We do not think Scripture contains the teaching that any saints will be translated prior to the Tribulation and experience none of its trials. The Tribulation period divides into two distinct parts: (1) That which is the fruitage of unrestrained iniquity, culminating in the great world war of Revelation 9:13-21, and (2) That which is mainly the culmination of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” namely, the outpourings of the seven vials of wrath, chapters 15 and 16.
Because of the similarity of some of the features of judgments under the trumpets and under the vials, one is tempted to think these two series of troubles are the same events as to time under different aspects. It is often taught that way. A close inspection of the Scriptures has led us to quite another conclusion, namely, dividing the Tribulation into two distinct parts. The first set of judgments are man-inflicted by the wicked. The second set of judgments are God-inflicted. The reason they run along analogous lines in their features is because a principle of highest justice is always to punish in the line of offense committed. This principle is plainly annunciated under the third vial where God is justified in this angel’s words: “Thou art righteous, O Lord . . . because Thou hast judged thus . . . They have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink” (16:5, 6).
That the judgments under the trumpets and under the vials are not synchronous seems proved by the three “Woe” trumpets. In each case, it is plainly declared that these are consecutive as to time (9:12; 11:14). Then, after the seventh trumpet just sounded, the twenty-four elders said, “Thy wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldst give reward unto Thy servants . . . and shouldst destroy them that destroy the earth” (11:18). The vials of destructive wrath are not due until after the seventh trumpet has sounded. This fact also proves the time for the reward of the righteous is not due either nor the resurrection of the dead until the seventh trumpet blows.
The translation of the righteous will take place under the seventh trumpet. Those who teach a pre-Tribulation rapture depend almost entirely upon the supposed teaching of Luke 21:36: “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.” To whom was the Lord speaking? Mark 13:3 tells us Peter, James, John and Andrew received these words. Of course, we may say the words apply to all Christians whom these disciples represent. Yes, but can they apply to others while excluding those representatives to whom the words were spoken?
What became of these four disciples? James was put to death by Herod; and almost certainly, Peter was crucified according to John 21:19. Tradition teaches that Andrew was crucified also. Did the Lord intend us to infer these disciples perished because they did not watch and pray? Could they have “escaped all these things” had they watched and prayed? “NO” is the only answer we can give to these questions.
Therefore, the expression, “all these things which shall come to pass,” cannot apply to all the events prophesied by our Lord in Luke 21. The next question is, “To how many of the events does the expression apply?” We reply to certain events described in the parable of the fig tree, just preceding. The disciples must watch Tribulation events to the point, according to the parable, when the leaves of the fig tree “shoot forth.” What the disciples are to watch and pray to escape is the “summer” which speedily follows and comes as a snare “on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
This same time is spoken of in Revelation 3:10 as an “hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” That hour is when the Lord comes “as a thief.” As far as it applies to us personally, the time is when “the spirits of demons working miracles go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” described in Revelation 16:14-15.
For the immediate disciples of the Lord, it meant an event partially fulfilling this prophecy--when Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies of Titus. At that time, a moment of escape from the beleaguered city enabled all the watching and praying Christians to escape the doomed city to Pella.
Daniel’s words seem to agree with the view that all Jewish and Gentile Christians will pass through the first, or man-inflicted, part of the Tribulation: “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed and sealed up till the time of the end. 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” (12:9-10). The teaching is not that the trials will sanctify but that the culmination of wickedness in its most awful features when restraint is removed will sober the careless among God’s people. They will learn wisdom and turn to the Lord for cleansing while the wicked still pursue their calamitous way until God’s wrath overtakes them.
Should the question be asked, “Who of all Christians are most certain to be honored by reigning with Christ during the Millennium?” The answer would be, “Those who were worthy of translation besides the apostles and the martyrs.”
Revelation 20:4 gives some definite information on this point. In 12:17, we learn that Satan’s object in raising Antichrist (ch.13) is to “make war” with those who “hold” (R.V.) the testimony of Jesus” while 20:4 tells us those “that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus,” will live and reign with Christ a thousand years.
Furthermore, this same verse informs us that those who reign with Christ are distinguished by the fact they “had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands,” and Revelation15:2-5 shows us this same body as raptured saints. In fact, these two classes, and none others most certainly lived when the Beast ruled and were raised to such honor. We cannot understand how “those who are left behind to endure the reign of Antichrist,” can be represented as unspiritual persons who failed their highest privileges. Rather, Revelation 20:4 proves the comparatively late period for the general translation after the rapture of the man-child.