Home > Uncategorized > Why John Piper does not believe in a “secret rapture” before the Great Tribulation

Why John Piper does not believe in a “secret rapture” before the Great Tribulation

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One of the questions that I want to deal with is where the rapture fits in. There is a large wing of the evangelical church today that believes the second coming of Christ is going to happen in two stages. First, Christ will come for the church; they will rise to meet him in the air, return with him to heaven for a period of seven years, and then after the great tribulation is over, return to the earth in judgment.

This view of the second coming is called the “pre-tribulational” view because it says that Christ comes for the church before the tribulation. This view has been popularized by the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible and by many Bible schools and some seminaries. It was the basis of Hal Lindsay’s Late Great Planet Earth, and has inspired songs and movies about the sudden disappearance of the Christians out of the world at the time of rapture.

One Argument for the Post-Tribulational View

I hope to take this issue up in more detail but for now let me just show you one of several arguments from 2 Thessalonians why I cannot follow this interpretation, as much as I love and respect those who do. Why am I a post-tribulationist, that is, why do I look forward with great anticipation not to a sudden departure from the world for seven years but to a great gathering to meet the Lord in the air as he comes with his mighty angels in flaming fire to establish his earthly kingdom, giving rest to his people and judgment to his enemies?

What the Thessalonians Were Alarmed About

The saints at Thessalonica were shaken and alarmed thinking that the day of the Lord is at hand. Now for the pre-tribulationist the “Day of the Lord” is the second half of the second coming after the tribulation. It is described in verse 8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.”

This is the day of the Lord—not the quiet rapture when the saints are snatched away, but the glorious and overwhelming attack from heaven against the man of lawlessness and all evil.

Now the question arises: If the Thessalonians were overly excited and shaken, thinking that the day of the Lord had come, why didn’t Paul simply say, “You know it hasn’t come because you are still here and I’m still here and the rapture hasn’t happened yet”? Why did he say in verse 3, “You know the day of the Lord has not come because the apostasy has not come and the man of lawlessness has not been revealed”?

The Revealing of the Man of Lawlessness

All pre-tribulationists believe that the man of lawlessness will be revealed after the rapture, during the great tribulation. In fact, they say that according to verses 6–7 the restrainer, which holds back the appearance of the man of lawlessness, is the Holy Spirit in the church, so that when the church is raptured out of the world, the man of lawlessness will be released. In other words, the church will not be here, they say, when the man of lawlessness is revealed. The Thessalonian Christians will not see the appearance of the man of lawlessness according to pre-tribulational teaching.

Why then would Paul try to convince them that the day of the Lord has not come by pointing out that a man of lawlessness has not been revealed whom they were never to see anyway? If Paul believed in a pre-tribulational rapture, all he had to say was: the day of the Lord can’t have come yet because we are all still here. Instead what he does say is exactly what you would expect him to say if he believed in a single post-tribulational coming of the Lord. He says that the day of the Lord can’t be here yet because the apostasy and man of lawlessness who appears during the tribulation haven’t appeared to us yet.

And then Paul goes on to lay out for them a description of the man of lawlessness in verses 4–9. And the most natural assumption is that he does this because he wants Christians to be able to recognize him when he appears. The point of this passage is not that Christians have gone to heaven before the man of lawlessness appears, but that Christians should recognize him when he comes. — John Piper

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 18, 2009 at 7:24 AM

    Jeff

    I generally enjoy, and am challenged by, your thoughts and your posts. But I can’t help feeling that this one is off on a tangent.

    Are we really meant to read the passages which refer to eschatalogical themes in fine detail? Do we really think that we can glean such accurate information about the future from the information we do have? And if we were, why is it that we use such non-Biblical words as “pre-tribulational”? Surely the use of such non-Biblical language and detail gives the game away?

    The people of Jesus’ day had heaps of prophecies about his coming, yet most of them got it wrong. For example, they thought the Messiah would be a conquering king and missed that he would be a suffering servant.

    I can’t help feeling most of what is said so confidently about last things similarly misses the mark, and we’ll only know when it happens. Surely Jesus intended us to get on with the task he’s left us (and which you are generally so focused on), just believe he’s returning to sort things out and wind things up, but not focus on the details, which we don’t know anyway (any more than he did, apparently).

    Sorry to be critical, but I guess 100% support is unlikely! : )

    • Anonymous
      November 20, 2014 at 3:07 AM

      John. Paul was trying to comfort believers at that time who were being told that the tribulation had started(and consequently,they had missed the rapture). He was explaining to them that the “man of sin”must appear 1st before the tribulation started,hence they had not missed out on the rapture because he had not yet been revealed. That is how pre-trib believers explain this scripture.

  2. Anonymous
    February 18, 2009 at 8:37 AM

    Sorry Jeff, but I have to echo the previous comment about this being way off on a tangent. Analysing these passages in such great detail can seem like hours of fun, but I can’t help thinking such speculation just proves how difficult it is for our finite human minds to comprehend everything there is to know about how an infinite god works.

  3. February 18, 2009 at 5:53 PM

    Reading your comments makes me think of Martin Luther’s famous reaction to the book of Revelation.

    “…to my mind it bears upon it no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character… Everyone may form his own judgment of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it.” M Luther

    Revelation is the only book of the ENTIRE Bible that John Calvin did not write a commentary on.

    I understand that their is a real “aversion” to the end times and Revelation as Luther stated BUT I believe that these days are closer to the End Times than either Luther or Calvin lived in.

    I believe that the words of Gabriel to Daniel are coming to fulfillment.

    “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end time; many will go back and forth and knowledge will increase.” Dan 12:4

    The book of Revelation and all the “End Time passages” of Scripture are opening up becoming clearer and clearer. We need not fear or shy away from”these things” as in times past.

    Our job is to recognize the times and seasons we live in and to prepare the Bride for her Bridegroom. (Mtt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21)

    “Even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” Mtt 24:33

    Sorry as well, if that seems to be “off on a tangent” for you both.

    “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

    Jeff Gilbertson

  4. Chris
    October 25, 2009 at 5:25 PM

    John said by the Spirit “I write these things that you may know”. 2 Thess 2:3 apostacy is actually a physical departure the vt. Read Liddel and Scott. Paul was telling the Thess. to remember what he had told them while he was with them before. He had already told them about the paraousia, so this was a reminder to calm them. Another point to understand is propitiation! If Jesus took Gods wrath from us, then why would he leave us here to face his wrath? There is only one wrath of God manifest differently, and born-again believers are completely delivered from it!

    • November 3, 2009 at 11:18 PM

      Chris, i can only say that God’s wrath is poured out in the bowls of wrath and those are described in Rev. 15-16!! At that point i time no believer will still be on the earth. Only those with the mark of the beast or those known as resisters — those who are alive at the end but don’t take the mark.

      In the fourth seal judgment from Rev 6 there is seen a is a pale horse called Death and is followed by Hades. I think it is clear that this symbolizes that those to be judged — one quarter of the earth — are on their way to Hell/Hades, so obviously those are not believers.

    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2012 at 9:02 PM

      Amen…

  5. December 16, 2010 at 4:48 AM

    I agree with your post -trib analysis of Scripture. I was a staunch dispensationalist most of my life but through study of the Scriptures and a realization most of the proof texts are taken out of context, I realized my error. God bless you in your studies.

  6. mike
    February 23, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Are the books of Thessalonians literally Paul’s communication with an actual fellowship in Thessaloniki? OR is it coded message to we Christians millennia away?

  7. Anonymous
    October 20, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    I agree with you that Pre-tribulationism is not a Bible doctrine there is not one Scripture that supports it. No not one! See my Blog:- Gary EE Smith Discovering Christianity Fellowship.: An examination and refutation of some Brethren doc… http://geesmithdiscoveringchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/09/examination-and-refutation-of-some.html?spref=tw

  8. Mark
    December 22, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I contend that John Piper is correct in preaching post tribulation, even in the event that he may be wrong. What a huge injustice to Christians who grow up believing in some sort of secret rapture only that they may be confronted with the anti-christ and his henchman. I would rather grow up in a church where they preach that am I prepared to die in Christ if I’m confronted.

    The one certainty is that somebody will be wrong, either the pre tribulationist or the post tribulationist. If it’s the post tribulationist who are wrong than it won’t matter because we’ll be in Heaven, but how sad for those who might be caught off guard in the end times who were not prepared to confront some sort of mark of the beast and cave to this world. How dare anyone interpret the bible and introduce this idea of this secret rapture. I grew up listening to my church and my pastor telling me this “idea” about some sort of secret rapture only to find out in my maturity of growing in my reading and my walk with Christ our Savior that maybe this might not be the best thing to be preaching because I cannot find one hard piece of evidence to suggest in some sort of rapture. I can hints that maybe, and I mean MAYBE this could occur but I don’t believe the evangelical church should dabble in this non sense anymore because it’s VERY OPINIONATED, not to mention that it lumps a great church in with all the crazies anymore who keep setting time tables for the rapture. The bottom line is that if you believe in the rapture, great, but I don’t think we should continue on down the road of acting as if the rapture is a sure thing, because it’s not.

  9. Jeff
    March 12, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    I start with this scripture to begin a challenge to the pretribulation rapture theory being soaked up by gullible and nieve Christians. I don’t want people to get me wrong, because I do believe in a rapture, but I don’t believe in a pretribuation rapture, and I will be sharing scriptures one at a time explaining why.

    I will start with Rev.20:4-6 now. I’ll comment below the verse.

    Revelation 0:4 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.
    5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
    6 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.

    Notice in verse 4 above that the souls mentioned were those who will go through the tribulation, because it’s during the tribulation period when the mark of the beast will be forced unto society and the church, yet there will be Christians rejecting the mark of the beast, who will be beheaded as it states in verse 4 above, So verse 4 speaks about Christians who will go through the tribulation. I believe most of us will agree with that.

    But now look at verse 6, that says this is the first resurrection. Meaning those same Christians in verse 4 will be part of the first resurrection. That fact itself proves a pretribulation rapture to be false, because the resurrection has to happen before the rapture can take place according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17

    Paul said the dead in Christ will rise first in 1 Thess. 4:16, and then he follows with the rapture in verse 17. See below. That means the rapture can’t happen until the resurrection does, and Revelation 20: 4-6 above specifically says that the first resurrection will include Christians that will go through the tribulation, therefore the first resurrection can’t take place until after the tribulation, because it will include Christians who will go through the tribulation. So that also means that the rapture can’t take place until after the tribulation, because the rapture can’t happened until the resurrection does.

    I have shared that with various pastors teaching a pretribulation theory. One response I received from one pastor was that there’s going to be more than one rapture, like one pastor said three different raptures. I say Really? I have read the Bible said 1969, and i never once saw three raptures in it. Why does Rev 20:6 call it the first resurrection, if there will be a rapture and resurrection before it?

    i have seen them give me tons of dogma and false assumptions like what I just shared, But Revelation 20:4-6 says very plainly that the first resurrection will happen after the tribulation, and so will the rapture. (Period!)

    1 Thessalonians 4:16 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:
    17 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.

  10. Jeff
    March 12, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    Here is my next scripture challenging the pretribulation rapture. I will comment below it.

    Matthew 24:29 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:
    30 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.
    31 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.

    My comments: If you compare Matt. 24:29-31 above with 1 Thess 4:15-17 below, then you will see the Lord and thrumpet in both of these scripture texts. Verse 29 above says ‘Immediately after the tribulaton of those days” (Not before the tribulation) But immediately after the tribulation shall all things following take place. (Save me some typing and read those things above.) Verse 31 says the Lord will send his angels to gather together his elect form the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Resurrection and Rapture) What a glorious day that shall be, when God’s people will meet the Lord in the air, and be gathered together from one end of heaven to the other.

    See Mark 13:24-27 at the bottom of this post, and notice that Mark 13:27 “says from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven” Meaning the angels are not just gathering Christians who were already in Heaven, but from the uttermost part of the earth.(Resurrection and Rapture)

    Gee! It said he would be gathering his elect. Oh! Oh! The calvinists teach that God has predestined his chosen elect for salvation, so again how is it possible that his chosen elect weren’t raptured before the tribulation if there’s going to be a pretribulation rapture. The elect mentioned in verse 31 above fits right with those Christians in Revelation 20:4, who were beheaded in the tribulation, and will reign with Christ for a thousand years as Revelation 20;4 says.

    The thing is: To help justify or explain Christians spoken about in the tribulation, the pretribers make up false assumptions with no biblical foundation, that the Christians in the tribulation will be another class of Christians. Really? Verse 31 above says his elect will be gathered immediately after the tribulation. So if his elect are gathered after the tribulation, than what class of Christians are raptured before the tribulation? Answer; No class of Christians, because there won’t be a pretribulation rapture.

    1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
    16 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:
    17 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.

    Mark 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
    25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
    26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
    27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven

  11. Lee
    August 24, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    I think that it’s all non sense. We focus so much on the end times and not enough on what does matter. Salvation. Which is only attained Through Christ, NOT the study of such things. I am for the study of the bible. For it is truth in it’s entirety. But where we fall short is the division that doctrine brings. So I discourage the study of things things if it hinders your love towards anyone, being a believer or not. For aside from Jesus and the message of atonement (or the Salvation that comes from it) , and love that He brought -and encouraged; Non of this truly matters. I think the lesson is just to always be ready, for what ever God brings. Besides Paul calls them mysteries, which is what they are! Until the day comes. I don’t know who is right and I with all the respect in the world to you all, do not care. My heart is for God and that all may know God as God. The moment your heart is after knowledge, and proving your brother wrong is the day your heart is full of pride. Then God no longer is your God but just a footstool in your eyes. All we can have perfect peace about is Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We will never have this (the end) figured out. (God revealed this vision to John so that when the time came we (being the people to see these things come to pass) could say “oh that’s what God meant” so that we could examine our selves and cleanse ourselves with the blood of the Lamb if need be.)

  12. Dr Bill
    November 3, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    I fully agree with LEE. This is consistent with the great heritage hymn ” MY FAITH HAS FOUND A RESTING PLACE”…… Enough for me that Jesus Saves – this ends my FEAR & DOUBT… I need no other ARGUMENT, I need no other PLEA; It is enough that Jesus died; And that He died for ME ….. Dr Bill

  13. Anonymous
    September 10, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    The enemy would love for us to not study end times so that we can be deceived, but our Savior specifically said “Let no one deceive you.” And gave staunch warnings about being alert. Jesus also said that false Christs would be coming to “deceive even the elect if were possible.” Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22. I think it’s unwise to neglect the study of any part of the Bible, esp the end times when our Savior took such great time and effort to reveal them to us … for us to study! We must be patient and ask for wisdom but we shouldn’t be afraid. Also, it is not unloving to disagree … I saw nothing unloving about the posts … if brothers or sisters are in error, we are to gently restore them to the truth. We are commanded to speak the truth in love. We live in the times of Revelation and the end is near … being alert means to study and to seek the truth and to love the truth. The Bible also says that God would send a strong delusion to those who do not love the truth. Jesus said it best in determining the timing of his coming and he said in Matthew 24 it would be “immediately after the tribulation” … when I wasn’t studying the BIble for myself I was taught that Jesus would come in a pre-trib rapture, but when I started studying for myself I was baffled to see that everything in the Bible leads to Jesus coming immediately after the tribulation. I have noticed that those who hold to a pre-trib view were “Taught” and those who hold to post-trib were taught previously as well until they studied the Bible. I think we have to take our Savior’s advice “take care no one deceives you.”

  14. Anonymous
    November 22, 2015 at 2:25 AM

    Anonymous, you said it well, and I hope it will be received well by those who love the truth found in God’s Word. May it be a blessing and not a hindrance to those who pray and ask for the wisdom which the Word teaches. And may those of us who understand have the courage to pray and seek to lovingly impart the truth. As you have mentioned and I think a great test for God’s children would be, to read the Word for yourself because the Lord will make known to all who genuinely study and pray His will, that thou be not deceived.

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