Will the Church Go Through the Great Tribulation?
Does the Bible teach that the rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation?
We have already given five scriptural proofs which shows that the rapture of the Church will occur after the Tribulation, not before. In review, they are as follows:
1. Jesus described the days of the Great Tribulation as being so severe that He will shorten them by His return for “the elect’s sake.”
2. Jesus placed the timing of the rapture “after the tribulation.”
3. Paul asserted that the rapture will occur after the Antichrist is revealed, not before.
4. Paul linked the rapture with the climactic Day of the Lord.
5. Jesus and the apostles related the rapture to the end of the world, not to a secret rapture before the Great Tribulation.
At this time, let us consider three more very significant proofs. Regarding the return of Christ and the rapture of the Church, the Bible mentions three “last” things—the Last Day, the last trumpet, and the last enemy. If we understand the significance of these three last things, we will understand not only the timing, but also the manner and the purpose of the Second Coming.
As we consider what the Bible says about each of these three last things, we will see unmistakable evidence that the Church will be raptured after the Tribulation, not before.
The first “last” to be considered is “the last day.”
Since the word “last” speaks of finality, can we understand the phrase “last day” in an absolute sense? Yes, we can. Scripture makes a clear distinction between “the last days” (plural), which started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17), and “the last day” (singular). Thus, the Last Day is the last day of these last days. In John’s Gospel this phrase is used in connection with the resurrection of believers five times:
Jesus said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
Verse 40: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Verse 44: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Verse 54: “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
In addition, when Jesus informed Martha that her brother would rise again; she replied, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). From this we infer that the Jews, in general, believed that the resurrection would occur at the Last Day.
These five scriptures clearly teach that it is the Father’s will for all believers, that is, the whole body of Christ, to be resurrected on the Last Day, not before. If by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is to be established, how much more should this five-time repeated statement convince any reasonable person that the resurrection will occur on the Last Day of all days—the final day.
But these passages speak only about the resurrection of believers. What about unbelievers? Will they also be raised on the Last Day?
Yes, absolutely! Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Therefore, since the wicked must be resurrected before they can be judged, they too will rise—on “the last day.”
Clearly, then, since all believers will be raised on the Last Day, we know the Bible teaches a one-time resurrection for all believers. Thus, there’s no reason to believe that some believers will be raised at a rapture before the Last Day. Then too, since that day is definitely the Day of Judgment, we have further evidence that the Church will be raptured after the Tribulation, at the very end of time—the Last Day.
The second “last” to be considered is the last trumpet. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we will see that it also relates to events that occur after the tribulation, such as the resurrection of all men, the Day of Judgment, and the end of the world.
With reference to the last trumpet, Paul declared, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. . . . So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption . . . then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
This passage reveals four important truths:
(1) Flesh and blood cannot inherit the heavenly kingdom, therefore believers must be changed and bear the “image of the heavenly” with new, glorified, immortal, imperishable bodies.
(2) The rapture will be a noisy event, not a secret one. Paul declared, “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised.”
(3) “All” believers will be resurrected and changed when the “last trump” sounds.
(4) Death, the last enemy, will be destroyed.
What about unbelievers? Will they also be raised when the last trumpet sounds?
In the Book of Revelation, chapters 10 and 11, the apostle John spoke of seven angels blowing seven trumpets. We know that the “seventh” trumpet of Revelation 11:15,18 is the “last” trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 because it is the last trumpet in the series of seven and because it also includes final events such as the resurrection and judgment of all men.
John declared, “And the seventh angel sounded . . . And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great: and shouldest destroy them which destroy [corrupt] the earth” (Rev. 11:15,18).
These verses show that the last and seventh trumpet will be “the time of the dead” when the nations will be judged and the saints will be rewarded. Then too, John also revealed that with the sounding of the seventh trumpet “there should be time no longer”—the “mystery of God” will be completed “as he hath declared to his servants the prophets” (10:6,7). Truly, the last trumpet will be God’s alarm clock to awaken all the dead and to sound the alarm that time is no more. The whole purpose of God, as He had spoken to the prophets, will be fulfilled.
Are there other passages of Scripture that link the sounding of the last trumpet with Christ’s coming after the Tribulation at the end of the world?
Yes, indeed! In fact, this truth is clearly seen in three other passages of Scripture which depict the rapture of believers. Consider the following:
1. Jesus Himself associated the “great sound of a trumpet” and the “gathering” of His elect not only with His coming “immediately after the tribulation” but also with a clear description of the end of the world (Matt. 24:29-31).
2. The apostle Paul spoke of the “last trump” and all believers being “changed” in the context of Christ’s coming at “the end.” (Compare 1 Cor. 15:51,52 with 23,24.)
3. Paul also linked the “trump of God” and the saints being “caught up” with the climactic Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:6-5:2)—the day in which the earth will be consumed by fire (2 Pet. 3:10).
Undoubtedly, then, the sounding of the last trumpet, after the Tribulation, will signal forth not only the rapture, but also the end of the world—the Last Day of these last days.
What are the major events that will occur simultaneously when the last trumpet sounds?
Scriptural passages that depict our Lord’s coming and the trumpet demonstrate that the sounding of the last trumpet will signal forth at least ten simultaneous final events. They are as follows:
1. When the last trumpet sounds, Christ will “appear” with “power and great glory,” not secretly (Matt. 24:30,31).
2. When the last trumpet sounds, “all the tribes of the earth [shall] mourn” (Matt. 24:30), both Jew and Gentile. Upon seeing Jesus, they will realize that “the great day of his wrath is come” and that they are not “able to stand” (Rev. 6:15-17). See also Rom. 2:4-11; Rev. 1:7; Isa. 24:17-20; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-16.
3. When the last trumpet sounds, Christ will come with His saints: Paul wrote, “Them also that sleep in Jesus shall God bring with him” (1 Thess. 4:14-16).
4. When the last trumpet sounds, the general resurrection and judgment of all mankind will occur (1 Cor. 15:25,26, 51-54; Rev. 11:15,18).
5. When the last trumpet sounds, the righteous will be raptured (Matt. 24:29-30; 1 Thess. 4:16,17) and “inherit” the heavenly kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50-54; Rev. 21:7; Matt. 25:34).
6. When the last trumpet sounds, the wicked will be punished (Matt. 24:29-31 with 37-41; 1 Thess. 4:16-5:9; Rev. 11:15,18). As in the day that Noah entered into the ark, believers will be “taken” to be with the Lord, but unbelievers will be “left” for immediate destruction (Matt. 24:37-41; Luke 17:26-31).
7. When the last trumpet sounds, Christ will conquer all His enemies, including death, the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-54). See also Rev. 20:14.
8. When the last trumpet sounds, the end of the world will come (Matt. 24:29-31; Rev. 10:6,7).
9. When the last trumpet sounds, time shall be no more. “The mystery of God” will be completed “as he hath declared to his servants the prophets” (Rev. 10:6,7).
10. When the last trumpet sounds, Jesus Christ, with His saints, “shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15; 22:5) in the everlasting “kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50; Matt. 25:34) where there is “no more death” (Rev. 21:4; Luke 20:34-36).
Since these final events, which affect both saints and sinners, will happen simultaneously when Jesus returns and the last trumpet sounds, we see once again that the resurrection and rapture of the Church will occur after the Tribulation, not before.
The third “last” to be considered is the last enemy. It will be shown that this “last” also relates to the resurrection and judgment of all men when Jesus returns after the Tribulation, at the end of the world.
After His resurrection, our Lord ascended into heaven, and was exalted on “the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Pet. 3:22). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that our ascended Lord was exalted at His Father’s right hand and quoted David’s prophecy from Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool” (Acts 2:34,35). Likewise, Paul wrote, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26).
These verses refer to the present reign of Jesus and reveal that He must remain at His Father’s right hand until He comes to destroy all His enemies, including death, the last enemy. In other words, Jesus will not leave heaven before the Tribulation to rapture His Church and then return to earth at a later time to judge His enemies. No! He must reign until He comes to destroy all His enemies. This vitally important truth is mentioned eight times in Scripture—once by David, three times by our Lord, and four times by the apostles (Psa. 110:1; Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42,43; Acts 2:34; 1 Cor. 15:25,26; Heb. 1:13; 10:12,13).
Precisely, then, when will death, the last enemy, be destroyed? Will it occur after a future thousand-year reign of Christ, as many assume? According to 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, it will occur when the last trumpet sounds and believers are resurrected: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption . . . then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Obviously, then, when the last trumpet sounds and believers are resurrected, then all of Christ’s enemies, including the last enemy, will be destroyed.
Are there other passages of Scripture that associate Christ’s coming and the resurrection of believers with the destruction of all His enemies?
Yes, indeed! Since death, the last enemy, will be destroyed when Jesus comes with the sound of the last trumpet to resurrect His people, and since there can be no enemies left after the last enemy is abolished, we know that all of Christ’s enemies, which includes the wicked, the Antichrist, and Satan himself, will be destroyed simultaneously when our Lord returns. This truth is seen as follows:
• The destruction of the wicked. When our Lord shall “descend from heaven” with the “trump of God,” believers will be “caught up” and unbelievers will face “sudden destruction” (1 Thess. 4:16-5:3). In other words, when Jesus comes to be “glorified in his saints,” He will take “vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:7-10). See also Luke 17:26-30; 19:17,27; Rev. 19:15-18.
• The destruction of Antichrist. When Jesus comes to gather His Church, the Antichrist will be destroyed “with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:1-3,8). See also Rev. 19:20,21; Dan. 7:11; 8:25.
• The destruction of Satan. When the “Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire,” the wicked will be devoured with “fire” and, at that same time, “the devil that deceived them” will be cast into the lake of fire (2 Thess. 1:7,8; Rev. 20:9,10).
Clearly, then, the coming of Jesus to rapture His Church will be a final event. On that day, believers will be taken to be with Him and all His enemies will face immediate and eternal destruction.
How many passages of Scripture speak directly about the destruction of death, the last enemy?
In the New Testament only two passages of Scripture speak directly on this subject—Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:25,26,54, which we have already considered, and John’s account in Revelation 20:11-14, which reads as follows: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God . . . And they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.”
Here we see that death will be destroyed at the Great White Throne Judgment, which is John’s description of the Second Coming. Thus, we see once again that the destruction of death is associated with the resurrection.
Will believers be present at the Great White Throne Judgment?
Yes! Absolutely! John “saw the dead, small and great, stand before God” (Rev. 20:12). We have already seen that the “time of the dead, that they should be judged” occurs when the seventh and last trumpet sounds and includes both believers and unbelievers (Rev. 11:15,18).
John also stated that “they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:12,13). Jesus declared that when He comes “he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27). Paul indicated that “every man” includes believers as well as unbelievers ( Rom. 2:5-8). Also, that Jesus will judge the living and the dead at His “appearing” (1 Tim. 4:1,8).
Here, at the Great White Throne Judgment, we see that all men will be appointed to their eternal destinies: “He that overcometh, shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Rev. 21:7,8).
Daniel Webster, the noted American statesman, on being asked what was the greatest thought he had ever entertained, replied, “The greatest thought that has ever entered my mind is that one day I will have to stand before a holy God and give an account of my life.”
For the believer, what is the significance of death being destroyed?
Both the apostles Paul and John indicated that believers will “inherit” the heavenly kingdom of God. With new glorified bodies they will inherit the heavenly kingdom where there is “no more death” (Rev. 21:4). Jesus declared that “they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more” (Luke 20:35,36).
Clearly, then, the accounts of Paul and John both associate the destruction of death with Christ’s coming, the end of the world, the resurrection, and the saints inheriting the heavenly kingdom of God, where there is no more death.
Therefore, since our Lord “must reign” at His Father’s right hand until He destroys His enemies and since the very “last enemy” will be destroyed when He glorifies His saints, we can be absolutely certain that Jesus will not leave His throne to rapture His Church before the end of time. Scripture is unmistakably clear—Jesus will rapture His Church when He comes to destroy all His enemies, not before. This truth alone should be enough to convince an honest person that the teaching of a pre- or mid-trib rapture is scripturally impossible.
In fact, each of these three “last” things—the Last Day, the last trumpet, and the last enemy—reveals the same irrefutable truths—the Bible absolutely teaches one Second Coming of our Lord; one bodily resurrection of the dead; one judgment of all men; and that it will occur after the Tribulation, at the end of the world.
Radio listener, only true believers will be raptured on the Last Day. All others will be left to face God’s eternal wrath in the lake of fire. Are you a true believer? Are you prepared to stand before Jesus in the last day of judgment? If not, take heed to His warnings and repent now.
This message is available by tape. For your free copy, write to Agnes Macdonald, 2948 Creekwood Drive, Salem, Virginia 24153.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at this same time. God willing, my subject will be—Does the Bible teach that anyone will have opportunity to be saved after the Church is gathered? Invite a friend to listen with you. Until tomorrow, may God bless you and be with you.