Why Must The Rapture Precede The Tribulation?

Q. I’ve studied many positions concerning the rapture and would like you to answer why so many people feel that a rapture of the church must happen before the tribulation and Christ’s Return.

There are two parables where Jesus taught about the wheat and tares and the ten virgins carrying their lamps. The first parable suggests that the tares are gathered and burned before the wheat is stored, suggesting the good will reside with the evil until the harvest and judgment. The second parable suggests that 5 faithful virgins wait for the groom while the other 5, while apparently followers at first…give up and miss the Lords return.

There are many Christians who are expecting a rapture because religious leaders are preaching it as fact. What will happen if they aren’t raptured and all hell is poured out on earth?

A. Sorry, but I don’t agree with your interpretation of these parables. Neither the parable of the Wheat and Tares nor the parable of the 10 Virgins is about the Church.

In the Lord’s explanation of the parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matt. 13:36-43), He said the “wicked” will be gathered up and removed and the “good” will be left in place. This order is confirmed in the Sheep and Goat judgment of Matt. 25:31-46. There, He said the goats (wicked) will be sent to the fire and then the sheep (good) will be welcomed into the Kingdom. According to Matt. 25:31 this judgment takes place after the 2nd Coming and confirms the placement of the parable of the Wheat and Tares as being after the 2nd Coming as well.

But in 1 Thes. 4:16-17, where Paul explained the rapture, he said only the Church will be taken, which infers that unbelievers will be left in place. This reversal of order tells us Jesus and Paul were talking about two different events. The Church will be taken (raptured) before the second Coming, and evil will be purged from Earth after it.

The Parable of the 10 Virgins is also called the Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids. The Church is the Bride, not a bridesmaid. The Bride is never mentioned in this parable and in any case could not be barred from her own wedding banquet by her bridegroom. Neither group of bridesmaids can represent the Church. Like the parable of the Wheat and Tares this parable also tells of the time after the 2nd Coming.

In the Rapture the Lord will fulfill a promise made to the Church. The Bible says that before the great End Times judgments begin, the Church will be rescued (1 Thes. 1:10) and kept from the world wide time of trial (Rev. 3:10) because we are not appointed to suffer wrath (1 Thes. 5:9). If this doesn’t happen then Jesus will have failed to keep His promise to us.

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