After harvesting wheat to obtain the grain, milling or pounding is needed
to remove the husks. On threshing, the chaff breaks up, releasing the grains.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11-12
A threshing sledge was made of logs and had sharp flints embedded in the under surface. First, cut stalks of grain were spread on the threshing floor and a threshing sledge was pulled over the stalks by oxen. When the oxen dragged the sledge over the stalks of wheat on the threshing floor, the stones ripped the husk away from the grain. Threshing the wheat could also be accomplished by having the oxen walk over the stalks or by beating the stalks of wheat with heavy sticks.
The grain is heaped and then winnowed by the farmer whose winnowing fork is in his hand. The winnowing fork is a several-pronged pitchfork and is used to toss wheat against the breeze to free it from chaff and crushed straw. Since the grain is heaviest it falls straight to the ground. The straw is blown a short distance and collects in another heap, while the chaff is completely scattered by the wind.
John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus the Messiah would come to gather his wheat into his barn but would burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. Jesus used the term wheat as a symbol for his true followers – the elect in Christ. He also spoke of the master’s barn as a picture of heaven. The chaff burning in unquenchable fire symbolizes the unregenerate sinner who will suffer eternal torment.
But before the wheat can be gathered into the barn, it must be threshed. Pounding the wheat, the heavy weight of an ox’s hooves or dragging a threshing sledge over the stalks causes great pressure to burst the grain free from the husks. The word for intense pressure in Greek is thlipsis. It literally means being crushed under a rock. The word, thlipsis is translated as hardship, trouble, persecution or tribulation.
The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble (thlipsis) or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
2 Thessalonians 2:3
Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
There will be many who will fall away in the last days when they face persecution. They will be unprepared to stand firm because they were taught that the rapture would occur before the time of great tribulation.
Immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) 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.
The Great Tribulation is an extended period of persecution of the saints, not the hour of God’s wrath. After the thlipsis of those days – the time of great persecution, there will be signs in the sky and the Son of Man will appear in great glory. He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather the elect from the four winds (the Rapture).
This passage of Scripture so clearly states that the Rapture takes place after the Great Tribulation, that those who hold to the doctrine of the Pretribulation Rapture claim that the elect of Matthew 24 must refer to Israel. But the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us clearly who the term elect refers to when used in the New Testament:
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded … Romans 11:7
Israel could not obtain righteousness by observing the law but the elect did by receiving God’s grace by faith. In the New Testament, the elect means Jew and Gentile in Christ – the Church. After the distress of those days the Rapture of the Church will take place, not 7 years before. It is obvious that the term elect refers to believers – the church, and not to Israel who has experienced a hardening in part.
Before his wheat will be gathered into his barn, it will be threshed. The bride of Christ will be purified through the cleansing fires of persecution before the rapture takes place at the seventh trumpet.