The other day, a couple of people at work were talking and I expressed my view on the rapture. I had just finished listening to a radio program where a missionary was talking about pre-tribulation and post-tribulation theologies were a foreign concept outside of the western world. This is because in the rest of the world, they feel like the tribulation period is already going on as they struggle to survive day to day.
This concept actually makes sense to me. I feel like the western world, specifically the U.S., is so out of touch with the struggles and persecution that the church is facing in other parts of the world, so they have time to sit around and dwell on different doctrines about what will happen in the “End Times”.
At my church, several of the pastors there believe and preach on a pre tribulation point of view and how great it will be to not be around when it gets bad on earth. of course it is already bad in most parts of the world, but their thinking is how bad it will be when the U.S. is like the rest of the world. Of course I have also heard them talk about eternity and how we can play golf and do all of the things we love, which I find hard to believe as that is no where in scripture.
For my point of view, I tend to fall somewhere in the mid to post tribulation thoughts. I do not see that the Church would be sparred physical suffering. Pre tribulation people feel like the church, both living and dead, will be called up to heaven before the beginning of the 7 year period of great tribulation that is predicted in Daniel.
Part of what has helped to spur this debate on what will happen comes from Paul.
For we declare to you what the Lord has told us to say: We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have died. With a shout of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of God’s trumpet, the Lord himself will come down from heaven, and the dead who belong to the Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1Th 4:15-17)
Here we see were Jesus is calling up those who are saved to Him and will be with the Lord forever. The debate comes over what time this event will take place. Now we need to remember that the Thessalonians were worried that they had missed the second coming of Jesus, so Paul had to settle them down. Paul’s stance was that when it happened, both the living and the dead who were saved would all go at one time. What time? The time is the easiest way to answer this question.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1Co 15:50-53)
Here, Paul is telling the Corinthians that not all will be dead when the Lord comes back, but we will all be changed at the last trumpet.
Jesus says this as to those last days:
“Immediately 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. Then 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. And 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. (Mat 24:29-31)
Now a conflicting view comes from John in Revelations, where Jesus is telling the church in Philadelphia that it will be kept from the trial that is coming on the whole world.
Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. (Rev 3:10)
The words kept from are seen by the Pre Tribulation group as being spared from the time of suffering, while Post Tribulation people see it as the saved as spared from the trials that will be suffered by “those who dwell on the earth” or the unsaved.
Now ultimately, it really does not matter if the Jesus takes the beleivers before, during, or after the tribulation period. Our focus as christians should not be on when we are able to escape the world as once we are saved, we no longer are of the world. Our physical location might be here, but spiritually we should be about the work of the kingdom of God.