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?