The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to
observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to
the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
July 29, 1990
1) The "Rapture" and "The Great Tribulation"
The "Rapture" and "The Great Tribulation"
by Tom Edwards
Neither the term "rapture" nor the premillennial concept of it is found
in the Bible, though its literal meaning to be "snatched up" is. This
false theory has probably arisen from a misconception of 1
Thessalonians 4:13-18 in which Paul is comforting the Christians who
had lost loved ones in the Lord. They were concerned as to what would
become of them when Jesus returns, and Paul assures them that those who
are "asleep" in Christ shall rise first to meet the Lord in the air. In
this context, Paul is only referring to believers.
One of the premillennial positions teaches that the "rapture" will
occur seven years before Christ returns to the earth to begin His
"thousand year reign." This seven-year period, according to this view,
will be the time of the "Great Tribulation."
Does God's word show that there is coming a "Great Tribulation," worse
than any this world has ever known? Let us look to the answer in
Matthew 24. In verse 3, it reads: "Now as He sat on the Mount of
Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, `Tell us, when
will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of
the end of the age?"'
Three questions are being asked:
1). "...when will these things be?" This pertains to the destruction of
Jerusalem. See Matt. 24:2.
2). "...what will be the sign of Your coming....? Christ's coming in
judgment upon Jerusalem is the meaning of this question and not the
Lord's second coming. (Similar phrases are found in the OT that relate
to God's judgment or wrath that was to be poured out upon the ungodly.)
Notice the following passage: (63) "But Jesus kept silent. And
the high priest answered and said to Him, `I adjure You by the living
God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.' (64) Jesus
said to him, `It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter
you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and
coming on the clouds of heaven"' (Matt. 26:63,64).
3). "...what will be the sign...of the end of the age?" The "end of the
age" indicates the end of the Jewish age and not the end of time.
Though Christ put the Old Covenant to death by His sacrifice on the
cross, many Jews continued living by it -- not accepting the New
Covenant that Jesus initiated by His blood. The destruction of
Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70 finally brought it to an end, for the
genealogical records were destroyed and with it the rights one needed
in order to serve as a priest or high priest in the temple (cf. Ezra
Matthew 24 reveals various events that were to occur prior to the
fulfillment of the above questions: false Christs would arise, there
would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilence, and
earthquakes. These would merely be "the beginning of sorrows."
Matthew 24:14 states: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached
in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will
come." Comment has been made today concerning all the modern
such as radio, TV, transportation, etc. -- which make it even easier to
reach all the world with the gospel of Christ; but let us not forget
that Paul declares in Colossians 1:23, way back in his day, that the
gospel had been "proclaimed in all creation under heaven...."
Matthew 24:15 reads: "Therefore when you see the `abomination of
desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy
place (whoever reads, let him understand)," This was the sign!!!
The context shows that when the believers saw this sign of the
"abomination of desolation," they were to "flee to the mountains."
Concerning this time, the Lord also instructed them to not bother to
get anything out of their house first, but simply flee and not go back.
They were also to pray that this event would not happen on a Sabbath
day or in the winter. The one who was in the field was not to return
for his clothes. It would also be a terrible time for pregnant women
and those who were nursing babies. But why would all of these things be
such a problem if it pertained to the second coming of Christ? It would
not be then. When the Lord returns there will be no woe to those who
are pregnant or nursing children. It won't matter if it happens to be
in the winter, etc.; but if this all pertains to the destruction of
Jerusalem which occurred in AD 70, it would make a great deal of
difference. How difficult it would have been for a pregnant woman or a
woman nursing her child to flee from the "abomination of desolation" --
especially in the winter or on the Sabbath Day when the gates of the
city would be closed and locked.
As to the meaning of the "abomination of desolation," let us turn to
Luke's account in Luke 21:20,21: (20) "But when you see Jerusalem
surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. (21) Then
let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the
midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter
her." It was the Roman armies that had besieged Jerusalem. Those
who were not prepared, those who did not listen to the Lord, were
trapped within the city, having no way out. Their food supplies
gradually dwindled and an estimated one million Jews perished. It's
been said that some of the people had even slumped to cannibalism: In
one case, a
mother was found eating her own infant that so repulsed the Roman
soldiers that they had to quickly leave her house.
Notice also Matthew 24:21, "For then there will be great tribulation,
such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time,
no, nor ever shall be." Clearly, the inference is that never will there
be a time as terrible as the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Though
this is not to say life will be without adversity, the Bible student
should realize that the "great tribulation" which the Scriptures refers
to has already occurred.
Jesus had mentioned many things that were to happen prior to
Jerusalem's downfall, and then states in Matthew 24:34, "Assuredly, I
say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these
things are fulfilled."
In addition, if the premillennialist were right, and the "rapture"
followed by a "seven-year tribulation," which, in turn, would be
followed by the
"thousand year reign of Christ," then virtually anyone would be able to
pinpoint the time of the Lord's return. To do this, one would merely
have to add seven years to the time in which one notices that the
Christians have been "raptured." If, for example, this would occur July
29, 1990, and the premillennial theory is correct, one could know with
certainty that Christ will return July 29, 1997.
Though there were signs that would serve as warnings and indicate the
impending destruction of Jerusalem, there
will be no signs as to when Jesus returns. No one has the ability or
the right to set any dates on this. Christ will return most
We have seen in previous lessons that the kingdom has already been
established; and, actually, Christ has been reigning much longer than a
mere thousand years. He has been ruling from the throne of David for
almost two millenniums. Just as God owns the cattle "upon a thousand
hills" (Psa. 50:10), and He "keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand
generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments"
(Deut. 7:9), we are in the "thousand year reign of Christ" now.
According to 1 Cor. 15:24-26, when the Lord returns it is not to
establish a kingdom, but to deliver the kingdom (church) that has
already been established back to the Father.
Are you in God's kingdom, and will you be one who will be "caught up"
to God's eternal glory? These are important questions that we
must each ask ourselves.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
First published for the Tri-state church of Christ in Ashland,
Kentucky, at 713 13th Street.
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards