This article is a transcription the the video of the same title found found on our YouTube Channel. Again we want to thank Sandra Haas for providing this transcription.
In the first article we explored why things won’t just pan out if the church faces the Tribulation Period. In this second article we’ll examine another common assertion; that God would never let his Saints enter the Tribulation Period. How can we determine if this is true? A frequent response is that God promised us He would keep us from the tribulation, just as He promised Noah to protect him from the flood. God has promised to protect Christians. But, did He make this specific promise?
What Are Christians Rescued From?
I routinely hear that God would never allow Christians to suffer like that, but one walk through a cancer ward tells you that’s not true…God doesn’t protect us from all suffering.
Others say God has promised to insulate Christians from tribulation, and, others say it’s wrath from which God will rescue Christians. So, let’s look at both of these last two terms and see what they mean and what God’s Word says about them.
The word “tribulation” is a misunderstood term. On its own it means persecution or distress. The Bible never promises that Jesus will rescue believers from tribulation; on the contrary, Jesus has actually promised us that in this world Christians will endure tribulation.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
In fact, Jesus takes this a step further; He tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted and that suffering for His sake is a privilege.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you (Matt. 5:11)
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil. 1:29)
Scripture contains dozens of similar passages. Jesus’s best friends and most loyal followers were His disciples, yet He allowed all but one of them to be killed in a martyr’s death…that’s tribulation. And recently, faithful believers in the middle east who refused to deny Jesus were horribly beheaded by Isis; God did not rescue them from their tribulation. So, it is wrong to say that God would never allow Christians to be persecuted or martyred. He has permitted, is still permitting, and will permit even horrible persecution and suffering of His loyal followers. So we can conclude, and confidently say, that it isn’t suffering or tribulation that God has promised to keep Christians from…rather, it is God’s wrath (God’s punishment for unbelief) that the Bible promises Christians will be exempt from.
Wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (I Thess. 1:10)
God’s wrath comes from the hand of God and it is directed at unbelievers, not believers. An example of God’s wrath is fire that will be cast upon the earth upon Jesus’s return; that clearly will be wrath. It comes from the hand of God and it punishes only unbelievers.
So, God has promised to rescue believers before His wrath. He will evacuate them from the earth in an event our culture calls the Rapture. The best description of this event is found in I Thess 4, where we observe that the Lord Jesus first descends from Heaven, raises the dead in Christ, and then gathers both the dead and those still left alive into the air. But this passage doesn’t mention the timing of The Rapture…is it before the tribulation, during the tribulation, or after it?
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 (I Thess. 4:16-17)
Those who favor a Pre-Trib Rapture theory consider the entire Tribulation Period to be God’s wrath. So, they believe that the rescue will happen before The Tribulation and they believe that God will exempt Christians from all of its events.
The other major Rapture theory, the Pre-Wrath, assumes that the Rapture happens before the wrath of God as well, however, this theory believes that God’s wrath occurs near the end of the Tribulation Period. In this way the church would have to endure tribulation or persecution first, during most of that period, and only be rescued before God pours out His wrath towards the end.
So when we read in the familiar passage, Rev 3:10, that God will keep Saints from the hour of trial, it is referring to keeping them from the trial of God’s wrath.
I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world (Rev. 3:10)
Two Key Rapture Theories
Both theories believe God will rescue believers from His wrath (and Rev 3:10 applies equally to both). The only difference between the theories is when that wrath begins. If we are able to come together and biblically determine when the wrath of God begins, we can decide which of these Rapture theories is correct. Because the Rapture will happen immediately before the wrath of God is poured out; find when the wrath begins and we will find the timing of the Rapture. For something this important, something this critical, God has given us a time marker. In the book of Revelation, there’s a clear and definitive statement of the exact day God’s wrath begins, or has come.
For the great day of the wrath has come, and who is able to stand? (Rev. 6:17)
The Time Marker
When we look at the context of this time marker to find when it takes place, we find it occurs after a dramatic sign; the sun, and the moon, and the stars go dark and the stars fall.
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth (Rev. 6:12-13)
This same sign is recorded in numerous other books of the Bible (including Isaiah, Joel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts). Matthew’s account of this sign tells us when it happens.
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 heaven (Matt. 24:29)
It’s clear that it takes place after the Great Tribulation. So, since the timing of the Rapture is dependent on when God’s wrath begins, the Rapture happens after the Great Tribulation as well. This is so incredibly important! Let’s look at these facts again.
In fact, let’s build a timeline of these events.
According to Matt 24:29, all of this takes place after the Great Tribulation.
Then the sign of the sun, moon, and stars occurs, according to both Matt 24 and Rev 6
Right after that sign, the time marker is given in Rev 6:17 (that the great day of wrath has begun). Notice it is only the day of wrath that begins at this point.
Later, on that same day (but before God’s wrath is actually poured out), He rescues his Saints by means of the Rapture. This is found in Matt 24:31, where Jesus’s angels gather together the elect Christians. Rev 7:9 shows these same Christians safely before the throne in Heaven in resurrection bodies.
Then on that same day, after the Saints are safe, the wrath of God has poured out. It begins with a fiery judgment as seen in Rev 8:7
These two amazing sections of God’s Word, Rev 6 through 8 and Matt 24, are running in tandem and are discussing the same events. From this, we can learn the timing of the Rapture. The great time marker, Rev 6:17, shows us when the day of wrath begins. This timeline allows us to see clearly that the wrath of God and the Rapture both happened after the Great Tribulation. If you haven’t noticed, this timeline based on the narrative found in Matt 24 and Rev 6 through 8, exactly matches the Pre-Wrath Rapture that we presented at the beginning of this article. It looks like we’ve solved the Rapture question.
But first, let’s summarize what we’ve uncovered:
First, we learned that God did not promise to keep Christians from tribulation; in fact He promised just the opposite…that believers would experience tribulation. This means Christians are not exempt from persecution, martyrdom, suffering now or even in the Great Tribulation. Rather, it’s God’s wrath (God’s punishment for unbelief) that the Bible promises Christians will be exempt from. God’s wrath comes from the hand of God and it’s directed at unbelievers not believers. Because of His promise, God plans to rescue believers before His wrath is poured out, by means of the Rapture.
Then we learned that in the book of Revelation God has given us a time marker that tells us exactly when the wrath of God begins. From the timeline that we created, we see that all these events happened after the Great Tribulation:
- the sign in the sun, moon, and stars
- the time marker
- the Rapture
- the wrath of God
The biblical purpose for the Rapture is to protect believers from the wrath of God. Just like a SWAT team, God will send His angels to rescue the Saints immediately before he pours out His wrath.
As we look back on the question we asked at the beginning of this article, Pre-Trib followers have been partially right and partially wrong about God keeping Christians from the Tribulation Period.
He’ll keep them from some of it…but not all of it. He’ll protect them from His wrath by rapturing them before it begins. But before the Rapture, Christians will need to endure the Great Tribulation as well as its persecutions and martyrdom.
Based on the information presented in this article, the Rapture question seems like an open-and-shut case in favor of the Pre-Wrath Rapture. In the next article, however, we will show how Pre-Trib Rapture supporters respond to this overwhelming evidence.