Although the Bible does not say exactly this, suppose for the moment that it did so: "After the tribulation period, God will send his angels to gather Christians in the sky?" Would you then accept the post-trib' position since the gathering, or rapture, is clearly said to occur after the tribulation? I trust that this would strike someone as direct evidence for the post-trib' rapture.
I can show you a Biblical quote, word for word from the mouth of Jesus himself, which is the same as the above quote, except that the word "elect" is used instead of "Christian." No matter, for any other use of "elect" saints in the New Testament always refers to Christians...never to non-Christian Jews. Check this out for yourself if you wish, in the following verses using "elect," or just trust me:
- Matthew 20:16
- John 13:18, 15:16
- Acts 15:22, 15:25
- Romans 8:33, 16:13
- 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
- Ephesians 1:4
- Colossians 3:12
- James 2:5
- 2 Timothy 2:10
- Titus 1:1
- 1 Peter 1:2, 2:9, 5:13
- Revelation 17:14
However, this rather long list of evidence does not appear to matter to Hal Lindsey and friends. They yet refuse to view the elect of Matthew 24 as Christians, and they have no qualms about teaching you falsely as long as you line up with their pre-trib' views. To be most accurate, let me show you a reading of the Biblical verse that coincides with my Greek interlinear:
"And immediately after the tribulation of those days...he will send his angels with a great trumpet, and they will gather his elect out of the four winds from the extremities of the skies unto their extremities"(Matthew 24:29-31).
We know from other scriptures that the rapture will occur at a loud trumpet of God (I Thess. 4:16; I Cor. 15:23; Rev. 10:7), that it entails angels gathering Christians (Matt. 13:30, 39; Rev. 19:14), that the gathering will take place in the sky (I Thess. 4:17), and that God's elect anywhere else in the New Testament always indicates believers in Jesus, but the pre-tribulationists would lead you to believe this verse is anything but the rapture of the Church. Why? Because in this instance, the text clearly shows the event to be "after" the tribulation."
Rather than humbly accepting a post-tribulation rapture, then, and rather than admitting that the Bible has concrete language to that end, they attempt to undermine all by altering the meaning of one word, "elect," so that it becomes a reference to the Jews alone, and not at all to Christians. The Church is thereby removed from the text and, therefore, from the event completely. This is serious infringement; the entire discourse here on the end times is affected...we are no longer led to view the bulk of Matthew 24 as a warning for Christians, but solely for Jews.
It's pure manipulation, arrogance against the words of the Son of God. How else am I to understand the pre-tribulationists when they give Old-Testament cross references alone for Matthew's elect? Pathetic is the word! Of course the "elect" of the Old Testament are going to be Jews and nothing but Jews!
With the first coming of Jesus, the elect became the Christians, and the Israel of God became the Church. Therefore, it is required of all prophetic students to interpret the elect of the great tribulation period as New Testament Christians. To avoid this, pre-tribulationists have invented dispensationalism, that they might re-interpret the tribulation elect as Old Testament saints. Pre-tribbers have invented several dispensations for the sole purpose of introducing a new dispensation in the final seven years, suggesting that God is concerned in that period only with the Old-Testament dispensation again (i.e. natural Israel), and not at all the Church.
If this is true, why, in the book of Revelation, are God's people, when seen within the tribulation, always Christians? Even the 144,000 are Christians? Why would God, in the Revelation, be urging Christians to endure the tribulation faithfully and patiently if He were not concerned with the Church at that time? To the contrary, Christians are front and center in the Revelation.
Pre-tribbers in this way add error upon error, which would not be so disturbing if it didn't involve the words of Jesus, and especially such important words that concerns the safety of believers in perhaps the most-threatening times of the Church's history. Peter understood the Church to be the Israel of God:
"But you [Christians] are an elect people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation [i.e. Israel]..." (1 Peter 2:9).
Where in the Bible does it tell us that God will be concerned only with Jews in the last seven years of history, as by placing the Church on a shelf for the interim? What evidence is there that the 144,000 represent the special Jewish remnant rather than Church-based Messianic Jews? Shall we view these first-fruits as the Jewish remnant merely because the pre-tribbers require it for their dispensationalism? And shall we likewise view the woman of Revelation 12 as the Jewish remnant merely because pre-tribbers don't want emphasis on Christians during the tribulation? Shall we above all interpret all things through pre-trib' perspectives...so that all doctrines fall in line with a rapture before the tribulation? How far shall we go in distorting the realities of Scripture for the sake of altering the "elect" of Matthew 24? And how can Jesus view such groundless defiance as trivial?
Must we conclude that Matthew's post-tribulation gathering of the elect in the sky is of Jewish Christians only? Or, if this seems unsound, are we to deny that the gathering takes place in the sky at all, as some pre-tribbers do, claiming that the atmospheric terms used are merely symbolic of a broad, earthly gathering of Jews? If the text could not be explained literally, a symbolic view would be called for, but as there will definitely be a literal gathering of Christians in and from the sky, no one has any right to suggest this text is anything but that glorious event.
In the discourse, Jesus shares with the apostles certain situations ensnaring his end-time saints. Where he does not use the "elect" in referring to His saints, he uses "you," a word that on the surface indicates the apostles themselves, but in fact represents those who live long after them, just prior to His Return. If the pre-tribulationists wish to alter the meaning of the term "elect," they must likewise do so, for the sake of consistency, to the meaning of the term "you." In fact, this is exactly what they do, suggesting both terms refer to the Jews alone i.e. that the apostles are in this case representatives of Jews, not Christians.
But surely, if pre-tribulationism was not threatened by verse 31, no one would disturb the obvious "Christian" nature of both words. Thankfully, for those who find it hard to believe that Hal Lindsey and similar giants are shamefully wrong in this regard, we can appeal to verse 9 to get to the truth, where "you" refers absolutely to Christians and by no means to non-Christians Jews:
"Then they will deliver you to affliction and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name" (24:9).
Whether or not this is referring to the end-times, or to the first century, is not the point here. Rather, the question is: who is it that are hated because of their taking on the name of Christ? Jesus is speaking with the apostles, true enough, who are Jews, true enough, referring to them in the term "you," but as he does so, is it Christ-rejecting Jews that are depicted by that little word? Will it truly be non-Christian Jews who will be killed and hated because of wearing that Name? Anybody with a basic understanding of Jewish culture knows the Jews reject that Name as an item of highest priority. Therefore, the term, "you," refers to Christians, and Hal knows it!!
Accordingly, when Jesus, only six verses later (15), said to the apostles, "When therefore YOU see [the tribulation period...]," the word "you" must represent Christians as it does in verse 9. In that case, it will be Christians who will one day "see" (be in) the tribulation. More than that, the text exposes the flight of Israeli Christians into the wilderness:
"When therefore you see the abomination of desolation...then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains..." (24:15).
The "ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION" is based on a military invasion into the Temple site during the siege of Jerusalem by the anti-Christ (see Daniel 11:31). This event occurs near the midway point of the seven-year tribulation (see Dan. 9:27 and 12:12) and, as Jesus' warning suggests, it acts as a concrete sign for his Christian people in Israel, signalling the final good chance to get out of Israel before the anti-Christ's 42-month rampage begins. Now, just because the "great tribulation" begins in, and is best defined in relation to, geographical Israel, does not call for an interpretation of the "elect" as Jews alone, whether Christian or otherwise.
We do not imagine disbelieving Jews in Israel reading the New Testament right now to see what warning Jesus has for them, do we? They do not believe in New Testament concepts, simply because they do not heed Jesus, and are these, then, the ones Jesus is warning to flee? Would not Jesus be much more interested in saving from the anti-Christ the Christian Jews? Of course he would, even as the Christian Jews are much more interested in being saved.
But we can't stop there, for Jesus is just as concerned in saving every Gentile Christian who will be living in Israel when the anti-Christ invades. We could even entertain the warning as intended for all people: for anyone who will listen and take heed--Jew, Christian, Muslim, or pagan--but this would only discredit the strict Jew-only interpretation of the pre-tribulationists. In the final analysis, there can be little doubt that Jesus intended the warning primarily for Christians of any national background...Jew or Gentile.
Because the non-believing Jews are not apt to accept the invasion of the anti-Christ in light of Biblical prophecy, it must be to the end-time Christian Jews that Jesus says,
"Pray, lest your flight happen in winter or on the sabbath, for then there will be GREAT TRIBULATION..." (vs. 20).
It is unlikely that Jesus was merely "shooting in the dark" when he included the two particulars, sabbath & winter, in his warning. Rather, he was much more likely informing us that the Abomination would occur within these perimeters. My opinion, based on other Biblical considerations, that God has appointed the Abomination to occur on a Jewish holy day is somewhat affirmed here. And that holy day, Purim, happens to be in a cool season, in February/March. But that's another story.
Right now we are concerned with the mention of "sabbath" specifying Jewish Christians as the people-group being addressed by Jesus. Pre-tribulationists use this opportunistically to convince us that Jews alone are the subject of the entire discourse. Bahooey! It is only expected of Jesus to allude to the Jewish believers at some point in the discourse since it concerns a military invasion of Israel, but that doesn't mean that Gentile believers are excluded from his concerns.
We will also be told that these Jews to which Jesus is referring are merely those who convert to Christ during the tribulation period because those (Messianic) Jews which will be Christians prior to the tribulation are supposedly taken up in the pre-tribulation rapture. These late-comers to the Faith are viewed as the Jewish remnant Chosen to continue in flesh bodies after Armageddon, to populate the Millennium, and they are wrongly said to be the 144,000 and the "woman" of Revelation 12.
The Jewish remnant Chosen to populate the Millennium is not going to be saved during the tribulation, but afterward, at Armageddon, meaning that the Remnant can be neither the 144,000 nor the woman of Revelation 12 simply because both are shown as being saved prior to Armageddon. Go ahead, search the Scripture and see that the Millennial Remnant will be punished by God during the tribulation and will not be saved until the very end of that period.
SAINTS IN THE TRIBULATION
Just after the activities of the anti-Christ are revealed in the Revelation, the text reads: "Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints" (13:10). When in the next chapter there is a warning not to take his mark because those that do will be thrown into a lake of fire, again the text says, "Here is the endurance of the saints, the ones keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
If we had never been told anything concerning these "saints" in the tribulation, we would have no difficulty identifying them as the Church, the whole Church, and nothing but the Church. All believers throughout history, until the pre-tribbers came along and engaged their ideas, identified these key scriptural texts with the Church's endurance of the tribulation. But, of course, pre-tribbers will tell us that early believers were ignorant because they had not yet been gifted with prophets having prophetic understanding as do the leaders of pre-tribulationism.
As it can hardly be denied that the saints in the Revelation quotes above are Christians, the "gifted" leaders, because they have been informed (by a spirit?) that the Church cannot be in the tribulation, have canned a strategy for replacing the tribulation Church with an invented secondary body of believers, both Jew and Gentile, that do not partake in the rapture, but move on into the Millennium with mortal bodies. This lesser Body of Christ is called the "Tribulation Saints." The Jewish Remnant is said to be a part of these so-called Tribulation Saints.
If it seems curious to suggest that a second Body of Christ exists, it's likely because the Bible does not reveal such a group. It has been created by pre-tribbers merely to explain how Christians can be in the tribulation after a pre-tribulation rapture takes all Christians from the earth. It's like having an extra ace up the sleeve for when you're in real trouble. Yes, it's cheating the Word of God, and I would suggest that you keep away from the pre-trib' poker table if you know what's good for you, lest you gamble with your tribulation security and lose with a full house of very disappointed family members (dare I say "flushed" from their homes into the open fields?).
And you can see again how there seems to be no end to the twisting of Biblical ideas due to that one erroneous definition of "elect." Therefore, in the eyes of some pre-tribbers, the elect of Matthew 24 are viewed as the Tribulation Saints...usually/mainly the Jewish believers of that group. It is furthermore implied/stated that as their reward in coming to Christ late, they must endure the horrors of the tribulation period...yet another false doctrine.
The tribulation is best called "the 70th Week" (from Daniel 9). In being a mere seven years long, all saints who initially come to faith in it are going to be mere babes in Christ when heavy-handed Globalistic powers persecute them in the name of the "Beast." In other words, we are supposed to believe that all the Church Christians are up in the heavenlies merely watching on for seven years as these mere babes are slaughtered alone. It is said that God loves the Church Christians too much to allow them to endure the horrors of the tribulation, so he raptures them out before it begins, but He must not love the group called the Tribulation Saints as much, or it's just tough luck for them, because they are going to pass through the period most assuredly...as their penalty for coming to Christ late.
But, you see, here is the contradiction: pre-tribulationists recognize that the woman of Revelation 12 must endure a full 1,260 days in and around Israel, divinely protected in a special wilderness out of the anti-Christ's reach (Rev. 12:14). Well, if pre-trib' advocates can freely accept divine protection of Jewish believers while they live on earth during the more-violent half of the seven years, why do these same pre-tribbers suggest that it's absolutely necessary to remove the Church from the earth for that same period?
If the Jewish babes can be protected on earth within earshot of the anti-Christ's tanks, why can't God protect mature believers who live nations and continents more distant from the hot-spot of Israel? So, you see, even though they create a second body of lesser, younger Christians to take the place of the Church whenever Christians are shown living in the tribulation, the very bedrock of such argumentation melts away irreparably. If some can be protected, all can be protected. And which of us would dare diminish the ability of God's power to protect all of us? "Goshen" is the key word here.
Pre-tribbers point out how the word "church" is never found in Revelation from chapter 4 through to chapter 21, and because the tribulation period is within these chapters (6-16), the absence of the word is held up as evidence that the Church is not going to be in the tribulation whatsoever. This is very disturbing because it removes, once again, the warning of Christ to the end-time Church.
If there are Christian saints seen in the Revelation prophecy who are living in the tribulation, how can any Christian scholar be so slippery as to suggest the Church will not be in it? One had better have a little more reason that the pre-trib' rapture to alter Revelation in such an unreasonable way, seeing what curses lie in store for anyone who alters that book (see 22:18-19). That the Author of Revelation does not address tribulation Christians as "churches," but as "saints," is His personal business. And surely we can come up with better reasons for that decision than to wipe the Church completely from the tribulation chapters?
One thing that springs to mind is God's focus on individualism as opposed to congregationalism. We can see how, in the 2nd and 3rd chapters, the churches are not altogether pure before God, and some are downright in danger of condemnation. The point is, God is not going to save whole churches, for virtually every church has some bad apples, and for that reason he is calling "saints" endure the tribulation faithfully.
So, it's Matthew 24 all over again, but in this case, it's the "saints" that are the Jewish believers instead of the "elect." But did you know that the word "Israel" is mentioned only twice in the entire book of Revelation, and in both cases referring to 144,000 Christians who "follow the Lamb everywhere he may go"? In contrast, "church" and "churches" are mentioned no less than a combined 20 times throughout the book. What's more, almost all instances are found in the three introductory chapters.
Surely, God does not begin a book on prophecy emphasizing in all three introductory chapters a post-rapture reward for the members of the Asian churches who overcome tribulation, only to change the focus of subsequent tribulation chapters to Jewish saints? Certainly, this claim is fully unfounded since the entire book uses "Israel" only twice, and, what's more, wherever national Israel is depicted, she is seen punished rather than embraced by God. Indeed, there are only two instances of the word "Jews" in the entire Revelation, and neither are found in the tribulation chapters, but both are in the introductory chapters, and in both cases Jesus calls them "THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN" (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
Again, that the "saints" in the tribulation chapters are identified as Christians spells out the fact that God is concerned with Christianity in that final period. The doctrine of dispensationalism, as pre-tribbers explain and modify it, has the purpose of changing this fact. But surely, Revelation's last usage of the term "churches" guarantees that the Jews alone are not the focus of the book:
"I, Jesus, sent my angel to testify these things [the entire book of Revelation] to you for the churches" (22:16).
Now, if the prophecies of Revelation were written "for the churches," why are there so many Christians avoiding them, as if the prophecies are not going to touch our lives? I can testify firsthand that if one studies the prophecies therein, and does not give up, God will bless the eyes with light so that they see quite clearly that which may appear to be fogged at first. For the book is called "Revelation" because it is meant to reveal, not to hide, and what it reveals is meant to be useful for tribulation endurance.
Moreover, among the prophecies is interwoven much moral instruction so that we need not shy away from prophecy because we think it is devoid of spiritual food. The introductory blessing, or warning, however you may view it, is more important now than ever:
"Blessed is the one reading and the ones hearing the words of the prophecy and keeping the things in it which have been written; for the time is near" (1:3).
You see, those who live before "the time" (i.e. great tribulation) are invited to use the prophecies for their benefit, which wouldn't be a reasonable offer if a pre-tribulation rapture is to take us up beforehand.
Intermingled among the prophecies, there are "things" to keep i.e. instructions to obey. Many instructions are visible between the lines, and some come to mind by the Spirit of God. Furthermore, as prophecies are fulfilled in history before our eyes, faith in God increases. But if we don't know what those prophecies are, how can the Spirit of prophecy testify on Christ's behalf?