Since believers suffer in the tribulation, is the rapture pretribulation or posttribulation?
Since believers will suffer in the tribulation, does this mean that the rapture will occur before the tribulation or will the rapture occur after the tribulation? The answer is that believers will suffer in the tribulation independent of when the rapture occurs. Their presence during the tribulation does not help us understand when the rapture occurs. What follows is an explanation of why this is true.
What Is The Rapture?
First, we must ask what is the rapture? The answer is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
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. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NASB)
In this passage we are told that the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven and all Christians who have died since Christ’s resurrection will rise up into the sky. Then the living Christians will be caught up also and join them. The Greek word for “caught up” is harpazo. The word is translated as “snatches away” in Matthew 13:19; John 10:12, 28, 29; Acts 8:39 and Jude 23 in the NASB. It is translated as “take by force” in John 6:15. This helps us understand that “caught up” refers to a forceful pulling upward. This describes the rapture. The rest of the passage states that the dead in Christ and all alive Christians will be snatched up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then these Christians will always be with the Lord.
Pretribulation = Rapture Before the Tribulation
There are different views about the timing of the rapture relative to the tribulation. For example, the first and most common view is the pretribulation view. This view says the rapture occurs before the tribulation. Since the rapture removes all Christians from the earth, those who hold to the pretribulation view understand that there will not be any Christians on the earth after the rapture. That is, as soon as the tribulation starts there will not be any Christians on the earth.
But the book of Revelation teaches us that there will be Christians during the tribulation. This means that people will become Christians during the tribulation. That is, after the rapture there will be Christians in the tribulation. For more information read, “Can people become a Christian after the rapture?” Some people will become Christians because God will have the gospel preached throughout the tribulation period (Revelation 7:1-8; 11:1-10; 14:6-20). Revelation 6:9-11; 7:13-15 reveals that many people will become Christians during the tribulation. Zechariah 12:10-11 helps us understand that some people will become Christians when they see Jesus at His second coming. Revelation 13:6-8 and Revelation 20:4 help us understand that many Christians in the tribulation will die and most likely be persecuted. Therefore, believers will suffer in the tribulation. Both 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 and Revelation 3:10 explain that those who are Christians before the rapture will not suffer the wrath of the tribulation.
Posttribulation = Rapture After the Tribulation
The second and less common view is the post-tribulation view. This view says the rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation. This view says that these raptured Christians will immediately return with Christ to the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-19). Consequently, every Christian living upon the earth when the tribulation starts will enter the tribulation. Many will die during the tribulation and some people will become Christians and then die. Therefore, believers will suffer in the tribulation according to the posttribulation view.
In Matthew 24:13-14 Jesus says the gospel will be preached until the end comes. The gospel will never stop being preached until the kingdom is over. Also in this passage, Jesus is not teaching that Christians must remain alive until the end of the age, but that those who claim to be Christian will never become apostates.
But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:13-14 (NASB)
We have discovered that Christians will suffer during the tribulation in both the pretribulation and post-tribulation view. In the pretribulation view, existing Christians will be raptured before the tribulation starts. Then during the tribulation some people will become Christians and suffer, but in the posttribulation view all Christians will enter the tribulation and many will suffer. Therefore, in both views there will be Christians who suffer in the tribulation.
Consequently when Jesus says in Mark 13:30 that unless the last half of the tribulation (last 3.5 years) had been shortened for the sake of the elect, He may be referring to who came to those who became believers during the tribulation or to the nation of Israel. If there are no believers at the end of the tribulation, then there would not be any Christians to enter the kingdom after the Sheep and Goat judgment. If the elect refers to the nation of Israel, this reveals that there would not any Christian Jews (often called Hebrew Christians) to enter the kingdom either. Thus the promise of a kingdom for the Jews would not be fulfilled (2 Samuel 7:15-17; Luke 1:32-33). In either situation, there will be Christians at the end of the tribulation who will enter the kingdom after the Sheep and Goat judgment.
Therefore, we conclude that since Christians will suffer during the tribulation in both the pretribulation and posttribulation views, this fact alone does not help us determine the timing of the rapture. Other facts are required to help us understand that the rapture occurs before the tribulation.
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