By Nathan Jones
In December 2009 I was interviewed by Bill Salus, author of the popular Psalm 83-themed book Isralestine, host of the radio program "Prophecy Update," and evangelist on the end times website Prophecy Depot. Bill and I spent much of the interview discussing the Rapture, Middle East politics and my "left behind" video "Jesus Came. What's Next?"
Bill has been kind enough to allow The Christ in Prophecy Journal to reproduce the "Caught Up in the Pre-Trib Rapture" interview in transcript form, edited into an article series. To listen to the original radio program in mp3 format, I invite you to visit Prophecy Depot or KWBB.
In this segment, Bill and I will be discussing why the Church — the Bride of Christ — is not destined to suffer the wrath of God.
The Bible on Not Suffering the Wrath of God
Bill Salus: 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says that "God did not appoint us to suffer wrath."
Nathan Jones: Oh, yes, there are many verses that tell us that Christians are not destined to suffer the wrath of God.
Bill Salus: I find it interesting, and I think people might want to take some time to study this, is the prophetic inferences of the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches. In the letter to Thyatira, that church is promised to go into the sick bed of the Great Tribulation, while the church at Philadelphia will be kept from the hour of trial.
Nathan Jones: Revelation 3:10.
Bill Salus: It is very interesting that one of the purposes of the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches (and there were several purposes; and of course they were literal churches at the time Revelation was written) is the prophetic interpretation that they would be outlining church history in advance. Therefore, a lot of people suggest that the church of Thyatira pretty much embodies Roman Catholicism, though not that all Catholics of course are going to be unsaved and cast into the Tribulation.
Next, we are shown the evangelical Philadelphian type of church that went out and missionized the world in the 1800's and 1900's, opening the door to a great spiritual revival. Philadelphia represents the church on Earth that is caught up to Heaven. I think there are some good arguments for that. Therefore, it looks like it is the true church on Earth that is raptured out and is in Heaven for Revelation chapters 4 and 5, and I tend to subscribe to that.
When we get to Revelation 6 the seals start to be opened. The first seal appears to be the emergence of the Antichrist and the beginning of the Tribulation. So, that to me is a strong point as to why the Rapture will be Pre-Tribulational.
Nathan Jones: Indeed, the entire Church Age can be encapsulated in Revelation 2 or 3. Each church represents a different time period within the Church Age, with the last church being Laodicea which is the apathetic church. Look at around today and see the churches just rolling in apathy with a lot of their strength gone.
You mentioned Revelation 3:10 which reads, "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test those who live on the Earth." That is a wonderful promise to the church of Philadelphia — the believing, dedicated Church — that they would be kept from the trials that are going to come on the Earth.
Paul shows that promise again in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "And to wait for a Son from Heaven whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath." Also, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Bill Salus: That is the passage I was referring to. That's the one that a lot of people argue to show we are going to be kept from that wrath and that we are not appointed to it.
Nathan Jones: There are more verses — go to Romans 5:9, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:4. Again and again and again in the New Testament Jesus and the Apostles say that the Church will be kept from God's wrath.
Persecution Versus Tribulation
Nathan Jones: We need to bear in mind Paul's audience when he was describing the Rapture. These were people who were enduring great persecution under such emperors as Nero and Diocletian. These were emperors who hated Christians. Those Christians were suffering immensely. They were being thrown to the lions. They knew persecution, but they knew there was a greater persecution coming and that they would be kept from that.
Bill Salus: So, the Post-Trib Rapture viewpoint basically puts the Church through the Tribulation — the wrath of God — the seven year Tribulation. The Bride of Christ gets all battered and bruised.
Nathan Jones: The "Protestant Purgatory," yes.
Bill Salus: Then, all of a sudden, according to their view Jesus says, "I'll take you now."
Not that we are kept from persecution as a Church, of course.
Nathan Jones: No, no, we definitely endure trials and tribulations as Christians. But, we have got to get our minds around the difference between present sufferings and the sufferings under God's wrath. We have to look back at the Flood. The Flood was a particular time period when God poured out His wrath on an unbelieving, rebellious, really vile civilization to cleanse it and to bring some righteous people out of it.
And so, even though believers suffer persecution, the Tribulation is just like the Flood. It is a special and separate time for God to pour out His wrath. He is going to use the Tribulation to bring a remnant of Israel back into believing in Yeshua as Messiah and to populate a Millennial Kingdom with peace, righteousness and justice with Jesus ruling from Jerusalem over a believing remnant. That is what makes the Tribulation just like the Flood, a separate period of time.
Bill Salus: Speaking of that, we will encounter trials as a Church even before the Rapture. The Church historically has endured suffering. The Church in Smyrna in particular in those Revelation letters to the Churches of Revelation 2 was the martyred Church Age.
Interestingly, I was watching this famous quarterback named Tim Tebow who is with a Florida college team. He did an interview. He had, as some of these football players do you'll often see, written John 3:16. Well, Tebow had John 16:33, and I thought I needed to read and find out what he was saying. Obviously, Tebow must be a Christian, so what is he saying there? And the verse says, "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." This is Jesus saying this.
Nathan Jones: Great verse!
Bill Salus: So, that is perfect. You know we are not going to be kept from tribulation, but we will be kept from the "hour of trial" due to the Pre-Trib Rapture. The wrath of God in that hour of trial. In the meanwhile, Christians will suffer persecution for their faith.
Nathan Jones: Look at India and Pakistan right now. India is having terrible problems with Christians being burned alive. One of the ministries that Lamb and Lion supports, the gentlemen's translating organization gets kicked out of building after building after building because the owners are terrified that the Hindus will burn their building down for letting a Christian work in them. That is rather minor compared to the Christian orphanages being burned down in different sections of India. Pakistan has great persecution, then you've got the Sudan. You name it, other than the United States and maybe Australia, you see a physical persecution of Christians.
And yet, in first world countries like the United States, Australia and England definitely there is legal persecution, the very beginnings of physical persecution. There was a time when the Puritans came to the New World to escape religious persecution from the Church of England, and now, I don't think there is any place for Christians to escape to. Maybe Texas! They can escape to Texas, but even here we see a lot of religious persecution going on in the legal systems.
So, yes, I totally agree with you — Christians will suffer persecution. Again, though, the Tribulation is like the Flood. It is a separate time period, an earth-altering time period when God is going to change the world.
God says He has a cup of wrath and when it reaches a certain level that is it. That is when He will finally act on His wrath. God has to deal with sin. He has to deal in judgment. If someone sins against us, we want to see justice done for our sin, don't we? Well, God is the same way. He wants to see justice done for people's continued rebellion and the horrible actions that everyone commits against one another. The only thing that makes Christians different is that we are forgiven and saved, but that is a very, very important difference.