Some Problems with a Pretribulation Timed Rapture
In my view, one difficulty with the concept of the timing of the rapture occurring at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period…is an extension of the Matthew 24:9-10 verses mentioned above:
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.”
My conception of the tribulation saints (those Christians converted after the rapture), are as a tightly focused group of believers totally dedicated to their last chance at serving Jesus Christ unconditionally (having missed the rapture).
This would be the case whether they have exclusive domain over the last remaining evangelical outreach on earth for all seven, six, five, four, three, or even the final two years during Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period.
This would be the case regardless of the makeup of the tribulation saints…Gentiles and Messianic Jewish Christians
This hard-core group of tribulation saints does not seem susceptible to large numbers of them being offended as a result of persecution (Mt. 13:21), or betraying other tribulation saints, or hating each other.
These prophetic words of Jesus Christ would only seem to apply instead to a large, widely mixed group of born-again Christians who had in their numbers a sizable percentage of nominal, unconverted adherents who could easily fall into becoming offended, betraying real Christians, and living in an attitude of hatred and disappointment as a result of the end-times evil (Mt. 24:7-13).
This would more accurately describe the required blend of the genuine Christian church, combined with the apostate church, which we see in the world today, and which would appear transparently inseparable and indistinguishable to the undiscerning secular world before the start of the last day’s persecution and tribulation.
This would be more consistent with Matthew 24:10 saying “then many shall be offended”, implying that there is a large enough beginning sample of people for many to be offended, and conversely for many genuine Christians not to be offended, to comprise the whole group.
This would also set-up the basis for a clearer understanding of the falling away (2 Thes. 2:3).
The tribulation saints by contrast, whether Jew or Gentile, would be almost exactly like the Christians of the first two and one-half centuries in terms of fidelity to Jesus Christ. They would be entirely new converts to Christ, narrowly focused on their mission, uniformly dedicated, fearless, committed, fiercely loyal to one another, and living with the constant threat of discovery, exposure, and imminent martyrdom.
If this is the case, then these Matthew 24:9-10 verses would therefore appear to be inconsistent with the currently popular teaching of an early rapture of the church…prior to the full seven-year-tribulation-scenario.
If these Matthew 24:9-10 verses occur within the time-span of the seven-year tribulation period of great persecution of Christians, and the only new Christians formed after a pretribulation rapture are this group of tribulation saints…who are not plausible candidates for betraying and hating one another…then something here is clearly amiss.
The dispensational approach has newly converted Jews as a main contingent of the post-rapture tribulation saints who evangelize the world.
But this formulation is inconsistent with Matthew 24:10…which expressly states that many will be offended and hate one another.
This cannot apply to newly converted Jewish-Christian believers, converted by as-yet unknown supernatural revelations of Jesus Christ to Jews worldwide…similar to Joseph in Egypt revealing himself to his brethren.
The revelation that Jesus Christ is not just a God of the Gentiles…but is in fact their long promised messiah…will engender the most fiercely dedicated fidelity to the gospel message of Christ…soaring above any persecution that would cause others to become offended.
After a pretribulation rapture, there would not be a blended mixture of hard-core tribulation saints in close association with nominal adherents in a worshipping fellowship. There would be nothing in common between these two groups after the rapture to bring them together in fellowship.
After the rapture, whenever it occurs, the tribulation saints from then-on-after will be a distinct and isolated group notable for their purity, zeal, commitment, and dedication of purpose.
The required diverse combination of a large number of genuine Christians mixed with a large number of nominal churchgoers…for Matthew 24:9-10 to occur…will simply not exist after a world-emptying pretribulation rapture taking all Spirit-born Christians off the earth.
Therefore, either there is some extremely intense persecution occurring pretribulation for the main Christian church prior to the rapture, causing this dissension and culling-out within the “mixed multitude,” or conversely the continuous uninterrupted existence on earth of the combined main body of the Christian church plus the apostate church, extends and overlaps into the tribulation period itself for some period of time.
Some large group of people (“many”) identified in these biblical verses must betray and hate other people in the group, for this very specific and unambiguous prophecy to be fulfilled.
The persecution that causes this internal dissension, and the large group of people who break-away to become disloyally offended and hateful, must both be in-place at the same time-period.
If the hard-core, last-chance group of tribulation saints would probably not be the people to react this way to the life-and-death trials of the end-times, then it is logical to conclude that these verses apply to a time-period when a large mixed group of people in the Christian church and in the apostate church are still together.
This then pushes the rapture forward into and beyond the tribulation starting point for some unspecified period of time having this intense persecution and tribulation, which would trigger the events as described in Matthew 24:9-10.
If tribulation saints are not plausible candidates for consideration as the uncommitted people who will fall away to betray and hate one another during the end-times persecution…and since Matthew 24:10 specifically says that many shall be offended…then some of the pieces of the pretribulation rapture puzzle are not fitting together here.
Toss in a large group of fiercely loyal, newly converted Jewish Christians into the mix, and the rapture cannot plausibly occur at the beginning of the great tribulation.
A mixed mass of people and a period of persecution must be a couplet…linked together concurrently…on one or the other side of both the rapture and the tribulation.
The rapture removes the Christian church, leaving only the future, newly converted, die-hard tribulation saints.
Persecution sifts out and divides the offended from the un-offended.
The events of both the rapture and some form of persecution divide the same identical large body of people into two distinct halves…those raptured and those not raptured…and those offended and those not offended.
Intense, sifting-out persecution cannot overtake a main Christian church raptured away into heaven, isolated forever from nominal churchgoers on earth.
It would therefore appear that a large disparate body of people and an intense period of persecution must be together…either before or after the rapture.
This means that either persecution shifts backwards in time, before the church is raptured, affecting both the genuine church and the apostate church together in time as one large group.
Or this requires the presence on earth of the genuine church combined with the apostate church…as one large group…shifting forward in time into persecution/tribulation.
The unique nature of the resiliency, steadfastness, and narrowly committed exclusivity of the group of people called tribulation saints, who are probably not susceptible to many betraying and hating each other, is an important key to our understanding of the timing of the rapture.
It appears then that the rapture cannot occur in isolation.
The rapture cannot occur outside of a close relationship to an intense level of end-times persecution and tribulation…that would be so great as to noticeably split the “church” in two…as described in Matthew 24:9-10.
After the rapture…after the close of the church age, the only Christians remaining on earth to the end of time are newly converted post-tribulation saints, and they do not fit into the description of potentially offended people and the events of Matthew 24:9-10.
After the rapture, tribulation saints are not susceptible to becoming offended by persecution or adversity (Mt. 13:21).
To fulfill Matthew 24:9-10, an unprecedented level of intense persecution has to find and overtake the main Christian church for some period of time before the rapture occurs, and one solution to this riddle is for the rapture itself to shift forward in time…into the tribulation.
If a satisfactory alternate explanation is to move some intense period of persecution into the time-slot immediately preceding the start of the tribulation, then why go to such dispensational premillennial efforts to sustain a pretribulation rapture interpretation?
The intensity of a sifting-out split of the “church” through worldwide persecution (Mt. 24:9-10) is then equivalent to the magnitude of the actual great tribulation itself.
Sparing the Christian church from tribulation then loses its meaning, purpose, and appeal.