The Future
Book of Revelation Book of Mormon Guide to the future Gog and Magog
World gets worse Seven plagues Second Coming Beyond the end

The Second Coming

What the Bible says, compared with a popular Protestant view

See also:
Mathew chapter 24
The Great Tribulation theory and the year 1830.
'Antichrists' and the last days


The Bible teaches that, at the Second Coming, the faithful will rise up in the air to meet Chrst. This is called the rapture. But many Protestants have copied a medieval Catholic idea, and decided that there is a big gap between the rapture and the coming of Christ. They call this gap "The Great Tribulation" and use it as a dump for all the "Great Apostasy" scriptures they do not like.

It is true that there will be terrible tribulations before the Second Coming. But this should not be confused with the 1260 year period spoken of in Daniel and Revelation, during which the church would be "in the hand of" Satan.

This page looks at whether the "Rapture - big gap - Second Coming" theory is Biblical. Other pages look at how, why, and when this theory was invented.

LDS view:


Second Coming


Protestant view:
Signs Rapture "Great Tribulation" Second Coming
(gathers the elect in two parts: raptured and remnant)
Antichrist 3 1/2 years: Antichrist dies and returns Armageddon

What is going to happen when Jesus returns?

The rapture and the Second Coming

When Christ comes again, the faithful will raise in the air to meet him, and then he will descend to earth, fulfilling all the various prophecies. This rising into the air, where surviving believers meet with resurrected saints, is called the "rapture." It is also referred to in the very last verse of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:34):

"And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen."

Sounds simple. So, why make it complicated?

The common Protestant view adds something called "The Great Tribulation." What is it, and why was it added?

The origins of the theory

The idea of a Great Tribulation, lasting either seven or three and a half years, can be traced to the Spanish Jesuit, Ribera. He was writing in the year 1591. This was when the Protestants had begun to realise that the 1260 "days" of prophecy referred to the church in the dark ages. The Catholic church did not like this being pointed out. So Ribera invented the idea of a final tribulation yet to come.

But as the centuries have passed, it became clear that the Protestants were no better than the Catholics, and the rise of Protestantism did not usher in the Second Coming. So gradually Protestants have adopted the convenient Catholic fiction of "the tribulation" being in the future.

Fairbairn's Bible Dictionary (London: Blackie and Son, 1866), under the topic "Revelation", notes the two major advantages of this theory to any false church:

First, it is "holding that the whole interval of historic time between the ascension of Christ and the appearance of antichrist is passed over in prophecy". In other words, God has a ignored the first 2000 years of church history!

Second, "It has the convenient advantage of not admitting of being tested in actual history"

The whole purpose of the false "last days tribulation" doctrine is to make us ignore (a) the prophecies of the great Apostasy, and (b) the last 2000 years, which fulfilled those prophecies.

The finishing touches to the "last days tribulation" theory, concerning a separate rapture and a seven year duration (with the 1260 "days" as half of that), were added by Darby in or around the year 1830.

What is the alleged sequence of events?

A friend (a pre-tribulation rapture believer) described the popular Protestant approach to this as follows:

"According to pre-trib belief, the sequence of events is:

The LDS view is a little simpler:

The phrase "antichrist" and "tribulation" are more general descriptions. These things have already started - and had started in some degree even in New Testament times. These trials will eventually build up to the battle of Armageddon and the fall of Babylon. They are completed by the Second Coming - with the rapture happening at pretty much the same time.

It all hinges on the Great Tribulation theory

If the "Great Tribulation" theory is correct, then all the apostasy scriptures have not yet been fulfilled. So the traditional Christians would be right. There was no apostasy, and no need for a restoration.

But if the "Great Tribulation" theory is false, then the scriptures clearly teach that there was a Great Apostasy, lasting 1260 years, which ended in the year 1830.

So: is there to be a "Great Tribulation" lasting seven years (or three and a half years, 1260 days) immediately before Jesus returns?

The "Great Tribulation" - true or false?

For an overview of the various theories, both Catholic and Protestant, click here.

The problem for Protestants

The term "Great Tribulation" is used by Protestants to refer to a period that ends when Christ comes again (it ends when he appears in Jerusalem to put an end to the battle of Armageddon). But here we have a problem. The "Great Tribulation" is a certain fixed period - e.g. seven years. Since the Great Trib is so much worse than anything that has gone before, and so distinct that we can measure its length precisely, any informed Christian should be able to spot when it begins. Then, since it has a fixed length, the informed Christian would be able to predict the date of its end, and thus predict the date of the Second Coming. Yet Jesus told us (Matthew 24:36) that no-one will know this time.

So the "Great Tribulation" cannot end at the Second Coming, as Protestants teach, because it would allow us to know something even Jesus did not know - the date of the Second Coming.

The solution? A pre-trib rapture

BUT WAIT! There is a way round this problem. Evangelical Protestants now teach that we cannot predict the date of the Second Coming, because all faithful Christians will be raptured into heaven BEFORE the "Great Tribulation." This is known as the "Pre-Trib Rapture."

(Actually, this does not solve the problem, because many of the lukewarm Christians who are not raptured will nevertheless know about the prophecies, and they will then be able to predict the Second Coming. But let us look at the scriptures anyway.)

Is the pre-trib rapture Biblical?

What do we know about the rapture? The key text is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

"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."

So: what can we expect at the rapture?

There is only one other place in the Bible that we read of this event in such detail: in Matthew chapter 24 (and in its parallel passages in Mark and Luke). Matthew 24:30-31:

"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

Once again we have all the elements:

Why go to the trouble of showing that these passages refer to the same event? Because it destroys the whole pre-trib rapture theory. The previous verses in Matthew make it clear that he rapture happens AFTER all the events that Protestants lump together as "The Great Tribulation."

Matthew 24:29-31
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

It is worth quoting the key verses in several Bible translations, to drive home the point:

MATTHEW 24:29 is the link between the tribulation and the rapture:

King James: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days..."

New King James: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days..."

American Standard: "But immediately after the tribulation of those days..."

Living Bible: "Immediately after the persecution of those days..."

New International: "Immediately after the distress of those days..."

Revised Standard: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days..."

Simple English: "Soon after the trouble of those times..."

The same teaching is also in MARK 13:24:

King James: "But in those days, after that tribulation..."

New King James: "But in those days, after that tribulation..."

American Standard: "But in those days, after that tribulation..."

Living Bible: "After the tribulation ends..."

New International: "But in those days, following that distress..."

Revised Standard: "But in those days, after that tribulation..."

Simple English: "After the trouble of those times..."

So, the rapture and Second Coming come AFTER the tribulation.

So, the pre-trib rapture theory is false.

The alternatives - the "mid-trib" and "post trib" raptures - contradict the "no-one knows the day or the hour" statement.

So none of the Protestant "Great Tribulation" theories are Biblical.


the bottom line

The "Great Tribulation" scriptures actually refer to the Great Apostasy, when the Christian church was "in the hand of" the little horn for 1260 years.


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