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Over the years, I have discussed this issue with many friends and acquaintances from around the world. From this I have drawn this conclusion. Most are unmovable in their stand whether pre or post tribulation supporters. They both have their reasons and supporting scriptures no matter how bizarre or twisted it may sound. They both will argue on the subject until they’re blue in the face, and last but not least, neither will ever under any circumstance admit they are wrong.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t get hung up on when Jesus will come back. Those who do are missing out on what the Christian life is all about--faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is vital not only in death, but also in life. I strongly believe that God is in control of every believer’s life no matter what the circumstances dictate. Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”---even if that means going through the tribulation period! That is a fact you must agree with and is a big part of the faith walk here on this earth. I choose to have faith that God knows exactly what He is doing and that He is always looking out for my good. If I must go through the tribulation period (again, I don’t believe I will), according to the Word of God, it is for my good. Once you finally take hold of this promise, you will never waste another breath arguing about this subject. It is for this reason that the following has been written for informational as opposed to argumentative purposes.
The Church In Heaven
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold…The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:4, 10-11)
Described in Revelation, chapter four, are twenty-four beings sitting on thrones, encircled round about a single throne. The one throne that is encircled by the twenty-four thrones is obviously reserved for the one who died for the sins of the world and lives forever more. Of course this is Jesus for He alone is worthy.
The twenty-four elders are also described in this passage. Who are these spiritual beings? Some scholars believe them to be angels or some other spiritual being specifically created for the purpose of glorifying Him who sits on the throne. This is incorrect.
The twenty-four elders are redeemed saints and those whose sins have been pardoned by the precious shed blood of the Son of God. When John was taken up into heaven, he was seeing everything that would happen in the future. Some may say these were Old Testament saints. Not so! Old Testament saints cannot claim to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9). These twenty-four elders are obviously representatives of the New Testament Church. This can only lead us to the conclusion that the rapture has already occurred, the saints have been rewarded, and God’s judgment is about to begin.
Let’s look at the twenty-four elders a little closer. The description of the twenty-four elders is as written. First, they are sitting on thrones. Only the redeemed saints are granted the right to sit on thrones. For it is through Christ that we are now joint heirs (Romans 8:17) in His kingdom and found worthy to sit on a throne. Second, they are clothed in white robes. Only the saints were promised that they would be dressed in white robes. In Revelation 3:4-5, God is writing to the angel of the church of Sardis. “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Third, they possess crowns. These are victors crowns received as rewards (James 1:12). Only the saints have been promised any kind of crown. Nowhere in the Bible is any other creature or angel promised a reward. Last of all, they will rule and reign with Christ on the earth (II Timothy. 2:12). Only the saints are granted the privilege of ruling and reigning with Christ upon the earth.
Those Counted Worthy
Another important point is described in Luke 21, in which Jesus is found talking to His disciples regarding the future tribulation that the world must endure. He begins with the early church, speaking that they will be betrayed, cast into prison, and persecuted. Jesus states that Jerusalem would be besieged and led away captive to all nations. He then climaxes with signs of the rapture of the church, the tribulation period, and His second coming. He also leaves the final generation with a stern warning and a startling revelation.
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:34-36)
Certainly, this warning was not a message to the disciples since Bible history attests to their life of persecution, torture, and death. They did not succumb to worldly pleasures nor did they escape trials and tribulation. No, this is a warning to the final generation. He exhorts them not to allow the cares of this world to entangle them, but to live for the Lord, “For as a snare shall it (tribulation period) come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” He concludes with a startling, but plain warning directed at the last generation. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Only those who are counted worthy will escape the great tribulation period and stand before the Lord. Plainly, someone in the last days is going to miss the tribulation period! They will stand instead before the Son of Man. This cannot be said of those who go through the tribulation period. They will all suffer the horrors of that day and many will die brutal deaths for their faith. These verses alone are proof that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture.
The Protection Theory
Some who claim that the church will go through the tribulation believe that God will protect the church as he did Israel during the plagues of Egypt or like Daniel when he was in the lion’s den. Their claim is that they may see the terrors of that day but God will seal and guard them. This is contrary to what the book of Revelation states regarding those who become or are Christians during the tribulation period. The Bible paints a much different picture of the outcome of those who are saved during this time.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:9-10)
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; and one of the elders answered, saying unto me, what are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9,13-14)
Many will die from every part of the globe, so great a multitude that no man could number them. Where did these people come from? Out of great tribulation! So much for the “protection theory”!
This leads to another false teaching, the mid and post tribulation rapture theory. If God was going to allow such a great number of Christians to be slain during the tribulation period, why bother with a rapture at all. It would be pointless! The death toll will be innumerable as it is and who would go into the millennium age when it’s all said and done. No, the occurrence of a rapture only makes sense before the tribulation begins.
A Good Church Split
Here’s another Biblical truth worth a closer look. It is a commonly held belief among Christian scholars that there have been seven church ages throughout the church of Jesus Christ. Previously, I believed that today’s religious bodies represented the Laodicean church described in the book of Revelation. I now believe I was only half right. It is my belief that the true Christians of our generation make up the Philadelphian church or the sixth church age. “When the true believers (Philadelphian church age) are raptured, the Laodicean church will remain on earth, spewed out by God to endure the tribulation period. This church claims it has need of nothing; it is self-satisfied and self-complacent. Boasting of wealth and methods of organization, it fails to realize the absence of spiritual life in its midst. Christ informs them that they are utterly insensitive to their condition.
For their threefold need (poverty, nakedness, and blindness), they are advised to buy, without money and price to be sure, gold, which speaks of divine righteousness, white raiment, which denote practical righteousness, and eye salve, which points to spiritual discernment. Their trouble was that they had never really seen themselves as sinners.”
This is the reason why I contend that we as believers are living in the Philadelphian church age rather than the Laodicean church age. Here is the description of the Philadelphian church.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. (Revelation 3:7-11)
Some very interesting characteristics of this church age are found in verse eight which states, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” The open door God speaks of is the worldwide missions and witness that has taken place in these last days. At this point in history, Christians are freely preaching the Gospel throughout most of the world. In fact, up until recently, Russia had been off limits to the Gospel. But when the Berlin Wall fell so did the restrictions on the Gospel. God has virtually opened up every door to presenting Jesus as Lord. Yes, there are still a few countries that forbid the spreading of the Word, but soon, they too will be opened. This church age is also commended for its faithfulness and the keeping of God’s Word.
Verse 10 is a significant passage because it lends light on a very controversial issue, “Will the church go through the tribulation period?” I believe that this verse puts that question to rest. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Yes, the Laodicean church will go through the tribulation period, but the Philadelphian church will be raptured. Although the Philadelphian church age has been around for many years, the tail end of this age has overlapped with the Laodicean church age. When the rapture occurs the Philadelphian church, which all true believers of this generation are apart of, will be caught up, and the Laodicean church will be left behind.
Why do I say this? Because in verse 10, God says that because of the faithfulness of this church, He would keep them from the hour of temptation (tribulation period) which shall come upon the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. When Jesus comes, He will rapture the Philadelphian church and will spew out the Laodicean church leaving them to go through the tribulation period.
At this time, I believe that there are two church ages co-existing on the earth, a faithful and true church (Philadelphian church), and a church that has left God out (Laodicean church. The latter is religious in nature but it does not possess Jesus as Lord. I’m sure there are those who are reading this who are thinking, “You’re making this way too complicated. The Philadelphian church has past and the present church age is the Laodicean church. Because our present church age is so liberal and chooses ease rather than to suffer for Christ, it will have to go through the tribulation period. It’s that simple!” If that’s true, why did God make a point of stating to the Philadelphian church that they would not have to go through the tribulation period, but made no such promise to the previous five churches? Why did God pointedly state that the Laodicean church would have to go through the tribulation period? Again, He made no such mandate to the first five churches! It’s also strange that although none of the first six churches will go through the tribulation period and only one was specifically promised that it would be spared.
From these passages, it is clear to me that we as true born again believers of this generation will be raptured, while those of the false church will be left behind to go through the tribulation period.
If The Church Is Raptured Who Will Be A Witness?
Another question comes to mind from those who do not hold to a pretribulation rapture is, “If the church is raptured who will be a witness to the world?”
Since Christ’s ascension, many through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, have found new life. The commission to evangelize the world was placed upon the early church and its stamp of success guaranteed through the working of the Holy Spirit. For it is through the foolishness of preaching that men are saved (I Corinthians 1:21). Even though this world has had its share of hypocrites, false teachers, and those who have discredited the Gospel, one thing is for certain, the Gospel has been successfully preached. Persecution, torture, abandonment, and all manner of evil have only served to strengthen and further the Gospel message. Down through the centuries many have died for the cause of Christ and many more will die in the coming tribulation period.
Where am I going with this? Over the 2,000 years, God has raised up a very successful church that has preached the Gospel to every corner of the world. Missionaries have up and left all to follow the Lord’s leading. God’s will has been done, and done with great success, even today. My question is simple! With the success of the church, why will God send 144,000 evangelists and two witnesses to preach the Gospel to the world if the church is still here? He has used and empowered the church body for centuries to fulfill the Great Commission. Why would that change during the tribulation period? Persecution has only served to strengthen and further the Gospel with greater power.
There’s only one conclusion: Jesus will rapture His church before the tribulation period begins. If God needed the church to stay behind and be a witness during the tribulation period, the two witnesses, the angels in the sky, and 144,000 Jewish evangelists would not be necessary.
It is to this hope that I look daily for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to return and take His bride.