The Pre Tribulation vs Post Tribulation discussion is often a lively one. When it comes to the The Pre Trib vs Post Trib discussion each side can be very dogmatic. The Pre Tribulation Rapture is decried by many post tribulation advocates as tantamount to heresy. This is not an area of doctrine that should divide Christians. Rather, as “iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another,” (Proverbs 27:17) so we should listen to one another as we consider prophecies of the end of the age. In that spirit I present my case for a Pre Trib Rapture.
The Pre Tribulation Rapture
By Mark Swarbrick
- The Beginning of Sorrows
- The Rapture
- The Tribulation
- The Millennium
- The Olivet Discourse
- The Day of the Lord
- Signs of the Times
- America’s Need for God
- Hermeneutic Principles for Prophecy
- Rapture Deniers Refuted
Does The First Resurrection of Rev 20 Prove a Post-Trib Rapture?
Post Tribulation advocates say that it does. Here is there point: Revelation Chapter 20 says that a resurrection occurs after the Tribulation and it calls it The First Resurrection. Since there is a resurrection at the Rapture, and the Post Trib resurrection of Revelation 20 is called “the first resurrection,” many people believe this proves a Post Trib Rapture.
Does Revelation 20 prove that a Pre Trib Rapture is impossible? The question must be answered: How could a Pre Trib Rapture/Resurrection occur before the Tribulation, when the resurrection that happens after the Tribulation is called “The First Resurrection.” Post Trib advocates have raised an interesting question that deserves analysis.
The First Resurrection statement is not a problem when one realizes 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. Let me explain. When we consider the “First Resurrection” statement, we must ask ourselves this question: “First” in relation to what? Does it mean, 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?
Perhaps this analogy will help: 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 (the First Resurrection) rather than experiencing the Second Resurrection of the wicked, for those in the Second Resurrection shall experience the Second Death. Thus the “first” of the First Resurrection is in relation to the resurrection of the wicked, which happens last, after the Millennium.
The Law of Prophetic Perspective
There is a principle of biblical hermeneutics that must be understood before we proceed with our analysis of this matter. It is important to understand that many biblical prophecies happen in phases. 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. The reason they misunderstood was because they did not take into account this principle in prophecy. 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 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 and compare other scriptures 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 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 principle. It is 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 intervening valleys until you get into 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.
Phases of the First Resurrection
This 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 several 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. The First Resurrection is in phases, just as Scripture says: “But each in his own order…” Below is 1 Corinthians 15:20-24 categorized in phases:
Scripture Defines The Order of Resurrection…
- 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 as per Rev 20:6, 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. After that comes The Second Resurrection, which is a resurrection of the wicked who shall then experience The Second Death.
This phased resurrection was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. In the New Testament the salvation of the righteous from the earth is spoken of as a “harvest.” 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.
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 of their 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)
Take careful note of this: Only those who refused the mark are in this resurrection. In other words, only Tribulation martyrs are in this resurrection. Where are all the other saints? Where are those Christians who died for the last 2,000 years before the Antichrist was on the scene? There is no mention here of a resurrection of all the Old Testament saints. No mention of any New Testament saints 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.
Post Trib Rapture Problems
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 – No Mortals for the Millennium: 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?
Problem Two – No One is Left Behind: 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. The are taken away to judgment (Luke 17:36-37). Now if the Rapture happens then also, then everyone is snatched up. So who is left behind? Consider these two passages:
The Snatching Away of the Wicked…
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42) “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left. And they said to him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’ (Luke 17:34-35)
The Rapture of the Saints…
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
If both of these events happen at the same time, at the end of the Tribulation, then there is no one left behind. And that cannot be, for it would contradict the text, which says: “One will be taken and the other left.”
Problem Three: Do The Two Witnesses go to Hell? Revelation 20:5-6 says that if you are not part of the First Resurrection you go to the lake of fire. If there can be no resurrection before that, as Post Trib proponents maintain, then did the saints resurrected with Christ go to the lake of fire? Did the two witnesses resurrected in Revelation Chapter 11 go to the lake of fire? Of course not. Clearly the First Resurrection takes place in phases.
Problem Four: Imminent Return and Post Trib are Incompatible. The doctrine of the imminent return of Christ is foundational to evangelical Christianity. The teaching that Christians should always expect and be prepared for Christ’s return at any time is New Testament theology. But 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, after the Tribulation.
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.
Then 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, and 100 pound hailstones fall on the earth and at least 3/4 of the earth’s population dies (Rev 6:8 & 9:15).
Jesus said, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.“(Luke 12:40) Jesus also said that, at the time of His return, 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. But there is no way to have life as normal when the Tribulation events are happening and it is impossible for Jesus to come unexpectedly at the end of the horrific events described in Revelation.
Problem Five: Christians are Not Appointed to Wrath. 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 those who live on the face of the whole 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 and right back 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: A Post Trib Rapture Would Be Predictable. 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. Also take note that Jesus not only said that no one would know the day or the hour, he said He is coming at an unexpected time. Luke 12:40 says, “The Son of Man is coming at a time when you don’t expect him.” and 1 Thessalonians 5:3 says, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them…”
There are simply too many Scriptural indicators during the Tribulation for Christ to come unexpectedly at the end of it. He must come first unexpectedly at the Rapture, when there is peace and security, and then after that the sudden destruction of the Tribulation events occur. At the end of the Tribulation no one is going to be talking about wonderful peace and security. That would be impossible, for the Tribulation will be utter destruction of the earth.
Problem 7: The Bible Promises us Deliverance From the Tribulation. 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)
“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall 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 shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” (Malachi 3:17-18,4:1-2)
“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time 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…” (Daniel 12:1-2)
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another…” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
The term “Day of the Lord” is an Old Testament phrase for the Tribulation. For a complete treatise on that see my article on Day of the Lord HERE.
Note how this passage describes The Day of the Lord:
Amos 5:18-20 – “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day 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?”
Now note how the New Testament promises deliverance from The Day of the Lord:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 TLB
“When is all this going to happen? I really don’t need to say anything about that, dear brothers, for you know perfectly well that no one knows. That day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “All is well; everything is quiet and peaceful”—then, all of a sudden, disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as a woman’s birth pains begin when her child is born. And these people will not be able to get away anywhere—there will be no place to hide. But, dear brothers…you won’t be surprised as by a thief when that day of the Lord comes…for God has not chosen to pour out his anger upon us but to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ; he died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return. So encourage each other to build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
Problem 8: A Post Trib Rapture Goes Against Scriptural Precedent. Whenever God brought judgment on the earth in the past he provided a means of salvation for the righteous. God saved Noah from the flood and God saved Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The destructions that occur in the Tribulation will be worse than the fire and brimstone that rained down on Sodom. 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!
Problem 9: Jesus cannot return with the Saints and for the Saints at the same time. At the Rapture Jesus returns for the saints and takes them to the home in heaven he promised to take them to. But at the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation, He comes with his saints. Christ’s second coming occurs at the end of the Tribulation, during the War of Armageddon. Jesus does not just come down in the air, as is described for the Rapture, but at the Second Coming he descends all the way to the earth and the saints follow him on white horses:
“Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives…then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” (Zechariah 14:3-5)
“For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints…Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war…and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations…” (Revelation 19:7-14)
There are three phases to the First Resurrection or the Harvest of the Saints, as it is foreshadowed in the Old Testament harvest feast days and practices.
- Jesus resurrection and those who rose with Him
- The Pre Trib Rapture
- The resurrection of the Tribulation saints.
Those who believe they will see the Antichrist and suffer doom, gloom and wrath before they see Jesus at 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!
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