Sunday School: Post-Tribulation Rapture
July 9, 2017 Speaker: John Bell Series: Sunday School: Supplements to Daniel Sermon Series
Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:17
• The word rapture is not a New Testament word. The English word comes from the Latin verb
rapio (“seize” or “carry away”), which was used in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the bible)
to translate the Greek word ἁρπαγησόμεθα “we will be caught up [to meet the Lord in the air]”
(1 Thessalonians 4:17.)
The popular (but not biblical, I would argue) sense of “rapture”
a. Christians are physically moved off the earth into heaven by the Lord.
b. This physical “taking away” is also usually thought to be necessary to rescue believers from harm
(the Final Tribulation)
• The more important aspect of rapture in the New Testament is bodily transformation.
Theologically, rapture is best seen as a parallel to resurrection. When the Lord returns, dead
Christians are raised from the dead, living Christians are raptured . . . and both are brought into
Christ’s presence (in the air) as he continues his journey to earth to reign.
• “A study of the vocabulary employed in describing the return of Christ paints a uniform picture:
believers are exhorted to look for and to live in the light of this glorious event. And, while some
texts obviously place this coming after the final tribulation, there are none that equally obviously
place it before the final tribulation.” (Moo)
• The New Testament proclaims that the prophecies about the “last days” have already begun to
be fulfilled. Christ’s death, his glorious resurrection, and the pouring out of the Spirit on “all
flesh” mark the inauguration of the “last days” (Acts 2:14–21;1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 John
2:18) Because, then, the age between the advents belongs to the “last things” (eschata), the
entire period is “eschatological.” The decisive, foundational eschatological events have already
taken place—but, to the surprise of many in Jesus’ day, without the culminating judgment of the
wicked and definitive rescue of the righteous.
• “Already here/not yet come” nature of the Kingdom
The Old Testament Concept of the Final Tribulation
While “tribulation,” as we have seen, is the common lot of God’s people in this age, an especially intense
and universal time of tribulation is predicted for the very end of history in both the Old and New
Testaments. Most Christians believe that the final tribulation will involve both unprecedented worldwide
persecution of God’s people by anti-Christian forces, as well as the pouring out of God’s wrath on an
increasingly wicked world. It is especially important to understand the place of God’s wrath in this period.
When we turn to the Old Testament, the situation is complicated by the fact that it is often difficult to
discern whether a particular description of “tribulation” relates to:
1. the exile
2. the final judgment
3. or the final tribulation.
The distinction between the latter two - the final judgment and the final tribulation - is not always
recognized, but it is a very important one in discussing Old Testament texts.
Passages that describe the horror of the end itself –the final judgment - which, in any eschatological
scenario, follows the final tribulation, cannot be used as evidence for the nature of the final tribulation,
which precedes the end. Since many of the relevant prophetic texts involve descriptions of the “day of the
LORD” and do not indicate clearly whether the final tribulation or the end itself in the final judgment is
envisaged, the problem is a real one.
Caution is called for, then, in applying these “Day of the Lord” descriptions to the final tribulation.
If we keep this this distinction in mind, we can conclude that Old Testament texts that might with some
degree of probability be describing the final tribulation are confined to the apocalyptic visions in the last
half of the book of Daniel.
It is certainly possible that other Old Testament passages may describe the final tribulation—
Deuteronomy 4:29–30; Isaiah 26:20–21; Jeremiah 30:4–9; Joel 2:30–31; and Zephaniah 1–2, to name a
few. But none of the depictions of distress in these passages is clearly distinguished from the FINAL
outpouring of God’s judgmental wrath AFTER the tribulation.
In the interests of accuracy, then, it’s important to use the texts in Daniel primarily in constructing the Old
Testament concept of the tribulation . . . and employ the other texts only as they corroborate the picture
The chapters in the last half of Daniel undoubtedly have the greatest bearing of any Old Testament
passages on New Testament eschatology. Unfortunately, they are also very difficult to interpret!
“The Day of the Lord”
In the Old Testament, the day of the Lord (also “that day,” etc.) denotes a decisive intervention of
God for judgment and deliverance. It can refer to a relatively near event or to the final climactic event—it
is not always clear that the prophets distinguished the two. Although the day is frequently described as
one of judgment, deliverance for the people of God is often involved also (cf. Isa. 27; Jer. 30:8–9; Joel
2:32; 3:18; Obad. 15–17; et al.). In the New Testament, the term is almost universally related to the end.
From the great variety of expressions that are used in the New Testament, it is clear that there is no fixed
terminology and that distinctions on that basis cannot be drawn.
• Isa. 13:6 “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
• Isa. 13:9 “See, the day of the Lord is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the
land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.”
• Lamentations 2:22 “As you summon to a feast day, so you summoned against me terrors on every
side. In the day of the Lord’s anger no one escaped or survived; those I cared for and reared my
enemy has destroyed.”
• Ezk.7:19 “‘They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as a thing
unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath. It will
not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs, for it has caused them to stumble into sin.
• Ezk. 13:5 “You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that
it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord.”
• Ezk. 30:3 “For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near— a day of clouds, a time of doom for the
• Joel 1:15 “Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the
• Joel 2:1 “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land
tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—“
• Joel 2:11 “The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is
the army that obeys his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?”
• Joel 2:31 “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great
and dreadful day of the Lord.”
• Joel 3:14 “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the
valley of decision.”
• Amos 5:18 “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.”
• Amos 5:20 “Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of
• Obad. 1:1 “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your
deeds will return upon your own head.”
• Zeph. 1-2
• Acts 2:20 “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great
and glorious day of the Lord.”
• 1 Cor. 5:5 “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be
saved on the day of the Lord.”
• 2 Cor. 1:14 “as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast
of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
• 1 Thes. 5:1-2 “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for
you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
• 2 Thes. 2:2 “not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether
by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already
• 2 Peter. 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar;
the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
* This lesson is indebted to an article by Doug Moo in the book “Three Views on the
More in Sunday School: Supplements to Daniel Sermon Series
August 13, 2017Sunday School: False Teaching, Last Times
July 23, 2017Sunday School: The Hope of the Resurrection
July 16, 2017Sunday School: There Will Be a Delay Before the Return of Christ