I received an email from a reader who asked me to explain how I arrived at my doctrinal conclusion that the Bible supports a pre-trib Rapture of the Church. It isn't the kind of thing that can be adequately explained in something as limited as a web column, but I will try and hit some of the points I found most convincing to me.
The question that spawned this column went as follows; "Dear Jack: I'm still trying to find a place in the Bible to convince me the Rapture will happen at the beginning of the Tribulation--which I feel we are already in due to the scary things all over the place. I respect your ideas and, if you have it, would like for you to give me that one little piece of information from the Bible to cause me to believe in a preTribulation Rapture." - Paula
What began as my reply rapidly expanded into the column you are reading.
I begin with a link to an article that I think contains some necessary background and lays out some of the groundwork. Daniel's Seventieth Week
As far as a specific verse that points to a pre-trib rapture, I don't know if I could, or that I'd advise you to trust me if I did.
One verse standing alone can be used to prove anything. Seen it done too many times to doubt it. I would be leery of any doctrine that doesn't find support across the whole body of Scripture.
I believe that a pre-Trib rapture has less dissonance with the overall Scripture than do the other views; however, I don't think the timing of the Rapture has eternal consequences among the members Body of Christ.
We're saved by grace through faith in the shed Blood of Christ as full payment for sin, not by faith in the timing of His return.
Paul said in his discussion of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians "wherefore comfort one another with these words" (4:18)-- not 'challenge or contend with one another over these words.'
Therefore, while I teach the doctrine of a pre-Tribulation Rapture because I believe that it is the correct doctrine, it is in the spirit of extending a measure of comfort that I do so.
That said, it isn't that the Rapture occurs at the beginning of the Tribulation -- it occurs before the Tribulation begins -- a different prospect altogether. The Rapture is a secret, signless, event that could have happened at any time from the days of the Apostles until tomorrow.
The Tribulation takes place at some time after the Rapture. It could be a moment later, a day later, a week later, ten years later.
The two events are unconnected, apart from the fact the first signals the end of the Church Age and the second signals the resumption and conclusion of the Age of the Law - the 'Time of Jacob's Trouble.'
It's just that the Rapture happens at some point before those judgements can begin.
Where's The Holy Spirit?
2nd Thessalonians 2:7 tells us that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way."
The word rendered 'let' in the KJV was the correct translation for English as used in King James' day.
In Old English usage common in 1611, to 'let' was to 'restrain', the precise opposite of how the word would be used in contemporary English.
So, He Who restrains will continue to restrain [evil] until He is taken out of the way, Paul writes, "and then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:"
Note first that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is God, obviously He will not be taken from the earth. Where God isn't, nothing is.
Second, note the ministry of the Holy Spirit. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;" . . . the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. . .[John 14:16, 14:26]
Clearly, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is absent during the time of the Tribulation, since that ministry is what withholds or restrains unrestricted evil now.
In any case, Jesus sent the Comforter to the Church to abide with us forever. Scripture teaches that each Christian is personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" [1 Corinthians 6:19]
Logically, then, if the Church goes through the Tribulation, but the ministry of the Holy Spirit must be withdrawn before "that Wicked is revealed", then either that withdrawal is part of a general evacuation, or else the promise of a Comforter must be revised.
Something along the lines of, "I will send you a Comforter, but just when you need Him most, during the worst time of tribulation to ever come upon humanity, when men will cry out for the rocks to fall on them rather than live another moment, well, at that time, the Comforter will be recalled. You can face the greatest spiritual assault to ever come against the earth on your own."
Who Was Jesus Talking To?
"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" [Matt 24:3]
What follows is called the Olivet Discourse in which Jesus outlines the events that will precede His coming 'at the end of the world' says the KJV -- not the 'end of the age', as some Bible versions render it.
Note carefully His audience. His reply is addressed to the Jews, not to the Church. He spoke of Tribulation events from the perspective of those who will go through it. The events described are all described from the perspective of observers geographically located in and around Jerusalem.
It wasn't the Church that asked Jesus 'what will be the sign of Thy coming and the end of the world?"
It was His disciples [all of whom were Jews] who asked the question. The Church had not yet been born at Pentecost. Jesus had not yet been rejected and crucified. Jesus was not risen, and the Comforter had not yet come.
The description of the last days contained in the Olivet Discourse is consistent with the details Jesus gave John when He described the Tribulation as John recorded in the Book of the Revelation.
Note also that Jesus addresses the Church in the first three Chapters of the Book of Revelation. It is to the Church that He makes this promise, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, 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." Rev 3:10
And a Talking Trumpet
In Chapter 4, verse one, John writes, "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter."
An open door in heaven and a talking trumpet. Hmmm.
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:52)
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:" 1 Thessalonians 4:16
John is called to heaven by a trumpet saying 'Come up hither' so he could watch what takes place next. Paul uses the same imagery to describe the Rapture.
And what takes place next from the heavenly side of the spectator's box is the beginning of the Tribulation.
From there on in, there is no mention of the Church on earth again for the remainder of the Book -- until Jesus returns at the end.
Now, I know that there will be those who will parse every word, come up with verses to contradict the verses I've cited, and that for every argument, somebody will have a counter argument.
In every case in which I've ever written on the topic, I've gotten a flood of emails from people calling me a false prophet or a deceiver and demanding I immediately adapt to their view.
I know of no Scripture that makes believing in a pre-Trib Rapture a requirement of salvation. One can be saved and not believe in any kind of Rapture at all.
So let me say this. I'm not demanding that anyone adapt themselves to my view.
This column is called "Why I Believe In A Pre-Trib Rapture" and not, "Why You Should Believe What I Do".
Neither is this intended to be an exhaustive exegesis of Scripture, or even the most profound of theological evidences. I barely scratch the surface what Systematic Theology details about pretribulationism.
These are just what were the high points for me. They fit with the whole body of Scripture when understood from a pre-Trib perspective, and require endless explanation and allegorical interpretation to make them fit any other view.
I've heard endless assaults on both Dispensationalism and Premillennialism, it's ancestry, its parentage (or lack thereof), and I've been drawn into what are, in the end, pointless and usually heated debates on the subject.
The Scriptures say, "Prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21
To me, that includes the doctrine of a pre Tribulation Rapture.