In this post I’d like to answer four questions:
- Why are the Rapture and The Tribulation intimately connected?
- Is it wrong to want to escape The Tribulation?
- Are there other examples in Scripture (in addition to Daniel 9:26-27) of a time gap between verses, or even within one verse, that is equal in length to the Church age?
- Is The Tribulation due to the wrath of God and is it worse than any tribulation that we see now or ever have seen in this world?
- Why are the Rapture and The Tribulation intimately connected?
There is a reason why I pose this question. We’ve already spent a fair amount of time on Daniel 9:24-27 and how literal interpretation of this passage requires a gap between the 69th seven and the 70th seven. That gap is the Church age, the duration of which, at the present time, is about 2,000 years. The 70th seven is still to come. As I’ve endeavored to show, the 70th seven is the seven year Tribulation. Not Afraid asserts that there is either no gap or at best a minor gap between the 69th seven and the 70th seven and that, in fact, the 70th seven has already occurred many centuries ago.
I have asked myself many times why The Pretribulation Rapture is so closely tied to The Tribulation in all the commentaries that I’m familiar with that have been written by those who understand that The Rapture must come before The Tribulation. God does not desire that anyone should perish and during The Tribulation many will perish. Furthermore, The Tribulation is going to occur, so it must be necessary. The Tribulation cannot occur without the presence of The Antichrist on the earth. Remember, The Tribulation is initiated by the signing of a seven year covenant between the Antichrist and Israel. The Antichrist must therefore show up on the world stage in order for this covenant to be signed and for The Tribulation to be initiated. But what is required for the Antichrist to emerge? This is what Scripture says:
2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 (ESV) 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.
For the Antichrist, also known as the lawless one, to be revealed He who now restrains lawlessness must be out of the way. He who now restrains lawlessness is the Holy Spirit residing in those who are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Paul was writing to believers in the Corinthian church but what he wrote applies to all believers in this Church age. All believers in this age together make up the Church. The Holy Spirit in the Church is the Restrainer spoken about in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. The Holy Spirit Who dwells in all believers, i.e., in the Church, must be taken out of the way before the Antichrist can emerge and The Tribulation can begin.
Therefore the Rapture of the church must occur in order for The Tribulation to begin and God has definite purposes to accomplish by means of The Tribulation. That is why The Rapture and The Tribulation are so closely tied together and why the Rapture must happen first.
2. Is it wrong to want to escape The Tribulation?
First of all it is of the utmost importance to differentiate between persecution, which all followers of Jesus Christ can and must expect, and The Tribulation, a defined period of seven years in which God’s wrath is poured out on the earth.
Not Afraid quotes a pastor who, receiving daily death threats, said this:
“Why die a natural death when I can die a martyr’s death? For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (quoting Philippians 1:21).
To be sure, there are certainly periods of terrible persecution as well as periods of tribulation historically and at the present time. Yeshua told us to expect this:
John 16:20-21 (NASB) 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. 21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.
But this is persecution and tribulation. This is not The Tribulation. Brown and Keener seem to completely miss this point.
Remember, Jesus talked about this also:
Matthew 24:15-16 (NASB) 15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
Matthew 24:21 (NASB) 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
In the same paragraph, Not Afraid then refers to what a different pastor said:
This reminds me of the words of an Iranian pastor who was killed for his faith. Years earlier he had said, “What a waste of a death to die a natural death.” Do you think believers like this are afraid of the Antichrist?
Brown, Michael L.. Not Afraid of the Antichrist (p. 186). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Believers like the two pastors referenced in the above quotes are to be admired as heroes of the faith, but the question of whether such persons are afraid of the Antichrist is irrelevant.
Please remember that The Tribulation is a seven year period, the seventieth seven of Daniel. The second half of The Tribulation is The Great Tribulation, also known as The Time of Jacob’s Trouble. All of The Tribulation is bad but The Great Tribulation is especially bad.
What Jesus had to endure on the cross was much worse than The Great Tribulation. Why? Because He received the full force of God’s wrath in punishment as He paid for all the sins of the whole world ever committed, for all time (past, present, and future).
Nevertheless, I think it is important to note that although He did so willingly and in obedience to the Father, He absolutely did not look forward to this soon coming period of suffering. He wanted to avoid it if possible. How do we know this?
Matthew 26:38-39 (ESV) “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:42 (ESV) 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
So it is not wrong for us to want to escape the coming period of The Tribulation. But whether we want to go through The Tribulation or not is also entirely irrelevant. What is relevant is the Father’s will.
3. Are there other examples in Scripture (in addition to Daniel 9:26-27) of a gap equal to the Church age between two verses of Scripture or even within one verse?
Here are three examples:
Psalms 118:22 (NASB)
22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
First coming of Yeshua: the stone which the builders rejected.
Second coming of Yeshua: He has become the chief corner stone.
Zechariah 9:9-10 (NASB)
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
And the bow of war will be cut off.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
First coming: Humble and mounted on a donkey.
Second coming: And His dominion will be from sea to sea.
Luke 1:31-33 (NASB) 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
First coming: You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.
Second coming: He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end.
I could provide numerous additional examples in Scripture of a gap equal to the Church age between verses or even within verses of Scripture.
4. Is The Tribulation due to the wrath of God and is it worse than any tribulation that we see now or ever have seen in this world?
Brown and Keener do not accept that The Tribulation and The Time of Jacob’s Trouble (The Great Tribulation) will be worse than any tribulation they have already seen or heard about. Let’s look again at a quote from Not Afraid:
One of my closest friends is an Indian brother, and he told me that in 2017, four of his pastors working in tribal regions in India were martyred. A few years earlier, as persecution rose in the Indian state of Orissa, Hindu radicals rounded up pastors and their families, pouring gasoline on their wives and children and threatening to burn them to death if they did not deny Jesus. What will the Antichrist do that is worse than this?
Brown, Michael L.. Not Afraid of the Antichrist (p. 184). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Have Brown and Keener not read Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, or for that matter considered that all the apostles were martyred save for one (John, the author of Revelation)?
What Not Afraid is referring to here is tribulation and the type of tribulation in this case is persecution, very severe persecution. The Tribulation and tribulation are not the same even though the Greek word for both is the same (thlipsis). Let me try to show this to you in Scripture. In the two verses below I have italicized tribulation.
John 16:33b (ESV) In the world you will have tribulation.
Romans 8:35 (ESV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
The same Greek word, thlipsis, is used to translate tribulation in both of the above verses.
Let’s now look at two verses that talk about Great Tribulation:
Matthew 24:15-21 (ESV) 15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. (italics and bold type added)
Revelation 7:9-14 (ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The Greek word for tribulation is thlipsis as noted above. But the Greek words for Great Tribulation are megas and thlipsis. So The Great Tribulation is megas thlipsis. Megas is the word of origin for English words such as megabyte which means one million bytes (a byte is a unit of memory size) and megabar which means one million bars (a bar is a unit of pressure). So could The Tribulation be one million times worse than tribulation? I definitely would not rule that possibility out.
But now somebody might say, OK so the Great Tribulation or megas thlipsis is obviously very bad. But the Greek word for tribulation (thlipsis) is the same as the Greek word for Tribulation. Maybe The Tribulation is no worse than tribulation which is what the pastors referenced above experienced. The Greek word for Tribulation and tribulation is the same: thlipsis. No argument. The authors of Not Afraid have made it clear that they know this. But these two categories, tribulation and The Tribulation are not the same and we know that because of what the Book of Revelation tells us. Let’s look at just three judgements poured out by God in The Tribulation.
Revelation 6:7-8 (NASB) 7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
The Lamb, Jesus, God the Son, breaks the fourth seal and one-fourth of the population of the earth is killed by sword and famine and pestilence. The Lamb broke this seal (and all the other seals) and gave Death and Hades authority to do this destruction. This is the wrath of God because it is the Lamb, Yeshua our Messiah, who breaks the seal that unleashes this judgement. The text is quite clear on this. The origin of this judgement is not the world, the flesh, and the devil. The origin of this judgement is God.
The comparable judgement in Matthew is:
Matthew 24:7-8 (ESV) For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
And this judgement is part of the beginning of birth pains. It is in the first half of The Tribulation.
So, one-fourth of the population of the earth is killed by sword and famine and pestilence during the first half of The Tribulation! And the worst is yet to come!
Let’s look at two more judgements:
Revelation 6:12-17 (NASB) 12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Catastrophic events never seen or heard of on our planet or in our universe are described here (these events are yet future) and these are manifestations of the wrath of Him who sits on the throne and from the Lamb, Yeshua. But there is more coming:
Revelation 8:1-2 (NASB) 1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Revelation 8:6-7 (NASB) 6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.
7 The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
Jesus breaks the seventh seal which leads to the trumpet judgements. Seven angels stand before God and were given seven trumpets. The first trumpet sounded and there comes hail and fire mixed with blood and a third of the earth, a third of the trees, and all the green grass, were burned up.
This is only the first trumpet! There are six more trumpet judgements and then come seven bowl judgements, all manifestations of the wrath of God. These judgements are from God from first to last!
So, yes, The Tribulation is due to the wrath of God and it is worse than any tribulation that we have seen or ever will see in this world!
God loves people so much that He will do anything to deliver from eternal death those souls who call upon His name and there will be a great multitude of souls who will be delivered during this seven year Tribulation who would not otherwise be saved. And those who, despite everything God does, still reject His gracious offer will be separated from Him forever.
In the next post we will look at Not Afraid’s objections to The Pretribulation Rapture.