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.
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.
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.
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. [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. 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.
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
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:
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.
 The church and the Tribulation, Robert Gundry: Zondervan, 1973, p.103
 “Post-tribulationism Today”; Bibliotheca Sacra, Dallas Theological Seminary, Oct-Dec 1976, p. 304
 James McKeever: Omega Publications, pp 96-97
 Matthew, H. L. Ellison; The International Bible Commentary, ed. F. F. Bruce: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979, p.1147
 Op. cit., pp. 178-179
 The Coming Climax of History, op. cit., pp. 164-165
 The Rapture, op. cit., p. 204