Week - 32 In Defense of a Pre-tribulational RaptureOf the Church
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall Christ could come at any moment for His church. I believe that with all my heart. Not because of the signs of the time or what I see in the news or read in the newspapers. I believe in the any moment coming of Christ for His church because of what I read in the Bible.
We see from the very earliest days of the church, that the apostles and the first generation of believers had an earnest expectation and a fervent hope that Christ, at any moment would come to gather His bride, which is the church, and to bring her to His heavenly home even as He promised.
Jesus said to His apostles just hours before His death on the cross…
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3).
We get a glimmer of this any moment return of Christ from the apostle Paul as he addressed the issue of what happens to believers who die before Christ comes for His church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Paul described this “catching away” of the church as happening in a twinkling of an eye.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (ESV) 51 “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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.”
In addition, the Apostle Paul spoke of this issue while addressing the lessons that God’s saving grace imparts to its recipients (Titus 2:11-14).
When Paul testified of the true conversion of the Thessalonians, he stated that they now possessed a new attitude of anticipation for the any moment return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
James, the half-brother of Jesus, spoke of the imminent return of Christ.
James 5:7-9 (ESV)
7 “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
Paul said to the Philippians that the Lord is at hand (Philippians 4:5).
All of this to say, that the early church was exhorted to look for the any moment return of Christ, not the signs that would precede the Second Coming of Christ to this earth for His throne. Now, what this means at a practical level is that the truly saved, who are members of the body of Christ, will not be here on earth when God gives expression to His intense wrath upon this world, just before the Second Coming of Christ. This time of extraordinary judgment is called, the Great Tribulation.
Jesus said of this extraordinary time…
21 “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short (Matthew 24:21-22).”
Although the last seven years of the existence of the earth as we know it is described as the Tribulation, the last three- and one-half years, which ends with the Second Coming of Christ is described as the Great Tribulation, or the time of Jacobs trouble.
During this period, the world will have in place what many have hoped for; one world government, with a one world ruler, one world economy and a one world religion, the worship of the Antichrist (Revelation 13).
It is also during this time of Great Tribulation, that God will unleash His judgment upon this earth with a series of three telescoping judgments recorded in Revelation 6-18. They are described as the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments and finally, the bowl judgments which incorporate the full measure of God’s wrath (Revelation 15:1). Each series of seven judgments grows with intensity and ferocity. They are all expressions of God’s wrath.
As a result of these judgments, the world will experience war, famine and death. There will be great disturbances in the heavens including, the stars falling from heaven and great earthquakes, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will become like blood.
These great catastrophes inflicted upon the world will result in a great loss of life. A third part of the world will be consumed by fire (talk about global warming). A third part of sea life will die and for five months, unsaved people will be tormented by demons causing them to be in agony, yet unable to die (Revelation 9:1-12).
Now there are those who teach and believe that the church will be raptured in the middle of the last seven years of this earth existence, just before the Great Tribulation (Mid-Tribulationalist). There are those who teach that the church will be raptured at the end of the Great Tribulation, at the same time of our Lord’s Second-Coming (Post-Tribulationalist).
From my studies of the Scriptures, I firmly believe, (and so do all the elders of this church) that Christ could come at any moment for His church to take us to His heavenly home and to spare us from the time known as the Tribulation in God’s prophetic calendar (Pre-Tribulationalist).
There are several reasons why we hold to this view.
1. The Tribulation is a unique part of God’s prophetic program for Israel and not the church (Daniel 9:20-27).
A. The Prophecy (9:1-2)
Daniel was a student of the Old Testament Scriptures, particularly those prophecies that related to the destiny of his people. He was now nearly ninety years old. He was reading Jeremiah 25:1–14, and the Lord caused him to see that his people would be in Babylon for seventy years. Daniel realized that the seventy years of captivity were about to close. Babylon invaded Palestine and began its siege in 606 B.C., and Daniel understood the prophecies in the year 539–38 B.C.; so there were but two years left in the seventy years promised by Jeremiah.
(Note- the Jews were taken captive for 70 literal years as opposed to some figurative measurement of time)
B. The Prayer (9:3-19)
Daniel’s prayer is one of the greatest examples of intercession in the Bible. He confesses his own sins and the sins of his people. He reviews Bible history and confesses that the nation has been wicked, and God has been righteous to judge them.
C. The Prophetic Program (9:20-27)
(9:20-24) The Angel Gabriel gave Daniel an outline of the future history of the Jewish nation under the figure of seventy weeks; each “week” represents seven years for a total of 490 years. Please note that this 490–year period of time has to do with Jerusalem and the Jews: “your people...your holy city...”
There are no scriptural statements that would equate the church with Israel. Some have made it a theological equation, but it is not a biblical or exegetical equation.
The purpose statement of the plan for God’s prophetic program for the Jews is stated in verse twenty-four.
“To finish the transgression” – refers to Israel’s apostasy – all the acts of disobedience that led to their captivity.
“To put an end to Sin”- refers to judging sin completely and with finality.
“To atone for iniquity”- The righteous demands of God for sin would be satisfied by the sacrificial death of the Messiah to come.
“To bring in everlasting righteousness”- refers to positional, practical and unchangeable righteousness.
“To seal both vision and prophet”- When this prophetic plan is completed, there will be no further need for revelation such as Daniel was receiving like the prophets before him and the prophets that would come after him, even the New Testament prophets.
“To anoint the most holy place” (or one) -This refers to the consecration of the most holy place in the future temple that will be here on earth during the time of Millennium.
(9:25) The word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes in 445 BC. From the time of that decree to the coming of the “Anointed One” The Messiah, equals 483 years. Gabriel divided these 483 years into two parts—seven weeks (7 x 7 = 49 years), and sixty-two weeks (62 x 7 = 434 years). Why?
It took forty-nine years to rebuild Jerusalem, and this was done (as Gabriel said) “in troublesome times.” Read Nehemiah and see how difficult a task it was to restore the city.
(9:26) Then, after 434 years later we come to Messiah, the Prince, who is “cut off” (a reference to His death on the cross), for the sins of the world. It was His death on the cross that makes the accomplishment of the purposes of God’s prophetic plan possible (see 9:24).
(9:26b-27) Who is this prince who is to come? Not “Messiah the Prince,” because that refers to Christ.
The people of the prince that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." The destruction of the city referred to the sacking of Jerusalem under Titus in 70 A.D. Titus was the general of the Roman legions, but he wasn't the prince of the people. Nero was the prince who ordered the destruction. He died before the ravaging of Jerusalem was completed.
“The prince that shall come” is Antichrist. He will be the leader of the restored Roman Empire. So, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was but an illustration of a future invasion and destruction to be led by Antichrist.
This prince will make an agreement with the Jews to protect them from the other nations, and this agreement will be set for seven years.
This final seven years is the completion of Daniel’s 490–year period. Between the death of Christ and the signing of this covenant you have the entire Age of the Church, a “great parenthesis” in God’s program. Messiah was cut off after 69 sevens. Where then is the seventieth seven? The seventieth and final "week" of Daniel is still in the future.
The Church Age fits between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy. According to Paul in Ephesians 3:5 this mystery was hidden from the Old Testament writers.
2. The church, along with the Rapture are described in the NT as “Mysteries” (Ephesians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:50-51;
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The word “mystery” is used often by the apostle Paul under divine inspiration, not to refer to that which may be an enigma or something that is beyond our capacity to understand, but to that which was not revealed in the past but has now been disclosed by divine revelation. A good biblical definition of a mystery is found in Ephesians 3:1-11, and Colossians 1:24-27.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the central passage describing the events of the rapture of the church.
The phrase, “caught up,” (4:17) comes from the Greek verb harpadzo which means to be snatched away quickly or to remove suddenly. It is from the Latin translation of this word that we get the English phrase, “Rapture.” The word is used in the gospels in reference to stealing or plundering. In the sense that a thief snatches away what belongs to someone else.
In John 10:28-29, the word is used in the sense of the eternal security of a true believer. The passage declares that no one is able to snatch a true believer out of the hand of God.
In Acts 8:39, Philip was literally snatched away in an earthly sense from point A to point B, by the Spirit of God after baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch.
So what is the rapture? It is the snatching away of those members of the body of Christ who are alive, to join those who have been resurrected to meet the Lord in the clouds or in the air, and so the resurrected and raptured will be with the Lord forever.
It is an extraordinary prophetic event that will occur when our Lord, in accordance with his perfect timing, will descend from His exalted position at the right hand of God and position Himself in our atmospheric heaven, in the clouds, and with His authoritative command, accompanied by the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, all true believers who have died since the day of Pentecost will be raised from the dead.
In an instant, they will be suddenly transformed into new, living, immortal, resurrected bodies. This new body will be joined together with the person’s spirit, which Jesus will bring with Him. And at the same time, all true believers who are alive when this extraordinary event takes place will be caught up together with the resurrected saints into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
Paul described this event to the Corinthians as that which would occur in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the Trumpet will sound he said, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and believer’s who are alive shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).
This is not the second coming of Christ, which will occur seven years after the rapture of the church. In the rapture, Christ will come for His church. At His second coming, He will come to occupy His Throne.
There are not a lot of bible believing scholars that would contend with the idea of the rapture of the church. The flash point of contention is about when this will happen as it relates to another great prophetic event described in the scriptures as the 70th week of Daniel, or the time of Jacobs’s trouble, or the Great Tribulation.
Regardless of what rapture position you hold to, in terms of the timeline, there is no one verse that proves without a shadow of doubt that the rapture will occur pre-mid-or post, because if there was, there wouldn’t be any argument.
I can’t say this one particular verse proves my position on the timeline of the rapture with absolute certainty. However, if I look at all the scriptures which are germane to this topic, I believe that a pre-tribulational rapture of the church emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other rapture position.
3. The church is promised deliverance from “The hour of Testing” that will come upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10), and that its destiny is not to experience the wrath of God to come (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Hupomone in the New Testament (translated “perseverance), is characteristic of someone who is not swayed from their deliberate purpose and their loyalty to the faith and their devotion to Christ even by the greatest trials and sufferings.
Please note in Revelation 3:10, that this time is testing is universal in its scope. It is world-wide. Peirasmos- “testing” or “trial” in this context refers to an intense time of great difficulty that in the end exposes the true nature or character of someone, based upon their reaction to this time of testing.
This test or trial is specifically mentioned to be upon those who dwell on the earth. They are described as those who experience the three telescoping judgments of the Lord inflicted upon this world during the time of the Great Tribulation.
They are the same ones who celebrate the death of God’s two witnesses (Revelation 11:10). They are also described as those who will worship the Anti-Christ during the time of the Tribulation and whose names are not found written in the book of life, which is a registry of God’s elect (Revelation 13:7-8, 11-12; 17:1-2; 8). It is these earth dwellers, during the time of the Tribulation who are deceived by the False Prophet into worshipping the Anti-Christ (Revelation 13:14). It is this universal time of testing that will prove the true nature of those who dwell on the earth whose names are not found in the Book of Life.
But the Church in Philadelphia, along with all who make up the true church of Jesus Christ, are promised that they will be kept from this hour of testing that is about to come upon the whole world, specifically upon those who dwell on the earth. “keep from,” comes from two Greek words, tereo ek.
The word “ek” means out from, or away from, which would be different from the prepositions “en” (in) or “dia” through. Tereo ek constitutes a promise of deliverance from this time of testing that is about to come upon the whole world.
How was the church in Philadelphia kept from this hour of testing? Where are these believers from this city now? T hey will be in the group of the resurrected one’s when Christ comes for His church.
Although the church is to prepare for persecution, it is not instructed to prepare for the Tribulation. During the Great Tribulation, the Lord will express His wrath in the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments. The bowl judgments are described as the final and full expression of God’s wrath (Revelation 15:1).
If the church is here during this horrific time, then it’s hard to see how their destiny is not to experience the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9). It would also appear that there is condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus which would then stand in contradiction to the powerful declaration stated by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1.
4. The church is not named once in the entire account of the Tribulation period (Revelation 4-18).
The question needs to be asked, why the church is not mentioned in all of these chapters which provide so many specific details of the time of the Great Tribulation.
The Greek word for “Church” is used 19 times from Revelation 1-3. From 6-18, that word is not used. In the first three chapters, the church is seen on earth and is being spoken to by the Lord.
But from chapters 6-18 the central figures are Jews (i.e., the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel and the two witnesses with their Mosaic and Elijah like ministries).
Israel is central in Revelation chapter twelve and there is no rapture in Revelation nineteen, which describes the Second Coming of Christ. If I were a Post-Tribulationalist, I would be examining that chapter with a fine-tooth comb looking for some kind of evidence of the rapture of the church.
This is where a post-trib would expect to see the rapture – but there is no mention of the rapture of the church in Revelation 19, just the Second Coming of Christ and his great entourages as He comes to this earth to destroy the enemies of Israel and to establish His kingdom.
There are a number of differences between what occurs as the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ.
1. At the rapture, Christ comes in the air and returns to heaven
(1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the Second coming of Christ, He leaves heaven and comes to this earth in order to establish His Millennial rule.
2. At the rapture, it is Christ who gathers His church to Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). At the Second Coming of Christ, it is angels who gather the elect (Matthew 24:31).
3. At the rapture, the purpose of Christ is to gather His church. At His second coming, Christ will come to judge the world.
4. At the rapture, true believers will depart from this earth in order to meet the Lord in the clouds and then depart to heaven. At the Second Coming, unbelievers are taken away from the earth in order to face judgment (Matthew 24:37-41).
5. At the rapture, unbelievers remain on earth. At the Second Coming of Christ, those who come to know Christ during the tribulation will remain on earth.
6. At the rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). At the time of Christ’s Second Coming, those who survive the Tribulation will not receive glorified bodies.
5. NT Believer’s are exhorted to look for the coming of Christ and not for the signs that would precede His Second Coming (Titus 2:11-13).
The Epistles, which are letters to the church, do not carry with them preparatory warnings of an impending Tribulation of the nature of Daniel’s 70th week or what we read about in Revelation 6-18 which is very strange, given the severe nature of seal, trumpet and bowl judgments.
The Epistles warn the church about error and false prophets and false doctrine and about the various enticements to sin. There are warnings about present tribulation. But there are no preparatory warnings in them about the church looking for and being properly prepared for the Great Tribulation to come. Instead, the church is exhorted to look for and be prepared for the coming of Christ for His church.
Note John 14:1-3 – A passage that can only be understood clearly in the context of the Pre-tribulational rapture perspective.
1. It is the strength of all these reasons that serve as the fuel for our confidence in a pre-Tribulational rapture of the church.
2. We who are the church should be awed at the fact that the Lord not only graciously saved us through the redemptive work of Christ, but He has also made us His Bride, whom He has promised to come for so that we might remain with Him forever (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
3.The knowledge that Christ’s coming for His church could happen at any time should motivate us to prepare, to pursue Christlikeness, and to put off all things that pertain to our former lives without Christ (1 John 3:1-3;2 Peter 3:10-12).
4. Those who are properly prepared for the Lord’s any moment return are the individuals who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ’s substitutionary death and victorious resurrection as their only hope of salvation.
5. The great benefit of understanding the Rapture is the comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for His church. The dead in Christ will be raised and those believer’s alive when this monumental event takes place will be transformed. Together, they will meet the Lord in the air and will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:18)!