May 5, 2008

Reasons for a Pretribulation Rapture

By Tim LaHaye

Among the many who believe the return of Christ will take place before the Millennium, there are at least five groups who teach differing views of the timing of the Rapture. The prevailing view is the pretribulational Rapture. In short, this belief indicates Christ will rapture His Church to His Father’s house prior to the seven-year Tribulation.

There are, however, many fine Christians who long for the Savior’s return, but see it differently. Some of these people are called Midtribulationalists; some Posttribulationalists; some believe in a partial rapture in that Christ will return in several stages; and some believe in the most recent view, the pre-wrath rapture which places all of the apocalyptic wrath in the last quarter of the Tribulation and places Christ’s return just before the judgment begins. I believe the following:

A. The timing of the Rapture is not a cardinal doctrine over which Christians should argue and become divisive.

B. There are more than adequate reasons for believing when all Second Coming texts are considered, there is more reason for believing the Rapture will be pretribulational. Here are some of those reasons:

1. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, promised believers they would be saved from the “wrath to come,” Matthew 3.7; Luke 3.7; 1 Thessalonians 1.10; and kept from the “the hour of trial that shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth,” Revelation 3.10. Such a trial has not yet occurred and we have Jesus’ unconditional promise to keep believers out of that trial, Revelation 3.10. Paul gave that same promise in Romans 5.9; 1 Thessalonians 1.10 and 5.9. The Hebrew prophets referred to that future time of wrath or trouble for Israel more than 50 times and although Israel has suffered much throughout its tragic history, those prophecies will not be fulfilled until the Tribulation. All the other interpretations have at least a portion of the Church experiencing all or some of the Tribulation period, which we believe, contradicts the above Scriptures.

2. The pretribulational view is the most logical view of Second Coming Scriptures when taken for their plain, literal meaning whenever possible. Many of the details of the Second Coming must be pieced together from various passages of Scripture, no matter what view you take. The pretribulational position finds a logical place for every Second Coming passage. Like a completed puzzle, all the pieces fit.

3. The pretribulational position clearly and logically untangles the contrasting details of Christ’s Second Coming. The Scriptures say Jesus will come in the air secretly to rapture His Church, yet He will also come to the earth publicly. According to the pretribulational view, the coming of Christ in blessing for His Church and His return to earth in judgment are two distinct events separated by time. The book of Revelation and 2 Thessalonians 2 clarify what takes place between those two events.

4. The pretribulational-rapture position is the only view which makes a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. The lack of a proper understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Church in Bible prophecy is one of the major causes of confusion as illustrated in the teachings of amillennialism and posttribulationalism. Pretribulationalism is the only position which clearly outlines the program of the Church.

5. Pretribulationalism is the only view which makes “that blessed hope,” Titus 2.13, truly a blessed hope. Few Bible doctrines have brought more hope to grieving souls during the past two thousand years than the doctrine of this “blessed hope,” the teaching Christ will return for His Church, resurrect the dead and transport living believers to be with Himself while the world endures the Tribulation. The midtribulational position destroys that hope by forcing the Christian to anticipate the trauma of at least part of the Tribulation. Posttribulationalism further destroys such optimism in that it propels us through the entire Tribulation period. No proper reading of Bible prophecy gives credence to the idea the Church will be on earth during that seven-year period. The judgment pictured in Revelation is clearly intended for Israel and the Gentile world. Keep in mind the teaching on the Rapture was given to comfort those who mourn. The threat of experiencing the Tribulation is hardly a doctrine of comfort to the saints.

6. Pretribulationalism allows sufficient time for important end-time events to occur; it allows adequate time for Christians to be taken to the Father’s house, experience the judgment seat of Christ: “every one of us shall give account of himself to God,” Romans 14.12; yet the view still provides time for the Marriage Supper events in Heaven before He comes “with power and great glory” to the earth: Matthew 24.30 and Luke 21.27. Other viewpoints offer various periods of time for these events to take place, but all are too brief to allow adequate time for important events listed in Revelation.

7. Only the pretribulational view preserves the motivating power of the imminent return of Christ, which was such a challenge to the early Church. In John 14.1-3; Acts 1.11; 1 Corinthians 15.51,52; Philippians 3.20, Colossians 3.4 and many other passages, the apostles taught Christ could come at any moment. When the Church loses this form of anticipation, it tends to become carnal and spiritually dead.

8. Pretribulational Christians are looking for the coming of the Lord. Other views have Christians awaiting the Tribulation, antiChrist and great suffering. In fact, only the Rapture could occur as soon as today, the Glorious Appearing cannot occur for at least seven or more years.

9. Pretribulationalism emphasizes the magnitude of the Rapture. Since at least four passages of Scripture describe the Rapture, it must be a significant event. The posttribulational view trivializes the Rapture, treating it as an express-elevator trip: zip up and right back down! The pretribulational view treats it as a dignified, blessed event commensurate with a heavenly Bridegroom Who comes to take His Bride to His Father’s house for their wedding.

10. Pretribulationalism most clearly fits the flow of the Book of Revelation. Revelation 4.1,2 by itself never could unlock the mystery of the Rapture, but since that event is revealed in other passages: 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18; 1 Corinthians 15.50-58 and John 14.1-3, one may appropriately identify John’s call up to Heaven as a rapture event which unfolds before the Tribulation period.

11. The pretribulational view explains why the Church is not mentioned from Revelation 4.3 – 18.24. There must be a reason why the Church is so central in the first three chapters of Revelation, but disappears until the Glorious Appearing. Pretribulationalists insist the Church has already been raptured before the events of this Revelation passage. Midtribulationalists and posttribulationalists would ask us to find the Church in the Tribulation even though it is not mentioned in Revelation 4 – 18.

12. Pretribulationalism preserves the credibility of Christ’s Word that Christians will be kept from the Tribulation. The pretribulational view is the only one which resolves the contrasting difficulties of Revelation 3.10 and 7.14. If Church members will be among the martyrs of 7.14 killed during the Tribulation, the Lord will not have kept His Word in 3.10. Pretribulationalists explain there will be no person from the Church on the earth during the Tribulation. The Church will be raptured before it begins, fulfilling the Lord’s promise.

13. Pretribulationalism explains why there is no Bible instruction on preparation for the Tribulation. Doesn’t it seem strange although the Bible advises Christians how to face ordinary everyday troubles, it submits absolutely no instructions related to the worst time the world will ever face, a period filled with frightening events which have never come close to being fulfilled? Pretribulationalists have a simple answer: The Church will not be here!

The apostle Paul presented the Rapture as a treasured truth to bring comfort to believers. Just as Paul intended it to in 1 Thessalonians 4.18, the pretribulational rapture doctrine has comforted millions of Christians in their hours of grief.