Question: I know you believe Jesus will come back halfway through the 7 years of trouble and we will be taken up to be with Him (Rapture) but what are the reasons you think that this will happen (half way and not before or after the 7 years)?
Answer: WOW! I hope you know what you’re in for! To do justice to this one will take some paragraphs!
Here’s the Topics we’ll cover:
- Introduction (If you are new to this subject, or want a background refresher)
- Problems in the PreTrib and PostTrib views
- Phil’s Best Guess!E. The objection of the PreTribbers
(This section is for those who are new to this subject, or just want a refresher on the background)
To fill in some background for those who are new to this subject, let’s look at Paul’s teaching:
1 Thess 4 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
This explains that some time, all those who belong to Jesus will suddenly be snatched up to meet him in the air. This is called the “Rapture” from Latin “rapio” – to seize.
The question is – when does this happen? The only available timescale to use to answer this is a period of great trouble (the “Tribulation”) which will come upon the world at some time in the future.
This Tribulation will last seven years, and is the result of the takeover of a Global Government system by an evil ruler, called the Antichrist. He is prophesied about in some detail in scripture.
So, let’s consider what we can deduce about the timing of the Rapture.
We know from Daniel 9 27 that the Antichrist’s first act will be to confirm a covenant with many nations which will appear to solve the Middle East problem.
That will propel him into international prominence. He takes increasing political rule over the world.
We know that this event marks the restarting of the ticking clock of Daniel’s last 7 years.
If you don’t know about this, there follows an explanation:
In Dan 9, Daniel prophesies 70 sets of seven years till God closes the “age of sin” down.
He says 69 of those sets of seven years will elapse till the Messiah dies.
‘Dan 9 24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ (seven year periods) the Anointed One (Jesus) will be cut off and will have nothing.’
Halfway through verse 26, the Messiah dies.
But the next words prophesy BOTH what happened in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and what is still to happen at the time of the Antichrist. The historical Roman destruction is a picture of future events:
‘The people of the ruler who will come (the Antichrist) will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary.’
The prophecy continues – and this time it just can’t be about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem – it just HAS to be about the end times. We see the Antichrist and his deceitful agreement.
“The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He (the Antichrist) will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the Temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (My words in round brackets, NIV in square ones.)
His prophecy was accurate for Jesus death, but the 70th set of seven years is deferred till the Antichrist’s “covenant with many”.
So, the question is, when does the Rapture occur? At the START of the Tribulation (called “Pretribulation Rapture” -”PreTrib’ for short)? OR at the END of the Tribulation (PostTrib) OR even in the MIDDLE of the Tribulation (MidTrib)? Any of these are possible in standard Christian Theology, and I would oppose anyone who suggested one particular view HAD to be correct.
Nevertheless, I do have my own opinion about which is most likely. I call this “Phil’s Best Guess”.
So lets have a guess.
In order to think about whether the PreTrib, PostTrib or MidTrib Raptuire is most likely, we need to study what happens in the Tribulation period.
In Dan 9 27, the Antichrist breaks the covenant and sets up “an abomination”
(By comparisons with the historical context of Antiochus IV (A Greek tyrant who tried to wipe out Israel in the period between the Old and New Testaments, to whom Daniel’s prophecy also applies) we can suggest that this abomination centres on forced worship of the Antichrist as God, with the death penalty for refusing.)
When does he break the covenant?
Halfway through the seven year period.
And here we have seen three years in which the Antichrist has taken over, started a war, famine has struck – all pretty bad, but now – halfway through the 7 year period, (during the fourth year of the Tribulation), history changes to a much higher gear.
We call the whole period of 7 years the Tribulation (=time of Trouble).
The last 3 ½ years are called the GREAT Tribulation.
So what about the Rapture?
Here’s a passage from Rev 7. No apologies for the length of this – it’s good stuff!
‘9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’
Note that the Great Multitude (v9 & v 14) dressed in white is US. WE have come OUT OF (Gk ek) the Great Tribulation Rev 7 14. As the Great Tribulation starts halfway through the seven year tribulation period, the rapture cannot be earlier than that.
So how much of the Great Tribulation does the Multitude experience?
If the Multitude had gone THROUGH the Great Tribulation, the text would have said “dia”, but it actually says “ek”. Ek implies that the Church is snatched away just as the Great Tribulation is starting. That is three and a half years after the Antichrist made his agreement.
In fact even those dead in Christ who have been resurrected could be part of this group, as, on the MidTrib view, they have been resurrected to physical life during the Great Tribulation, so they could be said to have come “out of it”.
Other passages which suggest a three and a half year period of Tribulation before the Rapture are:
Those relevant to the first three and a half years:
Time times and half a time – saints handed over for – Dan 7 25; 9 27; 12 7, 11, 12
Second three and a half years:
Gentiles trample holy city for 42 mths Rev 11 2 cf Lk 21 24
Two Witnesses will prophesy for 1260 days Rev 11 3
Woman (God’s people) taken care of for 1260 days/3 ½ yrs Rev 12 6, 14
Beast allowed authority for 42 mths Rev 13 5
Problems in the PreTrib and PostTrib views
There are other problems:
1 For the Pretrib view
If the church is already raptured PreTrib, then who are these saints? They have to be those who are die or are martyred during the Great Tribulation – you can’t have another rapture for them, there will be only one rapture.
But this multitude seems very large (Rev 7 9).
And if the Pretrib view is right, then all the Christian church must be missing from this group, because on this view, not one of the church went through any of the Trib at all.
So there must be vast numbers of people swept into the kingdom during the 7 years after the church has disappeared off to heaven. Then one by one, or in groups, they all got killed so they could now be seen by John in heaven.
We do know that there will be large numbers of martyrs in this period. But this just does not ring with what seems to be the natural reading of Rev 7 9-17. which feels like a “whole church” group.
2. For the PostTrib view
If the church goes through all of the tribulation, then this group in heaven is that church, now arrived in heaven.
But any Christians in the Trib are due to be martyred in Rev 13 15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed, because the beast has been given power to kill all who refuse to worship.
So when you get to the end of the Trib, who of the living will be left over to be raptured? They will all be dead and in the presence of God in any case.
So there will be no-one left to Rapture.
Phil’s Best Guess
So what is my best guess so far?
The Rapture will occur 1260 days, (42 months or 3 ½ years) after the Antichrist makes his 7 year agreement to resolve the Middle East Problem, at the start of the Great Tribulation.
At that point, all true believers, living and dead, will be called to join Jesus in the air, then to be taken into heaven for “The Marriage Feast of the Lamb”.
The objection of the PreTribbers
There is one serious objection which we have to deal with.
The most vociferous group of Rapture theorists are the PreTribbers. They can get very seriously insistent that their view is right, and the only one possible. All other views are dismissed out of hand. They don’t usually allow for the possibility that they might be wrong.
They do have some arguments on their side, but the main plank of their theory is that no-one will know when Jesus is to return. Remove that plank, and the rest of their theory falls to pieces.
They get this plank from the following sources:
Matt 24 36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Matt. 24:43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Matt. 25 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The point they make is that if Jesus were to return at ANY OTHER TIME than the very start of the Tribulation, then it would be possible to calculate when it would be. And the above references say you can’t.
Our reply is that Jesus was saying that it was those who did NOT acknowledge him who wouldn’t know when he was going to come.
Here’s some examples:
Matt 16 1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
Matt 24 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
In these two references above, Jesus is plainly saying that many people will be happy to assess the signs of the times for the weather and seasons, but will miss the obvious signs of the end of the age. He implies that it it their spiritual blindness which causes them to be unable to interpret the signs of the times.
In Matt 24, Jesus compared his coming to Noah.
Matt 24 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
We imagine he was saying that no-one knew about the coming flood. Actually, of course, there were a group of people who DID know about the coming flood – Noah, his three sons and their wives. They had been telling an unbelieving world about the coming flood for some time.
In this story, it was only the unbelievers who didn’t know. The believers not only knew there would be a flood coming sometime, but they were warned and given an exact timing a week in advance.
Paul also shows the difference between what believers and unbelievers will understand about the timing of Jesus’ coming.
1Th. 5:1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
Paul tells us that we are NOT in darkness like worldly people, we are in the light. So we will NOT be surprised by Jesus’ coming.
In similar vein, John says twice in Revelation that Jesus will seem to come like a thief only for those who are not awake (Rev 3 3, 16 15). He tells us, therefore, to stay awake! The only conclusion is that for those who stay awake, his coming will NOT seem like a thief in the night. They WILL expect it.
My conclusion is that we will have a good general idea of when the Rapture will be, but about a week before (based on the Noah comparison) those who are awake and watching will be given a pretty exact timing.
This also means that we need not be afraid to consider other Rapture timings than the PreTrib position.