"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be...Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matt. 24: 21, 29-30)
"And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7: 14)
A better translation of "out of great tribulation" would be "out of the tribulation, the great one." There is the definite article before both "tribulation" and "great." It is doubtless the very one foretold by Christ in his Olivet Discourse. It is also doubtless that one foretold by the prophet Daniel who wrote:
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12: 1-2)
It is also that time spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah in these words:
"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it." (Jer. 30: 7)
Needless to say, these verses show that the saints will go through the tribulation. How can saints come out of the great tribulation if they were never in it? How can it be the time of trouble for God's people if they are not experiencing that trouble? How can they be "saved out of" the tribulation if they are not in it? All this is devastating to the view that the saints will all be translated and resurrected prior to the tribulation so that they are not even on the earth when it occurs. All the advocates for the pre-trib view can do is to try to say that these saints, who are in the tribulation, are those who have been converted after the church age, after the Holy Spirit has been removed along with all the saved. But, how can any be saved without the presence of the church and the Holy Spirit? It is not possible.
It is the common view of pre-trib advocates that II Thess. 2: 6-8 shows that both the church and the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth prior to the coming of the great tribulation.
"And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 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." (NASB)
It is the view of A.W. Pink, for example, that the saved are referred to by "what restrains him" and that the Holy Spirit is referred to by "he who now restrains" and that it is not until they and he are "taken out of the way." Therefore, those who are supposedly saved during the tribulation period are saved without the Holy Spirit or the church. Who can believe such nonsense?
Not only do the verses already cited show that the saints are in the tribulation, but that they are the object of the persecution of the antichrist and his hordes.
"I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them." (Dan. 7: 21)
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." (Rev. 13: 7)
If antichrist makes war with the saints, then obviously they were not removed from earth by a prior rapture. The only thing that the pre-tribber can do is to say that these are people who are saved after the church age, after all the saved have been removed from earth along with the Holy Spirit. But, this is reading into the text one's preconcieved views. It is eisegesis, not exegesis. Let us see how the Apocalypse uses the term "saints."
"...having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." (Rev. 5: 8)
"...and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." (8: 3-4)
How could these "saints" be limited to saved souls after the rapture and coming of Christ? Surely they refer to the saved of all the ages, "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven...and to the spirits of just men made perfect." (Heb. 12: 23)
"And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." (11: 18)
"Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." (13: 10) "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (14: 12)
Is the reference to the "saints" in these verse limited to tribulation believers? Are they the only ones who have the patience and faith of Christ? The only ones who "keep the commandments of God" and keep "the faith of Jesus"? Surely not.
"...just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." (15: 3) "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets..." (16: 6)
"...for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (19: 8)
Again, these verses that describe the "saints" cannot be limited to tribulation saints, but is a term to denote those who are Christians. Thus, it is wrong to speak of these saints as being no part of the church or of the church age. The church, in Scripture, is equated with the body of Christ. Are these tribulation saints then no part of the body of Christ? Were they not of the number who were purchased by the blood of the Lord? (Acts 20: 28) Such an idea is to be rejected.
The thing that the pre-tribber must do is to prove that the "church age" ends years before the millenial age, or "age to come," commences and to show how the tribulation period is an intervening age which is no part of either the church or present age or of the age to come. On this we will have more to say in upcoming posts.
With these Scriptures that speak of the Lord's people, from both Jews and Gentiles, or Christians who are part of the body of Christ, the prima facie evidence is that they are present in the time of the tribulation of the Apocalypse and cannot therefore have been removed from the earth prior to it. Further, since it is the common use of the biblical writers of the new testament, and of John in the Apocalypse, to refer to saints as those who comprise the one body of Christ, it is the burden of the pretribber to show how "saints" in the tribulation period are not part of the body of Christ.
"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14: 22)
The idea of entering the kingdom of God through tribulation is what is vividly portrayed in the Apocalypse. It is also in keeping with the prayer of Christ.
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." (John 17: 15)
The pre-tribber believes that it is the will of the Lord to take believers "out of the world" so that they be kept from the evil of the great tribulation, but this is just exactly what Christ prayed would not be. It is the will of the Lord that believers be present during the coming great tribulation and that they be kept amidst it. This is seen in type in the old testament, in the judgments meted out on the land of Egypt just prior to the Exodus. The elect of God were indeed taken out of Egypt, were delivered from the plagues of judgment, but it was not until the judgments had been sent upon the land. If the pre-trib view were correct, we would expect that the Israelites would have been taken out of Egypt prior to the judgments being sent, but this is not what actually happened. Further, the Lord's keeping of the Israelites from the evil of the judgments upon Egypt was not by taking them out, but by preserving them in the midst of it.
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21: 36)
The Greek word for "escape" is "ekpheugō" and means to escape out. The prefix "ek" denotes "out of." But, how can one escape "out of" the coming tribulation if one was never "in" it? W. E. Vine says it means "to flee out of a place" (ek, "out of," and No. 1), is said of the "escape" of prisoners." But, if a prisoner escapes from prison, does that not imply that the prisoner was first "in" prison? Earlier we saw how the saints "come out of" the great tribulation and this verse simply says the same thing.
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Rev. 3: 10)
The Greek word translated "keep" (tēreō) means, according to Strong, "to attend to carefully, take care of" and "to guard," and "to keep, one in the state in which he is." Also the Greek word for "from" in the text is from the Greek preposition "ek" which means "out of." Thus, again, the promise is one of protection in the midst of the coming time of testing. Did the Lord not keep the Israelites out of the Egyptian judgments? But, how did he do this? Is it not by guarding and protecting them while they were yet in the land where the judgments occurred?
The idea that the rapture will take out all the godly and leave only the ungodly in the world is contrary to Scripture. Yet, it is the constant preaching of the pre-tribbers that this is what is to take place when Christ returns in the rapture. But, if this is so, then the harvest of the saved precedes the harvest of the unsaved, and this is contrary to the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus said that both will be harvested "at the end of the age." He also will say to the reaping angels "gather first the tares." (Matt. 13: 30) However, the pre-tribber says that the wheat will be first gathered.
The pre-trib view also says that the saints will be removed from the earth at the coming of Christ and that the wicked will be left on the earth. But, this is contrary to the Scriptures.
"But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it." (Prov. 2: 22)
"But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matt. 15: 13)
"For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it." (Prov. 2: 21)
"For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth." (Psa. 37: 9)
Thus, the pre-tribber has it all wrong. The ones who are uprooted and taken away are the wicked, and the ones left are the righteous.
"For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." (Matt. 24: 38-41)
This verse is often cited by pre-tribbers to uphold the idea that the coming of Christ and the rapture takes away the righteous and leaves the wicked upon the earth. But, this is a misreading of the text. Who was "taken away" by the flood? Was it not the wicked? Who were left? Was it not the righteous?