Thessalonians pictures the rapture. Matthew directly shows it occurring. A glaring problem for Bible Interpreters has been the lack of clarity of when the rapture occurs in the Book of Revelation. Can we know with certainty the timing of the rapture based on Revelation alone?
One of the hottest questions in the Church today is “will there be a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?” Does a rapture occur prior to the 70th Week of Daniel beginning? There are debates and arguments about how to interpret the text of 1 Thessalonians and Matthew in determining the timing of the rapture. It would be so convenient if Revelation clearly stated when the rapture occurs. There isn’t a clear picture of the rapture in that book, but it does show us when it doesn’t occur! This is probably shocking to most readers.
In order to “see” clearly what is occurring in Revelation, we need to know how to interpret this book and the order of events. Specifically for this study, we need to know when the 70th Week of Daniel begins. Pre-Tribulation Rapture believers call this 7 year time period “The Tribulation.” If we know when this period begins, we can look for clues to see if the saints are raptured before or after this point. If we find clues that the saints are not with Jesus after the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel, then the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory is all but disproved.
How can I say this? Let me explain. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives us the Bible’s clearest picture of the rapture. Proponents of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, proponents of a Pre-Wrath Rapture (a rapture prior to God pouring out his wrath), and proponents of a Post-Tribulation Rapture (a rapture concurrent with the second coming of Jesus) all believe this passage is describing the rapture:
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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15-17 NASB, emphasis mine)
Notice that after the rapture event, the saints will always be with the Lord. This is the critical fact. If we see a vision or picture of Jesus in the Book of Revelation that occurs after the 70th Week of Daniel has begun and the saints are not with him, the rapture could not have happened yet because the saints will always be with the Lord from that moment forward.
When Does the 70th Week of Daniel Begin?
Nearly all Bible scholars believe this period begins when the Lamb breaks the first seal on the 7 Sealed Scroll in Revelation 6:1, or slightly before this event. Dr. Thomas Ice, who is a leading proponent of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory, states that the breaking of the first seal is the first event of what he calls the “Tribulation Period” pictured in Revelation. Because those who believe in this theory consider the breaking of these seals to be the Wrath of God (it isn’t, but they consider it His Wrath), by definition, nearly all Pre-Trib. theory followers believe this event occurs at the beginning of this period or after the period has already begun. I am working on a second book which categorically proves that all of the seals are opened after the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week, but because this is not contested by Pre-Trib. followers, there is no need to prove that here.
We have now established an event that is universally accepted by all believers in the Pre-Trib. position as occurring during the 70th Week of Daniel: the opening of the first seal on the 7 Sealed Scroll. If we are able to show that the saints of God are not with the Lamb when he breaks this seal, the rapture does not occur before what they call the “Tribulation Period” and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is disproved.
John’s Vision of a Throne in Heaven
In Revelation 4, John is called up to heaven with these words, “Come up here.” The purpose of John’s call is to see a vision of the Lamb opening the 7 Sealed Scroll. Pre-Trib. believers make the horrible assumption that this call to an individual, John, in first century Turkey to view a vision is somehow a “picture of the rapture of all believers that is about to occur twenty centuries or more later. This is nonsense and no more factual than saying Jesus’s command to Peter to come to him on the water is a command for all of us to suddenly start walking on water ourselves. But the Pre-Trib. believers are on to something. Deep in their subconscious, they realize that if the rapture does not occur here at this point in John’s narrative, their theory is wrong.
Let’s see why. As John’s vision unfolds, we see God the Father sit upon his throne, Jesus (the Lamb) is found worthy to open it, the elders and living creatures sing a song of praise, a great multitude of angels praise the Lord, and Jesus opens the first seal. I don’t want to copy that entire passage into this post so here is a link to Rev. 5:1-6:1. Please give it a short read.
Now that you’re back, let’s “look” at the scene in heaven:
- God the Father is present and seated on this throne in verse 1
- A mighty angel is present and issues a challenge in verse 2
- The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures are present in verse 6
- The seven Spirits of God and the Lamb are present in verse 6
- A great multitude of millions of angels are present in verse 11
- Finally in Rev. 6:1, Jesus opens the first seal
Do you see who’s missing? The saints! They are to always be with the Lord after the rapture, yet they’re not there. Can you imagine them not being present to praise Jesus for opening this scroll like the angels are? No. I can’t imagine it. The reason is that they aren’t in heaven yet. The rapture doesn’t occur before the Tribulation begins, it occurs in Revelation 7. There we read:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7: 9-14 NASB)
When the rapture does occur (after the Great Tribulation) John goes into great detail about the saints and their praise. The very next verse tells us “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple.” (Rev. 7:15 NASB) There it is: they are always with the Lord.
Could it be that back in Revelation 5, John simply overlooked this great multitude no one could count? I don’t think so. The only logical explanation is that the rapture doesn’t happen prior to the 70th Week of Daniel. Is there “wiggle” room for Pre-Tribbers? In Rev. 5:13 it says that all created things praised God. Could this include the newly raptured saints? Yes, it could, but it is highly illogical for John to go into such great detail about all the others present at the opening of the scroll and gloss over a multitude of tens of millions who had just been raptured and are getting their praise on like never in history.
In combination with our study on 2 Thess. 2 WILL THERE BE A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, this study from Revelation supports the consistent testimony of scripture that there is no Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The rapture happens after the sixth seal is broken on the scroll Jesus is opening.
In September, Alan Kurschner is going to debate Dr. Thomas Ice on whether the Church will face the Antichrist. Let us all join in prayer that the truth of God’s Word rings out across the world and the deception of the Church that is currently ongoing ends.