Setterfield: Many thanks for the e-mail; it is appreciated. I will respond to the questions and leave you to forward the answers on to your correspondent.
In order to answer your complete question, however, a couple of extra points need be added. Let me express them like this:
1. The three main Bible quotes in Luke 21:36 by Jesus himself, Revelation 3:10 also by Jesus himself, and 2 Thessalonians 2 by the Apostle Paul, all make it plain that the Rapture of the Christians must occur before the Tribulation. The reasons why are made plain in the web-site link and also on the DVD. In brief, the wording in the Greek original leaves no doubt about that.
2. The argument that Jim Staley makes that people like Job, and the first century Christians and many others had to endure suffering is correct. However he misses one key point in that argument. Jesus said that "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." So tribulation and suffering is expected because we are "in the world" and have to experience its evil.
However, experiencing the sufferings brought on by the problems of this world is entirely different to going through what the Bible calls "the Tribulation, the Great One". Remember it is also called the "Time of Jacob's Trouble" because the Jews suffer terribly. But it is also called "The Indignation" or the "Wrath of God". The Apostle Paul states the situation very clearly in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 where he says that we are "... to wait for His Son from Heaven ... even Jesus who will deliver us from the wrath to come." A similar picture is given by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 when he says that "... it is a righteous thing with God to repay with the Tribulation those who have troubled you, and give unto you who are troubled, rest, along with us when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven with his holy angels."
One point also needs be made here. This does not preclude disasters and wars or persecutions happening to us before He comes. We might have to go through that. However, the Wrath of God is so severe that Jesus said "unless those days were shortened, no flesh will survive." The Christians are called the "Bride of Christ" and have been made "acceptable in the Beloved." Do you honestly think that God would pour out His wrath on His Bride? That is what the Cross was all about - to save us from God's wrath and anger and judgment. So however bad things get before He comes, be assured that it is going to be infinitely worse once He pours out His Wrath on an unrepentant mankind. But we are saved from that.
Another point; remember also that the Holy Spirit was sent in a special way at Pentecost, the beginning of the Church Age. Paul in 2 Thessalonians says antichrist (and hence the Tribulation) cannot be manifested until the Holy Spirit (the Restrainer) is taken out of the way. When He goes out, it is the end of the Church Age and the Christians go out as well, because He personally indwells us. Jesus promised that we would not ever be left without him.
3. Final point. In a way, Jim Staley is correct; there IS a post-Tribulation rapture. When the Lord returns at the battle of Armageddon, all those who have turned to the Lord during the Tribulation will be raised to fulfill God's promise that they would reign with Him during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4). But that event should not be confused with the Resurrection of the Christian dead and the transformation of the living Christians at the Rapture before the Tribulation begins.
At this point you need to notice something that is missed by so many. In the prelude to his comments about the Rapture, the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24 mentions something important. He says that there is an "Order" in the process of the Resurrection. As he says, Christ was the firstfruits (along with the others who were raised when Christ was - see Matthew 27:52-53). Paul goes on to say "then those who are Christ's at His coming." Then Revelation 20 says that there is a resurrection of the Tribulation saints and finally the unrighteous dead are raised at the end of the Millennium. This process seems to be a problem to many; they can only conceive of one resurrection and the Rapture occurring at that time. However, Paul's comments place it in the context of a harvest with Christ the firstfruits. The process is then quite plain in a harvest context. First, there are the firstfruits (Christ etc), then the general harvest (at the Rapture before the Tribulation), then the gleanings (the Tribulation saints). Finally, 1000 years later, there are the tares (the unrighteous at the end of the Millennium). So this Harvest is a process or an order of events, not a one-off occasion.
In conclusion, many make the mistake of misapplying scriptural types or parables by inappropriate associations. Many incorrect conclusions are drawn because of this process. The situation with regards to the Rapture is one of these. For example, it is often stated that because the Children of Israel had to undergo the plagues of God's judgment in Egypt, but were saved at the end so the parallel is drawn that the Church will have to undergo God's wrath in the Tribulation but emerges triumphant at the end. This analogy is invalid as it flies in the face of plain statements by Jesus and Paul to the contrary. Where there is a plain statement (not a parable) which is at variance with any type-teaching, that type-teaching is itself invalid in that situation. It may apply in other instances, but not that one.
In this particular case, remember that Israel is a separate entity from the Church: God has different programs and purposes for each of them (despite what some teach today). In Egypt, Israel did have to suffer some of the plagues. The correct type-teaching is that, after the rapture, Israel will again have to go through the time of God's anger as His judgments are poured out on earth. Why? Because they have refused to accept Messiah in the same way that those Gentiles who are left after the rapture have not accepted Messiah. This is a more consistent approach to that passage when applied to the tribulation; it is not relevant to the Church - it is relevant to Israel.
I hope all that is some help to you. Please get back to me if there are further questions.
Setterfield: Glad I could be of some help.
You raise an interesting point that Jim Staley made, namely that the Pre-Tribulation concept did not even come into being until the 1800's. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that statement. However, even if it is true, note what the scripture says about this matter in an end-time context. In Daniel 12:4 it states the general principle: "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end..." It is only as the time of the end approaches that the full understanding of these prophetic matters is achieved. It is rather like the directions as to how to get to our place from the other side of America. The broad outline may be clear, but the little details about the final part of the journey only become apparent and relevant as you come close to your destination.
I hope that helps. If there are further questions, please do not hesitate to get back to us. You might like to forward this to your correspondent as well.
The Rapture idea and the early church
The idea of the Rapture, or Translation of the Christians or the Catching away of the true Believers by Christ taking us to Heaven comes from verses in 1 Corinthians 15, 1Thessalonians 4 and elsewhere. This is discussed in more detail on our website in Signs of Our Time as well as above.
The verses in Luke 21:36, Revelation 3:10 and 2 Thessalonians 2 all seem to indicate that this event will occur before the period of intense trauma and disaster occurs called the Great Tribulation. “The Tribulation, the Great One” (Matthew 24:21, Revelation 7:14) as it is called, is also known as “the Wrath of God” (Psalm 110:5, Isaiah 9:19, Isaiah 13:9, Jeremiah 10:10, Ezekiel 7:19) or “The day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6, Amos 5:18, 20, Zechariah 14:1), or the “Day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3) or “the Indignation” (Isaiah 26:20-21, 34:2, 66:14, Jeremiah 10:10) or the “fierce anger of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:13); the “day of the Lord’s vengeance” (Isaiah 34:8, 61:2). It is also known as “the Time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) since the Jews suffer terribly under Antichrist during this 7-year period. The last part of the Tribulation is described as “the year of recompense for the controversy about Zion (the city of Jerusalem)” (Isaiah 34:8). Jesus said that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22). It is a time of natural and supernatural disasters, along with manmade tragedies and traumas like wars and financial chaos.
However the passages in Luke 21, Revelation 3 and 2 Thessalonians 2 all seem to indicate that the genuine Christians will be taken into heaven (the Rapture) just before those 7 years begin. That is also suggested by Zephaniah 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 2 Thessalonians 1:8 in addition to other verses whose context requires too much explanation to go into here. The concept is summarized by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 this way: “…serve the living and true God and wait for his Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The word “from” is the word “apo” which means to “stand off” or “away from,” “before,” or “in the face of”. The implication is that we are delivered from the coming onset of the Tribulation.
This is picked up by Jesus in His comments in Matthew 25:37-42 where the key statement is that “…as it was in the days before the Flood, they were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the Ark, and did not know until the Flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” In a word, Noah went into the Ark and the door closed just as the Judgment fell on those outside. Likewise we might be expected to be Raptured immediately before the Tribulation commences. Noah was given 7 days warning to get ready (Genesis 7:4). It is possible we might also be given some warning, (perhaps less than 7 days) through what has been called the Midnight Cry.
However, here are those who dispute this sequence of events. Some proclaim that the rapture does not occur at all, while others say it comes either in the middle of that 7 year Tribulation period or right at the end as Christ returns to set up His rule on earth from Jerusalem. Others claim that Christ will not reign on earth for the Millennial age at all, and so dispute all the key events in this proposition. These expositors often claim that the whole idea of the Rapture and its pre-Tribulation occurrence only developed in the 1800’s. This is a popular argument against it happening before the Tribulation, and many are influenced by it. However, it is without substance. The reason is that the early church also had that idea of a pre-Tribulation rapture with the Millennial reign of Christ to follow the Tribulation. The key elements in this response were brought to our attention by a colleague, Tim Stout, whom we thank for this information.
In order to examine this we need to remember that there is a well-known collection of about 50 or so volumes of early church writings, in three sets: the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the Nicene Fathers, and the Post-Nicene Fathers. One of the early church fathers was Irenaeus . He sat under Polycarp, who was a student of the Apostle John. In volume 1 of the first set, the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the following quotes are found from Irenaeus: Page 558: "And therefore, when in the end the church shall suddenly be caught up from this, it is said, "There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be." This is in the context of a discussion about the Antichrist. The tribulation comes after the church is caught up. Here is the pre-Tribulation Rapture spoken of by the early church Fathers!
On page 560 we find: "But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the Lake of Fire; but bringing in for the righteous times of the kingdom, that is the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, the "many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
This is a clear proclamation of Pre-millennial theology. He took Daniel 9 literally. So, one of the giants among the early church fathers was Pre-tribulation and Pre-millennial in his approach to the Bible and held to a literal interpretation of eschatological passages. It is therefore not an invention of 19th century theologians, despite what some may claim.
Also, Irenaeus speaks of the basic concept that Israel and the church are in different dispensations in God’s plan. This makes apparent the foolishness of the common “Church is Israel” theology, as that was obviously not the understanding that the Church Fathers had from the Apostles who got it from Christ Himself.