Why I Am a Pretribulation Rapturist
There are five views concerning the Rapture: pretribulation (pretrib), midtribulation (midtrib), posttribulation (posttrib), partial Rapture, and prewrath.
Pretrib says the church will be raptured before the future, seven-year Tribulation.
Midtrib believes the church will live through the first half of the Tribulation and then be raptured.
Posttrib has the church living through the entire Tribulation and enduring many of God’s judgments.
Partial rapturists say some people are raptured at the beginning, some here, some there. If you’re a good Christian, you go first. If not, you’ll languish in a sort of Protestant purgatory and then be raptured as you shape up.
Prewrath, which is relatively new, maintains that God will rapture the church threequarters of the way through the Tribulation before He pours out His wrath.
I used to answer questions on a radio program; and, inevitably, after a few programs, someone would write to say, “The Rapture is not even in the Bible!” Yes, it is in the Bible. In Acts 8:39, Scripture says, “The Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away” to Azotus. Rapture means “to move from one place to another.” The word is used again in 2 Corinthians 12:2 where the apostle Paul spoke of being “caught up”—raptured—to the third heaven. Paul used it the same way in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” In this passage, Paul said people will be carried away from Earth to heaven. So the Rapture is a scriptural event.
Who Are Raptured?
First Thessalonians 4 describes the Rapture in great detail. It is Paul’s answer to questions the Thessalonians and firstcentury Christians had posed. They had expected the Lord to return soon after He ascended to heaven. But the Lord did not. Meanwhile, Christians died. So the Thessalonians were concerned they had missed the Second Coming.
Paul assured them they had not: “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (vv. 13–14).
These verses do not refer to soul-sleep, as some cults teach. The soul does not sleep; the body does when it dies. Then Paul told them,
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (vv. 15–16).
The only “dead in Christ” are those who died after the day of Pentecost. Old Testament saints were saved, but they were not put “in Christ.” No one was “in Christ” until the day of Pentecost. So the dead in Christ will rise first.
Who will rise second? The living in Christ. Paul said, “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17). Caught up. Raptured. Rapture actually comes to English through the Latin translation of the Greek word.
At the Rapture, Christ will not touch Earth. We meet Him in the air. The Rapture is part of the Second Coming— just as the virgin birth, the Lord’s appearance and teaching in the Temple, and 35 specific miracles He performed were part of His First Coming.
Seven years after the Rapture, Christ actually comes to Earth—to Armageddon in northern Israel and Jerusalem in central Israel. He also stands on the Mount of Olives. So there are a number of facets to both comings of Christ.
When Is the Rapture?
The timing of the Rapture is highly debated, mainly between pretribulation and posttribulation rapturists. Christendom as a whole is primarily posttribulational, although many Christians have no position. Some say, “Yes, I believe in the Rapture. It’s at the Second Coming. People will be raptured, go up to heaven, turn right around, and come back in the Second Coming.”
They believe that, in that brief moment between arriving in heaven and turning right around and coming back, they are changed—given new bodies. The pretrib view, on the other hand, says everyone will be raptured prior to the Tribulation.
To fix the time of the Rapture, you first must fix the time of the Tribulation. When do the seven years begin ticking on the Tribulation clock? When the Antichrist signs a treaty with the Jewish state and gives it his protection.
So when is the Rapture? If you’re pretrib, it begins just before the treaty is signed. Perhaps the day it is signed. Perhaps the day before.
There is a sequence in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–2: “We ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by [a] spirit or by [a] word or by [a] letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.” Even in Paul’s day, spirits were communicating, messages were being spoken, and letters were being written promoting the error that the Day of the Lord had already come.
So Paul provided a sequence of events:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (vv. 3–4).
The Day of the Lord will not come until (1) there is an apostasy and (2) the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) is revealed. At the beginning of the Tribulation, he will sign a treaty to protect Israel; during the first part of the Tribulation, he will consolidate his power; and in the middle, he will perform the ultimate blasphemy, setting himself up in the Temple of God and saying, “Worship me.” That’s humanism at its peak: the worship of a man.
The Antichrist must be revealed before the Day of the Lord, and then the other things will begin to happen. So we have to have apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin. Then the Day of the Lord begins.
Apostasy, of course, is present today; but the great apostasy occurs before the Tribulation. The minute the Antichrist signs the treaty, many people will know who he is. They will probably guess who he is beforehand. But he will certainly be revealed when he signs the treaty with Israel. These things must occur before the Day of the Lord begins, indicating a pretrib Rapture.
Furthermore, the pretrib position allows for populating the Millennium. If the Rapture were to take place at the end of the Tribulation, Christians would go to heaven in earthly bodies and return immediately in glorified ones. The wicked are condemned to hell. So where are the mortals who will populate the Millennium? Spiritual bodies do not procreate. Scripture teaches that, in the resurrection, we will be like the angels (Mt. 22:30). No baby angels are born, and no baby spiritual bodies are born. The postrib position has no one left on Earth, in mortal bodies, who can produce offspring.
However, if the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation, the situation changes. Although many people will be martyred for their faith, some will survive the Tribulation and enter the Millennium in mortal bodies. People also will be born during the Tribulation and enter as children.
Revelation 3:10 says, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial [testing] which shall come upon the whole world.” This promise was written to the church in Philadelphia. The apostle John wrote to each of the seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:4), ending each letter with, “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches”—churches, plural. So what the Spirit told the Ephesus and Philadelphia churches for example, was intended for all seven churches— and for us.
People with different prophetic views do not debate that verse 10 refers to the Tribulation: The suffering (1) is worldwide (“which shall come upon the whole world)” and (2) affects people in all walks of life, causing them to prefer death over life:
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man . . . said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come” (6:15–17).
So when the events are worldwide and people start acting like they’d rather die than live, the Tribulation is here. Yet God promises believers, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial” (3:10). That seems pretty clear.
Posttrib rapturists think they’re going to live through the Tribulation. They say the phrase I will keep you means God will protect the Christians as He protected Israel in Egypt. However, the Israelites did not live in the same area as the Egyptians. They lived in Goshen. At the fourth seal judgment of Revelation, a fourth of Earth’s population is killed. At the sixth trumpet judgment, a third is killed. By the latter part of the Tribulation, you’re left with one half the number of people you started with.
There will be earthquakes, tsunamis, and water turning to blood. People in the Tribulation will turn on a faucet and get blood. If they can find water, it will be bitter. It seems highly unlikely that an earthquake or other disaster that affects millions will not touch Joe and Sarah Christian who live in the same area as everyone else.
The Tribulation will encompass the whole earth. So the only place where you can be kept “from the hour” is somewhere where there are no hours. Pretty simple, isn’t it? And the only place where there will be no Tribulation clock ticking down the hours is heaven. This is one of the strongest arguments for a pretribulation Rapture. Just before the man of sin signs the treaty with Israel and the seven years start, God will remove His church. The promise could not be more specific.
I’ve been a teacher most of my life; and if I were to tell my students, “I’ll keep you from the hour of the exam,” I don’t think one of them would arrive to take the test. “From the hour.” That’s crystal clear, and everyone who is a believer should thank the Lord that it’s that way.
If being raptured were to depend on our being qualified, no one would be taken. We do not qualify. The Rapture is another wonderful act of God’s grace, where we’ll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. And the older you get, the brighter that hope becomes.
So whether in death or in life, we will all be changed. We will meet the Lord in the air, be reunited with others who have died in Christ, and receive new bodies. All those things will happen, and it will be wonderful. But one thing outshines them all: We will finally see Him face-to-face.