Are Christians suddenly taken out of this world?
Do they escape the coming World Government?
Do they escape ‘the mark of the beast’?
The present age – the Church Age – will soon come to an end. As Christ “shuts” this door of grace, He returns to receive the saints “in the air”. This is the so-called “rapture”, the first resurrection and the good harvest of the earth. It is not Christ’s Second Coming to earth.
Rapture theology is built around the 70 Week prophecy of the prophet Daniel. As the Church Age draws to a close, Daniel’s people will be returning to their own land, Israel, and Daniel’s 70th Week (seven years) starts. This is the final seven years of this present age, prior to the Millennial reign of Christ.
It is a time of great tribulation as the world becomes progressively spiritually dark under a one-world government. It is also a time of God’s judgement on the rebellious nations. But, according to the widely accepted Pre-Tribulation view of the rapture, true believers will not be there; they will be with Christ.
Key Events: from Today to the Millennium
It is helpful to have an overview of future key events associated with the concept of the rapture. The following is based upon the Pre-Tribulation view of the rapture:
- Views of the Rapture
- Daniel’s 70-Week Prophecy concerning Israel
- The Futurist View of Week 70
- End of the Church Age and Israel’s Regathering
- Life just before the Rapture: the Watchers
- A Supernatural Event – the Rapture and God’s protection
- The End-time Harvest and the First Resurrection
- Rewards in Heaven and the Marriage of the Bride
- The Removal of the Restrainer and the Revealing of the Antichrist
- Week 70: The Great Tribulation and God’s Judgement
- The Tribulation Saints
- The Millennial Kingdom
First: Is the word ‘Rapture’ in the Bible?
No. The word ‘rapture’ is not in the Bible. But major New Testament texts teach that true followers of Jesus are suddenly “taken away“. They are supernaturally taken to meet Jesus “in the air”. In Mathew 24 and Luke 17 we read:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left
This is a friendly taking of the true church of Jesus Christ. The Greek word translated “taken” is ‘paralambano’. This means ‘to take into close association with oneself’, in a loving positive sense. This can be seen as a ‘secret coming’ of Christ since it is not visible to the world. It is not the Second Coming of Christ to earth.
This mysterious event is often referred to as the ‘rapture’. This term is derived from the Latin verb ‘Rapere,’ meaning ‘to snatch’ or ‘take away’, link. What about those left behind? A literal reading of the Bible implies that unbelievers – together with the false church – are left to suffer God’s wrath!
1. Views of the Rapture
Not surprisingly, such fundamentalist theology is rarely preached in institutionalised churches. Perhaps such a mysterious, literally ‘out of this world’ event takes the average believer out of their comfort zone. Whatever the reason, the topic tends to be suppressed. Some theological arguments against the teaching of the rapture are:
- it is a fringe subject not essential to fundamental Christian beliefs
- key rapture texts are ambiguous, especially in the timing of the rapture
- Daniel’s 70 Weeks have all elapsed (Historicist view); the 70th Week is not future
- Christ’s Second Coming will be clear to all; it does not first involve a “secret” return
The Fundamentalist View
In contrast to the suppression of the rapture in the institutionalised church, the rapture is widely taught in free-churches. These churches tend to hold a more fundamentalist view of the rapture. Some believe there will be a short time interval between ‘the taking’ and the actual return of Jesus to earth. In the so-called Pre-Tribulation view, the time interval corresponds to ‘Week 70’ (seven years) of Daniel’s prophecy.
The time interval corresponds to the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls of Revelation. It is a time of God’s wrath on a godless World Government under the two “beasts” of Revelation 13. The good news is that, from the Gospels to Revelation, there are promises of deliverance for today’s believers. Taking the widely accepted Pre-Tribulation view of the rapture, it seems they will simply not be there!
So many of those who trust their lives to Jesus today see hope in the mystery of the rapture. It provides a hope of miraculous, literally ‘out of this world’ deliverance (like Noah’s deliverance from the Flood). Today’s true church is promised deliverance from “the hour of trial” soon coming upon the world.
Let’s now examine the theology of such a fundamentalist view.
The Jewish Wedding is a Model for the Rapture
The traditional Jewish wedding at the time of Christ is a good model of the events surrounding the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The wedding was in four steps:
- 1. The father of the groom made the marriage arrangements and paid the price. Sometimes this was many years before the actual marriage
- 2. The second step was the fetching of the bride. The bride groom would go to the home of his soon-to-be bride in order to bring her home. Before the groom left he must have a place for his bride. It was the father of the groom who set the timing of this fetching of the bride
- 3. The third step was the wedding ceremony itself. Only a few guests were usually invited. Prior to the wedding the bride went through a ritual immersion for ritual cleansing
- 4. The final and fourth step we as marriage feast, which could last as many as seven days, and many more people were invited to the feast
It is remarkable how closely the traditional Jewish wedding models the Pre-Tribulation rapture.
Step 1 models the Father’s historic plan for the bride of Christ (the true church). God paid the price of the ‘marriage’ through the sacrifice of His Son.
Step 2 models the rapture of the church as Christ comes for her at a time determined only by the Father. Prior to the rapture, Christ makes a home in heaven for the bride.
Step 3 models the judgement seat of Christ (a time of rewards for the saints), and then the wedding. Both occur in heaven after the rapture. The Jewish wedding could be several days long. Note: the time between the rapture and Christ’s actual return to earth after the wedding may be several years.
Step 4, the wedding feast occurs after the Second Coming of Christ to earth. Although the rapture and the wedding involves only the church, the guests at the marriage feast includes both Old Testament saints, and tribulation saints (see later).
2. Daniel’s Week 70 Prophecy concerning Israel
Rapture theology involves several theological concepts:
- the true end-time church (as opposed to a false end-time church)
- the return of the nation Israel to their own land, as promised to Abraham
- the arise of a spiritually dark and persecuting one world government under the Antichrist
- a time frame set by Daniel’s “70 Week” prophecy: a time gap between Weeks 69 and 70
Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 9 sets the context of the mysterious rapture. How is it to be read? It is logical to adopt prophetic interpretations that agree closely with reality. That is, with what we observe in the world today. In this respect, the Futurist view of Bible prophecy (as opposed to the Historicist view) appears particularly relevant.
The Futurist view holds that majority of the end-time prophecies in the Old and New Testaments apply to the future. This view also sees Christ’s return as tied to what happens to Israel at the end of the age. Here’s Daniel’s key prophecy concerning his people, Israel:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem], to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy placeDaniel 9:24, 4, amplified
Here Daniel is using scripture’s ‘prophetic years‘, where each month has 30 days, each year has twelve months [360 days] and each “week” has seven 360-day years. Week 70 is the final seven (360-day) years of this age after which Christ returns to earth!
3. The Futurist View: A Time Gap
Futurists see a break between the end of Week 69 (the crucifixion of Christ) and the start of Week 70. There are sound theological reasons why such a time gap exists. After all, if Week 70 elapsed around the time of Christ (Historicist view) there is no framework within which to fit many end-time prophecies. For example, how would we interpret Jeremiah 30:4-7; Daniel 7:23-28; Daniel 11:11,21-45; Daniel 12:11-12; Matthew 24; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 7:3-8; Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 13? See Week 70 and End Time Pilgrim for detailed theological discussions of the Futurist view.
The duration of the time gap is undefined in scripture. In other words, the exact start of Week 70 is not defined. But we do know from prophecy that during this time gap the nation Israel essentially disappears off the world scene! As God had warned, Israel would be scattered throughout the nations if they persistently rebelled against Him (Deuteronomy 28:64). This happened. Around 750 BC we find the northern kingdom of Israel being warned of such scattering:
For the sons of Israel will live FOR MANY DAYS without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols. AFTERWARD the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in THE LAST DAYS.Hosea 3:4-5, emphasis added
Here the prophet Hosea warns Israel that they will lose their identity for many days. This happened. In 722 BC Assyria swept out of the north, captured the northern kingdom of Israel, and took the ten tribes into captivity. The southern kingdom, Judah, ceased to exist around 586 BC after the final Babylonian invasion, and by 70 AD the Jews in Jerusalem were finally dispersed worldwide by Titus. At this point in time, the scattering of the twelve tribes of Israel was complete (James 1:1).
But note Hosea’s prophecy. He also says that Israel will return to God in the last days. So after an undisclosed period of time – a time gap – Israel will once more become visible on the world scene.
Put simply, when the nation Israel is once more on the world scene, it seems the world is near the end of the age and the start of week 70.
4. The Church Age and Israel’s Regathering
Israel’s time-limited absence from the world scene had a purpose. James, in his address at Jerusalem explained it like this:
Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people [ the Church ] for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘AFTER THIS I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up …Acts 15:14-16, amplified
Again this implies a time gap. At the start of the time gap a Gentile church would start to grow and mature. And near the end of the time gap the Lord will return and rebuild the throne of David. As Paul says, the scattering of Israel enabled salvation to come to the Gentiles:
. . . blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles [ at the end of the time gap ] has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob”Romans 11:25,26, amplified
“The fullness of the Gentiles” speaks of the number of God’s elect being brought into the true church. Yet again this text implies a time gap during which Israel is off the world scene. But even though scattered Israel was out of worldview (at least before c1900 AD) she still influenced the church. Sadly, the church rarely recognises that she has strong Hebraic roots. See the fascinating connection between ten-tribed Israel and the Church.
So the gap between weeks 69 and 70 is essentially a period of grace – the so-called Church Age. This age started with the apostles and ends with the rapture. Israel is then centre stage on the world scene.
Comparing today’s world scenario with end-time prophecy suggests that the end of the Church Age and the start of Week 70 is relatively imminent. Then, at the end of Week 70, Jesus physically returns to earth to establish Himself as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-21). According to Daniel chapter 9, He comes “to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place”.
“To anoint the most holy place” is mostly likely the Holy of Holies inside the future temple in Jerusalem, link. Christ then reigns from Jerusalem as “King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:8-9). This so-called “Kingdom Age” lasts for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6).
5. Life just before the Rapture: the Watchers
What happens at the end of the time gap – just before Week 70? It seems that believers will still be able to meet (as in church groups or house churches) and preach the gospel, albeit with increasing persecution, (Matthew 24:9-14). (As of 2022 over 360 million Christians around the world faced persecution, often from militant Muslims [Open Doors]. And in recent years, banks have been targeting Christians by closing their bank accounts because the bank is signed up to a different ethical viewpoint to that held by the account holder).
Nevertheless, whilst there will be a falling away from faith (2 Thessalonians 2:3), some believers will still be “watching” the signs (Luke 21:34-36) whilst other believers, like foolish virgins (Matthew 25:8-13), will be ignoring the signs.
As Jesus puts it, life in the world will be like Noah’s day, with pleasure seeking, marrying, buying and selling, building, and so on. And, as in Noah’s day, people today will be oblivious to, or skeptical of, the impending judgement of God.
When it comes to work, both Matthew 24 and Luke 17 imply that believers are working within a normal social environment. They are alongside unbelievers up to the instant when they are suddenly “taken”. Jesus said:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left
Many Christians find this concept too hot to handle. It takes them out of their comfort zone, away from the cosy, non-challenging Sunday sermon. Yet, strangely, if they are happy to accept that Enoch walked with God – until God took him, then why not accept the words of Jesus?
End-time Work Restrictions
Personal ID: But what about a work permit – personal ID? In today’s hi-tech world it is becoming increasingly necessary for each worker to have a personal ID on some computer system. In China an 18 digit ID card is mandatory for all adults. If you work in Germany you need an 11 digit tax identification number (TIN). In Australia worker ID is via a person’s Tax File Number (TFN), and in the UK its via the National Insurance number and Government Gateway. In the last few years of this age no one will be able to work without the ultimate ID – the mark of Revelation 13:17.
The significant point is this: in Jesus’ example of workers in the field or at the mill, there is no suggestion of such a working restriction. The pre-rapture scenario is not compatible with severe persecution under the two beasts of Revelation 13 and their imposition of the mark for buying and selling.
So, as discussed, it seems the rapture must occur before the revealing of the two beasts of Revelation 13 and the ensuing tribulation. This is the Pre-Tribulation rapture.
6. The Rapture is a Supernatural Event
Let’s expand on the previous discussion. When referring to His return, Jesus said:
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away.
So will the coming of the Son of Man be. At that time there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.
It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, and they were building; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.(Matthew 24:37-41, Luke 17:28-30)
By referring to the days of Noah and Lot, Jesus implies that it is the believers who are “taken” out of a godless world, just as Noah and Lot were “taken” out of godless societies. In both cases God’s people are taken prior to God’s judgement on unbelievers. Here, the Greek word for ‘taken’ is ‘paralambano’, which means ‘to take into close association with oneself’, in a loving positive sense. The Greek word for ‘left’ is ‘aphiemi’ and means ‘to leave, forsake, omit or lay aside’.
So just as Noah was taken out of the world before the judgement of the Flood, and Lot was removed from Sodom before its destruction, so it seems the true church at that time will be taken to be with Christ. The preacher John Wesley summed it up like this:
One is taken into God’s immediate protection: and one is left to share the common calamities
The discourses in Matthew and Luke are perhaps the clearest and most direct reference to the sudden separation of living believers from unbelievers. Sadly, as mentioned, many Christians find this supernatural concept too hard to contemplate; it takes them out of their comfort zone!
But is it any different to the supernatural concept of the God of all creation being found in the form of a baby in Bethlehem? Or the spectacle of the risen Christ rising into the clouds in full view of His disciples?
7. The Harvest – Resurrection and Instantaneous Immortality
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle … So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reapedRevelation 14:14,16
This is a vision of Jesus reaping the good harvest of the earth – from a cloud. There is no mention of Jesus actually coming to stand on the earth at this point in time! Believers are separated from those who are about to suffer the wrath of God (Revelation 14:19) and taken to meet Christ in the clouds:
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the [blast of the] trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain [on the earth] will simultaneously be caught up [raptured] together with them [the resurrected ones] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord!1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, AMP
It all happens instantaneously, and unexpectedly (Matthew 24:44):
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality1 Corinthians 15:51-53
This supernatural and mysterious event corresponds to the first resurrection, when those raptured take on immortality. Key points:
Paul refers to “the last trumpet’ – a translation of the Greek ‘sálpigks‘ meaning a quavering or reverberating trumpet [Strong’s 4536]. The Orthodox Jewish Bible refers to “the last shofar blast”. The implication in both texts is that there is more than one trump of the trumpet.
Some see two trumps – the first calling the dead in Christ to immortality, the last calling those who are alive at His coming to immortality, link. It is incorrect to see ‘the last trumpet’ as the seventh (and final) trumpet in Revelation 11:15, link. In verse 52 it is God sounding the resurrection trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16), whereas in Revelation it is the the seventh angel trumpeting the final judgements.
The Church Age Suddenly Ends
As already discussed, the Church Age (or Age of Grace) will soon end. Clearly, after true believers and followers of Christ are suddenly taken, the true church is suddenly absent from the earth! Today the key mission of the church is to spread the good news of salvation through Christ. The church is like a “door” to salvation.
But in the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus said that way or “door” will suddenly “shut” (Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 13:25). This suggests an urgent need to preach the Gospel. Time is short. There is a need to be ready for Christ’s return. In the parable, those who have heard the Gospel but have not responded (the unwise virgins) lose out. They don’t go on to “the marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7). There will be much “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
8. Rewards in Heaven and the Marriage of the Bride
What happens to believers after they are gathered together in the air with Christ? Consider the following scriptures:
In My Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you … and I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also [the “taking” of the saints] (John 14:2-3)
Now the one who plants and the one who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labour (1 Corinthians 3:8)
Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to reward each one as his work deserves (Revelation 22:12)
Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself (Revelation 19:7, amplified)
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other [the “gathering” of the resurrected saints] (Matthew 24:31, NKJV, amplified)
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory [the “return” of the saints] (Colossians 3:4, amplified)
These texts suggest a period of rest with Christ for resurrected, immortal believers. It seems resurrected believers are rewarded in heaven and presented to Christ as His bride before they return to earth with Him. This time in heaven appears to correspond to the time spanned by Daniel’s Week 70.
9. Rapture Timing and the Removal of the Restrainer
Those who hold the Futurist view of prophecy see a future rapture. But is it before, in the middle, or at the end of the seven year tribulation period? Is it a Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation Rapture?
This sees a combined resurrection and gathering of the saints immediately after the Great Tribulation. These saints then immediately return to earth with Christ at the start of the Millennium. So there is only one coming of Christ and no “secret” coming.
The Apostolic Fathers (the early Christian leaders) were Post-Tribulational (whilst at the same time believing in the imminence of Christ’s return, link). Today the institutionalised church (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Reformed) also leans to the Post-Tribulation view, link .
That said, there are theological problems with the Post-Tribulation view:
- the rapture and simultaneous return of the saints with Christ leaves no time for the rewards of the saints and the marriage of the Lamb in heaven (Revelation 19:7). Neither does it give time for the wrath of God to be poured out upon the earth after the rapture. Recall that the saints do not experience the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9, Romans 5:9)
- Given such “time-constraints”, it is hard to reconcile the Post-Tribulation view with clear biblical promises that the true church is miraculously kept from the time of coming judgement of godless nations (Revelation 3:10, Matthew 24:36-44, Luke 21:35-36)
- If the true church is present when the “beast” of Revelation 13:1 makes a (false) seven-year peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27), then the church will know that the Second Coming will come seven years later. But the time of the Second Coming is not revealed in scripture (Matthew 24:36)
- Today’s true church (not to be confused with the Tribulation saints of Revelation 7) is not referred to in Revelation 4-20 . It appears to be absent from the earth (raptured) during this time
- Post-Tribulationists tend to make Israel and the church the same spiritual entity, link. In other words, they see the church as having replaced national Israel as the covenant people of God. This considerably weakens their argument since Israel is a major player in rapture theology
Some see the first half of Week 70 as increasing tribulation, and the second half as God’s wrath. So the Mid-Tribulation view claims that the true church is raptured mid-week i.e. before God’s wrath – which is scriptural. But this being the case, the true church must also see the rise of the beast of Revelation 13:1 (see Revelation 6:2) and his signing of a seven-year peace treaty with Israel. This being the case, the true church could easily deduce the time of the Second Coming, which is unscriptural.
Either way, if the true church sees the rise of the beast of Revelation 13:1, many believers will suffer martyrdom under his rule (Revelation 6:9-11).
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture
A common Futurist view is that the true church – the Philadelphia-type church that Jesus loves in Revelation 3 – will simply not be on earth at the start of week 70. As in Luke 21, it seems Jesus promises to deliver this relatively small group of faithful believers from the horrors soon to come upon a rebellious, godless world:
Because you have kept My word of perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of the testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth.Revelation 3:10, emphasis added
Revelation 3:10 gives strong scriptural justification for placing the rapture at or near the start of Week 70, before earth’s “hour of testing”. This is the so-called Pre-Tribulation View (see also Nine Proofs of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture). The term “will keep” means “to guard from loss or injury” [Strong’s G5083]. So here the risen Jesus is promising the faithful end-time churches like the ancient Philadelphia church that He will protect them when the world’s hour of trial comes.
Jesus also promised protection from the end-time horrors in Luke’s Gospel . To those who are watching for His return, He said:
For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:35-36, amplified)
This is why many who have trusted their lives to Jesus see an assurance (or at least a ‘hope’) of miraculous protection from the end-time traumas. They may well not see the tribulation that happens during Week 70. Instead, they will be with Christ! They will have been “snatched up” from the earth and “taken away”, like Noah was taken away from a rebellious world.
So, today, a majority of evangelical Christians hold the Pre-Tribulation view. This maintains that the rapture occurs when Jesus comes secretly i.e. unseen, in the air to gather the true believers prior the seven-year Tribulation period.
Removal of The Restrainer
The prophecy in Daniel 9:27 also supports the Pre-Tribulation view. Here, the beast or “lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:8) or world dictator signs a seven year (one “prophetic week”) covenant with Israel. This is Week 70. But Israel’s rulers fail to see they are making a “covenant with Hell” (Isaiah 28:15), and the dictator breaks it “in the middle of the week” (Daniel 9:27).
Clearly, at some point just prior to the signing, this despicable person must be revealed to the world. But many believe that this revealing cannot happen until the Holy Spirit (and by implication the true church) has been “taken out of the way”:
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He [often read as the Holy Spirit] who now restrains will do so until He is removed [steps out of the way]. And then the lawless one [the beast of Revelation 13:1] will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming2 Thessalonians 2:7-8, amplified
A common interpretation is that, at the rapture, God’s great restraining power over evil (the Holy Spirit) is suddenly removed. The omnipresent Holy Spirit will still be on earth to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement (as in the calling of the tribulation saints of Revelation 7), but His specific work of restraining evil, through the prayers and praises of Church Age saints will come to an end at the Rapture.
This permits the identity of “the lawless one” or world dictator (2 Thessalonians 2:8) to be revealed and a seven-year false treaty to be signed with Israel. Clearly, if the church experiences the appearance of “the lawless one” and the signing of the seven-year treaty with Israel, then she will know that Christ returns to earth seven years from that time. But the day or hour of Christ’s return to earth is not revealed (Matthew 24:36,44).
Concluding: it appears that the true church and the restraining power of the Holy Spirit is removed at the start of Week 70. As discussed, this view is also supported by considering earthly life just before Week 70.
10. Week 70: the Great Tribulation and God’s Judgement
The importance of a “pre-tribulation rapture” is underscored by what happens during Week 70. You would not want to be there !
The Book of Revelation clearly states that the last seven years of this age (Week 70) will be traumatic as God judges a rebellious, godless world that worships Satan (Revelation 13:4). It is a time of great tribulation on earth (Revelation 7). The horrific detail is described in the Seal, Trumpet and Bowl judgements of Revelation 6-16.
There will be demonic activity, cosmic terrors (possibly asteroid impact), widespread water pollution, global famine, plagues, global war, crushing (controlling) world government, extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme hail, and great earthquakes. Gentile believers who have come to Christ after the rapture (Revelation 7), and Jews in Israel will be persecuted and martyred. As already mentioned, Jesus likened this time of tribulation to a “snare” – like a trap or a noose. To reiterate:
For it [the end of this age and the return of Christ] will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of ManLuke 21:35-36, emphasis added
Here, as in Revelation 3:10, Jesus offers hope to the believer. Hope of escape. After all, the Bible says believers are not destined for God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
11. The Tribulation Saints
The mysterious instantaneous removal of millions of people prior to the great tribulation will be a shock to the world. According to Revelation, in the absence of the true church, God seals 144,000 of His servants to be His witness to the Gentile nations (Revelation 7:3-8, Isaiah 66:19).
This is the time of Daniel’s Week 70; a time between the Pre-Tribulation rapture and Christ’s physical return to earth. During this time multitudes from all nations come to salvation (the Holy Spirit is still present to convict of sin), but at great cost. Many will be martyred (Revelation 6:9) for their faith under the brief reign of the two beasts of Revelation 13. For this reason the brief period at the very end of this age is referred to as “the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14, Matthew 24:15-22).
These martyred saints are the last of the earth’s ‘good harvest’ and so are included in the first resurrection (Revelation 7:9-10, 20:4). They are special in the sense that they are “before the throne of God, serving Him day and night in His temple”. The same applies to the martyred Jewish believers in Israel and the martyred 144,000 servants of God. The latter are found in heaven singing a new song before the throne of God (Revelation 14:1-5).
The Key Question
Does the resurrection, the meeting in the clouds, and the return of the saints with Christ to earth all happen in an instant as Christ returns to earth (the Post-Tribulation view)? If so, the true church must experience God’s time of wrath on the world. This is unscriptural since true believers do not experience the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Also this view is extremely “time compressed” leaving no time for rewards or the Marriage of the bride of Christ.
The Mid-tribulation view of the rapture seems to satisfy some key texts, but is unscriptural in the sense that believers will be able to date the time of the Second Coming. If the first half of Week 70 includes Revelation 6, then believers will also see the start of God’s wrath, which again is unscriptural.
Or do the resurrected saints rest for a while with Christ in heaven (as implied in John 14:3) and experience rewards and the marriage of the Lamb (the Pre-Tribulation view)? Taking this view, the time with Christ in heaven could correspond to Week 70, some seven years, and believers are raptured around the start of Week 70. This view agrees with the rapture picture painted by Christ in Matthew 24:36-44. Here the true church is suddenly removed even when life and work for many seems relatively normal – as today!
12. The Millennium
Comparing today’s world scenario with end-time prophecy suggests that the end of the Church Age, the Pre-tribulation rapture, and the start of Week 70 are relatively imminent. Then, at the end of Week 70, Jesus physically returns to earth to establish Himself as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-21).
According to Daniel’s prophecy He comes to “bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place”. The latter probably refers to the Third Temple , probably described in Ezekiel 40-48, but not yet built. Thereafter, Christ reigns from Jerusalem as “King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:8-9). This “Kingdom Age” lasts for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6) and is referred to as the Millennium.
The Return of the Saints to Earth
When Christ returns, He comes back with all His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13). This refers to believers currently asleep in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14), to those alive today, and to those who suffer in the tribulation during Week 70 (Revelation 7). These resurrected and rewarded saints – the “bride of Christ” – form the armies of heaven:
And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses (Revelation 19:14)
It is intriguing to view these immortal beings dwelling on the same earth as those Gentiles who come through the tribulation!