(Warning.This is “wonkish”. That means this post isn’t written for those who are new to the subject of Bible prophecy and the endtime.)
When I wrote the post I called “Introducing ‘Pre’ and ‘Post’ ”, I was aimed at those who are new to the whole subject. In that post I was explaining some of the basic concepts and terms in the study of the times leading up to the second coming of Jesus. And I explained how the Scriptures point to this time to be, in the words that Jesus used, a time of “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21).
But there are many people, especially here in the States, who are more familiar with this subject and already have a pretty good idea of what some say is going to be the scenario leading up to the Lord’s return. On the other hand, my contact with friends recently at church has led me to feel that there’s still quite a lot that is not clear for many people.
Last Sunday I shared a class in adult Sunday school on Daniel chapter 7. Afterwards a friend came up to me and said, “I’m a pre-Triber”. I knew what he meant. But I wondered how many of the folks who read these posts know what that means.
Some of you know the phrases “pre-tribulation rapture” and “post tribulation rapture”. In modern times, the vast majority of the evangelical believers are strong believers in pre-tribulation rapture. This is the doctrine that Christ will have a “rapture” before “the Great Tribulation” for one set of believers, generally considered to be the Gentile church. And then, at the end of the Tribulation, He will return and gather together the Jewish Christians that have had to go through the Great Tribulation.
I’m sure alarm bells will go off with some of you in my generalization there. But, broadly speaking, that’s the idea. The most famous, far reaching publication that postulates this position is “The Left Behind series”. These are a series of fictitious books, written by Tim LeHaye, about the endtime and are based on the preTribulation rapture view of Jesus’ second coming. Over 70 million copies of the books have been sold. Generally, if you’re in an evangelical or charismatic church, chances are you’ve never heard anything other than this “pre-Tribulation” teaching on the return of Jesus and the Rapture of believers.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. I could start by telling you that for 1800 years the view of Christian teachers almost universally was not the “pre-Trib” view but the “post-Trib” view. That is, there were not going to be two gatherings of the people of God, but one. And that the believers of the endtime would go through the Great Tribulation.
Around 11 years ago here in Austin one of the leading pastors in the city talked with me about this and recommended a book for me to read, which I did. (By the way, I’ve written more about this conversation and experience in a blog post called “Sound Doctrine?” or Speculation.)
The book that my pastor recommended is called “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church”, written by Marvin Rosenthal. Basically Mr. Rosenthal came to believe, from reading God’s Word, that the believers of the endtime would be raptured or gathered together before the Wrath of God is poured out but that they will go through the time of Great Tribulation.
So I just think of you reading this and how some will know totally what I am talking about. But quite a few won’t. This is getting down to intricacies that my study on the book of Daniel will hardly be able to touch on, even if we go through all the prophetic chapters in Daniel.
These things that Marvin Rosenthal is speaking of have to do with the time immediately after the Great Tribulation. The clearest place this is spoken of is in Revelations 11. In verse 15 it is speaking of the seventh trumpet, “the last trump”, the one that signals the return of Jesus. It says “The seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.’”
But what happens next? Revelations 11:18, three verses later says: “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”
What happens next is the reward of the saints in heaven while down on earth begins the period of the Wrath of God, spoken of most plainly in Revelations 16.
I Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:9 says something similar, “…we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
I strongly agree with what Mr. Rosenthal saw in the Word of God, that the believers of the endtime will not go through the period of the wrath of God on earth, which immediately follows the Lord’s gathering of the saved at the end of the Great Tribulation. So there is a clear distinction between the Wrath and the Tribulation that many believers who study these things don’t always see clearly.
And even more than this, the whole term “the Tribulation” is often just not clearly defined by many I meet who study these things. In my classes and videos, the term “the Great Tribulation” will mean the 3½ year period immediately before the Lord’s gathers His saved. This is the second half of what is called “The Last 7 Years”, referring to Daniel’s 70th week, found in Daniel 9:27.
I don’t teach or believe that this entire 7 year period, Daniel’s 70th week, is a time of great tribulation, only the second half. From my interaction with Christians here over the last 6 months or so, it seems many, if not most, don’t know or understand these different periods of time and don’t see them clearly and distinctly. I hope that I can bring the light of Scripture more clearly onto these subjects, as my blog posts and videos continue.
[If you have questions, comments or even disagreements, I’d love to hear from you. You can use the reply box at the bottom of this page.]
Hi Mark! I’m more or less familiar with the perspective of both pre- and post-trib Christians. Recently, I’ve stumbled across this https://raptureless.com/ Have you heard of it or read the book about Jesus’ coming without Rapture? The author claims his views are both biblical and historical. Thanks in advance!
Mark McMillion says
I’ve heard about that but haven’t studied it yet. It’s true that the specific word “rapture” is not in the Bible. But I Thessalonians 4:16 & 17 are about as clear a description of the Rapture as you can get and there are really a lot of other verses that point to this. So much of what I am trying to do with this site is to go over the original basic material from the Bible that points clearly to a coming Kingdom of God on the earth, being set up at the promised return of Jesus . I do want to look over that site you mention, that and other things like that are still “up the road” a bit for me. Thanks for writing, GBY.
I am intrigued with your comment… “But there are many people, especially here in the States, who are more familiar with this subject…” and wonder if you could explain further.
I have often reflected on the idea of “Pre” as God’s selection of great believers and disciples through time, rather than immediately prior to the Tribulation… and that these believers are people of great love and wisdom, from all across the world… of many faiths, and generations. Their bond is not of their specific religion or their organizational “Christianity”, but instead the shared “christianity” of love that connects us all through our hearts.
Within this context of Pre and Post, I believe the people who are familiar with this subject exist harmoniously throughout the entire world.
Mark McMillion says
I’ve lived most of my life outside the States as a missionary, in around 30 countries. My experience is that the people in the USA are more knowledgeable than any other people I’ve met when it comes to Bible prophecy and the various “schools of thought” on the subject of the future and the Lord’s return. That’s what I meant about there being people here in the States who are familiar with this subject. My friends in the Middle East tell me that Islamic people there are also very aware of these things as well and what Scripture says may soon happen.
I see what you are meaning with that idea you shared there. I broadly look at things similarly. It’s not the narrow denominational allegiance you have or even the doctrine you believe as much as it is the faith each individual has in their hearts as to the things of God and Jesus. If Jesus can say to the drunks and harlots that they’re going to enter heaven before the religious Pharisees (Matthew 21:31), then many people may need to evaluate what they think about how God looks at who are His and who are not.
Jesus said the extremely controversial thing in John 14:6 “no man comes to the Father but by Me.” That’s very hard for many people to take. But I do believe that, like Paul said, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” I Timothy 2:5. It’s a hugely deep subject and can hardly be addressed in a few short words.
Once again, I wholeheartedly agree that Jesus is the mediator between humanity and the Father, and that this is a hugely deep subject. Depth however, does not need to be complex.
This subject is at the very heart of all humankind and salvation, and the context of the Scripture is as critically important as is the literal word. It is impossible to acheive truth through literal interpretation alone, unless it is equally rooted in the context of Jesus and His life. If we as humans choose to interpret the meaning of Jesus as religion and that only Christians (as defined by human created religion) will enter heaven, then we must ask ourselves if we are the judge of the Scripture.
If we embrace Scripture through the context of Jesus as love, then we honor the word as universal to all of humanity, and accept that all judgement lies in the hands of God.