As we wait for Jesus’ appearing, our hearts often grow weary amid the rampant evil of our day and the hardships we encounter. Our cry often becomes one of “how much longer, O Lord?”
If you feel overwhelmed with life at times and long for our Savior to appear and intervene in our world, please know that I wrote what follows especially for you.
Our weariness of heart comes from a variety of sources:
- Ongoing health issues of varying intensity
- The limitations that come with aging
- The sickening wickedness in our world that’s growing exponentially
- Government corruption amid over-the-top deception and gaslighting by leaders
- The vile depopulation efforts of the globalists
- The everyday talk of a nuclear World War III
- Various forms of persecution
- The ridicule of our hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing
- Family heartaches
- Abuse from spouses or other family members
- Financial woes
For those of us eagerly watching for Jesus’ return, encountering these things intensifies our longing for the day He takes us up to His Father’s house. He cannot come too soon.
I believe the Apostle Paul also felt this yearning. In Romans 8:23, he wrote:
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
The “redemption of our bodies” happens at the time of the Rapture when Jesus gives us our imperishable bodies. If you sigh with longing for this day to arrive as the result of any of the reasons from the above list, you’re in good company. You likely feel the same inward groaning that Paul felt as he also looked forward to the Lord’s appearing.
It’s our anticipation of the glory ahead for us that encourages weary hearts as we encounter the devil’s opposition through the items listed above. That’s why I’m writing to reassure you of the confidence we possess in Jesus’ imminent appearing.
It’s because …
- Premillennialism Is a Biblical Necessity
Premillennialism, which is foundational to a belief in the pre-Tribulation Rapture, is a biblical necessity. There must be a time when God restores a kingdom to Israel, which happens after a literal seven-year Tribulation when Jesus returns to the earth. We call this belief “premillennialism.” It’s the direct opposite of replacement theology, which falsely claims that God has replaced Israel with the church.
In my previous post, Israel’s future Restoration Validates Our Hope as New Testament Saints, I provided several points demonstrating the biblical necessity of God’s restoration of a kingdom to Israel.
Why is this key to placing the Rapture before the Tribulation? First, those who adhere to replacement theology don’t believe in an actual tribulation. If that’s the case, the Rapture must happen at the time of the Second Coming.
Second, if one doesn’t interpret prophecy in the way that the writers of Scripture intended, one cannot recognize how its words confirm the biblical necessity of a pre-Tribulation Rapture.
- The Rapture Is a Biblical Event
I find it reassuring to always keep in mind that the Rapture is a biblical event.
Consider the following quote from the late Dr. Ed Hindson, a beloved scholar whose insights into biblical prophecy we sorely miss:
“If you disagree on the timing of the rapture, please don’t tell people, ‘There’s never going to be a rapture.’ No, there must be a rapture, or the Bible is not true. There must be a time when the archangel shouts, when the trumpet sounds, and the dead in Christ are raised, and the living are caught up (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We may differ on the timing of the rapture but not the fact of the rapture.” [i]
In other words, there must be a time when the series of events Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 happen, or “the Bible is not true.” Jesus is coming for us, and at that time, He will give us imperishable bodies exactly as He promises us in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Regardless of what one calls the event these passages describe with much detail, they form the basis of our future hope in Jesus’ appearing.
The event we call the “Rapture” is simply the Lord fulfilling the prophecies contained in the above texts as well those found in John 14:1-3, Titus 2:11-14, Revelation 3:10-11a, and others.
The Rapture is a biblical event.
- The Rapture Cannot Happen at the Same Time as the Second Coming
The biblical descriptions of the Rapture and Second Coming differ in ways that make it impossible for one to reconcile the two into one event. They cannot happen at the same time.
For example, the place of the resurrection in the differing sequence of events during the Rapture and Second Coming confirms this distinction.
When Paul writes about the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, he says that the raising of the “dead in Christ” happens immediately after Jesus appears.
With the Second Coming, however, the resurrection of tribulation saints does not occur until after a lengthy sequence of events (see Rev. 19:11-20:4). This raising of the dead may not even occur until a day or two or more after Jesus’ return to Earth.
There’s another key distinction that comes from these passages. At the time of the Rapture, Jesus resurrects the “dead in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). In Revelation 20:4, John says that at His return to Earth, He raises “those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus.” In one instance, all believers rise from the dead, while in the other, the apostle only mentions a subset of them.
If the words of Scripture matter, and they do, then we cannot combine these two events into one.
- New Testament Expectancy of the Rapture
The apostles repeatedly described their readers as eagerly anticipating Jesus’ return for them (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 1:8-10; Titus 2:11-13; James 5:8; James 5:8-10; 1 Peter 1:13). New Testament saints watched for the Rapture as though it could occur at any moment. When we say that Jesus’ appearing is imminent, we echo this expectancy. Nothing needs to occur before the Rapture takes place.
As for the Second Coming, the Lord told us that at least two major events would happen before it. In Matthew 24:15-29, Jesus says that the defilement of the temple by the antichrist and the “great tribulation” that follows it will happen before He returns to Earth. According to His own words, events that have not yet happened must occur before the Second Coming; it’s not an imminent event that we can expect at any time.
Only a pre-Tribulation Rapture fits as the eager anticipation of Jesus’ appearing that we see throughout the New Testament.
- The Expectation of the Thessalonians
The expectation of the Thessalonians also supports placing the Rapture before the Tribulation.
The new converts in Thessalonica grieved when some of their members died. A careful examination of Paul’s response (see 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17) reveals the cause of their unnecessary grief; they thought that the dead in Christ would miss out on the joy of the Rapture. In response, the apostle assures them of the primary place that the “dead in Christ” will have during Jesus’ return for us.
How could they have thought this way apart from expecting Jesus’ appearing to happen at any moment? They, like the apostle Paul, believed Jesus could return for them in their lifetime.
- The Surprise Beginning of the Day of the Lord
In 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, Paul tells his readers that the start of the day of the Lord will surprise people “like a thief in the night” with its “sudden destruction” from which “they will not escape.” The day of Lord, a primarily Old Testament term, refers to an extended time of the Lord’s wrath on the earth leading up to and including Jesus’ return to the earth and subsequent kingdom.
If the day of the Lord were to begin at any time after the seal judgments of Revelation 6 commence, this day would not catch people by surprise. No one will be saying “peace and security” (v. 3) after the pestilences, famines, pandemics, and wars of the seal judgments kill one-fourth of the earth’s population, almost two billion people.
Since the Rapture must happen before the seal judgments of Revelation 6, it must occur before the start of the Tribulation.
- The Lord’s Promise that We Will Miss the Wrath of the Day of the Lord
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, the Lord, through the apostle Paul, assures the Thessalonians, and us, that we will not experience this time of God’s judgment upon the earth known as the day of the Lord:
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”
The context of this promise tells us that the wrath Paul has in mind belongs to the Day of the Lord rather than hell. It begins with the “sudden destruction” that “will come upon” those taken by surprise at the start of this time of wrath.
We learn from 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 that the readers of Paul’s epistle came to faith in Jesus believing they would not experience this time of wrath upon the earth.
“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
For me, this is a very strong argument favoring a pre-Tribulation Rapture, as the Lord promises us that we will miss the Day of the Lord’s wrath, which includes all of the Tribulation.
- Jesus’ Promise to the Church at Philadelphia
We have additional verification of the pre-Tribulation Rapture in Jesus’ promise to the church at Philadelphia. In Revelation 3:10-11a, we read:
“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly.”
This “hour of trial” here does not refer to a time of persecution that would come upon a particular church or even all believers but rather points to a time of suffering that will impact all the people of the world, which fits with the events that John describes in Revelation 6-18.
The fact that this testing is specifically for “those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10) further confirms its reference to the judgments on Earth known as the Tribulation. John uses this phrase eight other times in the book of Revelation (6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8 12, 14; 14:6; and 17:8). In each instance, it either refers to either people impacted by the Tribulation or to those refusing to repent of their sins during this time.
In these chapters, however, the apostle never refers to the church as being on the earth.
- The Church Is Not on the Earth During the Events of Revelation 6-18
We know that the Lord has currently entrusted the church with proclaiming the saving message of the Gospel to the nations.
Why, then, is there the need for the two witnesses that John describes for us in Revelation 11:4-13 if the church is present on Earth during this time?
Besides these two spokesmen, in Revelation 14:6–7, John tells us about an angel that will proclaim the Gospel during the Tribulation:
“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
If the church is present on the Earth during the events of Revelation 6-18, why does the Lord need to send an angel to proclaim the Gospel? This only makes sense with a pre-Tribulation Rapture.
The presence of the 144,000 sealed Jewish believers during this time also points to the absence of the church during this time of judgment (Revelation 7:1-8). Many believe they will act as evangelists sharing the Gospel with the lost. Again, why is this necessary if the church remains on the earth during the events of Revelation 6-18?
Furthermore, if the church is still present, such a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles couldn’t exist, according to Colossians 3:11.
The Cry of Our Soul
The Lord might catch us up to meet Him in the air today, or we may continue waiting a while longer. I’m certain we live in the season of His appearing, but I don’t know how long it will last.
When my heart grows weary, I return again to the passages of Scripture that promise a glorious future solely because of the blood that Jesus shed for me on the cross.
Jesus is preparing a place for us in glory, and He’s most certainly returning to take us to where He now dwells in glory (John 14:2-3, 17:24; Colossians 3:4). He will transform our aging bodies into ones that are immortal and glorious (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Philippians 3:20-21).
Know for certain that the Lord is going to judge the vile wickedness and vile agenda that’s openly promoted by most government leaders. Just this morning, I needed to again read Psalm 37:1-20 in order to calm the anger rising inside me because of all the deception, lawlessness, and murderous agenda of those in power in America.
The cry of our soul finds its answer in the certainty that Jesus is coming soon to rescue us from this troubled world before things get a whole lot worse.
Until Jesus appears, don’t let anyone deceive you: the Rapture is a biblical event that must happen before the start of the Tribulation period.
In my book, The Triumph of the Redeemed-An eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times, I go into much greater detail on all the above points, and others, that demonstrate the biblical necessity of the pre-Tribulation Rapture.
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[i] Ed Hindson, Future Glory (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2021), p. 14.