Biblical Audio Commentary – Post-Tribber “Proof” Scriptures Examined
In recent posts I’ve discussed several issues related to the belief of those who hold to a post-Tribulation Rapture position. In response, one person who uses the screen name of “postribber”, challenged me by pointing out two Scriptures that he clings to as support for his belief. To that end, rather than debate him in the Comment section of my posts, I first suggested he read more widely and directed him to Rapture Ready (https://www.raptureready.com/). Whether he’ll take me up on that is another question. In thinking more about this, I decided to examine the two Scriptures that postribber thinks support his view. This Commentary does that.
Here is the entire comment made by postribber in his pushback against the pre-Tribulation Rapture:
Questions for fellow tribbers 😄 Is 1 Thes. 4:15-17 the pretrib rapture? Is 2 Thes. 1:6,7 the second coming?
THE CHURCH IS ON THE EARTH FOR THE RAPTURE AND SECOND COMING. IS THAT POSSIBLE? “Then we who are alive and remain (ON THE EARTH) shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thes. 4:17)
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who are troubling you (ON THE EARTH) and give REST to you and to us as well….when the Lord Jesus is REVEALED from heaven in blazing fire with his mighty angels. (2 Thes. 1:6,7).
Both passages clearly show the church will be on the earth for the rapture and second coming. If 1 Thes. 4:17 is a pretrib rapture and 2 Thes. 1:6,7 is clearly the Lord’s second coming, how can the church be on the earth for it if she comes with Him? Problem solved if both are a post trib event. Whatever pretrib argument is presented, it must be reconciled with this. Both of Paul’s letters are addressed to the church, not to the church of the “Tribulation Saints.”
So, let’s take a look at reconciling these passages as he suggests.
Our first principle is that which Greg Koukl has espoused: Never Read a Bible Verse. As Koukl says:
If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one single skill I could impart, one useful tip I could leave that would serve you well the rest of your life, what would it be? What is the single most important practical skill I’ve ever learned as a Christian?
Here it is: Never read a Bible verse. That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph at least.
In other words, we need to read in context. I would also say that we need to read such that Scripture interprets Scripture, i.e. since the Bible written under God’s direction doesn’t contradict itself, various passages on the same subject should correlate and ultimately agree in their message, or two passages to be disproven that supposedly correlate. It can also help to read different Bible translations, which possibly provide more information for what we’re trying to learn. Beyond that, doing a word study with the original Hebrew or Greek – since their meanings are often more expansive than our English definitions – can enable us to zero in on what is actually being said.
From what I can tell, postribber used the NKJV for 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and the NIV for 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7. That’s fine. Here in the ESV is the entire passage for that first reference, namely 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Paul’s letter is to the believers in the Thessalonian church. The context is that someone had stirred up concern among them regarding the fate of those who had previously died in Christ because of the anticipated return of Jesus. Paul assures them that those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died) as believers in Christ, at the return of the Lord, these saints would be resurrected first. Immediately following, living believers would likewise be taken up from the earth.
As postribber seems to acknowledge, this is a Rapture passage. Note that we rise to the clouds and meet Christ in the air. This is important in contrasting with the 2nd Coming. Of significant importance is Paul’s last sentence. Whatever the timeframe of this event, we should be encouraged by it. There’s something special about it such that Paul wants to inspire us. We who believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture equate this with what Paul describes as our Blessed Hope in Titus 2:13. How could we ever be encouraged by the fact that we must endure the horrific wrath of God like those who have chosen not to believe in Christ and trust Him for His deliverance? My Commentary titled Tribulation Desolation: Good Luck Post-Tribbers! reviews Isaiah 24 to show how awful this 7-year period will be upon the earth. Definitely not a place for the Bride of Christ whom He loves too much to subject us to this torture.
Notice also, that three events occur with this appearance of Christ:
- A loud command
- The voice of the archangel
- The trumpet call of God
The Greek word for the English “caught up” is harpazo. It’s this word translated in Latin that gives us our English translation of Rapture.
Moving to the next passage, let’s look at the expanded context of 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10:
4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
The circumstances addressed by Paul have to do with persecution that the Thessalonian church is facing. Unlike the 1 Thessalonians passage which is specifically addressing the Rapture – as postribber agrees – this passage has a different purpose. Paul’s point is that those who afflict God’s children will be judged and punished. When will this happen? On the Day of the Lord – see here and here. Typically this Day means both the extended period from Jesus’ crucifixion to a very specific time of God’s wrath. We can see in this passage that it’s this singular Day about which Paul writes. It’s a Day of destruction and eternal separation from the Lord for those who have not believed in Him. At that time, His holy people – believers – will marvel and glorify His Name.
Notice the distinct difference as to how this event plays out compared with our prior verses. Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire. His powerful angels are with Him. He punishes unbelievers with everlasting destruction. He is seen with awe by those who have believed.
There is no correlation here whatsoever. To think they describe the same event is foolish.
We look to Zechariah 14:4-5 for further description:
4 On that day his [the Lord’s] feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
Jesus comes and stands on the earth on the Day of Lord. In the Rapture, He appears in the clouds in the air and never touches the earth.
Now, postribber might say, “Hey, how is it that believers are witnessing this event? Doesn’t that prove the church is on the earth watching Christ’s return in this manner along with unbelievers who will be judged?”
No. Consider Zechariah’s last sentence above and then recall Revelation 19:11-14:
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
There we are following right behind Jesus from heaven where we’ve been for the last seven years, marveling and glorifying Him all the way to earth where He will stand. Yes, there are believers on earth at this time who will witness this great event, but these are ones who have come to the Lord during the Tribulation and remain alive. It is these (Jew and Gentile) who will enter into the Millennial Kingdom in their mortal bodies.
There is much more we could discuss about these two distinct events: the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the true church of Jesus Christ and His 2nd Coming on the Day of the Lord. The first is a merciful deliverance for those of us who have loved Jesus in response to His love for us. The second is a great and terrible day that will bring fear and the Lord’s vengeance upon an anti-God world.
These two passages that postribber cites couldn’t be more different in their description and intent. God in His mercy will rescue us before the coming period of Jacob’s Trouble. All believers should rejoice in this and give God the glory He deserves, for He is worthy.
Thank you, Jesus, for this wonderful promise!