By John Accomando
I believed wholeheartedly in a pretrib rapture up until about 5 years ago. I considered it heresy for anyone to even suggest anything else. It bordered on superstition. Then one day, I heard it again in a sermon. I vaguely knew the commonly cited verses (1 Thess 4 and 2 Thess 2), but I finally decided to study it for myself, including the Greek. I never realized how important that would be.
I put my commentaries away, and wanted to see what the Lord Himself said. I have come to realize that we really tend to minimize the Lord's very words, and hermeneutically build them around our own preconceived notions.
That is the opposite of what we should be doing. His words should be the gold standard with which we can hermeneutically build Paul, Peter, or John's words around.
We're exhorted to study (as the Bereans did) to see whether anything is true. Why? Because we're warned about false teachings and "cleverly-devised fables". Have you ever really thought about that? Those are fables which (for all intensive purposes) are presented as truth, and superficially, they certainly sound very true. So we need to search the Scriptures.
Here are some of the questions I asked myself, and the Scriptural answers. I would encourage you to verify whether what I'm saying is true or not. I try to provide the actual verses whenever possible, rather than just the citations. This is pretty lengthy (hopefully not grueling), so forgive me if it seems like I stray a little bit from any given point, but it's usually to find a corroborating verse. As I'm putting this together from my iPhone, I might also capitalize a word or two to stress a point:
1)Did the Lord describe more than one resurrection of all believers? No. Only one:
John 6:39,40- "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
Again, the Lord only described one resurrection of "every" believer at the same time ("the last day"). Not two or three (or even four) resurrections. Paul reiterated this:
1 Corinthians 15:22-24: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end..."
First of all, I didn't used to understand these verses, but I'll reiterate what you probably know (regarding the "first fruits"). The Lord was crucified on the Passover, buried on the feast of unleavened bread, and resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits. The next feast day was the Feast of Weeks, which was when Pentecost happened. So four feast days were fulfilled in His death, burial, resurrection, and arrival of the Comforter (Holy Spirit). But when did he say that "all" who are "in Christ" will be resurrected? "At His coming. Then comes the end...". That word for "coming" is the Greek "parousia". It is the same word which the Lord used in Matthew 24:27 to describe His second coming:
Matthew 24:24-27: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25 Behold, I have told you before. 26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming (Gk. "parousia") of the Son of man be."
Notice how He contrasts His very visible second coming to the deceitful claims of a "secret" appearance, which will have been made by false Christs and false prophets.
Anyway, Paul didn't say: "we will be resurrected seven years before another group of believers". "All" in Christ will be resurrected at the same time. In fact, there is never any division of the church Scripturally into "church saints" versus "tribulation saints". On the contrary, Paul said that we are all one in Christ:
Romans 10:12- "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him."
Galatians 3:28,29- "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye [be] Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
There is no question how clear Paul was, in that the church isn't divided on any grounds. Not by ethnicity, economic status, or gender. Neither is there any Scriptural evidence that believers are divided by periods of time. Every believer (past, present, and future) is a part of the church. We are "all one in Christ". Also keep in mind that the earliest church was comprised entirely of Jewish converts. It wasn't until the conversion of the House of Cornelius (Acts 10) that Gentiles were offered salvation. This was ~10 years after Pentecost. So it would have been confusing (to say the least) to tell them "You're living in the 'age of the Gentiles.'" Tim LaHaye would have raised more than a few eyebrows with that statement.
In any case, the Lord and Paul only described one resurrection of all believers, and that's "at the last day". Paul also said that we'd all be "changed" when? "At the last trump" (1 Cor15:52). Makes sense, right? The "last" trump should happen at the "last" day. It wouldn't make sense to say that the last trump is blown seven years PRIOR to the last day. Why? Because seven Heavenly trumps are blown beginning in Revelation 8:
Revelation 8:2- "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets."
Also, the Lord spoke of a trump being blown at His literal second coming:
Matthew 24:31- "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
How can trumpets be blown AFTER "the last trump"? They can't. The only way that makes any sense is if "the last trump" is THE last trump, and it's blown at His literal second coming. There has been a contention that "the last trump" can't be a part of the seven trumps of Revelation, because Paul says it will be the "trump of God":
1 Thessalonians 4:16- "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:"
That would seem to be a non sequitur. Why? Because the seven angels are standing before God when they are given the trumpets.
In addition, nothing changes the fact that the "last" trump must be the "last" one.
Again, if the Lord only spoke of one resurrection of all believers, and that being "at the last day", and Paul says that it will be "at the last trump", then it must be at His literal second coming. To further this point, after 1 Cor 15:52, Paul also said that death will be "swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor15:54). How can that be at a pretrib rapture, when the real dying is just about to begin? Do you see the point? Death will be swallowed up in victory when the Lord comes again (second coming).
2)When is the first and only "gathering together" which the Lord describes? After the tribulation:
Matthew 24:29-31: "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: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
We already saw that the Lord only described one resurrection of all believers at "the last day". Now we see that the only "gathering together" He describes is "after the tribulation of those days", and it's going to be very visible, for all the world to see. This is even verified by John:
Revelation 1:7- "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."
There are two points of major confusion which get people into trouble with, because they're taught it. One is that the Gospel of Matthew (and in particular Matthew 24) was not written to the church, but was instead written to Israel. Hagee and Van Impe say that those who heard the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and 25) would have had no idea what the "church" was, because the Lord had never spoken about it. That's absolutely false:
Matthew 16:18- "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
This was long before the Olivet Discourse, yet here the Lord clearly tells His apostles about the church. Another evidence?
Matthew 18:17- "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
Now the Lord is even instructing the apostles on conduct WITHIN the church. Again, this is long before the Olivet Discourse. So how is anyone getting away with trying to teach that the audience of Matthew 24 wouldn't have known what the church was, because it hadn't been spoken of? Scripture says otherwise. For that matter, who was the Lord speaking to in Matthew 24?
Matthew 24:3- "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
These weren't just run-of-the-mill disciples here. These were His apostles, who came to Him "privately". We've already seen that He's instructed them about the church in chapters 16 and 18. Another evidence that Matthew was definitely to the church?
Matthew 28:19- "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:"
The Great Commission wasn't given to National Israel. It was given to the church. So it's false for anyone to teach otherwise. The Lord described one resurrection of all believers at "the last day" (which Paul reiterated), and the ONLY "gathering together" unto Him which He describes is "after the tribulation of those days". The second point of confusion is that those same teachers say that "elect" refers to "tribulation saints".
First of all, we've already seen where the church is never divided into "church saints" versus "tribulation saints". Secondly, "elect" refers to the church throughout the NT. I'll just give one or two examples:
Titus 1:1- "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's ELECT, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;"
Colossians 3:12- "Put on therefore, as the ELECT of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind..."
It clearly refers to the church throughout the epistles. There's no reason for anyone to teach, therefore, that it means something completely different in Matthew 24:31. The Lord was talking about us. All who are in Christ will be "gathered together" "after the tribulation of those days", which is at "the last day", and with "the last trump".
Some may object, saying that words such as "Sabbath" are used in Matthew 24, so they reason that it must therefore be directed to Israel. I would counter that the language was unquestionably Jewish for a good reason: It wasn't until the conversion of the House of Cornelius (Acts 10) years later, that the Gospel was even introduced to the Gentiles:
Matthew 10:5- "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:"
Acts 10:34-35: "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
So the argument of the "Jewishness" of the language in Matthew 24 is a non sequitur. After all, what popular pretrib teacher doesn't unabashedly hijack the "Jewish Wedding Model" as an example of what happens to a "Gentile bride"? Do you see the point? Their double-standard becomes quite evident.
I know I've been long-winded about this, but it's a slight-of-hand which is used by pretribulationism, and as you can see, it's Scripturally unfounded. The same ones who dogmatically state that Matthew 24 couldn't have been to the church, are the same ones who dogmatically state that John 14:1-3 WAS to "church saints", but not to Israel. So they say "Oh, He was talking to the church here, but to Israel there" and "Well, he was talking about Israel here, and the church there."
In addition, there isn't a pretrib teacher who wouldn't claim that Matthew 24:42-44 is to the church DESPITE them claiming that Matthew 24 and 25 are to Israel. So they pick and choose who they want His audience to be, based on what makes the story seem the most believable. How about this? The Lord was speaking to all of the redeemed in both John 14:1-3 AND Matthew 24.
3)Did Paul say that we're "gathered together" prior to the son of perdition being revealed? No:
I used to think (along with most others) that someone had told the Thessalonians that the "day of the Lord" was already upon them. However, now I'm beginning to think otherwise. This may be debatable, but look again at what Paul said:
2 Thessalonians 2:2-3: "That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means:...".
Paul gave them three potential ways that they/we might be deceived:
So for all we know, this was just a forewarning. There really is no proof contextually that anyone had tried to fool them...yet. Otherwise, why didn't he just say "It's been reported that someone wrote to you that...", or "I was told that someone came to you saying..."
But that's not what Paul wrote. He gave three very distinct means by which they might be deceived. "By spirit" certainly seems to allude to the means of deception which Paul described in Galatians 1:
Galatians 1:8- "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
Or that John warned us about:
1 John 4:1- "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
Do you see the point?
Paul then goes on to assure them that two markers would have to come to pass before we're gathered together unto the Lord. What are they?
1)The apostasy (Greek "apostasia").
2)The son of perdition is revealed.
He goes on to describe just how the son of perdition will be revealed, in verse 4, which appears to be the abomination of desolation.
As for "apostasia", there is only ONE other place in the NT where that word is used, and it's Acts 21:21:
Acts 21:21- "And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake ("apostasia") Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs."
So it clearly refers to rebellion in terms of belief. Furthermore, in the 6 times in which "apostasia" is used in the Septuagint, it refers to rebellion every time.
Let me also quote 2 Thess 2:1 without the punctuation (being that punctuation wasn't present in the Greek):
2 Thessalonians 2:1- "Now we beseech you brethren by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him,"
That word "coming" is the same Greek "parousia" which the Lord uses to describe His literal second coming in Matthew 24:27. There is no question that Paul has us "gathering together unto Him" at that time. In fact, the word for "gathering together" is the Greek "episynogagōgē". It's the noun form of "episynagō" (which the Lord uses in Matthew 24:31 to describe a post-tribulational gathering together of the elect), and also where we get the word "synagogue".
Matthew 24:31- "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together (Greek "episynagō") his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
So again, Paul tells the Thessalonians that there are the two markers which MUST occur before we are gathered together unto the Lord. Paul also tells them not to believe anyone who gives a different chronology of events. Keep in mind that had Paul told them that the church would be raptured PRIOR to the apostasy and revealing of the son of perdition, they would have been ripe for the proverbial picking by any charlatan who came along trying to convince them that the day of the Lord had already begun.
In addition, by giving those two "prerequisites", Paul also effectively ruled out the possibility that the church is the "restrainer". because the restrainer is taken out of the way IN ORDER for the son of perdition to be revealed. That is, the restrainer is taken out of the way BEFORE the son of perdition is revealed, and we're not gathered together unto the Lord until AFTER the son of perdition is revealed (according to Paul). So we can't be the restrainer. As to the Holy Spirit being removed, Scripture does not bear that out. Why not? Because the Lord never told us that the Holy Spirit would leave after coming at Pentecost. He said that the Comforter would remain for ALL believers. Saints who get saved during the tribulation are also believers. Therefore, according to the Lord's own mouth, the Holy Spirit will be here for everyone who ever comes to believe. In addition, Joel 2:28 says something important:
Joel 2:28-31: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come."
As you can see, the Spirit is being poured out during the tribulation (the "day of the Lord" comes after the tribulation, as I'll show you later).
Scripture does tell us who that restrainer MIGHT be, however:
Daniel 12:1- "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book."
4)Did the Lord say that He takes us to Heaven after He receives us unto Himself (John 14:1-3)? Did Paul say that the Lord takes us to Heaven after we "meet Him in the air" (1 Thess 4:17)? No to both questions. Paul certainly never said that. In John 14:1-3, the Lord said that He will go to prepare a place for us, and then He will "come" (leave Heaven) and receive us unto Himself. But He never actually says that He takes us back to Heaven.
If He was telling us that we're all resurrected at "the last day" (John 6:39,40), then there would be no reason for Him to take us back to Heaven after His second coming. At the second coming (which coincides with the "first resurrection" of Revelation 20:4), He sets up His earthly Kingdom (millennial reign) during which time we will reign with Him, so we'll be here with Him. After that is the "Great White Throne Judgment" at which time the wicked dead are judged and cast into the lake of fire. After that, the "New Jerusalem" comes to US.
Then we will certainly see the "many mansions" that He's currently preparing for us. Even from a common sense perspective, that makes much more sense than saying that we go to our mansions for seven years, then have to leave them for 1,000 years. Regardless, this isn't about common sense. It's about what Scripture actually does or doesn't say, and it never says that the Lord takes us to Heaven after we meet Him in the air.
5)Does Revelation 4:1 say that the church is called "up hither"?
Revelation 4:1- "After this I looked, and, behold, a door [was] opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard [was] as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter."
John was clear that he alone was called. Keep in mind also that he was only temporarily called up in the first century in order to give him a vision of what was to come, so that he could write it in a book. John ended right back on Patmos in the first century. So it wouldn't even make sense to say "Aha! The church is raptured there!" Really? In the first century?
What does Revelation 22 clearly warn us about adding to the prophecy of Revelation?
Revelation 22:18- "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:"
Yet what are popular raptures teachers doing? Adding to Revelation. Yet there's another contextual way to know that Revelation 4:1 isn't describing a rapture of the church. If you read 1 Thess 4 closely, the Lord descends out of Heaven first, and THEN the righteous dead rise at the trump/voice/shout to meet the Lord in the air. In Revelation 4:1, however, there is no "glorious appearing". There is no description of Him leaving Heaven. John only sees a door open, and a voice coming from Heaven calling him to "come up hither". Big difference.
6)Is it a valid argument to say that because the word "church" isn't mentioned on Earth between chapters 4 and 21, that we must therefore be in Heaven?
No. That's a strawman argument. The word "church" isn't mentioned in the context of being in Heaven in all of those chapters either. In fact, no "saint" is mentioned in the context of being in Heaven in those chapters. Only the "prayers" of the saints rising like incense (Revelation 5:8 and 8:4). Know why our prayers rise like incense? Because we're still here while we're praying.
When you really think about it, if the Lord is talking to the church in chapters 1-3 while John is here, but the church isn't mentioned anymore after John is called to Heaven, then if anything, the church is still here (being that John doesn't mention "church" while he's in his new vantage point). Also, "saints" are clearly here throughout Revelation. We are currently most assuredly called "saints". That's throughout the epistles. To pretend that "saints" refers to a group of believers only after a pretrib bunch gets raptured? Well, that's circular reasoning ("We're not the 'saints' of Revelation, because we're already gone"). If there is no pretrib rapture, then that argument falls on it's face.
Also, those same popular teachers say that the church returns in Revelation 19, yet "church" isn't mentioned at all in chapters 19-21. You don't see them being sticklers about the word "church" there. Why not? Because it makes their original argument weaker.
Secondly, Revelation is clearly addressed to the church at both beginning and end:
Revelation 1:4- "John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;"
Revelation 22:16- "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
This is the same method of writing as the epistles, where the recipients are addressed at both beginning and end. If we were to be gone during the trib, there would have been absolutely no reason for us to be informed about something which would have absolutely no bearing on us.
Thirdly, Galatians only mentions "church" in the first chapter. 1 Thess only mentions it in the first two chapters. 2 Thess only mentions it in the first chapter. Neither 1 or 2 John mention it at all. Neither does Jude. So are they going to apply the same argument? 1 Thess 4 clearly describes a rapture, but church isn't mentioned after chapter 2. So by their own argument, should we also conclude that 1 Thess 4 and 5 aren't to the church because those chapters don't mention the word "church"?
Lastly, again, there is no "glorious appearing" in Revelation 4. Paul only sees a door opened, and a voice calling him. This is in sharp contrast to Scripture (Matthew 24:29-31 and 1 Thess 4:13-17) which describes the Lord's return, as they have Him appearing FIRST (with every eye seeing Him), and THEN Him sending His angels to gather us together.
Popular teachers try to play smoke and mirrors with the "first resurrection" of Revelation 20:4, but that verse is very consistent with what the Lord said in John 6:
John 6:39-40: "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at THE LAST DAY."
7)Who does the Lord say comes back with Him at His literal second coming? His angels:
Matthew 25:31- "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy ANGELS with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:"
No mention of us coming back with Him at His second coming. That should be as no surprise though. He said that we're gathered together after the tribulation. Why would we be coming with Him?
What did Paul say?
2 Thessalonians 1:7,8- "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty ANGELS, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:"
Who did Paul say comes back with the Lord at His second coming? His angels. Where does Paul have us until then? Here ("rest with us"). This is clearly a picture of the apocalypse, and it's not a verse which you'll see LaHaye quote. Why not? Because it throws a monkey wrench into the story. It's yet another verse which fails to describe us coming with the Lord at His second coming. Again, it's a picture of the Lord's second coming. In fact, the Greek word for "revealed" there is "apokalyptos". We'll see that word again later. Look at the next few verses:
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10: "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day."
When does Paul say that the Lord shall come to be glorified in His saints? "In that day". In the "day" that the Lord comes to exact vengeance on His enemies, He "shall" come to be glorified in His saints (not 7 years prior to that day). We're starting to see a pattern now. The Lord told us that all believers will be resurrected at "the last day", and here Paul is saying that the Lord will be glorified by His saints "in that day". Look at what Peter said:
1 Peter 1:7- "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"
The word "appearing" there is the same Greek word "apokalyptos" which we just saw Paul use in 2 Thess 1:7 to describe the Lord's second coming. So when is Peter praying that the trial of our faith will be found unto praise and glory and honor? At the "apokalyptos"...the Lord's second coming (not 7 years prior to His second coming).
Now, the two famous verses which people use as "evidence" that we come back with the Lord are 1 Thess 3:13 and Jude 14,15, but in both of those, the actual Greek word in the manuscripts which the KJV translates as "saints" is "hagios". This is very important. "Hagios" means "consecrated" or "holy ones". In the right context, it refers to the elect, and does so nearly 70 times in the NT. However, it can also refer to anything holy OTHER than the elect, and it does so nearly 170 times in the NT. The point is that "hagios" most certainly is NOT synonymous with "church saints". The Lord Himself is referred to as "hagios". The "Holy Spirit" is "hagios". See the point? Most importantly, the Lord used it to describe the angels who come back with Him at His second coming. Let's see it again:
Matthew 25:31- "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:"
The word "holy" is "hagios". The word "angels" is the Greek "aggelos". So the Lord clearly says that the "hagios" (or "holy ones") who come back with Him are His "aggelos". It's very important to understand that point. Now let's look at those two verses, but rather than plugging in "saints" there (which automatically gives the impression to the reader that it's speaking of "church saints"), I'm going to use the actual Greek word from the manuscripts:
1 Thessalonians 3:13- "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his HAGIOS."
Now Jude 14:
Jude 1:14- "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his HAGIOS,"
You might think that I'm belaboring the point, but do you see the connection? The moment we read "saints" in the KJV, we get the impression that it's we who come back with the Lord. Why? Because Paul opens and closes the epistles a few times with "To the saints at....". But now we see that "hagios" doesn't refer to the "church saints" as often as we think. What's more, if the Lord clearly told us in Matthew 25:31 that the "hagios" who come back with Him at His second coming are ANGELS, why are we plugging in "church saints" in 1 Thess 3:13 and Jude 14? The Lord TOLD us who the "hagios" are who we come back with: His angels.
Some use the OT reference to "saints" in Zechariah:
Zechariah 14:5- "And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee."
Is this a problem? Not at all. The Hebrew word which is really being used is "qaydowsh", and it means the same thing in the OT as "hagios" means in the NT. In fact, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT which the Lord and apostles likely had at their disposal), it uses that same Greek "hagios". So once again, we have to turn to Matthew 25:31 to see who the Lord says that He comes back with, and again, we see that it's the angels. Really think about this for a second. Aside from what the Greek says, Do you think that the Lord would fail to mention the glorious picture of the adorned bride coming back with Him if we really DO come back with Him? Here's the big point: If we don't come back from Heaven with Him at His second coming, it's because we never went to Heaven prior to His second coming.
Before I move on to the next point, let's take a deeper look at 1 Thess 3:
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13: "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his HAGIOS."
I'm amazed that this verse (vs 13) is even used by pretribulationists, after you really contemplate what Paul is saying. Why would Paul be praying for our hearts to be made "unblameable" at the Lord's second coming if we ARE the hagios who come back with Him. Weren't our hearts made "unblameable" 7 years PRIOR (at a "pretrib rapture")? Do you see the point? The ONLY way that verse makes sense is if we're here at the time that the Lord comes back with His "hagios aggelos". Then it makes all the sense in the world for Paul to be praying for our hearts to be made unblameable at that time. Do you see the point?
Bottom line? The "hagios" of Zechariah 14:5, 1 Thess 3:13, and Jude 14 who come back with the Lord at His second coming are the "hagios aggelos" (holy angels)...just like the Lord told us. This is one of those areas where the church really doesn't seem interested in what the Lord really said.
So who are the "armies" who come back with the Lord in Revelation 19:24? Well, according to the Lord, it's His angels. We also know that His angels do fight:
Revelation 12:7- "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,"
From a common sense perspective, do you know of anyone who takes their bride into battle with them? I don't. But many men go into battle in order to RESCUE their brides. King David comes to mind. A big reason why people confuse verse 14 as being "church saints", is because they're wearing fine, white linen:
Revelation 19:14- "And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean."
Revelation 19:8- And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."
Pretribulationists read this and say "Aha! I KNEW it!". Not so fast. Angels wear white too:
Revelation 15:6- "And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles."
So white clothing doesn't prove anything. What the Lord said proves everything.
8)Who are the 24 elders? Not the church. In Revelation 5:10, they're singing the new song about the redeemed, and in the Greek manuscripts, they're not singing about themselves. They're singing about the redeemed in 3rd person plural ("them", "they shall reign"). They're likely angelic beings. That's why no "church saints" are around the throne worshipping in Revelation 5:11. Here is the actual Greek:
kai epoihsaV autous tw qew hmwn basileis kai iereiV kai basileusousin epi thV ghV
kai epoihsaV autous tw qew hmwn basileian kai iereiV kai basileusousin epi thV ghV
"Autous" means "them", and "basileusousin" means "they shall reign". So the 24 elders are not singing about themselves. So they cannot be "representative" of the church. The other contextual way to confirm that the Alexandrian text is correct is to see who's singing the "new song":
Revelation 5:8-9: "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying..."
So the 4 beasts are also singing the new song. Who or what are the 4 beasts?
Revelation 4:6-8: "And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."
The first thing that comes to mind is that these clearly aren't "church saints". So what are they? Here's a description if cherubim in the OT:
Ezekiel 1:5-6: "Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. 6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings."
This is an abbreviated description, as there are several verses which describe them. The key point is 4 faces and 4 wings. What about Seraphim?
Isaiah 6:2- "Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly."
These have six wings. So it seems that the 4 beasts of Revelation 4/5 are either cherubim or seraphim, or even another type of angelic being. But they certainly don't appear to be "church saints" that we've ever heard of. Why does it matter? Because angels aren't redeemable beings (read 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6). If they're not redeemable beings, then they can't be singing the new song about themselves. They would HAVE to be singing about the redeemed in 3rd person plural ("them"; "they shall reign"), which is exactly how the Alexandrian manuscripts render it. If the beasts aren't singing about themselves, then the 24 elders can't be singing about themselves either, by default, because the 24 elders AND 4 beasts are singing the song together. Do you see the point?
9)Is a wedding or marriage supper described in Heaven? No. Only the announcement in Revelation 19:7-10. Notice that the ones giving the announcement are speaking of the bride in 3rd person singular ("herself", "her", etc.):
Revelation 19:7-9: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."
This is immediately followed by a vivid description of the Lord's return in verses 11-21. Not a single verse describes an actual wedding or marriage supper in Heaven.
Why is there no wedding in Heaven? Because after the announcement is made, the Lord's coming FOR His bride at His literal second coming. One would need to ask why the wedding announcement is being made 7 years after the supposed (pretrib) rapture. Wedding announcements come BEFORE the wedding.
10)What is the "wrath" that we're not "appointed" to? There is an especially great deal of abuse of this verse in 1 Thess 5:9, so let's look at it:
1 Thessalonians 5:9- "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Pretribulationism says "Aha! I knew it! The Lord isn't coming for a 'beat-up bride'." Have you heard that one before? Of course. We all have. It seems, however, as if Paul didn't get that "memo":
2 Corinthians 4:11- "For we which live are ALWAYS delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
The pretribulational response is: "Well sure, we've been going thru tribulation for 2,000 years, but we're not 'appointed' to THE great tribulation. That's only for Israel. That's the 'time of Jacob's trouble'. We'll be long gone. It's a different dispensation."
Okay. First of all, remember what Paul said in Galatians 3:28,29. We're all "Abraham's seed". If we're all Abraham's seed (even Gentile converts), then we're also Jacob's "seed". If we're Jacob's seed, then how do we reason that we get a "get-out-of-Jacob's-trouble-free" card? Know what I'm saying? We get to partake in the blessings, but not in the tribulation? That's a modern, Western Christianity ("dispensational") mentality.
Secondly, what was the context of 1 Thess 5? Paul had just told the church at Thessalonika about the "harpazo" in 1 Thess 4. Remember that there were no chapter breaks in the Greek manuscripts. Paul went right into a discussion of the "day of the Lord":
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4: "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."
Okay, so Paul is clearly speaking about the "day of the Lord" (DOTL). Yet in verse 4, he is speaking to the church when he says that that day shouldn't overtake us as a thief. In subsequent verses, he exhorts us to be "alert" and "sober". Notice that the Lord uses the same language regarding His second coming:
Matthew 24:43- "But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up."
There's that word "thief" again. So the question is, What is the DOTL? Is it the whole 70th week, like pretribulationism teaches? The answer is a resounding "no", and I'll show you why:
Matthew 24:29- "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:"
So the Lord is clear that the signs in the heavens won't happen until after the tribulation. Now what does Peter say?
Acts 2:20- "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:"
Peter says unequivocally here that the heavenly signs precede the DOTL. Do you see all of this? So if the Lord said that those signs won't happen until AFTER the tribulation, and Peter says that the DOTL won't happen until AFTER the heavenly signs, then there is no way that the DOTL means the entire 70th week. On the contrary, it seems to be referring to a literal day (the literal day on which the Lord returns). To further corroborate this, look at how Revelation describes when that wrath occurs:
Revelation 11:18- "And the nations were angry, and thy WRATH is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth."
This is a picture of His literal second coming (see 2 Thess 1:7-10; 2 Thess 2:8; and Revelation 19:14-21). Keep in mind that this is after the 7th trumpet.
So Paul was saying that we're not appointed to the "wrath" of the DOTL (1 Thess 5:2).
Well, what about the Lord (Matthew 24:43) and Paul (1 Thess 5:2) speaking about the Lord coming like a "thief"? That must be referring to a pretrib rapture, correct? Not according to the Lord:
Revelation 16:15- "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
The Lord is saying this after the 6th vial/bowl, so it's just before His literal second coming. So unless He comes back as a "thief" twice, He's only coming as a thief at His literal second coming.
Also notice what happens to everyone "left behind" in each of the parables of Matthew 24 and 25. They're "cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing if teeth", or they're "cut asunder". Now look what Revelation 19 says:
Revelation 19:21- "And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."
Sounds like "cut asunder" to me.
The point is that (contrary to how pretribulationism interprets the parables of Matthew 24/25), there is no "glimmer of hope"; no "light at the end of the tunnel" for those left behind. So this must be referring to a post-trib rapture/resurrection. After all, that's what happened in the "days of Noah". Those "left behind" didn't get a second chance. They were killed.
11)Does the Lord leave Heaven more than once? No:
Acts 3:20-21: "And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
Pretribulationism teaches that the Lord comes to receive us at a pretrib rapture, but Peter clearly says that the Lord won't leave Heaven until "the restitution of all things". I would argue that there is no way that the restitution of all things will be PRIOR to the tribulation, as that's when death and confusion ensue. It's much more likely to be a picture of Him setting up His millennial reign (at His second coming):
Revelation 11:15- "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."
This is likely what Peter meant by the "restitution of all things".
12)Is the "first resurrection" of believers at a pretrib rapture? No. Scripture is clear that the first resurrection coincides with His second coming (Revelation 20:4-6). If not, why isn't Revelation 20:4-6 describing the 2nd or 3rd resurrection if believers?
13)Who "populates the millennium"?
My opinion is that the ones who populate the millennium are those who refused the mark, not because they were believers, but because they didn't want to be under the authority of the AC. I believe that many will flee for that reason. Remember what we read about those who take the mark, according to Revelation 14:
Revelation 14:9-11: "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, 10 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: 11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."
What we don't read anything about, really, is what happens to nonbelievers who don't take the mark, but escape. The so-called "off-gridders". As Matthew 24:29-31 describes all the tribes of the Earth seeing Him (as does Revelation 1:7), I think they will believe and repent the moment they see Him. The wicked won't, because they're defiant anyway.
If what I'm positing is true, then it would explain the rebellion of many after the millennium. I think many would be comprised of this group. Why? Because they believed not by hearing, but by seeing. It will be a shallow belief. So when Satan is released from the abyss, those and their offspring will be easily "recruited".
I have to ask myself what the alternative is. The alternative is that "tribulation saints" are reigned over during the millennium, and they are the ones who fall away in the end (after Satan is released). I think there are many difficulties with that line of thinking. First of all, "tribulation saints" is a misnomer. Nowhere in Scripture are believers divided into "church saints" and "tribulation saints". Paul says that there is neither Jew nor Greek; that we are all "one in Christ" (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:28,29; Romans 10:12). Classic Dispensationalism is a Darby-ism, and it was never taught by the early church. Secondly, Paul described only one resurrection of all believers (1 Cor 15:22-24), as did the Lord (John 6:40). All who believe prior to His coming will be "changed" (1 Cor 15:52). That would mean "tribulation saints" as well.
Thirdly, how would "tribulation saints" be reigned over, when Revelation 20:4 clearly states that those martyred during the trib will reign?
Revelation 20:4- "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
Revelation 20:6- "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
So they clearly reign. That, in and of itself, effectively eliminates the notion that "tribulation saints" are reigned over. In addition, there is a great deal of irony in the concept that a "Gentile bride" (one that "loves" Israel, by the way) hijacks the "Jewish Wedding Model" (despite the wedding announcement of Revelation 19:6-10 coming 7 years after the supposed wedding), leaving the REAL Jewish bride standing at the proverbial altar, and THEN having the "Gentile bride" reign over the Jewish converts. If ever there was a glaring example of "replacement theology", that's it in a nutshell.
Fourthly, pretribulationism says that those who come to believe during the tribulation (in the midst of the greatest persecution known to man) will fall away later. I don't find that Scriptural or convincing.
In any case, that's who I believe "populates the millennium".
14)What does 1 Thess 4 really say?
1 Thessalonians 4:17- "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
That word "meet" is the Greek "apantesis". It was used to denote villagers going outside of their city gates to meet an esteemed visitor, and escorting them the rest of the way into their town/city. That is exactly how Luke used it when describing how the believers in Rome traveled 43 miles from Rome to the Appii Forum in order to "meet" Paul, and escort him the rest of the way to Rome:
Acts 28:15- "And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet ("apantesis") us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage."
We know that the Lord is the esteemed One who we are "going out to meet" in 1 Thess 4:17, and "escort" back.
One other point. In 1 Thess 4:17, Paul says "we who are alive and remain". The word "remain" is the Greek "perileipomai". It means "to survive". Had Paul just wanted to use a simple term for "waiting" or "remaining", he could have used "perimenō":
Acts 1:4- "And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait ("perimenō") for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me."
So in 1 Thess 4:17, Paul was saying "we who are alive and survive...". To "survive" means to get past the threat of death. Paul was never insinuating that we would escape the tribulation. He told us that we would be here until the Lord's second coming:
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:"
Look where Paul has us up until the Lord's "apokalyptos": right here. And who does Paul say comes back with the Lord from Heaven? His angels.
I'm happy to elaborate on any point, but I think those are the main arguments against a pretrib rapture.
Grace to you,