Challenging the Fifty Arguments for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

In his book The Rapture Question, John F. Walvoord(1) sets forth fifty separate arguments that are intended to support the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine. My recent book The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View successfully challenges four of the five pillars supporting the pre-tribulation rapture teaching, we should find that the ideas reflected within these fifty arguments, and built upon those five pillars, are equally challenged. Those questions covered in detail in the In addition, there are some duplicate questions whose wording is varied only slightly. These will be noted throughout.

1) While posttribulationism appeared as early as 2 Thessalonians 2, many in the early church believed in the imminence of the Lord’s return, which is an essential doctrine of pretribulationism.

As shown in Section 4 of The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View, imminence is an essential part of our Lord’s return at any time, whether one takes a pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib view. Why? Because we’re reminded repeatedly in scripture that the day and hour of our Lord’s return is left to God’s timing – outside of and overriding any preceding events.

2) The detailed development of pretribulational truth during the past few centuries does not prove that the doctrine is new or novel. Its development is similar to that of other major doctrines in the history of the church.

In my book The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View we found the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine to be in contradiction to scripture in four of its five core elements. As a result, this argument becomes less relevant. It is made historically irrelevant by the writings of George E. Ladd(2)

3) Pretribulationism is the only view that allows literal interpretation of all Old and New Testament passages on the Great Tribulation.

This may appear to be the case from the pre-tribulationists point of view. Yet our literal review of the related scriptures did not conclude with a pre-tribulation rapture. In all honesty this reader found many of their “literal” translations to be based on subjective points of view. Hardly the case from which to build a doctrine of this nature. Especially considering that their literal translation failed to recognize the difference between the Great Tribulation and the Day of our Lord; two very different periods with opposing purposes by opposing forces.

4) Pretribulationism distinguishes clearly between Israel and the church and their respective programs.

Again, this distinction is not unique to pretribulationism. Section 5 of my book shows God has a clear plan for the nation of Israel, the Gentile world, and the body of believers. Each is achieved in a unique way and at differing times, but the result is the same. What pretribulationism overlooks is the unity in the body of believers across both covenants and God’s plan to bring the nation of Israel into that same covenant. Walvoord wants to claim the church is unique at the expense and exclusion of the others. Clearly from scripture, Christ wants to do just the opposite.

5) Pretribulationism maintains the scriptural distinction between the Great Tribulation and tribulation in general that precedes it.

This is not unique to pretribulationism nor does it directly support it. Though pretribulationism sees the distinction it fails to fully understand the underlying purpose behind that distinction and its role in the redemptive process.

6) The Great Tribulation is properly interpreted by pretribulationists as a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration. It is not the purpose of the tribulation to prepare the church for glory.

It is clear from scripture that God is using the circumstances of the Great Tribulation to complete his “time of the gentiles” and lead Israel to repentance and acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, the second part of Walvoord’s statement – It is not the purpose of the tribulation to prepare the church for glory, has no scriptural basis provided here or in his book. First he mistakes the Great Tribulation for the Day of the Lord. That together with not recognizing one of the key purposes for the body of believers is to glorify God and Jesus Christ at his appearing. This was detailed in Section 2 of The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View.

7) None of the Old Testament passages on the tribulation mention the church.

This is not a valid argument for anyone who understands the full nature of the mystery of God revealed in Christ Jesus. The extending of God’s grace to the Gentiles was a mystery until Christ, so it’s consistent with God’s purpose that they would not be mentioned. Though indirectly they were mentioned (Genesis 49:8-10; Deuteronomy 32:16,19-21). This was covered in detail throughout my book.

8) None of the New Testament passages on the tribulation mention the church.

We’ll look at each of the scriptures he references. It’s also important to remember that when proving the church was exempt from wrath, Walvoord failed to notice that ecclesia did not appear in any of the scriptures he references. There it was acceptable and here it isn’t? In Appendix-A of my book I go to great lengths to detail the many pronouns and adjectives use in scripture to refer to Christ’s body of believers.

Matthew 13:30, 39-42, 48-50
First of all, these scriptures could hardly be considered definitive scriptures on the tribulation – especially since they are parables. In addition, the context of the scriptures is not the tribulation, but the kingdom – which isn’t established until after Christ is revealed, gathers his saints, executes God’s judgment and wrath, arrives to earth, then establishes his kingdom. These details were addressed in Section 3 of my book.

Matthew 24:15-31
This was covered in detail in Chapters 2 and 3 of my book.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
Who is Paul writing to if not part of the church – the church at Thessalonica. In verse 10 Paul includes himself in “us”, so are we to assume he is excluded from the body of believers?

1 Thessalonians 5:4-9
Here Paul is admonishing the church at Thessalonica (the Thessalonians). First calling them brethren, children of light, children of the day, we who are the children of light. Who else, other than the body of believers can put on the breastplate of love, or helmet of faith, or would have the hope of salvation?
But then verse 9 is the very verse Walvoord uses to claim the church was not appointed to wrath, but salvation. So why does he say now that it doesn’t refer to the church?

2 Thessalonians 2:1-11
Sections 2 and 4 of my book detail the findings regarding Paul’s discussion here. As shown above, Paul is obviously speaking to a part of the body of believers – including himself in their company. If we view the context of the entire chapter, Paul clearly identifies who he is addressing – brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

Revelation 4-18
It is a claim often made in the pre-tribulation argument that because the church is not directly mentioned in Revelation chapters 4 through 18 it shows the church has been raptured away prior to the events outlined there. This was discussed in detail in Chapter 3 of my book. I’ll note numerous examples below.

  • Revelation 5:8-10 speaks of the prayers of the saints, how they came from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and are redeemed by God. This does not fit as a description of the nation of Israel, but only of the body of believers. Verse 10 goes on to say that this body of believers shall reign on earth – certainly a role committed to the faithful. (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:6)
  • Revelation 6:9-11 begins by illustrating the desire of those slain for Christ’s sake to see his vengeance upon those who dwell on the earth. It ends with a prophecy regarding the current dispensation for the Gentiles – the time should be fulfilled and that their fellow servants should likewise be martyred. This martyrdom of believers during the tribulation clearly points to at least a subset of the body of believers, as one could hardly martyr a non-believer.
    NOTE: As explained in Section 3 of my book, it is clear that the body of believers, at least those alive at our Lord’s return, witness the signs of his appearing (outlined in Revelation 6) and are gathered with him after those who have died in Christ are resurrected.
  • Revelation 7:9-17 clearly speaks of a body of believers (washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb) and prevailed through great tribulation. They have obtained their salvation and serve God in his temple. Details for this part of Revelation 7 are covered in Chapter 8 and Chapter 11 of my book.
  • Revelation 8 and 9 detail the wrath of God which begins after the seventh seal, delivered by a revealed Christ with his saints. These are the first 6 trumpet blasts which occur after the first resurrection. Revelation 9:4 refers to those men not sealed by God, inferring that those he did seal from the tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8) occurred before and shall not be harmed.
  • Revelation 10 speaks of preparation for sounding the seventh trumpet but is unclear as to when it actually sounds. The timing appears to be an interlude between the sixth trumpet and the seventh trumpet. This chapter focuses on the closing of the time of the Gentiles, which is part of the mystery of God.
  • Revelation 11, also part of the interlude, shifts the focus back to Israel. This chapter doesn’t follow the same timeline, but references a point in Revelation 9 when the bottomless pit is opened. At that time the two witnesses who have been given power to prophesy for 42 months (presumably the 3 ½ years of the Great Tribulation) are killed.

It would seem that this claim is not supported scripturally as there are clear references to the faithful body of believers up until Revelation 8 – by which time our Lord has returned and they are united with him.

9) In contrast to midtribulationism, the pretribulational view provides an adequate explanation for the beginning of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 6. Midtribulationism is refuted by the plain teaching of scripture that the Great Tribulation begins long before the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11.

This claim is not relevant to our discussion. However, Sections 2 and 3 of my book introduce a resolution to the conflicts presented by pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-tribulation viewpoints.

10) The proper distinction is maintained between the prophetic trumpets of scripture by pretribulationism. There is no proper ground for the pivotal argument of midtribulationism that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last trumpet in that there is no established connection between the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11, the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, and the trumpet of Matthew 24:31. They are three distinct events.

This claim is not relevant to our discussion. This conclusion regarding the trumpets neither supports nor hinders the pretribulational position.

11) The unity of Daniel’s seventieth week is maintained by pretribulationists. By contrast, posttribulationism and midtribulationists destroy the unity of Daniel’s seventieth week and confuse Israel’s program with that of the church.

This is essentially the same as argument #4. The reference to Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks prophecy represents a presupposition that the seventieth week is yet future. I sight multiple sources which show convincing and coherent arguments for the first-century fulfilment of the Seventy-Weeks prophecy. This together with the change Christ noted regarding Godly worship (Fourth Gospel 4:21-26) and his description of the a new temple in his own body (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:19-22), there appears no need for a third physical temple prior to Christ’s return. See the following article link for more details about the need for a third Jewish temple.

12) The translation of the church is never mentioned in any passage dealing with the second coming of Christ after the tribulation.

So let’s first look at the two primary scriptures Walvoord cites as relating to the pre-tribulation rapture of the church and see what references, if any, are made to the timing of that rapture.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, . . . and those who died in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet our Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with our Lord.

As shown in Sections 2 and 4 of my book, the context for these scriptures is the return of our Lord. Paul was attempting to reassure the Thessalonians about those who died in Christ. He makes it clear in verse 15, stating – for this we say to you by the very word of our Lord, that the timing of these events is to occur at – the coming of our Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all die but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.

In Chapter 5 of The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View we showed that the context for the timing of these verses is given earlier in verses 20-23 – Christ at his coming. Further details were provided in Chapters 8, 9, and 10 of my book.

So it’s important to note that even these two key references for Walvoord’s argument for a pre-tribulation rapture – point directly to the single event recorded in Matthew 24 that occurs after the tribulation – the return of our Lord. As we saw in Sections 2 and 3 of my book, the hang-up occurs because Walvoord fails to recognize the multi-phase aspect of Christ’s return and wrongly assigns the Great Tribulation to the Day of our Lord.

13) The church is not appointed to wrath, so therefore cannot enter the Great Day of His Wrath.

See argument #14.

14) The church will not be overtaken by the Day of the Lord, which includes the tribulation.

As shown in Section 1 of my book, Walvoord’s assertion that the church is appointed to salvation and not wrath is indeed scriptural. His further contention that the Day of the Lord includes the Great Tribulation is not. This was shown in Section 2 to be two distinct and separate events, motivated by separate parties. Though God does indeed use the tribulation to bring the nation of Israel to repentance, it is clearly Satan and his beast power that brings about this time of distress.

15) The possibility of a believer escaping the tribulation is mentioned in Luke 21:36.

As reviewed in Section 4 of my book on imminence, verse 36 doesn’t offer the escape from all this as some might imagine. This escape is achieved by remaining faithful and focused on our Lord through the turbulence that will be in the world. How can we have courage (mentioned in verse 28) in the midst of this upheaval? Because we’ll be expecting the revealing of our Lord and the salvation he brings with him.

16) The church of Philadelphia was promised deliverance from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” (Rev 3:10).

Here Walvoord correctly sees the context of this scripture as relating to the Lord’s return but is mistaken in thinking it refers to the Great Tribulation. As shown in Chapter 11 of my book, there is sufficient evidence to support the period being referred to is the Day of the Lord. Since the pre-tribulation perspective doesn’t distinguish properly between these two events, it can’t distinguish properly the hour of trial. The purpose for testing the unbelieving Israelites and the unbelieving Gentiles is to produce a result (Hebrews 3:7-10). For some that result will be rebellion. The testing of the faithful comes before the Lord’s return. For those faithful and enduring to the end (Matthew 24:13) the result will be a crown of life (James 1:1-3, 12; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Walvoord’s claim that the church is promised “deliverance from” the hour of trial is more accurately understood in light of the gospel which requires endurance through trials. (Luke 21:16-19; Romans 5:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:11-12; James 1:1-4)

17) It is characteristic of divine dealing to deliver believers before a divine judgement is inflicted on the world as illustrated in the deliverance of Noah, Lot, Rahab, etc.

Though God’s ability to rescue is evident and many examples are familiar to us, this perspective must be tempered with an awareness of the divine purpose behind each of these examples. Noah, for example, was delivered through the flood not from it. In the case of Christ’s return, the purpose for his church – his body of believers, is well established in scripture. In Section 5 of my book you can discover the many purposes for those who believe and trust God and how this is tied directly to our Lord’s return as described in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. (1 Peter 2:20-21, 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12, Fourth Gospel 17:20-25)

18) At the time of the translation of the church, all believers go to the Father’s house in heaven and do not immediately return to the earth after meeting Christ in the air as post-tribulationists teach. (John 14:3)

The Fourth Gospel 14:3 is similar to Matthew 24:31, Hebrews 9:28 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in that Christ’s promise is to gather together his body of believers to be with him wherever he is. This is a comfort to all who look for his appearance. This is not unique to pretribulationism.

The issue of – do not immediately return to the earth, is an area where Walvoord, McGee, and others fail to grasp the process involved with Christ’s return. The phases of Christ’s return are clearly outlined in Section 3 of my book, taken directly from scripture and ordered in a logical progression to fulfill the clear goals expressed by Christ himself. There is another reality the translation brings upon those redeemed at the Lord’s return. This translation, as explained in Chapter 8, moves one from the physical realm (corruption) to the spiritual realm (incorruption). A consistent oversight by many is that those abiding in the spiritual realm are not subject to time (a dimension of the physical realm) in the same way they were prior to translation. There can be no firm argument over event timing for Christ or any who are with him in the spiritual realm since they will no longer be bound by that constraint. Though we know not to what degree, we know that we will be like Christ – for we shall see him as he is. It would be presumptuous to assume we will have the full capabilities of the Godhead – knowing the beginning from the end. There are reasonable explanations why this relationship to time is restricted to the Godhead which alone it is said to be without beginning and without end.

19) Pretribulationism does not divide the body of Christ at the Rapture on a works principle. The teaching of a partial rapture is based on the false doctrine that the translation of the church is a reward for good works. It is rather a climatic aspect of salvation by grace.

Though I don’t disagree with Walvoord’s conclusion, this claim neither proves or supports the pre-tribulation perspective.

20) The scriptures clearly teach that all, not part, of the church will be raptured at the coming of Christ for the church.

No argument here. In fact, an unfiltered reading of scripture indicates all includes those who are faithful to God. This includes those in biblical history and those who endure the Great Tribulation.

21) As opposed to a view of a partial rapture, pretribulationism is founded on the definite teaching of Scripture that the death of Christ frees from all condemnation.

I would agree that scripture holds that faithfulness to God results in reconciliation and freedom from God’s wrath. This reconciliation is clearly free from any condemnation. Yet I find it interesting that Walvoord recognizes this and still seeks to separate those faithful in Israel’s past (the OT saints) with those faithful Gentiles today. Is it not the same faith in God? Did Christ not die for all the world? Did Israel have one God and we another? Is not faith the basis for reconciliation – given by the grace of God? Christ came to unite the faithful not divide them as the pretribulation perspective and the dispensational framework seek to do.

22) The godly remnant of the tribulation are pictured as Israelites, not members of the church as maintained by the post-tribulationists.

That there is a remnant of Israel which are sealed by God is clearly stated in Revelation 7. As explained in Section 5 of my book and elsewhere, the chosen, elected, saints of our Lord are alive and well during the tribulation and will glorify him at his appearing according to the will of God. Walvoord’s assertion to exclude them only comes about because of the improper timing of the rapture as taught by the pre-tribulation doctrine.

23) The pretribulational view, as opposed to posttribulationism, does not confuse general terms like elect and saints, which apply to the saved of all ages, with specific terms like church and those in Christ, which refer to believers of this age only.

The issue is not confusion, but exclusion. Scripture clearly teaches, as shown in Section 5 of my book, that Christ is building a unified body of believers that transcends the covenants and is inclusive for all who believe. Walvoord’s view is one of exclusivity toward the church – as though the church of this dispensation stands alone. According to scripture, Gentile believers in this dispensation are the wild branches grafted into the natural tree already occupied by those in Israel who gained access through belief. Only the unbelieving in Israel were cut off, and then, only temporarily. The division of the saints is a necessary conclusion on Walvoord’s part because of the improper timing of the rapture as taught by the pre-tribulation doctrine.

24) The pretribulational interpretation teaches that the coming of Christ is actually imminent.

As shown in Section 4 of my book, the topic of imminence surrounding our Lord’s return is not unique to the pretribulationists view. It is dictated in scripture by God’s authority over the day and the hour of our Lord’s return – of which no man knows. Christ specifically commands his disciples and followers to not be deceived regarding his return. Accordingly he provides an outline of events that precede his return so that we might have confidence and trust in him. The awareness and observation of these preceding events in no way undermines the imminence of his appearing since God will cut short the prescribed time according to his will and purpose.

25) The exhortation to be comforted by the coming of the Lord is very significant in the pretribulational view and is especially contradicted by most post-tribulationists. (1 Thes 4:18)

There is good reason for contradicting Walvoord’s use of this verse in the way that he does. His use contradicts the context. The comfort Paul is offering is not in response to his supporting arguments in verses 14-17, but in the subject of the discussion and the topic they were distressed about – verse 13: Now I want you to know, my brethren, that you should not grieve over those who are dead, as those do who have no hope.
Is there comfort in the certainty that our Lord will return and bring with him our salvation? Certainly! But this context does not assure the timing of his return according to Walvoord’s view – as scripture has shown repeatedly.

26) The exhortation to look for “the glorious appearing” of Christ to His own (Titus 2:13) loses its significance if the Tribulation must intervene first. Believers in that case should look for signs.

See argument #28

27) The exhortation to purify ourselves in view of the Lord’s return has most significance if his coming is imminent (1 John 3:2-3).

See argument #28

28) The church is uniformly exhorted to look for the coming of the Lord, while believers in the tribulation are directed to look for signs.

This is another misdirection. By reviewing all the scriptures that Walvoord and other pretribulationists cite regarding the return of our Lord, the majority do not contain direct references to “the church” but use a wide range of adjectives, as illustrate in Section 4, Section 5, and Appendix-A of my book. Yet when Walvoord gets to scriptures relating to believers in the tribulation, all of a sudden these adjectives no longer reference the church. Again, we’ve shown there is no basis for this scripturally, but is another byproduct of improper timing of the rapture as taught by the pre-tribulation doctrine.

By simply returning to the command of Christ to not be deceived, a command Walvoord overlooks completely, there is significance in both types of looking; looking for the signs which lead up to our Lord’s return as we await the imminent appearance of our Lord. Both aspects of awareness are not divided in their value or purpose when our focus is Christ.

29) The Holy Spirit as the restrainer of evil cannot be taken out of the world unless the church, which the Spirit indwells, is translated at the same time. The tribulation cannot begin until this restraint is lifted.

See argument #30

30) The Holy Spirit as the restrainer must be taken out of the world before “the lawless one,” who dominates the tribulation period, can be revealed.

It is interesting that Walvoord has concluded that the object restraining the man of sin from being exposed is in fact the Holy Spirit when there is no conclusive evidence to support such a claim. Here is an example where absence of information seems to attract supposition the way a black hole attracts matter. The suppositions on the character, nature, and makeup of what restrains is so varied it defies reason. There is another assumption occurring here and among others who venture into this void – that the object restraining the revelation of the man of sin is a global one instead of a local one. Local in the sense that it is only sufficiently retraining the man of sin from being exposed, as opposed to restraining all evil – which doesn’t fit with reality. Also, Paul makes no inference of any kind that the removal of this restrainer would have any adverse effect on those to whom he was speaking or those like them.

If it were the Holy Spirit, why is Paul constrained from speaking of it clearly? This is one of the few places in Paul’s writings that he seems to obscure what should be obvious, and unfortunately, that leaves the subject unanswered. We can however conclude that Walvoord’s position is flawed, by noting the following (as shown in Section 2, Section 3, and Section 4):

  • The revelation and subsequent activities of the Son of Perdition (Wicked One) precedes our Lord’s return
  • Believers will continue through this period of time until our Lord appears
  • Any restrainer that is removed to expose the Wicked One affects him, not us – thereby rendering this argument pointless

31) If the expression “except there come a falling away first” (KJV) is translated literally, “except the departure come first,” it would plainly show the necessity of the Rapture taking place before the beginning of the Tribulation.

As discussed in Section 2, Section 3, and Section 4 of The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View, there is much debate over the rebellion mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Some would translate it as “a falling away” or apostasy of the church, while others see it as a rebellion. By looking at the context of the sentence and the subject of the adjacent scriptures, it is this reader’s view that the context more closely matches that of a rebellion against God – and by extension, those who believe in and trust in God. It’s clear that the “Man of Sin” is referring to the beast power. The clear description of his anti-God attitude would be the catalyst to a global anti-God movement – resulting in families being split, betrayal, and hatred because of differing beliefs and the shift in power that the beast will control. Although this will certainly touch the church, I don’t see in the context that the church is the focus or source of it. Walvoord would choose to translate this “rebellion” as “departure” in order to fit the rapture prior to the revelation of the Man of Sin, but it’s an impossible fit when the context includes the rest of scripture.

32) According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, all believers of this age must appear before the judgement seat of Christ in heaven, an event never mentioned in the detailed accounts connected with the second coming of Christ to the earth.

Although this claim is not relevant to proving pretribulationism it warrants discussion. Obviously, Walvoord seeks to connect the pre-tribulation rapture with our appearance before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. Unless one was seeking a proof-text, how would one conclude that in order to stand before the judgment seat of Christ he must first appear? Nowhere in scripture, especially in this chapter, are the two connected, yet Walvoord concludes thus. Clearly this is the result of a presupposition brought to the text.

2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul goes on over the next several chapters reminding and admonishing the Corinthians for their proper conduct toward one another. Is there any clearer example of judgment on their part? How is it Walvoord, or anyone else for that matter, automatically assumes all judgment occurs at Christ’s second coming? For the world this has certainly shown to be true. For the body of believers we are told there is no condemnation for those in Christ. And God’s purpose for this in Christ? In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8)

Does not Christ bring judgment (or show justice) to the Gentiles (Matthew 12:17-21) through reconciliation with God? Is not Christ the intercessor (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:22-25) for those who believe? Who needs an intercessor except those who are under judgment. Is not each follower of Christ challenged daily in the scriptures to live according to the Spirit and to God rather than to the flesh and death? I submit and scripture supports that all called, chosen, and faithful in Christ gladly submit themselves daily to the righteous judgment of Christ in all things. How else can he complete in us the new creation and equip his firstfruits of salvation for priestly service in his kingdom? I thank God that through his Holy Spirit I can go before the mercy seat of Christ for help and strength in time of need. But more than that, I am thankful I can learn and grow under the righteous judgment of Yeshua, the Christ – a righteous judgment that leads to life eternal. One who is in Christ doesn’t have to wait for a future judgment; theirs is now.

33) If the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:1-5:14 are representative of the church as many expositors believe, it would necessitate the rapture and reward of the church before the tribulation.

Following Walvoord’s logic one would have to conclude likewise that Israel has been raptured since the expositors he refers to combine the twelve apostles with the twelve tribes of Israel – making them representative of both. But Walvoord clearly excludes Israel or any part of it from the church, this dispensation, and the associated rapture. If indeed the 24 elders are resurrected individuals, then it is their arrival in heaven upon thrones that precedes the tribulation, not the entire church. There remains far too much unknown in relation to them to make any sound judgment much less a formal doctrine.

34) The coming of Christ for his bride must take place before the second coming to the earth for the wedding feast (Rev 19:7-10)

As shown in Section 3 of my book, this is a valid observation, but it doesn’t require the interval Walvoord assumes. By distinguishing the process of Christ’s return, according to what scripture reveals, the only interval that exists is from the time Christ appears in the heavens to the time he sets foot on the Mount of Olives; the place he is promised to return to (Zechariah 14:1-9; Acts 1:11). Christ’s appearance is mentioned in Revelation 6 and is associated with the sixth seal. His setting foot on earth isn’t mentioned until Revelation 14 at the seventh trumpet. It is within that short interval that the returning Christ completes the following;

  • Sends his angels to first gather the resurrected saints
  • They then gather those alive and transformed to meet Christ in the sky
  • The 144,000 of the tribes of Israel are sealed and protected from God’s wrath
  • Christ executes God’s wrath upon the disobedient and unrepentant of the world
  • Christ has shared the wedding supper with the faithful – now clothed in fine linen, bright and pure (Revelation 19:6-8)
  • At some point prior to the seventh trumpet, the 144,000 are redeemed from the earth and stand with Christ in Zion (Revelation 14)
  • Those arrayed in fine linen, white and pure accompany Christ on horses to face the nations in battle as they’re gathered at the request of the beast power (Revelation 19:11-21; 17:14)

By discerning the varied purposes behind Christ’s return and the process by which he accomplishes each purpose, one can, with an unfiltered view of scripture, see how Christ does come for his church before setting foot on earth. And all this can occur without conflict or a pre-tribulation rapture.

35) Tribulation saints are not translated at the second coming of Christ but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming and building houses, and they will bear children (Isa 65:20-25). This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the second coming to the earth, as post-tribulationists teach.

As discussed in Sections 2 and 5 of my book, there is no division of the saints, chosen ones, elect, or the body of believers – but all are one body, purposed to glorify God and Jesus Christ at his appearing. We also saw how those faithful coming through the tribulation alive are clearly identified as “translated” in Revelation 7. Walvoord’s assertion here might be true if he is limiting the “tribulation saints” to those in Israel who come to believe in Christ, which is expounded in Romans 11 and elsewhere. It is clear also in Revelation 7 that a remnant of Israel (144,000) will be sealed and not harmed through the tribulation. So in the context of Israel, Walvoord’s assertion is accurate, but not in relation to the body of believers awaiting their salvation in Christ at his appearing. The rest of Israel is promised restoration. See argument #38 for further details.

36) The judgement of the gentiles following the second coming (Matt 25:31-46) indicates that both saved and unsaved are still in their natural bodies. This would be impossible if the translation had taken place at the second coming.

See argument #38

37) If the translation took place in connection with the second coming to the earth, there would be no need for separating the sheep from the goats at a subsequent judgement, but the separation would have taken place in the very act of the translation of believers before Christ actually sets up his throne on earth (Matt 25:31).

See argument #38

38) The judgement of Israel (Ezek 20:34-38), which occurs subsequent to the second coming, indicates the necessity of regathering Israel. The separation of the saved from the unsaved in this judgement obviously takes place sometime after the second coming and would be unnecessary if the saved had previously been separated from the unsaved by translation.

These are each related so I’ll cover them together by outlining the progression of events as shown in scripture. Some of this was covered in Section 2, Section 3, and Section 5 of my book in more detail.

The Second Coming of Christ

  1. Christ appears in the clouds of the sky and reveals himself to the world
  2. He gathers his chosen ones (body of believers) both dead and alive (up to that time) and translates them from corruption to incorruption, from physical to spiritual
  3. The 144,000 faithful in Israel are sealed and protected before the Day of the Lord commences
  4. Together with the saints (his translated chosen ones) Christ executes God’s wrath upon the earth
  5. He arrives on earth at the Mount of Olives to intercede for Zion and Jerusalem
  6. He brings all nations under subjection to his rule and establishes his kingdom
  7. Israel is regathered as a nation from all around the world and given their land and Jerusalem in which to dwell in peace (Ezekiel 20:34-44, Isaiah 60, 61, 62, Jeremiah 30)
  8. Israel is given the same covenant afforded the Gentiles prior to Christ’s return (Deuteronomy 30:3-6, Jeremiah 31:31-34)

During the time after his appearance and translation of his chosen ones, many will believe in Christ, yet will remain in the flesh – both Gentiles and Israelites. Matthew 25:31, as Walvoord pointed out, but somehow missed, is directed to the Gentile nations being gathered before him – not the body of believers. Another important element missing in Matthew 25:31-46 is the timing of the judgment. It clearly outlines the sequence of events, but indicates no time period over which they occur. Walvoord clearly expects this judgment to occur immediately after Christ’s second coming. The sequence is correct, but not the timing. Compare this to Revelation 20 which recounts the first resurrection (of the chosen ones) and speaks of a pending second death. It then goes on to speak of the great white throne judgment – where those whose names are not written in the book of life, after being resurrected to physical form (the second resurrection), were cast into the lake of fire as part of this second death. Revelation 20 gives the timing for these events and it is clearly not immediately after Christ’s return.

Contrasts Between the Rapture and the Second Coming

39) At the time of the rapture the saints meet Christ in the air, while at the second coming Christ returns to the Mount of Olives to meet the saints on earth.

We would agree with the first part of Walvoord’s argument – At the time of the rapture the saints meet Christ in the air, since this is consistent with scripture as shown in Section 3 of The Ratpture Question – An Unfiltered View. What’s also shown in Section 3 is that the rapture and the return to earth are each part of the same event occurring at the end of the tribulation after Christ’s appearing. See the outline of the phases of that event as reviewed earlier in argument #38.

It should also be noted that it’s due to the attempt to separate these two phases (2 & 5) of the same event that’s at the heart of the issue. Christ does return to the earth, but it is to intervene for Israel and Zion as part of executing God’s wrath prior to establishing his kingdom. The saints he’s referring to at the Mount of Olives are the 144,000 spoken of in Revelation 14. It is clear from Revelation 7 that the 144,000 were sealed and protected until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. They were not translated at that time. They are the faithful 144,000 of Israel who lived through most of the tribulation, and are translated just prior to the seventh trumpet. This is covered in detail in my book.

40) At the time of the Rapture the Mount of Olives is unchanged, while at the Second Coming it divides and a valley is formed to the east of Jerusalem (Zech 14:4-5).

See argument #39

41) At the Rapture living saints are translated, while no saints are translated in connection with the Second Coming of Christ to the earth.

See argument #38 and #39

42) At the Rapture the saints go to heaven, while at the Second Coming to the earth the saints remain on the earth without translation.

See argument #38 and #39

43) At the time of the Rapture the world is unjudged and continues in sin, while at the Second Coming the world is judged and righteousness is established in the earth.

Technically this is true, even though Walvoord means a pre-tribulation rapture. In actuality, the phases of Christ’s return are such that the rapture occurs second, after his appearing. Then the judgment and establishment of righteousness on earth follows as the remaining phases of his Second Coming are completed.

44) The translation of the church is pictured as a deliverance before the day of wrath, while the second coming is followed by the deliverance of those who have believed in Christ during the tribulation.

As shown in Section 2 and Section 3 of my book, Walvoord is technically correct about the first part. His mis-application occurs because he fails to distinguish between the tribulation, a time of Satan’s wrath which ends at Christ’s appearing, and the time of God’s wrath which Christ executes. See argument #38 and #39 for additional details.

45) The rapture is described as imminent, while the second coming is preceded by definite signs.

As shown in Section 3 and Section 4 of my book, the return of Christ is imminent under all scriptural conditions since God alone holds the timing of that event and no man knows the day or the hour – regardless of what events precede it.

46) The translation of living believers is a truth revealed only in the New Testament, while the second coming with its attendant events is a prominent doctrine of both Testaments.

It’s surprising that with Walvoord’s view of the church in this dispensation and its relationship to the mystery revealed in them he would think this argument is unique to the pre-tribulation perspective. Since the mystery, as detailed in Section 5 of my book, was just that – a mystery – it should be no surprise to anyone that said translation would only be mentioned in the New Testament. It should be noted though that God gave hints of the mystery on earlier occasions (Genesis 49:8-10; Deuteronomy 32:16,19-21).

47) The Rapture concerns only the saved, while the Second Coming deals with both saved and unsaved.

See arguments #39 – #45

48) At the Rapture Satan is not bound, while at the Second Coming Satan is bound and cast into the abyss.

See arguments #39 – #45

49) No unfulfilled prophecy stands between the church and the Rapture, while many signs must be fulfilled before the Second Coming.

See arguments #39 – #45

50) No passage dealing with the resurrection of saints at the second coming ever mentions translation of living saints at the same time.

The only reason Walvoord can state this as an argument is his pre-association of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 :51-52 to a pre-tribulation rapture. In Section 3, Section 4, and Section 5 we show clearly that the context of these two scriptures is certainly the second coming of Jesus Christ, making this argument immaterial.


Footnotes:

  1. The Rapture Question – second edition, John F. Walvoord – Fifty Argumnents for Pretribulationism, Chapter 20 (pg 269)
  2. The Blessed Hope, George Eldon Ladd