Why I Believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture

Why I Believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture

The timing of the rapture is one of the most debated issues in eschatology. Most Christians agree that the rapture will occur, but the same is not true when it comes to when it will occur.

Will the rapture take place before the Tribulation (Pre-trib), in the middle (Mid-trib), or at the end of the Tribulation (Post-trib)? Whatever view one holds, one must acknowledge its drawbacks, for every view of the timing of the rapture has strengths and weaknesses.

However, it is in my opinion that a pre-tribulation rapture view has the best scriptural support and the fewest drawbacks.

7 Reasons for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

So, what is the Scriptural evidence for the pre-trib position? Is it the most popular simply because it’s more appealing than the other views? After all, being caught up to heaven before the terror of the Tribulation doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

In this article, I will present the seven most compelling biblical arguments for the pre-trib position. These seven points are arranged into a handy acronym that spells out the word PRE-TRIB.

Defending Pre-Trib Rapture

Place of the Church in Revelation

If the church will experience any or all of the Tribulation, then one would expect that Revelation chapters 4 to 18, the most detailed description of the Tribulation, would include an account of the church’s role during that time period. But remarkably, Revelation 4-18 is silent about the church on earth.

The Greek word for church is ekklesia and this word occurs 20 times in the book of Revelation. Revelation 1-3 specifically mentions the church 19 times. The glorified Lord addresses 7 letters to 7 specific churches in Asia Minor. In them, the Lord instructs and admonishes each church.

But suddenly, beginning in Revelation 4, the word ekklesia disappears. From chapters 4 to 18 (that’s fifteen chapters of the book of Revelation), not once does the word church appear.

In Revelation 4:1 the apostle John is lifted up to heaven and transported into the future, where he sees visions of the end of days. He is carried forward in a kind of divine time machine.

In the subsequent chapters, from Revelation 4 through Revelation 18, John watches and describes the events of the Tribulation as they unfold on earth. But the church is absent from any of these events.

The church doesn’t appear again until chapter 19, where she is pictured as a bride returning to earth with her glorious bridegroom. This returning from heaven to earth with Christ indicates that the Bride has already been in heaven for some time since she has “prepared herself” (Revelation 19:7). Revelation 22:16 refers to the church again for the final time, specifically using the word ekklesia.

The absence of the church from Revelation 4-18 is convincing evidence that the church will not be present on earth during the Tribulation and the outpouring of God’s wrath.

Objections to this Argument

Post-tribbers argue that the word saints (holy ones) occurs several times in Revelation 4-18, which describes the church as present on earth during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7, 10; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24). But pre-tribbers counter that these “saints” are not church-age believers but “Tribulation saints.”

Let us not forget that there are 3 distinct groups of believers: Old Testament saints, church-age saints, and Tribulation saints.

The fact that Revelation chapters 4 to 18 mention saints indicate that there will be believers on earth during the Tribulation, but it doesn’t prove that they are church-age believers. Again, the key to determining this is the context of the passage.

Another argument from post-tribbers is this: “What evidence is there in Revelation that the church is in heaven during the Tribulation?”

Pre-tribbers believe the “twenty-four elders” represent the church throughout Revelation 4-19 (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:5-6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). The elders appear twelve times in these chapters and in each instance, they are in heaven worshiping Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. From their first mention in Revelation 4:4, the 24 elders are pictured in heaven, judged, rewarded, and enthroned.

Revelation 4-19 consistently pictures the church in heaven, representing it by the 24 elders enthroned and crowned, dressed in white, and worshiping the Lamb.

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Rapture versus Return

The New Testament describes two facets of Christ’s second coming: (1) He will come FOR His church to escort her to His Father’s house (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and (2) He will come WITH His saints when He descends from heaven to judge His enemies and establish His glorious 1 thousand-year Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).

How can these facets both be true of Christ’s second coming? These seemingly contradictory events are best resolved by the pre-trib rapture view.

The first facet is the RAPTURE of the church, wherein the Lord takes believers from earth to His Father’s house (John 14:3). The second facet is commonly called the SECOND COMING of Christ wherein believers return with Christ from heaven to the earth (Matthew 24:30).

Both describe the Lord’s coming, but their difference indicates that they are two unique stages occurring at two separate times. Between these two stages, the Tribulation happens. The first stage – the Rapture – is imminent and signless and could occur at any moment (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The Second Coming, on the other hand, will be preceded by all kinds of signs (Matthew 24:1-29). The same event cannot be both signless and yet preceded by numerous signs. This is patently contradictory.

It is difficult for other views to make sense of the passages that describe these two stages differently. But by calling them two stages of the same event, the pre-trib view successfully harmonizes these two descriptions of Christ’s coming.

Exemption from Divine Wrath

It’s common to hear people say that pre-tribbers are just escapists. We just want a view that removes us from all the world’s troubles. Post-tribbers argue that it’s arrogant for believers today to think that of all the generation of believers who have lived, we are somehow so special that we will be exempt from the coming Tribulation if the Rapture occurs in our lifetime.

Pre-tribbers are not saying that Christians are spared from the troubles and trials of this life. Jesus Himself said that in this world His followers will face trials and tribulations (John 16:33). Believers in every generation have faced their share of trouble (James 1:2-4; Acts 14:22). True believers will face the common trials of life (sickness, marital and family problems, physical and emotional stress, discouragement and depression, persecution for their faith, loss of their jobs, and die).

Why? It’s because we live in a fallen world!

But the troubles of this life that we all face are vastly different from the wrath of God poured out on a sinful planet during the future Tribulation. All Christians will face tribulation in a general sense today. But the wrath during the 7-year Tribulation is wrath in a specific sense.

Today, people endure the wrath and persecution from men and the wrath and persecution from Satan. While the wrath of man and Satan will still be around during the Tribulation, the Tribulation will be more defined by the wrath of God than anything else.

Why I believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

It doesn’t make sense, though, for God’s people to endure God’s wrath. Part of what salvation in Christ means is that God saves us from the wrath we deserve (Ephesians 2:2-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

It has always been God’s pattern not to judge the righteous with the wicked. Lot and his family were rescued from Sodom when God poured out His wrath on the cities of the plain (Genesis 18 – 19). Enoch was raptured to heaven before the flood (Genesis 5:23-24).

The Bible promises that church-age believers will be exempt from the coming wrath of God during the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 5:9; Revelation 3:10).

The wrath of God commences with the first seal (Revelation 6:1) and continues until the Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21). The whole Tribulation is period is the outpouring of God’s wrath; this requires that Christ’s bride be exempt from this entire time of trouble, not just some part of it.

Why would God leave the bride of Christ (church) to endure His wrath?

Time Gap Between the Rapture and the Second Coming

Sure, there are obvious similarities between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus. In both cases, Jesus descends from heaven. But there are also some differences.

Post-tribbers insist that the rapture and the second coming are just one event. However, there are biblical prophecies indicating that these events cannot be simultaneous, that there must be an interval of time between them.

There are four end time events that will take place in between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.

1. The Judgment Seat of Christ

The New Testament clearly states that all church-age believers must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. Interestingly, in the detailed accounts of the second coming of Christ, the judgment seat of Christ is never mentioned (Revelation 19:11-21).

Assuming this judgment would require some passage of time, the pre-trib gap of 7 years between the Rapture and the Second Coming would accommodate such a requirement.

2. The Preparation of Christ’s Bride

In Luke 12:36, the Word says that when Christ returns, He will be returning from a wedding. At the rapture, Jesus is married to His bride, the church. After the wedding, He will return to earth with His bride.

Revelation 19:7-10 pictures the church as a bride who has been made ready for marriage to her groom.

3. Life in the Millennial Kingdom

A third event that requires some gap of time between the Rapture and the Second Coming is the presence of believers in mortal, physical bodies during the 1-thousand-year reign of Christ on earth.

Isaiah 65:20-25 (which talks about the Millennial Kingdom) seems to suggest that, during the Millennium, people will carry on ordinary occupations (farming, planting vineyards, and building houses) and they will bear children, populating the messianic kingdom.

Revelation 20:1-6 says that, when Christ returns to earth, He will establish His kingdom that will last for 1 thousand years. Old Testament saints, church-age believers, and believers who died during the Tribulation will all enter the millennial kingdom in their glorified bodies, having been resurrected at various points before the Millennium.


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Meanwhile, those believers who come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation and survive until the Second Advent will enter the millennial kingdom of Christ in their natural, human bodies.

Here’s the problem for the post-trib view. If all saints were caught up in a post-Tribulation rapture prior to the Millennium, there would be no people in natural bodies to repopulate the Kingdom. In a post-trib rapture, all believers would already have a glorified body.

4. Separation of the Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31-46 depicts God’s judgment of Gentiles. This judgment will occur after the Second Coming and at the beginning of the Millennium. The people gathered at this judgment will be survivors of the Great Tribulation. Jesus will divide the Gentiles into 2 groups, believers and unbelievers (the sheep and the goats).

This dividing up indicates that both believers and unbelievers will be alive on the earth at Jesus’ second coming. Why is this noteworthy?

If the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event and will occur together, as post-tribbers claim, and all living believers are caught up to meet Jesus and escort Him back to earth, then there won’t be any sheep left on earth when Jesus arrives. All that would be left are goats.

In a pre-trib rapture, many people would come to know the Lord during the Tribulation and before the Second Coming, and these Tribulation saints would account for the “sheep” in Matthew 25:31-46. Once again, a time gap between the Rapture and Second Coming is the best way to account for this passage.

Removal of the Restrainer

2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3-8 describe the revelation of the “man of sin” or the “man of lawlessness.” This is the Antichrist whose identity remains hidden according to Paul and that the lawlessness continues in secret until he is revealed. And then Paul continues to say that something or someone is holding him back from being revealed – the restrainer.

Who is the restrainer? Who is holding back the Antichrist from being revealed?

Down through the centuries many candidates have been suggested: The Roman Empire, the Jewish State, The Apostle Paul, The Preaching of the Gospel, Satan, Human Government, An Unknown Heavenly Being, Michael the Archangel, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.

The great Bible teacher and expositor Donald Grey Barnhouse summarized this view.

“Well, what is keeping the Antichrist from putting in his appearance on the world stage? You are! You and every other member of the body of Christ on earth. The presence of the church of Jesus Christ is the restraining force that refuses to allow the man of lawlessness to be revealed.

True, it is the Holy Spirit who is the real restrainer. But as both 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 teach, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. The believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. Put all believers together then, with the Holy Spirit indwelling each of us, and you have a formidable restraining force.”

When the rapture occurs, the Spirit-indwelt church and its restraining influence will be removed. That will release the world to sin as it never has before.

Imminency

The doctrine of imminency is the view that Christ could return at any moment. The strongest evidence in the Bible of a pre-trib rapture is the prophesied element of surprise.

The Lord Jesus taught that “no man knows the time of His return.” The most important characteristic of Christ’s return is that it could happen without warning, suddenly catching us off guard if we’re not faithfully serving our Master (Matthew 24:44; Luke 12:40; Mark 13:32-37).

The Lord told us to watch because He might come back at any time, suddenly. So there’s no way that the rapture could happen after the Tribulation. Anything other than a pre-trib rapture totally removes this biblical element of surprise.

The imminency of the rapture should fill us with hope, anticipation, and motivation to godly living. If we believe that our Lord could come back at any moment; that He may come back today, we will be motivated to live in anticipation of that return.

Maranatha – Lord, come! (1 Corinthians 16:22 and Revelation 22:20)

Blessed Hope

The rapture is intended to comfort and bless the Lord’s people. The New Testament consistently presents it as a sure hope that God’s people are to anxiously anticipate (John 14:1-3 & Titus 2:13).

After describing the rapture, Paul concludes with this gentle reminder: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

If God’s people would have to endure 3 ½ years, 5 ½ years, or all of the 7 years of the Tribulation before He comes, how much of a comfort would the rapture be? That would be the “blasted hope” not the “blessed hope.” Could you honestly get excited about the Rapture if you knew that you had to endure a time on earth when all the 19 judgments of Revelation 6 to 16 were being poured out?

The reality is, Paul uses the Rapture to encourage the Thessalonians to have hope. It’s the same thing with us today. The hope of the rapture is an uplifting encouragement for troubled hearts. It’s a blessing and consolation for the Lord’s people.

We are looking for the return of Christ, our blessed hope; we are not looking for the Antichrist!

Conclusion

If the rapture occurs in your lifetime, your future will be very different depending on which view is correct. Will you be here to see the Antichrist? Will you be forced to choose whether to take his mark? Will you witness the carnage of God’s wrath poured out on the whole world?

Or will you be in heaven during this time, experiencing a glorious fellowship and intimacy with the Lamb and His sheep? Will you and I be here for none, half, or all of the Tribulation?

We have looked at numerous passages that describe a lot of the details about the end times and a pre-tribulation rapture makes the best sense of these details. While there are other strong arguments in favor of the pre-trib view, I believe these seven are the strongest.


Reference: The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Dr. Mark Hitchcock

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