Grace Baptist Church of Citrus Springs - Information Database
When Will the Rapture Take Place?
Index to Articles
When Will the Rapture Take Place?
The Second Coming (Return) of Christ
How do we know the Bible is true?
Why I Prefer the Byzantine Text
Which Translation Do We Use?
The Holy Spirit and Speaking in Tongues
What Is the Church?
The Marks of a New Testament Church
What's Involved in Church Membership?
Biblical Separation
In Defense of Premillennialism
Is Iraq in the Bible?
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. (2) For yourselves know per-fectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (3) For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (4) But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. --1 Thessalonians 5:1-4
INTRODUCTION: The hope of the imminent return of the Lord is as old as the church. The Apostle Paul urged the believers at Thessalonica " . . . to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10). And he wrote to Titus that Christians should be "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glori­ous appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).

An early Christian document called the Didache (or "teaching") which dates from around 120 A.D. exhorted believers: "Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh."

With the passage of time, the professing church became involved with other issues besides the study of prophecy. In the fourth century and those that followed cardinal doctrines concerning the Trinity and the Person and work of Christ were debated. Eventually, the bulk of professing Christendom became engulfed in paganism and ritualism. In the 16th century, the Protes­tant Reformation brought to centre stage the great doctrines of justification by grace through faith and the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures alone. The 18th century brought revival through men like John Wesley and George Whitfield. And the 19th century began the age of modern missions, as the gospel was taken to the far flung corners of the globe.

With the coming of the 20th century, perhaps appropriately as another millennium was coming to a close, there developed a renewed interest in the study of Bible prophecy. Students came to one of three views depending on the their major premise and the method used to interpret the Scriptures. Those committed to the premise that the Church is "spiritual Israel" had to use an allegorical method of interpreting the Scriptures, abandoning a literal interpretation when it came to prophecy, since a literal interpretation of the Scriptures would show that Israel and the Church are two different entities. Since they believe the Church is spiritual Israel, they conclude that the Church is God's kingdom on earth now, and see no need for a literal, future millennial reign of Christ on earth. Those who hold this view are called amillennialists, because they believe there is no future earthly millennial reign of Christ.

Also failing to make the necessary distinctions between Israel and the Church are the post-millennialist, who believe Christ will return after the millennium or golden age which the Church will usher in. Post-millennialist also fail to make distinctions between the rapture (Christ coming in the clouds for His own) and the return of Christ to earth.

A consistent literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of the Scrip­tures will lead one to the conclusion that Israel and the Church are distinct entities, that God is not finished dealing with the nation Israel, and that God has separate prophetic programmes for both Israel and the Church, which is the spiritual body of Christ. Because God is not finished with Israel and must honour His promises to Abraham and to David, Christ will return to earth to establish a literal kingdom over which He will rule and reign for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Those who believe Christ will return before the establish­ment of a literal millennial kingdom on earth are called premillennialists.

However among those who claim to be premillennialists there are some who hold that the Church will go through all or part of the seventieth week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27), a seven year period leading up to the return of Christ to earth, commonly called the tribulation. Post-tribulationists believe Christ will call Christians up to be with Him after the tribulation. Mid-tribulation­ists believe the rapture will take place in the middle of the tribulation.

How do we determine when the rapture (the coming of Christ in the clouds for His saints) will take place?

1. We must hold to a literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of Scripture.

The mid-tribulationist's understanding of Rev. 11 is based on interpretation by analogy rather than by a sound exegesis of the passage. Mid-tribulation­ists see the two witnesses as representing the church, perhaps because there are two, it is further said they represent the two groups taken up at the rap­ture, the dead and the living saints. Further, the great voice (12) is equated with the shout of 1 Thess, 4:16, the trumpet being the same trumpet as the trumpet of 1 Thess 4:16, and the cloud (12) as representing the "parousia" or presence of the Lord, as the pillar of fire represented the Lord's presence over the tabernacle.

The cloud is universally used in Scripture in connection with God's presence, and does not necessarily mean the "parousia" or appearing of Christ.

2. We must understand the chronology of the book of Revelation.

According to the mid-tribulationist view, the seven seals and the seven trumpets bring us through the events of the first three and one half years of the seventieth week, which period terminates in the rapture taking place in Rev. 11. The seven bowls describe the outpouring of the wrath of God during the last three and a half years.

We understand John to have outlined the first three and a half years un­der the seals (Rev. 4:1-7;17), the last half of the tribulation under the trum­pets (Rev 8:1-11;14), then closing the period with the return of the Lord to reign (Rev. 11:15-18).

The seventh seal is opened to contain the seven trumpets. It is intro­duced with the statement of Rev. 6:17 "For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" This brings us to the middle of the tribulation, or the period which Christ described as that of "great tribulation" (Mt. 24:21). As the seven angels prepare themselves to sound (Rev. 8:6), there is "silence in heaven about the space of half an hour" (8:1), as if to indicate the calm before the storm.

Re 10:11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

In Rev. 10:11, John is told to "prophesy again," the Greek word for "again" being plain, which speaks of oscillatory action, like an oscillating fan. The word denotes repetition. Therefore what follows is a repetition once John has gone through the entire tribulation. The dragon's persecution of Israel (12), the beasts (13), and the 144,000 (14) selectively look at the time previously covered, but this time in greater detail. The bowl judgements of Rev. 15-16, come in rapid succession at the close of the period and are a final outpouring of the wrath of God. This section also concludes with the return of the Lord to reign (19).

The mid-tribulationist holds that the seven seals and seven trumpets are not manifestations of divine wrath. Norman B. Harrison, a leading mid-tribulationist, sees the seven seals of Rev. 6 as the outworking of the program of man, man simply reaping that which he has sown, while the seven trumpets are the outworking of the program of Satan. He likens the seven trumpets to the events which came into Job's life. Satan was working, but God was permitting. According to Harrison, the wrath of God is not poured out until the bowl judgements of Rev. 16.

However, see Rev. 6:16-17. "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" "Is come" is in Greek grammar the 2nd aorist, indicative active of erchomai. The aorist tense indicates not something which is about to happen but rather something which has already happened.

The same is true in Rev. 11:18 below, which links the trumpet pro­gram with the outpouring of the wrath of God.

Re 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy ser­vants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

Both the seven seals and the seven trumpets of the book Revelation are an outpouring of the wrath of God upon the earth.

3. We must understand the meaning of "tribulation" in the Scriptures.

The word translated tribulation in the New Testament is the Greek word thlipsis, originally a pressing, pressing together, pressure, and then by ex­tension oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits. In the Scriptures the word "tribulation" may be used either in a technical sense, referring to the seven years of Daniel's prophecy, or in a non technical sense, referring to any time of trial or distress. The tribulation promised to the church is of the non-technical kind.

It is used in a non-technical sense as in: So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

It is used in its technical sense as in: Mt 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

Re 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The mid-tribulationist, seems to want to cover himself from both ends. He cannot ignore the promises to the Church that it will be delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10), so on the one hand he says that the seven seals and seven trumpets which he believes come during the first 3 1/2 years of Daniel's seventieth week are not the wrath of God. But then, on the other hand, he says the church has been promised tribulation.

Such passages as Mt. 24:9-11 and Mk. 13:9-13 promise tribulation, but they are clearly addressed to Israel.

Mt 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

However, the Lord Jesus did make promises of persecution to His dis­ciples which would later make up the church:

Joh 15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15)

Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

However, if tribulation here meant that which is prophesied in Daniel's 70th week or any part of it, that week would have had to last almost 2,000 years.In fact, the tribulation which his prophesied during the seventieth week of Daniel will be of such magnitude as never seen on the earth be­fore.

Da 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Jer 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.

Mt 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

4. We must distinguish between the trum­pets.

1Co 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

A foundational argument of the mid-tribulationist position is that the trumpet of Rev. 11:15, and the last trump of 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:16 are identical.

The Greek word for trump or trumpet is salpigx. It is used in all the times the word appears in the N. T. so no distinction may be made on the basis of the word used. It should also be noted that "last" eschatos, may mean last in point of time or last in point of sequence. It may denote that which concludes a program without the implication that it is the last that ever exist.

As God's programs for Israel and the Church differ from one another, it is not unreasonable to assume there is one trumpet for the church and another for Israel. Note the following differences"

1) In Rev 11:15, the trumpet is sounded by an angel, while in 1 Thess. 4:16, it is "the trump of God," not an angel's trumpet.

1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

2) It should also be noted that the trumpet for the church in 1 Thess 4:16 and 1 Cor. 15:52 is singular, while the trumpet of Rev. 11:15 is one of a series.

3) In 1 Thess 4:16, the trumpet is blown before the resurrection, while in Rev 11:15, the trumpet does not sound until after the resurrection.

4) The "last trump" of 1 Cor. 15:52 sounds "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," being of short duration, while the trumpet of Rev. 11:15 is re­ferred to in Rev. 10:7 with the words, "in the days of the voice of the sev­enth angel, when he shall begin to sound" "begin to sound" indicating a longer duration than "the twinkling of an eye" proving the trumpets are dif­ferent.

1Co 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Re 10:7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.

5) The events described following the trumpet of 1 Thess 4:16 leave no remnant behind. They include the "dead in Christ" and then "we who are alive and remain." However the events associated with the trumpet of Rev. 11:15 leave behind a fearful remnant who give glory to God, indicating that these can not be the same trumpet.

Re 11:13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Rev. 11:15 cannot be the "last trump" of the rapture three and one half years before the return of Christ to earth, because there is another trumpet to come, that of Mt. 24:31 at the end of the tribulation before the return of Christ to earth.

Mt 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

5. We must hold to the doctrine of immi­nence.

There is a distinction between the soon coming of Christ and the immi­nent coming. Scripture nowhere taught that the coming would be soon, but it consistently taught that the coming could be expected at any time.

Students of Bible prophecy agree that there are numerous prophecies given in both the Old and New Testaments which must be fulfilled before the Lord's return to earth to establish His millennial kingdom. Daniel prophesied a period of trouble or tribulation to come upon the earth, such as never has been experience in the annals of time (Da 12:1). He gave its dura­tion as a week of years or seven years in length, and indicated that the middle of the period would be marked by the antichrist breaking his covenant with the Jews and committing an abomination in their Temple (Da 9:27).

The most of the book of Revelation from chapters 6-19 is given over to the details of the progression of the final outpouring of God's wrath upon unbelieving mankind. The timetable for some events is given even to the very day, such as the length of time God's two special witnesses will be able to preach before they are killed in the streets of Jerusalem, 1,260 days, or exactly 3 1/2 years. People living during that time will be able to know exact day of the Lord's return to earth by counting 1,260 more days from that point.

In contrast, the Apostle Paul warned believers living in this age to be ready to meet the Lord, "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thess 5:2). And the Lord Jesus warned the church at Sardis "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Rev. 3:3).

If the church were to be raptured in the middle of the tribulation, the church would be able to count 1,260 days from the day the antichrist con­firmed his covenant with the Jews (Dan. 9:27) and know exactly what day the rapture would take place.

6. We must cling to the promises of God.

The thought of the Lord's return was to be a comfort to believers be­cause they would be raptured (or taken up to meet the Lord in the air) before the great outpouring of God's wrath upon the earth.

With regards to the church, if the coming tribulation were designed to somehow purify the church saints, one might well ask, "Why will only one generation of church saints experience it?" Romans 8:28, 29 tells us that God brings individual things into every believer's life, which are designed to bring us into conformity to the image of Christ.

With regards to Israel, Zechariah 13:8, 9 does teach that the tribula­tion will have a purging effect on the nation with one third surviving by turning to the Lord in faith

Zech 13:8, 9 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my peo­ple: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

With regards to the Gentiles, the tribulation, seventieth week of Daniel, is the time when God pours out His final wrath upon them for their rejection of His Son, the Messiah.

Psalm 2:1-4 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying , Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

Consider the promises that Church age believers will be spared from the tribulation:

1Th 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Re 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

The promises that believers shall avoid the wrath to come do not refer to the wrath of God upon sinners, because Jesus endured that wrath for us on the cross of Calvary. It must refer to the wrath of the tribulation.

Joh 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Joh 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Accept the comforting thought that no matter how bad the world may get during our lifetimes, in Christ, as part of His body, the Church, we will not go through the tribulation.

1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.