Some Problems with the Post-tribulation Rapture Theory


Problems of Post-trib Rapture Theory, excerpted from forthcoming book The Prewrath Rapture: Answering the Critics, by Christopher Perdue, copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.  Permission is given to use this article or post it on a blog or website as long as it is not for monetary gain and includes this copyright information.

There are two primary versions of post-trib, classic and Gundry’s modified theory.  James McKeever also suggested another variation in which the end time is only three-and-a-half years rather than seven.  But he otherwise mostly agreed with classic post-tribs that the church is raptured when Christ comes for Armageddon.  Gundry suggests an important modification.  He places the rapture at the seventh trumpet prior to the bowls of wrath and Armageddon, in recognition that Scripture promises the church exemption from the time of God’s wrath.  He believes it is the climax of wrath in the bowls from which we are exempt.

The most glaring problem with post-trib is that it leaves the church on earth during God’s wrath.  The Bible is clear believers are not appointed to wrath, but to deliverance away from it (1Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Eph 5:6).  Even Gundry falls short, for Revelation 6:17 and other passages clearly introduce God’s wrath with the sixth seal.  As we will see shortly, the trumpets must follow the seals, and then the bowls after that.  No passage suggests it is less than all of God’s wrath from which we are delivered.

Post-tribs deny an interval between the rapture and Christ’s coming for Armageddon.  But there are two things which must occur between.  First is the judgment of believers.  Jesus taught there would be a private judgment of the saints (Luke 19:15), as did Paul (1Cor 3:10-15).  The purpose is to judge our works and hand out appropriate rewards.  Since those will be given at the seventh trumpet when Jesus begins His millennial reign (Rev. 11:18;  19:14, 19), the rapture must precede this.

Second is the wedding feast (Rev 19:10).  The wedding supper of the Lamb takes place before Jesus returns on His white horse for Armageddon.  Some think this feast actually takes place on earth afterward.  As I show shortly, however, in Jewish wedding customs the bridegroom would bring the bride from her home to his for the feast.  The pre-wrath rapture solves both of these problems.

It is understood by the other positions that the saints will ascend into heaven at the rapture.  Post-tribs, on the other hand, claim that we will immediately reverse direction and descend to Mount Zion after meeting the Lord in the air.  Gundry explains it this way (from 1Thess 4:16):

Other things being equal, the word descend (Gr.  katabaino) indicates a complete, uninterrupted descent, like that of the Spirit at Christ’s baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32,33), and that of Christ at His first advent (John 3:13; 6:33,38,41,42,50,51,58).  Where a reversal from downward to upward motion comes into view, a specific statement to the effect appears as in Acts 10:11, 16 (“a certain object coming down… and immediately the object was taken up into the sky”).  In the absence of a statement indicating a halt or sudden reversal of direction, we naturally infer a complete descent to the earth, such as will take place only at the post-tribulational advent.[1]

I like how Walvoord rebutted this:

…Gundry is attempting to solve this problem by definition of a word, a definition quite arbitrary and slanted in the direction of his conclusion….  Gundry here again appeals to the argument from silence, which he so often disavows for the pre-tribulational view….  Gundry argues from silence that there should be mention of a change in direction if such took place, but he discounts the silence of the passage on any indication of its continued direction to the earth.[2]

Additionally, no other Greek word is translated descend in the New Testament.  In other words, it cannot be contrasted with a word which includes the idea of a reversal of direction or an incomplete descent.  Gundry’s argument is broken by this simple observation.  Furthermore, his supporting verses in Acts 10 do not help, for when the purpose of the descent was completed, the object returned to heaven.  Likewise, when Jesus descends and gathers the saints He will return to heaven.

Note especially John 14:2, 3,  when Jesus said He will come get us and take us to His Father’s house, which is heaven.  This provides explicit scriptural confirmation for a rapture to heaven.  Post-tribs must continue to argue from silence.

McKeever uses a different word to make the same point:

In 1Thessalonians 4:16-17…we saw that the Christian will meet the Lord in the air.  The Greek word for meet in this passage is apantesis.  This word…[only occurs two] other places in the New Testament….  [In Acts 28:14, 15] we see that the brethren came out to meet Paul.  However, the principal actor in the drama, which was Paul in this case, kept going and the people doing the meeting did the reversing of direction, as one would expect.

The only other place this word is used in the Scriptures is in the parable of the bridegroom and ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13).  The ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom.  The bridegroom, who was the principal actor in this drama, kept coming, and those doing the meeting reversed course.

If this same usage holds true in 1Thessalonians, then when we meet Christ in the air, He will not reverse course, we will.[3]

First of all, just as with Gundry, McKeever builds his case on silence.  In his two “proof” texts any movement was explicit, while 1Thessalonians says nothing of further movement, only that we will be with the Lord forever.

Nor does Acts 28 illustrate what he wants.  Paul was headed under guard to Rome to be imprisoned.  The brethren went out to meet him on the way to encourage him.  As Paul continued on his journey the brethren naturally reversed direction to return home, for they were neither going to prison nor to Rome.  They did not travel with Paul nor Paul with them.  The saints will go wherever Jesus does after that grand meeting in the air.

The parable of the ten virgins does not support McKeever, either (Matt. 25:1-13).  Knowing the historical setting and cultural customs of the day can help us understand this parable.  Jesus told His parable from a first century Jewish perspective, so must be interpreted with this in mind.  According to H.L. Ellison:

At a Jewish wedding the bridegroom, surrounded by his friends, went, generally after sunset, to the home of the bride to fetch her.  The bride, dressed in her best, was carried in a litter to the bridegroom’s house, a procession being formed by her and the bridegroom’s friends….  When the bridegroom’s home was reached, the wedding supper was eaten.[4]   [see Psalm 45:14, 15]

The central theme of this parable is readiness to meet the Lord, as also is much of the previous context. Jesus is called the bridegroom and the church His bride in other passages (2Cor. 11:2;  Matt. 9:15; John 3:28-29).  Since this parable is told in an end time context, it obviously concerns the rapture.  Most expositors agree from all positions, and many of them include the subsequent parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30).  Both pre-wrath and post-trib adherents add the preceding passages (24:29-51) as the same context and topic, since no change in thought is seen.

As we learned in chapter two, the details of Jesus’s parables usually hold meaning, and this one is no different.  The story, in retrospect, appears to give a brief history of the church as it relates to the expectation of Christ’s coming.  The virgins going out to meet the bridegroom is the founding of the church (Matt. 25:1).  Since they must wait for Him, not knowing the hour of His coming (25:5; 24:36-51), the rapture is yet future from this point.  During the long wait (see 25:19) the virgins fell asleep – probably the nearly 1500 years during which the second coming was spiritualized away.  The midnight cry warning of His coming, awakening the sleepers, is the restoration of expectation of the Lord’s coming, most notably in the early 1800’s.  Finally, the bridegroom arrives after an additional short wait, coming from His home with His friends (read angels; see Matt. 24:31 and 2Thess 1:7).  He gathers the five wise virgins and returns to His home for the wedding celebration as per custom (25:10).  In short, when the church meets her Bridegroom, it is He who will reverse direction.

Moo raises another point recommending post-trib.[5]  He claims a rapture-to-heaven scenario would require the saints inhabit their heavenly mansions for only a short period, only to vacate them during the millennium while the rule the earth with Christ.

Remember that the judgment and reward of believers and the wedding supper must follow the rapture but precede Armageddon. They have the greater onus to solve this scriptural issue than we their supposedly logical problem.

Second, not every believer is going to rule the earth.  Several passages make clear this honor is given to those who have matured in the faith, who are overcomers, and who manifest certain beatitudes (Matt. 5:5; Rev. 2:26).  While every believer has the same opportunity to earn a position, not every one will receive one.

Third, Moo bases his case on the assumption believers will have to move out of their heavenly mansions while ruling the earth.  Why should this be the case?  Our new bodies will have spiritual capabilities such as the ability to move from one place to another instantly (Luke 24:31, 36).  Thus no difficulties of transportation from home to work would exist.  It will certainly be easier and more convenient than fighting rush hour today!  Furthermore, I doubt God will place so much work on the saints they all will need to work 24/7 just to keep up.  God believes in the work ethic, but He also approves of taking time off each week for rest (Exod. 20:11), and commanded several holidays throughout the year, some lasting a week at a time.

Also, if this supposed problem seems awkward, the yo-yo rapture of post-trib is even more so.  In his response to Moo, Archer explains:

…We maintain that this yo-yo procedure of popping up and down presents a very great difficulty.  At one moment the faithful followers of Christ are lifted up out of the revolting scene of the sin-cursed, evil-dominated world in order to meet with the Lord Jesus… in the clouds of heaven.  But, this means that He will descend mounted upon His white horse, followed by the hosts of heaven.  If so, He would hardly be apt to check His course for any length of time as He makes His way… to the battlefield of Armageddon.  If anything, these upward-bobbing saints will only impede the momentum of His earthward charge as He rushes down to crush… the Beast and all his minions.  The most that can be said of such a “Rapture” is that it is a rather secondary sideshow of minimal importance.[6]

The Order of the Revelation Judgments

Like pre-wrath adherents, post-tribs recognize a sixth-seal rapture in Matthew 24:29-31.  Unlike pre-wraths, however, they place this at the end of the seventieth week, at Armageddon.  They accomplish this feat by overlapping the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments in creative ways.  McKeever presents the first two charts as most likely in his opinion.

SEALS   1 2 3 4 5                                            6 7

TRUMPETS      1 2 3 4 5 6                         7

BOWLS      1 2 3 4 5 6      7

OR

SEALS   1 2 3 4 5                                   6 7

TRUMPETS    1   2   3   4   5   6         7

BOWLS        1   2   3   4   5   6     7

Douglas Moo suggests the following:[7]

SEALS    1 2    3    4            5          6     7

TRUMPETS  1   2 3       4       5      6     7

BOWLS             1 2   3 4     5   6    7

Post-tribs bases their overlap schemes on similarities found in the sixth seal and the seventh of each series.  All four mention an earthquake, while the sevenths also describe thundering, lightning, and hail (Rev. 6:14; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18-20).  They conclude from this that all are tied together at Armageddon.  As for the rest of their overlap schedules, these are based solely on imagination rather than on any clear scriptural marks.  It should be noted that pre-tribs likewise cannot agree on a basic order of these judgments.

Their method of overlap is in error.  Because they place the rapture at Armageddon, they must place the immediately preceding sixth seal at that point (Matt. 24:29-31), too.  And pre-tribs claim the gathering of Israel is in Matthew 24:29-31, which clearly matches the sixth seal (see next chapter), so they must likewise find a way to place the sixth seal at the end of the seventieth week.

Let us take the rapture completely out of the equation for a moment and see if Scripture orders these events aside from pre-conceived rapture doctrine.  If we discover clear indicators of timing, then any related issue such as the rapture must take this into account.

Looking at the seventh seal, we find explicitly stated that the angels receive their trumpets as part of this seal (Rev. 8:1-6).  This means they cannot sound the trumpets until all of the seals have been opened.  Also, the 144,000 firstfruits of Israel are sealed during the sixth seal to protect them before the angels can harm the earth (Rev. 7:1-4).  The first four trumpets, the four winds, specifically harm the earth, so the trumpets must follow the sixth seal.  I’ll explain a third point momentarily.

The first bowl can be tightly linked to the seventh trumpet, as well.  When the seventh trumpet sounds God’s heavenly temple is opened and the ark of the covenant is seen within (Rev. 11:19).  In the prelude to the bowls (Rev. 15:5-8) we see the temple still open.  The angels come out with the bowls containing the final plagues of God’s wrath.  The temple then fills with smoke so that none may enter until the bowls are completed.  This evidence demonstrates the seals, trumpets, and bowls will be fulfilled sequentially.  They cannot overlap in the ways suggested above.

But there is an overlap, one which is different than they envision, as the following chart explains.  This accounts for the similarity in the sevenths but also fits the scriptural order:

SEALS  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ———————————-I

TRUMPETS  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 —————-I

BOWLS       1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The trumpeting angels receive their instruments as part of the seventh seal, making them part of that seal.  When Christ begins His earthly reign at the seventh trumpet the angels are given bowls of unrestrained wrath to pour out as part of His cleansing the earth of the ungodly.  This ends with the Battle of Armageddon and the sheep and goat judgment (Matt. 25).  This makes the bowls part of the seventh trumpet, which in turn makes them part of the seventh seal.

In support, you will notice no direct special judgment is associated with the seventh seal or seventh trumpet – only forewarning of wrath to come.  This is because the following trumpets and bowls are those judgments.  As for the earthquake, thundering, etc. of the sevenths, these are all the same, happening all at once, waiting fulfillment until the seventh bowl brings completion to seventh seal and seventh trumpet;  In the seventh seal and trumpet these almost seem to be an afterthought, while they are greatly expanded upon in the description of the seventh bowl.

The earthquake described in the sixth seal moves islands and mountains to ensure no-one misses the heavenly signs of truth announcing the Day of the Lord (Rev. 6:12, 14; Luke 21:25-26).  This is only a forerunner to the even more awesome earthquake of the seventh trumpet, which sinks the islands and flattens the mountains (Rev. 15:18, 20); The first says, “I’m coming,” and the second says, “I’m here.”  One other prophetically important earthquake destroys one-tenth of Jerusalem immediately prior to the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:13), when Christ splits the Mount of Olives so repentant Israel can flee to Azal (or safety, Zech. 14).

The final critical problem with post-trib is the possibility of determining to within a couple of days the timing of Christ’s coming several years in advance.  It would be exactly 1260 days after the Abomination of Desolation (Dan 12:11, 12;  Rev.  12:6; 13:5).  In contrast, Jesus explicitly said we cannot know the day nor hour and must watch and be ready (Matt. 24:36).  While we can see the signs and know it is near (24:33) based on the signs of the times – the events described in Matthew 24 – that day cannot be precisely determined.  Other passages support this (1Thess. 5:1-11).

We have seen that post-tribulationsim also falls short of harmonizing all the pertinent Scriptures concerning the rapture.  We must look elsewhere.


[1] The church and the Tribulation, Robert Gundry: Zondervan, 1973, p.103

[2] “Post-tribulationism Today”; Bibliotheca Sacra, Dallas Theological Seminary, Oct-Dec 1976, p.  304

[3] James McKeever: Omega Publications, pp 96-97

[4] Matthew, H. L. Ellison; The International Bible Commentary, ed. F. F. Bruce: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979, p.1147

[5] Op.  cit., pp.  178-179

[6]  The Coming Climax of History, op.  cit., pp.  164-165

[7] The Rapture, op.  cit., p.  204

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5 Responses to Some Problems with the Post-tribulation Rapture Theory

  1. Lyle says:

    In this case the original author is FAR MORE correct that “BoldCourageous.”

    The “Day of the Lord” IS “the Day of wrath” and vice versa. In the Old TEstament we read that the DOL is a DARK day, a day of destruction, where God will destroy both the earth and the sinners in the earth.

    If we look at the trumpet judgments, they are the start of the destruction of the earth, PROVING that John was correct in writing that the DAY of HIS WRATH begins at the great worldwide earthquake at the 6th seal, then continues on through the entire 70th week. Since we have no appointment with His wrath, the rapture will take place BEFORE the 6th seal. (Probably JUST before.) AT the 5th seal they are told them must wait for the very last martyr to be killed as they were – as church age martyrs. In other words, they are told they must wait for the rapture that will END the church age. In John’s narrative, they are to wait for the 6th seal.

    The truth is, God’s wrath IS poured out on the earth, to destroy earth.

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    • The thing is, everything points to the opening of the sixth seal. Particularly note that in Matthew 24 Jesus describes the heavenly signs of the sixth seal, then the coming of Christ and the gathering of the elect (the rapture). This seems to make it clear that the heavenly signs appear immediately before the rapture. Otherwise, I agree with your comment. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Obviously you need to study the Word some more. God’s wrath…orge (in Greek) is never poured out on the earth! You reasoning is lost in translation and used to brainwash people. Which is what you are attempting to do. God’s anger and indignation…thymos (in Greek) is what is poured out on the DOL, but even this wrath we are specifically told is eternal, “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:” Rev. 14:10 God’s indignation (thymos) is poured out upon earth to bring about the eternal judgement of God’s wrath (orge).

    “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:” Matt. 24:29 When does the DOL happen???… immediately after the tribulation. Not before or during!

    “…thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto they servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great…” Rev. 11:18b What type of wrath.. orge… eternal, judging the DEAD, and rewarding God’s own eternally.

    Whether or not you see Rev. 6:12, 6th seal as nuked or a meteor or what have you. That makes no difference. Obviously, seeking out fallout shelter in caves is a serious problem. Zach. tells us that the eyes will melt in their sockets at this event. We saw that historically when Japan was nuked. We are told that the “powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Word for heavens is “oranus” this is also the Greek word for the Greek god of the heavens. In Greek it means far heavens. This is also what the planet Uranus was named after. Pluto was named after that Greek god. In the same decade that Uranus was discovered and named, the element of Uranium was discovered and named after Uranus. Plutonium was named after Pluto. So if the dunamis of oranos is shaken and the stars fall from heaven… what are stars? Obviously they are way bigger than Earth and if one were to come even close it would consume it and nobody would be hiding in caves, BUT stars give their light from nuclear fission and fusion. The same power as a nuclear bomb. “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together: and every mountain and island were moved out of their places” Rev. 6:13,14. The eaven departed as a scroll could be a nuclear mushroom cloud, or a meteor path. Makes sense to me, but the box I stick that idea in is of little consequence.

    The fact is that man hid himself in caves… Why? Is it the ostrich mentality with the head in the sand?… “you can’t see me God!” I seriously doubt it. I imagine that there is no food to forage, and the air is unbreathable. At this point God has not Hurt the Earth…see Rev. 7:2,3. It has been all of man’s doing. God has not released the angels to Hurt the earth yet. DID YOU GET THAT? God didn’t do it, although man declared God’s wrath, but it wasn’t His! Tribulation is man hurting man, never has it been from God. We are called to be a light in the darkness, and to tribulation…John 16:33. Jesus tells us to have “peace” and “good cheer” concerning it. It is a bogus notion that we are to comfort one another with the words of escaping it. That is a false notion that is taken out of context…1 Thess.4:13-18.

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  3. Prewrath obviously have a problem with the wrath issues… thus the name… prewrath
    This issue is EASILY explained.
    1 Thess. 5:9,10 (don’t forget 10)
    We are not appointed or assigned to wrath….. BUT to salvation AND forever living with Him.
    Salvation and forever living with Him is… ETERNAL! NOT TEMPORAL!
    Rev. 14 tells us what wrath is: It is forever living in the lake of fire and brimstone! AGAIN ETERNAL

    The Greek word that tells us that we are not appointed to wrath is used in Rev. 6:16,17 and in Rev. 11 after which a different Greek word is used and can be translated anger. Fact: The two Greek words are not the same.

    In Rev. 6:16,17 man is living in a type of fallout shelter from possibly getting nuked and MAN declares that God’s wrath has come. However, God does not declare His wrath until Rev. 11 where He states that He judged the dead. How does He judge them??? Eternal Hell.

    Se here we see that God’s wrath is not an issue, because God’s wrath is eternal. The problem lies in the interpretation (or lack thereof) concerning the usage of the word wrath in surrounding the bowl judgements. Judgements are what these are. The temporal judgements bring about the eternal wrath of hell.

    Consider for a moment that someone is instantly taken out by a judgement… That temporal execution has absolutely no value in the eternal scheme of things. God is an eternal God and so is wrath.

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    • The passage that says we are not appointed to wrath, but salvation, is in 1Thessalonians 5:1-10. This is speaking specifically of the Day of the Lord, which is God’s wrath poured out on earth. It is not speaking of eternal wrath in this passage. In the Old Testament and in Revelation we read of a period of time where God will pour out wrath on the earth in the trumpet and bowl judgments. Faithful believers are not appointed to enter the DOL wrath, but to deliverance.

      This illustrates the importance of always taking a verse in context. The context is about the DOL on earth, and this statement is made in that context.

      Revelation 6:16,17 – This does not describe nuclear war. Mankind is crying to be hidden from “The face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Jesus).” Their cry is very specifically stated. Why would mankind ask to be hidden from the wrath of Jesus if mankind is releasing nuclear bombs? But if you compare this passage to Matthew 24:29-31 we find an exact match to the heavenly signs, the earthquake, and we see Jesus descending in glory. In Luke 21:25-28 we see this same moment in time, with mankind fearful of what is coming on the earth, and with the redemption (deliverance, rescue) of believers. We see Jesus coming, and in Revelation 6, we see people trying to hide from the Lamb (Jesus).

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