I admit there are different views of when the rapture occurs. All beliefs discussed here have biblical validity and we shouldn’t fight or argue about which belief is best. The most important truth to remember is that Jesus is returning in power to take His church (believers) with Him to heaven for all eternity! Our part is to be watchful and ready. Are you ready for Jesus to return?
The return of Jesus and end times is known in theological terms as Eschatology, the study of last things.
In eschatology, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on these three things:
- There is coming a time of Great Tribulation such as the world has never seen.
- After the Great Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.
- There will be Rapture; when Jesus returns to take His bride/church to be with him in Heaven, John 14:1-3. When our earthly bodies are transformed or resurrected into heavenly bodies 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; when Jesus returns with a trumpet of the archangel and all believers are caught up in the air to meet the Lord in the air to be with him for all eternity! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The question that causes differing opinions is, “when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord?”
Through the years three main convictions have emerged concerning the timing of the Rapture: Pre-tribulation view (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), Mid-tribulation view (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and Post-tribulation view (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation). This post deals mainly with the pre-tribulation view, which I adhere to.
Belief in Pretribulation Rapture teaches that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation starts. At that time, the church will meet Christ in the air, and then sometime after that the Antichrist is revealed and the Tribulation begins. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His kingdom) are separated by at least seven years. According to this view, the church does not experience any of the Tribulation.
Scripturally, the Pre-tribulation view has much to commend it. For example, the church is not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 5:9), and believers will not be overtaken by the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9). The church of Philadelphia was promised to be kept from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). Note that the promise is not preservation through the trial but deliverance from the hour, that is, from the time period of the trial.
The Pretribulation view also finds support in what is not found in Scripture. The word “church” appears nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but, significantly, the word is not used again until chapter 22. In other words, in the entire lengthy description of the Tribulation in Revelation, the word church is noticeably absent. In fact, the Bible never uses the word “church” in a passage relating to the Tribulation.
The Pretribulation view is the only theory which clearly maintains the distinction between Israel and the church and God’s separate plans for each. The seventy “sevens” of Daniel 9:24 are decreed upon Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). This prophecy makes it plain that the seventieth week (the Tribulation) is a time of purging and restoration for Israel and Jerusalem, not for the church.
Also, the Pretribulation view has historical support. From John 21:22-23, it would seem that the early church viewed Christ’s return as imminent, that He could return at any moment. Otherwise, the rumor would not have persisted that Jesus would return within John’s lifetime. Imminence, which is incompatible with the other two Rapture theories, is a key tenet of the Pretribulation view.
And the Pretribulation view seems to be the most in keeping with God’s character and His desire to deliver the righteous from the judgment of the world. Biblical examples of God’s salvation include Noah, who was delivered from the worldwide flood; Lot, who was delivered from Sodom; and Rahab, who was delivered from Jericho (2 Peter 2:6-9).
One perceived weakness of Pretribulation View is its relatively recent development as a church doctrine, not having been formulated in detail until the early 1800s. Another potential weakness is that Pretribulation view splits the return of Jesus Christ into two “phases”—the Rapture and the Day of the Lord—whereas some argue that the Bible does not clearly delineate phases.
Another difficulty facing the Pretribulation view is the fact that there will obviously be saints in the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7, 20:9). The Pre-tribulation people answer this by distinguishing the saints of the Tribulation from the church of the New Testament. Believers alive at the Rapture will be removed before the Tribulation, but there will be those who will come to Christ during the Tribulation.
Some point to Jesus’ statement in John 6:40 as posing a difficulty to Pre-tribulation view: “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Jesus promises believers a resurrection “at the last day,” but the Pre-tribulation view has believers being raised at the rapture, at least seven years before the Christ’s second coming. The answer to this involves a general use of the word day—the end times, called “the last day,” will span the entire time from the Rapture to the Day of the Lord coming. Also, the rapture will mark the end of the church age and thus is “the last day” of this dispensation.
And a final weakness of the Pretribulation view is shared by the other two views namely, the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.
Again we shouldn’t fight or argue about which belief is best. The most important truth to remember is that Jesus is returning in power to take His church (believers) with Him to heaven for all eternity! Our part is to be watchful and ready. Are you ready for Jesus to return?
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