A Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

 

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  - Matthew 24:27

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Jesus in Matthew 24 disproves a pre-tribulation rapture

by Bill Wong

 

 

 

 

The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine tickles the ears of people, because who wants to suffer, after all?  It teaches that Messiah will come secretly and at anytime suddenly, and take people away before the Great Tribulation.  This is not true.

 

However, the Bible does not teach this and makes it very clear that God’s people – both Jew and Gentile, will suffer and many die, just as the Messiah has suffered and died.  The Bible declares that the timing of the groom/Messiah’s return for His bride can be and must be discerned, and when He does arrive, it will be glorious and seen by all.  The return of the groom is not a surprise, because again, the Bible states many, many times that we must look for the signs of His coming so we will NOT be unprepared and taken by surprise. This is portrayed vividly in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins; those who are wise and alert will be prepared and know, but those who are foolish and asleep will not:

 

Matthew 25:

1    "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

2    Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3    Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,

4    but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5    But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

6    "And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'

7    Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

8    And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'

9    But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you;

         but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.'

10   And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding;

         and the door was shut.

11   "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!'

12   But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'

13   "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.    (NKJV)

 

 

Since many believe in the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine, they will not know to look at the signs, but will instead be caught by surprise which the Bible tells us is not good, they will also be prime targets of deception in the end times, believe in false messiahs/prophets, and will easily fall into apostasy. 

 

The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine teaches that Matthew 24 is for the Jews only, but the Christian “church” will be taken away secretly before the Great Tribulation.  This is not based on Bible truth, but on fanciful wishful thinking.  This erroneous belief is based on Dispensationalism, replacement theology (the “church” has replaced Israel as God’s chosen) and plain ignorance (based on anti-Jew sentiment from almost 2000 years ago and passed on unknowingly as Christian doctrine).  The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is the opening that the enemy, Satan, uses to mislead and destroy many. 

 

 

 

Let us break down Matthew 24 verse by verse to see what the Bible truly says about what will happen in the end time tribulation.

 

 

 

The chapter begins with the Lord Jesus’ disciples asking the Lord what are the signs of the end of the age:

 

Matthew 24:

3     As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying,

     "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"    (NASB)

 

 

 

He never says He comes to take them away from tribulation, in secret or otherwise, but instead tells them of the signs of His coming and tells them that many of them will be persecuted and die for the faith:

 

Matthew 24:

4     And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you.

5     "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many.

6     "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened,

      for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.

7     "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,

      and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.

8     "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

9     "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you,

      and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.   (NASB)

 

 

 

He warns that many will fall away at this time of tribulation:

 

Matthew 24:

10   "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.   (NASB)

 

 

 

Why will this happen? A large part is because when believers in this doctrine find they are not raptured, but must endure tribulation, they will be disillusioned, terribly unequipped, severely weakened in their faith, and will be easy victims of the devil. It is the very purpose of this paper to make sure Christians will not fall away, because they have been misled to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture which the Bible does not teach. It is the purpose of the entire website to make sure all peoples know God’s truth which will set them free.

 

 

 

Again, the Lord says believers must endure through tribulation until the end:

 

Matthew 24:

11   "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

12   "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.

13   "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

14   "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations,

      and then the end will come.   (NASB)

 

 

 

The Lord then mentions the 'abomination of desolation' which is a reference to Daniel:

 

Matthew 24:

15   "Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet,

      standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),   (NASB)

 

 

 

Most Christians believe that it is the setting up of the ‘abomination of desolation’ that will begin the worst of the tribulation here on earth, generally called the Great Tribulation.

 

However, we must notice again at this point that the Lord Jesus still does not say He will take away anyone. Instead, He describes how believers must endure through it:

 

Matthew 24:

16     then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.

17     "Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house.

18     "Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.

19     "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

20     "But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.   (NASB)

 

 

 

To punctuate this point even more, the Lord Jesus says this is the worst tribulation ever and if the days are not shortened, no one will survive at all. Please note what the Bible is saying the elect are enduring through this tribulation:

 

Matthew 24:

21   "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

22   "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved;

      but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.   (NASB)

 

 

 

All of this means there is no doubt that the saints/elect are not taken away from tribulation, but instead have to endure it.

 

 

 

Then the Lord Jesus finally tells us how this tribulation will end – He will return. There is still no mention of a secret rapture to take away the saints. Instead, He warns us to not be misled by false Christs and false prophets, which again means the elect will still be experiencing tribulation on earth and are not taken away into heaven:

 

Matthew 24:

23   "Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him.

24   "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders,

      so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

25   "Behold, I have told you in advance.

26   "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold,

      He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them.   (NASB)

 

 

 

Not only will people still have to experience tribulation during the very end times, including the deception of many false prophets, but look at what verses 23-26 actually tell us what the false prophets’ deception will be about:

 

 

These false prophets are claiming that the Lord Jesus has already returned!

 

 

Look at the context of what we are reading. Why would they say that Jesus has returned and is in the inner rooms or wilderness? This is what the Bible and Lord Jesus is telling us about these false prophets:

 

Jesus is saying these false prophets are teaching that He will return in secret before He actually comes.

 

 

Does this sound familiar?

 

 

Yes, the Lord Jesus is telling believers to not believe false prophets who teach He will come or has even arrived before He actually does return. In other words, Jesus is telling us that the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is a false teaching that many will teach in the end times and it will deceive many.

 

 

 

Matthew 24 is in fact teaching us to be aware and not be deceived by a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.

 

Note also the fact that Jesus says people will say He is in the inner rooms or the wilderness. This means there will be even more deception to occur which will take advantage of everyone who believes in a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine. Since believers in a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine already believe He will “secretly” come again to take them away (remember: “inner rooms” and “wilderness” are secluded areas), that means they will be the ones who will be fooled by this grand deception just before Jesus truly returns.

 

With the context of false prophets telling believers Jesus has already returned and this deception being described as so cunning and clever with great signs and wonders to possibly even fool the elect, this must mean that the pre-tribulation rapture lie will be magnified by something such as a false return of Christ or many believing at that future time it (Christ's return) is actually happening.

 

In other words, it will be the ultimate manifestation of the pre-tribulation rapture lie and its deadly consequences. Many will be led away not only from God and Christ, but possibly may also lose their lives in doing so. Remember, many false prophets have come and gone in history and have always misled their followers to their doom. Do NOT think you are immune to this as the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is already planting the seeds for the fall of many in the great apostasy to come:

 

1 Corinthians 10:

12    Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.   (NASB)

 

 

This is yet another reason why the pre-tribulation rapture is so deadly.  It tells people that Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected.  However, the Bible says we must look at and know the signs of the times which includes the signs of His return for His bride.

 

However the deception of these false prophets actually unfold, this much is for certain: the Lord Jesus’ words and the context tells us that the erroneous belief in His return before it actually happens will mislead many away from Christ and to their doom.

 

The Lord Jesus will return shortly after this deception, as we see in the verses that follow.

 

 

 

The Lord then continues to tell us the signs of His coming:

 

Matthew 24:

27   "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

28   "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.   (NASB)

29   "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

      and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   (NASB)

 

 

 

Here we note that the Lord Jesus says immediately after the tribulation there will be signs in heaven foretelling His imminent return.  This undeniably declares that Jesus returns only after the tribulation, but many still conveniently ignore this fact!

 

 

Matthew 24:29 is the exact parallel occurrence of what we see in Revelation with the opening of the 6th seal:

 

Revelation 6:

12   Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red;

13   and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind.

14   The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place.

15   Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

16   They said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb,

17   because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?"    (NKJV)

 

 

The opening of the 6th seal leads to the Day of the LORD, the time of God’s wrath, which is the 7th seal with its 7 trumpets and 7 bowls of wrath.  We see this in the Book of Joel:

 

Joel 2:

30   I will produce portents both in the sky and on the earth --- blood, fire, and columns of smoke.

31   The sunlight will be turned to darkness and the moon to the color of blood, before the day of the LORD comes --- that great and terrible day!     (NKJV)

 

 

 

Then the Lord Jesus comes from the sky in great glory and commands His angels to bring His people to Him:

 

Matthew 24:

30   "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.

31   "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds,

      from one end of the sky to the other.     (NASB)

 

 

 

We should notice that throughout the Lord Jesus’ entire response to the disciples’ question of when He will return, there is absolutely no mention of a secret rapture, but only His return after the tribulation.

 

His elect, who is His bride, are gathered to Him at His one and only return.  Please see the articles: ‘The Bride of Christ’ and ‘God’s Salvation Plan in the Biblical Feast Days’.

 

 

What is very interesting is that the events of Matthew 24:30-31 mirror the events in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 which is used most often by a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine to say there is a secret rapture. In both instances, the Lord returns from the sky, there is a trumpet of God and the chosen of God are gathered to meet Him. Yet the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine insists that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 means a secret rapture of Christians before the tribulation, but for some reason Matthew 24:30-31 only applies to those who are left behind like the Jews and others who were not Christians after the tribulation.  Or it is put in to describe raptured Christians, but yet enduring tribulation only pertains to Jews or non-believers.

 

 

We should notice why the Lord Jesus makes no distinction between Jew or Christian regarding His return for His bride after the Great Tribulation. Are we forgetting that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah – the Christ? He is the first Christian, because He is Christ. As Christ, He is a Jew. The Lord Jesus is a Jewish Christ. But we know His perfect blood was shed for all mankind whether Jew or Gentile. Are we forgetting also that the very first Christians were all Jewish?  He is the Messiah.  Jesus’ real name is Yahusha‘ – or Yahushua‘ / Yeshua‘ (please see the article: ‘The Name of God and Messiah’).  He is Yeshua‘ HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).

 

The pre-tribulation rapture and Dispensationalism are false doctrines that separate Jews and Christians even to the point of creating two different returns of the Lord Jesus, where one group escapes suffering and death while another has to endure suffering and death. But the Bible states that all of God’s people, both Jew and Gentile, are now one in Christ and as one body in Messiah we all must be prepared to die for our God and His Messiah. Of course we are one, because the Lord Jesus is Christ and a Jew.

 

And this is why the Bible undeniably teaches His return for His bride is after tribulation and that Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 are the same event. The Lord Jesus’ own words have told us. For where did He ever mention a secret rapture in telling us about His return, as we have just reviewed line by line?

 

To confirm what He has told us that He will return after the Great Tribulation, the Lord Jesus says His words will never pass away.

 

Matthew 24:

32   "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves,

      you know that summer is near;

33   so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

34   "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

35   "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.   (NASB)

 

 

 

In His words which the Lord Jesus states will never pass away is the absence of His telling us He will come secretly to take away Christians before tribulation. Therefore, the Bible tells us that a secret rapture is a lie forever, because it is not included in the words of the Lord Jesus who is the Word of God.

 

The remainder of Matthew 24 tells us what will happen to those who are not prepared for His return or do not know Him. These people will be destroyed.

 

Matthew 24:

36   "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

37   "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

38   "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,

      until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39   and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

40   "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

41   "Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

42   "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

43   "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming,

       he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

44   "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

45   "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his

       household to give them their food at the proper time?

46   "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

47   "Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

48   "But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,'

49   and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;

50   the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know,

51   and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites;

     in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.     (NASB)

 

 

 

There is no mention of a secret rapture away from tribulation. Those who are taken away like a flood, or are victims of a thief, or are like a servant who is cut into pieces, because they did not know when Christ will return, are all those who will be destroyed by the Lord Jesus’ coming (please also see articles: ‘Blink of an eye is not a pre-tribulation rapture’, The Wheat and the Tares and ‘Does “taken away” mean raptured?’).   They are all victims of disaster.

 

 

Many stop at Matthew 24:36 above and state that no one knows the day or the hour so it must be by complete surprise.  However, the term “that day and hour no one knows” is a Hebrew idiom/phrase which represents the Biblical annual holy day called the Feast of Trumpets.  It is the only holy day that occurs on the first day of the month (1st day of the 7th month of Tishri) and therefore is the only holy day that is entirely dependent upon the sighting of the new moon (month) visible crescent.  With a lunation period/month being 29 or 30 days, this means we literally will not know which day or hour it will be.  Will it be the day after the 29th day or after the 30th day?  And what hour will the visible crescent actually be seen on that given day? 

 

Just like our Passover died on Passover (1 Corinthians 5:6-8), the Lord Jesus will live out other Biblical feast days. The Feast of Trumpets (“the day and hour no one knows”) is the Biblical feast day when the Lord Jesus will return.

 

So “not knowing the day or the hour” does not mean His return will be completely by surprise and we cannot know – which is attested to in the context of all of Matthew 24 and elsewhere:  we are told repeatedly over and over again that we must always watch.  And by always watching, we will not be taken off guard and be asleep or doing things we ought not at His return. 

 

 

 

Further evidence that the Lord Jesus is not saying there is a secret rapture is by the simple fact of the order He is telling us these things in response to His disciple’s question about when He will return. The Lord is speaking of these things in verses 36-51 only after He has told us He will return in great and very visible glory. The context indicates that this being taken away happens only upon His return in great glory, which is not secret at all and is only after the Great Tribulation. This is why the Lord Jesus says His coming will be just like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37).

 

Therefore, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine cannot use “one will be taken and one will be left” to prove its doctrine, because these events happen after the Great Tribulation and not before it.  If the Lord Jesus meant to say verses 36-51 pertain to a secret rapture of Christians, then He would have told us all these things at the very beginning of His reply to the disciples’ question in Matthew 24:3.  Indeed, verses 36-51 really should be the very first thing to say, but instead we find the Lord Jesus’ response begins immediately with warnings, signs and tribulation in Matthew 24:4 and ending with verse 29 --- all with absolutely no mention of taking away “the Church”.

 

If a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine was true, then these examples of what will happen when the Lord returns should precede His return in great glory, but they clearly do not; they only happen when He returns in great glory.  And what we actually see happening in Matthew 24:36-51 is that those who are unprepared upon His return will be victims of total disaster.

 

The Lord Jesus tells us directly and in perfect order everything that will happen leading up to and including His return.  It will not be secret and only happens after the Great Tribulation.



In other words, during the end times shortly preceding and at His return in glory, there will be tribulation coming upon everyone, and many people will be caught completely by surprise and unaware.  This includes especially people who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine of “the Church”, because they have always been taught they will be taken away from any and all tribulation before it happens.  They will be just like everyone else who is not expecting tribulation and just go on living their lives like buying, selling, planting, building, etc. as if nothing was wrong; Luke makes this more evident:

 

Luke 17:

26   "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:

27   they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

28   "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;

29   but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

30   "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.    (NASB)

 

 

This is why when the Lord finally does come, He raises the question:

 

Luke 18:

However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"    (NASB)


 

 

The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine believers will be counted among and compose a large part of those whose faith has gone, because this insidious doctrine has created countless believers whose faith is built on sand and therefore they will be totally unprepared with a weak and faulty faith based on lies and wishful thinking.

 

 

And we must also consider this: several times in the Bible we are told that Jesus will raise up/resurrect the dead who His father gives to Him:

 

John 6

39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

 

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

John 11

24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

 

 

What last day is this?  The context shows it can only be the same last day for everyone. 

 

 

So what does the Word of God tell us?

 

 

The Word of God tells us that we must be prepared to suffer to enter the Kingdom and finish the race, holding onto our faith no matter what happens even death:

 

2 Timothy 4:

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.    (NKJV)

 

Acts 14:

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,

22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."    (NKJV)

 

 

The Word of God, the Lord Jesus tells us the pre-tribulation rapture is a lie.