Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3 KJV)
Today I am going to take a few moments and deal with a most common belief among the people of God; the idea of a pre-tribulational rapture. I will start with a brief explanation of the position and then I will come at the idea from two angles. I am first going to come at it from a logical standpoint. I am going to show how illogical it is to believe in a pre-tribulational rapture in light of a specific idea taught in Scripture. After I have shown its illogical-ness, I will then look at specific passage of Scripture used to “support” the idea of a rapture.
The pre-trib viewpoint explained
Let’s begin by defining the term “rapture”. The Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms states,
“From Latin rapio (caught up), the belief that the church will be caught up (Greek harpazo 1 Thess. 4:17) and united with Christ at his second coming. One point of contention among theologians is the time of the rapture, especially in relation to the great tribulation period associated with the end of the age. The views regarding the related timing of these events lead to the designations pre-, mid- and posttribulationists for the views that the rapture occurs prior to, during or at the end of the tribulation. Some theologians view the rapture as a Biblical image referring to the church’s greeting the returning Christ.”
The pre-tribulational view of the rapture is the most commonly held view of the rapture in the modern American church. Prophecyforum.com explains it this way,
“According to the pretribulational view of the Rapture, the church will be translated prior to the seventieth week of Daniel and return with the Lord to the earth at the Second Advent.”
An author by the name of Peter D. Feinberg says this,
“For me at least, the church will not go through the Tribulation because of the character of that entire period as a time of the outpouring of penal, retributive, divine wrath, as well as the promises of God to the church that exempt it from both the time and the experience of wrath. Further, it is necessary to separate the Rapture of the church from the Second Advent of Christ because of the need for an interval for people to be saved, so that they can enter into the kingdom age in natural, unglorified bodies. Finally, the differences between the Rapture passages and Second Coming passages lead me to believe that there are two separate events referred to in the passages.”
These above statements, not including the quote from the dictionary, are from pre-tribulational people. This is what people say in defense of a pre-tribulational rapture or how they define the idea.
Now that we have briefly defined the idea and shown how a pre-trib author defends his view, let’s look at the pre-tribulational rapture from a logical standpoint.
The illogicalness of a pre-trib rapture
But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell. Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found in peace without spot or blemish before Him. (2 Peter 3:10-14 HCSB)
The idea of a pre-tribulation rapture includes a couple of very illogical propositions and implications. Let’s start with the thing that the idea actually teaches.
People who hold to a pre-trib rapture view teach that Jesus will come and take His church and then, after the tribulation, He comes at the second coming. Let’s think about this idea for just a moment. If Jesus comes and takes His church and then comes again…doesn’t that mean that there are three comings of Jesus? Of course, when posed with this problem, the pre-tribber quickly responds, “Well, when Jesus comes at the rapture, He doesn’t touch the ground. He stays in the sky. So He didn’t actually come back”.
Any person who is above the age of 5 will see that this is a stupid notion to make. Let’s show how illogical this is with an example from real life. Let’s say you go to one of your closest friends’ houses for a visit. Now, they come to the door and you talk but you never go inside. You say goodbye after a while and go home. A few days later, you drop by again. This time you actually go inside and hang out. Did the first time you went to the house not count as going over? The same logic should hold for the second coming of Christ. Just as you went over to your friend’s house twice, not once, in the pre-trib rapture view, Jesus comes twice in the end times. This means there is a third coming of Jesus, and this idea is just not found in Scripture.
The other thing here is that which is implied with the notion of a pre-trib rapture. If the rapture is a seperate event from the second coming of Christ, than those who hold this view are not anticipating the coming of the Lord, but the time of the rapture. And as the Scripture I quoted above clearly shows, we are to “wait for these things, make[ing] every effort to be found in peace without spot or blemish before Him”. The “these things” in the verse are those things which are associated with His second coming, the day of the Lord, not some random secret moment where people suddenly disappear as a popular fiction series teaches.
The Scripture used to support a pre-trib rapture
Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3 HCSB)
Pre-trib people will use this text to back the idea of a rapture. Just looking at the text shows that Jesus is speaking of coming back or making a promise to come back. He doesn’t appear to be seperating His coming back and the taking of the church to Himself. He seems to be combining the two events into one by saying, “I will come back and receive you to Myself”.
For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. (Romans 8:19 HCSB)
I have no clue what this has to do with the rapture.
so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7-8 HCSB)
“The day of our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to the second coming of Christ, not some seperate event. To change the meaning of that phrase in one passage, you must change it for all passages that refer to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, as we saw above in second Peter, they don’t do that. The day of our Lord in second Peter is the second coming of Christ. Hm…
If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him. Maranatha! (1 Corinthians 16:22 HCSB)
Can someone please explain to me what this has to do with the rapture.
Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5 HCSB)
And yet again, we see a case of bad interpretation. “The Lord is near” is referring to His second coming, if it’s referring to anything to do with the end times. Here is this same verse in a couple of other translations.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5 KJV)
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5 NASB)
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Philippians 4:5 ESV)
My point? I do not think Paul is referring to something to do with the end times. I think he is saying that God is at hand. He is near. He is here watching what we do.
I could go on and on with verses that pre-trib people use to back their idea of a rapture. The book I have in front of me that I am pulling the references from lists 24 supposed rapture texts.
I know that my essay here didn’t do a lot to refute the idea of a pre-trib rapture so much as to refute the idea of a rapture altogether. But I think the two go hand in hand. The people who are most adamant about the rapture are the pre-trib people. The post-trib and the mid-trib don’t push their rapture so much as they push an awareness that Jesus is coming back to get His people. The pre-trib people emphasise their rapture. The second coming of Christ is an afterthought because what does the second coming matter if we’re already going to be gone?
The Bible commands us to be preparing for the time of His second coming, not the time of some supposed rapture of the church. So instead of telling our people about a rapture, let’s tell them about the second coming. Let’s exhort them to live holy lives because the day of the Lord is near. Let’s teach them from the Bible and not from the books of LaHaye and Jenkins and the other pretribulational writers that are out there. Afterall, LaHaye and Jenkins wrote fiction novels. God wrote absolute truth.