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Revelation 3:10 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:50 mins 30 secs

Rapture: Purpose of the Tribulation


The doctrine of the Rapture is not new. There are those who will say that it is something that was developed by John Nelson Darby in the early 19th century. This is something that is frequently said and until the last ten or twelve years there was no clear documented evidence of the teaching of the pre-Tribulation Rapture earlier in history. We have to remember that less than 25 per cent of the writings of the early church fathers have been translated from Greek and Latin, so much that was taught in the early church in the first six or seven centuries of Christianity is still untranslated and unavailable to most of us.


There was a Syrian pastor who wrote under the pseudonym of Ephraim and is referred to as Pseudo-Ephraim. In his writing he wrote in his book on the last times, The Antichrist and the End of the World: "Why then do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms all the world? For all the saints and elect of God are gathered prior to the Tribulation that is come and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins." This is a fifth or sixth century writing.


Also it has been discovered that a Baptist preacher and one of the founders of Brown University in Rhode Island, Morgan Edwards, wrote in a high school paper in the 1730s (not published until the 1780s) that the church would be raptured prior to the Tribulation. There have been numerous pastors who have held to and taught a pre-Tribulation long before there was the systematization of dispensational theology or the pre-Tribulation, or John Nelson Darby, or any of the current writers.


Unfortunately, through much of church history from about the middle of the third century AD up through the end of the 16th century there wasn't a consistent literal interpretation or a pre-Millennial theology, these prophecies were not necessarily understood futuristically, and the church was viewed as the replacement to Israel. So there was no framework within which anybody would think about the timing of the Rapture. 


The nature of the Tribulation

It is for Israel, not for the church. It is a time of preparation for Israel's final restoration and conversion. There are two world-wide regatherings predicted for the nation Israel in the Bible. The one that most are familiar with is a regathering of the nation in regeneracy, where they are looking to God and are regathered as a regenerate people.

Deuteronomy 4:25-31 NASB "When you become the father of children and children's children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God {so as} to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven [angels] and earth [mankind] to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The LORD will scatter you among the peoples [nations], and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell."

"But from there [while out scattered among all the nations] you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find {Him} if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul." This is talking about the second world-wide regathering which is the regathering of regenerate Israel.

 "When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days [Daniel's 70th week] you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them."

So this takes place as a time of preparation for Israel's restoration and conversion.

The focus of Jeremiah chapter 30 is on the restoration of Israel to the land. Verses 3ff NASB "'For behold, days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.' The LORD says, 'I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it.'" Now these are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah: "For thus says the LORD, 'I have heard a sound of terror, Of dread, and there is no peace. 'Ask now, and see If a male can give birth. Why do I see every man {With} his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And {why} have all faces turned pale?" – a poetic description of the anguish that they are going through, the suffering, the adversity, in the Tribulation. "'Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob's distress, But he will be saved from it." The Tribulation is a time of unprecedented destruction, killing and judgment.

Notice the promise that God is going to bring back His people Israel and Judah from captivity. Then we have a discussion of what happens in the Tribulation, and then it goes on to talk about their deliverance. So this indicates that prior to the Tribulation there will be this worldwide regathering of the nation, but not in belief. There are two regatherings, one in belief and one in unbelief. The first world-wide regathering in unbelief is taking place right now. It has been going on for about 100 years now and He knows how much longer it will go on. This is the first time that there has been this kind of a gathering in all of the church age. It is unique and a gathering in unbelief, and there must be a regathering in unbelief just to have a nation in the land to be able to enter into that covenant of peace with the Antichrist, which is prophesied in Daniel chapter nine, and other things of that nature. It doesn't means that they are ready to believe yet but it sets the stage for the Tribulation period. The Tribulation is a time of preparation, a time of judgment on the nation and to prepare them for ultimate restoration and conversion.

Zechariah 12:10, 11 NASB "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." Notice that there are inhabitants in Jerusalem who are Jews at the end of the Tribulation period. "In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo." This is talking about the time of Israel's final conversion acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah. So this is part of the purposes of the Tribulation period. It doesn't relate to the church, it relates to Israel. It is the time of Jacob's trouble; Daniel's seventieth week.

The third indication that this is of Jewish focus in the Tribulation is that though the church currently experiences tribulations—John 16:33, Jesus said that we would face adversity, tribulations—we will not go through the Tribulation.

The fourth principle related to the Jewish nature of the Tribulation is that the word "church" is mentioned 19 times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but in chapters 4-19 which describe the entire Tribulation period the church is never mentioned. The church is not present on the earth during that period of time.

The judgments of the Tribulation are unique in all of history. They take the ten plagues of Egypt and apply them to the entire world. Matthew 24:21 NASB "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will." This cant be applied to anything that has ever happened before in history. Daniel 12:1 NASB "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands {guard} over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued." Notice that is related to "your people," the Jewish focus in the Tribulation period. 

1)  Another reason the Rapture must occur before the Tribulation and that there must be a removal of the church is because of the nature of the church. When we look at Scripture about the church we realize that the purpose for the church differs from God's purpose for Israel. God has a distinct purpose for calling about people during the church age. We enter into the body of Christ and we are going to rule and reign with Christ. We are a heavenly people, not an earthly people, with a heavenly destiny and not an earthly destiny.

2)  The church was a mystery in the Old Testament, it is not revealed in the Old Testament, and it is a mystery where the Jews and Gentiles are united together in the body of Christ. There is no distinction in the church age between Jew and Gentile.

3)  The church is not appointed to wrath, i.e. the Tribulation. The word "wrath" is used numerous contexts as a technical word for the intense judgment of the Tribulation period. The term refers ultimately to the outworking of the justice of God, the judgments of God in history, but specifically in these passages it refers to the judgments of God. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 & 5:9 specifically. The church is promised deliverance from the hour of testing, Revelation 3:10. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Rapture occurs because God has not destined us for wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 NASB "and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, {that is} Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."

The work of God the Holy Spirit that is not in the Tribulation period

2 Thessalonians 2:6,7  NASB "And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed." It refers to indwelling ministry of God the Holy Spirit at work through the body of Christ during the current church age, that as part of His ministry during this time period the Holy Spirit is restraining evil through the presence of the church. "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains {will do so} until he is taken out of the way." In verse 6 "restrain" is used as a neuter participle. He who restrains refers to the Holy Spirit. The term "spirit," PNEUMA [pneuma] is a neuter noun. But in verse 7. "he who now restrains" uses the same word, masculine participle, and this often happens in reference to the Holy Spirit where there is sometimes a masculine pronoun referring to the neuter noun PNEUMA, because the Holy Spirit is not neuter, He is not just a force, He is a person. This is one of the reasons theologians argue for the personhood of God the Holy Spirit. What threes two verses tell us is that the lawless one, the Antichrist, cannot be revealed until the restrainer is taken away. So as long as the church is present on the earth the Tribulation cannot begin.

So we put all of these things together and we come to the conclusion that the church must be taken out of the earth before the Tribulation can begin.

Why is this so important? It is important because it is designed in Scripture as practical motivation for godly living, for spiritual life, for evangelism, for missions.

1 John 2:28 NASB "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." This is our motivation. He can come at any moment. Are we ready? Are we prepared? Have we made doctrine the priority in our lives so that when He comes we are ready for the judgment seat of Christ?

1 John 3:2, 3 NASB "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope {fixed} on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." It is a crucial element in our sanctification. We recognize that Jesus could come today and each day it impacts our thought, our behaviour, our priorities and our decisions because we want to be ready for His return.