Will the Rapture Occur at the Last Trump?
By Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon
Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’ve been discussing Dave Hunt’s book When Will Jesus Come? Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ. Now, Dave, last week as we reviewed chapter 17, there were things you wrote that we really didn’t have time to address, or at least explain them more fully. Now, one such item relates to the belief—not a belief that we hold, by the way—but a belief that the church would go through the Great Tribulation before it was taken out of the way by our Lord in the Rapture. Now, if this is truly the case (and many people, as you know, make a case for it), why didn’t the apostle Paul, who wrote most of the epistles, why didn’t he in his writings help prepare the church to face the Antichrist and suffer through a tribulation more terrible, really, than the world has ever experienced?
Dave: Well, it’s a good question, Tom. In fact, he didn’t. He warns about apostasy. He says, in fact, in 2 Thessalonians 2 that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until “he who now hinders is removed.” So I don’t know why he would warn the Christians to prepare for the Antichrist when he says that the church has to be removed. We explained that in the past: “He who now hinders will hinder until he is taken out of the way. Then shall that wicked be revealed.” So who could hinder Antichrist? Only God himself. But God himself is omnipresent; He can’t be removed. So what are we talking about? We explained that Jesus said that “those who believe on him, out of their innermost being would flow rivers of living water.” This is John 7, beginning at verse 37. And John—who is recording this, writing it—he makes the comment that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, which they that believed on Him should receive. And then he makes this statement: “For the Holy Ghost was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” So at Pentecost and in the church we have a presence of God—the Holy Spirit on this earth—that there never was before, and that presence must be removed. There is no other way to explain it. It’s not going to remove God himself. The Holy Spirit will still be here to convince the world of sin and righteousness and judgment to come. There will be people who will trust Christ who will be saved. They didn’t know the gospel before, but during the Great Tribulation they will hear it and they will come to faith in Christ and pay for it with their lives.
But, Tom, there is no other explanation for that. So why would Paul warn people and prepare them for facing Antichrist when he himself said Antichrist could not be revealed until the church was removed?
Tom: Dave, what was the issue in 1 Thessalonians that Paul was correcting them about?
Dave: Well, he was correcting them because some of them had died before the Rapture, and they were concerned that those who had died before the Rapture, I guess, they’re gone! That only those who are alive and remain, who are alive when Christ returns, would be taken to heaven. And so in 1 Thessalonians 4, beginning at verse 13 but going on down, he says, “We who are alive shall not prevent those [or precede those] who are asleep, for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, [with the] voice of the archangel, [and with the] trump of God: the dead in Christ will rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air: so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
And then he says, “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”
Now, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 1, I guess—verse 2 or thereabouts—he says, “I don’t want you to be troubled, concerned by some letter as though it came from us as that the day of the Lord has already come.” Because in chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians, he said, “You yourselves know the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, but I don’t have to warn you about this. You understand these things.”
Tom: So at that time the Thessalonians were being subjected to some persecution, is that right?
Dave: Well, Tom…Yeah. The entire church was always subject to persecution, but the thing that had troubled them was that they had gotten a letter from a false apostle, apparently, saying because of this persecution, that means the Day of the Lord is already here. Now, that’s a very powerful passage, Tom, for a pre-Trib Rapture, because if you look at that verse, who would be concerned if the Day of the Lord was here? And if you think you’re going to go through the Great Tribulation, which is part of the Day of the Lord—this is how it begins—well, okay…
Tom: You wouldn’t be troubled by it.
Dave: No. “Let’s get on with it! You got to go through it anyway.” Or mid-Trib, or pre-wrath, same thing. Now, who would be troubled? Who would be upset? Only if you had been taught by Paul that the Rapture preceded the day of the Lord. And what he says in chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” and Peter says the same thing in his second epistle. Well, it reminds you of what Jesus said: “You had better watch, because I’m coming like a thief in the night.” Okay?
So if Paul had taught them that the Rapture marks the beginning of the day of the Lord, and they get a letter from some authority saying, “Oh, we’re already in the day of the Lord in this Great Tribulation,” but they’re still here, Paul is still here—either Paul lied to them, Paul was simply wrong (not inspired of God), or they’ve been left behind. Both of them would be very troubling thoughts.
Tom: Right. Dave, again, it comes back to the first point. We don’t find Paul saying, “Yes, and here’s what you do next. You are in the Tribulation, now here’s how we deal with it.” You don’t find any of that.
Dave: Yeah, because he goes on to say, “That day cannot come except there come an apostasy first.” Well, that’s a tough verse, Tom. Maybe we can deal with that…I think we probably have, maybe a few years ago. The apostasy comes first, and the man of sin will be revealed. Now, people read that as though the day of the Lord can’t come until the man of sin has first been revealed. No, what it says is—it doesn’t say the man of sin must be revealed first; it says there must be an apostasy first, and then the day of the Lord will come. And in that day, the man of sin will be revealed. The Antichrist obviously is revealed during the Great Tribulation. He’s not revealed before the Great Tribulation. That doesn’t make any sense at all. The Antichrist cannot be revealed until the church has been removed and a number of other reasons, because in Revelation 13 it says, “He is given authority over the saints to kill them.”
So as I often say (maybe a little bit facetiously, Tom), a post-trib Rapture would be a classic non-event. There’s nobody left to rapture except for a handful of people who ran fast enough to keep one step ahead of the world police, because [if] you don’t take his mark, you can’t buy or sell. You couldn’t go into a store: they got you right there. You don’t have a mark for buying, so you’re eating out of garbage pails. You don’t bow down to worship his image, you are killed. So obviously if you didn’t take his mark, you didn’t bow down and worship his image.
So, Tom, there’s no way for a Christian, a believer in Christ, to escape during the Great Tribulation. So there aren’t any left at the Great Tribulation. But the Bible says the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. Satan is not going to overcome the church. But here we would have the Antichrist slaughtering the church. Now, granted that there’s been a lot of slaughter of Christians down through the ages, but not the whole church. The whole church has never even been wiped out in China or anywhere else. But during the Great Tribulation Antichrist will have the means—GPS, you’ve got a mark…I’m sure it would be a computer. They can follow you from those satellites; you can’t get away. So there’s not going to be anybody left, so the church must be removed. Well, then who are these people that get saved during the Great Tribulation? Well, they are killed, and we see a great company of them under the throne of God in chapter 6. Chapter 7, you see them again in Revelation, and they are crying out, “How long, Lord, before you avenge us, avenge our blood?”
And the Lord says, “Not until the rest of your brethren have been killed.” And then in Revelation 20 we have resurrection—it’s called the first resurrection, but it really is a continuation of the first resurrection at the Rapture. It can’t be the same as that; there’s no one raptured, there’s no catching up to meet Him in the air. His feet are on the Mount of Olives now, and you have a resurrection of those—it’s very specific—of those who were beheaded for the testimony of Christ. Well, I don’t think every person has to be beheaded—you might have been shot; who knows what happened to you—or tortured to death. But those that died during the Great Tribulation, they will be resurrected at the end of the Great Tribulation, obviously. But Paul is telling them not to be concerned if someone has already died and the Rapture hasn’t occurred; that doesn’t mean that they’ll be left behind. They are going to be taken at the Rapture. He’s talking about a Rapture which catches up the living and resurrects the dead and they all go together to heaven.
Tom: Dave, also in chapter 17, you raise a point, which is another argument that the post-Tribbers bring, and that is the “last trump.” They say because of the last trump, when the dead in Christ shall be resurrected, that that takes place well into the Tribulation according to Revelation 11. What about that?
Dave: Oh, but that’s the last trump there. There are many trumps, and I do not know how to interpret that, Tom. You see, there are undoubtedly difficult passages. But when we take the whole Bible together, when we take all the passages pertaining to the Rapture, for example, it’s very clear it’s not coming at that time. I don’t know.
First Corinthians 15 also talks about the trumpet shall sound: “Behold, I show you a mystery: we won’t all sleep, we won’t all be in the grave, we will all be changed. The trumpet will sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.” What trump it is, Tom, I don’t know, but it certainly is not that one in Revelation, because that’s in the middle; that’s not even pre-wrath or mid-Trib or post-Trib. It doesn’t fit anywhere. Why should that trump mark the resurrection and the catching up to heaven? Because furthermore, Tom, I just quoted a verse that would put an end to that idea, and that is, “When are you going to avenge our blood?”
“Not until all of your brethren have been killed.” So the Rapture couldn’t come in the middle of the Tribulation and take some of these martyrs out and then there’s going to be more martyrs, because that doesn’t sound like the avenging of the blood. It just doesn’t fit, Tom.
Furthermore, last week or the week before, we noted in Luke 17, and you have the same thing in Matthew 24: “As it was in the days of Noah, and in the days of Lot….” They’re eating and drinking and marrying and partying and buying and selling and planting and building. Tom, by the time you get to that last trump—the seventh trump, I mean—this world is practically destroyed. I don’t see business as usual. It’s not possible. That, again, tells us of a pre-Trib Rapture before all this happens.
Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 1 says, “He has not appointed us unto wrath.” Well, by the time you get to the seventh trump there, you’ve had a lot of wrath of God poured out. Even in chapter 6 they’re crying out to the mountains and the rocks to cover them, to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. So it won’t work, Tom.
Tom: Dave, it also confuses the issue of the church. If those who are raptured are raptured at the mid-point of the Tribulation, is that the church? And if they are taken to heaven, what about those who are left? Do they then become the church later? I think it’s a problem.
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t know whether we’ve given this before. I can only give my idea. We study the Bible and we try to bring all of it to bear. And I can tell you, here’s how I divide the church, ok? And I guess I would be in the minority…
Tom: Well, then we encourage people to be Bereans. Check out what you say, right?
Dave: Right. I think everyone who is in the first resurrection is in the church. That would be one reason why…you see, it puzzles a lot of people. It seems strange. Revelation 20, it says this is the first resurrection. Well, but it says only those who have been beheaded or killed, the martyrs, those who’ve been martyred through the Great Tribulation, they’re the only ones who are resurrected in Revelation 20! Well, if that’s the first resurrection, when does the resurrection at the Rapture occur? Haven’t even had a resurrection, haven’t even had a Rapture, apparently. No, it means this is the culmination. These people are in this resurrection, okay? At the Rapture and the resurrection at the end of the Great Tribulation, that is one resurrection, okay? So everyone who’s in that resurrection is in the same category. Now, why would that be? The only conclusion I can come to, Tom, is this: we get, in Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on Me whom they have pierced.” Israel does not come to faith as a whole in Christ until they see Him. Jesus said that at this point all Israel would be saved. He said, “He that endures to the end will be saved.” It doesn’t mean if you hang on to Jesus you’re secure for eternity, but those who are alive—and two-thirds of all the Jews on planet Earth will be killed.
Tom: Now again, Dave, I have to keep saying this: this is according to the Jewish prophets. You’re just explaining what the prophets have said.
Dave: Yes, thank you. Zechariah 13, if anyone wants to look it up. Or Jeremiah 30:7, the time of Jacob’s trouble. Or you get on to verse 10 and 11, where God says to Israel, “Though I make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered you, I won’t make a full end of you, but I will punish you. You’re going to be punished.”
So two-thirds will be killed, okay? So the one-third that is alive when Jesus returns, they will all believe. Now, Jesus said to Thomas…Thomas said, “Unless I see Him, unless I put my finger in the nail prints, and so forth, I’m not going to believe.” Thomas then falls down when this happens: “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Thomas, because you have believed. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Okay, those who believe without seeing, I believe, are in the church. Now that includes, I think, Abraham; I think it includes David. If Abraham, who Jesus said “rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad,” if he is not one of those—1 Thessalonians 4: “Those who sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him.” They have died having faith in Christ the Messiah who was to come.
Now there are those who say, “Well, Old Testament saints are not in the church, New Testament saints are.” I don’t know where you can draw the line. The only place I think you can draw the line is those who see Him. If you’re not saved, if you do not come to faith in Christ before you see Him, and you are alive when He returns [and] you believe, you continue into the Millennial kingdom alive on this earth. You’re not resurrected because you didn’t die. You’re not raptured, because the only Rapture we read of takes place simultaneously with the resurrection.
So, Tom, I wandered around, but that’s the way that I divide this. So you believe in Jesus before you see Him—whether you’re in the Great Tribulation, whether you’re in the Old Testament, whatever it is—you are in the church, because you’re taken to heaven. You are in heaven, okay? You are resurrected—you have a resurrected, glorified body. You don’t believe in Jesus until you see Him, or subsequently thereto—you still have a body; you haven’t been resurrected, you haven’t been transformed. You’re not part of a resurrection. It’s not even happening at the time of the resurrection. You continue in that physical body into the Millennial kingdom, and you will thereafter be part of that kingdom on the new earth in the new heavens, in my opinion.
Tom: Dave, I think about Job, the Book of Job. Many people believe he was one of the patriarchs at the time of Abraham and so on, and he says, “I know that my redeemer liveth.” I mean, he had an insight that was of Jesus, so that would include him.
The only problem I have with that, Dave, is the bride of Christ. Christ’s intimacy with—from the time of the church and beyond, seemed to be a different category, so I don’t know.
Dave: Tom, you raise a good point, because there’s a wedding that takes place up in heaven. And it sounds as though those who are resurrected, having died during the Great Tribulation, that resurrection takes place later.
On the other hand, they’re already in heaven; their souls and spirits are in heaven, and if they don’t yet have their resurrected, glorified bodies, I don’t see that that would hinder them from being part of this company. And they will get that body, I believe, simultaneously with Christ coming back, maybe at the moment. So I think they’re included, Tom.
Program Number: 2009