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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The Testimony of Acts 3: The Lord Jesus will only return to restore all things

by Bill Wong

 

 

 

The Bible tells us even more about the truth that a pre-tribulation rapture does not exist and therefore is not the very next time we will see the Lord Jesus. Rather, the Bible shows us even more how the Old and New Testaments are perfectly in harmony with another and give the same witness that any return will only be after tribulation. 

 

In Acts 3, we are told that the Lord Jesus has returned to heaven and will only return to restore all things:

 

Acts 3:

19   Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,

      so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

20   and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,

21   whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things,

      which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.    (NKJV)

 

 

Look carefully at what the Bible tells us in Acts 3:21 above. It is evidence that the Old and New Testaments teach there is no pre-tribulation rapture.

 

Acts 3:21 tells us that the Lord Jesus will be in heaven and the time He will leave heaven and come back to earth is for the “restoration of all things”. When does He come back to restore all things? One can only begin restoration after “the dust has settled” and demolition/destruction has ceased.

 

A secret coming of the Lord Jesus for a pre-tribulation rapture does not restore anything. In truth, it is the very opposite of restoration in terms of definition and time, because a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine proposes that we are taken away exactly when the worst part of the destruction begins. So how can the Lord Jesus coming back to take us away from the Great Tribulation be considered as His returning from heaven to restore all things?

 

So a pre-tribulation rapture will once again go against the plain words of Scripture. The Bible tells us He will only return from heaven to restore all things which in itself means one return.

 

The evidence that there is no pre-tribulation rapture, but He returns to restore all things (which pre-supposes there will be massive tribulation, chaos and destruction that requires restoration) is made crystal clear by the apostle Peter:

 

2 Peter 3:

10   But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar

     and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

11   Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

12   looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning,

     and the elements will melt with intense heat!

13   But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.     (NASB)

 

 

Peter agrees with Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts. The day the Lord Jesus returns will come like a thief, but it is not to take us away from tribulation at all like a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine says. The Lord Jesus only returns to restore all things, which Peter describes as doing away with the old and creating a new heavens and a new earth.

 

Peter tells us more; see verses 14-18 below.

 

2 Peter 3:

14   Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

15   and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him,

     wrote to you,

16   as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,

     which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17   You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand,

     be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

18   but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory,

     both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.       (NASB)

 

 

Peter goes on to tell us to be holy until the Lord’s return. He also warns us that the writings of the apostle Paul will be distorted and used to deceive Christians on this very subject of the Lord’s return: ‘Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things…’ (verse 14) and ‘our beloved brother Paul….wrote to you….in all his letters, speaking in them of these things’ (verses 15-16). The context of the Book of 2 Peter is to stand firm and beware of false prophets with the context of 2 Peter 3 specifically being looking forward to the return of the Lord – and not be fooled by these false prophets in this regard.

 

It should be evident that the existence of a pre-tribulation rapture cannot be true. This doctrine is the manifestation of what the apostle Peter was warning Christians about: do not be fooled by those who twist the words of Paul about the coming of the Lord Jesus (1 & 2 Thessalonians are used the most by a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine to promote its false ideas; please see article: ‘The Testimony of 1 & 2 Thessalonians).

 

The Lord Jesus’ return for the restoration of all things can only begin after the destruction of the Great Tribulation has ended; indeed, that is why He returns – to end the tribulation.

 

 

Jerusalem will be surrounded by her enemies.

 

The other thing we must note in Acts 3:21 is that it says this restoration of all things was prophesied by the prophets in the Old Testament and the Lord Jesus’ return will occur at this time. This reveals again that the Old and New Testaments are in harmony with one another as to the Lord’s return and that a pre-tribulation rapture does not exist.

 

So what exactly did the prophets of old say about this timing of the God will restore all things?

 

The time of the restoration of all things begins with the time when Israel will be in a state of virtual extinction at the hands of her enemies and God will perform His greatest rescue mission for Israel.

 

In Zechariah 14 we are told of the encompassing of Jerusalem by her enemies before the climactic battle where God intervenes on behalf of His people Israel, and we know it is the Lord Jesus who returns atop the Mount of Olives to defend her:

 

Zechariah 14:

2    For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled,

     and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity,

     and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

3   Then shall Jehovah go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.    

4   And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east;

    and the mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west,

    and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north,

    and half of it toward the south.    (ASV)

 

 

The prophet Joel likewise speaks of Israel encompassed by enemies and then God will save her and establish His kingdom there forever.

 

Joel 3:

1   For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,

2   I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat;

    and I will execute judgment upon them there for my people and for my heritage Israel,

    whom they have scattered among the nations: and they have parted my land,    (ASV)

 

Joel 3:

        11  Assemble and come, all you nations, 
           And gather together all around.
           Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD.
       12 “ Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
            For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
       13  Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
            Come, go down;
            For the winepress is full,
            The vats overflow—
            For their wickedness is great.”
       14  Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
            For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
       15  The sun and moon will grow dark,
            And the stars will diminish their brightness.
       16  The LORD also will roar from Zion,
            And utter His voice from Jerusalem;
            The heavens and earth will shake;
            But the LORD will be a shelter for His people,
            And the strength of the children of Israel.
       17 “ So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, 
            Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain.
            Then Jerusalem shall be holy,
            And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”

            (NKJV)

 

 

The Lord Jesus states the very same things; that it is only when Israel is about to be destroyed is the time He will return:

 

Luke 21:

20   “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

 

27   Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  (NKJV)

 

 

We see this gathering of Israel’s enemies around Jerusalem also in the Book of Revelation upon the Lord’s return:

 

Revelation 19:

19   And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies,

      gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.  (NKJV)

 

 

The gathering of the nations in Revelation 19:19 at the Lord’s return is the same judgment in Matthew 25:

 

Matthew 25:

31   "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.

32   "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another,

       as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;

33   and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.      (NASB)

 

 

Isaiah 66 ties everything together in the Old and New Testaments about the return of the Lord Jesus to save Israel and destroy her enemies, and also at the same time restore all things:

 

Isaiah 66:

6     "A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, The voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies.

7     "Before she travailed, she brought forth; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.

8     "Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day?

      Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.

9     "Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?" says the LORD.

     "Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?" says your God.

10   "Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her,

11   That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom."

12   For thus says the LORD, "Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

      And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.

13   "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem."

14   Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, And your bones will flourish like the new grass;

     And the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, But He will be indignant toward His enemies.

15   For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury,

     And His rebuke with flames of fire.

16   For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many.

17   "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine's flesh,

     detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether," declares the LORD.

18   "For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues.

      And they shall come and see My glory.

19   "I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan,

      to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations.

20   "Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters,

      on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the LORD,

     "just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD.

21   "I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites," says the LORD.

22   "For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD,

     "So your offspring and your name will endure.

23   "And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath,

      All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD.

24   "Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me.

      For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind."     (NASB)

 

 

So what we find again is that the Old and New Testaments are in complete agreement as to when God will restore all things. The Bible states in Acts 3:21 that the Lord Jesus’ return to earth from heaven will happen for the restoration of all things. This restoration time is when God saves Israel from the hands of her enemies as she is quite literally at the brink of extinction, and then God establishes His kingdom in Israel forever. And we know that it is the Lord Jesus who does this at His return.

 

This restoration which prompts the Lord Jesus’ return from heaven does not include a pre-tribulation rapture, because the restoration can only occur after all tribulation which is the time of ultimate peril for Israel