By Mark Swarbrick
Those who believe that the Rapture happens after the Tribulation often point to 1 Corinthians 15:52 where it says the Rapture happens “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” It is argued that the last trumpet correlates to the 7th Trumpet of Revelation 11:15, wherein a series of seven trumpets are blown, the 7th being the last one in that series. On that basis it is claimed that the Rapture comes after the Tribulation.
There are a number of problems with that theory. First of all, you can’t get a post-tribulation Rapture out of that because the Second Coming does not happen at the start of the sounding of the 7th Trumpet in Revelation. The 7th Trumpet is introduced in Revelation Chapter 10, but the Second Coming doesn’t happen until Chapter 19 of Revelation. There are many things that transpire after the 7th Trumpet and before the Second Coming. Here is a list of those events:
- There is an angelic war wherein Satan is thrown out of the heavenly realms.
- Satan makes war on the Jews with great wrath for he knows his time is short.
- The Antichrist persecutes Christians (those saved after the Rapture).
- 144,000 born-again Jews evangelize the earth.
- Angels warn the world not to take the Mark of the Beast.
- A great city referred to as “Babylon” is destroyed.
- Seven bowls of wrath are poured out —
- 1st Bowl: Painful sores
- 2nd Bowl: Sea becomes blood
- 3rd Bowl: Rivers and springs become blood
- 4th Bowl: The sun burns people
- 5th Bowl: Darkness falls on the kingdom of Antichrist
- 6th Bowl: The river Euphrates dries up to make way for the army of the kings of the east and demons summon the armies of the world against Jerusalem for the battle of Armageddon.
- 7th Bowl: A great earthquake levels all cities and mountains of the world.
So you see, you cannot get a post-tribulation Rapture from identifying the 7th Trumpet as the Last Trumpet, for many things happen after the 7th Trumpet and before the return of Christ to the earth. One last point: The 7th Trump is blown by an angel while the last trump of the Rapture is called the trump of God.
The Last Trump of the Rapture is a single blast that happens in the “twinkling of an eye.” As soon as the last trump sounds Christians are raptured off the earth. But the description of the 7th Trump is entirely different from that. The 7th Trump is a continuous blast that carries on throughout the time of the pouring out of the 7 bowls of wrath: Revelation 10:7 says: “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished…” Note that the angel “begins to sound” and that many events happen “in the days” of the sounding of the 7th Trumpet. The “mystery of God” is not finished until the days of the voice of the seventh angel come to a close when the blast of the 7th Trumpet ends. That doesn’t happen until after the bowls of wrath have completed.
Differences between the Rapture and 2nd Coming
After all this the Second Coming of Christ to the earth happens. This is in chapter 19 of Revelation, and when you read that chapter, you find that there is no resurrection at the Second Coming. We know from the Pauline Epistles that at the Rapture, the dead in Christ are resurrected while Jesus is in the air. Yet at the Second Coming described in Revelation Chapter 19, there is no mention of a resurrection. Why? It is because the saints have already been resurrected at the Rapture, before the Tribulation ever started.
The description of the Second Coming in Revelation 19 depicts Jesus riding on a white horse. He comes to make war on the enemies of God and to take control of the earth. He touches down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:5). The Second Coming of chapter 19 makes no mention of a trumpet, a resurrection, or a rapture of saints. Yet all those things do happen when Jesus comes in the air at the Rapture. Note the description of the Rapture:
“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. 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)
You see, at the Rapture the saints rise up to meet the Lord, there is a resurrection, and a trumpet sounds. But no mention of a rapturing up of the saints, or a resurrection, or a trumpet sound is made in the description of the Second Coming in Revelation 19. The fact is, the Rapture, the 7th Trumpet and the Second Coming are three distinct and separate events, as evidenced by the many differences in their descriptions.
At the Rapture Jesus comes for the Church and waits for them in the air and returns with them to heaven. This is in fulfillment of His promise in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” But at the Second Coming Jesus descends all the way to earth to the Mount of Olives and makes war against His enemies.
At the Second Coming Jesus does not come for His saints, he comes with His saints. Scripture is very clear on that point. Previously raptured saints come with Jesus from heaven at the Second Coming. Rev 19:14 says, “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses.
Note the apparel of this army from heaven – “fine linen, bright and pure.” The saints are spoken of repeatedly in scripture as being so arrayed while we never find a description of angels with such apparel. In fact, in the same chapter of Revelation, just a few verses prior to the description of this army coming with Jesus, we have a description of the Church being so attired. Revelation 19:8, speaking of the Church, says: “it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” That is the exact description of the army from heaven “arrayed in fine linen, white and pure.” The exact same wording is used for the army from heaven and for the saints of God.
Thus we see plainly that the previously raptured saints are the army that comes with Christ from heaven at the Second Coming. This is in line with the Old Testament prophecy of the Second Coming found in Zechariah 14:5: “the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Him.” The only way the saints can come with Jesus, is if they were previously raptured.
When is the Last Trumpet?
So when is the Last Trumpet? To understand this, it helps to have a background of how trumpets were used in the Old Testament. Trumpets were blown at special festivals, and to herald the arrival of special seasons. Most significantly, a trumpet call was used to direct the people of Israel after they escaped from Egypt.
When the pillar of cloud moved out, Israel was to follow and this movement was organized by trumpet calls. Getting two million people on the march in an orderly fashion required some organization, and for this God designated the use of trumpets. Numbers 10:2-3, “Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for…having the camps set out.”
Each of the twelve tribes could be signaled with a specific trumpet call to order them to move. There may have been hours between the movement of each tribe. The sounding of the last trump meant that the last tribe had joined in the formation and all of the people were now traveling together and in the proper order; following God towards the promised land.
This Old Testament last trump is a foreshadow of the Rapture and symbolic of when the Church moves out in unison to meet to Lord in the air. When the people of Israel reached the promised land, the last days march was heralded with a last trumpet of special significance, which again symbolizes the Church’s rapture into heaven, when we march into our promised land, the place which Christ has prepared for us. That will be the real Last Trump, of which the last trump in the Old Testament was but a foreshadow.
Last Trump of the Church Age
The Last Trump that sounds at the Rapture is not the last trumpet that will ever sound. Just as trumpets were used in worship in the Old Testament, so in heaven there will be all manner of musical instruments to glorify God, including trumpets. So when is the last Trump of the Rapture and why is it called the last Trump if their will be trumpets in the millennium and in eternity?
The Last Trump of the Rapture is so designated because it is the last trumpet call of the Church Age. There are other trumpets to sound, trumpets of wrath and judgement on the world, but the redeemed have nothing to do with that, “for God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
The last trump for Christians sounds at the Rapture, signaling the end of the Church Age. It heralds the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, also called “time of Jacob’s trouble,” aka, the Tribulation, wherein God deals primarily and specifically with the nation of Israel. The Last Trump of the Rapture correlates to Revelation 4:1 where we read:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door was standing open in heaven, and the first voice that I heard like a trumpet was speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show to you what must take place after these things.'”
This is a symbolic picture of the “trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) that occurs at the Rapture wherein all the Church is called to “come up here.” After that transpires the events of the Tribulation which take place “after these things,” that is, after the Church Age. After Revelation 4:1 the Church (as being on earth) is not mentioned again in Revelation, for the Church is in heaven and the Church Age has ended.
A Challenge – No One Knows the Time
Post Tribulationists have an unsurmountable problem. They cannot explain how you are going to get an unexpected return of Christ at the conclusion of all the horrific events of the 7-year Tribulation. Jesus made it clear that not even his followers would know when He is coming, that it would be unexpected. “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44) Jesus said that when he comes people would be working, cooking, eating, getting married, buying, and selling as usual (Luke 17:27). The picture Jesus paints is a life that is proceeding normally. But then…
“While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) Jesus said the Tribulation would be the worst time on earth ever. Let us review again what Jesus said about that time:
“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved…” (Matthew 24:21-22). Furthermore, Jesus said it would come upon everyone on earth: “For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:35)
Revelation 16:17-20 reports an unprecedented earthquake occurs during the Tribulation.
No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake…the cities of the nations collapsed. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men.
Imagine it: All the cities of the world collapse. Islands and mountains disappear. Hundred-pound hailstones fall on the world. Now here is the point: How could Jesus come during or after the Tribulation and still come at a time that no one suspects? Jesus told us that life would be going on as usual when he comes. There is nothing ordinary about the Tribulation. How do you buy and sell and get married while all the cities are turned to rubble? How could people be declaring there is peace and safety if the sky is falling? According to Jesus’ own words, the Tribulation will be the worst time in all of human history.
If I were living during the Tribulation and I see the sea turn to blood, the sun darken, and I behold flying scorpion-locusts tormenting people who are unable to kill themselves, and one-hundred-pound hailstones begin to fall from the sky, and an earthquake levels every city in the world, then I think I would have a pretty good idea that the Second Coming of Jesus is happening real soon.
So how does Jesus come at a time we do not expect? The only way for the Rapture to come unexpectedly is for it to happen before the Tribulation. I have never heard a satisfactory explanation from a Post-Trib advocate as to how Jesus could come unexpectedly during or after the Tribulation.
Speaking of His return, Jesus said: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) Jesus was referring to his coming at the Rapture. However, if the Rapture happens at the midpoint or the end of the seven-year Tribulation, then it would be possible to know the day, thus invalidating Jesus’ own words.
Let me explain. The 7-year Tribulation begins when the Antichrist makes “a covenant with many.” (Daniel 9:27). At the exact midpoint of the Tribulation, three and one-half years into the Tribulation, the Antichrist violates that covenant and sets up the abomination of desolation in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:27, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, Revelation 13:14-15). The Antichrist will sit down in the Temple and proclaim that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This happens precisely three and one-half years from the beginning of the Tribulation. (Daniel 9:27)
Therefore, anyone would be able to predict Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation to the very day. They could count seven biblical years of 360 days from the day that the Antichrist makes his “covenant with many” In other words, it would be 2,520 days from Antichrist’s covenant to a Post-Trib Rapture. People can also count from the Abomination of Desolation in the middle of the Tribulation. It would be 1260 days from the Abomination of Desolation to a Post-Trib Rapture. So you see, a Post-Trib Rapture is impossible because Jesus said people would not know when he was coming. A Post-Trib Rapture is entirely predictable, right down to the very day. Therefore the Rapture must be Pre-Trib. Incidentally, a Mid-Trib Rapture is ruled out as well, since one could count 1260 days from the making of the covenant to a Mid-Trib Rapture.
There is no way to explain an unexpected Rapture if it happens after the predicted events of the 7-year Tribulation. There is no way that people will be saying “peace and safety” during the horrors of the Tribulation. The Post-Trib Rapture theory makes an absolute train wreck of the prophecies of Christ’s return, rendering many passages of Scripture irreconcilable. But it all makes sense if you understand that the Pre-Trib Rapture could happen at any moment and “then sudden destruction will come upon them.”