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A Response to "The Doctrine of the Tribulation in Relation to the Rapture"


By Jerry Giese

 

Prerequisite: The Doctrine of the Tribulation in Relation to the Rapture 

by Ron Rhodes  

In Ron Rhodes' article, he writes that Posttribulationalists often confuse the Great Tribulation with tribulation in general. He says "Posttribulationist George Fromow believes that the Church is already passing through 'the Great Tribulation...'" However, this Fromow's opinion and it is not shared with most Posttribulationalists, including myself.

The Great Tribulation begins at the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15;21), which is at the mid-point of Daniel's seventieth week. And will continue for three and one-half years (Daniel 8:21). Jesus instructed His Disciples privately that during the Great Tribulation not to believe in the false prophets who will come to them proclaiming "I am the Christ" and they will show signs and wonders to deceive the elect. And He warned them of those who will say He is here or there or in the desert and warned them not to believe the false "Christs". Because "immediately after the tribulation of those days shall be the sun darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the Son of man in Heaven...and they will see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory (29-30). And then he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet , And they will gather his elect from the four winds, from end to the other (31)." This gathering of His elect is the rapture that happens after the Great Tribulation.

Jesus said in Mark: "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light...And then they will see the son of man coming in the in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he shall send his angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Mark 13:24-27)," which confirms what is written in Matthew 24. That is His elect (including the Church is raptured after the tribulation.

Let it be noted that Scripture is clear that Jesus instructed his disciples privately and warned them of certain things during the Great Tribulation. This brings an important question: why is Jesus instructing and warning them of these things if they are not going to be here during the Great Tribulation? And if the "Church" in heaven during the Great Tribulation, why does Jesus instruct his disciples to "teach all nations (disciples) baptizing them...," and teach them to "observe all things I commanded you...(Matthew 28:19-20)" which includes His instructions to His disciples concerning the Great Tribulation?

While Road points out the difference between tribulation in general and the Great Tribulation, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Church concerning their enduring persecutions in general and tribulations in general. And told them they will rest from their trouble in general "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from his mighty angels in flaming fire." (2 Thes 1: 7-8). In other words, they will rest at the Lord's Post Great Tribulational Coming (see Isaiah 66:16-17 and Revelation 19:11-12).

Another Rhodes argument is post tribbers have a "confusion of the church with the saints as a whole." His argument will be examined further later on in this article. However in relation to the Church in Revelation, The Churches are to behold Christ's Post- Great Tribulational coming: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. (Rev 1:7. See Also Zechariah 12:8).

Jesus said to the Church in Philadelphia: "Behold, I come quickly (Rev 3:11a). The Post Great Tribulation coming: "Behold, I come quickly...And, behold I come quickly: and my reward is with me...Rev 22:7, 12)"

Jesus said to the Church in Pergamos "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth (Rev. 2: 16). The Post Great Tribulation coming: "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword" (Rev 19:15).

Jesus said to the Church in Sardis: ". If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Rev 3:3) . The Post Great Tribulation Coming: "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." (Rev 16:14-16.)

As clearly seen, Jesus' coming is after the Great Tribulation. On the other hand, can pre-tribbers point out as clearly as Jesus said His coming is after the Great Tribulation such as "before the seventieth week of Daniel commences.." or "before the Great Tribulation, I will come and gather My Church in the sky and take them back with Me into heaven?" There isn't any. This is why Rhodes has to make another argument why the Great Tribulation "has nothing to do with the church." And he comes up with another useless argument "Posttribulationalists nevertheless often confuse the Great Tribulation with tribulation in general."

"A central problem for Posttribulationists is that they must get the church through the tribulation relatively unscathed. But the only way they can do this is to ignore the plain teachings of the book of Revelation on this subject." In response with the first sentence, this again is not the opinion of most post-tribbers, because Scripture clearly says they will suffer persecution at the hands of the Anti-Christ (Rev 13:7; 15:13; and 20:4). In  response to the second sentence of his argument above, Rhodes uses verses such as Zechariah 1:8; 15-18; Isaiah 24:1, 26:21; Joel 1:15; Amos 5:18 and Isaiah 20:24-21 as a time of wrath in the Great Tribulation. However, these verses refer to the day of the Lord. Concerning that day, there are cosmic signs that occur before the day of the Lord: "the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: (Joel 2:10) In Matthew, Jesus said :" Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light." This clearly indicates the day of the Lord happens after the Great Tribulation. Isaiah says the day of the Lord is when "the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:12-17). It is during the Great Tribulation, the Anti-Christ "exalted himself above all that is God..."(2 These 2:4). Therefore, it is clear that the Great Tribulation is separate from the day of the Lord. Thus, Rhodes has a confusion regarding the Great Tribulation and the Day of The Lord. And it is pre-tribbers like Rhodes who ignore the facts in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Revelation, and 2 Thessalonians1.

It is the Post Tribulation list who contend the Church will be raptured after the Great Tribulation thus avoiding the wrath, judgment, indignation, trouble, judgment and darkness which occurs on the day of the Lord (2 These 5:9). Furthermore, Paul instructed the Thessalonians Church to "watch and be sober" for the day of the Lord while Peter instructed the Church to look "for and hastening into the coming day of God" (2 Peter 3:12). Therefore it's inconceivable that the church will be raptured before the Great Tribulation if they are instructed to watch for the coming Day of The Lord.

Rhodes draws conclusions to why he believes the church will not go through the tribulation. And I will give a response following each conclusion.

  • The nature of the Tribulation relates to Israel and Gentiles, not the Church.

This is based on a false assumption. While pre-tribes are so legalistic about the word Church, can they point out where the words Jew or Israel is used in Revelation during the Great Tribulation?

The book of Revelation was written by John who was instructed to send the book to the seven churches (Rev 1:11). Nowhere in Revelation does the church gets raptured before the Tribulation. While pre-tribbers go through great lengths to take the Church out of the Great Tribulation, in  the epistles to the churches, words such as saints are used. And it is accepted that the saints and bond servants are members of the Churches. But when saints  are used in Revelation, pre-tribbers insist they are not in the Church.

It is pre-tribe like Rhodes who like to keep the Church and Israel distinct. However, Galatians 3:26-29, 4:28 and Galatians 2:11-19 refute his idea. (For further Study Please read The Elect.)

  • No O.T. passage on the Tribulation mentions the Church.

This is another weak argument. However, for the sake of argument, if the Church isn't mentioned in any O.T. passages on the tribulation, could there be any N.T. passages that mention the Church in the tribulation?

To counter this argument given by Rhodes, there are no O.T. passages that mention the church will not be here during the tribulation.

  • No N.T. passage on the Tribulation mentions the Church.

This is another false argument. Jesus' instruction to His disciples at the Mount of Olives concerning the Tribulation is a plain example the Church will go through the Tribulation.

  • The Church is not appointed to wrath. It is promised salvation from the wrath to come.

The Church is not destined for God's wrath which happens on the day of the Lord (1 Thes 5:2, 9), after the Tribulation. It is prior to the day of the Lord, The Church is changed from perishable to imperishable and then is raptured to meet Jesus in the air. And then God's wrath commences on unbelievers.

  •  The church of Philadelphia was promised deliverance form "the hour of trial."

Jesus instructed the Church at Philadelphia "I will keep the from the hour of temptation."  Jesus did not tell them how he would keep them from the hour. The word used for temptation comes from the Greek "peirasmos," meaning "trial," or "proof." which is different than the word "thlipsis," meaning "pressure," or "affliction" which is used for tribulation. Therefore, Jesus isn't talking about the Tribulation.

In the book of John chapter 17 verse 15, Jesus prayed to the Father "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of this world, but keep them from evil." It is clear that Jesus prayed that the Father would not take them out of this world. However, they are kept from evil, the same way the Church will be kept from the hour of temptation without being removed from this world.

In the sentence following "the hour of temptation", Jesus instructed them "Behold I come quickly." and references to His coming quickly is after the tribulation (Revelation 22:7 and 12).

  • It is characteristic of God to deliver believers before divine wrath and judgment.

This is true, but never in Scripture does God separate believers from the earth before divine wrath and Judgment. There are examples where God doesn't deliver believers before judgment. righteous Jonathan, for example, was slain in the same battle unrighteous King Saul died. When Samaria and Judah were exiled, as another example, the righteous were sent to captivity with the unrighteous.

  • (A) The rapture of the church is never mentioned in any passage dealing with the Second Coming after the Tribulation.

This is completely false. See Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. In l Thessalonians 4:15, The dead in Christ will not be proceeded by those who are alive and caught up. The will rise first and then the rapture happens. And Jesus said He will raise up everyone who believes in him on the last day:

"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day...And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day...Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. " (John 6:39-40, 44, 54.)

Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will be risen on the last day. If everyone who believes is risen "on the last day," they must include those whose believers who die during the Great Tribulation. And they can't be risen before the tribulation. Therefore, every believer is risen on the last day after the Great Tribulation.

On the Last Day, those who reject Jesus and his sayings ", hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John 12:48 ).

This last day cannot happen before the tribulation because, as pre-tribbers concede, the ones who reject Jesus will be judged after the Great Tribulation. Therefore the last day happens after the Great Tribulation.

  • (B)Pretribulationism does not confuse terms like "saints" (general) with terms like "Church" (specific).

Saints and  are used Revelation, In the Epistles, they are referred to as members of the church, In 1 Corinthians 1:2, for example, Paul wrote: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, which in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord..." There is no confusion in this passage where Paul says the Church is "called to be saints." However, does Rhodes specifically  point out in Revelation that the saints during the Great Tribulation is separate from the Church? No because there none.

  • (C) The godly remnant of the Tribulation are pictured as Israelites, not members of the Church.

This is false. In Revelation, where is Jew or Israelite mentioned? In Revelation 7 verse 9 John writes: "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands..."

These are the ones who went through the great Tribulation. And notice, they come from all nations, kindreds, people and tounges.

  • Pretribulationism distinguishes between general tribulation and the Great Tribulation.

This is totally false. Again, Rhodes likes to use George Fromow as an example to weaken the post-trib position and "strengthen" his position. However, this is not my view, nor the view of most Post Tribulationalists.

It is the Pretribulationalists like Ron Rhodes who confuses the Great Tribulation with the day of the Lord.

  • Pretribulationism is the only view that uses a literal interpretation of all N.T. and O.T. passages on the Great Tribulation.

This is totally ridiculous. If they can interpret anything literally, then they can come up with one verse of Scripture specifically saying Jesus will rapture the church before the Great Tribulation.

And if they take Jesus' second coming literally, then why does Jesus come back in "two phases? If we really took them literally, then there would have to be a literal third coming.

If they literally interpret Scripture then why isn't the last trumpet literally the last trumpet? After all, if their view of the last trumpet is literal, then why is there a trumpet after the tribulation?

If they literally believe the day of the Lord is the Great Tribulation, then why does the Anti-christ exalt himself when Isaiah says the Lord alone will be exalted?

  • If the Church is raptured at the end of the Tribulation, there will be no mortals left to populate the Millennial Kingdom.

This is a very reasonable argument if Rhodes' assumption is true. However, there will be mortals left to populate the Millennial Kingdom. And many of these mortals will not be believing Jews nor the believing Gentiles. There will also be survivors from the nations who fought against the Lord at Armageddon: "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16.)

Read Zechariah 12:8-12, 13:1-3, 8-9, 14:1-19 and read my article Millennial Reproduction for further study.

  • At the rapture, the church goes to the Father's house (John 14:3), not back to earth again as posttribulationists hold.

If you read the context of this Scripture, then you couldn't come up with a pretribulation rapture. Especially when Jesus Instructed His disciples just a few days before they will go through the Great Tribulation. This in itself would contradict what Rhodes thinks what Jesus said in John chapter 14. However, most pretribulationalists like Ron Rhodes would like say the Disciples in Matthew represented Israel or the "Tribulation Saints." and then have us believe that the Disciples in John represents the church. This is another point of confusion and contradiction.

Looking at the context further,

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3.)

As we look at this Scripture closely Jesus said "I will come again, and receive you unto myself..." He didn't say he would take them back into heaven. The Father's house Jesus referred to is his own body and not a place in heaven. Jesus continued by saying "...where I am, there ye may be also." Since the disciples were instructed they would be here during the tribulation and Jesus' coming is after the tribulation, Jesus elect will be with Him on this earth after the Great Tribulation.

  • Since the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel were subject to literal fulfillment, the final (seventieth) week will have a similar fulfillment. All seventy weeks of Daniel are totally in reference to Israel and her relation to Gentile powers and the rejection of Israel's Messiah, (i.e., no reference to the church).

Since Rhodes cannot see beyond the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel, He fails to recognize Jesus' instructions to His Disciples in regards to the tribulation. It was during the 69th week Jesus instructed the Disciples in regard to the Church (Matthew 18:15-17). Rhodes fails to recognize or comment on 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1, and fails to recognize Peter and Paul's instruction to the church to look forward to the day of the Lord which occurs after the Great Tribulation. He also fails to recognize that since those who were Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel until they came to know Christ. Then they became citizens of God's Household at their conversion. Therefore, the Tribulation has everything to do with the Church because they are also citizens of God's household, Israel (Ephesians 2:11-19).

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