Do you believe that the Rapture is near? When do you think the tribulation will begin?

Email Received:

I believe that, as the end of the age approaches, we should be looking and preparing for Jesus' return. We will see HIm face-to-face, after we are caught up to be with Him in the clouds, at the Rapture. This is what Bible scholars like Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, and Chuck Smith teach. Do you believe that the Rapture is near? When do you think the tribulation will begin?

Ted's Response:

I absolutely agree that we need to be "looking and preparing." Most Christians may say they believe this, but I am convinced that most of them do not understand that Christians will be on the earth for a great deal of the affliction and suffering of the so-called "tribulation" to take place. This is what they should be "looking and preparing" for, not anticipating the meeting of Jesus, face-to-face, imminently and at any moment.

The majority of Christendom has adopted the erroneous notion of the "Pre-tribulation" Rapture. They mistakenly believe that they will be whisked away, with no prior alert, and will be able to avoid the most distressing time of human history. I feel that this is a very precarious, if not dangerous, viewpoint to embrace.

I have read and listened to Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, Chuck Smith, Jack Van Empe, and others over the decades. Indeed, they have been, and continue to be, great Bible scholars and teachers. However, long ago, they embraced the idea of the "Pre-trib" Rapture (with its many inconsistencies and flaws) and, for some reason, never have re-examined and re-evaluated that position. Unfortunately, they use that particular Rapture view as a basic "building block" pertaining to other things that they believe about the end of the age. However, it is a block of sand, not of rock; so almost all of the prophetic issues built on top of it will crumble and collapse.

The prophetic end-time scenario, including the timing of the Rapture, is very logical and chronological. Here is a basic, foundational building block, from which we can deduce other details: Jesus referred to the "abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel" (Matthew 24:15). This is a direct reference to the following prophecy in the Book of Daniel:

He will confirm a covenant with many for one "seven." In the middle of the "seven" he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. (Daniel 9:27)
Some translations read "week" or "heptad" instead of "seven." The "he" in the prophecy is presumed, by the majority of Bible scholars, to be the Antichrist.

Daniel 9:27 is a prophecy about the final "week" of (seven) years of the age (also known as the 70th Week), which will begin with the confirmation of a covenant involving many nations, including Daniel's people, Israel (9:24). The prophecy indicates that in the midst of that seven-year period, an end will be put to sacrificing and offering, and also the "abomination that causes desolation" will be set up, presumably in Jerusalem. So Matthew 24:15-20 will take place, and then great distress or tribulation will begin (24:21).

Even before we have reached this point, world conditions should deteriorate to the point where most Christians, unless they are in a coma, will realize that something is terribly wrong. It should become clearly obvious to them not only that the 70th Week has begun but also that we just about will have reached the time of great tribulation. Having been told that Jesus was supposed to "whisk" them away years before that point, I suspect that multitudes may fall away from the faith. This may be the apostasy or rebellion about which Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, just before the revealing of the "man of lawlessness" or Antichrist (see What could cause the apostasy of 2 Thessalonians 2:3?).

"Pre-tribbers" also believe that the entire seven-year period (which they have misnamed the unscriptural term, "tribulation period") will be filled with God's wrath. I feel that this is completely unfounded. After the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12), distinct signs in the sun, moon, and stars will signal the imminent appearance of Jesus in the clouds of the sky to catch away believers. The world will see "the face of Him who sits on the throne" and know that His wrath is near (6:16,17). John then saw a multitude in white robes (7:9), whom I believe are all the newly-raptured saints in heaven who have come out of the Great Tribulation (7:14). Then the Seventh Seal will be opened (8:1), and this will be followed by the first wave of God's wrath, by means of the Trumpet Judgments.

There is a clear parallel between Jesus' and John's descriptions of the cosmic disturbances to occur after the opening of the Sixth Seal: Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12,13. (This will be well after the middle of the final seven years—I believe about 2½ years later.) Chronologically, then, Matthew 24:30,31, which is a cogent picture of the Rapture event, will take place soon after the opening of the Sixth Seal (24:29).

If you ask "Pre-tribbers" what is happening in Matthew 24:30,31, they will say that it is the return of Jesus back to earth, at the end of the seven years (because they believe that the Rapture will have occurred seven years prior to that point). However, there are major problems with this view:

  1. The Sixth Seal events (Matthew 24:29) will not take place at the very end of the seven years. There still will be the Seventh Seal to be opened (Revelation 8:1), and Jesus will not return to earth until the time of the Seventh Trumpet (11:15-17).

  2. After the opening of the Sixth Seal (Matthew 24:29), Jesus only will appear in the clouds (24:30); He will not come down to earth at that time. Then His angels will gather the elect believers (24:31), at the Rapture. "Post-tribbers" believe that this is a picture of the Rapture and Jesus' return to earth, both taking place simultaneously. But they are incorrect, due to #1 above.

  3. One would think that when Jesus' disciples asked Him about the end of the age (Matthew 24:3), He would have told them about the most extraordinary event in human history—the Rapture of believers—especially since Jesus Himself will be at the center of it. Since "Pre-tribbers" believe that the Rapture is a "silent, secret" event, with no signs preceding it, they are forced to believe that Jesus said nothing about it. But, of course, He did describe it (24:30,31), and it would have been a striking oversight had He avoided the topic altogether.

I feel that the events following the opening of the Fifth Seal (Revelation 6:7,8) are a depiction of the persecution and killing of many believers during the Great Tribulation period. They will plead with God to avenge their blood—which He will do soon after opening the Sixth Seal and catching away the saints who are still alive at that time. Isaiah wrote of this "day of vengeance" three times, in each instance equating it to a "year" of time (Isaiah 34:8, 61:2, 63:4). This, I believe, will be the seventh year of the 70th Week.

Jesus described the period from the middle of the 70th onward as a time of "great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again" (Matthew 24:21). He also said, "If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:22).

I believe that "those days" (of the Great Tribulation, for about 2½ years) will be "shortened" by the opening of the Sixth Seal (24:29), at which time, "for the sake of the elect," the Rapture will take place. Then, for 1 year, the wrath of God will be "blown out" via the Trumpet Judgments. Then Jesus will return to earth, as the Rider on a white horse, to rule and reign. So the final 3½ years of the 70th Week will encompass 2½ years of Great Tribulation plus 1 year of God's wrath during the "day of vengeance."

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