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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From what wrath are we spared?

by Bill Wong

 

 

 

The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine interprets the following verses to mean that Christians are taken away into heaven before tribulation begins so they will not have to experience it and persevere through it.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:

9     For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you,

     and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

10   and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead,

     even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.   (NKJV)

 

1 Thessalonians 5:

9     For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

10   who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.   (NKJV)

 

 

However, the wrath from which we are spared has nothing to do with a pre-tribulation rapture. These verses are taken out of context from the book of 1 Thessalonians and also out of context from the Bible as a whole.

 

There are two things the Bible makes extremely clear about the wrath of God as to what it means and who are affected. We must understand these two fundamental truths so that we are not deceived by a false doctrine which will cripple believers at the worst possible time in Satan’s war against us.

 

 

 

1) The Day of the LORD

 

 

Many Christians mistaken the “the Day of the Lord” in the New Testament to mean the day the Lord Jesus returns to take them away from tribulation.

 

However, this term “the Day of the Lord” is really “the Day of the LORD” where the LORD means YHWH (the 4 Hebrew letter name of God; please see the article 'The Name of God and Messiah'). This day is defined by the Bible as the day of God’s wrath against the enemies of God (Isaiah 13:6-13; 34:1-3; 59:17-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18; 2:1-3; Ezekiel 30:2-3; Joel 1:15; 2:1-2, 10-11, 30-32; 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 1:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4; 2 Peter 3:10-12).

 

It is the long-prophesied event of Israel’s salvation and the end of the current age, and the ushering in of a new heavens and new earth. The Lord Jesus does indeed return on this Day of the LORD, but it is not to secretly rapture anyone. He returns to destroy God’s enemies and establish the Kingdom of God. The New Testament is only continuing the usage of the term first spoken of by the ancient prophets.

 

Therefore, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is found to contradict itself and cannot be true. This is because the true Day of the LORD which they believe is the time of the secret rapture of the saints can only mean one of two things:

 

 

1) There is no rapture at all on the Day of the Lord, because they have mistaken the term all along which really means the Day of the LORD – the day of wrath against God’s enemies.

 

 

2) There is a rapture on the Day of the Lord (which is really the Day of the LORD) in addition to God judging the nations, but the Bible makes it plain that this Day of the LORD only comes after the Great Tribulation (this is why Dispensationalism is in error from the start and tries very hard to keep the judgment of God separate from a “secret” rapture).

 

 

In either case, the pre-tribulation rapture is proven wrong.

 

The Bible truth is that the Lord Jesus returns only once and not in secret where He will both destroy God’s enemies and gather the people of God to Himself. When the Lord Jesus’ does these two things is the very fulfillment of the apostle Paul’s words:

 

Romans 11:

15   For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?   (NASB)

 

 

When Israel is physically saved from her enemies who surround her, she will also be spiritually saved from the true enemy – Satan and death, and will finally know who her Messiah is and love Him. Their acceptance by God is also when the dead are raised to life.

 

 

 

2) The wrath of God

 

If the pre-tribulation rapture was true, then the Bible would be found to contradict itself, because the Word of God testifies everywhere that Christians will follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, including suffering and even dying in His name. Here are just a few examples:

 

John 15:

18   "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

19   "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world,

      but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

20   "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me,

      they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

21   "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.   (NKJV)

 

Acts 5:

40   They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak

     in the name of Jesus, and then released them.

41   So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered

     worthy to suffer shame for His name.   (NKJV)

 

Romans 8:

17   and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,

     if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

18   For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with

     the glory that is to be revealed to us.   (NASB)

 

Philippians 1:

27   Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent,

      I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

28   in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

29   For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

30   experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.   (NASB)

 

1 Peter 2:

20   For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer,

     if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.

21   For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22   " Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth";

23    who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten,

      but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;     (NKJV)

 

 

It is evident that the Bible says we must suffer, and even die, for the Lord Jesus. Just as He has suffered and died, that is what we also must be prepared to do.

 

From what we just read above:

 

In John 15:18-21, we are told by the Lord Jesus we will be hated and persecuted just as He was and we know He was also murdered.

 

In Acts 5:40-41, Peter and some other apostles were beaten, because of Christ’s name, and they rejoiced to have suffered for Him.

 

In Romans 8:17-18, Paul tells us we must suffer as the Lord Jesus did, to be glorified as He was. Then Paul says any suffering we endure is nothing compared to the glory which awaits us.

 

In Philippians 1:27-30, Paul says we must suffer as Christ had and then points to himself as an example of what we must suffer in Christ (he was eventually martyred).

 

In 1 Peter 2:20-23 we are told explicitly to follow Christ’s footsteps – to suffer and even die – and to take it patiently, knowing our eternal security is most important and in the hands of God.

 

 

 

The Bible tells us we will suffer – even during the Great Tribulation.  But we must remember that there are two wraths:  there is a wrath of God against the enemies of God and also a wrath of the enemy, Satan, because he has been cast down and no longer allowed into heaven, and he knows he has only a short time:

 

Revelation 12:

7        And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,

8        but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.

9        So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10      Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

11      And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

12      Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."    (NKJV)

 

 

The suffering we will experience during the Great Tribulation is the wrath of Satan (through his Beast/antichrist) against God’s people as we read in the next chapter:

 

Revelation 13:

4        So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

5        And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.

6        Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.

7        It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

8     All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.    (NKJV)

 

 

So what wrath are Christians saved from if it is not being saved from being persecuted and suffering and dying for the Lord Jesus? 

 

The Bible actually speaks of two wraths of God as pertaining to our salvation.

 

The first thing is that IF we are always watching and prepared for the Lord Jesus’ coming like a thief as the Bible consistently reminds us to do, we will then not take the mark of the beast, and will be counted as God’s people.  We will then not suffer the wrath of God that will be poured out on the enemies of God and the unprepared at the end times leading up to Armageddon; such as the bowl judgments in Revelation 16: 

 

Revelation 16:

15 "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.   (NKJV)

 

 

So PLEASE note this is a matter of life and death.  If we suffer the wrath of Satan which is the tribulation, the Bible tells us it is actually expected, because he hates all those who belong to God.  This suffering and even death will give us eternal life.

 

However, we MUST be prepared.  To believe in a pre-tribulation rapture which is not true will cause us to be unprepared, and when we are unprepared, we WILL suffer the wrath of God.  Believing in a pre-tribulation rapture lie is to be guilty of wanting to save our lives, but in doing so, we will ultimately lose it (eternally):

 

Luke 9:

23      Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

24      For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

25      For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

26                    For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.   (NKJV)

 

 

This is no joking matter and the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is a great lie and is setting up millions for a great fall.  It will mark believers as the unprepared who will suffer God’s wrath and therefore not gain eternal life.  This leads to the second wrath which is what we will ultimately undergo and suffer IF we are unprepared and experience God’s wrath in the end times.  We MUST diligently study and NOT be caught unprepared.

 

 

The second thing is that the referenced wrath of God which the Lord Jesus saves us from is the central theme of the Bible, which is this: the Lord Jesus paid the penalty of death we justly deserved for our sins with His own life, thereby sparing us His father’s holy and righteous wrath which demands a payment.

 

All Christians know and understand this is the wrath which the Lord Jesus’ perfect sacrifice saves us from. By His sacrifice, He has saved us from the 2nd death – eternal death, and has given us the gift of eternal life. The 2nd and eternal death is the wrath of God that applies to all who do not belong to Him.  Given below are examples of this most fundamental truth of what being a Christian is all about:

 

John 3:

 

36   "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life,

      but the wrath of God abides on him."     (NASB)

 

John 17:

15   "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.   (NASB)

 

Romans 5:

8     But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9     Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.   (NASB)

 

Ephesians 2:

1     And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

2     in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air,

     the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience---

3     among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,

     and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.     (ESV)

 

Revelation 2:

11   'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

      He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'     (NASB)

 

 

From what we just read above:

 

In John 3:36, we are told that with the son of God we have eternal life, but without Him, the wrath of God will be upon us. Therefore, the wrath of God is equated with eternal death and not being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

In John 17:15, the Lord Jesus clearly says we will not be taken out of the world, but yet still need to be kept from Satan. What are we kept from if we are still here? We are not physically removed from tribulation, but we are kept from sinning and succumbing to Satan’s deceptions and spiritual attacks during the tribulation. If we are not protected from this, then we will fall away and suffer God’s wrath, which is eternal death.

 

In Romans 5:8-9, we are told that Lord justifies us with his blood, which is an inference that his death paid the penalty for our sins; that is, his blood averted God’s wrath (“the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23) which should be upon our heads, but the Lord has saved us from this justified wrath. The very mention of the Lord’s blood and death tell us what God’s wrath is; the Lord saves us from the due penalty of our sins – death, and not that the Lord saves us from suffering.

 

In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul tells us we were once dead, but are now alive in Christ, because we no longer live Satan’s way which leads to death. Being “children of wrath” is the wrath of God upon the people who are disobedient and follow Satan. Being “children of wrath” therefore equates with death, and is contrasted with being saved by Jesus.

 

In Revelation 2:11, the Lord Jesus tells the church to overcome and the second death will not hurt us (even if we die and are raised for judgment, we will be judged favorably and not die a second and eternal death). This is just one of several ways the Lord Jesus describes the reward of believers who overcome tribulation in the Book of Revelation, but they all mean the same thing: the one who overcomes will gain eternal life (not be hurt by the 2nd death).

 

It becomes clear what wrath we are truly saved from and it is the core message of the Bible’s gospel:

 

The Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, is the one who saves us from eternal death by His torn flesh and His shed blood. If not for His perfect sacrifice, the justified wrath of God would otherwise fall upon all mankind and we would all be under the penalty of death.

 

 

 

We should look at 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 again, which is the verse that a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine cites considerably to support its belief:

 

1 Thessalonians 5:

9     For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

10   who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.   (NKJV)

 

Comment #1: Verse 9 says that the Lord is our salvation who saves us from wrath, but what is the wrath we have gained salvation from? We know that “salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” can only mean one thing and it is eternal life, and it is a gift which is paid for by His blood even though we deserve death. Salvation through the Lord Jesus is not a physical removal from tribulation as a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine would have us believe.

 

So again, the true meaning of wrath is the justified penalty of sin we are supposed to pay with our own lives; the reason why the Lord came in the flesh to suffer and die for us is so that we do not have to suffer this wrath – He has taken our death penalty upon Himself in our place so that we may live forever. It is what “salvation through Our Lord Jesus Christ” means – to save us from God’s righteous wrath which requires payment for our sins.

 

 

 

We should note that when God pours out His wrath upon the enemies of God on earth in the end times, He will seal/protect His people from this wrath (such as the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8).  However, again, the Bible does not say we will be protected from the wrath of Satan and the Beast/antichrist who will wage war with the saints of God and overcome them (as we read earlier in Revelation 13:4-8).  This wrath of Satan and his Beast/antichrist during the end times is the persecution, suffering and great tribulation that all who follow Christ will have to endure and overcome by our faith, and we must be prepared to die for our God and Christ. 

 

And this is the true message of the Bible: as long as we are Christ’s, it matters not how or when we die – but we MUST remain true to and glorify God in Christ; this is the very reason why the Bible’s words and the words of the Lord Himself consistently and repeatedly warns us to stay the course until the end.

 

We see this in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. The fate of the faithful is not that they are saved from wrath inflicted upon them by the world (it is actually expected that God’s people will suffer in the world at the hands of the enemy who is god of this world), but their faith is what ultimately counts and saves them from God’s wrath and they will have eternal life.

 

Hebrews 11:

32   And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah,

     also of David and Samuel and the prophets:

33   who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

34   quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong,

     became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

35   Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance,

     that they might obtain a better resurrection.

36   Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

37   They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword.

     They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented ---

38   of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. (NKJV)

 

 

Hebrews 11 is the very proof of the Lord Jesus’ words in John 17:15 – we are in this world, but are kept from the evil one; not that we will physically be spared tribulation and death, but that our faith will never falter despite tribulation and death.

 

And elsewhere again, this is the wrath of God which the Lord saves us from:

 

Romans 2:

4     Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,

     not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

5     But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for

     yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

6     who "will render to each one according to his deeds":

7     eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;

8     but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness --- indignation and wrath,

9     tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;

10   but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

11   For there is no partiality with God.     (NKJV)

 

Revelation 20:

11   Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.

     And there was found no place for them.

12   And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened,

     which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

13   The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.

     And they were judged, each one according to his works.

14   Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15   And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.     (NKJV)

 

 

In essence then, the Lord Jesus saves us from the second death, which is the ultimate fate of those who are not God’s. The ones who will be judged and found wanting and thereby suffer the second death are the same unbelievers and hypocrites who will suffer God’s wrath on the great Day of the LORD – the day the Lord Jesus returns and punishes the enemies of God and brings all of God’s people to Himself as He establishes the Kingdom of God and begins the restoration of all things.

 

 

Christians must take a step back from the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine and not be blinded by its false hope which is creating a death trap for its believers when tribulation comes unexpectedly to an unprepared people.

 

If we are prepared, the wrath we are spared from is God’s wrath upon the enemies of God and the unprepared during the end times leading to Armageddon.  However, the prepared people of God will STILL suffer Satan’s wrath upon the saints of God, and will then likewise not ultimately suffer God’s wrath of the 2nd death, an eternal death.   The unprepared, though, will suffer the wrath of God on both counts, and it is the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine that will cause them to be unprepared. 

 

 

The consistent message the Lord Jesus taught is to always be ready, because we do not know when He will come. The pre-tribulation rapture has twisted this to say the Lord Jesus meant “be ready when I come to secretly take you away from tribulation”, but there is absolutely no statement of such a rapture anywhere out of the Lord Jesus’ mouth or elsewhere in the Bible.

 

When the Lord Jesus was asked about the signs of His coming in Matthew 24:3-31, surely He would have told His disciples that He would take them away from tribulation, but He does not tell them anything at all like that. Instead, the Lord Jesus tells them to endure and He will come to put an end to the chaos, because if He did not, there would be no one left alive.