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 Wheat and the Tares

by Bill Wong

 

 

 

Most Christians today believe that a pre-tribulation rapture is gospel truth. This doctrine states that before the Great Tribulation of the enemy Satan by his Beast/Antichrist and False Prophet comes, true believers will be taken away into heaven by the Lord Jesus Christ and will avoid the suffering and death that will come upon the people who are left behind in the world. The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine often cites Bible verses showing people being “taken away” (it interprets this as being “raptured”) as evidence to support this belief.

 

However, God’s word the Bible does not teach a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine, but instead what it tells us is that the people who are being “taken away” are not those who are “raptured” to avoid suffering and death, but these people being “taken away” are in reality those who will die in their sins.

 

Christians know of the parable of the tares and wheat, but do they know that it is really just more evidence in the Bible showing us that the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is false?

 

This parable tells us that the enemy Satan has sown tares among the wheat, but both should be allowed to grow together until harvest before they are sorted out one from the other. Here is the parable in the gospel of Matthew:

 

Matthew 13:

24      Jesus presented another parable to them, saying,

       "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

25      "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.

26      "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

27      "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'

28      "And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?'

29      "But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.

30      'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers,

       "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

 

36      Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said,

       "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field."

37      And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,

38      and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom;

          and the tares are the sons of the evil one;

39      and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

40      "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

41      "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks,

        and those who commit lawlessness,

42      and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43      "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.     (NASB)

 

 

We must note what verse 30 is telling us:

 

30      'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

 

 

It states that though both the tares and wheat will be allowed to grow together, it will be the tares that will first be gathered and bound in bundles to be burned. With the understanding that the tares and wheat represent people, it is made clear that the tares will be taken away first – and they will be destroyed.

 

This truth of who is taken away and what the sequence is of this taking away is clarified without a doubt in verses 40-43:

 

Matthew 13:

40      "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

41      "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks,

        and those who commit lawlessness,

42      and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43      "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.     (NASB)

 

 

The Bible is showing us that at the end times, the people who are being taken away are sinners who commit lawlessness and they are the tares; and they will be taken away first to be destroyed (thrown into the furnace of the fire). It is also showing us that after the people/tares are taken away first, those who are left behind are actually the righteous and they are the wheat.

 

The Bible tells us that both sets of people – wheat and tares, will grow together.  The wheat referenced in this parable are those who compose the bulk of the 1st resurrection saints (those in the 1st resurrection who are not part of the firstfruits Pentecost offering; please see the article: 'God's Salvation Plan in the Biblical Feast Days', specifically under Wavesheaf, Pentecost and Trumpets sections.)   The entire wheat harvest is the bride of Christ.  Let us be very clear.  The Lord Jesus does come to take His bride, but this only occurs after all tribulation.  Please see the article: 'The Bride of Christ'.

 

 

So the Bible tells us that the pre-tribulation rapture is totally wrong and it is the reverse that is true: the sinners are the ones who are taken away, and the righteous will be left.

 


In other words, a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine cannot use the Biblical verses mentioning a “taken away” as evidence for being “raptured” into heaven before tribulation, because the Bible makes it quite clear that “taken away” refers to the destruction of the wicked which is what comes first, with the righteous remaining. The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is actually teaching the very opposite of what the Bible teaches.

 

And again so we make no mistake:

 

When the Bible says the tares, who are sinners, are to be destroyed first and the wheat, who are the righteous, are left remaining to be gathered into the barn, the Bible is making it extremely clear that the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is undeniably false. This is because the destruction of the tares/sinners first before the wheat/righteous are left, very obviously means that the Great Tribulation will occur first before any kind of rapture. There is no escaping tribulation before it comes.

 

The sinners/tares being destroyed is symbolic of what will occur during the tribulation period and the Day of the LORD which is the wrath of God upon the wicked that follows and overlaps it (the 7th seal with its 7 trumpets and bowls). Please note that the tribulation caused by Satan is not the same as the Day of the LORD/wrath of God to punish the evil which culminates at Christ’s return.  The righteous/wheat that are left to be gathered into the barn is symbolic of those who are gathered into the larger wheat harvest at Christ’s one return which is highly visible to all after tribulation.  As the Lord Jesus said, He returns just once and only after tribulation to gather the wheat, His bride:


Matthew 24:

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.

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 be reminded that this does not mean there will be no righteous people dying during the end time tribulation.  Satan creates the tribulation that will destroy all people, especially targeting the saints.  Meanwhile, the Day of the LORD which is the wrath of God is meant for the sinners/tares only. The Bible makes it clear throughout that though a remnant will remain, most of the righteous – both Jew and Gentile, will perish and this will especially be the case during the end times under the Antichrist:

 

Mark 13:

20   "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.    (NASB)

 

Revelation 5:

9    When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

10   And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

11   Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.    (NKJV)

 

 

And it should be noted the righteous that are still alive will nevertheless be preceded in the change/resurrection by their brothers and sisters who have died in the faith during the tribulation.  This is what the apostle Paul meant in 1 Thessalonians 4; he is not describing a pre-tribulation rapture, but the fact that any kind of rapture only occurs when Christ returns which is when those who are left – the wheat, will be gathered with their dead brethren ahead of them:

 

1 Thessalonians 4:

15   For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

16   For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17   Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

18   Therefore comfort one another with these words.     (NKJV)

 



The Bible truth is reinforced in the gospel of Luke where we find other verses that a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine incorrectly cites as evidence for their belief. Let us look at the gospel of Luke:

 

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.

31      "On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out;

        and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.

32      "Remember Lot's wife.

33      "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

34      "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.

35      "There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.

36      "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left."

37      And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them,

       "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered."       (NASB)

 

 

With the understanding Matthew 13 gives us that to be taken away means the tares are to be gathered first to be destroyed, we see Luke 17 verses 27-29 showing us the same thing: the sinners in the days of the flood and of Sodom were also taken away/destroyed as the tares, with only Noah and Lot (and their families) remaining from the destruction as the wheat.

 

Luke 17 verses 34-37 further provides us with Biblical evidence of what being “taken away” actually means and when it happens. It exactly parallels the parable of the tares and wheat. It mentions the often quoted “one will be taken and the other will be left”.

 

A pre-tribulation rapture doctrine states that “one will be taken and the other left” means that the person who is taken is the one who is “raptured” by Christ to avoid tribulation. However, this is absolutely not the case.

 

Who does Luke 17 verses 34-37 say is the one taken and the other left? The context of Luke 17 reveals that it is the sinners who are taken away – they are the ones who are taken and the ones who are left are the righteous. The sinners of the days of the flood and Sodom are taken and destroyed; they are the tares who are taken away first to be burned. It is Noah and Lot, the righteous, who are left and not destroyed; they are the wheat that remain and are gathered into the barn.

 

Luke verse 37 punctuates the proof that the destruction of the wicked are the tares who are gathered first to be burned. The Lord Jesus tells us that “one will be taken and the other left” involves the death of the wicked – it is where the vultures gather around the body/those who are destroyed.

 

Matthew 13 and Luke 17 clearly show us who are the ones who are taken away, and they are not those who are “raptured” to avoid tribulation. The ones who are taken – they are the tares who are gathered first to be burned; they are the ones who will die/be destroyed where the vultures will gather around the body. The ones who are left are the wheat to be gathered to the barn – they are the righteous who will not be destroyed.

 



The language the Lord Jesus uses in His parable of the wheat and tares and also describing when He will return is the prophetic language of judgment which God always uses in the Bible.  It is the same pattern of judgment where God will destroy the wicked (the tares) and those who are left behind are the righteous remnant (the wheat).  The pattern of a remnant being left is used often in the Bible.  Just like Noah and Lot are left after God’s judgment, we find other examples.  In the end time, those who remain in Israel will be called holy:


Isaiah 4:

2     In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing For those of Israel who have escaped.

3    And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy --- everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem.

4    When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning,

5    then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.

6    And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.     (NKJV) 

 

 

The remnant is sometimes spoken of as being purified like precious metal so the dross and impurities are taken out, but only the precious refined metal remains:  

 

Zechariah 13:

8    And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, " That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it:

9    I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; And each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.' "     (NKJV) 

 

 

And again, the righteous remnant is left only after the wicked (the proud, verse 11 and Israel’s enemies, verse 15) are removed/cleared away first:

 

Zephaniah 3:

11   "In that day you will feel no shame Because of all your deeds By which you have rebelled against Me; For then I will remove from your midst Your proud, exulting ones, And you will never again be haughty On My holy mountain.

12   "But I will leave among you A humble and lowly people, And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD.

13   "The remnant of Israel will do no wrong And tell no lies, Nor will a deceitful tongue Be found in their mouths; For they will feed and lie down With no one to make them tremble."

14   Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

15   The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more.    (NASB)

 

 

When we know that the Bible speaks of being taken away as being taken away in judgment to leave a righteous remnant, then we will understand the true meaning of the phrase “one will be taken and the other will be left”.  Remember that the Bible says two people will be side by side:  two in a bed; two grinding at the mill; two in the field (Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 17:34-36).  This is exactly what the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13 also states: the two will grow together side by side until the harvest – and only then will the reapers gather the tares first to burn them and leave the wheat to be stored in the barn.  So when the Lord Jesus speaks of one being taken away and the other left 11 chapters later in Matthew 24, what the Bible is clearly telling is that the first person is a tare who will be taken away first to be burned, and the other is the wheat to be left and gathered in the barn.  His parable of the wheat and tares is prophetic and illuminates for us what will actually happen in the end time.

 



Again, the ones who are “taken away” are the people who must be alert for the return of the Lord Jesus as a thief in the night. The ones “taken away” are those people who must not be overtaken by the Lord Jesus’ return:

 

1 Thessalonians 5:

2        For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

3        While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly

       like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

4        But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;

5        for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;

     so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.   (NASB)

 

 

The Bible is warning us in multiple ways that to be “taken away” is to be caught by the thief in the night and it is NOT a good thing. To be “taken away” does not mean to be raptured at all.

 

We are supposed to be children of the light and day and not children of the night and darkness. We must not be asleep and lulled into the lie and false promise and false security of a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine that is not Bible truth, but is a deadly deception. The Bible is telling us in multiple ways that we must be alert and sober, that WE MUST WAKE UP : the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is a death trap that will catch many off-guard and unawares, which is exactly how the enemy Satan likes his prey to be – not sober and not vigilant:

 

1 Peter 5:

8   Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.   (NKJV)

 

 

The Lord Jesus puts it all together in Matthew 24:

 

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.

 

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)

 

 

Matthew 24 makes it plain that the person who is taken away from the field/mill is the person who is taken away/destroyed by the flood; the person whose dead body has vultures gathered around it is the person who is caught unaware by the Lord Jesus as a thief in the night; the person who is taken away is the person who is cut in two by the Lord Jesus when He returns, because the person thinks they can get away with not following God’s will and His truth, but they are in for a rude awakening:

 

 

Matthew 7:

21      "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

22      Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name,

       and done many wonders in Your name?'

23      And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'   (NKJV)

 

 

 

Essentially, the person who is taken away as a tare can very well be the person who believes in a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.

 

How?  Why?

 

They have believed a lie that distorts what “taken away” means and who it is that will be “taken away”. This lie has created countless numbers of people whose faith is nowhere near as strong as it should be to endure the tribulation which the Bible says will come upon everyone.

 

This lie has left them weakened in faith, because all their lives they have not built up the faith required to withstand anything and everything – to live and die as Christ would, but we must stand strong in the strength of our God and His Christ to the very end, never denying them, never cursing them, regardless of what we go through.

 

Truth is life.  Lies and deception is death.

 

However, not only has this false expectation of being “raptured” away before the Great Tribulation weakened the faith of many people when they will require it the most, but this weaker faith created by the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine also causes many to not take seriously their faith or lives and what they should be doing in the name of the one whose blood was shed for them. This doctrine has placed in the subconscious minds of believers a freewheeling and lax attitude, making them continue to live as if they are part of the world and not called out from the world. Many behave as if they are only in it for the thrills and the ride, but the hard part, the suffering will be experienced by other poor souls.

 

The pre-tribulation rapture directly creates people who are lukewarm and not true believers, but the Bible constantly warns us that it is this type of person who the Lord Jesus will judge harshly as hypocrites and people who did nothing with what they were given. It has created countless numbers of people whose faith will not be strong enough to withstand the judgment of the Lord Jesus upon His return.

 

It has everything mixed up and puts the believers of this doctrine in a very dangerous, precarious position: they believe in a lie that undercuts their faith and puts them in grave danger, squarely in the sights of the enemy who is ready to pick off the weak in the pack.

 

The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine has created believers whose faith are not built on a firm foundation which will leave them totally unprepared and without true spiritual strength; they will fall by the wayside when suffering and tribulation comes and when the Lord Jesus returns and finds them lacking.

 

In other words, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is an example of the very worst irony: it actually creates tares to be taken away to be destroyed/burned – the believers in this false doctrine will themselves be the tares. They will not be taken away (“raptured”) to avoid tribulation, but they will be taken away (destroyed) in tribulation.

 

And remember, we are not really talking about physical death as all are appointed to die, but we are talking about eternal life and eternal death.  So our faith must be strong enough to die in the truth and the name of our God and His Christ (please see article: 'The Name of God and Messiah').

 

This doctrine is a deadly trap – a deadly cycle that feeds itself: falsely teaching believers that they do not have to worry about the tribulation to come and they will be spared from it as the wheat gathered into the barn, but in truth these believers will be the tares, because this doctrine has created multitudes of believers whose faith is severely lacking, unstable and not founded upon truth.

 

 

The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is false and has everything backwards. It has the people backwards, the action backwards and also the sequence backwards:

 

It is not the righteous (wheat) who are taken away (“raptured”) to heaven before the Great Tribulation while the sinners (tares) are left behind to suffer through it.

 

It is the sinners (tares) who are taken away (destroyed) through the Great Tribulation while the righteous (wheat) are left behind to reign with Christ and is the larger wheat harvest after everything has ended.

 

The ones taken away are the tares and they will be destroyed as were the sinners in the days of Noah and Lot. The ones who are left behind are the wheat to be gathered into the barn of the harvest of the Son of God; these people are Noah and Lot.

 

Do not be the tares – the ones who are caught unaware by the thief in the night, and are fit to be destroyed. Be like Noah and Lot.

 

 

We must be prepared to suffer and die as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself did for us, regardless of what happens. The greatest show of love is when we are willing to die, and do, for our loved ones. He died for us, and we must be prepared, willing and able to die for Him. It is both the greatest love and the greatest reward.

 

 

Please do not continue to be deceived by the pre-tribulation rapture lie.

 

 

 

Also see the articles ‘Matthew 24 disproves a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine’, ‘The Example of Job’, ‘Soldiers of God’, and other articles in this section.