Unwinding Common Pre-Trib Assumptions 

Chapter 5 of Reclaiming the Rapture : Unwinding Common Pre-Trib Assumptions ( by Chris Steinle)

Who Is Returning from Heaven with Jesus?

The Pre-Tribulation rapture doctrine teaches that the Church must already be in heaven (by way of the pre-trib rapture) prior to the Second Coming, so that the Church can return to 

the earth with Jesus. The Book of Jude is usually quoted because many English translations say that the Lord will come with His “saints.” 

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints (hagiais14 myriasin15), to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Jude 14, 15 

The Greek word translated above for “saints” is the Greek word, hagias, which can be translated either as “holy ones,” or “saints.” But “holy ones” can also refer to the holy angels. So how can we know whether the Church or an army of angels will come from heaven with Jesus? 

Matthew 25:31 gives us clarification about the holy ones who are coming with Jesus. Christ Himself stated that these “holy ones” are holy angels. 

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels (hagiais16 oi aggelloi17) with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 

Verse 32 also places this Second Coming ahead of the same time of judgment described in Jude 15. 

All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Matt. 25:32 

So Matthew’s description of Christ’s return identifies these “holy ones” as the holy angels. But even if some people should be included with the army of angels that are coming with Jesus, these could be any of the millions of Christians who have died over the ages before Christ’s return because, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 

The Church has had nearly 2000 years to add souls to the spiritual realm. Based on a 70 year generation, 97% of all the “saints” who have lived up until now are already residing in heaven with Jesus. Therefore, there is no requirement that any of the people who might be coming with Jesus and the angels should have ever experienced the rapture. The rapture is simply not necessary to get more Christians into heaven in advance of His second coming. 

Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians contain the verses most often quoted as the basis for the theory of a Pre-Tribulation rapture. Amazingly though, the Thessalonian letters not only place the First Thessalonians Four rapture at Christ’s second coming; but Second Thessalonians prepares the Church for persecutions and tribulations, and goes on to state expressly that “mighty angels”, rather than saints, will be accompanying Christ back to earth. 

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels (angelon18 dynameos19), in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 

when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. 2 Thess. 1:3-10 

From the verses above we can see plainly that the holy ones coming from heaven with Jesus will be angels. The verse most often used to support the notion that people are coming back with Jesus is Revelation 19:14; And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 

Pre-Tribulation advocates would say that the mention of clean white clothing must be referring to the bride. But does this mention of fine linen override all of the other verses above? And what about the first part of Verse 14? The Lord of Hosts (Sabaoth) refers throughout the Old Testament to the armies of heaven – the angels; once again confirming that the ones coming from heaven are angels, not people. The resurrected dead and those left alive at Jesus’ return will meet the Lord in the air, they just won’t be coming from heaven. They will be coming from earth to meet Jesus in the air. Where they go from there will be discussed later in the book. 

What about the Church of Philadelphia? 

Revelation 3:7-13 is Jesus’ letter to the Church at Philadelphia. The Pre-Tribulation teachers claim that God is promising, in these verses, to take the Church out of the world just before the Great Tribulation. The verse of particular interest is Verse Ten. 

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Rev. 3:10 

The argument is that “kept from” actually means “taken out of.” The underlying assumption is that the Philadelphians, or a similar type of church, will be “taken out” of the world before the “hour of trial.” The best way to test this theory is to examine the original Greek words; and then to ask the question, “Has St. John ever used these same Greek words meaning, “to take” and “to keep,” in his other writings?” 

Ares20 (should take). This is the root word “to take” or “to lift.” (If reading the digital version click on the words to go directly to Strong’s for examples of usage.) 

Tereso21 (will keep). This is the future tense of “to keep.” Tereso is the word John used in the verse above. In fact, he used it twice in this one verse. This word implies; maintenance of, safety, or care. The changes in prefixes and suffixes below only indicate tense and usage in the Greek. Now look again at Revelation 3:10. 

“Because you have kept (eteresa22) My command to persevere, I also will keep (tereso23) you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” 

You see that John is using the same root word in both instances. The epsilon prefix on the first mention of “kept” merely puts it in the past tense, indicating that the Philadelphian Church had already kept His command to persevere. Should the verse be interpreted, “Because you have “taken out” My command?” Of course not! 

Now let’s look at how John used these words, “kept” and “taken,” in his gospel. In Chapter 17 of John, we find Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Here John used this word for safekeeping – profoundly contrasting the idea of being “lifted out of trouble” with the promise of being “kept safe through trials.” 

I do not pray that You should take (ares24) them out of the world, but that You should keep (terese25) them from the evil one. John 17:15 

Now in the same way, Jesus spoke to the Church of Philadelphia. He promised to keep them in the midst of their trial, just as they had kept His command to persevere. Jesus was merely reciprocating their obedience “to keep” His command to persevere, with the promise of keeping the Philadelphia Church in return. He was not submitting the dissimilar promise of “taking them out” of harm’s way. This is a simple apples-to-apples reward for the Philadelphians’ own perseverance. 

Likewise, keeping the Apostles from the evil one did not mean “taking them out” of the world, but “keeping them” from being overcome by the evil one; even though, they would still remain in the world to accomplish Christ’s purpose (the purpose for which He was sending them into the world in the first place). Christ was sent into the world, and was not taken out of the world until He had accomplished 

his death and resurrection. Why would God remove His Church from the world (into which it was likewise sent) until such time as it had also accomplished its purpose? Didn’t Jesus clearly state that His followers (servants) would not be treated better than their Master? 

If further proof of Revelation 3:10’s failure to support the Pre-Tribulation theory is needed, we only have to consider the order in which these “types” of churches appear in Revelation; and how they are expected to emerge over history (by those who choose to extrapolate the seven church-types into the future). The Laodicean Church is the type expected to exist at the end of the age, not the Philadelphian type. Why didn’t Jesus give the Laodicean Church an opportunity to escape from the hour of trial, if they were the type of church that would exist in the final days of the age? 

Will Christians Experience God’s Wrath? 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom. 8:1 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 

“For Your sake we are killed all day long; 

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Rom. 8:35-37 

Christians cannot come under God’s wrath; but they will be required to endure a time of slaughter – a season of tribulation on the earth. Paul quoted the Old Testament reference above in Romans Chapter Eight specifically speaking to the Church about going through tribulation. Throughout the Book of Daniel the saints are being persecuted and slain by wicked rulers; and by the Beast who will “devour the whole earth.” If it were not possible for God’s people to experience an hour of trial that involves all the inhabitants of the world, then how could the Jews experience such a time? (Making the Pre-Tribulation assumption that Daniel pertains only to the Jews.) 

Would Christians who were saved during the Great Tribulation be under God’s grace (favor), and under God’s wrath, at the same time? Would the “elect” (supposed by Pre-Tribulation proponents to refer to the 144,000) experience favor and wrath at the same time? Furthermore, there would be no reason for preaching the eternal gospel during that time – for the same reason. Grace simply means, “God’s favor.” Is it possible to be a one of God’s favored, and to be out of God’s favor, at the same time? 

Christians “have passed from judgment into life” because of their obedience to the gospel. And up until the redemption of the body their salvation is spiritual, just as Christ’s kingdom was not of this world. This great salvation cannot be jeopardized by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore the entire argument against the Church’s existence on the earth during the time of God’s wrath is either irrelevant, or it must be applied equally to all of God’s people (Jews included). If Christ is for us, He cannot at the same time be against us. This is a kingdom principle. 

The Book of Revelation does talk about a time when God’s people will be sealed for protection. One of the difficulties in discussing the tribulation is that the Pre-Tribulation system typically groups everything in Revelation into the time of the Wrath of God. As Doug will bring out in the following chapters, God’s people will enter some type of hiding place during the time of God’s indignation. Will God warn His people to take cover, but to know that His anger is not being directed toward them? Will the saints be glorified and become impervious to physical harm? Or will they be taken to an isolated area that will not be affected? These are some of the possible interpretations we will discuss throughout the book. 

The Mystical Meta Tauta 

Pre-Tribulation rapture teachers say that “after these things,” (Gr. meta tauta) signifies that the Church has just been raptured at the beginning of Revelation Chapter Four. This conclusion is based on the premise that the previous chapters had been speaking about “the Church”; and therefore, meta tauta must mean that the conversation about the Church has ended – for the next 19 chapters of Revelation. 

Pre-Tribulation presumes that the letters to the seven churches weren’t exclusively written to the seven churches to which the letters were addressed; but that they were intended to provide a template for the problems that would successively plague the Church-at-large over a theoretical “Church Age”. 

Pre-Tribulation advocates place great significance upon the John’s use of the words Meta Tauta, as if these Greek words contain some kind of encrypted meaning pointing directly to the rapture of the Church. The drill goes something like this: “When you read meta tauta, think rapture. See it? It’s so obvious that John was indicating the rapture when he chose to use these special words. John meant, “After the things of the Church.” See it now? 

In his work diagramming the four views of Revelation, Steve Gregg makes this observation. It should be remembered that when John says, ‘After these things I saw …’ (as he frequently does), he is giving us the sequence in which he saw the visions—not necessarily implying anything about the chronological order in which the visions would find fulfillment in events.26 In fact, “after these things” is such a common phrase to John that he uses these exact words, meta tauta, 13 times in his Biblical writings. 

Chapter Seven of Revelation opens with the words, after these things. The wrath of God had just come upon the earth at the end of Chapter Six. Does meta tauta mean in this instance that Revelation has no more to say about the wrath of God after Chapter Six? 

Look at what has just taken place before the words, meta tauta, in Revelation 7:9. The 144,000 have just been sealed. Does meta tauta mean that the Jews are not to be found in the remainder of Revelation 

“after these things?” 

Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation both reveal the details of Mystery Babylon. Yet right in the middle, at the beginning of Chapter 18, John wrote, meta tauta; “After these things.” All three of these examples from the Book of Revelation demonstrate two truths about meta tauta. First, “after these things” does not signify a completion of whatever was being discussed before the “things” that follow the phrase, meta tauta. Secondly, meta tauta, at the beginning of Revelation Chapter Four does not mean, “rapture”. But the need by Pre-Tribulation proponents to resort to finding special meaning in such a common phrase does mean something.