The Trouble with Tribulation (What the Bible Says…Part 4)

The Trouble with Tribulation (What the Bible Says…Part 4) May 1, 2024

For those will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of the world, which God created, until now and never will be again! Mark 13:19 (HCSB)

Time to step on some more toes. A common theology in the modern Church is a pre-tribulation “Rapture,” the concept being that Christians don’t have to worry about any of this scary stuff, because before it all begins, we’re all going to get whooshed up to heaven and sit out the Tribulation.

Sounds great to me! Just one problem. The word “rapture” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Neither is there any prophecy that specifically describes such an event. There are a few bits and pieces that have been strung together out of context, along with the odd mistranslation, upon which many people have constructed this wishful thinking. However, if the Rapture were something that we could be certain of, the Bible would have said so plainly.

And it doesn’t. Not anywhere.


For the sake of the elect


Remember the very first thing that Jesus said when he started this speech to His inner circle?  “Watch out that no one deceives you.”

(Now, “no one” includes me, so I’m not asking you to take my word for any of this. Anyone reading these words has access to a Bible. Look it up yourself and ask God to explain it to you. He may give you a different answer. I could be totally wrong about this. I hope I am, actually, because the Rapture is a much better deal than the one it appears we have coming.)

In Mark 13:20, Jesus speaks of the Tribulation:

If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. (NIV)

Now, if the elect (i.e., followers of Christ) have already been tractor beamed up to heaven before the Tribulation starts, then why would it matter to us if the days were shortened or not? If we’re already with Jesus enjoying our eternal life, we wouldn’t need to worry about surviving.

Yet, that’s the word Jesus uses, echoing Daniel 12:12, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” (NIV) Patience, perseverance and endurance are fruits of the Holy Spirit that all true Christians display. Scripture is clearly stating that we will need these qualities all the way to the end of the Tribulation.


False Prophets

Jesus goes on in verses 21-23 to warn his disciples that there will be false messiahs and false prophets in the end times who will do fake miracles that will appear convincing enough even to deceive the elect. Again, how can we be potentially deceived if we are not still on earth?

Next, Jesus goes full-on apocalyptic, quoting Isaiah regarding signs and wonders in the sky:

As Isaiah said in the days after that great suffering,
The sun will refuse to shine,
and the moon will hold back its light.
The stars in heaven will fall,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. (Mark 13:24-25 VOICE)

This is the verse that causes false prophets in our current age to blow a nut every time there’s a solar eclipse. But Judgment Day is a whole lot more than a natural astronomical phenomenon. ALL light will be blocked out—no sun, no moon, and no stars. This is the part where God lays the final smack down on His enemies.

This prophecy is reiterated later in Revelation 6:

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Rev 6:12-14 (NIV)

Heck of a day. I’m not looking forward to that. I get that the elect will have their victory and live and reign with Jesus forever and ever, but THAT day. . .I really don’t want to be around for that one. Can you blame people for coming up with the concept of a Rapture? Sure beats unprecedented natural disaster any day of the week!


At that time…


Back to Mark now. As Jesus quotes these prophecies, He then says (emphasis mine):

At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Mark 13:26-27 (NIV)

At. That. Time.

Not before.

The elect will not be gathered until Judgment Day itself, which happens at the END of the Tribulation, not the beginning.

So, how do we balance our awareness of The End of the Age with our mission and calling in the present? Well fortunately, Jesus gave us instructions for that too, in verses 34-37:

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!” (NIV)

We are not to be lazy or complacent about Christ’s return. Yes, it has been 2000 years, but what about that? God is eternal. He doesn’t mark time like we do. Maybe He’s waiting for us to reach the whole world,  or maybe He has a day marked on His celestial calendar that we haven’t arrived at yet. It’s enough to know that He is coming back, and He expects to find us ready to meet Him when He does.

Even so, Jesus’ illustration also mentions that the servants were left in charge, each with an assigned task. We are charged with taking care of this world and everyone in it until Christ returns. We can no more be slack about that duty than we can about watching for His return.


(Lots more to come in May! Click the Free Newsletter Link to stay up to date. On that note, a great many of you have clicked that link during this series. It seems to have struck a chord. Are there any other topics you’d like to discuss? Drop them in the comments below.)



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