By Mark Swarbrick
Those who believe that the rapture happens after the Tribulation (Post-Trib) believe that Pre-Trib Christians (those who think the Rapture happens before the Tribulation) have a problem with Revelation Chapter 20 because it says that a resurrection occurs after the Tribulation and it calls it the First Resurrection. They claim this is a problem for a Pre-Trib position, for how could a Pre-Trib Rapture/Resurrection occur before then since this one that happens after the Tribulation is called the “First Resurrection.”
The so-called Pre-Trib Rapture Problem is actually not a problem at all when you realize that the phrase “First Resurrection” is intended as a title of preeminence more than it is a delineation of a chronological time frame of the Rapture. Also we must ask ourselves when we consider the First Resurrection, “first” in relation to what? First before any other resurrection? We know that cannot be, for prior to the events of Revelation Chapter 20, we have the Two Witnesses killed and resurrected three days later, and this happens in Chapter 11, before the First Resurrection. So, “first” in relation to what?
If I were to say to you, “Meet me at such-and-such restaurant; I bet I am there first,” do I mean to say that when I arrive at the restaurant that no other customers will be there? Of course not. “First,” in this case is in relation to you. It means I will be there first before you. The context of the First Resurrection in Chapter 20 stresses the importance of being in the resurrection of the righteous (so that the Second Death has no power over you) as opposed to the resurrection of the wicked. Thus the “first” of the First Resurrection is in relation to the resurrection of the wicked, which happens last, after the Millennium.
The First Resurrection takes place in phases, just as many other things in Bible prophecy have taken place in stages.
The coming of Christ is a perfect example of a prophecy being fulfilled in stages. Many of the Jews failed to recognize that the coming of the Messiah would take place in phases; two comings, the first as a suffering messiah, the second as conquering king. For example, consider this Old Testament scripture:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God.”(Isaiah 61:1-2)
In Luke 4:16-20 we read that Jesus read this in the synagogue and then said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” But there is something very interesting here. Jesus stopped reading this passage in the middle of a sentence. He left off, “And the day of vengeance of our God.” He didn’t read that part. Why did He do that? I’ll tell you why. It was because that part of the prophecy is not fulfilled until his Second Coming. He could not read the last part of the sentence and still proclaim the prophecy was fulfilled that day.
Notice how subtle is the hint, in this Old Testament prophecy, that Jesus’ coming would occur in two phases. It is not blatantly stated in the Old Testament. When you read this passage in Isaiah, it looks like all these things will happen at once, when Jesus comes. Yet that is not so. You need wisdom and careful thought to discern it. You have to read between the lines to see it. Indeed, that is why many Jews didn’t accept Jesus, because the prophecies said he would conquer and deliver and they didn’t understand about the two comings. It takes careful study to see it. In fact you often can’t just take just one scripture to see the double fulfillment. In order to realize it you must compare all the scriptures on the subject and even then you may not see it clearly until the time is drawing nigh.
In Bible college they have a name for this. Its called, “The Law of Prophetic Perspective.” Often a scriptural prophecy will describe several future events as though they all happened at one time, when in fact there actually may be phases to their fulfillment. It is as though one were looking at a far-off mountain range. From a distance it looks as though all the mountains are one wall of peaks, but when you get closer you can see that there are mountains behind mountains with large valleys in between. You can’t see the valleys until you get closer to the mountain range. It is the same way with Biblical prophecy, with valleys of time in between fulfillments of parts of one prophecy and until you get closer you can’t discern it. It is The Law of Prophetic Perspective.
The same principle applies to the First Resurrection, which we know from Scripture, takes place in phases. 1 Corinthians 15:20-24, speaks of the First Resurrection and states specifically that this takes place in stages. The New American Standard Bible has this heading above the passage:
The Order of Resurrection
“But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”
We must remember that when Jesus rose from the dead that others also rose with Him:
“The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:52-53)
Jesus and those who rose with him are part of the First Resurrection. They must be, for we read in Revelation 20:6 –
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power…”
Thus if you are not part of the First Resurrection, then the second death (which is the lake of fire) has power over you. So the saints who rose at Jesus resurrection, if they are not part of the First Resurrection, then the second death has power over them. That, of course, is not possible. The Bible calls them saints. Therefore their resurrection is part of the First Resurrection. This is precedent and proof that the First Resurrection takes place in phases. And that is exactly what the Bible describes. Below is 1 Corinthians 15:20-24 categorized in phases (Parenthesis Mine)…
- The First Resurrection is in phases: “But each in his own order…”
- Phase 1 – “Christ the first fruits…” (and those who rose with him)
- Phase 2 – “after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (at the Pre-Trib Rapture),
- Phase 3 – then comes the end (at which time the tribulation martyrs are resurrected, concluding the First Resurrection.)”
Thus we see that Revelation 20 is not a problem at all for those who hold to the Pre-Trib position. The resurrection described there is the final phase or completion of that which is entitled The First Resurrection.
Also notice that the passage in Revelation about the final phase of the First Resurrection does not mention the Church, nor does it mention any saints being alive and being “Changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye…” But the passage does specifically identify all those who are in this resurrection. It says they are…
“…the souls of those who had been beheaded because oftheir testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life…” (Rev 20:4)
Wait a minute! Only those who refused the mark are in this resurrection. Where are all the other saints? Where are those Christians who died before the Antichrist was on the scene? There is no mention here of a resurrection of all the Old Testament saints. No mention of the New Testament saints, from the apostles on down, being raised, Why? Because all the saints who died previously were resurrected at the Pre-Trib Rapture; that is why.
Furthermore, there is no mention of living saints being changed. Why? Because that happened seven years earlier at the Rapture.
The Post-Trib Rapture Problem
Now lets talk about the Post-Trib Rapture Problem, or should I say “problems,” as there are a plethora of problems with a Post-Trib Rapture.
Problem One: Where are you going to get saints to inherit the earth and enter the Millennium as mortals? Scripture teaches that mortal Christians enter the Millennium and populate the earth and they are reigned over by resurrected Christians with glorified bodies. With a Pre-Trib Rapture there is no problem because there are people that get saved during the Tribulation and survive to the end and enter the Millennium as mortals. But with a Post-Trib Rapture all the living Christians are changed and raptured, and all the sinners are snatched up by angels for judgment, so there is no one left on earth. Who then enters the millennium? Also, the Bible speaks of those left behind: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” (M’t 24:40). Now consider this: The Bible says that the wicked are snatched up at Christ’s visible return at the end of the age. Now if the Rapture happens then also, then everyone is snatched up. So who is left behind?
Problem Two: This was mentioned above – Jesus and those who rose with Him are left out of the First Resurrection. So does Jesus and those who rose with him go to the lake of fire, since they aren’t part of the First Resurrection?
Problem Three: How do you get an imminent return of Christ out of a Post-Trib Rapture? No point looking for Jesus to return at any moment, at a time least expected, as Jesus taught, for before that happens, according to a Post-Trib scenario, the Great Apostasy comes first, (2 Thess 2:1-13) then after that the Antichrist is revealed and tries to force everyone to take the Mark of the Beast, then two angels fly through the sky and preach the Gospel and warn people not to take the mark, the Two Witnesses testify and fire comes out of their mouth to kill whoever tries to harm them, the two witnesses are killed and everyone in the world sees their dead bodies on television, three days later they are resurrected and raptured up to heaven, the false prophet calls fire down from heaven, God pours out his wrath on mankind, the sea and rivers turn into blood and everything in the sea dies, the sun scorches men with fierce heat, scorpion-like locusts that look like horses with lion’s teeth sting and torment those who have the Mark of the Beast,100 pound hailstones fall on the earth and at least 3/4 of the earth’s population dies (Rev 6:8 & 9:15). Now Jesus said that at his return that people will be marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, that life will be normal (Matthew 24:38) and they won’t realize He is coming until its too late. There is no way to have life as normal when the Tribulation events are happening and no way for Jesus to come unexpectedly.
Problem 4: The Bible specifically says in Revelation that God’s wrath is poured out on the earth during the tribulation. In fact it says it over and over.
“Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” (Rev 16:1)
“Be careful…that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth…pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen.” (Luke 21:34-36)
If it comes on all who dwell on the earth, the only way to escape is to not be on the earth. When all the seas and rivers turn to blood and the sun scorches everyone, you will not escape unless you were raptured first. Thus, a Post-Trib Rapture forces you to believe that God will pour out his wrath on Christians. This is not possible for the Scripture tells us…
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thess 5:9)
Problem 5: Going up or down? Jesus promised he would return and take us to the home he has prepared for us.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
Imagine a Post-Trib Rapture – Jesus comes down to get us, we are lifted up and meet him in the clouds, then what? We come right back down to the earth to enter the Millennium? Why do we even go up then? And when is Jesus taking us to our home in heaven?
Problem 6: Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour of the Rapture. Scripture tells us that the seven year tribulation begins when the Antichrist makes “a covenant with many.” (Daniel 9:27). If the Rapture is at the end of the Tribulation, then you can count seven years from Antichrist’s covenant to the Rapture. Also, halfway through the Tribulation, at exactly three and half years after he makes the covenant, the Antichrist puts an end to Jewish sacrifice in their temple and he sits in the temple declaring that he himself is God. (2 Thess 2:4 & Daniel 9:27). From that point you can count exactly three and half years to a Post-Trib Rapture. Thus people on earth will know the day of Christ’s return. That is not possible and is a big problem for the Post-Trib Rapture theory.
Problem 7: Scripture tells us repeatedly that we will be saved from the Tribulation, from the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
“Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.” (Isaiah 13:6)
Now we request you, brethren…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…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)
“There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.” (Daniel 12:1)
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.'” (Malachi 4:1-2)
The Bible tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-13 not to be alarmed if someone says the Tribulation (Day of the Lord) has started because that day cannot come until..
- The apostasy comes first.
- The “restrainer of lawlessness.” (the Holy Spirit’s presence in believers) is taken out of the way. In other words, the Tribulation can’t come until the Rapture happens.
One last thing: Jesus said his coming would be as in the days of Noah and as in the days of Lot (Luke 17:26).How was it in those days? Two things: One, things seemed normal to everyone until it happened. Two: Noah and all in the boat were saved and Lot and his family were rescued. If the Rapture is like those days, then it will be fairly normal until Jesus comes and then Christians will be rescued from the Tribulation (the Wrath of God) by a Pre-Trib Rapture. Abraham asked God in regard to Lot:
“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”(Genesis 18:25)
If the rapture is Post-Trib, then God will be killing the righteous with the wicked. The Rapture is called The Blessed Hope in Titus 2:13, but if it is Post-Trib, then it becomes The Blasted Hope!
There are three phases to the First Resurrection:
1. Jesus resurrection and those who rose with Him
2. The Pre-Trib Rapture
3. The resurrection of the Tribulation saints.
The First Resurrection, or the Harvest of the Saints is foreshadowed in the Old Testament harvest feast days and practices.
In Old Testament times the Jewish harvest, was one harvest, but it came in three stages:
- The First Fruits – An offering was made to God from the initial fruits of a crop and this was to occur on the third day after Passover. (Exodus 23:16,19)
- The Main Harvest – (Exodus 23:16)
- The Gleanings – Leftovers to be left for the poor and needy to harvest. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
Since the Lord’s resurrection, and those who rose with Him is specifically called the “first fruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24, then we can correlate the Main Harvest as the Pre-Trib Rapture and the Gleanings as the resurrection of the Tribulation saints. One harvest of the righteous in three phases, exactly as foreshadowed in the Old Testament.
Those who believe they will see the Antichrist and suffer doom, gloom and wrath before they see Jesus in the Rapture are in for a wonderful surprise. It will happen when they least expect it. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye!