A pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding[1]

Flying Feet

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

There’s a lot of promotion in evangelical Christian circles of the dispensational pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture. On the popular level, this has been given lots of air-play in Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind series (Tyndale House Publishers 1995) .  In fact, in the first Bible College I attended, this was the only view that was presented of eschatology. When I left college, I investigated other views and felt that I had been taught such a one-eyed understanding.

  1. These are nothing more than beginning thoughts on an understanding of end times from a pre-millennial, post-tribulation perspective, which is the view which I believe has the best scriptural support.
  2. I cannot find a Bible verse that tells specifically when the Rapture will happen. The Bible does not give specifics about the timing of the rapture.
  3. What is the Rapture? It is a part of the resurrection of the church. Those who have died prior to Christ’s second coming will be resurrected from the dead and raptured – taken up (I Thess. 4:12-18).
  4. At that resurrection, those believers who are still alive will be raptured with those who have died in Christ (1 Thess. 4:12-18).
  5. At the Second Coming, the dead in Christ and the living in Christ will be gathered in the air to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:12-18). This gathering is called “the harvest” at “the close of the age” according to Matt. 13:39, which states, “The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels” (ESV).
  6. What does the Bible say about the time of the Resurrection and the Rapture? Matt. 24:21-31 states:

21For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

29Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (ESV).

So, immediately after the great tribulation the Son of Man will come in the clouds with a loud trumpet call and Christian believers – the elect of God will be gathered (this is Christ’s second coming).

7.  Mark 13:18-27 states:

18Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. 24“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (ESV)

These two accounts of the Resurrection and Rapture state very clearly that believers (the elect) will be gathered (raptured) at Christ’s second coming.

Does it state when the Resurrection of believers and the Rapture will happen? Yes it does. It will be after the great tribulation. But we have further evidence

8.  Second Thess. 2:1-4 further confirms when this will happen:

1Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers [and sisters] 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (ESV).

This event is often called the “abomination that causes desolation” as in Daniel 9:27. Daniel 11:31, 36 states:

31Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate…. 36“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done (ESV).

The Antichrist (1 John 2:18) will be revealed at the “abomination that makes desolate”, which will begin the Great Tribulation (see Revelation 17:1-13).

9.  There is direct evidence for the resurrection of believers at the start of the Millennium, according to Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (ESV)

10.  Therefore, an instant, any moment Rapture of believers is not supported by these Scriptures. Instead, a great tribulation, an abomination must come first.

11.  A pre-tribulation Rapture is a recent innovation. See:

12.  In summary: The Bible states that the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the Rapture of the living in Christ will take place at Christ’s second coming, which will happen after the Great Tribulation. I can see no pre-tribulation rapture here.  But there is an affirmation for the post-tribulation rapture, a theological position that is called historic premillennialism.

See my other articles on this topic:

flamin-arrow-small Is the rapture of the church hogwash?

flamin-arrow-small What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

Recommended reading:

Robert Gundry 1973. The Church and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Robert Gundry 1997, First the Antichrist. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

George Eldon Ladd 1972. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

George Eldon Ladd 1956. The Blessed Hope. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

R. Totten, “The church and the post-tribulation rapture“.

See also A Case for Historic Premillennialism.



[1] With some help from: http://www.lastdaysmystery.info/the_post_tribulation_rapture.htm [Accessed 11 April 2010].


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 November 2016.