Eschatology, Israel, Jews, Prophecy

When will the Rapture Occur?

Dominoes Falling (4)
Debate 4 – Tumbling

A Response to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

DEBATE 4: Which View of the Rapture Is Correct?

The Rapture

Firstly, when it comes to the Rapture, though Rhodes considers a case for Pretribulationism, Midtribulationism, Posttribulationism, the Pre-wrath view and the Partial Rapture view, these don’t reflect of what many believe. He apparently only sees those that somehow relate to his futuristic concepts as relevant to the debate. As a result, he has failed to include the most fundamentally basic and Biblically obvious view, which is simply that when Jesus returns He will rapture the believers from the earth immediately before destroying it with fire and beginning His final judgment.

For example, Wiki – Rapture says: ‘Many Christians do not subscribe to rapture-oriented theological views… but do believe in the phenomenon—primarily in the sense of the elects’ gathering with Christ in Heaven after his Second Coming. These denominations do not believe that a group of people is left behind on earth for an extended Tribulation period after the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.’

That brings me to my second issue that I have with Rhodes’ partiality. Each of the views that he has put forward assumes that there is a 7 year period called “The Great Tribulation” that occurs around the time of the Rapture. However, this is simply futurist eisegesis imposed on Daniel 9:27 and on certain texts where the term “great tribulation” is used in the Bible. By connecting the notion of a 7 year Great Tribulation to the Rapture, futurists have complicated what is quite simple and have created what is actually an unnecessary in-house debate. However, by removing the false interpretations around the texts that refer to “great tribulation” we can quickly dismantle this.

Tribulation, The Tribulation, Great Tribulation and The Great Tribulation

As we all know, as in all literature, terms in the Bible are interpreted in context. For example, though the term ‘lion’ is used in connection with the Devil, it is also used in reference to Jesus. Therefore, context informs our interpretation so that the ‘lion of the tribe of Judah’ is not understood to be the Devil, and ‘the Devil… prowling like a roaring lion’ is not likening him to Jesus.

Similarly, the term ‘tribulation,’ whether used simply as ‘tribulation,’ ‘the tribulation,’ ‘great tribulation,’ or ‘the great tribulation,’ needs to be considered in context. In understanding their contexts we will find that they are not necessarily always synonymous periods of tribulation. Consider the following:

The Church Age – An Age of Tribulation

In John 16:33 Jesus says to his disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Though this was specifically spoken to his immediate disciples, we understand these words to be applicable to all believers throughout the Church Age.

In fact, throughout the Bible and the book of Revelation in particular we see the Church experiencing tribulation in the world in which it finds itself. This is no doubt the main reason for God giving The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Church as an encouragement to her, revealing Jesus Christ’s promises, proximity and power in relation to all her troubles.

Revelation 7:14 specifically refers to a “great tribulation” or “the great tribulation” where it reads; “These are the ones coming out of great tribulation/the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This too refers the tribulation over the broader Church Age rather than their specific period of trouble, because the words “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” are true of all believers and not a specific few.

With this in mind, the term “great” in “the great tribulation” in this passage refers to the extent of the tribulation. It is the sum magnitude of tribulation experienced during the Church Age in a world called Babylon that is hostile to her, whose citizens are under Satan’s power, and where the Beast reincarnates itself, along with the False Prophet.

The Early Church – Tribulation

In Revelation 1:9, John describes the time that he was already living in as ‘the tribulation.’ He was no doubt referring to the persecution that he and the Church were under, however, he certainly would have understood that to be part of the general “tribulation” that Jesus had promised in John 16:33. Regardless of whether John was referring to their current troubles and/or to the general tribulation that Jesus had promised, the occasion warranted the use of the term.

The Destruction of Jerusalem – A Time of Tribulation

The term “great tribulation” is used in Matthew 24:21 where Jesus says, “For then shall be great tribulation”. The context is found in the preceding verses. He says, “…let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.”

Clearly, “on housetop” describes an ancient home and custom, not a modern scene that one would expect in a futurist tribulation. Also, to “flee to the mountains” is hardly a strategy that will help anyone in the future. Furthermore, being in a “field” and wearing a “cloak” is a common description for 1st century Judea, not modern Israel. And, why would “winter” be a problem in the modern world?

From the description, this prophecy was to be fulfilled in that era and not some end-time futurist one. Jesus is describing the looming scenario and associated possibilities around the destruction of the temple. Corroborating this are Jesus’ words in relation to this passage: “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

It had to do with the Jewish War of 66-70 AD and Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. More than a million Jews were killed and the temple, which their lives revolved around, was destroyed. It was gruesome, with in-fighting, starvation, cannibalism, slaughter and destruction. The nature of it was so horrendous that Jesus said of it, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

Christ’s Threat – A Threat of Tribulation

Finally, the term “great tribulation” in Revelation 2:22 is used in an admonition by Jesus to members of the church of Thyatira. He says, “Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works”. This was a warning of impending troubles, to people in a church who were contemporary to the apostle John, if they would not repent.

Bizarre Outcomes

Clearly this threat of “great tribulation” had nothing to do with the “tribulation” of John 16:33 that describes the troubles in this life that Jesus said the disciples would face as their part in “the great tribulation” of Revelation 7:14. Neither does it concern the Roman period of persecution that John referred to as “the tribulation” in Revelation 1:9. Nor has it anything to do with the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:21 that describes what the unbelieving Jews in 1st century Judea faced during the Jewish war.

You can only imagine what concoctions people come up when they simply assume that the word “tribulation” implies the same event. Bizarrely, there are some who will try and connect most if not all of the above into one event. I’m not sure that Rhodes has taken it that far, but he does connect at least two of the above tribulations. However, sadder is that he gives neither their proper interpretation to start off with.

Firstly, he sees the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:21 and “the great tribulation” of Revelation 7:14 as the same period. Secondly, he places this period in an end-time future. He then further distorts this by linking this end-time “great tribulation” period to a prophecy in Daniel 9:27 that speaks of a 7-year period in which an abomination that causes desolation occurs. Instead of seeing this in relation to Jesus prophecies regarding 1st century Jerusalem, he interprets ‘The Great Tribulation’ as a 7 year period in the future when the desolation will occur. It is with this futurist mind that he asks when the rapture is to occur.

Debate Answer

The Rapture will happen at the end of this Church Age at the second coming of Christ when every Jew and Gentile who has ever believed in the Messiah will receive their glorified bodies and be caught up in the air (raptured) with Jesus to forever be with Him. Immediately thereafter the earth and all who are in it will be judged with fire and all will face final judgment.

So, in conclusion, there is no Rapture in relation to a 7-year period called ‘The Great Tribulation’. However, there is one that ends ‘the great tribulation’ that the Church has always existed in and in which the church experiences “tribulation” upon “tribulation”.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
  11. Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
  12. Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing

9 thoughts on “When will the Rapture Occur?”

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