Eschatology, the Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
The Nature of the Rapture
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
by James T. Bartsch, WordExplain
Reason 9. Incongruities
A Post-Tribulation Rapture Makes Impossible the Fulfillment of Certain OT and NT Prophecies
9. Incongruities. A Post-Tribulation Rapture is not credible because it makes nonsense of certain OT and NT passages in relationship to their fulfillment.
a. Who will be left to sort out as sheep? Jesus' return to earth in power and great glory is described in Matthew 24:29-31. The returning King's judgment of all Israelis who survived the Tribulation period is outlined in Matthew 25:1-30. The relative preparedness and unpreparedness of the people of Israel is described under the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (in Matt. 25:1-13) and under the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30). In Matthew 25:31-46 the King turns His attention to judge all the nations (Gentiles) who survived the Tribulation period.
The opening of this judgment is described in Matt. 25:31-33 as follows.
31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left."
In the course of Jesus' judgment He separates the "sheep" from the "goats." He places the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left. The sheep inherit the kingdom prepared for them upon the earth, but the goats are dispatched into eternal fire.
But there is an anomaly here. If all the believers are taken up to meet the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18) at the end of the Tribulation, there is no sorting needed. It has already been done. The ones left behind are all goats. So who, then, are the sheep divided out from among the goats to inherit the kingdom? Are we to believe that all the regenerate individuals are to be raptured up to meet the Lord in the air, descend with Jesus, only to mingle among all the unregenerate and have to be sorted out once again? They were already sorted. This scenario is nonsense.
My conclusion is that a Post-Tribulation Rapture makes no sense in light of Matthew 25:31-46. A Pre-Tribulation Rapture makes much more sense. The Church was already taken up prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. There are people who will become converted to Christ during the Tribulation, although most will probably be martyred. But some will survive. So it is these Tribulation saints among the unbelieving individuals from among the nations who survive the Tribulation who will have to be sorted out from the unbelievers. The goats are Gentiles who survive the Tribulation but who are not believers in Jesus. The sheep are Gentile Tribulation saints who survived the Tribulation. This passage is best explained by a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, not a Post-Tribulation Rapture. (See also John MacArthur's explanation.)
b. Who will be left to age? Certain OT passages predict tremendous longevity during the Millennium. See, for example, Isaiah 65:19-20 describes such conditions:
19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying. 20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed.
We make several observations. (1) Infant mortality will be eliminated in the kingdom. There will be no such thing as an infant who lives just a few days, and then dies. (2) People who live out their lives to a ripe old age will be the norm. I fully anticipate that longevity in the Millennium will rival that of the patriarchs who lived before the Great Flood of Noah. Adam himself lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5), and Methuselah set a record at 969 years (Gen. 5:27). But according to the prophet Isaiah, this will become commonplace. (3) If someone dies at the age of 100 years, people will consider him to have been but a teen-ager! (4) If someone does not reach the age of 100, people will deem him to have been cursed by God for some evil in his life!
But this scenario creates insurmountable problems if one presupposes a Post-Tribulation Rapture. In that event all believers will be raptured (1 Cor. 15:50-57; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) and given glorified bodies at the return of Christ. So if all believers have been raptured, and thus either experienced resurrection or have been given glorified bodies, what believers will be left alive in their natural bodies to age? The answer is a flat, "No one!"
Clearly there are Millennial passages that teach great longevity, but also aging. That makes complete sense if we have a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The Church will be raptured before the Tribulation. Then some people will become believers during the Tribulation. Some will almost miraculously survive the Tribulation, and they will still be in their natural bodies, capable of aging. But with the arrival of the Great King and the reversal of much of the Curse, believers living in their natural bodies at the time of Christ's return to rule will be granted much longer lives. Aging will only be possible if believers exist in the Millennium in their natural, unglorified, unresurrected bodies.
But a Post-Tribulation Rapture eliminates every last one of believers who live on the Millennial Earth in their natural bodies. They will all have glorified, resurrected bodies.
We conclude, then, that a Post-Tribulation Rapture makes nonsense of certain Old Testament prophecies. In this case, the prophecies that predict great life spans during the Millennial Kingdom become meaningless if a Post-Tribulation Rapture is actually true. We conclude, then, that a Post-Tribulation Rapture cannot be possible. It makes impossible the fulfillment of other Scriptures. Only a Pre-Tribulation Rapture makes sense, allowing these "aging" prophecies to be fulfilled literally.
c. Who will be left to marry and bear children? Certain OT passages predict the birth of children during the Millennium. See, for example, Isaiah 65:20-23. But if all believers have been raptured and possess resurrected bodies, who will be left to marry and bear children?
d. Who will be left to die? Certain OT passages predict death during the Millennium. See, for example, Isaiah 65:20. But if all believers have been raptured, who will be left to die?
e. Who will be left to rebel? Revelation 20:7-9 depicts a rebellion at the end of the Millennium against Christ and His administration. This occurs when Satan is released from the abyss and goes out to deceive the nations of the world. But if the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, there will be no believers left in their natural bodies to inherit the Millennial Kingdom. Who will be left to be deceived by Satan? Who will be left to revolt against the King and his administration? The answer is, "No one!"
Prepared by James T. Bartsch
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)