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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.