Pastor, Why? #18: Why do we Believe in a "Pretrib" Rapture?

The New Testament describes a future event in which every Christian, dead and alive, will be caught up (“raptured”) out of this world to be with our Lord (references below). Many scoff at such a belief (see 2 Peter 3:3-4), but we can rest assured that everything the Bible teaches about our future is true, because everything it has taught about the past has proven true.

The word “rapture,” though not found in the Bible, is a good word to describe this sudden catching away of all believers. Unfortunately many consider the rapture to be a spooky teaching among the fringe elements of

The early Christians were looking for Christ eagerly,

expectantly, imminently and instantly.

Christianity. Some writers propagate the myth that the rapture was untaught until the 1800’s. Many simply sidestep the issue by declaring that we cannot know the future with any certainty. However, the apostle Paul informed us that this doctrine of the any-day calling-out (“rapture”) of believers to be with the Lord ought to be a source of hope and encouragement to every Christian (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Among those of us who do believe in a rapture, there is disagreement regarding its timing--before, during or after the coming seven-year Tribulation. It is my belief that the rapture occurs before the Tribulation, making it the next event in Bible prophesy. This view is called the Pre-tribulation Rapture position. Following are nine Bible reasons to believe it:

The Second Coming of Christ occurs in two stages.

  • It begins with His coming “in the clouds” to meet His saints “in the air,” taking them with Him to heaven--the rapture. (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) At this first stage, Christ will come only part way to the earth and call His bride, the NT believers, back to heaven with Him.
  • It concludes after a period of seven years (the Tribulation) with Christ’s coming to earth to stay and to establish His kingdom.   (Zechariah 14:1-16; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19:14)

At this second stage, Christ will come all the way to earth, conquer the false messiah (“anti-Christ”) and Israel’s enemies, and establish His kingdom.

    An understanding of Christ’s return in two stages, starting with a rapture, resolves some seemingly contradictory Bible descriptions of His second coming. For example, compare Matthew 24:27-31 where He is seen, with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 where He is unseen.

The early church was anticipating Christ’s return eagerly and EXPECTANTLY.   (Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Titus 2:13)

  • 1 Corinthians 1:7 - ...waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Waiting” is translated from apekdechomai, a word used just seven times in the NT and each time in the context of our reunion with Christ. It means “to await eagerly and expectantly, especially for the fulfilment of a promise.” [- NAS Greek Lexicon] “This word vividly pictures Paul’s eagerness and intense longing for the return of Christ, which is to be the normal attitude of every believer.” [Robertson’s NT Word Pictures]
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22 - “Maranatha!” was a Christian greeting which meant, “Our Lord is coming!” They were clearly not looking for the anti-Christ or the tribulation, but for Christ to return any day.

The early church anticipated Christ’s return IMMINENTLY.

           (1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; Titus 2:13)

  • Philippians 4:5 - “The Lord is at hand” means imminent, very soon;

Would they be so eager if they knew they must first endure the global catastrophes and destruction described in Revelation?

  • Any teaching about the timing of Christ’s second coming that ignores its “imminence” does not fit with Scripture. This leaves only one viable position: a pre-tribulational catching away of the believers with Christ.

The early church was anticipating Christ’s return INSTANTLY.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 - “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye....”

Paul was anticipating Christ’s return before his own death.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:51 - “We shall not all sleep [die]....”
  • 1 Thess. 4:16-18 - “We which are alive... shall be caught up....”

The Bible indicates that the New Testament believers will not go through the world-wide wrath of God.

  • 1 Thess. 1:9-10 - “...which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
  • 1 Thess. 5:9-11 - “For God hath not appointed us to wrath....”
  • Rev. 3:10 - “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”

The outline of the book of Revelation indicates that the rapture of the church (all believers since Christ) will occur just prior to the tribulation.

Rev. 1-3      Focuses on the N. T. churches with 22 references

Rev. 4-5     Then John is called up to glory by a voice “like a trumpet”.           

                    (Note Rev. 4:1-2 - “Come up....”)

Rev. 6         The Tribulation begins and the church is never mentioned on earth again.                 

Rev. 19        Christ returns to Earth with His army of saints (vs. 14).

The Bible says one event must take place before anti-Christ appears at the beginning of the Tribulation - someone must be removed.   (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8)  

          This fits with a pre-tribulation rapture view when all believers and the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit are removed from the earth.

The Bible never says the church will go through the end-time world-wide Tribulation, whereas there are many Scriptures indicating that it will not.