The best thing my mother did for me, as a boy, was teach me Bible verses. But she also tried to get me to eat peas. I hated peas. Still do. My mother often said, "Try these, Allen. These peas are different." But somehow they never were.
Well, now that I'm an adult, I get to say, "These arguments are different." Instead of proving that the rapture comes before the tribulation, these arguments prove that the rapture cannot come after the tribulation. Instead of going in the front door, I'm coming through the back door.
Try these arguments. They're different.
"But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36). "In such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes" (Matthew 24:44).
In contrast to the unknown day, we also read about a known day. The 1260 days (Revelation 12:6) coincides with the 42 months (Revelation 13:5) or three and one-half years (Revelation 12:14). Unlike schemes of today that pretend to predict the time of the trumpet sound, this future timetable has a clear starting point, a clear duration, and a clear ending point. It begins at the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:1516), and it ends at the return of Christ (Revelation 19:20).
The known day and the unknown day must be different days. The rapture cannot occur on the known day.
Some try to dull the sharp point of the known day by saying the time is shortened (Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20). In other words, the 1260 days will turn out to be less than 1260 days. But the "shortened days" has at least two other interpretations that do not contradict other Scriptures. Why pick the one interpretation that contradicts several other Scripture passages? No, the 1260 days will turn out to be 1260 days, exactly as prophesied.
You may ask, doesn't a close look at the context reveal that the unknown day appears in a context after the tribulation? Doesn't Matthew 24:29 say, "after the tribulation"? Yes, you are right. But a closer look at the context reveals a double reference. And this double reference reinforces the idea of two different days.
"In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather together first the tares.... the harvest is the end of the world.... As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.... So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just." (selections from Matthew 13)
Separate the wheat from the tares? No. Separate the tares from the wheat? Yes. The order of gatherings at this time is opposite to the rapture.
"I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Luke 17:3437).
"Eagles" is better translated "vultures." "Body" means "corpse" according to the parallel passage Matthew 24:28. Those taken on that day end up as corpses for vultures to feed on. This cannot be the rapture.
You may answer that the birds of prey gather around those left rather than around those taken. Consider two points. First, Revelation 19:17 shows that the birds of prey gather to a certain spot rather than being scattered to find whoever is left. Jesus' answer here in Luke 17 also speaks of such a gathering.
Second, when the disciples asked "Where?" it naturally implies "Where are they taken?" We already know where they are left. That's obvious. We know where the bed is, where the mill is, where the field is. That's where they are left. So the disciples wanted to know where they are taken. The only time the other meaning makes sense is when you ask, "Where did I leave my glasses?" But in this context where people are snatched away from various places, the natural question is "Where are they taken?"
It is those taken who end up as corpses for vultures to feed on. This is the opposite of the rapture.
"[Noah] entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. ... the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:2730).
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity" (Matthew 13:41).
"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape [strong dual negative in the Greek]" (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
"When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ... That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 1:7b8; 2:12).
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Malachi 4:1).
Present-day believers will be in the millennium, of course, but as rulers, not as subjects. We'll have glorified bodies, not decaying bodies. Who will we rule over? Who are the subjects with natural bodies, who bear children, who are subject to sin and death, and who finally rebel after the 1000 years are over? (Isaiah 65:20, Revelation 20:79)
According to the several Scriptures quoted above, only believers enter the millennium. These believers have children, and apparently some of these children do not become believers.
Where do the original believers come from? They aren't raptured believers. They must be after-the-rapture believers. If the rapture were at the end of the tribulation, then there would be no believers left with natural bodies. Therefore, the rapture cannot come at the end of the tribulation. Believers who populate the millennium are those saved after the rapture and who survive the tribulation period. By the way, those killed during the tribulation are resurrected before the millennium; so they will have glorified bodies for the 1000 years.
Some argue that Israel gets saved as Christ returns, just moments after the rapture, but just in time to get saved and avoid destruction. That's pretty close timing. Impossible timing, in fact. According to the Bible, Israel does get saved at the end, but it's just before the end. (Hosea 5:15, Matthew 23:39)
But beyond Israel, the Bible also teaches that many nations will populate the millennium. (Zechariah 14:1619, Revelation 20:8) How do they get there?
A rapture at this time just doesn't fit.
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from [out] the hour of temptation [testing], which shall come upon all the world, to try [test] them that dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 3:10).
What could be clearer than that? It doesn't say "take out." No, "take out" and "keep out" have entirely different meanings. It doesn't say "keep in." No, "keep in" and "keep out" have entirely different meanings. It doesn't say "keep in and take out." No, it takes twice as many words to express those two distinct ideas. God chose this simple word combination to communicate as clearly as possible.
Some say this means believers are protected during testing instead of from testing. But I answer, protected from what? Believers during that time are killed, not kept. (Revelation 6:9, 13:7) Some may respond, they are protected from God's wrath, not Satan's wrath. But I answer, look at the verse again. It doesn't talk about God's wrath. It talks about testing. Testing precedes wrath. The outcome of testing is wrath or reward, as the case may be. Saints at that time are tested. Even post-trib theologians warn us to prepare ourselves spiritually for that testing. They are the same ones who teach us (and correctly so) that God's wrath focuses at the end of the tribulation, leaving us with the question, "Protected from what?"
Let's think deeper. The reason for the promise illuminates the purpose of the promise. The reason ("because you have already demonstrated patience in testing") prompts the purpose ("I will keep you from further testing"). Is God saying, "Since you have shown patience, I will now give you a bigger test?" No, He is saying, "You have already passed the test. Congratulations!" You have shown patience, haven't you? You have leaned on God's Word during testing, haven't you? Then this promise is for you.
Answering the objections is easy enough, because the verse is clear, but what really drives me crazy are those who throw up their hands and say that we can't know the meaning. Have you ever read something like, "If the theologians disagree on this, then you and I can't possibly know the meaning"? That effectively takes the Book out of your hands. How dare you read the Book for yourself! How dare you claim to interpret it for yourself!
No, rather than take the Book out of your hands, I want to put it back into your hands. God says Revelation is unsealed. (Revelation 22:10) How dare I seal it back up again. Yes, Revelation has many symbols. Some symbols are explained within the book, some are explained in the Old Testament, and some are left unexplained. But in Revelation 3:10 we don't even have symbols to worry about. It is a clear statement in an unsealed book.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [literally righteousnesses, plural] of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called [invited] unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:79b).
How do we know she is ready? Well, just look at her. She's arrayed in fine linen. What is she ready for? The marriage supper. The invitations are about to go out.
According to some, the marriage supper is over by this time. But for a marriage supper to be complete, you need the bridegroom, bride, and guests. The supper waits not only for the bride to get ready, but also for the guests to be invited.
But that's beside the point. The point is that the wife is ready by Revelation 19 before Christ descends to earth. The wife is the church. (2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:3132) For the wife to be ready, she must be in heaven. Fine linen awaits heaven. Her wedding gown is complete. She is ready.
You may ask me, isn't the wife ready long before Revelation 19? I think so. Then why isn't she mentioned until now? For the sake of contrast. The wife in 19:7 contrasts the harlot in verse 19:2. The fine linen, clean and white, in 19:8 contrasts the purple and scarlet in 17:4. The marriage supper in 19:9 contrasts the supper of the great God in 19:17. So it fits the narrative here.
The marriage process in the days when Revelation was written consisted of three parts, the engagement, the processional, and the feast. When Luke 12:36 says, "return from the wedding," it speaks about the return from the wedding processional. (The Greek and the KJV simply say "wedding," not "wedding feast.") Luke 12:36 backs up Revelation 19. A return from the wedding implies a return before the wedding.
"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats [thrones]: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads [victory] crowns of gold" (Revelation 4:4).
Who are the elders? Some may think that the elders are angels. But God doesn't award victory crowns to angels. These crowns are reserved for sinners who overcome by faith. You can say the elders are the church, or Israel, or a combination of both, or the New York Yankees, minus one player. I don't care. But definitely human.
Crowns come when Christ comes. (2 Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 22:12)
Therefore, Christ must have come prior to Revelation 4:4, but after Revelation 3 when the church is still on earth. Somewhere in between there.