The Rapture

Christians disagree over whether the Church will go through the Tribulation or not.  We believe that the Church will not go through the Tribulation.  This study explains why believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.

We begin with a basic understanding of salvation in the Church Age.  Once that doctrine is well established, then we will look at salvation in the Tribulation.  You will see an obvious difference.  In addition, we will notice the difference between saved people in the in the body of Christ and saved people in the Tribulation, between the saved people in Revelation 5 and the saved people in Revelation 7, between the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 and the Church, and between the last trump and the seventh trumpet.  These differences will clearly demonstrate why we cannot accept the current trend among professing Christians who believe that the Church will go through the Tribulation.

New Testament Salvation

We are born again in the New Testament, not by works, but by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 16:30-31; Rom 10:9-10].  Salvation is, therefore, a matter of faith in Christ rather than doing the works of the law [Rom 10:5].  Eph 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Rom 4:3-5 says, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Gal 2:16 says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

Clearly, New Testament salvation is not by works.  We are born again by faith in Jesus Christ.  He finished the work for us through his death, burial and resurrection.  Therefore, salvation is a gift [Eph 2:8], Jesus Christ is a gift [Jn 3:16] and we are saved when we receive Jesus by faith [Jn 1:12-13].

The Body of Christ

When we are saved, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ [1 Cor 12:13].  This means we are in Christ.  As 1 Cor 15:22 says, “in Christ shall all be made alive.”  We are, literally, part of his body [1 Cor 12:14-27].  Eph 5:30 says that we are “members of his flesh, and of his bones.”  Where are his flesh and bones, today?  They are in heaven.  Col 3:1 says, “…Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”  Since Christ is in heaven and we are in Christ, therefore, we are also in heaven in Christ.  Thus, Eph 2:6 says, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

All who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ are members of his body.  Do you know what the body of Christ is according to the Bible?  The body of Christ is the Church.  Eph 1:22-23 says, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”  Col 1:18 says, “he is the head of the body, the church.”

Now read Col 2:16-17.  “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”  In this passage, Paul says when we are in the body of Christ, we are not subject to “the weak and beggarly elements” of the law [Gal 4:9-10; Col 2:20-22].  In Col 2:16, he gives us examples of “the handwriting of ordinances” that Christ took out of the way and nailed to his cross [Col 2:14].  As members in the body of Christ, the Church, we are not saved by the works of the law, therefore, we don’t keep the ordinances of the law that concern meat, drink, holydays, new moons and Sabbath days.

However, look very carefully at Col 2:17.  Paul says, “Which are a shadow of things to come.”  While the ordinances concerning things like sabbath days, have no effect on us in the Church, people are going to be subject to them in the future.  Look at Matt 24:20-21.  Tribulation saints, fleeing into the mountains [Matt 24:15-19], cannot break the fourth commandment [Ex 20:8].  Clearly, something changes in the Tribulation regarding salvation.

Tribulation Salvation

Tribulation salvation involves not only having faith in Jesus Christ, but also keeping the commandments of God.  Rev 14:12 says, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”  Rev 12:17 says, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  As you can see, the ordinances are, indeed, “a shadow of things to come,” [Col 2:16-17].

Jews in the Tribulation cannot violate the sabbath, [Matt 24:20-21], among other things.  Their salvation is conditioned upon keeping the law until the end of the Tribulation [also called the end of the world].  In Matt 24:3, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”  In his answer, Jesus said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” [Matt 24:13].

During the Tribulation, the world will be required to worship the beast [Rev 13:11-12].  This requirement is a violation of the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” [Ex 20:3].  If a person, who has faith in Jesus, worships the beast, he will lose his salvation, because he didn’t keep the first commandment of God to the end.  His name will be blotted out of the book of life [Rev 3:5].

Likewise, he could lose his salvation for worshipping the image of the beast.  That would be a violation of the second commandment of God, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image… Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them,” [Ex 20:4-6]. Keep in mind, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he will be threatened with death [Dan 3:6] if he doesn’t worship the image of the beast [Rev 20:4, Rev 2:10].  He’ll be thrown into the lake of fire for either of these violations or for taking the mark of the beast [Lev 19:28; Rev 14:9-11].

Having faith in Jesus and keeping the commandments of God are the same as the faith and works of Jas 2:20-24, doctrinally.  It makes perfect sense to find faith and works mentioned in James, since it is an epistle written, doctrinally, to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  After all, most of the prophecy dealing with the Tribulation is directed to Israel.  That’s why the Tribulation is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” [Jer 30:7].  It’s not surprising, therefore, in the epistle to the Hebrews, to find references to “the end” in Heb 3:6, 3:14, and 6:11, which match Matt 24:13.  A Tribulation saint can lose his salvation if he doesn’t keep the law.

Tribulation salvation and Church age salvation are very different in this respect.  A Tribulation saint can lose his salvation if he doesn’t endure to the end by keeping the commandments of God.  A Church age saint is not saved by keeping the law [Acts 15:1, 5, 10-11].  Therefore, he has eternal security.  Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life,” [Jn 5:24].  He also said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” [Jn 6:37].  Furthermore, he said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, [Jn 10:27-28].  These verses on eternal security clearly do not match the conditional faith and works salvation of the Tribulation.

Do you know what all this means?  It means that when the Tribulation begins and the ordinances are back in effect, when “the shadow of things to come” have come, the body is gone.  That’s why Paul said, “but the body is of Christ,” [Col 2:17].

The Rapture of Church age Saints and Tribulation Saints

Paul told us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” [1 Cor 15:50].  He goes on to say that “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality,” [1 Cor 15:53].  When that happens, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” [1 Cor 15:54].  This is what happens at the rapture.  As Paul says in 1 Thes 4:16-17, “… the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”  Notice, these are the ones in Christ, in his body.

When we get to heaven at the rapture, you will find the saints around the throne of God singing, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth,” [Rev 5:8-10].

But there is also another group that we find before the throne in Rev 7:9-17.  This is “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” [Rev 7:9].  And John doesn’t recognize who they are.  He said, “one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest,” [Rev 7:13-14].  If these were the same people that he saw in Rev 5:8-10, he would have known who they were, because he had already seen them.  Do you know who they are?  “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” [Rev 7:14].  These are Tribulation saints who come up at their own rapture somewhere near the end of the Tribulation [see Rev 14:1-3].

The Churches in Revelation 2 and 3

You say, but there are churches in the Revelation and so the church must go through at least a part of the Tribulation.  Not so.  The Church is the body of Christ.  Churches [Rev 1:20], on the other hand, are local assemblies.  They can be New Testament local churches like you find in Acts 14:23 and Rom 16:16.  Or churches can be local assemblies of people meeting in one of the seven cities mentioned in Rev 2 and 3.

These seven churches are not members of the body of Christ.  You can tell this because of the admonitions they are given.  For instance, in Rev 2:7, God promises, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”  A church age saint doesn’t have to eat of the tree of life, since he has already overcome [1 Jn 4:4; 1 Jn 5:4] and already has eternal life [1 Jn 5:13].  In Rev 2:11, “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”  Church age saints aren’t “unbelieving,” [Rev 21:8] and so we have already passed from death unto life. You know the saying, “born once, die twice; born twice, die once.”  There’s no second death for us.  In Rev 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne…”  We already “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” [Eph 2:6].

So, just because churches are mentioned in Rev 2 and 3 is no indication, at all, that the body of Christ is here during the Tribulation.  As a matter of fact, the admonitions are so redundant to what we already have in Christ, they cannot possibly be addressed to Church age saints.

The Last Trump and the Last Trumpet

You say, but the last trump of the rapture is the last trumpet of Rev 11:15.  Therefore, the Church must go through the Tribulation.  Not so.  Look very carefully at the trumpets that are sounded in the Tribulation.  There are seven trumpets [Rev 8:2], they are given to seven angels [Rev 8:2] and they are each sounded by one of the angels [Rev 8:6].  When the last trumpet sounds, notice, “the seventh angel sounded,” [Rev 11:15].

In 1 Cor 15:52, we read that when the rapture takes place it happens “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  But Paul doesn’t tell you who sounds this trumpet.  You find that out in 1 Thes 4:16. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”  Look, the Lord himself descends with the trump of God.  That is very different than an angel sounding a trumpet in heaven.  The last trump cannot be the seventh trumpet.

You see, when the Lord descends from heaven he doesn’t need a trumpet, that is, the actual instrument.  That’s because, when he speaks, the sound you hear is the sound of a trumpet.  Moses and the children of Israel heard him at Mount Sinai [Ex 19:18-20; Ex 20:18].  John heard him on the Lord’s day.  He said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” [Rev 1:10].  When he turned to see the voice that spoke to him, he saw the Son of man standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks [Rev 1:12-13].

Therefore, the last trump, at the rapture, is going to be the sound of Jesus saying, “Come up hither,” just like John heard him in Rev 4:1.  John said, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

Praise the Lord, we are listening for the shout, the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.  Like Paul said in Titus 2:13, we are “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” [Rev 22:20].  We aren’t waiting for the seventh angel to sound.

Conclusion: We cannot believe in a Tribulation rapture or pre-wrath rapture of the Church.  We are in the body of Christ, we are eternally secure, we don’t have to keep the commandments of God, we don’t have to endure to the end, we have already overcome, and we will never face the second death.  We’ll go up when Jesus himself descends from heaven with the trump of God.

By the same token, we certainly see a Tribulation rapture of Tribulation saints.  But the Church will be long gone by the time they go up to heaven.