Will the Church Be Raptured Before, During,
or After the Tribulation Period?
By Pastor Max D. Younce
Will the Church, or as some call it, the Body of Christ, be raptured before, during, or after the 7-year Tribulation of God’s Judgment? I have heard so many views on this, would you please give me your assessment. Thank you.
The Church Age began on the Day of Pentecost, over 2,000 years ago, and will end with the Rapture. The Rapture will begin the 7 years of tribulation, which will end with Christ coming to the earth and establishing His Kingdom for a 1,000 years. We will confine ourselves strictly to the question you have asked. I will list some of the false claims and show from Scripture why they are not true.
1. One false claim is that the Rapture is the same event as the Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation. This has confused many, leading them to believe in what is called the “Post-Tribulation Rapture.”
A. Refutation: First of all, at the Rapture, the saved are “caught up” or taken to be with Christ in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17). In Matthew, Chapters 24,25, we have Christ coming to the earth and judging the nations.
Matthew 25:40 is used by some, saying it is the Rapture. “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Notice, as we quote Matthew 25: 31-34, which makes it perfectly clear that this judgment involves 3 things: (1). Christ comes to the earth, (2). He will sit on His throne, (3). He will separate the saved from the lost. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (Vs. 31). And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep (saved) from the goats (lost): (Vs. 32). And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Vs. 33). Then shall the King say unto them on his riht hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Vs. 34).
Matthew 25:40 tells us what happens to the lost. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Notice carefully, the difference between the Rapture spoken of in I Thessalonians 4:16,17 and Christ’s Coming, spoken of in Mathew, Chapters 24,25.
(1). At the Rapture, Christ does not come to the earth, as we are caught up to meet Him in the clouds. Whereas, in Matthew, Christ comes to the earth to establish His Kingdom.
(2). Notice carefully, at the Rapture in I Thessalonians, the saved are the ones taken while the ones left are the lost. Just the opposite takes place in Matthew. Those that are taken are the lost, while those that are left are the saved who enter into the Kingdom in their earthly bodies. Therefore, it is imperative for the Bible student to understand that these two events are entirely different, being separated by the Seventieth Week of Daniel, known as the 7-Year Tribulation Period. Without acknowledging the difference between Christ’s coming for his Church and His coming to establish the Kingdom, one will only be led into more error concerning Bible prophecy.
Note: A good principle to remember is, whenever Christ’s return is spoken of in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, it is never the Rapture; but, rather, the return of Christ at the conclusion of the Tribulation. The Rapture was a mystery, revealed unto the Apostle Paul after the Church Age had begun. (Ephesians 3:1-10).
2. A Pre-Tribulation Rapture is what the Bible teaches. Now let us examine the proof:
A. (I Thessalonians 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.” In examining this verse there are three things we need to recognize:
(1). Paul was writing to Christians (1:1 and 5:25). They were already delivered from the wrath of Hell. (John 3:36).
(2). Notice “which delivered us” is translated in the past tense. This is incorrect, as the Greek has it in the future tense. It should read as “who delivers us,” or, “which will deliver us.”
(3). The “wrath to come” is not in reference to Hell; but, rather, to the Tribulation Period. Revelation 6:17, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
Therefore, the Christians that are alive at the Rapture will not go into the Tribulation, known as the “day of his wrath.” Notice the word “us,” which includes all Christians, the spiritual and the backslider. As many say, “The Church is not ruptured; but, raptured!”
B. (I Thessalonians 5:9). “For God hath not appointed us to wrath (Tribulation wrath, same as 1:10); but to obtain salvation (i.e., “deliverance”) by our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek word for “salvation” is “SOTERIA” and denotes “deliverance, preservation, salvation.” For example: In Acts 27:34, the word “health” is from the Greek “soteria.” In other words, in Verse 33 we find the sailors had gone 14 days without eating. In Verse 34 Paul said, “…take ( or eat) some meat: for this is for your health, (i.e. “your deliverance).” from getting sick or dying. Also, in Philippians 1:19, “salvation” should have been translated “deliverance”, since he was speaking about his deliverance from prison from where he had written to the Philippians. A literal translation of Verse 9 would read, “For God hath not appointed us (Christians) to the wrath of the tribulation, but to obtain deliverance from it, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes for His Church.” In Chapter 4, verses 13-18, we have the Rapture. Chapter 5 continues with Christ’s return at the Rapture, assuring all Christians that they will be delivered from the Tribulation Period.
C. The Spiritual and Carnal Christians are ALL raptured at the same time. The following Scriptures refute the erroneous and false teaching that only the spiritual Christians will be raptured; while the carnal Christians will have to go through the Tribulation. We will continue from Point B, above, as we examine and analyze the next verse, I Thessalonians 5:10. “Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep; we should live together with him (Christ).” We will look at 3 important words in this verse.
(1). “Wake.” It is the same Greek word “gregoreo” as translated “watch” in Verse 6. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us WATCH and be sober.”
(2). “Sleep.” The Greek word for “sleep” in Verse 10 is the same as that for “sleep” in Verse 6. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Therefore, sleep is in reference to those Christians who are “lying down on the job” and not serving the Lord. Some perverted minds try to proclaim that “sleep” here is referring to “death.” If that were true—how would you “watch and be sober” if you were dead? Preposterous!
(3). “Together.” The Greek word is “hama” and means “together at the same time.” (Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Now, let us put Verse 10 together and write it out, including the meaning of each of the 3 words we have examined. “Who died for us, that, whether we wake (watching and serving the Lord), we should live together (at the same time) with him (Christ).” These Scriptures clearly set forth the truth that ALL Christians, those serving the Lord and those who are not, will be raptured together at the same time.
D. A partial Rapture is Satan’s trickery to lead one to believe that you must suffer and/or have good works to complete God’s salvation. One must remember that the completion of our salvation is the redemption of our bodies! Notice Romans 8:23, “…even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY.” At the Rapture our salvation is completed. Those who have died receive their resurrected bodies from the grave, while those that are alive have their bodies transformed as they go up to be with the Lord. (Philippians 3:20,21).
Those who propagate a partial Rapture have succumbed to Satan’s subtlety. (Genesis 3:1 and II Corinthians 11:3,13-15). If Satan cannot convince you that good works are necessary for salvation; then, he will attempt, through his ministers, to convince you that those that are backslidden must go into the Tribulation. Some that hold this view have told me that, this is to have them suffer for their disobedience and give them a chance to redeem themselves. Thus showing God they are really Christians by now being faithful while being persecuted. Sounds good—except it contradicts God’s Word! This damnable philosophy denies the Judgment Seat of Christ for all Christians, as well as Christ’s completing our salvation by His death and resurrection. Therefore, they do not believe one is saved eternally; but, rather, must have good works in order to maintain their salvation. Very stealthily, they accuse God of being a liar and unfaithful to His Word when He promised the believers they would “never perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
E. “No Partial Rapture” Continued. (I John 3:2). “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear WE shall be like him; for WE shall see him as he is.” The “we” is all-inclusive of the spiritual and the carnal Christian. No distinction between the two is made here.
F. “No Partial Rapture” Continued . (I Corinthians 15:51,52). “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but WE shall ALL be changed.” (Verse 51). At the Rapture, ALL or every Christian, whether spiritual or not, will be changed, i.e., receive their glorified bodies. Notice the last 4 words in Verse 52, “…and WE shall be changed.” The “WE” is all-inclusive of every Christian. Again, a partial Rapture philosophy disintegrates in the light of God’s Word.
G. “No Partial Rapture” Continued . (I Thessalonians 4:17). “Then WE which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Again, the Holy Spirit uses the word “WE”, eliminating any distinction between the spiritual and carnal Christian; thus, illuminating the false teaching of a partial Rapture.
3. A final thought sealing the fate of the philosophy of a post-Tribulation Rapture. Follow with me as we look at some basic facts:
A. All raptured Christians receive their glorified bodies (Romans 8:22,23; and I Corinthians 15:50-54).
B. There are no children born to glorified bodies. (Matthew 22:23-30).
C. All unsaved are cast into Hell before the 1,000 Year Kingdom Reign of Christ. (Revelation 19:11-21 and Matthew 25:41).
D. If the Rapture is post-Tribulation, several problems arise with impossible solutions.
(1). Where do the mortal bodies come from of those that are born during the Millennium and rebel at the conclusion of the Millennium? (Revelation 20:7-10).
(2). There would be no lost people alive to have children, so they cannot come from them.
(3). All of the saved have their glorified bodies. No children can be born to them as a result of a post‑Tribulation Rapture.
(4). Remember, at the end of Christ’s 1,000 Year Reign there are unbelievers who will give their allegiance to Satan in an attempt to defeat Christ. (Revelation 20:7-10). How did they get their human bodies? Placing the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and the start of the Millennium makes an impossible situation. At the Rapture all Christians have their glorified bodies, which do not produce human beings. All the lost are cast into Hell; therefore, the philosophy of a post-Tribulation Rapture is impossible. The Post-Tribulation Rapture philosophy also leads to other false doctrines. Colossians 2:8 is God’s warning concerning false teachers, “Beware lest any man spoil you through PHILOSOPHY and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
4. Note. If Post-Tribulation Rapture were true; then, the last generation alive would be the only generation in over 2,000 years since the Church Age began to have to go through the Tribulation. Then, we would have to conclude that God is not a fair God.
5. Note. If the Rapture is at the conclusion of the Tribulation; then, why are we not told to be praying for “that blessed hope and glorious appearing of that blessed tribulation!” Yet, the Word of God tells us, in Titus 2:13, that the Christian is to be, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
6. In conclusion, we shall examine one more proof of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture as opposed to a Post-Tribulation Rapture. Our text is recorded in II Thessalonians 2:1-9.
A. Investigating our Text. In Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians, he mentions Christ’s return at the end of each of the five chapters. In Chapter 4:13-18, he goes into great detail in describing what occurs at the Rapture. This was a great comfort to these Christians, as he ascribed in Verse 18, “Wherefore COMFORT one another with these words.”
Sometime later, someone had sent a letter, evidently ascribing Paul’s name, and indicated that the Rapture had already taken place; whereas, they were left behind. Paul had gotten word of this and addressed the issue in his second epistle, II Thessalonians 2:2. “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubles, neither by (a) spirit, nor by (a) word, nor by (a) letter as from us; as that the day of Christ (i.e., LORD) is at hand.”
The “day of Christ” should be translated “the day of the LORD”, which is the correct translation. Distinguishing between the Day of Man (the Church Age), the Day of Christ (the Tribulation of 7 years from the Rapture to the Revelation of Christ), and the Day of the LORD (from the middle of the Tribulation to the end of the Millennium), is imperative to understanding Verse 2. Therefore, if the Day of Jehovah was at hand, then the Rapture would have already taken place. No wonder they were troubled and worried. Paul, in Verse 3, sets the doctrine straight. The Day of the LORD was not at hand, as the Rapture and the enthronement of the Antichrist as God must take place first. In other words, “The letter you received was a forgery and you have not missed the Rapture!”
Then, in II Thessalonians 2:5, Paul reminds then, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you; I told you of these things?”
B. We now examine II Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (day of LORD) shall not come, except there come a falling away (departure) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
We are now introduced to the Greek word “apostasia” which is translated as “falling away” in the King James Translation. The basic meaning of the word is “departure.” One cannot tell from the meaning of the word, itself, whether it is in reference to the departure, i.e., the Rapture of the Church; or, a “departure from the truth,” known as apostasy. “Apostasia” translated as “falling away” is quite misleading, as it does not incorporate the meaning “to fall” or “fell.” For example, check Matthew 10:29 (“fall”); Matthew 17:6 (“fell”); John 18:6 (“fell”), etc. These are translated from the Greek word “pipto,” not “apostasia.” Therefore, only by the context in which “apostasia” occurs can it be determined if it is in reference to a departure from the faith, or the departure of the Church from the world.
It should be noted, that to the best of my knowledge, all English translations prior to the King James Translation translated “apostasia” either as “departing” or “departure.” Also, the Bible known as the Vulgate, about 400 A.D., was Jerome’s Latin translation. Here Jerome uses the Latin word “discessio”, meaning “departure” for “apostasia.”
With this in mind, one can see that this is in perfect harmony with Verse 1, which ascribes to the Rapture. “Now we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.” (The Rapture). This is the same as Paul had previously spoken about in I Thessalonians 4:17 concerning the Rapture. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
In I Thessalonians 4:13-17, Paul gives the principles of the Rapture; whereas, in II Thessalonians 2, he gives the procedure concerning the Rapture, which is Pre-Tribulation.
May we make a few more observations which lead us to conclude that “apostasia” in II Thessalonians 2:3 is speaking of the Church departing from the earth, raptured to meet her Savior in the clouds, and not a departure from the faith.
(1). Notice in Verse 7, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” Paul states that apostasy from the faith was already present. Hymenaeus and Alexander were two of them. (I Timothy 1:19,20). There were false teachers of the law. (I Timothy 1:4-7). False teachings concerning the resurrection. (II Timothy 2:16-18). Read Jude; I John 2:18; II Peter 2:1-3; I John 4:1-3, and we could go on and on. In other words, from the offspring of Adam and Eve there has always been apostasy from the faith. What do we attribute the Flood to? In Israel there were the false prophets and priests. It was the same at the time of Christ and ever since, to the present. Therefore, it would be ludicrous to think that “apostasia” in II Thessalonians 2:3 was in reference to “apostasy from the faith” when there has never been a time when apostasy has not been with us.
Therefore, how would the Thessalonians recognize any apostasy different from the apostasy that already existed and that has always existed in one way or another. From the context, itself, we know the “apostasia” in Verse 3 is not in reference to departure from the faith, already existent; but, rather, a departure of the Church from the world, or the Rapture. Apostasy already existed as stated in Verse 7, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work…”
We have the same false teachers today, advocating a Partial or a Post-Tribulation Rapture, as those believers in Thessalonica encountered over 1900 years ago. As we have stated previously, the Christian is admonished to be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” NOT, “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the Tribulation Period! (I.e., the Day of God’s Wrath.).
A final note. Many are not aware that the Roman Catholic Church does not believe in the Rapture. Also, the Evangelistic Lutheran Churches of America (ELCA); the Missouri Synod Lutherans and the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod deny three basic prophetic doctrines: (1). They deny the Rapture, (2). They do not believe in the Restoration of the Nation of Israel, (3). They deny the literal reign of Christ in his earthly Kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. How did they come to these conclusions, denying major portions of the Word of God? Very simple. Their teachings were founded by a man named Martin Luther, who has been dead over 450 years! (Luther, 1483-1546). Maybe they are not familiar with the middle verse of the Bible, Psalm 118:8, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” END
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