Rapture & The Tribulation

By Mark W Swarbrick

Two World Views

Where is the world heading?  I remember as a small boy seeing the movie previews for the 1958 Hollywood version of the future, a horror film called, The Blob: It Creeps! It Crawls! It Eats You Alive! It’s The Blob! The Blob was a gelatinous mass from outer space that consumed human flesh on contact. Bullets couldn’t stop it, not fire, not anything, and it was taking over the world! As a five year old child I found it quite horrifying! I recently watched a trailer of this movie on YouTube. Now it only makes me giggle. The Blob! How silly.

Today’s Hollywood fantasy thriller is a bit more sophisticated: The Blob has been replaced with a different threat: Man-made global warming. The movie moguls have spun over half a dozen horror/thriller films recently that are based on this scenario, featuring sensational but implausible weather phenomena. Such movies would also be laughable, if it wasn’t for the fact that the movie’s unmistakable purpose is to scare us into submitting to the green’s liberal leftist agenda: Domination of society through control of energy resources, even though there is no credible evidence humans are altering global climate in any measurable way. However God’s Word does make one thing very clear: In the future there is coming an environmental calamity of biblical proportion.

The Worldly Viewpoint

Where is the world heading? The answer to that question depends on one’s “world view.” The secular humanist’s world view is that mankind (whom they believe has no right to be here) is an evolved animal that is a blight upon the face of Mother Earth, and that we must do all we can to save the whales, dolphins, minnows, and every other creature (except human babies) in order to coax evolutionary processes in the right direction. The only danger, according to this worldly viewpoint, is that mankind may destroy the goddess Mother Earth if we don’t curtail our technological progress which is causing earth-destroying global warming. This worldly view places the value of animals and fish above that of human babies, which may be ripped out of a mother’s womb and murdered in cold blood in order to lessen the “problem” of an increasing human population. The lack of common sense inherent with this world view led to the recent debacle in California wherein 60,000 jobs were lost, crops ruined, and livelihoods destroyed when environmental extremists got a judge to order irrigation pumps turned off. Why? Because sometimes a certain allegedly endangered minnow would get into the pumps and die. The minnow had rights. Not the farmers. According to the liberal left the world is headed towards a climactic climatic Armageddon (can you say that three-times fast?), unless we relinquish power (literal and temporal) to the federal government and special interest groups.

The Christian Viewpoint

Christians, on the other hand, see things from a Biblical perspective, God’s word telling us that we are created in God’s image, distinct from the animals. God placed us here in dominion over the creation. By decree of God’s Holy Word, we are above and in charge of the animals, not equal to or below them. We are placed here by God to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, not a fanatical submission to it. Animals, by God’s decree, may be killed and eaten, regardless of what animal rights activists think. In Genesis, we are commanded to “be fruitful and multiply,” which includes being productive and technologically inventive, as well as making babies. Large families with many children are something which the Bible tells us is a blessing for man and is pleasing to God. (Psalms 127:3-5)

Where is the world headed according to the Christian viewpoint? The Bible makes very clear that the Christian Church should have its focus upon something called “The Blessed Hope.” It is the thing which should always be close to the surface in the mind of the Christian. In 1Thessalonians 1:10, Paul commends the Thessalonians because he had heard of the reputation of their faith and that they have learned to…

serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1Thess 1:10)

Just before Jesus was crucified he told his disciples something that kindled a hope in their hearts…

I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And 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)

After Jesus ascended into heaven and the disciples were gazing longingly up into the sky, an angel appeared to them and declared:

This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)

Ever since then the church has maintained a desire for Christ’s return and Holy Scripture is replete with admonitions to make that our focus, instructing us that as we live in this life our focus should be that…

we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ… (Titus 2:13)

So to bring all this into focus, let us recap: The world is concentrating its sight upon depriving individuals of personal freedom and technology in exchange for larger government tax and control in order to prevent a coming global holocaust of bad weather. Their battle-cry is “save the whales, the minnows, and the whole earth.”

Christians are focused upon serving God, doing unto others as they would have done to them, developing godly character, leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and looking forward to his return to take them to their home in heaven. Christians believe in responsible stewardship over God’s earth. They value human life and abhor abortion. Their battle-cry is “save the humans,” and to live responsibly while they wait for Jesus’ return.

The Coming Global Disaster

I said at the outset that there is certainly going to be a global environmental disaster that is sure to come to planet earth. How do I know? Not from any cooked-up scientific data, not from a fanciful Hollywood movie, not just because Al Gore says so, but I know it on the basis of the predictions in God’s Word, The Holy Bible.

Now here is the big news: This coming disaster will not be man-made! It will be God-made! In the verse above from Thessalonians we see that Christians are “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”

What is this coming wrath that Jesus will rescue Christians from? Hear the words of Jesus:

For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive…, (M’t 24:21-22)

For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved…(Mark 13:19-20)

Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:34-36)

The Day of the Lord

Old Testament scripture calls this time of tribulation the “Day of the Lord,” and describes how there is no way for earth’s inhabitants to escape its horrors:

The day of the LORD…will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?  (Amos 5:18-20)

Jesus said that this calamity, this tribulation that will be worse than anything before or since (think: Worse than Noah’s flood!) will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the earth. Yet we are to pray that we have strength to escape it, not endure through it, but to escape it! How do you escape something that will come upon “all those who dwell on the face of the earth?” There is only one way and that is to not be on the face of the earth when it happens!

So how is Jesus going to rescue us from this wrath to come? How do we manage to not be on the face of the earth during this great tribulation? The Apostle Paul tells us the answer:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52)

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

In other words, Jesus is going to return, just as he promised, to take us to our home in heaven. The home that He said He was going away to prepare for us. He said he would come back and take us there. These scriptures describe how that is going to happen. Look at the above scriptures closely. They tell us that when Jesus returns, he is bringing with him all the spirits of Christians that have previously died. These spirits have been in heaven with Christ, for as Paul said, “To be absent from the body (is to) be present with the Lord.” Then the bodies of these spirits will be raised from the dead and the spirit will be reunited with the body. These will be glorified bodies that never get sick or die. These bodies rise up into the air and instantly all the Christians who are alive at that time will have their bodies instantly changed into glorified bodies and they will rise up with these resurrected saints to meet the Lord into the air and return with him to heaven. All this will happen “in the twinkling of an eye” the scripture tells us.

Immediately after the discussion of this event in chapter 4 of Thessalonians, in chapter 5 Paul talks about the terrors of the coming “Day of the Lord,” the tribulation to take place after the rescue of the saints. He says…

The day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “(Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief… For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. (1Thessalonians 5:2-4,9-10)

This passage tells us clearly that God has not destined us to go through this time of God’s wrath knows as the Day of the Lord or The Great Tribulation, but rather he has destined us to be saved out of it through Jesus Christ taking us off the earth and to our home in heaven that he has gone away to prepare for us. That is why that day will not overtake us like a thief. Those who have put their faith in Christ will be taken out of this world. Those left behind will go through the Great Tribulation.

The Restraining Force of Evil Removed

Jesus said that Christians are the salt of the earth. The Living Bible paraphrases it this way:

You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable. (M’t 5:13 LB)

Can you imagine what the world will be like without any Christians?  There will be no one left to oppose the liberal-left agenda. In one day the wicked will finally have total control of every government in the world. Imagine free abortion-on-demand clinics in every high school in America. Envision homo-sex-education for grade schoolers, beginning in Kindergarten. A large percentage of those who believe America should be a force for good in the world will be gone. American military assistance to countries being threatened by aggressive nations or evil terrorists will be no more. Terrorists will take over. Nation will rise again nation. Think about the evil that will be unleashed when there is no one on earth praying for peace.

Every believer today has the Holy Spirit living inside of them. The scripture says, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1Jn 4:4) The “He” in us is the Spirit of Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit. This presence within us is stronger than the devil that is in the world! Philippians 2:15 says that Christians “appear as lights in the world.” When all believers are suddenly taken away, the lights will go out in this world! The active presence of the Holy Spirit through believers will suddenly be taken out of the way and then evil can take over. In 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 the Apostle Paul talks about the coming Day of the Lord Tribulation and the Antichrist who will come to power then. Paul says that the tribulation can’t start until the Antichrist is revealed and that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until what restrains him is taken out of the way. Paul says:

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7)

It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers on earth that is restraining the coming of the Antichrist. Paul concludes his remarks about the coming tribulation by saying…

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation…” (2 Thess 2:13)

In this context, Paul is reassuring Christians that they will not go through the Tribulation but will be saved from it, that it is their presence on earth holding back the forces of darkness and once they are taken out of the way, all hell will break loose on earth.

This catching away of the saints to heaven is commonly referred to as “The Rapture.” The word Rapture means to be “caught up.” Since we are “caught up” to be with the Lord, it has made sense to call the event The Rapture.

Two Raptures?

Did you know there are two raptures spoken of in the Bible? There is a rapture of the Christians and a rapture of the wicked. In Matthew Chapter 13 Jesus tells the parable of the Tares:

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’  ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “…

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (M’t 13:24-43)

So at the very end of the age, God is going to send out his angels to gather up the wicked. They will be taken away to punishment. How horrifying it will be for those who don’t know the Lord!

Here is another interesting passage about the end-times that is often misunderstood:

For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day… “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.  “There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.” And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” (Luke 17:24, 34-37)

Many people mistakenly believe this passage refers to the Rapture of the Church. I don’t believe it does and here is why:

  1. The timing doesn’t fit. The context specifically says that this occurs when Jesus appears to the whole world, “like the lightning, when it flashes…” This is referring to the Second Coming after the Tribulation. Then Christ and the saints come down from heaven and Christ rules the earth for a thousand years. Jesus’ coming before the Tribulation at the Rapture is “in a moment,” and “in the twinkling of an eye.” It is “as a thief in the night.” The Second Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation is entirely different from the Rapture event. Then “every eye will see him,” and “then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and 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. (M’t 24:30) So this can’t be the rapture since this is not occurring before the Great Tribulation.
  2. Since we see from the context that this happens at the end of the age, it cold not be the Rapture because we know from the Parable of the Tares that at the end of the age the wicked are taken away by angels. If this referred to the Rapture we have multiple problems. If the righteous are caught up to heaven at the same time, then no one is left behind. The parable of the tares specifically says the wicked and righteous grow together until the wicked are taken away (out from among the righteous) and then the righteous (ones who got saved after the Rapture) shine forth on the earth. But if this refers to the Rapture then the Rapture occurs at the end of the age and the wicked are taken away at that time also, so then everyone is taken away. No one is then taken out from among anyone. Just everyone taken away at once. No one is left on earth for the Millennial Kingdom. That just doesn’t fit the descriptions of scripture.
  3. Jesus’ ominous statement in Luke 17:37. In response to the question as to where the ones “taken” are taken to, he says: Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” This was apparently an idiom of the time that referenced an unspecific but foreboding doom. In other words, Jesus was saying that these were taken away by God’s angels to judgment as described in Matthew Chapter 13 – “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Wrath of God

Many people argue that the church has always had to endure persecution, tribulation and hardship and that the gospel message promises that God will be with us through such trials, but not take us out of them. On this basis they say that the Rapture will not save us from the Great Tribulation, that Christians will have to go through that torment and the Rapture will occur after the Tribulation. But this argument fails on many counts.

  1. The Bible says the Rapture is the Church’s “blessed hope.” This would turn the Rapture into a “blasted hope!” Instead of looking forward to Christ’s return we would be looking for the Antichrist and a time of horror worse than any other. What kind of hope is that?
  2. Jesus said he is coming at a time we do not expect. At a time when things are normal – people are buying and selling and getting married. “Be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect”. (Luke 12:40) How can he do that if he comes at the end of a time of tribulation worse than any other on earth? The only way Jesus can come unexpectedly is if he comes before the Great Tribulation.
  3. The above argument fails because it is based upon a false premise – that the Great Tribulation is the type of normal tribulation that God’s people have always endured. The scripture specifically says that this time of tribulation is unequaled and that it is God’s wrath upon the earth. God has always spared his faithful ones from his wrath. The Flood of Noah: God saved Noah and his family. Sodom and Gomorrah: God saved Lot and his family. It was only after Noah was safely in the Ark and Lot was safely out of Sodom that God poured forth his judgment. And Jesus said it will be exactly like that for this coming judgment. “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man…on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all… (Luke 17:28-30)”
  4. It is entirely likely that today’s Christians will face some bad tribulations before the Rapture, but these will be man-made tribulations. At the time of this writing America has a president who was raised in a Muslim home by an atheist father and was nurtured for 20 years on hate messages from his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who instilled into Obama, “not God bless America, but God D*** America.” Having launched his campaign from the home of unrepentant terrorist and Pentagon bomber William Ayers, he became our first communist president dedicated to the destruction of free market capitalism. As our country descends into the mire of socialism the war on terror has been aborted while Iran is busy building nuclear bombs with the declared intention of destroying Israel and America. Suitcase nuclear bombs may be coming across the unsecured Mexican border even now. Soon we may have nuclear holocaust in multiple American cities simultaneously. God will be with Christians through such horrors. But these are man-made. The Great Tribulation is something even worse.

The Great Tribulation

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth. (Revelation 16:1)

Scripture teaches clearly that the Great Tribulation is a time wherein God pours out his wrath upon the earth. After the Rapture the people of the Earth follow their liberal sinful bent and serve a figure called the Antichrist – a God-hating leader who is empowered with supernatural power from Satan. During this time God lays waste to the earth. Some of the horrors are listed below in the seven bowls of God’s wrath:

The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. 9They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

The sixth angel poured out his bowl…spirits of demons performing miraculous signs… go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air…a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake…the cities of the nations collapsed. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

Can you image? The sea turned into blood! Everything in the sea dead! What an ecological disaster! The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun – Al Gore is finally going to get his global warming! But it won’t be man-caused, it will an act of God! Solar flare activity (which is what really controls earth’s temperature) will increase and burn the earth’s inhabitants with intense heat and solar radiation.

Truly the Great Tribulation will be an awful time. And these are only some of the events. Read the book of Revelation for the whole terrible description of events. Thanks be to God that Christians will miss all this horror! We will be safe and secure in our new home in heaven that Jesus is even now preparing for us. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament warn of this coming time – promising judgment for the unrepentant and deliverance for the saints. Here are just a few of the scriptures that speak of that time to come:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2:3)

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)

Now at that…there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake…But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12:1-4)

When people say, “There is peace and security, “then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you…For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who dies for us so that whether we wake or sleep weill might live with him.” )1 Thess 5:3,4,9)

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that…we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.. (1 Thess 4:15,17)

wait for his Son from heaven…Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Th 1:10)

Conclusion

Contrary to what the world thinks, things will not go on for millions of years. The world as we know it will come to an end and Christ is returning for His Church to take us to the home he has prepared for us. Although terrible times will come, Christians can take heart. The Rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation.

6 Comments

  1. I am a born again believer and I know that there will be a rapture. I never knew that there will be 2 raptures one especially for the wicked maybe that’s why people are saying there will be a fake rapture? I know I was one of them. Thanks for this information i sheds some light on the subject.

    Reply

  2. Enjoyed your post Pastor Mark. I’m currently deep in study on the Revelation for some curriculum I’m writing. May I humbly submit to you that the second rapture to which the disciples ask in Luke 17, “Where shall they be gathered?” is the gathering of God’s enemies to the battle of Armageddon for their carcasses to be eaten by the eagles and fowls of the air. See Rev. 19:17,18; Eze. 39:17-21; Job 39:27-30. I suppose that would make it the harvest of the vintage Rev. 14:17-20, a supernatural gathering of all of God’s enemies to the final battle. Any thoughts?

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article on Pre-trib vs Post-trib.

    Blessings,
    Chris

    Reply

    1. Hi Chris, Thanks for your comment. I am happy that you enjoyed the article. Yes, I totally agree with you that the sinners at the rapture of the wicked after the tribulation are gathered to Armageddon to be eaten by birds. I didn’t mention that detail in the article, but you are exactly correct about that.

      God Bless,

      Pastor Mark

      Reply

  3. Padtor Mark,Thank you so much for this article. It was very informative . I will be studying it and passing the information to some family members that do not believe in the rapture of the church ( christians) . They are Catholic and believe we all have to suffer in purgatory before going to heaven. I try explaining to them about what Jesus did for us @ calvary, but to no avail. All I can do is pray for them. God’s blessings to you.

    Reply

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