I have studied and taught bible prophecy for many years also; my question for you is -if the rapture is at the end of the great tribulation -why would we need one at all?
This is a great question, as few understand the real purpose of the rapture. It also underscores a truth about the pretrib rapture doctrine that I have observed repeatedly over the years. Believing in the pretrib rapture incurs a great barrier to correctly understanding the bulk of end time Bible prophecy.
Pretrib Rapture = Escape
Naturally, based on the supposed pretrib timing of the rapture, pretribbers believe that the purpose of the rapture is to deliver the saints from a supposedly unbearable period on earth, the Great Tribulation. So dreadful is the Great Tribulation in the minds of pretribbers, that they liken the concept of us being on earth for it to wife abuse (“Jesus would not put his bride through the Great Tribulation!“).
However, when the verses speaking directly on the timing of the rapture and the associated resurrection of the dead in Christ (1Th 4:15-17) are used instead of typical allegorical or types and shadows style cases for the rapture timing, a different picture emerges. The rapture gathering is “after the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29-31) or at the “seventh” or “last trump” (1Co 15:52=Rev 11:15).
Post-trib Rapture = Reward
Once you correctly conclude that the rapture is at the 7th trumpet after the Great Tribulation ends, it is then possible to see related key rapture passages that reveal the true rapture purpose. Fortunately, all of these verses can be read plainly and literally. No subjective allegorical reading or “types and shadows” are used such as is required to argue a pretrib timing to the rapture.
Here’s the first passage to look at on the rapture purpose:
Revelation 11:15, 18 (ESV) â€”Â 15 the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, â€œThe kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.â€
18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.â€
Reward of: Eternal Life…
God uses the rapture to “reward” his servants. But how and why? As the writer above noted, obviously this reward cannot be an escape if the rapture happens after the Great Tribulation. Notice that just like the passage above, Paul also touches on this reward being given to both the living and the dead in Christ at the same time:
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 (ESV) â€” 50Â I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Â Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52Â 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 shall be changed. 53Â For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
…Just In Time To Rule For 1000 Years
The purpose is clearly to reward the saints with eternal life. But what is the reason for the post-trib timing of the rapture (and resurrection) giving this change to eternal life? Revelation 20 again mentions this resurrection of the righteous (that coincides with the rapture) and sheds light on the purpose to the timing:
Revelation 20:4 (ESV) â€”Â Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The resurrection(/rapture) timing is clearly right before the Millennium, the period we saints will rule the earth with Christ. Now this all makes sense. We change from physical to spiritual bodies at this time since you simply cannot rule for more than around 120 years in a physical body. Since we saints are to reign, this is also when the dead in Christ also finally “come back to life.” Plainly, they do not come back to physical bodies. As Paul said above, we are quickened or changed to incorruptible, immortal bodies as “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” a spiritual kingdom.
In conclusion, the rapture is about rewarding the living and dead saints at the same time with eternal, immortal, spiritual bodies so that they can immediately reign with Christ at the start of the Millennium. The rapture is not some celestial escape from the Great Tribulation for the saints. Instead, God has a terrestrial escape plan for his servants that is described in Dan 11 and Rev 12. Only when you see the rapture in it’s proper timing do you see its proper purpose which then allows you to see the real escape plan for the Great Tribulation that God has in store for us.