblically, theologically, and historically.

  1. Biblically. The Bible simply does not give an extremely clear and concise viewpoint on the end time’s rapture of the Church. There are many individuals who love Jesus, believe the Bible as God’s Word who disagree on the exact interpretation of the timing of the rapture.[2] Yet, I believe a most natural and literal reading of Scripture leads one to believe in a Post-Tribulation Rapture of the Church. The following will be an exposition of key passages to this doctrine.

PrT = Pre-Tribulation Rapture; MT = Mid-Tribulation Rapture; PoT = Post-Tribulation Rapture

Revelation

  • A natural reading of Revelation indicates no exact place for a Pre- or Mid- Tribulation rapture. PrT typically inserts the rapture before chapter 4 of Revelation, suggesting the church does not appear in latter chapters. However, some should note the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8; 8:3-4); two witnesses representative of believers who prophesy on earth (Rev 11:3), saints on earth who experience tribulation war (Rev 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6). Further, the call for Christian endurance in tribulation runs throughout the book (Rev 1:9; 2:2, 19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12

    There could be at least one statement needing further explained:

Revelation 3:10 “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”

In its context, this statement is directed towards the Philadelphian Church. In this, Jesus promises protection but this does not necessarily mean removal from trials. Similar passages using the verb “to keep” (cf. John 17:15, 2 Peter 2:9) indicate that the term can mean “protection in & from” rather than a “removal from” suffering. Therefore, the context of the rest of the passage must clarify its meaning. The rest of the context points to the believers enduring, holding fast and overcoming which hint at the protection being in the midst of suffering rather than removal from suffering. The key is the central promise Jesus provides in the passage of opening a door that no one can shut and making unbelievers (those of the synagogue of Satan) acknowledge the identity and object of Jesus’ love. Verse ten starts with a transition word “since” indicating its secondary nature of importance to support the previous promise. As Grant Osbourne notes, “Therefore, the point is that the Philadelphia church (identified with all faithful believers here) will be protected from the wrath of God against unbelievers but not from the wrath of Satan, and that this protection is within and not a removal from (as in a pretribulation rapture) that wrath.”[3] In all, I see a PrT as a less literal reading with inferences on the text than the PoT position.

  • MT insert the rapture at chapter 11 of Revelation. Again, I do not see an explicit statement indicating a rapture of the church. I leave further explanation on this view for another setting since this view is less held in comparison to the others.[4]

Revelation 20:4b-5 “They [true believers] came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.”

  • The below verses state the first resurrection is after the tribulation for believers to reign with Christ during the millennium. This is the only resurrection mentioned in the entire Bible for believers. The second resurrection is the judgment for the unrighteous after the millennium. There seems to be no wiggle room for a PrT rapture in addition to tribulation believers.
  • “thilipsis”

Of John’s five uses of this word, four are directed towards Christians (1:9; 2:9; 2:10; 7:14) and one towards unbelievers (2:22). John uses the word “great” in connection with tribulation twice (2:22, 7:14). The second reference uses the definite article, thus referring to a specific or singular tribulation event; the former reference is without the definite article and thus could refer to a general time of trial. Therefore, believers are present and not raptured during the great tribulation period.
The word “thilipsis” occurs forty-five times in the New Testament, five times it contains the definite article (Matt 24:21, 29; Mk 13:19, 24; Rev 7:14). The overwhelming majority of time the word is used is in reference to believers facing suffering. Therefore, the Great Tribulation is not God’s war on unbelievers but is more likely a war between the church and the anti-Christ, where the church prevails (cf Daniel 12:1-2; Rev 7:14).

  • Revelation 15:8
    No one can enter the sanctuary of God until after God’s wrath is finished.
  • Revelation 16:15
    Jesus says, “Behold I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed.” The mention of Jesus’ coming and His command to stay awake and keep clothed imply endurance through tribulation.

Daniel

  • Daniel 1-6 show individuals enduring suffering before God’s reward.
  • Daniel 9:25-27 show a prophecy of a 70th week is in contextual setting and not an extended future event. The 70 weeks before Israel’s transgression is finished, iniquity atoned, everlasting righteousness is brought and to anoint the most holy place (cf. Hebrews 9:11-15). This is prophecy concerning Israel’s Messiah. Literally it is “seventy sevens”, a literal 490 years. It starts with Artaxerxes decree 458BC for more Israelites to return with Ezra to Jerusalem and beautify the Temple. 490 years later is 33AD (subtract year “0”), the most likely date of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After 70 weeks, the anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing [[5]literally “but not for himself”; it is a vicarious death – for us!]. This is further prophecy of the cross. The 70th week ended in 34 AD when Stephen was stoned. The gospel then was taken to the “Gentiles”, or more properly to the “nations”. Afterwards, there was destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple (70AD). Yet, Jesus has strengthened [upheld/confirmed] a covenant (cf. Heb 8) and put an end to sacrifice and offering (Daniel 9:27). In all, nothing in Daniel, or the Bible, would suggest to break up this prophecy with a couple millennium in between to refer to a rapture or tribulation period.
  • Daniel 12:1-2 references “time of trouble such has never been.”  At that time, the angel tells Daniel, “Your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life…” This is similar to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, where tribulation will occur among God’s people and “immediately after the tribulation… will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:29-30).

 

Psalm 110:1

“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’.”

  • Jesus will not leave the Father’s side until the defeating of his enemies which happens in Revelation 19, after the tribulation.

 

Matthew 13

  • Jesus tells a parable of the weeds saying the weeds and the wheat will grow together until the harvest. At the harvest Jesus will separate the two. There is no collection or separation of the wheat until a single harvest, which contradicts a Prt rapture.

 

Matthew 22

  • Jesus tells a parable of the wedding banquet comparing it to when he is together with all believers. In the book of Revelation the wedding supper of the Lamb is not until after the Tribulation (Revelation 19-21). In other words, there can be no wedding supper without all the saints raptured together.

 

Matthew 24

  1. 1-4 Jesus responds to the question “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” This would appear to be a perfect time for Jesus to instruct about the rapture; whether it’s two stages or one. Notice that Jesus is addressing his disciples and warning them of persecution to come.
  2. 5-21 Seems to connect with perilous times of the tribulation period
  3. 15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’…”

Jesus tells his followers that they will see the abomination of desolation which happens during the tribulation. If Jesus meant this for “Tribulation saints” then why would he neglect to say that PrT saints have nothing to worry or will be removed from seeing this? In addition, Paul does the same thing in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Paul follows Jesus in encouraging believers to “stand firm” (v.15) in seeing tribulation events. Again, these seem to reject a PrT rapture.

v.21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. 22.If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. 25. See, I have told you ahead of time. 26. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of 28. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29. “Immediately after the distress [tribulation] of those days” ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

  • Jesus’ return and the Tribulation are clearly linked in this passage. Note verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation…” Jesus returns to gather believers. The question is, is this speaking of tribulation saints or all believers? The answer is understood in light of Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question. In other words, if there were a PrT rapture then why would Jesus neglect to say so before speaking of this Second Coming. The answer is THIS IS his Second Coming, following the tribulation.

Matthew 25

  • In the parable of the ten virgins (same context of Matthew 24) the door is shut to the foolish ones unprepared to meet the bridegroom. Later, when they seek to open the door, Jesus says “I don’t know you”. This does not fit together with those who are saved during the Tribulation, unless it is speaking of a PoT rapture.

John 14:3

  • A natural reading of Jesus’ statement poses a conflict with the PrT rapture since believers would enter the heaven only to vacate their prepared place returning to earth seven years later for one-thousand years. However, this statement poses no difficulty in a PoT rapture since the text only says they will be with Jesus, which could be during the millennium then to enter their prepared place.

 

1 Thessalonians 4 and “the Day of the Lord”

The “Day of the Lord” passages refer to the day of end time judgment. It is not a time of rapture or removal from Tribulation so that a millennium can take place. Rather, it is a culmination point for God’s justice and redemption to take place (et. al verses……….).

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul describes this Day of finality as the time (chronology) and season (historic moment) where believers are caught up and united together with Christ.

Further, in 1Thessalonians 5, the immediate context of the previous passage referencing a “rapture” is equated with the “Day of the Lord”. Scripture highlights this day comparable to Jesus’ teaching (Isaiah 13:9-10; Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29-31), which reference His coming after the Tribulation.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-7
Paul explains that when Christ returns believers will receive rest from suffering and simultaneously, unbelievers will receive judgment. There is no mention of an earlier 7 year relief of suffering or of Christ’s return. These appear to be at one single event.

2 Thessalonians 2

Paul tells believers not to be shaken, alarmed or deceived at the signs of evil or the lawless one. If Paul were a PrT then there would be no need for Christians to worry because they would have been removed. However, Paul sees it vital to encourage believers to stand and hold firm (v.15). The rapture and day of the Lord appear to be one event, not two separate appearances of the Lord.

1-2 Peter
Peter notes God uses suffering to purify believers and the church (1Pet 1:7-9). Believers are called to be self-controlled and sober-minded in the midst of end times, as they endure suffering (1Pet 4:1-19). The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials (2Pet 2:9). Further, Peter references the “Day of the Lord” as a single and simultaneous event with God’s judgment and awaited rescue (2Pet 3:8-14).

Remnants & Left Behind in the Bible

Scripturally, the ones who are left behind are blessed, whereas the ones taken are judged by God.[6] Passages that speak to God’s remnant are helpful in understanding the scope of redemption, judgment, and ultimate reward (Isa 4:2-4; Zeph 3:12-13; Zech 13:8; etc.). The remnant that is left behind is often contrasted with those who are killed, destroyed, or blotted out.[7] Thus Jesus, echoing the account of Noah, teaches us that those who are taken are judged whereas those who are left behind receive salvation.   

  1. Theologically[8].

    2A) In discussing the rapture of the Church one must define their view of the Church, the doctrine of ecclesiology. In a Prt rapture there is a vivid distinction between Israel and the church (Gentiles); whereas a PoT rapture views little distinction. A full separation of Israel and the church seems to contradict the New Testament characterization and expansion of the church (cf. Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:11-22).

2B) Further, a PrT rapture necessitates a duplication of eschatological events.[9]

Event Pretribulation Rapture Posttribulation Rapture Bible Reference
Christ coming in the clouds twice once #1Thes 4.17

#Matt 24.30

Angelic involvement at His coming twice once #1Thes 4.16

#Matt 24.31

Resurrection of believers Twice, with the second one called the “first resurrection” once #1Cor 15.52

#Rev 20.4-5

Last trumpet sounds twice once #1Cor 15.52

#Rev 11.15

Saints are rewarded. twice once #Rev 22.12

#Rev 11.18

Believers are told to expectantly await His coming. twice once #Titus 2.13

#Matt 24.42

Christ’s advent to initiate the day of the Lord is illustrated as being like the coming of a thief. twice once #1Thes  5.2

#Rev 16.15

The sun is darkened, the moon is turned to blood (or darkened), the stars fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven are shaken (wonders in the sky or stars lose their brightness). three times once #Joel  2.30-31

#Joel 3.14-16

#Rev 6.12

#Matt 24.29

 

2C) A PrT rapture shows little value for the hallmark of the church since its inception, that is persecution and suffering. Mark 10:29-30; John 15:18-16:4; Acts (all); Romans 8:16-18, 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, Philippians 1:21, 3:10; Colossians 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; 2 Timothy 2:10-12; 3:11-13; 1 Peter 3:13-14, and Revelation – Revelation 6:9-11, 7:14, 9:4-5, 12:12-13, 17, 13:7, 16:6, 20:4. If Christians infer a pretrib rapture because God does not want His people to suffer, then what response do we have for suffering as a hallmark for the church: the apostle John who wrote Revelation from Patmos on account of persecution (Revelation 1:9), and other apostles and Christian martyrs throughout the centuries; not to mention believers today across the world suffering radical persecution?

  1. Historically[10].
    From Apostolic times to the early church fathers and on through the nineteenth century there has been no person or movement to clearly advocate a doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. The word “rapture” is not even in the Bible. Above all, I think it is worthy to note that for 1800 years the Church had never considered distinguishing two stages of Jesus’ Second Coming as a legitimate doctrine until the 1860’s with John Darby, and then popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in 1903. Typically, doctrine that is new is simply not true. I can admit that there are inklings of an escape from tribulation in early church history.[11] But to equate every such inkling with what is known as the End Times Tribulation is a misguided leap based on biblical and theological understanding.

 

Resources:

  • Three Views On The Millennium and Beyond with Craig A Blaising (PRE), Kenneth Gentry (POST), and Robert Strimple (AMIL)
  • Three Views On The Rapture with Paul Feinberg (PRE), Gleason Archer (MID), and Douglas Moo (POST)
  • Four Views On The End Times: Historical Premillennialism, Amillennialism, Dispensational Premillenialism, Postmillennialism by Timothy Paul Jones
  • A Case For Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative to ‘Left Behind’ Eschatology edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung
  • The Blessed Hope / The Presence of the Future by George Ladd
  • http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/an-evening-of-eschatology

 

Popular Representation:

  • Pre-Tribulation (Dispensationalism): David Jeremiah, Tony Evans, John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, Tim Lahaye, Dallas Theological Seminary, Liberty University, …
  • Mid-Tribulation: Gleason Archer, Harold Ockenga
  • Post-Tribulation (Historic Premillenialism): George Ladd, Walter Martin, Douglas Moo, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Randy Alcorn, Don Carson
  • Amillenialism: Martin Luther, John Calvin, J.I. Packer, Sam Storms
  • Post-Millenialism: Jonathan Edwards, R.C. Sproul

    ——————————————————————————–

[1] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-do-you-evaluate-and-weigh-the-importance-of-various-doctrines/

[2] The essential teachings (Christ’s return will occur, final and eternal judgment of believers and unbelievers, life in new heavens and new earth, etc.) of the end times are not up for interpretation. For most cases, there is only one interpretation to be understood. What makes eschatology unique with multiple interpretations is the fact that it is not an explicit teaching from multiple passages of Scripture, but must be inferred through reading Scripture. Thankfully, the eschatological challenge of interpretation is not altering to one’s doctrine to salvation.

[3] Grant Osbourne, Revelation – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, pp. 194. See also Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (1994), pp.1132-1135.

[4] I do not mean to dismiss this viewpoint without careful exegesis. I only wish to save time and keep focus for those I am in contact with currently whom frequently ask questions on my viewpoint.

[5] Peter Gentry, Daniel’s 70 Weeks and the New Exodus, Southern Seminary Theological Journal. Accessed: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2010/05/sbjt_v14_n1_gentry.pdf

[6] Benjamin Merkle, “Who Will Be Left Behind? Rethinking The Meaning of Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35” in Westminster Theological Journal 72 (2010): 169-179. Accessed: http://www.michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/Who%20will%20be%20Left%20Behind%20Rethinking%20Matt%2024%20WTJ.pdf

[7] See Gen 42:38; Exod 8:9,1 l;Num 2 l:35;Deut 2:34; 3:3; Josh 8:22; ll:22;Ruth 1:3,5; 2 Kgs 7:13; 10:11,17; 17:18; 2 Chr 30:6; Isa 10:20; 24:6; Jer 39:9-10; Ezek 17:21; Zech 11:9.

[8] See Douglas Moo’s discussion in “Three Views on The Rapture”, pp. 171-172.

[9] Chart from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6476/

[10] For a fairly thorough history of the development of the rapture positions see “Three Views On The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, Or Post-Tribulation”.

[11] See http://www.essentialchristianity.com/pages.asp?pageid=21918

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