It has been my experience from watching many sermons on tv, as well as videos, that very few pastors teach on any aspect of eschatology. From those sermons, it seems that “all Christians go to heaven,” with that being the end of the sermon. The rapture, when used in sermons, is often used in relation to Scriptures that relate to the second coming of Christ. Very little is mentioned about the time gap between “going to happen,” and anything else in God’s Word. The antichrist, the Tribulation, the Kingdom on earth, the eternal state, are almost subjects of total silence. A subject that is discussed by more concerned theologians is that of how much time will be between the Rapture of the church and the beginning of the Tribulation. This last group of Bible teachers is more inclined to teach the events of the end times in proper order, and with correct scripture applications. This last group of Bible teachers has varying ideas on the length of time that will lapse between the time of the Rapture and the time that the Tribulation begins, but they are serious and honest with their findings. These particular students of critical scripture study are in a vast minority of other pastors, teachers, authors, etc., who are sold out to the teaching of that part of scripture that is often overlooked, improperly taught, and all too often ignored. Based on the study that I have made of eschatology, and of the many quality sermons of the same that I have been blessed to hear, I present this article that may be able to give serious “food for thought,” to others whom may also have a healthy appetite for a deep understanding of the last days. In this discussion, I will present scriptures that relate to the length of time that may exist between the time that believers in Christ will be Raptured and taken to Heaven, and when those whom have been left behind from the Rapture will feel the oppression of the antichrist and the Tribulation judgments of God. It should be noted that the oppression of the antichrist will be part of the Tribulation judgments of God.
I. Scripture Text: Genesis 6:11-13 (New English Translation).
11 The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence. 12 God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful. 13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth.
II. Scripture Comments: NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition.
6:11 corrupt . . . filled with violence. Cf. 6:3, 5. The seed of Satan, the fallen rejecters of God, deceitful and destructive, had dominated the world.
6:13 I will destroy them with the earth. Destroy did not mean annihilation, but rather referred to the flood judgment, both of the earth and its inhabitants.
III. Overview Of God’s Love For Mankind.
This article will show key events of God’s love for the people that occupied this earth prior to a past time of His wrath, and a future time that will precede His wrath being released on the earth. The time of God’s past wrath that will be discussed relates to the flood of Noah’s time. The future time frame that we will discuss relates to the period of time that will take place between the time of the Rapture of the Church and that of the beginning of the Tribulation, when God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth. God’s Word will show that the period of time that precedes His wrath of the Tribulation is a key indicator of His love for all who are in need of having a loving relationship with Him.
IV. The Flood. Causes.
A. Scripture Text. Genesis 6:1-4. Holman Christian Standard Bible.
1 When mankind began to multiply on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives for themselves. 3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.
B. Consider the following comments that come from the NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Genesis 6:1-4.
6:1-4 The account that follows records an act of degradation that reveals the end-point of God’s patience.
6:1 Such long lifespans as indicated in the record of chap. 5 caused massive increase in earth’s population.
6:2 the sons of God saw the daughters of men. The sons of God, identified elsewhere almost exclusively as angels (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7), saw and took wives of the human race. This produced an unnatural union which violated the God-ordained order of human marriage and procreation (Gen 2:24). Some have argued that the sons of God were the sons of Seth who cohabited with the daughters of Cain; others suggest they were perhaps human kings wanting to build harems. But the passage puts strong emphasis on the angelic vs. human contrast. The NT places this account in sequence with other Genesis events and identifies it as involving fallen angels who indwelt men . Matthew 22:30 does not necessarily negate the possibility that angels are capable of procreation, but just that they do not marry. To procreate physically, they had to possess human, male bodies.
6:3 My Spirit. Cf. Gen 1:2. The Holy Spirit played a most active role in the OT. The Spirit had been striving to call men to repentance and righteousness, especially as Scripture notes, through the preaching of Enoch and Noah (1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5; Jude 14). one hundred and twenty. The span of time until the Flood (cf. 1 Pet 3:20), in which man was given opportunity to respond to the warning that God’s Spirit would not always be patient.
6:4 giants. The word nephilim is from a root meaning “to fall,” indicating that they were strong men who “fell” on others in the sense of overpowering them (the only other use of this term is in Num 13:33). They were already in the earth when the “mighty men” and “men of renown” were born. The fallen ones are not the offspring from the union in 6:1, 2.
C. Consider the following comment from the Expositors Bible Commentary.
Gen 6:3. The 120 years was taken by Luther and others to refer to a time of reprieve granted by God to humankind before sending the Flood. This apparently is an attempt to resolve the discrepancy between the limit of 120 years and the record of 11:10-26. The reprieve interpretation may also reflect the influence of 1 Pet 3:20, which many take to refer to the period of 120 years in Gen 6:3.
D. Consider the following comment from the Zondervan KJV Commentary.
Gen 6:3. In the Hebrew, two key phrases in this verse are obscure: strive with (which could be translated “remain in”) and is flesh (which could be translated “is corrupt”). The verse seems to announce that the period of grace between God’s declaration of judgment and its arrival would be 120 years (see 1 Pet 3:20). If “remain in” is accepted, the verse announces that man’s life span would henceforth be limited to 120 years. This interpretation is contradicted, however, by the lengthy life spans recorded in 11:10-26.
E. Consider the following comments from the Jeremiah Study Bible.
6:1-4. “The sons of God…the daughters of men.” Fallen angels took on the form of men and married human women (lit., “the daughters of Adam.”). This illicit marriage of spirit beings and human beings was an affront to the divine order of reproducing according to one’s kind (1:24).
6:3. “My Spirit shall not strive…forever” – speaks of destruction. Like the people of Noah’s day, those who do not respond to God’s Spirit have no guarantee that He will continue to prod, convict, and remind them of the importance of fellowship with Him. That humanity’s “days shall be 120 years” can mean either that the Flood would come after 120 years or, less likely, that the average human lifespan would be 120 years.
6:5. “every intent of every person’s heart was only evil continually.” The people of Noah’s day were exceedingly wicked – in essence, evil all the time in every thought and deed.
F. Consider the following comment from the Scofield Study Bible.
6:4. Satan attempted to so corrupt the race that the Messiah could not come to redeem mankind. But God salvaged a remnant (Gen 6:8), and a godly line was preserved.
V. The Course Of The Flood
Scripture Text: Scripture Text. Genesis 6:17-19. Holman Christian Standard Bible.
17 “Understand that I am bringing a flood—floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. 19 You are also to bring into the ark two of all the living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.
VI. The Deaths Of The Flood.
A. Scripture Text. Genesis 7:15-16; 20-21,23. Holman Christian Standard Bible.
15 Two of all flesh that has the breath of life in it entered the ark with Noah. 16 Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered just as God had commanded him. Then the Lord shut him in……20 The mountains were covered as the waters surged above them more than 20 feet. 21 Every creature perished—those that crawl on the earth, birds, livestock, wildlife, and those that swarm on the earth, as well as all mankind….23…. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.
B. Consider the comments of the NKJV Study Bible.
7:15 The animals seem to have been drawn to the ark and to Noah by the compelling force of the Lord.
7:16 shut him in: The Lord who had drawn them now closed the door on them. That shut door was a symbol of closure, safety, and God’s deliverance.
7:21 Without exception, death extended to every creature—all flesh—whose home was on the land.
7:23 man: People died—old people and young; beautiful and brave along with the grisly and gray. Only Noah and those with him escaped the terrible, universal death of the wicked. Jesus affirmed the historicity of the “days of Noah” when he compared them to the end days (Mt 24:37-38; Lk 17:26-27). Peter similarly used the story of Noah and the Flood as a pattern for the final judgment (1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5; 3:5-6).
C. Consider the comments of the Liberty Bible Commentary. Gen 7:16, “and the Lord shut him in.” ‘The shutting him’ intimated that he had become the special object of divine care and protection, and to those without , “the season of grace was over (Mt 25:10). “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut” (Holman Christian Standard Bible ).
VII. Conclusion of the teaching of the Flood.
A. The crux of the account of God’s destruction of wicked mankind is shown in the following two verses.
6:3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.”
7:23…. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.
B. God’s warning of imminent judgment gave a one hundred twenty year warning, of that which would fulfill His judgment.
C. There is current-day teaching that Genesis 6:3 states that the life-span of mankind is one hundred twenty years; such a teaching is wrong. All that is needed to show the incorrectness of the “120 year” life span is to look around, and notice how many people are one hundred twenty years old, and how many people have been known to live to be one hundred twenty.
D. Consider the comment of Gen 7:1 (NASB Study Bible). Noah was a preacher of righteousness. He warned his contemporaries of coming judgment (2 Peter 2:5), and testified to the vitality of his own faith (Hebrews 11:7).
E. Consider the comment of 2 Pet 3:9 (NASB Study Bible). Scoffers fail to recognize that all things have not continued without divine intervention since creation (the flood was an intervention, vv. 4-6). They misunderstand the reason for apparent divine delay (God is a long suffering God.)
F. Consider the comment of 2 Pet 3:9 (ESV Study Bible). “any should perish.” Though Christians long for Christ’s return and the defeat of all evil, as long as the present period of history lasts, an opportunity remains for people to turn to God in faith.
VII. Rapture And Tribulation.
A. The Events. “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth” (Rev 3:10, NASB 1977).
B. The Severity. “for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Mat 24:21, NASB 1977).
C. God’s Grace. “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9, Christian Standard Bible).
VIII. Conclusions of the teaching of the Rapture and Tribulation.
A. Consider the comment of the King James Study Bible Notes., Rev 3:10:
3:10 . This verse presents a promise that Christ will rapture genuine believers out of the world before the Tribulation period begins. The hour of temptation is the period of worldwide testing (Gr. peirasmos) which has not yet occurred (cf. Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21, 29). Christ promises to keep them from (Gr. ek, “out of”) the period of the Tribulation. That is, they will not even enter into this period of history. The Tribulation is for the purpose of trying or judging them that dwell upon the earth, those who are connected to the earth and its system. Believers are not even included in this term (cf. Phil 3:18-20; 1 Pet 2:11; Rev 6:10; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:8).
B. Consider the comment of the NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Matt 24:21:
24:21 great suffering. Dan 12:1 spoke of a final tribulation greater than any that preceded it. not been from the beginning of the world.
C. Consider the comment of the NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, 2 Peter 3:9
3:9 promise. Of Jesus’ coming (v. 4). he is patient. God’s patience may partly allude to the Noah analogy (vv. 5-7; cf 1 Pe 3:20; Ge 6:3). God sometimes delayed judgment to allow opportunity for the wicked to repent (cf. 2 Ki 14:26-27). Some ancient Jewish sources emphasized God’s patience regarding the day of judgment; once that day arrived, repentance was no longer possible.
D. Consider the comment of the Jeremiah Study Bible.
3:8-9. As fallen human beings, it is our nature to become impatient if our expectations are not immediately fulfilled. But, the apparent delay in Christ’s return is a gift of mercy, a sign of God’s patience. In His great love, He waits, granting people the opportunity to be saved, “not willing that any should perish.”
E. Consider the comment from the Scofield Study Bible.
3:9. “not wishing.” Three aspects of the will of God may be observed in Scripture: (1) the sovereign will of God (Is 46 :9-11; Dn 4:17, 35; Heb 2:4; Rev 17:17). (2) the moral will of God, that is His moral law (Mk 3:35; Eph 6:6; Heb 13:21. (3) the desires of God coming from His heart of love (Ezk 33:11; Mt 23:37; 2 Pt 3:9). God does not desire that any should perish, but it is clear that many will not be saved (Rev 21:8).
F. Those who do not have a relationship of belief in Christ will be left behind from the Rapture, and will have to endure all of the Tribulation judgments of Christ and the Angels. The Tribulation judgments begin in Revelation Chapter 6, and continue through Revelation Chapter 19. All of Revelation 6-19 is God’s wrath, just as the flood of Noah’s time was also God’s wrath.
G. The severity of the Tribulation will be greater than anything that has come upon the earth, until the time of the Tribulation. The seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of God’s wrath begin in Revelation Chapter 6. The judgments increase in severity, and will be greater in wrath than even during the time of the flood of Noah’s time.
IX. God’s Love.
A. Whenever we consider anything of the happenings of the world, we must first of all consider God’s love. Consider the following passage of scripture that comes from the New American Standard Bible.
“4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters” (Galatians 4:4-5).
B. Consider the comment on Galatians 4:4-5 that comes from The Moody Bible Commentary, Moody Publishers, 2014, Gerald Peterman, B. Des, M. Div., M. A., Ph. D.
1.”When the fullness of time came” (v. 4) does not speak of human events that constrained God. Rather, the Father set the time in advance. The time’s completion (fullness, v. 4) was brought about by the coming of the “Son.” His coming is the center of history. The “Son” is fully prepared to “redeem” (v. 5) because He is fully human (born) and fully Jewish (under the law is the position of a Jewish person. Rm 2:12; 1 Cor 9:20-21.)
2. Both expressions, “those…under the Law,” and “we,” refer to Jews. Adoption into God’s family was originally a uniquely Jewish blessing (Rm 9:4), which now has come to Gentiles (“you” v. 6; the pronoun is pl.). Closely related to adoption is receiving the Spirit (Rm 8:14-17).
C. When we consider the aspects of God, in Christ, we must also consider His love, and Sovereignty, in everything that we bring into our mind.
1. the first coming of Christ to the world, to bring the Messiah of Israel into the world (Galatians 4:4-5).
2. to remove from the world, those whom had come to belief in Christ, the Messiah, before the onset of the Tribulation (John 14:2-6; 1 Cor 15:50-54; 1 Thes 4:13-18).
3. to bring judgment on those who will be present on Earth during the Tribulation, those of whom had rejected Christ as Messiah, to draw them to belief in Him as Messiah (Dan 9:27, Rev 3:10).
4. to return “to the earth,” at Christ’s second coming at the Battle of Armageddon, to save the earthbound Jews from total annihilation at the end of the Tribulation, those Jews of whom had come to belief in Christ during the Tribulation (Zech 12:2-14, 14:1-5; Rev 19:11-21; Matt 24:29-31).
D. God has a plan in which he will cause all believers in Christ to be caught up to heaven in the rapture (John 14:6; 1 Thes 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:50-54), prior to the Tribulation. God’s plan for the rapture is based on the fulness of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25), which will not happen until a set number of Gentiles have come to belief in Christ. The tribulation will not occur until the antichrist confirms a covenant with Israel (Dan 9:27).
E. The Rapture and Tribulation are independent of each other. God’s plan for the rapture, which will occur prior to the tribulation, will not happen until the requirements of Romans 11:25 have been fulfilled; but, the grace of 2 Peter 3:9 will not be trumped by a set number of Gentile salvations. The length of time that will transpire between the time of the Rapture and the time of the peace treaty being confirmed between the antichrist and Israel, will be based on God’s grace, and His desire for those who will have been left behind from the Rapture to come to belief in Christ; such people will be on the side of God during the Tribulation, as opposed to being on the side of the antichrist. The purpose of the Rapture is to take resurrected and born again believers in Christ to Heaven, so that God can deal with unbelieving Jews, who will be left behind from the rapture. Israel was never told that they would go to Heaven, but that they may inherit the Kingdom of God which will be present on this earth at the end of the Tribulation.
F. During the time of Noah, God gave everyone on the earth one hundred twenty years to repent prior to the flood. God will not be any less merciful toward unbelievers who will find themselves left behind on earth between the Rapture and Tribulation.
G. How much time will lapse between the Rapture and Tribulation? Nobody knows when the Rapture or Tribulation will begin. The time when the Tribulation begins may be one day after the Rapture, or it may be fifty years later. In the tabernacle in the desert, the Mercy Seat was placed “above the law.” (Exodus 25:16,21). God’s plan for His creation is based on His love (1 John 4:8, “God is love”).
X. Unlisted Study References. The following references were studied, but were not identified in any of the above comments.
A. The New American Commentary, 2 Peter, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner, B.S., M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D.
B. The Moody Bible Commentary, Moody Publishers, 2 Peter, 2014, Louis Barbieri, B.A. , Th. M., Th. D.
C. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis, David C. Cook, 1985, Allen P. Ross, B.A., M.A., M. Div., Ph. D.
D. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, 2 Peter, David C. Cook, 1983, Kenneth O. Gangel, B.A., M.A., M. Div., S.T.M., Ph. D., Litt. D.
E. Study Bibles: Apologetics Study Bible, Ryrie Study Bible, TNIV Study Bible.