I wanted to share some thoughts about one of my all-time favorite topics – The Rapture. Before I dive into the position and the support for my view I wanted to say that when it comes to the rapture it’s not a straight forward and easy doctrine to understand. Over the past four or five years I’ve read literally hundreds of viewpoints on the topic. I shake my head when people say things like, “It’s crystal clear when you rightly divide the Word of Truth.” Or, “You just gotta use the Bible to interpret the Bible.” I agree, but the problem is that many people make this claim. Another phrase that gets me is, “15 proofs for pre- mid- post-tribulation rapture.” Regardless of which position you hold, proof is a strong term that is most likely untrue. What I will attempt to do in this article is to provide scriptural evidence that supports what I believe about this miraculous event. It’s complicated, and any conversation about it should always be given in humility.
I believe the premillennial pretribulational dispensational view of the end-times to be correct. Before I jump into why I take this position, I wanted to define a few common terms. Phrases are often used in different ways by different people, but here’s how I define them.
- Premillennialism – A view that says Christ returns prior to the millennial period.
- Postmillennialism – A view that says Christ returns after the millennial period.
- Amillennialism – A view that says Christ returns after the millennial period BUT … they see the millennium as a spiritual reign in heaven or the Church Age as the millennium.
- Dispensationalism – holds to the idea that the Israel and the Church are two distinct entities in the Scriptures, and that prophecies about each are separate.
- Pretribulation – believes that the rapture happens before the tribulation.
- Midtribulation – believes that the rapture happens in the middle of the tribulation.
- Posttribulation – believes that the rapture happens after the tribulation. That the rapture and the second coming are same event.
One difficulty with taking a stance on any position is that there are often some wrong assumptions about the position. For example, those that believe the pretribulational view usually believe the Church will be raptured prior to a seven year period of time known as the tribulation, because the Bible says that Christians are not appointed to wrath. The assumption this position makes is that the entire seven years will be God’s Wrath, but nowhere in scripture does it say this. The only place in scripture that says anything about the seven years is found in Daniel 9:27, “And he will confirm a covenant with the many for one week.” Many believe this is talking about the Antichrist making a contract with Israel, and I agree. But the passage only says it will be an agreement. That’s it. It doesn’t say what the agreement will be about. It doesn’t say anything about tribulation being tied to the whole time period. The tribulation time may be longer or shorter than these seven years. I typically teach a Pre-seven rapture but will sometimes use the “pre-trib” phrase to bridge the gap with others. I think there will be tribulation prior to the seven year period that the Church will experience, and I do think there is scriptural support for the rapture happening at the beginning of this contract.
Scriptural Support for Pre-trib (Pre-Seven) Rapture
- The unknown day vs the known day – The bible speaks of Jesus second return in two ways. The unknown day and a known day. Matthew 25:13 tells us that no man knows the day nor the hour. But Revelation 11:1-2 and Rev 13:5 talks about the antichrist ruling for 1,260 days (3.5 years) and then his rule is ended by Jesus Himself. Once the Antichrist sets up the abomination of desolation in the temple we will know he has exactly 1260 days left. How can we not know the day, but know the day? The answer is that we will not know the day nor the hour of the rapture, but we will know the day of the Anti-Christ’s demise. Many scriptures tell us to not let that day catch us unaware. This passage makes perfect sense when it is used to describe Jesus returning in the clouds to collect His Church, but makes little sense when talking about the second coming.
- Eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage – The scriptures say the Day of the Lord will be like the days of Noah when they were eating and drinking and marrying, up until the time they entered the ark. Take a few moments for yourself to read about the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls. If we look just at the second bowl of wrath found in Rev 16, “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.” Did you catch that? Every living thing in the sea dies. The individuals that see this event will not be planning weddings. We are talking about a visible world-wide life-ending disaster. The context of Jesus words in Matthe is the people of Noah’s day will be living it up, having a party. Again, this makes sense for two separate events. People will be celebrating prior to the rapture, but will be in total desperation at Jesus 2nd coming.
- The Saints Return with Christ in Fine Linen – Revelation 19:8 speaks of the saints in Heaven clothed in fine linen. Rev 19:14 says that an army clothed in white linen returns with Christ at the second coming. Some have claimed that this is an army of angels, but I believe it is the Church that returns with Him. The context of Chapter 19 tells us that it is the Bride of Christ that is in fine linen. It’s the raptured Church that returns. Zech 14:5 also speaks of this group of holy ones that will return with the Lord. Finally, the event of the return of Christ seems to be described in Col 3:4, when it says we will be revealed with Him. In other words, when He returns, we will return too. Why would we return with Him if we just got raptured? It makes much more sense that we would have experienced the entirety of wedding supper with the Lamb in the bridal chamber (heaven), and then return to earth at His second coming. 1 Thes 3:13 mentions that the saints will come back with Jesus when he comes.
- Kept From the Hour of Testing – I think one of the biggest supports for a pre-trib rapture are the verses that tell us we will be kept from the hour of testing. Some interpret Rev 3:10 in different ways. I do not believe the seven churches of Revelation represent different time periods of the Church. I think they are just seven messages to Churches of that day. The messages can also be applied to other churches or individuals across all generations. Each of the promises and warnings are for you and the church down the street. For example, I think no church should tolerate the spirit of Jezebel, not just the Church of Thyatira. Likewise, any church that is lukewarm should expect to be spewed out of God’s mouth like a cold cup of coffee. The message to the Church of Philadelphia was a promise to keep them (and us) from the horrible things to come. Luke also understood this when he said watch and pray you may be counted worthy to escape all these things.
- Not Appointed to Wrath – Paul speaks in 1 Thes 5:9, that we are not appointed to wrath. It is debatable when this wrath starts and stops, but why would Christ subject His Bride to punishment. This is a good point to also mention that wrath and tribulation are not the same thing. Jesus often taught that tribulation makes us stronger. God will orchestrate events in our lives that cause us to struggle. It’s not popular preaching, but God will cause us to have pain. But pain that comes from God is to our benefit. Paul says, “tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” Tribulation is part of the Christian walk. But the events of the end-times are the directed wrath of God on an unbelieving world. Some teach that “not appointed to wrath” means the final judgement of the soul. However, the context of that verse is speaking to the wrath of the last days. When the scriptures say we are not appointed to wrath it means Christians are not appointed to the wrath of the final days.
- Who is Gathered First – Why are there conflicting stories about who will be gathered first? Sinners or Saints? 1 Thes 4:13-17 says that the dead in Christ will be gathered first. But in the story of the tares and the wheat in Matt 13:30, the tares are gathered first and burnt. perhaps the two stories are unrelated, but I think it supports the idea of two separate gatherings. The Church will be gathered first in the rapture, and then at the end of the age, after the tribulation, and after Jesus returns, the Angels will gather the wicked.
- Did The Thessalonians miss the Rapture – In 2 Thes 2:1-2 it would seem that the Thessalonians were worried they missed the rapture. Paul says, “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.” They were worried that they had missed the rapture (gathering to Him) and were in the tribulation. They would not even be asking this question about Jesus physical return to earth, because Jesus would be present on earth. But they were worried they missed getting “Caught up”, and were left to endure the tribulation period.
- The Jewish Wedding Ceremony – In the Talmud (Ketubot 17a:8) it speaks about the Jewish wedding ceremony. There are seven days that are set aside for the bride and the groom, a full seven days of celebration. The first part is private and just for the bride and groom inside the bridal chamber. The final part is the revealing of the bride on the seventh day to the wedding guests. We see an example of the seven in the story of Jacob as he marries Rachael and Leah. We also see it in the story of Sampson who celebrates for seven days with his new wife. This idea fits with a rapture at the beginning of the seven year contract, and a reveal of the Bride when She returns with Christ at the second coming. Eph 5 talks about the relationship of husband and wife and compares it to the relationship between the Church and Jesus. Matt 25 does the same in the story of the five wise and five foolish virgins waiting on the bridegroom. The words of John 14 are the words of a husband… “I go and prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself.” I feel the Jewish wedding analogy is a pattern of Jesus marriage to His Church, and the main support for the rapture happening at the beginning of the seven year contract.
- You also see the wedding theme throughout the Old Testament prophecies. Wedding language is all over the place when you start looking. Joel chapters 2 and 3 are full of end-times prophecies. 2:16 says, “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber.” Jesus is the groom, we are His Bride, and we will return with Him when He comes back to deliver the nation of Israel.
Early Church Fathers and early writing Support for the Pre-Trib Rapture
The Rapture of the church is not a recent development of the dispensational movement. We see examples of a pre-tribulation rapture in the early church. Below are a few examples and quotes from early writing. I won’t spend a lot of time explaining these examples, but let the quotes speak for themselves. Something else to consider is that these writers are not inspired like the Bible is. They don’t carry the same weight as the Bible. But they are helpful in understanding how early Christians believed.
- Shepherd of Hermas. In the fourth vision – mentions in this vision that the virgin is the church and that it escaped the great tribulation.
- The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles – “but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself.” This is a reference from the Church being saved from the Tribulation.
- Irenaeus’ (120-202), Against Heresies, Book 5 – He uses Enoch as a type of the church who is caught up… and escapes the doom that is coming. After this discussion, Irenaeus goes on to talk about the Beast and the Antichrist. The order of the book seems to imply a catching away, then the tribulation.
- Irenaeus’ (120-202), Against Heresies, Book 5, chapter 29, verse 1 – “When in the end that church will suddenly be caught up from this, then it is said “There will be tribulation such as not been since the beginning , nor will be
- Victorinus Commentary on the Apocalypse. – And from 15:1, “. . . and I saw another great and wonderful sign, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is completed the indignation of God. For the wrath of God always strikes the obstinate people with seven plagues, that is, perfectly, as it is said in Leviticus; and these shall be in the last time, when the Church shall have gone out of the midst.” This writing implies that the Church will be absent when the last plagues are applied.
- Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians – This writing does not directly speak to when the rapture happens, but the logical flow through the book is similar to Irenaeus in that it lists those being “saved” first, and then flows to wrath.
“suddenly, there shall not even be one , because some have been taken, and others left behind, delivered to the eagles. In this way there shall be lapse of faith among mankind, thereafter he shall take revange for his saints, which have been killed by the ungodly”
“As all perished then except those gathered with Noah in the ark, so also at his comming , the ungodly in the season of apostasy … shall perish .. while according to the pattern of Noah … all the righteous and godly are to be separated from the ungodly and gathered into the heavenly ark of God….
For in this way when not even one righteous man will be found anymore among mankind. And when all the ungodly have been made atheists by the antichrist, and the whole world is overcome by apostasy, the wrath of God shall come upon the ungodly”}}
-Eusebius: Fragments of Luke, Mean volume 24, page 588
– Claim made by Lee Brainard on YouTube
“When in the end that church will suddenly be caught up from this , then it is said “There will be tribulation such as not been since the beginning , nor will be” -Irenaeus