Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9)
The first seal, the white horse, introduced the Antichrist. The second seal, the red horse, brought global wars. The third seal, the black horse, brings economic collapse. War and economic collapse result in famines and pestilences. The fourth seal releases the pale horse bringing death by way of war, hunger, and pandemics.
“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” (Revelation 6:9, emphasis mine). Who are these “souls … slain for the word of God?” With minimal effort, we can infer that these are martyred Christians. We make that conclusion based on a verse that follows. “And white robes were given unto every one of them…” (Revelation 6:11).
There are some students of end-times prophecy who use these verses to reject the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church. They use these verses to prove that the Church will go through and suffer persecution in the Tribulation. Hear what these martyrs cry. “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?” (Revelation 6:10). We know from Verse 9 that they “were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” No doubt they are Christians who have died for their faith, and they plead for God’s vengeance on the earth-dwellers that caused their suffering. From the response given to them, we understand that other Christians still remain and suffer on 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 6:11, emphasis mine). Obviously, there are Christians going through the Tribulation with the expectation that they will be martyred.
This would be a solid no-Rapture argument if these verses are the only verses used to make the case. However, making a case based on only a single passage is poor hermeneutics. We need to examine the whole counsel of God’s Word.
I hold the pre-millennial/pre-tribulation view of eschatology. The Pre-millennial view holds to a seven-year Tribulation period before Christ returns to establish His 1000-year reign on Earth. The pre-tribulation side says that Jesus will come to receive His Bride – the Church – prior to the Tribulation. I covered some of these points in my article “The First Sight.” However, here it may be worth the extra time and space to support that stance.
First of all, the time of Tribulation is for the purpose of restoring Israel and God fulfilling the promise He made to Abraham to make him a great nation and give him a land (the land of Israel) as an everlasting covenant or promise. God must keep His promise otherwise none of the promises He makes to us can be trusted.
The prophet Daniel laid out the time determined for Israel. “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” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated as “weeks” is shebû‛âh, which is a period of seven (years in this case). By applying simple multiplication, we conclude that Israel was given 490 years until the anointing of “the most Holy,” i.e., Jesus Christ. That time started when Cyrus gave the command for the Jews to return to Judah and for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple. Obviously, more than 490 years have elapsed. However, Daniel’s prophecy breaks up the timetable so that after 483 years, “shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself” (Daniel 9:26). Several biblical scholars have calculated the time and have verified the accuracy of the prophecy determining that Jesus was crucified (“cut off”) exactly 483 years to the day as predicted by Daniel. That leaves seven years (“one week”) to complete Israel’s timetable. Daniel immediately transitions to the final week which begins when “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:26, emphasis mine). This “prince,” we conclude, is the Antichrist. “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 9:27, emphasis mine). Antichrist, a.k.a. “the beast,” shows up on the scene and promises peace for Israel for seven years (“one week”).
Again, the timetable seems to fail. Considering that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was “cut off” in AD 30 (arguably), the 70th or final week would have concluded in AD 37; but the Temple was not destroyed until AD 70. However, the Bible is NEVER wrong, so why have almost 2000 years gone by since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with no fulfillment of the 70th week? Enter the Church.
Part of Israel’s responsibility as God’s chosen people was that they should be a “priest” nation to the rest of the world. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6, emphasis mine). They failed in this responsibility by adopting an exclusionary attitude toward other nations, i.e., Gentiles. Furthermore, when their promised Messiah revealed Himself, they rejected and crucified Him. However, God’s plan has always been for the redemption of all people. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine).
God has temporarily set aside Israel and temporarily replaced it with the Church to accomplish His plan of spreading the Gospel, the “good news,” around the world. John reminds us that “… Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6) However, He is not done dealing with Israel. Paul is clear on this matter:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (Romans 11:25-32, emphasis mine).
Let me highlight some important points in the passage above. In addressing the church in Rome, Paul declares God’s dealing with Israel a “mystery.” He addresses some of these things in bits and pieces in other parts of the letter to the Romans, but here the message is concise. First, Israel is spiritually blind in that they do not recognize their Messiah. This spiritual blindness will continue until the time of the Gentiles, i.e., the Church, is completed. Second, all Israel – at least all that survive the Tribulation – will be saved. This happens when Jesus returns in His second coming. God says through the prophet Zechariah, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me [God/Jesus] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10, emphasis mine). That has not happened; this event is yet future. Third, there is the promise of a Deliverer coming out of Zion that will turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Israel). The Deliverer came but He was rejected; so, this promise is yet future. Fourth, Israel (Jews) are enemies of the Gospel for our sake, the Gentile Church. However, they are still “elect” for their fathers’ (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel) sakes, and “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” i.e., God is not going to change His mind about it. Finally, God has concluded or determined this in order that all may receive mercy.
So far, I hope, I have established that the time of Tribulation is for the sake of restoring Israel so that God can fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). The final week of Daniel’s prophecy is intended for Israel “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” (Daniel 9:24). This time is not meant for the Church. In speaking of “the Day of the Lord,” which will come “as a thief in the night,” Paul assures us, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9, emphasis mine). The Church is not appointed for the wrath of God. That time is reserved for the spiritual restoration of Israel.
Even now, the Church is experiencing persecution around the world. Christians are being killed for their faith in all of the Muslim countries, including China, in India, and in several African countries. In many western nations, including the United States, “soft” persecution is taking place where Christians are being “canceled” by social media and other media outlets. Laws are being enacted that declare much of the Bible, particularly those portions speaking against sodomy, as hate speech. Pastors that speak against such topics are in danger of being arrested. It is happening in Canada, and it will soon come here. But that is the wrath of man, not the wrath of God. The Church will not face the wrath of God.
Jesus promised to take His Bride home to be with Him. That event, known as the Rapture, will take place in an instant. “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, emphasis mine). John gave us a glimpse of this when he says, “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. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2, emphasis mine). To the church of Philadelphia, Jesus promised, “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, emphasis mine).
The Tribulation is not for the Church. The Bride will be with the Bridegroom during this awful time on earth. So, who are these souls under the altar that were killed for the Word of God and for their testimony? These are those that missed the Rapture and had to go through the Tribulation. Perhaps they were CINOs (Christians In Name Only) who were not saved but retained enough Bible knowledge to recognize what was taking place. At that point, they will truly believe in the Gospel, but it will cost them their lives. Others will be those who came to faith by the witness of those who are being saved. Still, others will believe because of the preaching of the 144,000 witnesses described in Revelation 7, 14 or from the preaching of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. If that is not enough, God sends a Gospel angel to preach the Word to all the world. As Peter said, God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). These will be saved, but it will cost them their lives. To these, Jesus said, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9).
“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, emphasis mine). I am constantly amazed at the love of God for a sinful world. He gives every opportunity for people to repent, ask forgiveness, and place their trust in Jesus Christ who is the only Way, Truth, and Life. Even so, many who will recognize that all the judgments that will follow come from God, will still refuse to repent and will curse God instead.
Reader, are you prepared for what is coming to the world? You do not need to go through the Tribulation, God’s wrath, that is coming upon the world. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life,” and ask Jesus to save you from the wrath to come.
 Genesis 12:2, 7; 13:14-17; 15:18; 17:4-8; 18:17-18
 Romans 9:27; 10:1-4, 19-21; 11:2
 Paul quoting Psalm 14:7