What is your view of the Rapture, and what do you think about Bible passages that seem to point to a Pre-tribulation Rapture?
I appreciate your website. I find insights here that help me grow in my studies in the Lord. I'm not sure where you stand on the rapture, though. I can not find hard scriptural evidence to absolutely support a Pre-trib rapture, but I can find things that seem to imply such.
Seal 5 shows that God has a special place for raptured souls. These souls are in Heaven BEFORE seal 6 and the Pre-wrath rapture.
The 24 Elders were on their thrones when John first saw heaven, before Christ even arrived. I think Christ arriving like he did to open the seals was after the seclusion period following the wedding of the Lamb.
When it comes to "the thief in the night," the Sardis church comes to mind. How could there be NO awareness after the antichrist sets up the Abomination of Desolation? They certainly wouldn't see Him arrive in the clouds in Glory (seal 6) unless it just means surprise. If it was just surprise, would "thief in the night" be the best way of saying it?
I have always believed it would be easier to die for God than to truly live for Him. A Christian entering what he/she knows is the tribulation would be called to preach the Word to anyone that would listen. The church isn't mentioned after the letters to the churches until Revelation 19 7-9 when they go to the wedding supper.
I used to be a "Pre-tribber" until a closer, more thorough examination of the scriptures convinced me that the notion of a Pre-trib Rapture rests on a shaky foundation. I have responded to several people who have advocated a Pre-trib Rapture. In case you have the interest and time to read any of my email responses to them (including this one), first go to the Rapture Questions & Responses section on my email responses page. My responses to the first several questions should address many of the points you have raised in your email.
I have been totally convinced of a Pre-wrath Rapture for decades. I agree with your premise that the souls of believers during the Fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11) will be in heaven prior to the opening of the Sixth Seal and the Pre-wrath Rapture. These souls, however, will not have been raptured and will not yet have their glorified bodies; they will be the souls of martyred believers who are killed, mostly during the Great Tribulation period, due to their testimony about God and Jesus.
Evidently, the white robes they will receive will be some type of supernatural covering, identifying them as having had their sins taken away. They will continue to possess these white robes once they enter their new glorified bodies (Revelation 7:9,10), following the eventual resurrection/rapture of their mortal bodies. These souls will cry out for God to avenge their blood. I believe it is the plea of these slain saints that will be the "last straw" for God and will motivate Him to initiate His "day" of wrath and vengeance, which appears to be equated with a year of time (Isaiah 34:8, 61:2, 63:4).
Since believers living at this time will be exempt from the vengeance and wrath of God, they will be caught up in the Pre-wrath Rapture soon after the onset of the Sixth Seal events (Revelation 6:12-17). Matthew 24:29 & Mark 13:24,25 are parallel descriptions of the signs observed in the sun, moon, and stars soon after the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12,13). The next thing to occur will be the Pre-wrath Rapture (Matthew 24:30,31 & Mark 13:26,27).
These passages show Jesus appearing in the clouds of the sky and catching up believers—both those who are alive and those resurrected from death—to be with Him. He will not be returning to the earth at this time to rule and reign. Unbelievers will see Jesus sitting on His throne in the sky. Terrified, they be concealing themselves in caves and under rocks, attempting to hide from the face of the Lamb (Jesus) and from His imminent wrath that the know is coming (Revelation 6:15-17).
Believers caught up and away in the Pre-wrath Rapture, following the opening of the Sixth Seal, will appear in heaven as a great multitude, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9,10). They will have come out of the dreaded Great Tribulation and will serve God forever (7:13-15).
Soon thereafter, the Seventh Seal will be opened (Revelation 8:1). This will be followed by the first wave of God's wrath, the Trumpet Judgments, from which believers will be protected because they will have been caught up and away in the Pre-wrath Rapture (after the opening of the Sixth Seal). Later, Jesus will return to earth, in conjunction with the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet, to rule and reign (11:15-17).
Those in the world who are left behind after the Pre-wrath Rapture takes place will have to face the Seventh Seal judgments in their mortal bodies—first the Trumpet Judgments, then the Bowl Judgments. These judgments are what will encompass God's wrath, not the entire 7-year "tribulation" period as Pre-tribbers believe, nor the final 3˝-year period as some others believe. My two-part commentary on the Rapture explains all of these things in more detail.
Pertaining to the 24 elders of Revelation 4:4,10, I know that Pre-trib believers claim they are the "completed church of believers" after being caught up in the Pre-trib Rapture. I do not believe this to be the case at all. They simply are extrapolating the 24 elders to be a large number of raptured people because there is no one else prior to the great multitude in Revelation 7:9,10 who could qualify as the raptured Church, which they have come to believe will already be in heaven.
Also, they will point to Revelation 5:10 in the King James Version, as part of a new song being sung by the 24 elders, which reads this way:
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10—KJV)The words "us" and "we" make it seem like it is the 24 elders who will be made kings and priests and who will reign on the earth, which is what will happen to raptured believers.
However, the KJV translation from the original Greek is incorrect. See my photographed image of Revelation 5:9-11 in the Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, where I have circled in red the words "them" and "they" which are properly translated. The New International Version, the New American Standard Version, and the Revised Standard Version, among other Bible versions, have the proper translations of these words:
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10—NIV)I believe that there literally, not figuratively, are 24 elders in heaven. Whomever or whatever they might be, we cannot be certain; however, they do appear to have authority. Perhaps they are supernatural beings, since they seem to be associated with angels and the four living creatures (Revelation 5:6,11,14, 7:11, 14:3, 19:4). Another possibility is that they could be the first twenty-four men in the geneology of Jesus, who is of the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:33-38):
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. (Revelation 5:10—NASV)
and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth. (Revelation 5:10—RSV)
I am absolutely convinced that the great multitude of people in heaven in Revelation 7:9,10 will have been raptured following the opening of the Sixth Seal. One of the elders is seen asking John if he knows who they are. He explains that they have come out of the Great Tribulation, and then he proceeds to describe them (7:13-17). If the elder had been one of them, he would have said "we" and "us" rather than "they" and "them."
One of the last things to happen, prior to the onset of the Millennium, is the destruction of Mystery Babylon the Great (Revelation 18:1-24). The wedding and the wedding supper are not mentioned until Revelation 19:7,9.
The next thing we see is a great multitude in heaven (Revelation 19:1,6). These are not the same as the multitude of glorified believers seen in Revelation 7:9,10. The latter are from the nations and are wearing white robes, while the former are not. There also are other differences, as explained in my praising in heaven section and wedding supper of the Lamb subsection.
As such, I do not believe that the wedding will take place when Jesus begins to open the seven seals, years before Mystery Babylon the Great is destroyed. That is, the wedding supper of the Lamb is not associated with a Pre-tribulation Rapture.
Perhaps you are under the assumption that Jesus' appearance will be as a "thief in the night" for everyone, including believers. However, Jesus' appearance in the clouds will not be surprising or as a thief in the night for believers.
Paul said that the "day of the Lord" would come as a "thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:1,2). Then he noted that for those who (idealistically) are expecting "peace and safety," sudden destruction will come upon them instead (5:3).
However, then he said that for the brothers (true believers), the day (of the Lord) will not come as a thief in the night because they are in the light (that is, living their lives according to God's commandments and being aware of what is about to happen), not in darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4,5). He also pointed out that they were not appointed to wrath but, rather, for salvation and that because Jesus died for us, we will live together with Him (5:9,10).
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 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. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. ... For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5,9-10)I feel that true believers are those living their lives according to God's commandments and having an awareness of what is going to happen to many of them, including great persecution. I feel that many in the Sardis church represented those whose deeds are not representative of their beliefs, to the point of being spiritually lacking or even spiritually "dead" (Revelation 3:1).
I have a suspicion that many of these do not believe that they will have to go through the very difficult time of Great Tribulation, thinking that they will be caught up and out of here well before that in a Pre-tribulation Rapture. But instead, when times get really bad, many of them will not "wake up" to reality. Many will even fall away from the faith, and for them Jesus' appearance in the clouds and God's subsequent wrath will come as a "thief in the night" (Revelation 3:3).
This wrath will be imminent after the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:16,17). When true, expectant believers see the initial signs of the Sixth Seal (6:12-14) taking place, they will know that their salvation and redemption from wrath, via the Pre-wrath Rapture, is near (Luke 21:25-28).
God's wrath, during His day of vengeance, will not commence with the opening of the First Seal (Revelation 6:1,2) but, rather, after the opening of the Seventh Seal and the onset of the seven Trumpet Judgments (8:1,2). More details about this can be found in a couple of my email responses here:
Once the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6) or 3˝ years (12:14), on the Hebraic calendar, remaining before the return of Jesus back to earth. I feel that, most likely, the final 3˝ years will begin during a Passover week—that is, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread—and will culminate with Jesus' return to earth, to rule and reign, 1,260 days later on Yom Kippur.
Soon after the abomination that causes desolation is set up, then Satan, filled with rage, will go after those who obey God's commandments and who hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17). Many of these will be the ones killed and martyred after the opening of the Fifth Seal and whose souls, under the altar in heaven, will cry out for God to avenge their blood (6:9,10), bringing on God's day of vengeance.
Incidentally, you may know that there is a certain chronological sequence of the passages in the Book of Revelation. In case you have the interest and time, you might want to look at my three-part Chronology of Revelation.
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