a Abounding Joy!j
Posttribulationalism

Contents

(This information is now available on audio CD!)

Introduction

The Practical Issue

Early Church Writers Were Posttribulationalists

Notable Christian Posttribbers

No Hint of a Pretribulational Rapture in Matthew 24

First Resurrection - After the Great Tribulation

When Does the Last Trumpet Sound?

Only One Return Portrayed in Revelation

First "The Great Tribulation" Then "The Day of the Lord"

God's Pattern: Satan's Wrath vs. God's Wrath

Jesus Taught against Imminency

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5: A Meaningless Warning?

1 & 2 Thessalonians: How Many Returns?

The Error of 2 Thessalonians 2:2

Unnecessary Commands and Warnings?

Redemption Near, Not Past, at Tribulation

"Descend" Always Implies a Complete Descent

Pretrib Requires Complicated Judgment Scheme

 

ANSWERS TO COMMON PRETRIBULATIONAL ARGUMENTS

 "Thief in the night" Implies Imminency

Posttribulationalism Implies Knowing the Time of the Return

God Wouldn't Allow Believers to Suffer the Tribulation

The Word "Church" Doesn't Appear in Tribulational Passages

The Command to "Watch" Implies Imminency

"Escape" (Lk 21:36) Implies Pretribulationalism

Revelation 3:10 Implies a Pretribulational Rapture

The Presence of the 24 Elders in Heaven Implies Pretribulationalism

The Marriage Supper (Rev. 19) Precedes Return

The Armies in White (Rev 19) Imply Pretribulationalism

The "Apostasy" is Really the "Departure"? (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

The Removal of the "Restrainer" Implies Pretribulationalism

The Words "Parousia" and "Apocalupsis" Imply Two "Comings"

The Separation of Sheep from Goats (Matthew 25)

Conclusion

Notes

 

aAbounding Joy!j

Biblical Evidence that the Rapture of the Church Will Occur After the Great Tribulation

(The purpose of this page is to provide evidence for students of eschatology--the study of the return of Christ and end-time events--that the church will go through the great tribulation and be raptured at the end of the period of time called the great tribulation.)

This information is now available in podcast form

Contents of this article can be accessed by clicking on any of the topics that are listed in the left frame of your browser window.

You may also wish to read the following articles:

Summary of Biblical Evidence for Posttribulationalism

Practical Preparation for the End Times

The Antichrist

Is the Return of Christ Imminent?

 

Foreword

There is a summary of this paper available on this web site. You may wish to read it first. However, if you are willing to spend a few extra minutes of study time, it will be valuable for you to work through the verses and comments that have been included on this page. I have included a few  footnotes where I felt more explanation or definition might be helpful. It's ok if you click on a footnote, you will have an opportunity there to click back to your place in the study.

 

Introduction

Years ago I was a "pretribber."1 My "eschatology2 heroes" were men like Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord and W.A. Criswell. In fact, virtually all the pastors and radio Bible teachers I had any knowledge of were also pretribbers. I still have the utmost respect for these men, even though I have concluded that they are in error regarding their pretribulational views.

When I began to become aware that there was such a thing as a posttribulational3 view of the second coming of Christ, I was troubled. The idea that the church might have to suffer serious persecution and martyrdom at the hand of the Antichrist is not at all pleasant. However, when I took a fresh look at the Scriptures that speak of our Lordís second coming, I became convinced that my previous beliefs were in error.

I re-read the Scriptures regarding His return (especially Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Revelation, Daniel, 1 and 2 Thessalonians). As I read, I tried to keep an attitude that assumed that I had no idea whether His coming was before or after the Great Tribulation. I tried to draw a conclusion based on a plain reading of the Biblical text. For me, the effect was astounding.

In order to be a pretribulationalist, I had to be "in on" certain (non-plain) interpretations of certain words and verses. It was easy for me to assume these interpretations were true, because I had heard them so often. However, when I began to question them, for the most part their eisegetical4 nature became clear.

Having said all that, I have to admit that there are some passages which cause some difficulty for the posttribulational position as well. I deal with these in last part of this paper. As in any Biblical subject where honest Bible-believing students come to different beliefs, there are verses that can be used to "support" both sides. The difficult thing for the serious student to do is to strive to impartially study the "difficulties" for each side of the issue and then humbly conclude which is most likely correct.

Some might wonder why God allowed His Word to be written in such a way that conflicting beliefs could be arrived at. Certainly He could have written His Word as a systematic theological textbook with no room for misunderstanding. First, He undoubtedly is pleased when His children use the resources He has provided us to dig and study in His Word. Secondly, He is giving us an opportunity to love and be patient with other believers who may not see things the same way we do. It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate humility and to reject arrogance.

For those who wish to do further study, there are numerous posttribulational books available. The best I have seen is The Church and the Tribulation by Robert H. Gundry. (Much of the material in this paper is found in greater detail in Gundry's book. Much of this material is more or less a summary or condensation of points he makes more thoroughly in his book. Be warned, however, that his book is very detailed!)
 
 

The Practical Issue

I was once discussing these things with my then 17-year-old son Daniel when he suggested that perhaps the best position to take regarding these things is to hope that the pretribulational position is correct (after all, who wants to enter in to a time of persecution and martyrdom?) but  to be prepared for the posttribulational position to be correct. There is wisdom in that statement. False hope that we will not have to face persecution can leave us unprepared for it when it occurs. It is wise to be prepared.

If posttribbers are wrong, they will be happy to admit it when they are unexpectedly caught up in the pretribulational rapture!

However, if pretribbers are wrong, they may be unprepared for the time of persecution at the hands of the Antichrist. An extreme pretribber (i.e., one who is absolutely totally convinced that there is no way he could be wrong and the posttribbers right) might not even recognize the situation he is in until it is very late. ("He cannot be the Antichrist! Iíll be gone before the Antichrist comes to power!") He might not be "watching" very effectively, since all he would be watching for would be the rapture (believing that there are no other prophetical things to occur first). And he may be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically unprepared for a time of fiery trial.

Sometimes, in a way, the pretribulational position seems a little arrogant to me. Itís almost like saying, "Yes, I realize that Christians have endured much persecution and martyrdom in the past, and in some places are doing so now. And I realize that those poor believers who come to Christ during the tribulation will suffer horribly. But we soft, pampered Christians will get to escape all the tough times." To me, it sounds a little dangerous--not  to mention unbiblical.
 

You may wish to read:
Practical Preparation for the End Times


 

Early Church Writers Were Posttribulationalists

It is significant that the Ante-Nicene Fathers4a all wrote as posttribulationalists. They looked ahead to a time of great tribulation which would occur before the second coming.5 The pretribulational view of the second coming was  virtually unknown before 1830. (Some pretribulationalists have attempted to demonstrate that some of the early Christian writters were pretribulational. They have done this by taking comments very much out of context. If you read the same quotations in context, you will find that these early Christians expected the church to go through the great tribulation before the "rapture" would occur.6) Of course, this is not conclusive in and of itself. All these writers were men, and their writings were not Scripture. They could have all been wrong, but it seems strange that all the early church fathers would have been confused about this.

Notable Christian Posttribbers

The pretribulational viewpoint has been so prevalent in evangelical circles of late, that many have gotten the idea that the pretribulational view must be the "orthodox" view. The argument that, "Surely all these preachers and Bible students canít be wrong, can they?" can be very powerful with someone who feels that he doesnít have the time or skill to study the issue for himself.

Therefore, it may help some to realize that many notable Christian leaders and scholars have been posttribulationalists. Here are a few (there are, of course, many others):

Jay Adams, Randy Alcorn,  Henry Alford, Matthew Arnold, J. Sidlow Baxter,  David Brainerd, F. F. Bruce, John Bunyan, John Calvin, B. H. Carroll, William Cowper, John Gill, Robert Gundry, Hank Hanegraaff, Carl F. H. Henry, William Hendriksen, Matthew Henry, Herschell Hobbs,  Adoniram Judson, John Knox, George Eldon Ladd,  Hugh Latimer,  C. S. Lewis, J. B. Lightfoot, Harold Lindsell, C. S. Lovett, Martin Luther, Walter Martin, Dave McPherson, Jack McAlister, Alexander McLaren, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, John Warwick Montgomery, Doug Moo, G. Campbell Morgan, H. C. G. Moule, George Mueller, Andrew Murray, Sir Isaac Newton, John Newton, Harold J. Ockenga, J. Edwin Orr, Ian Paisley, John Piper, Bernard Ramm, Paul Rees, A. T. Robertson, Marv Rosenthal, Francis Schaffer, Oswald J. Smith, Charles Spurgeon, John R. W. Stott, A. H. Strong, Merrell Tenny, J. H. Thayer, B. B. Warfield, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Wesley, George Whitefield, William Wilberforce, Ulrich Zwingli.

(Click here for a longer list of posttribulationalists.)

Of course, to our knowledge, none of the pastors and Bible students who lived before about 1830 were pretribulational. The first references we have to the idea of a pretribulational coming are from around the year 1830. Due to the influence of Augustine, earlier Bible students were often amillennial, believing the thousand-year reign to be symbolic. However, they also usually  believed the church would have to go through a time of great tribulation. And due to the difficult times in which they lived, many believed they were already in the great tribulation.

The first man known to have advanced a pretribulational view of the return of Christ was a man by the name of Edward Irving, who was later removed from the Presbyterian church because of heretical beliefs about the nature of Christ.

Ultimately we must be careful not to simply accept or reject views of the Bible on the basis of what other men have said. Only Scripture (Sola Scriptura) is the basis of our beliefs. I have included this section for the benefit of those who think the posttribulational position is "weird" or who think that it is rejected by serious Bible students. In fact, my experience has been exactly the opposite. More serious Bible students often come to a posttribulational view of the return of Christ.

 

No Hint of a Pretribulational Rapture in Matthew 24

In His most detailed discussion of the tribulation (the "Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24) Jesus does not even hint at a pre-tribulational rapture, but only His posttribulational coming. Try reading Matthew 24, considering the detail, and ask as you read, "Would I ever suspect a pretrib rapture just by reading this detailed prophecy given by Christ Himself?"

In his book, The Tribulation People, Arthur Katterjohn quotes a great preacher from the early part of this century, Dr. Oswald J. Smith, as he relates the experience that caused him to renounce his previous pretribulational view of the rapture in favor of posttribulationalism:

"No sooner had I started on Matthew 24 than I got into trouble... I was in a maze, for I was perplexed... If the rapture was to be before the Tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ would certainly have given some hint of it at least... It is unthinkable that He would have spoken so minutely of the Tribulation without stating that the Church would escape. Instead, He purposely led His hearers to the belief that His followers would be in it. Hence, I was staggered, nor could I honestly defend my previous position... When I began to search the Scriptures for myself I discovered that there is not a single verse in the Bible that upholds the pretribulation theory, but that the uniform teaching of the Word of God is of a posttribulation rapture." (pp. 26-27)

First Resurrection - After the Great Tribulation

The Resurrection immediately precedes the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Yet Revelation 20:4-6 teaches that the first resurrection occurs after the tribulation. It is very difficult to imagine why God would designate this resurrection as the "first" one if a great resurrection had occurred just before the tribulation. The pretrib argument that this is "phase 2" of the first resurrection seems to be merely an ad hoc attempt at an explanation that will allow for an earlier resurrection. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that we should think of it as "phase 2" of the first resurrection! Many other passages indicate a porttribulational resurrection (e.g., those that refer to our resurrection as occurring at the "last day." There would be many more days to follow--the days of the tribulation--if our resurrection were to occur before the tribulation!) None indicate a pretribulational resurrection. One of the most important principles of Biblical interpretation is to accept the "plain" meaning of a passage before trying to add "explanations." Pretribulationalists must speculate a very "unplain" meaning for Revelation 20:4-6.

[Note: In this study, I have placed relevant verses immediately after each point for reference. Pay particular attention to words that are underlined.]

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever... But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. (Daniel 12:1-3, 13)

And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day... And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:39,40,44,54)

Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.(John 11:24)

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. (Revelation 11:15-19)

When Does the Last Trumpet Sound?

The rapture of the church is explicitly said to occur at the last trumpet. This trumpet sounds at the end of the tribulation! (It seems strange that a trumpet sounding before the tribulation would be designated as the "last" trumpet since other trumpets are to follow. If that is the case, what is the "first" trumpet? or any of the other trumpets?)

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)

(Even pretribbers acknowledge that this passage from Matthew 24 refers to His posttribulational return, since Jesus clearly says, in verse 29, "immediately after the tribulation!")

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth (Revelation 11:15-18)

 

Only One Return Portrayed in Revelation

If you read the book of Revelation carefully, you notice only one return described, and it is posttribulational. (Some pretribbers claim the Revelation 4:1 is a reference to the rapture, but this is obviously not the plain meaning of the verse. Read the context! This is one of those passages that one must give a "secret" unplain meaning to in order to make it a reference to the rapture of the church! That is very bad eisegesis, not exegesis!)7

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. (Revelation 4:1)

[The plain meaning of this verse is that the Lord is inviting John to come up to Him in order to receive the visions that he was to record in the book of Revelation. To use it to refer to a pretribulational rapture is eisegesis.]

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)

First "The Great Tribulation" Then "The Day of the Lord"

The "Day of the Lord" is a Biblical phrase of very specific meaning. Scripture indicates that the Day of the Lord begins with a distinct and terrifyingly intense (but probably very short) period of time that occurs after the tribulation, during which God's wrath is poured out on His enemies. It is not to be confused with the period of time called the "Great Tribulation."

The time referred to as the Great Tribulation is a time of intense persecution of Godís chosen people (the church and Israel) at the hand of the man of sin (Antichrist) as well as a time of great suffering brought on by the natural consequences of the accumulated sin of mankind.

A careful study of end time chronology will demonstrate that the Day of the Lord occurs after the Great Tribulation. The Scriptures even give us an indicator that the time of the Great Tribulation is ending and the time of the Day of the Lord is beginning. The indicator is the phenomenon of the supernatural signs in the sun, moon, and stars.

First, notice the "technical" meaning given to the phrase, "the Day of the Lord."

Following are some verses that indicate that the "Day of the Lord" is a phrase which is used to designate the time of Godís outpoured wrath:

Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18-20)

For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates. (Jer 46:10 )

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)

For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth  In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth (Isaiah 2:12-21)

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. (Isaiah 13:6-11)

Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. (Joel 1:15)

The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2:10-11)

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. (Obadiah 1:15-16)

The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land. (Zeph 1:14-18)


 

Note that the signs in the heavens mark the transition between the Great Tribulation and The Day of the Lord. There are three successive events: (1) The Great Tribulation; (2) The signs in the heavens; (3) The Day of the Lord.

 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. (Joel 2:30-31)

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come (Ac 2:20)

[The key word in the above verses is "before!"]

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Mt 24:29)

[The key word here is"after!"]

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal*, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Rev 6:12-17)

*[Note that the first five seals indicate a time of warfare, pestilence, famine, martyrdom, and economic ruin that are the working out of the sinfulness of mankind. These represent the Great Tribulation and parallel the description of the Great Tribulation in the first part of Matthew 24.]

[Also note the similarity of Rev 6:16-17 with Is 2:12-21 (quoted above) regarding men trying to hide in the rocks of the mountains.]


 

The Great Apostasy and the "man of lawlessness" (Antichristóthis implies the tribulation period) must come before the day of the Lord (i.e., the day of Godís wrath).

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)

[Also, note that these verses from 2 Thessalonians 2 are clearly given as a warning to those who expected that the rapture might occur at any time. The Spirit is teaching, through Paul, that there are some things that must occur first (viz. "the apostasy," "the man of lawlessness is revealed," and the temple rebuilt.)]

Elijah comes before the Day of the Lord, yet Revelation 11:2-3 indicates his coming during the latter half of Daniel's 70th week (i.e., during the tribulation).

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: (Mal 4:5)

But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth (Re 11:2-3)

[Note: Because of the nature of the miracles performed by these two witnesses, many believe that they are Moses and Elijah]

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:24-27)

Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?  And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (Daniel 8:13-14)

Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. (Daniel 12:10-12)


 

Therefore, if the pretrib position is correct, the Day of the Lord has no relevance for the church today, and passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:4,6 become meaningless.

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1Thessalonians 5:1-6)

[The point is, if the church is to be raptured several years before the day of the Lord arrives, it seems that a more likely reading of vv. 4-6 would have been something like, "But ye, brethren, should take no thought of that day. You will have long before been gathered together with the Lord in the clouds!"]

God's Pattern: Satan's Wrath vs. God's Wrath

God's pattern in scripture is to allow His saints to suffer under Satan's wrath (e.g., the Great Tribulation), but to be supernaturally preserved from God's wrath (e.g., the Day of the Lord). (Study Israel in Egypt; Lot in Sodom; Noah; etc.)

And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour. (Exodus 1:13-14)

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)

[Israel was not spared the wrath of the Pharaoh. But when it came time for God to pour out His wrath on Pharaoh, His people were supernaturally spared!]

And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-27)

[Noah had to endure the anger of the godless world he lived in. But when it came time for God to pour out His wrath, Noah was supernaturally spared.]

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:28-29)

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (2 Peter 2:6-8)

[Lot suffered at the hands of wicked people, but was supernaturally spared from Godís wrath.]

Jesus Taught against Imminency

Read: Is the Return of the Lord Imminent?

One of the reasons that many have accepted pretribulationalism is the belief that Scripture teaches that Christians of all ages are to believe that His coming is imminent, in the sense that there are no events which must occur before He returns. However, a closer study of the Scriptures shows that Jesus taught in such a way as to contradict those who believed that His second coming would be imminent.

And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. (Luke 19:11-15)

[The point here is that Jesus was preparing them for a lengthy time between His first and second coming. Therefore, they were not to expect His return to be imminent. Instead they were to expect a period of time during which they were to "occupy" until He comes (v. 13).]

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept... After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. (Matthew 25:5, 19)

[Again, the point is that a long time is to elapse between His first and second comings.]

The early church clearly knew that Jesus' coming was not imminent (in the sense that it could occur at any moment). They understood that there were some things that had to happen before He would return. Therefore, they did not expect that His return could be "at any moment."

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8)

[They had to know that it would take some time for the gospel to reach the uttermost part of the earthówhich had to happen before He would return. Thus the Scriptures which seem to teach "imminency" certainly did not imply imminency to them.]

And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. (Acts 22:21)

And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. (Acts 23:11)

[Paul knew Jesus wouldnít return until he had been to Rome.]

Ac 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: (Acts 9:15)

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:18-19)

Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.(2 Peter 1:14)

[Peter knew that Jesus would not return during his lifetime.]

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5: A Meaningless Warning?

If the pretrib position is correct, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 becomes meaningless. It should read something like: "Do not fear, you will be raptured before this occurs!"

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)


 

1 & 2 Thessalonians: How Many Returns?

Pretribulationalists must maintain that the references to the second coming in 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Thessalonians 2, and 1 Thessalonians 4 refer to different "comings" (one before and one after the tribulation). But a careful reading gives no clues for such an interpretation. The natural reading is best. These all describe the same event.

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8)

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)


 

The Error of 2 Thessalonians 2:2

The error of the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2:2) was that they had assumed that they had entered the time of the end and that Jesus' coming was imminent. Hence they had quit work. Paul wrote to assure them that they should not expect His return to be imminent.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)


 

Unnecessary Commands and Warnings?

In Jesus' discussion of the great tribulation in Matthew 24, He commands His followers to endure and warns them of the dangers of deception. These commands and warnings seem unnecessary if they are to be raptured out before the tribulation begins!

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:20-24)

[The question is, why didnít Jesus just tell them that they would be taken out before these great troubles begin?]

Redemption Near, Not Past, at Tribulation

When the tribulation begins, Jesus says our redemption is near, not already past!

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.(Luke 21:28)
"Descend" Always Implies a Complete Descent

The word translated "descend" in 1 Thes 4:16 always implies a complete descent (e.g. the Holy Spirit at Jesus' baptism). Nothing in the text implies a halt or a reversal. (Pretribbers suggest that He will pause in the air, gather the saints, then go back into heaven.) In an interesting analogy, it was common in Bible times for leaders of a city to go out to meet a visiting dignitary and escort him into the city (not go back to his home!). (To find all uses of the Greek word katabainw (katabaino), do a word search on Strong's number: 2597).

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

"descend" =  2597 katabaino {kat-ab-ah'-ee-no}
from 2596 and the base of 939; TDNT - 1:522,90; v

AV - come down 41, descend 18, go down 17, fall down 1, step down 1,
get down 1, fall 1, vr come down 1; 81

1) to go down, come down, descend
1a) the place from which one has come down from
1b) to come down
1b1) as from the temple at Jerusalem, from the city of Jerusalem
1b2) of celestial beings coming down to earth
1c) to be cast down

Pretribulationalism Requires a Complicated Judgment Scheme

In order to accommodate the various comings, resurrections, and groups of people involved, it is necessary for pretribulationalists to postulate several different judgments (commonly 4, sometimes more). This involves manipulating scriptures in a way that goes contrary to their plain meaning. Posttribulationalism does not require such a complicated scheme.

The Four Judgments commonly postulated by pretribbers:

1) The Church in heaven during the tribulation (rewards) (2Co 5:10)

2) The nations on earth just before the millennium (Mt 25:31-46)

3) Living national Israel just before the millennium (concerning entrance into the Davidic Kingdom) (Ezek 20:33-38)

4) The wicked dead after the millennium. (Rev 20:11-15)

This scheme leaves four groups of people unaccounted for and requires additional judgments not mentioned in scripture.

1) O.T. saints raised after the tribulation

2) Tribulation martyrs

3) Those saved during the millennium  (Is 2:2-3; 11:10; 55:1-7)

4) The wicked living at the end of the millennium   (Rev 20:7-9)

 

ANSWERS TO COMMON PRETRIBULATIONAL ARGUMENTS

"Thief in the Night" Implies Imminency

Read: Is the Return of the Lord Imminent?

Doesn't Jesus' coming as a "thief in the night" imply imminency?

ANSWER:
He comes as a thief only to those not watching. Also, Revelation 16:15 is clearly posttribulational (see the note below). There is no reason why other references to His coming "as a thief" could not also be posttribulational.

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)

[This is an obvious reference to His posttribulational coming "as a thief." Otherwise it seems a strangely misplaced warning! This admonition occurs just before the seventh and last bowl of Godís wrath is poured out (in verse 17). In other words, after the seven seals, after the seven trumpets, and near the end of the bowls of wrath.]

Posttribulationalism Implies Knowing the Time of the Return

Doesn't scripture teach that we cannot know the time of His coming? Wouldn't we know the time if it were posttribulational?

ANSWER:
God gives us signs so we can know generally, but not specifically (notice words such as "day," "hour," and "watch of the night.")

Matthew 24:36, 42, 43 indicates this uncertainty with regard to an unquestionably posttribulational coming. (Read the context!)

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only... Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (Matthew 24:36, 42, 43)
God Wouldn't Allow Believers to Suffer the Tribulation

God would not allow His people to go through the horror of the Great Tribulation. 1Thessalonians 5:9 says, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath..."

ANSWER:
We must distinguish between God's wrath and Satan's wrath God will certainly not pour out His wrath on us. But He has always allowed His people to be purified through tribulation generated by Satan's wrath. (Cf. Israel in Egypt; Modern believers today under godless rulers; Tribulational believers; etc.)

Even Pretribbers believe that there will be many who will be saved during the tribulation. Do they believe that God will pour out His wrath on them? If He can pour out His wrath on the followers of the Antichrist and spare the tribulational believers (as Israel in Egypt), He can certainly spare us until the posttribulational rapture.

The Word "Church" Doesn't Appear in Tribulational Passages

The word "church" does not appear in tribulational passages with an earthly setting.

ANSWER:
Neither does it appear in passages with a heavenly setting! Neither does it appear in Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, Jude, or Romans 1-15!

This is a very weak argument from silence.
 
 

The Command to "Watch" Implies Imminency

Read: Is the Return of the Lord Imminent?

The command to "watch" implies a sudden, imminent, pretribulational coming.

ANSWER:
The strongest warning to watch is found in Matthew 24:32 - Matthew 25:30, which is clearly referring to a posttribulational coming, with no hint of a pretribulational rapture.

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened... Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:... Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matthew 24:21-22, 29, 32-33)

["All these things" refers to the events of the Great Tribulation described in the first part of Matthew 24. This "coming" He is talking about is posttribulational!]

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only... Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:34-36, 42-44)

[Again, the context of these verses makes it abundantly clear they are referring to His coming after the tribulation. He has described the tribulation in great detail in the first part of chapter 24. Then in verse 29 He says, "Immediately after the tribulation..." and proceeds to describe the events which will occur after the tribulation!]


 

"Escape" (Lk 21:36) Implies Pretribulationalism

The word "escape" in Luke 21:36 implies a pretribulational rapture.

ANSWER:
If so, it implies partial rapturism (i.e. only those watching and praying will be raptured). This could actually be a reference to the flight from Jerusalem from the Antichrist (see v. 21 and Revelation 12:14-16). It might also imply that those who are prepared may be able to avoid capture and persecution by the Antichrist. (In times of persecution and martyrdom, not all believers are caught, persecuted, and killed.)

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36)

Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. (Luke 21:21)

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. (Revelation 12:14-16)

[The woman "escapes," even though she is not raptured out of the world.]

And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. (Revelation 9:4)

[Those with the seal of God in their foreheads "escape," even though they are still in the world during the time of Godís wrath.]

Revelation 3:10 Implies a Pretribulational Rapture

The phrase "keep you from the hour of testing" in Rev 3:10 implies a pretrib rapture.

ANSWER:
The preposition "from" (Greek: ek) implies direction ("out from within"). It is not a synonym for "away from in some other place." This implies that the church is within the hour of testing and is to be kept, guarded from danger. In heaven there would be no danger to be "kept" from. The Greek for "keep" is "tehreo" which implies "to keep from a present danger."

The only other New Testament verse which uses both words is John 17:15, where it is very clear that removal is not implied! Similar ideas are expressed when Jesus used the words, "Father save me from this hour," or when we pray, "Deliver me from this time of sickness." We do not mean, "Rapture me out of the world!" (Cf. Jer 30:7)

Also, the "hour of testing" could be a reference to the outpouring of Godís wrath at the end of the tribulation.

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:15)

[John 17:15 and Revelation 3:10 use the same Greek words for "keep" and "from."]

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. (John 12:27)

Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7)

[Meaning: God will preserve him in the midst of the trouble and bring him through it.]

"keep" = tereo {tay-reh'-o}(Strong's number 5083)

from teros (a watch, perhaps akin to 2334); TDNT - 8:140,1174; v

AV - keep 57, reserve 8, observe 4, watch 2, preserve 2, keeper 1,   hold fast 1; 75

1) to attend to carefully, take care of
1a) to guard
1b) metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is
1c) to observe
1d) to reserve: to undergo something

 

"from" = ek {ek} or ex {ex}(Strong's number1537)

a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause; literal or figurative;; prep

AV - of 366, from 181, out of 162, by 55, on 34, with 25, misc 98; 921

1) out of, from, by, away from

The Presence of the 24 Elders in Heaven Implies Pretribulationalism

The presence of the 24 elders in heaven in Rev 4:4 implies a pretrib rapture

ANSWER:
There are two possible answers to this argument:

1) Even if they do represent the church, it does not necessarily follow that all the church is in heaven.

2) The elders are not necessarily humans. The fact that, in the Greek, the words "men," "them," and "they" are used in Rev 5:8-10 instead of "us" and "we" lend credence to this interpretation. Also in 11:16-18 and 14:3 they are set off from men.

To the argument that only men can sing the song of redemption, notice that the 4 living creatures do so in 5:8-10.

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. (Revelation 4:4)

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed men [Greek] to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made them [Greek] unto our God kings and priests: and they [Greek] shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:8-10)

And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth (Revelation 11:16-18)

And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:3)


 

The Marriage Supper (Rev. 19) Precedes Return

The marriage supper (see Rev 19:7-10) precedes the return (see Rev 19:11ff). This implies the rapture has already occurred pretribulationally.

ANSWER:
The words "is come" (v.7) (most translations say "has come") could be understood to mean "is upon us" or "is immediately coming up" to take place shortly after Christ's descent. We often use the words to indicate an event that has not yet occurred, but whose time "has come."

In Revelation 6:17, for example, the men cry out that the great day of His wrath "is come" (same Greek word as in 19:7) The implication is not that the wrath has already occurred, but that it will happen very soon.

In John 17:1 Jesus uses the same Greek word ("is come"). The Greek is past tense. Yet the clear meaning is that Jesus is referring to an event that is soon to occur--not one that has already occurred.

For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:17)

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: (John 17:1)

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:7-21)

The Armies in White (Rev 19) Imply Pretribulationalism

The armies clothed in white linen who come with Christ (Rev 19:11ff.) imply a previous rapture.

ANSWER:
These may be the deceased Christians coming with Christ to receive new bodies at the soon coming resurrection. We can read about obviously not-yet-resurrected Christians with white robes in Rev 6:9-11 (the tribulational martyrs), so why not also in Rev 19?

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:11-14)

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Revelation 6:9-11)

 

The "Apostasy" is Really the "Departure"
(2 Thessalonians 2:3)

The word "apostasy" in 2 Thes 2:3 could be translated "departure" and refer to the rapture.

ANSWER:
The word never carries that sense in the New Testament. Also, it is used 40 times in the Septuagint (The Greek translation of the Old Testament), always referring to "apostasy." By New Testament times the word was always used for political or religious revolt, even in other (extra-Biblical) writings. To assume this different meaning for the word is to do violence to the clear meaning and usage of this Greek word.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

"falling away" = apostasia {ap-os-tas-ee'-ah}(Strong's number 646)

feminine of the same as 647; TDNT - 1:513,88; n f

AV - to forsake + 575 1, falling away 1; 2

1) a falling away, defection, apostasy

The Removal of the "Restrainer" Implies Pretribulationalism

The "restrainer" in 2 Thes 2:6 must be the Holy Spirit. His removal must signify the rapture of the church, since He dwells in Christians.

ANSWER:
There are two possible answers to this argument:

1) It is not at all obvious from the context that the restrainer is actually the Holy Spirit. The early church and the reformation leaders understood the restrainer to be the civil power which God has ordained to restrain the forces of evil in society by rule of law.

2) "Out of the midst" is better translated "out of the way." The Holy Spirit will be working during the tribulation (Mk 13:11; Mt 24:14; Rev 7:9-14). He can work independently of the church. Thus one can conceive of the Spirit holding back the Antichrist until the time is right, then being "taken out of the way" to allow Satan to possess the man of sin. If that is the sense of the verse, it does not necessarily imply the church has been removed from the earth!

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.(2 Thessalonians 2:6)

But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. (Mark 13:11)

[A clear reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in a tribulational setting!]

Mt 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9-14)


 

The Words "Parousia" and "Apocalupsis" Imply Two "Comings"

Scripture uses two words for Christ's second coming: "Parousia," which occurs before the tribulation, and "apocalupsis," ("revelation") which occurs after the tribulation.

ANSWER:
Parousia is used in several clearly posttribulational passages (e.g. Mt.24:3, 27, 37, 39; 2 Thessalonians 2:8)

Apocalupsis is used in several passages to refer to our hope in this age (i.e. not merely the hope of tribulation saints) (see 1 Cor 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:7, 13; 4:13)

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming (parousia), and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3)

For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming (parousia) of the Son of man be... But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming (parousia) of the Son of man be... And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming (parousia) of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:27, 37, 39)

[Even pretribbers acknowledge that Jesus is referring to His "coming" after the tribulation here. In Matthew 24:29 Jesus clearly says "Immediately after the tribulation" and begins to describe the events leading to His Posttribulational coming.]

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (parousia): (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

[This coming is clearly posttribulational, since it is at this coming that he destroys the Antichrist!]

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming (apocalupsis) of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Corinthians 1:7)

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing (apocalupsis) of Jesus Christ:... Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation (apocalupsis) of Jesus Christ;  (1 Peter 1:7, 13)

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed (apocalupsis), ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13)

The Separation of Sheep from Goats (Matthew 25)

The separation of sheep from goats in Mat 25:31-46 takes place immediately after the tribulation. If posttribbers are correct, there would be no sheep left (having just been raptured).

ANSWER:
This is most likely an instance of "prophetic gap" (see Isaiah 9:6; Is 61:2; Zech 9:9-10; and compare Lk 4:16-21, where Jesus stops abruptly in Is. 61:2 at the point of the prophetic gap). The Millennium is not "noticed" in other passages (Dan 12:2; Jn 5:28,29). Thus it could be  understood as: "He will sit on His glorious throne (during the millennium) and (after the millennium) all the nations will be gathered..." (Matthew 25:31-32)

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:... Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.(Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and [prophetic gap here] the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and [prophetic gap here] the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; (Isaiah 61:2)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass [prophetic gap here] . And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.(Zechariah 9:9-10)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:16-21)

[Notice how Jesus stopped abruptly in the middle of the verse He was quoting from Isaiah 61:2 (above). That point in Isaiah 61:2 is an instance of "prophetic gap."]

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and [prophetic gap here] some to shame and everlasting contempt.(Daniel 12:2)

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and [prophetic gap here] they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29)

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.[prophetic gap here] And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelation 12:5-6)

Also, consider that some of the wicked will survive the tribulation and enter the millennium (cf., Zechariah 14:16-17), else no wicked could enter the millennium. If the judgment occurred before the millennium, there would be no wicked left to enter the millennium.

There are some scriptures that imply that all will be judged "at" His second coming (e.g. Jude 14-15; Matt 16:27; Rev 22:12) even though we know that the judgment of the wicked is after the millennium (Rev 20:11-15). There is no compelling reason why the judgment of the righteous could not be also.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. (Zechariah 14:16-17)

[In other words, there will be unrepentant people who enter the millennium.]

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14-15)

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matthew 16:27)

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:11-12)

[These passages would make it seem that the judgment of the wicked occurs immediately at His coming, even though Rev 20:11-15 makes it clear that it occurs after the millennium. (These are more illustrations of "prophetic gap.")]

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Conclusion

If you have worked your way through this study to this point, you are to be commended! You have demonstrated that you are not just a casual thinker about these things. And I believe that you may now agree that the evidence is quite substantial that the rapture will not occur until the end of the great tribulation. You may not be totally convinced, but you will probably at least admit that the evidence is strong.

That being the case, one might ask, what is the practical application of this truth? Well, for one thing, we can be a little more sober about our estimate of what may lie ahead for us. We might well conclude that we may need to "temper" a bit the unbridled optimistic view that we will just continue to prosper and enjoy the material abundance of this life until Jesus comes and takes us into the even greater abundance of glory in the next.

There are Christians in the world today who are already experiencing significant persecutions and fiery trials. But Christians who live in pockets of material abundance, like the United States, need to have the realization that things could change radically and dramatically in a very short period of time.

Are you and your loved ones prepared for the possibility of an intense time of tribulation? Even staunch pretribbers need to live with an awareness that, at least for them personally (if not for the whole world), things could suddenly become very difficult. The book of 1 Peter is well worth a close study in this regard. He writes, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:" (1 Peter 4:12)  And Paul writes, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12) I am afraid that many Christians are totally unprepared for these fiery trials.

How do you get prepared? Of paramount importance is spiritual and emotional preparation. There are studies on this web site that will be of great strength to you if you will take them seriously. Please don't wait until the tribulation is upon us to start getting prepared! It takes time to assimilate the truths of God's Word that will undergird us during the tough times. God gives us all the resources we need to face persecution and even death for Jesus' sake. Many believers have sealed their testimony with their blood. But they were spiritually and emotionally prepared.

You may also want to consider a certain amount of physical preparation. What would you do if it suddenly became reality that the only way to buy and sell would be to deny the supreme Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do you think that could never happen? The Bible says that there is coming a time when it will happen. A certain amount of physical preparation might enable you and your loved ones to be a witness for Christ for a longer period of time than would otherwise be possible.

If you are a true Christian, you will certainly eventually overcome! God will enable you to win, through the Lord Jesus Christ. But there are certain rewards for being prepared. Those who are prepared will be praising Him that He enabled them to do so. God intends to make us into overcomers! And He provides everything we need to stand firm until the end!

May God bless you richly and powerfully as you continue in His Word.

"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:10-11)

Notes

1. "Pretribber" is a shortened term for "pretribulationalist." Pretribbers or pretribulationalists believe that the return of Christ to rapture the church could occur at any moment and will the be event that marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation. They typically see the return of Christ as occurring in two "phases"--one before the tribulation, one after. (go back)

2. The term "eschatology" simply means a study of the events that will occur in the end times. The word comes from the Greek words "eschatos" which means "furthest" and the suffix "-ology" which usually means "the study of." (By the way, this suffix itself comes from the Greek root, "logos" which means "word" and is of special significance to Christians!) Eschatology usually involves the study of such things as the return of Christ, the tribulation, the Millennial reign, the resurrection, the last judgment, etc. (go back)

3. "Posttribulationalists" (or "posttribbers") believe that Christ will return to rapture the church after the Great Tribulation. They typically see the return of Christ as being one event--not the two "phases" required by pretribulationalism. (go back)

4. "Eisegesis" is the opposite of "exegesis." Exegesis means to "bring out" ("ex-" = out of) the meaning of a passage of Scripture by careful study. Eisegesis means to "read into" ("eis-" = into) a passage of Scripture the student's own preconceived ideas. Exegesis is good. All proper Bible study should be "exegetical." Eisegesis is to be avoided at all costs! We are guilty of eisegesis when we "read into" the Scripture our own opinions of what we want to passage to say. (go back)

4a. "Ante-Nicene Fathers" is a term used to refer to leaders of the church in the period just after the early apostles, and before the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. So most of them wrote between 100 and 300 A.D. (go back)

5.  For example, Irenaeus, in his work Against Heresies wrote "And they [speaking of the ten kings] shall... give their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight." In the same work, he wrote, "But he [speaking of the apostle John, in the book of Revelation] indicates the number of the name [a reference to "666" in Revelation 13:18] now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who is he." Clearly Irenaeus did not expect to be raptured before the tribulation.

Justin Martyr (in Trypho) writes, "The man of apostasy [speaking of the man we call the "beast" or the "Antichrist"]... shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians."

Tertullian, commenting on 1 Thessalonians 4 (often taken by pretribbers to be a reference to the pretribulational rapture), identifies that rapture as being of those who survived the afflictions of the Antichrist. "Now the privilege of this favor [to be raptured] awaits those who shall at the coming of the Lord be found in the flesh, and who shall owing to the oppressions of the time of Antichrist, deserve by an instantaneous death [his way of referring to the "rapture"], which is accomplished by a sudden change, to become qualified to join the rising saints; as he writes to the Thessalonians." (from On the Resurrection of the Flesh)

Hippolytus wrote, in his Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, "Now concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary... That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church." (go back)

6. For example, the writer of The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles wrote, "Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh." Pretribbers quote this (and stop the quote here!!) because it sounds like it might be referring to a pretribulational rapture. But the quote continues, "for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if ye be not made perfect in the last time... then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders... Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial..." He obviously expects  his readers (the church) to have to endure the tribulation!!

Also, in The Shepherd of Hermas, we read, "If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it [the great tribulation]." Out of context, it sounds pretribulational (although it does sound a bit like "partial rapturism"--the idea that some, but not all, of the church will be raptured). But, if you read a little farther, he writes, "Those, therefore, who continue steadfast, and are put through the fire [i.e. the great tribulation], will be purified by means of it... This then is the type of the great tribulation that is yet to come. If ye wish it, it will be nothing [i.e., 'If you are prepared, it will not ultimately hurt you.']" (go back)

7."Eisegesis" is the opposite of "exegesis." Exegesis means to "bring out" ("ex-" = out of) the meaning of a passage of Scripture by careful study. Eisegesis means to "read into" ("eis-" = into) a passage of Scripture the student's own preconceived ideas. Exegesis is good. All proper Bible study should be "exegetical." Eisegesis is to be avoided at all costs! We are guilty of eisegesis when we "read into" the Scripture our own opinions of what we want to passage to say. (go back)

Steve Hall
July 1998
(conclusion written July 2000)

© 2000 Steve Hall. Permission is hereby granted to quote from these web pages, in part or in full, as long as the following statement is included: "© 2000 Steve Hall (steve@aboundingjoy.com). Quoted by Permission."

You may also wish to read the following articles:

Summary of Biblical Evidence for Posttribulationalism

Practical Preparation for the End Times

The Antichrist

Is the Return of Christ Imminent?


 

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