Discourse 16 - Will the Rapture take place before the Great Tribulation?




Will the Rapture take place before the Great Tribulation? / Book W. J. Ouweneel 00, page 101

The Great Tribulation: distress for the faithful or God's judgments? / Book W. J. Ouweneel 01, page 101

Are Return of the Lord and Rapture two different events? / Book W. J. Ouweneel 02, page 102

Will the Holy Spirit have been taken away before the Antichrist? / Book W. J. Ouweneel 03, page 102

Table: Sequence and Duration of events in the Last Days - Discourse 65

Table: Sequence and Duration of events in the Last Days - Discourse 48


In the extracts given below, taken from W. J. Ouweneel’s book “The Book of Revelation”, the arguments advanced in support of their position by those who see the Rapture as happening before the Great Tribulation are illustrated with laudable precision and comprehensiveness. This makes it a relatively simple matter to check the soundness of these statements against Scripture, and to establish whether or not this interpretation is correct.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Will the Rapture take place before the Great Tribulation? / Book WJO00, page 101+))

First of all we would like to advance some proofs that the congregation will not be subjected to the Great Tribulation.

According to 1Thes 4,13 f., the Thessalonians were anxious about those of the congregation who were asleep in Christ, not because they were ignorant of the Resurrection, but because they supposed that those who were asleep would not now take part in the Rapture of the congregation. Plainly the Thessalonians were not anticipating the Great Tribulation, but rather the imminent Rapture of the congregation. For if they had supposed that the congregation must first pass through the Great Tribulation, they would have been glad that those who were asleep would not have to experience this tribulation.

+) This extract is taken from W. J. Ouweneel’s book “The Book of Revelation”, published by Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung e. V.[Registered Society for the Dissemination of Christian Literature].

(W. J. Ouweneel, The Book of Revelation, CLV)


(See also Discourse 862: “18 Arguments for Placing Rapture before the Great Tribulation - and their Refutation.”)


Here is now the scriptural passage referred to:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with the trumpet of God.

1The 4,13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 4,14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,13-17;


One might admittedly obtain from this passage the impression the author refers to – namely, that the congregation would not be obliged to undergo the tribulation of the Antichrist, but would be caught up before that time.

Maybe Paul was also forced to come to this conclusion after writing his first epistle to the Thessalonians – to his horror, most probably – for he then dealt with this matter in his second epistle in specific terms.

The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him will not come unless the apostasy comes first.

2The 2,1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2,2 that you 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. 2,3 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, 2,4 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. 2,5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 2,6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 2,7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2The 2, 1- 8;


This day – which will not come, as Paul here tells us in 2The 2,3, until first the man of lawlessness, that is to say, the Antichrist, has come – is precisely the day spoken of in the preceding verse 1, the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the faithful will be caught up. Paul refers to this in his first epistle to the Corinthians as well.

The day of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Cor 1,4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 1,5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 1,6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 1,7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly, 1,8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1,9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1Cor 1, 4- 9;


On the day of the coming, that is to say, the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, first of all those who are dead in Christ will be raised; then the living who remain, together with them, will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. But this day will not come before the apostasy comes, and the Antichrist has first to be revealed. (1The 4,16-17 2The 2,3-4; 1Cor 1,7-8; 2Cor 1,14)

The interpretation of these passages, then, presents very little difficulty, if we take the trouble to read exactly what the scriptural text tells us. One would hardly think that it would be possible to hold such erroneous views today.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The Great Tribulation: distress for the faithful or God's judgments? / Book WJO01, page 101)

Incidentally, if the congregation was really going to have to undergo the Great Tribulation, we would expect that the epistles would have more to say about the matter. The apostles tell us more than once, as does the Lord himself, that the faithful will be afflicted and persecuted, but they do not foretell that the faithful will still be on earth at the time when these judgments fall upon this world. If the congregation was going to have to undergo the Great Tribulation, it would surely have been necessary to prepare them for this terrible time.

(W. J. Ouweneel, The Book of Revelation, CLV)



This conclusion is perfectly correct, and the author would only have to consult the passage quoted above (2The 2,1-8). Or for that matter certain passages in the Gospels, for instance Mt 24,29-31:

After the tribulation the Son of Man will come and gather together His elect.

Mt 24,29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.24,30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 24,31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Mt 24,29-31;


From this passage too it appears plainly that it is after the tribulation that the Lord will come on the clouds of the sky to gather together his elect. But from other scriptural passages it also emerges clearly that the congregation will have to undergo this time (Rev 7:13-15). Here but one has to distinguish between the Great Tribulation in the rule of the Antichrist (the plagues of the seals 1-4) and the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Wrath of God (the plagues of the trumpets and of the bowls).

(See also Table 14: “The Revelation - classified by events.”)

But the author then pursues his argument as follows:


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Are Return of the Lord and Rapture two different events? / Book WJO02, page 102)

Paul’s exposition in 2The 2,1-12 is highly significant. The Thessalonians were again anxious because of certain misunderstandings. Because of the persecution they were suffering, they supposed that the Day of the Lord had already dawned. Having already explained the difference between the present afflictions of the faithful and the future affliction of the oppressor (we have already cited the passage above), Paul explains to them in more detail in chapter 2 that the Day of the Lord cannot yet have dawned, seeing that before this “day” other events must first necessarily occur.

(W. J. Ouweneel, The Book of Revelation, CLV)



Although the relevant passages from 2The 2,1-8 are not cited explicitly, we can see just in the first verse mentioned a contradiction of the interpretation under review:

2The 2,1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him. 2The 2,1;


This statement of Paul’s refers to the appearance of the Lord in the clouds to gather together the dead in Christ who have been raised, together with the faithful who are living in the Last Days. But here, in order to make it fit into the pretribulationist (before the Tribulation) view, it is clearly being understood as two events that are distinct – in the “difference”, that is, to which Paul supposedly refers, with “our gathering together to Him” on the one hand, and “the coming of the Lord” on the other. Here the first is understood as the Rapture, and the second as the Great Tribulation (the “future affliction of the oppressors”).

This distinction, however, cannot be derived from the text of 2The 2,1, nor is it to be found in what is written subsequently, in 2The 2,3:

2The 2,3 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. 2The 2,3;


Quite on the contrary. Paul warns the Thessalonians specifically against such deceivers who will try to convince them that the coming of the Lord is to take place before the apostasy – that is to say, before the appearance of the Antichrist.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Will the Holy Spirit been taken away before the Antichrist? / Book WJO03, page 102)

Verses 6 and 7 state that at this time there is still a “restraining power” in the world, both a person (“he” and a thing (“what”), which restrains the full manifestation of evil (the apostasy, the revelation of the Antichrist). Various answers have been suggested to the question what is meant by this “one who restrains”. There is no point in discussing all these suggestions here. In our view, there is only explanation which can show us what the “what” of verse 6 and the “he” of verse 7 refer to. The first is the congregation, and the second is the Holy Spirit, who since the day of Pentecost has been dwelling in the congregation as in a temple. When the temple is taken away from the earth, the Holy Spirit will no longer be personally present on earth either. The congregation, and the Holy Spirit that dwells within it, together constitute the only conceivable force that will be able to restrain the full manifestation of evil, and which then (as it literally says) will be “taken out of the way”, disappear from the scene.

(W. J. Ouweneel, The Book of Revelation, CLV)



Here is the scriptural passage cited:

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.

2The 2,6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 2,7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2,9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 2,10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 2The 2, 6-10;

(See also Discourse 108: “Who or what still restrains the Antichrist?”.)


This statement of Paul’s in 2The 2,6 – “what restrains him now” – is understood by those who take the pretribulationist view of the Rapture of the congregation as referring to the Holy Spirit; and this appears to be perfectly correct. But then the illicit conclusion is drawn that all this will occur before the first appearance of the Antichrist. What is overlooked here is the fact that in the first half of the Antichrist’s dominion – the first three and a half years of the seventy-year week (the seven year period of the Last Days) – he will not present himself immediately as the “false (instead of) Christ” (“anti” = “against” but also “instead of”). Only somewhere in the middle of these seven years (Dan 9,27) will he come clean with his true blasphemous intentions and be “revealed”. And only then, with the Coming of the Lord, will the Rapture of the congregation occur.

If the faithful of the Last Days were not to be obliged to experience the Great Tribulation, what can we make of the statements in Mk 13,19.23, where the Lord promises precisely to these faithful of the Last Days, the elect, whom he will gather to himself when he comes (as Mt 24,30-31 tells us), that just for their sake the days have been shortened?

But for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

Mk 13,19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.13,20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 13,21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 13,22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 13,23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. Mk 13,19-23;


These passages are in complete contradiction of the view that the Rapture will take place before the Great Tribulation, as are the assurances – given by the Lord in the Gospels to the faithful who live at this time of affliction – that they will have the help of the Holy Spirit, when they are obliged to defend themselves before their judges. If the interpretation of the author that we are here considering were correct, then at this point in time neither the faithful nor the Holy Spirit would be on earth any longer.

For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Mt 10,17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 10,18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 10,19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 10,20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 10,21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 10,22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 10,23 But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. Mt 10,17-23;

For it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.

Mk 13,9 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 13,10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 13,11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 13,12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13,13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. Mk 13, 9-13;

For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

Lk 12,8 “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 12,9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 12,10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. 12,11 When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12,12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say”. Lk 12, 8-12;


(See also Table 05: “Synopsis of the Lord’s eschatological discourses.”)

These are passages from the eschatological discourses of the Lord, and there can be no doubt that we find ourselves here in the time of tribulation and under the dominion of the Antichrist. Mk 13,13 even refers to the Rapture of the congregation in the Last Days, when the Lord says:

Mk 13,13 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” Mk 13,13;


Here the Lord promises the faithful that the Holy Spirit will help them in the time of tribulation, when they have to defend themselves in face of their accusers. In the passage quoted earlier, Mt 10,23, the Lord also promises that in their flight from their persecutors they will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes to save them at the time of the Rapture.

The author is completely correct in stating that the Holy Spirit dwells and acts within the congregation. For this very reason we find both the congregation and the Holy Spirit here, in the tribulation, as having to endure to the end of this time. With the Rapture of the faithful of the Last Days at the coming of the Lord, together with the faithful who are dead in Christ who will have been raised, and the raising and Rapture of the two witnesses of God who will be killed by the Antichrist, the Holy Spirit will also be taken away from the earth. But none of this will happen before the time of tribulation.

The author of the book referred to expresses himself on page 196 in these terms:

“(...) the judgments which will fall on the earth soon after the Rapture of the congregation, that is, when all true believers have been translated from earth to heaven...”.

And yet he explains on page 368:

“After the Rapture of the congregation there will again be others of the faithful on earth (sc. during these judgments of the tribulation), who have been converted (...)”.


But here we plainly no longer have to do with “true believers”, since these would have been caught up long since – according to the first statement – and would now be in heaven.

This distinction between “true” and “not true” believers, however, is a consequence of the Rapture being put before the tribulation, with the result that no way can be found of justifying all those scriptural statements that speak of the faithful in the time of tribulation (see above), and then already in heaven after they had been killed, here below in Rev 7,13-15. So the first mistake is hastily compounded with a second error, through the assertion that those referred to here must be other, “not true” believers.

These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Rev 7,13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?" 7,14 I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 7,15 "For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. Rev 7,13-15;


If we approach these scriptural passages in an impartial and unprejudiced way, we will see quite plainly that here all the faithful who survive at the end will be caught up, along with the dead in Christ who have been raised. And Paul also gives us an indication of the time of this Rapture in the context of the events of the Last Days. Just as he tells the Thessalonians in his first epistle quoted above (1The 4,15-17) of the revelation about the Rapture of the congregation which he has received from the Lord, so he writes of this mystery to the Corinthians as well:

At the last trumpet the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1Cor 15,50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15,51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 15,52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 15,53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1Cor 15,50-53;


And he specifies here that this event will take place when the “last trumpet” sounds. According to the newest interpretation this “last trumpet” seems to be that “great trumpet” from which it says in Mt 24,31:

“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

It is that moment of the Rapture of the congregation and we can see from this that the congregation of the Last Days will have to experience the great afflictions of the first four judgments of the seals, before the Lord takes them away, in the Rapture.

(See also Discourse 12: “Must the congregation of the Last Days seek out a place of refuge for the Rapture?”)

(See also Chapter 062: The return of the Lord – part 2: “The Rapture.”)


The conclusion of the author that “the Rapture of the congregation can happen at any moment” (page 99) is therefore not just wrong; it is also extremely dangerous. It could instill a hope in some of the faithful of the congregations which Paul already rebutted in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, with his indication that

This day will not come, unless the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.

2The 2,3 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. 2The 2, 3;


But there is a still greater danger that the “son of destruction”, that is to say, the Antichrist, who is to appear before the coming of the Lord as the false “Messiah” and “false Christ”, might manage to lead the faithful astray through the signs and wonders which he will be enabled to perform through the power and might given to him by Satan – so that they might believe him to be the Lord returned to earth.

And so, like Paul in 2The 2,3 quoted earlier, we cannot express this warning often enough:


THE FIRST CHRIST THAT COMES WILL BE THE ANTICHRIST!!