*THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE*
The word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible, but it is the term
used by many Christians to describe the catching away of the saints
described in 1 Th. 4:13-18. The term "caught up" in 1 Th. 4:17 is
also translated "pluck" (Jn. 10:28), "take by force" (Acts 23:10),
and "pulling [out of the fire]" (Jude 23). It refers to a forceful
seizing and a snatching away. It is used of the devil snatching the
word of God from the heart of the foolish (Mt. 13:19) and of the
Spirit of God snatching away Philip after the conversion of the
Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39). This is exactly what Christ will do to
the New Testament believers before the onslaught of the Great
Notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
1. The Rapture is (1) a resurrection of the dead in Christ (v.
14-16), (2) a catching up and translation of the living New Testament
saints (v. 17).
2. The dead in Christ are with Him in heaven (v. 14).
3. The Rapture is the believer's hope (v. 13). It is what we are
looking forward to.
4. The Rapture is certain. (a) It is as sure as Christ's resurrection
(v. 14). (b) It is the word of the Lord (v. 15).
5. The Rapture is a comfort (v. 18). If this translation did not
occur until the end of the torments of the Great Tribulation, it
certainly would not produce solace for the Christian standing on this
side of the Tribulation.
6. The Rapture is before the day of the Lord's wrath (5:1-5, 9).
This event is also described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.
1. The Rapture is a mystery that was not revealed in the Old
Testament (v. 51). The Old Testament prophets taught about the
resurrection, but they did not teach that some would be caught up
without dying. The translation of the New Testament saints will
involve an instantaneous change from morality to immortality. Those
believers living at that hour will never see death.
2. The translation of the church-age saints is said to be a source of
comfort and encouragement (1 Co. 15:58). Again, if this translation
did not occur until the end of the torments of the Great Tribulation,
it would not be a comfort.
Among those who believe in a literal Rapture of church-age saints,
there are three general positions. All of these pertain to the timing
of the Rapture in relation to the Great Tribulation. The three views
(1) Pre-tribulational, meaning the church-age saints will be
raptured before the Great Tribulation.
(2) Mid-tribulational (also called Pre-wrath Rapture), meaning the
church-age saints will go
through the first half of the Tribulation.
meaning the church-age saints will go through the entire Tribulation
*THE EVIDENCE FOR THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE*
For the following reasons we are convinced the Bible teaches a
Pre-tribulational Rapture. In the following study, we are using the
term "church" in a general, institutional sense:
*1. CHURCH-AGE BELIEVERS ARE PROMISED SALVATION FROM WRATH (1 Th.
1:9-10; 5:1-9; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 3:10).*
The Great Tribulation is expressly called the day of God's wrath.
Today the Lord is
withholding His anger; He is seated upon a throne of grace, but the
day approaches when He will take the seat of judgment. Then "the day
of his wrath" will be upon all the world (Ps. 110:5; Is. 13:6-13;
Rev. 6:16-17). It is true that in every century, the churches have
been subjected to persecution, but this is quite different from the
Great Tribulation. The general persecutions of the saints are caused
by the wrath of wicked men and the devil, whereas the seven-year
Tribulation is a period especially pertaining to God's wrath (Rev.
6:16-17; 14:10). Some feel that the church will not be saved out from
the time of great wrath, but will be saved through this wrath. This
cannot be true, since the Bible clearly reveals that those who are on
earth during the Great Tribulation will not be delivered from wrath
but will be overcome (Rev. 13:7). The Scriptures that promise
church-age believers deliverance from wrath must refer to salvation
out from the very presence of the wrath. Concerning the Great
Tribulation, we are told that "as a snare shall it come on all them
that dwell on the face of the whole earth" (Lk. 21:35). Therefore,
church-age believers must either be physically removed from the
earth, or they will be involved in the day of wrath. God promises
removal. "... 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" (Rev. 3:10).
*2. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO BE REMOVED BEFORE THE TRIBULATION (2 Th.
In other passages of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is said to be
the restrainer of sin (Ge. 6:3; Is. 59:19). The Holy Spirit came into
the world in His present special dispensation at Pentecost (Acts 2),
when He came to empower the church for the Great Commission (Acts
1:8). He will remove the church-age believers before the time of
God's great wrath. This does not mean the Holy Spirit will not be
present in the world at that time. He is God and is omnipresent. It
means that He will not be present in the same sense as He is in this
*3. CHURCH-AGE BELIEVERS ARE PROMISED MANSIONS IN HEAVEN (Jn. 14:1-3). *
When the Lord Jesus returns to the earth at the end of the
Tribulation, He sets up His Messianic kingdom. If the Rapture
occurred at the end of the Tribulation, the promise to church-age
believers pertaining to Heaven would not be fulfilled. Church-age
believers are a heavenly people with a heavenly hope (Ep. 1; Ph.
3:20; Col. 3:1-3). Some dispensationalists teach that the church-age
saints will live in heaven during the millennium. I believe they will
live both in heaven and in earth. Jesus promised the apostles that
they would reign with Him over Israel (Matt. 19:28).
4. THE TRANSLATION OF CHURCH-AGE SAINTS IS SAID TO BE IMMINENT *
(it could happen any moment) (Matt. 24:42, 44; 25:13; Mk. 13:33), whereas
the Second Coming is said to be preceded by specific signs (1 Th.
1:9-10; Tit. 2:12,13; Jam. 5:8,9; 1 Jn. 2:28; Rev. 1:3). The Apostle
Paul instructed the church at Thessalonica that they did not need to
heed signs and times, because the New Testament believer has been
promised redemption from the "day of darkness" which shall overcome
the whole world (1 Th. 5:1-9). The church is waiting, not for the
appearing of the Antichrist, but for the redemption of the Son of God.
*5. THE CHURCH IS A MYSTERY UNREVEALED *
In the Old Testament (Eph. 3:1-11). The New Testament church has no part
in the chronology of
events foretold by the Old Testament prophets. They clearly foretold
the first coming of Christ, His miraculous birth, life, death, and
resurrection. The same prophets described Christ's Second Coming in
glory, proceeded by a time of unprecedented worldwide tribulation,
and followed by the glorious Messianic kingdom centered in Jerusalem.
These prophets did not see the present church age-"which in other
ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed
unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit."
Between the first and second coming, there is a time gap that was not
seen by the Old Testament prophets. This gap is the church age. The
prophets did not see that Israel would be set aside temporarily while
God called out from among all nations a special body of people. After
He has accomplished this purpose and the fullness of the Gentiles be
come in, God will restart Israel's prophetic clock and will fulfill
all Old Testament prophecies in relation to His ancient chosen
nation. "... blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the
fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25).
The Great Tribulation deals with Israel, not with the church-age
believers. This present mystery period will end with the removal of
the church-age believers from the earth; and the Lord will then take
up His plan for the nation Israel as He fulfills the Old Testament
prophecies of the time of Jacob's trouble, the coming of Messiah in
glory, and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom.
*6. THERE ARE EVENTS INTERVENING BETWEEN THE TRANSLATION AND
RESURRECTION OF THE CHURCH AND THE SECOND ADVENT. *
According to 1 Cor. 15:51, EVERY saved person will be translated at the
Rapture. Yet Mt.
25:31-46 shows that when Jesus returns to the earth at the Second
Advent He will find many true believers in their natural bodies.
There must, then, be a period of time between the Rapture of the
church-age saints and the Second Coming to allow for these folk to be
saved. It is reasonable to believe that this period is the seven
years of the Great Tribulation.
*7. THE BOOK OF REVELATION SHOWS THAT THE CHURCH IS NOT ON EARTH
DURING THE TRIBULATION.*
(1) The church is not seen on earth in
(2) The witness for God in the earth during the
Tribulation is Israel, not the church (Rev. 7).
(3) The prayers of the saints in Rev. 8 are prayers for judgment. Only
such prayers. The church-age saints are instructed to pray for her
enemies, not against them. These prayers of Revelation are those of
the Psalms and are based on God's promise to Abraham to curse those
who cursed Israel.
(4) The scorpion-like creatures of Rev. 9 are
given freedom to hurt all earth-dwellers except those Jews who were
sealed by the angel of Rev. 7; if church believers were on earth,
they would be subject to this horrible judgment of God.
(5) Rev. 10 identifies the events of Rev. 4-18 with those foretold by Old
Testament prophets-the days of the Great Tribulation, the "day of the
Lord." The church age was never in the view of these Old Testament
prophecies; it was an unrevealed mystery. The church has a different
purpose and program than national Israel. It is Israel that is in
view in Old Testament prophecy and in Revelation 4-18.
(6) The ministry of the two witnesses of Rev. 11 identifies them with
national Israel and with Old Testament prophecies of the "day of the
Lord." The two witnesses minister from Jerusalem, Israel's capital.
The churches have no such capital, her hope being heavenly, not
earthly (Col. 3; Ph. 2). The two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth,
typical of Old Testament Israel, not New Testament believers. Nowhere
are the churches seen in sackcloth. They are told, rather, to
"rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Ph. 4:4). The
church-age believer's judgment is forever past, and he is to keep his
mind centered in the heavenlies where, in position, he is seated
eternally victorious with Christ (Ep. 2:5-10). Rev. 11:4 identifies
the two witnesses with Old Testament prophecy. Zec. 4:3,11,14 is a
prophecy of Israel, not the church. Further, the two witnesses call
down judgment upon their enemies in Rev. 10:5,6. Jesus rebuked his
disciples for desiring to do just this and instructed the church-age
believer to pray for the well-being of his enemies, not for their
destruction (Lk. 9:54-56; Rom. 12:14,17-21).
(7) The devil persecutes Israel, not the church, during the Tribulation
(Rev. 12). There can
be no doubt that the woman is identified as national Israel. Verse 5
shows the woman bringing forth Christ; it is obvious that Jesus was
brought forth by Israel, not by the churches (Is. 9:6,7; Rom. 9:5).
Also, the symbols of Rev. 12:1,2 recall familiar Old Testament
typology of Israel. She is referred to as a woman (Is. 54:5-7). The
sun and moon and the 12 stars of verse 2 remind us of Joseph's dream
regarding Israel (Ge. 37:9). The words of Rev. 12:2 are almost an
exact quote from Micah 5:3, again referencing Israel's delivery of
the Messiah. These symbols are not used in the New Testament of the