The End Times: Arguments in Defense of a Post-Trib Rapture

The Pre-Tribulation rapturists have devised many unsubstantiated arguments to defend their position as I have discussed in my previous post, “The End Times: Arguments Against a Pre-Trib Rapture.” As we have discovered, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture was not taught in the Church until the doctrine was fabricated by John Nelson Darby in 1830. This fabrication has led to many other errors (some have even gone so far as to say, heresies) with the primary error being the teaching of a multi-phased second coming of Jesus. These errors persist to this day and are ubiquitous in the Church.

So, does the Bible teach a Pre or Post Tribulation Rapture? I believe Jesus gave us the answer as recorded in Mark 13:24-27.

But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT,
AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory.
And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. (Mark 13:24-27 NASB)

In Mark chapter 13, verses 5 through 23, Jesus describes the things that will happen during the tribulation and the events that will lead up to the tribulation. Then, in Mark chapter 13, verses 24 through 27, Jesus announces His second coming which is preceded by the tribulation and is immediately followed by the angels being sent forth to gather His elect. In these verses, Jesus appears to lay out a clear sequence of events: first is the tribulation; second is His appearing; and third is the gathering of His elect. Is Jesus really describing the Rapture in these verses? It would appear to be the case since he mentions the elect will be gathered not only from the earth but from heaven also. I like the logical way that Mark recorded Jesus’ account of His second coming and the end time events.

While both Mark’s and Matthew’s record of Jesus’ end time discourse are for the most part consistent, there are some facets of Luke’s account that are troubling. The verses I’m referring to are Luke chapter 13, verses 31 through 37.

In verses 26 through 30, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ description of how everything will be going on as usual at the time of His return as in the days of Noah and Lot. Then immediately He goes on to say in verse 31 (emphasis mine), “On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.’” (Luke 17:31) If the Rapture is, in fact, going to be a sudden and unexpected snatching away of believers in the “twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52) why in the world would Jesus warn against going back to get your stuff? In addition, Luke records a warning not to repeat the same mistake Lot’s wife did when she looked back. (Luke 17:32) None of these verses make any sense at all in the context of our understanding of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. But I’m sure some would argue that Jesus wasn’t referring to the Rapture, and they would be correct; Jesus wasn’t referring to the Rapture, He was referring to the gathering.

So, if we accept the teaching that there will first be a gathering, how do we reconcile this with what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-52? Well, my interpretation is that the Rapture will be in two phases. The first phase will be the gathering of the elect and the second phase will be the catching up of those gathered to meet the Lord in the air. I’m sure my hypothesis may sound farfetched to some, but how else can you explain the verses we’ve just examined, particularly Luke 17:31?

So could it be that before the Rapture occurs, there will first be a gathering of the elect? Maybe we’ve had it wrong all this time—instead of Jesus’ second coming being multi-phased, maybe it’s the Rapture that is multi-phased.

Nevertheless, we are still left with a problem and that is how do we explain the strange verse that appears seemingly out of nowhere in Matthew 24:28 and the equally disturbing and bizarre answer Jesus gives to His disciples’ question in Luke 17:37? While Matthew’s account doesn’t really help us to establish a context for the verse, Luke’s account does; but it depends on whether or not you accept Luke chapter 17, verse 33 as a transitional verse.

(30) It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (31) On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. (32) Remember Lot’s wife.

(33) Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

(34) I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. (35) There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. (36) Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. (37) And answering they *said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered. (Luke 17:30-37)

If we decide to interpret verse 33 in the context of the gathering of the elect in verses 30 through 31, then it becomes clear that those left behind or not gathered could be the bodies of those described in verse 37. Those who go down to get their goods or those who turn back who are out in the field would be the ones who suffer death as did Lot’s wife. However, if we interpret verse 33 as part of the context (or lack of context) in verses 34 through 37, then the ones who are taken are probably martyrs. My position is that verse 33 belongs with verses 34 through 37 because verse 33, which talks about those who lose their life, would be consistent with verse 37 which talks about vultures hovering over corpses. In addition, I don’t believe verses 34 through 37 are referring to the Rapture because Paul makes clear that when the Rapture occurs we will be changed, that is, our current bodies will not be left behind but will be transformed from mortal to immortal. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

One last point on the persecution of Christians: isn’t it a well-known fact that Christians have been persecuted and martyred for their faith especially throughout the Church’s early history as Foxes Book of Martyrs describes in excruciating detail? And even now, in almost every corner of the globe, Christians of all denominations are being persecuted and killed for their faith. Persecution and tribulation should not be new concepts for Christians.

As in the days of Lot, God sent two angels to gather Lot, his wife, and two daughters in order to lead them out of Sodom so that they would not be destroyed along with the city and the rest of the inhabitants. We all know the story, Lot’s wife looked back towards Sodom and she was turned into a pillar of salt. Likewise, when Jesus returns to earth, will we be ready for the gathering or will we hesitate to leave as Lot did? Will we still be so enamored with this life that we will be tempted to look back as Lot’s wife did?

The End Times: Arguments Against a Pre-Trib Rapture

I concluded my previous blog post by asking the question, “is the notion of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture really taught in Scripture?” The doctrine of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is an assumption based on the belief in a 7-year tribulation which some have interpreted as Daniel’s 70th week. Pre-Trib Rapture proponents argue that God will remove the Church before the beginning of the great tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation. However, in the Book of Revelation, the Pre-Trib Rapture is conspicuous in its absence—it just isn’t taught! The doctrine was, in fact, created by John Nelson Darby in 1830.1

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of John Nelson Darby until I started doing research for this writing. I guess proponents of this fabrication aren’t that anxious to divulge its origins especially if it didn’t originate in 1611. So, while it’s not really known how Darby came up with this doctrine, I have my own theory. I believe Darby knew that the Pre-Trib Rapture was easier for congregations to swallow than the alternative actually taught in the Bible. As can be seen clearly in the Church today, the doctrine hasn’t lost even an ounce of its appeal.

In order to optimize the structure of my arguments, I’ve decided to partition my discussion of the Rapture in two separate posts. This blog post contains my analysis of the popular arguments that have been used to defend Darby’s Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine and in my next blog post, I’ll present my own arguments for a Post-Trib Rapture.

Multidimensional Second Coming

Noted author Hal Lindsey describes Jesus’ second coming in two phases, where the first phase is His secret unexpected return in the air and the second phase is His return where every eye will see Him.2 When Jesus described the signs of His second coming to His disciples, He said that it would be just like the days of Noah and like the days of Lot; where everyone was going about their normal business. (Luke 17:26-29 NASB) On the surface this seems to support the surprise return of the Lord before the start of the 7-year tribulation period. However, in the very next verse, Jesus makes clear that it will be the time of His visible return, “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:30, emphasis mine) So, without taking any of the verses I’ve just mentioned out of context, the Scripture clearly teaches Jesus’ second coming will be a visible, not a secret event. Nowhere does Jesus even hint at His second coming being multidimensional.

The Tribulation is Not for Believers

There are many instances in Scripture to substantiate the fact that believers will experience tribulation in this life. The most well-known verse on this subject is given by Jesus in John 16:33 where He says, “’these things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.’” The Apostle Paul clearly teaches that believers will experience tribulation as he wrote in Romans 5:3, 8:35, and 12:12. So, in order for Pre-Trib proponents to say that God is somehow obligated to deliver believers from tribulation in unscriptural.

Punishing the Just with the Unjust

Another popular defense of a Pre-Trib Rapture is that God doesn’t punish the just along with the wicked. They always use the example of Lot being delivered from the destruction God brought upon Sodom. They will even go so far as to point out that God preserved Noah and his family when He brought about a flood to destroy all living things on the earth. However, an example they will never point out is when Moses brought numerous plagues upon the land of Egypt. At that time, God demonstrated that He was able to preserve Israel in the midst of the plagues that were being brought upon the Egyptians. As was spoken by God through Moses:

But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land.
‘I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur.’ (Exod. 8:22-23)

I believe that God is able to protect His elect from any or all of the judgements that will be brought upon the earth during the Tribulation period. Not only do I believe that He can preserve His elect, but I believe that is exactly what He will do.

The Timing of Paul’s Snatching Away

The favorite verse that Pre-Trib Rapture proponents use to defend their position is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

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. 4:16-17)

As far as Pre-Trib proofs go, there are none more pervasive than 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. As far as importance is concerned, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is to the Pre-Trib Rapture as John 3:16 is to salvation. But is the Apostle Paul really trying to teach a Pre-Tribulation Rapture? The only reference to the timing of the event is that it will occur along with the trumpet of God. Compare the language used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 with the language used by Jesus when He describes His second coming as recorded by Matthew:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:30-31)

Notice that in Matthew 24:30, Jesus’ return is visible, not in secret as is taught by Hal Lindsey and other Pre-Trib proponents. It’s interesting to note that Jesus also refers to a trumpet which seems to coincide with Paul’s statement in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The only reasonable conclusion we can arrive at is that the verses in 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24 are describing the same event.

A particularly troubling aspect of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is the “alive and remain” phrase. Wouldn’t saying just “alive” be enough to get the point across? But by saying “alive and remain” gives the reader the impression that it implies a special condition for those believers to be in at that time; and It would be special for those who have survived the Tribulation.

Clearly, the verses we’re considering in 1 Thessalonians and Matthew 24 strongly corroborate a Post-Tribulation Rapture position.

Seven-Year Tribulation Theory

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post in my End-Times series, there are two schools of thought on how to interpret Daniel’s 70 weeks. One school of thought says that there is a gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week and that it will be fulfilled by the Antichrist (or more accurately, the beast) during the 7-year Tribulation. The second school of thought says that Daniel’s 70th week has already been fulfilled by Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion; and had ended when the Jews stoned Stephen to death as recorded in the Book of Acts.

I don’t recall ever hearing any sermons or reading any books that taught Daniel’s 70 weeks have already been fulfilled. What I have heard were fantastic theories such as the Israelis secretly building a temple under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and are waiting for the Antichrist to come and give them permission to raise it up!

Thief in the Night

There are many verses in Scripture that teach that Jesus’ second coming will be “like a thief in the night,” such as: Matt. 24:43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 3:3, and Rev. 16:15. This saying tends to give credence to the Pre-Trib Rapture theory since it appears to suggest that the second coming will be in secret. The problem with all this is that Jesus never taught that His return will be in secret or that it will be in two different stages. Every time Jesus talked about His second coming it was always in reference to the time when He will be revealed. Jesus’ analogy of His return being like a thief in the night was given as a warning to His hearers that His return will find many unprepared and that it will be when they least expect it. Since Jesus was talking only with His disciples (Mark 13:3) and not with the general public, we have to assume that His warnings about His second coming were intended for believers and not for the world at large.

Conclusion

Even though Jesus gave us a lot of information about His second coming, we still struggle to understand all that is written in the Scriptures concerning this important event. As a matter of fact, He even said that He told us “everything in advance.” (Mark 13:23) Many books have been written by authors who have attempted to lay out a clear timeline of the end-time events. I believe the assertions made in many of these books are based on presumptions that are not entirely scriptural. That being said, the approach I plan to take in my defense of a Post-Trib Rapture is to start with things that we already know for sure and use these as a key to understanding other more obscure scriptures. I’ve gleaned from Scripture what I believe to be three things which we know for sure:

  • Jesus’ second coming will be visible and unmistakable
  • His second coming will take many by surprise, as a thief in the night
  • At the time of His second coming, people will be going about their normal business as they always have done, e.g., as in the days of Noah and Lot.

I’ve used this same approach in previous posts to defend my proposition that salvation is by election. I think it worked well. Stay tuned…


  1. “John Nelson Darby and The Pre-Trib Rapture,” Thomas Ice, Pre-Trib Research Center, accessed April, 28, 2015, http://pre-trib.org/articles/view/john-nelson-darby-and-the-pre-trib-rapture

  2. Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey, (Santa Ana, Vision House Publishers, 1973), 77-78.