As pointed out in the first part 1 of this article, The main distinctive of this view is that the rapture of the church will occur immediately after the 7-year Tribulation at the Advent of Christ. Hence, this view rejects the pre-Tribulation view that there are two phases of His coming; they teach that the rapture and the second coming will all occur all at once: 1) Christ will come in the clouds, 2) He will rapture and transform the church—first the dead and then the living, and 3) He will then immediately (or very quickly) bring them back to earth in their glorified bodies to reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom.
In this second part we will deal with two controversial passages, and the debated theory of whether the church will go through the Tribulation or not.
3. Matthew 24:29-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
This theory sees these two passages as the same event. While the pre-Tribulation view sees the 1 Thessalonians passage as the first phase of Christ’s coming to rapture the church and the Matthew passage as the second phase of His coming, this post-Tribulation view sees these two passages as explaining the same event—which combines the rapture with His second coming.
They observe that in both passages three things are mentioned: Jesus’ coming, the trumpet of God, and the gathering of the elect—which they see as the rapture of the church.[i]
But notice that there are some things that are different in each passage; so it seems that they combine the elements in both passages to form their teaching. For instance, they take the details of the rapture, such as the dead in Christ rising first and then the living, from 1 Thessalonians; but the timing of the rapture they take from Matthew 24, that it will happen “immediately after the Tribulation of those days.”
Rebuttal. There are several things wrong with combining these two passages. The worst error is using Matthew 24 as if it were written to the church. This passage was written to Israel, and the context is “the end of the age” (v. 3). In this entire chapter Jesus is explaining what will happen at the end of the age—or at the end of our civilization on earth as we know it; and the main topic is the Tribulation.
But 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is written to the church (to all believers in this present time). There is nothing said in this passage about the Tribulation, only about “the coming of the Lord,” and how He will rapture the church—the dead first and then the living—to meet Him in the air (v. 27).
It is true that both passages mention Jesus’ coming and the trumpet of God; but the gathering of the elect mentioned in Matthew 24:31 is not mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. It is true that the rapture in 1 Thessalonians is a gathering together of the church; however, the gathering of the elect mentioned in Matthew 24 is quite different; this gathering is, by the angels, of all believers of all times to come and enter the kingdom of God. And I do not believe that it includes the church, because they have already been gathered a few years earlier; they are already with the Lord.
Thirdly, the phrase in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, “by the word of the Lord,” which they use as proof that Paul is basing what he was teaching here on the rapture as being from what Jesus had said in Matthew 24, is not valid. This could not be possible because Matthew 24 was not written as instructions for the church, but was for Israel. I take it rather that the Holy Spirit had personally given him this knowledge about the rapture to pass on to this Thessalonian church. It was something new (a mystery) that no one had heard before, and so it was regarded as a new “word of the Lord.”
4. The church will go through the 7-year Tribulation
More than any other theory, this post-Tribulation theory maintains in their teaching that the church will go through the entire 7 years of tribulation. They site Matthew 24:9-11 as one of their proof passages, which says (in verse 9) “they will deliver you up to tribulation.” The pre-Trib theory restricts this passage to Israel, but they insist that both Israel and the church are in view.
This theory also uses the following verses to make their argument: John 16:1-2, 33; Acts 8:1-3; Romans 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:4: 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 1 Peter 4:1; and Revelation 2:9. These verses—which no doubt relate to the church—speak of tribulation, persecution, suffering and affliction, which they teach are the destiny of the church.
Additionally, like the pre-wrath theory, they teach that God will preserve the church through the Tribulation, using Revelation 3:10 as their proof, which they teach should be translated as, “I will keep you safe in the midst of testing.” They also use John 17:15 to prove this point, where Jesus prayed to His Father, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
Rebuttal. Each argument that the post-Tribulation rapture theory gives as proof for this fourth point is not valid. First of all, as I have already shown, the Matthew 24 passage which describes the Tribulation is not for the church; it is for Israel.
Secondly, there are two ways the word “tribulation” is used in scripture: in a general sense, and in a technical sense. Whereas “The Tribulation” is a specific God-ordered event lasting for seven years, “tribulation,” in the more general sense comes on us all at various times as a result of the curse we are all under. Thus the bible is clear that believers will go through tribulation, but not “the Tribulation.” The 7-year Tribulation is not the destiny of the church but is designed to punish unbelievers and also to bring many Jews to repentance and salvation.
Thirdly, Revelation 3:10 should not be translated as preserving the church through the Tribulation. It is more likely that the meaning is to keep the church out of the Tribulation.
As for what Jesus prayed for the church in John 17:15, I don’t think we can relate this to the Tribulation. He is praying that God will protect us from the evil one now and always.
[i] Wikipedia, Post-tribulation rapture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-tribulation_rapture.