Is the rapture before or after the seven-year tribulation?
It's become kind of popular today, in the last two or three years, to believe in the rapture occurring at the end of the tribulation. There has been three positions, historically, "pre-trib," "mid-trib," and "post-trib." What that means is the rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation: "post-tribulation;" the middle of the tribulation: "mid-tribulation;" the beginning of the tribulation: "pre-tribulation." Now if you wanted to catalog me I would have to claim to be a "pre-tribulationist"--I believe the Church will be taken out before the tribulation.
Now if you would like a full-length answer on that we have a series of tapes on that very subject, so I am not going into that other than to just give you two reasons, that I believe, are the most difficult arguments for a "post-tribulationalist" to deal with. If a person comes along, and this is popular today, there are a lot of people who want to go through the tribulation. We have got some sort of a martyr-complex. You know in a mechanized society, and a very high-powered society, and a very easy kind of existence, a lot of people kind of think that it is neat to go through the tribulation. They see the movie about "A Thief in the Night" and they can see themselves running from the beast and all this intrigue. Now I am saying this truly, because this is happening in the minds of--not the educational people, not the theology people, so much as it is a popular kind of a thing. I think Hal Lindsey's books, which took a firm pre-tribulational stand, forced some theologians out of the woodwork to write on a post-tribulational position. So you have the theological battle, and it is going on, on those two positions, but you have this new popular thing, and sometimes I will listen to those Christian television programs and they are talking about, "Well, you know I am not convinced that we are going to be taken out. I think we may go through....oh......." And it is all very dramatic.
Listen folks. I don't want to be there--it doesn't sound good to me at all. If I had my choice of being here with the beast or being in heaven with Jesus--it isn't even a question! Aside from that emotional argument which doesn't hold water--that's just me.
There are two primary things that you have to deal with if you are going to take a post-tribulation position:
1. The sheep and goat judgment. In Matthew, chapter 25, at the end of the tribulation period--Matthew 25, you have a judgment occurring. We know that it is at the end of the tribulation because it discusses the tribulation period in chapter 24. We know that the "abomination of desolation" occurs in the tribulation (24:15 and all these things and so forth), and then verse 31 of Chapter 25, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." Now what's that? That's not the rapture is it? That has got to be the Second Coming to set up the Kingdom--"when he comes in His glory to sit on His throne."
Now the post-tribulation position says this--watch--that at the end of the seven years there is a quick rapture and a quick return--you go through the tribulation and then "up and back." There is a big problem with that and it is this: if all the regenerate people go up and come back, then how come when Christ comes back the first thing He does is separate the sheep from the goats--who are the sheep? See? who are the sheep? They can't be Christians because there aren't any left--they all got raptured. But if you move the rapture to the beginning of the seven years, then you have a seven year period in which people will be saved that will constitute the sheep at the end of the tribulation--understand?
So if you jam it all at the end--I see that as the major problem of the post-tribulational view--where do you get the sheep for the sheep and goat judgment, because if Christ takes all of us up and comes right back, then there aren't any sheep left--it's not going to be a problem to say, "You sheep come over and go into my kingdom, and you goats here..."--there aren't any sheep left, they have already been raptured and glorified and all set. That's the first problem.
2. 2 Thessalonians 2:1. The second problem, and I think that they have to face if they take a post-tribulation view is 2 Thessalonians 2:1--these are primary arguments--there are many others, but these are just ones that I'll give you quickly. 2 Thessalonians 2:1, and I think maybe that these are the two best arguments against a post-tribulation position. Some of you don't even know what I'm talking about--you just relax and do whatever you want and we will be back in a minute.
2 Thessalonians 2:1, "Now we beseech you brethren, now listen, By the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. "Jesus is coming, says Paul to the Thessalonians, and we will be gathered together unto him. Episunagoge, gathering together. Its used one other time in the New Testament, thats Hebrews 10:25. And in Hebrews 10:25 it says forsake not the sunagogoge, the assembling of yourselves together. It is a word reserved in the New Testament for gathering together of believers. So, the Thessalonians Christians were saying, "Oh, are we already in the time of trouble, is it already too late. And he says Now wait a minute, we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus and our, our specific gathering together to him, dont be shaking let no man deceive you." And then he says, "I believe that after will come the day of the Lord. And then the falling away and the man of sin is revealed and all of that." But I see is the primary event the gathering together, a special gathering together, a special coming together of the church, a unique one separate from anything else. And I think Thessalonians 2:1 has a great amount of weight towards that end.
So, my belief is that the church does not go through the tribulation. And again I I would say that thats just putting it together the best way I can, its a very difficult problem. There are many other reasons that I have tried to share with you and I stand on that ground and well find out sooner or later. And I feel like Dr. Saucy who said, I know there are some errors in my Theology, I just wish I knew where they were. And there will be some somewhere and well see whether that works out.
The "rapture" IS the second coming of Christ. This occurs, as you said, in chapter 24. The sheep and goat separation in chapter 25 is:
Mat 25:31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
Mat 25:32 "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;
It corresponds to:
Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
This is the sheep and goat separation AFTER the thousand years have passed:
Rev 20:5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Here's the timeline. Christ returns. At his return, those who are Christians either alive, or dead, are resurrected to spirit bodies. This is the first resurrection. They live and reign with Christ for a thousand years. After the thousand years, all nations, the rest of dead, are judged by Christ, who sits on the great white throne.
You're making an assumption in Matthew 25 that no time passes between Christ's return and the judgement of the nations, non-Christians. This is shown in Revelation to not be the case.