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The Rapture and Tribulation Period

I've listed 2 good articles on The Rapture of the Church and why it will happen BEFORE the soon coming Tribulation.

The Rapture (Part 17)
Andy WoodsBy Dr. Andy Woods
Sugar Land Bible Church
The Rapture (Part 17)

My previous articles commenced a series on the rapture of the church. We began with the question, "What is the Rapture?" This question can best be answered by noting ten truths about the rapture from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. In previous articles from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we saw that the rapture is an important doctrine and not something that can be marginalized or explained away as a secondary doctrine. We also noted that the rapture is an event that is distinct from the Second Advent of Christ. We further observed that the rapture will involve the catching up of every believer to meet the Lord in the air, and that the rapture will involve a reunion between living and deceased Church-Age believers. We then began to examine several more points from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. We noted that the rapture will be a resurrection, will exempt an entire generation of believers from death, will be an instantaneous event, is a mystery, is an imminent event, and is also a traditional doctrine now being recovered.

We then moved to a second main question, namely, when will the rapture take place relative to the coming seven-year Tribulation period? We offered the contention that believers can develop certainty that they will be raptured before the Tribulation period occurs for at least seven reasons. First, the Tribulation period's purpose concerns Israel rather than the church. Second, there is no reference to the church as being on the earth in Revelation 4–19. Third, the church has been promised an exemption from divine wrath. The fourth reason is that the rapture is an imminent event and only the pretribulation view is in harmony with this doctrine. The fifth reason is that only pretribulationalism is in harmony with the New Testament's presentation of the rapture as a comforting event. We now move on to our sixth argument favoring pretribulationalism.

The RestrainerThe Restrainer
The sixth reason that the rapture will take place before the Tribulation period begins is due to the fact that the Antichrist cannot even come forward until the Holy Spirit's restraining ministry through the church is first removed. A common misunderstanding among prophecy students is that the rapture will begin the Tribulation period. Such a view represents a misunderstanding since the Antichrist's covenant or "peace treaty" with unbelieving Israel furnishes the specific eschatological event that will inaugurate the coming seven-year Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27a). However, 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 indicates that the Antichrist cannot make his debut onto the world stage to enter into this covenant until the Restrainer is first removed. These verses say,

"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."

Of course, the pertinent question becomes what or who is the restrainer spoken of in these verses? Many interpretations have been proposed. Some contend that the restrainer was the Roman empire restraining evil in Paul's day. Yet, Rome is gone and the restraint on the advent of the Antichrist remains.

Others believe that Satan is the restrainer. However, according to these verses, the restrainer is currently acting as a check upon the Antichrist, who will be Satan's man of the hour. Satan will perfectly express himself through this coming Antichrist. Second Thessalonians 2:9 says,

"that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders."

If Satan is the restrainer, then why would he currently be opposing his own diabolical program? This option is particularly unlikely given Christ's statement in Matthew 12:25-26, which says,

"Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?"

If Satan is currently opposing the coming of the Antichrist, then he is currently weakening his own kingdom by dividing it against itself.

Others have suggested the restrainer is the institution of human government because Romans 13:1-7 explains that government restrains the sinful impulses of people. However, this view also does not hold up under close scrutiny since human government will reach its zenith during the Tribulation period. The Antichrist himself will preside over a one-world government (Dan. 7:23Rev. 13:716-18). How can human government restrain the advent of the Antichrist when the Antichrist will control the masses through an all-powerful government? Thus, just as human government was incapable of holding back Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-1011:1-4), who is a typological prefigurement of the coming Antichrist, human government will similarly be incapable of preventing the coming of the Antichrist.

Still others have suggested that the restrainer is Michael the Archangel. The problem with this view is that Jude 9 tells us that Michael is reluctant to contest Satan, when it says,

"But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'"

Therefore, consistency seems to dictate that Michael would also be unwilling to actively contribute to the present veiling of the Satanically controlled Antichrist.

The best interpretive option is that the restrainer mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 is the Holy Spirit. There are two primary reasons for reaching this conclusion. First, the force restraining the Antichrist must be more powerful than Satan. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:9, the Antichrist will be Satan's masterpiece who will be directly controlled and empowered by Satan himself. Thus, the restrainer must be powerful enough to prevent Satan from unleashing the Antichrist onto the world scene until the proper time. Only deity possessing the attribute of omnipotence ("all power") has unlimited power. Certainly the Holy Spirit meets this criterion since He is full deity (Acts 5:3-4).

Second, the Greek participle "restrainer" is neuter in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and masculine in verse 7. Identifying the restrainer as the Holy Spirit handles well this abrupt transition from the neuter to the masculine gender. The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma, which is a neuter noun. Moreover, in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus identified the Holy Spirit with the masculine personal pronoun "him" or "he." For example, in John 14:17, Christ said,

"that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."

The Holy Spirit is designated by the personal pronoun "he" in other sections of the same discourse (John 15:2616:13-14).

Why then did Paul simply not use the words "Holy Spirit" in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7? In Scripture, it is common for the Holy Spirit to be identified by a particular ministry that He provides. In John 14:17, the Holy Spirit is identified by His ministry of truth. In John 14:26, He is identified by His ministry as a helper. In Romans 8:2, He is identified by His ministry of providing spiritual life. The Holy Spirit has a role in restraining evil in the world (Gen. 6:3). Thus, in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, Paul similarly points out the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit without expressly mentioning the specific name "Holy Spirit."

Another factor to keep in mind is that Paul had already taught the Thessalonians about the subject of prophecy during his initial visit. Thus, in his epistles to the Thessalonians, he simply reviews eschatological topics that they already knew. In 2 Thessalonians 2:5, after describing numerous prophetic subjects, he says,

"Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?"

Given this reality, it would be redundant for Paul to continue employing the term "Holy Spirit" if the Thessalonians had already been well taught on the Spirit's role in the outworking of the prophetic program. Given their prior knowledge base, simply referring to the Spirit by alluding to His prophetic role of restraining the Antichrist would have been sufficient to the Thessalonians for purposes of identification. Exactly how the Holy Spirit holds back the Antichrist and how all of this contributes to the doctrine of pretribulationalism will be the subject of the next article in the series.

(To Be Continued...)

The Omega Letter Intelligence Digest
Vol: 140 Issue: 1 - Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Restrainer This morning's brief is a detailed answer to a question posed to Jack back in 2008.

"Would you please consider doing an email on the Restrainer? Yesterday I was in a discussion with someone who said, "If the Holy Spirit leaves when the church leaves, then how's anyone gonna get saved?" I admit that question has crawled around in the recesses of my mind for years.
Although I've also heard it said that if the world reverts to the dispensation of Law for the last 7 years of the Tribulation, the Holy Spirit will deal with believers as He did in the OT."
First, some background: The timing of the Rapture is easily one of the most divisive issues within the Body of the Christ, something I find extremely interesting.
It would seem to me that the issue of when He is coming is important only in understanding the signs of the times, but not terribly important in terms of salvation or issues of eternity, or even in terms of living a Spirit-filled life.
That being said, we ARE students of Bible prophecy; and the timing of the Rapture is extremely important to understanding the signs of the times.
There are three basic interpretations of the Rapture; pre-Tribulatonal, mid-tribulational and post-tribulational.
Pre-Trib holds to the view the Lord returns BEFORE the Tribulation.  Mid-Trib teaches that the Rapture of the Church will occur in the middle of the 7 year tribulation period.  It will occur sometime around the abomination of desolation when the anti-Christ goes into the rebuilt Jewish temple and there claim to be God.
The Post-Trib view teaches that as the Lord Jesus is returning back to earth, God's people will be 'caught up' or raptured at that point in time.  They will return to earth with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Each of these views can be supported, to some degree, by Scripture, but only one is correct.  I believe it is the one with the fewest problems, which is a Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church.
One of the problems with a mid-Trib view is glaring; it denies the doctrine of imminency.  Although the Scriptures teach a SECRET coming, (no man knoweth the day or hour) once the Tribulation begins, one just has to sit down with a calendar.  It will be no surprise and it will come at a known time.
Another problem with the mid-Trib Rapture view is that its followers aren't looking for Christ, they are watching for the anti-Christ, from whom they derive their timetable.
By contrast, I am awaiting Jesus Christ.  I never expect to know who the antichrist will be, and frankly, I don't really care.  My purpose, to the degree I even discuss the antichrist in your Omega Letter, is to demonstrate how the world is preparing for his coming -- and to remind people that Jesus is coming FIRST!
The mid-Tribulation view is not widely followed for these reasons, among others.
The post-Tribulation view shares the same glaring problem as the mid-Tribbers; the denial of imminency.  It will be even easier to pinpoint the return of Christ, given the Bible gives the exact number of days between the 'abomination of desolation' (Matthew 24:15;2nd Thessalonians 2:4) and the return of the Messiah.
"And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." (Daniel 12:11)
Compare that to Jesus' Words;
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36)
If the post-Trib view is correct, that secret is hidden only until the revelation of antichrist.
So it shares the same second flaw with the mid-Trib view; both of these interpretations make the coming of antichrist THE seminal event in prophecy.  The 2nd Coming of Christ is of only secondary importance.
The post-Tribulation view also doesn't pass the logic test.  The post-Trib interpretation is that Jesus Raptures the Church, who then return with Him at the Battle of Armageddon.
"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." (Revelation 19:14)
The 'fine linen, white and clean' are the garments of those Washed in the Blood of the Lamb.
To make the post-Trib scenario work, Jesus must leave heaven with 'ten thousands' of empty white horses.  As He descends, God's people are Raptured, presumably translated FROM this earth to the back of a white horse that is on its way back -- TO this earth!
Scripture tells us that, as the return of the Lord for His Church draws near, it will be as in the days of Lot and Noah.  Noah warned of impending judgment for 120 years without a single convert.  Life went on as normal, until the floods came, and 'took them all away'. (Matthew 24:39)
Similarly, Lot lived in a big city, surrounded by immorality so repugnant to God that He decided to judge the wicked city with Divine judgement.  Lot was secretly removed from the unsuspecting city before judgment was executed.
But to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, life went on as usual until the moment of judgment fell.
Consider the consequences of the Tribulation Period.  Widespread death and destruction, the annihilation of 3/4's of the human race, miraculous judgments like the sea turned to blood and a ruined ecology, disease, famine and catastrophe . . . hardly fits with the days of Lot OR Noah.
"And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:28-30)
The next problem with this view is what happens next.  According to Scripture, the earth is repopulated during the Millennial Kingdom period.
If all God's people are raptured as the Lord Jesus returns that will leave only the wicked on earth when He returns.  The wicked will be destroyed as they will NEVER inherit the kingdom of God.
So if the wicked are destroyed and God's people are all raptured then who will be left to enter into the 1000 year Kingdom?
It is for these reasons, and more, that I believe that the Dispensationalist, pre-Tribulationist view of the Rapture is the only one consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures.
It allows for a secret, signless, Rapture of the Church, as taught by Our Lord.
Now, what about the "Restrainer?"  The word "Restrainer" doesn't even appear in the Bible, so what's the deal there?
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way." (2nd Thessalonians 2:7)
Let's take this verse one bite at a time.  First, the "mystery of iniquity."
The word 'iniquity' is from the Greek word 'anomia' meaning, a violation of the law.  It is related to 'anomos', a 'lawless person', 'a transgressor.'
It is rendered 'lawlessness' in some translations and means the same as unrighteousness.  Sin, or 'iniquity' is the transgression of the law.
The Old English word "let" meant the opposite of what it means today.  In modern English, to 'let' someone or something generally means 'to allow' someone or something.  In 1611, 'let' meant 'to restrain'.
"Let" is translated from the Greek word "kataschesis" which means, "a holding, occupancy or possession'.
It isn't a completely archaic meaning.  From time to time, you'll see an ad in a newspaper saying, "Room to Let."  In essence, it is an offer to occupy or possess that room.  Note also that Paul personifies the One Who "lets" referring to the Restrainer twice as "He."
So, added together, we find the following: Lawlessness is already at work, only He Who occupies will continue to occupy until He is "taken out of the way."
What is the identify of the 'He' in this passage? He restrains lawlessness by His 'occupation' -- and at some point, that occupying restraint is "taken out of the way."
That Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit is obvious from even a casual reading of this verse.  There is only one 'Indwelling Restrainer" -- the Holy Spirit Who indwells every believer during the Church Age.
Jesus promised that the Comforter, or Holy Spirit, would indwell the Church until He returns for it.
"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. . . . But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My Name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:18,26)
Paul says that FIRST, the Restrainer is 'taken out of the way' and "THEN shall that Wicked be revealed. . ." (2nd Thessalonians 2:8)
Now, to Heidi's specific question:
"If the Holy Spirit leaves when the Church leaves, then how can anybody get saved?"
It's a good question.  Nobody can be saved apart from the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures say He is 'taken out of the way' -- NOT removed from the earth.
THAT would be impossible.  God is omnipresent -- if the Holy Spirit were 'removed' in the sense of not being here, then 'here' wouldn't be here, either.  It isn't the Holy Spirit that is removed, it is the vessels He indwell.
Because it is the indwelt Church that restrains evil.  The Holy Spirit of God doesn't restrain pornographers, abortionists, (name your favorite institutionalized sin here).  The proof of that truth is found in the fact such things exist.
The Holy Spirit isn't picketing porno houses or abortion clinics -- that is the job of the indwelt Church.  It won't be the lost who would recognize the antichrist from his doctrine -- it would be those indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, he won't be revealed as long as those who would recognize him continue to inhabit the earth.
But, staying with Heidi's question, there are those who are saved during the Tribulation, and that cannot happen apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (1st Corinithians 1:18)
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1st Corinithians 2:14)
"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father SEALED." (John 6:27)
"In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were SEALED with that Holy Spirit of promise." (Ephesians 1:13)
"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are SEALED unto the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)
"Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." (Revelation 7:3-4)
The 144,000 of the 12 tribes of Israel are 'sealed' with the Holy Spirit -- indeed, the Lord Jesus devotes an entire chapter of His Revelation to the subject.  That raises a question: If the indwelt and sealed Church were present, then why seal the 144,000 Jews as evangelists with the Holy Spirit?
The Church Age is over.  Those indwelt of the Holy Spirit have been removed at the Rapture.  Still, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that one can either impart or receive the Gospel.
However, unlike in the Church Age, those who are saved during the Tribulation are not personally indwelt as in the Church Age and they CAN lose their salvation by accepting the Mark of the Beast.
"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:" (Revelation 14:9-10)
The 144,000 Jewish evangelists sealed by the Holy Spirit of God have the same indwelling Spirit that we do during the Church Age -- and that is what empowers them.
The last bit of evidence that suggests the Church is not present during the Tribulation Period is the fact that the Great Commission is transferred from the Church to an angel.
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." (Revelation 14:6)
During the Church Age, the Church is empowered to preach the everlasting Gospel. But the only ones sharing the Gospel during the Tribulation are the 144,000 sealed of God and the angel of Revelation 14.
These cannot be the Church, or even surviving members of the Church.  John says that ALL of them are Jewish.  All of them are male.  All of them are virgins.  And ALL of them know a 'new song' that nobody else (including the Church) can learn. (Revelation 14:3-4)
So, the answer to the question of how people get saved during the Tribulation is that the Holy Spirit remains on the earth, but after the Church Age, indwells only the Chosen of the 12 Tribes, who then share the Gospel with the lost.
Finally, since the Tribulation Period is also the conclusion of the Old Testament, believers during the Tribulation are dealt with in the same manner as with the Old Testament saints.
So, we in the Church Age watch for signs of the antichrist, because if the signs of the antichrist's revelation are there, then it means the Rapture is even closer.  As to naming him, it is irrelevant.
We wouldn't know if we were right, even if we were.  Unless every Scripture passage I've cited means something else than what it says.
If the Lord's intent was for the Church to be present for the Tribulation Period, then the signs of His return are of little value.  We, (the Church) would recognize the antichrist for who he is.
When a world leader demands we all accept a mark in our right hand or forehead in order to buy or sell, that would be all the sign we'd need.
But Jesus addressed ALL the signs leading up to the Tribulation Period. Of them, He said,
"When these things BEGIN to come to pass (not AFTER all these things have been accomplished) then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:28)
No other explanation makes sense.

Originally Published July 12, 2008
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