Views on the Rapture

Views on the Rapture

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Page 1019)

 NO RAPTURE

There is the view among some Christians that there will be no Rapture at all. They claim it is an unscriptural idea invented by John Darby and Cyrus Scofield. This is either a statement of ignorance or complete disingenuousness. As we saw last week, there are clearly passages which teach a rapture of the church. To each otherwise is error at best and sin at worst.

I would be charitable and say that this idea is error. These believers are generally faithful brethren but they disagree with the dispensational understanding of Scripture and so they discard the idea of a rapture altogether.

POST TRIBULATION

The Post-Tribulation Rapture theory teaches that the Church will not be raptured before the Tribulation but that it will pass through the Tribulation, and only when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation will the Church be caught up. This theory must pass two tests. First, Does the Bible plainly say that the Church will be raptured when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation? and second, If we adopt that position, how will it affect other events clearly foretold in Scripture? for “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).

We must understand that the Rapture relates exclusively to Church-age saints. It does not include Old Testament saints who were raised when Christ rose and took paradise to heaven (Matthew 27:50-53; Ephesians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4).

 

Also, the Rapture described in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 is for those who are “in Christ”, which uniquely describes all believers since Pentecost. These have been baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and it is obvious that IF the Rapture of the Church were to occur at the end of the Tribulation there would be a serious conflict with other Scriptures.

 

TEST NO.1: Are there any Scriptures which speak of a resurrection of Church-age saints, both living and dead, when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation?

The answer is, No. There is a resurrection of saints at the Second Coming (Revelation 20:4) but it is only for martyrs at the hands of Antichrist during the 7- years of Great Tribulation. It may be argued that Antichrist and his followers will receive their resurrection bodies at that time and will be “cast alive into a lake of fire” according to Revelation 19:20; Daniel 12:2; and Matthew 25:41, however, there is a total absence of any Scripture which states that there will be any resurrection of living saints when Christ returns. On the contrary, the living saints, both Jews and Gentiles, who survive the Tribulation, continue with natural bodies into the millennial kingdom.

Elsewhere we read that when Christ returns the saints come WITH Him, which requires that they be previously taken to heaven (Jude 14; Zechariah 14: 5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13). At the Rapture, however, Christ comes exclusively FOR His Church, which cannot include Old Testament saints or Tribulation saints. The saints who are alive on earth at the Second Coming are not resurrected but go alive into the kingdom (Zechariah 14:16-21).

 

TEST NO.2: The Post-Tribulation Rapture theory is in conflict with the main sequence of events in the last days.

We know that the “end of the age” will be a short period of 7 years called the Great Tribulation or “the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), after which Christ will come. Matthew wrote:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall…appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven (Matthew 24:29-30).

 

When the Lord appears in His glory He will set up a throne of judgment  at Jerusalem and judge the living nations who survive the Tribulation. Redeemed Israel (the Lord’s brethren) and the saved Gentiles (sheep) will go alive into Christ’s millennial kingdom, and the unsaved Gentiles (goats) who followed Antichrist in the Tribulation period will be cast into ”everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:31-46). This sequence of events would be impossible if there was a post-Tribulation Rapture. Why?

 

Because IF there was a post-Tribulation Rapture every saved person on earth would have a resurrection body when Christ returned, and there would not be anyone left on earth for the millennial kingdom. However, Zechariah says that “everyone that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).

 

IF all the saved are raptured when Christ returns to reign it would be impossible for babies to be born in the millennial kingdom because Jesus said that “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). Babies will be born, however, because at the end of the 1,000 years some unsaved will be deceived and rebel against Christ (Revelation 20:7-9). Resurrected saints could not have children, or be deceived.

 

IF there was a post-Tribulation Rapture there would be no need for sacrifices in the millennial kingdom. However there are sacrifices in the Millennium in memorial of Christ’s sacrifice (Ezekiel 43 & 44; Zechariah 14:20-21).

We ask, Why would it be necessary for the ships of Tarshish to bring the saved Jews back to the land at the beginning of the Millennium, IF they have ALL been raptured? They would hardly need the ships of Tarshish to bring them in resurrected bodies, “with their silver and gold” (Isaiah 60:9).

 

Many other prophecies conflict with a post-Tribulation Rapture, and it is worth noting that the Seventh Day Adventists and Amillennialists hold to this view. Both fail to understand that the Great Tribulation is for only 7 years, and both completely miss Israel’s role in the millennial kingdom. The Post-Tribulation Rapture theory results from a failure to appreciate the relationship between Israel and the Church.

 

 

PRE-WRATH

 

The pre-wrath rapture theory says that the rapture occurs before the “great day of . . . wrath” (Revelation 6:17). According to the pre-wrath view, believers go through most of the tribulation but not the time of God’s wrath just before the end of the tribulation (Matthew 24:21). The church will endure Satan’s fury and man’s persecution, but will be spared God’s wrath. Before God pours out His final judgment on the world, the church will be caught up to heaven. Here is a brief summary of the pre-wrath rapture position.

The pre-wrath rapture theory views the trumpet and the bowl judgments (Revelation 7–16) as the wrath of God, from which the church is exempted (1 Thessalonians 5:9). However, the first six seal judgments (Revelation 6) are not considered the wrath of God; rather, they are viewed as “the wrath of Satan” or “the wrath of the antichrist.” This is because there is no direct mention of God’s wrath until after the sixth seal is broken (Revelation 6:17). According to the pre-wrath rapture theory, the church will be present to experience the first six seals.

Comparing Revelation 6 with Matthew 24, the pre-wrath rapture theorists identify the first seal judgments with Jesus’ description of the end times in Matthew 24:4-7. Jesus then refers to these events as “the beginning of birth pains” (verse 8). In verses 29 and 30, “the sign of the Son of Man” appears in the sky, and it is at this time, according to the pre-wrath rapture theory, that the rapture of the church occurs.

One weakness of the pre-wrath rapture position is its presumption that the “elect” mentioned in Matthew 24:2231 are church-age saints. These saints could just as easily be individuals saved during the seven-year tribulation; in fact, Jesus tells those who flee the antichrist’s persecution to pray that their flight does not occur “on the Sabbath” (verse 20). Since the church is not under the Mosaic law and does not keep the Sabbath, Jesus’ words cannot be directed to the church.

Another flaw in the pre-wrath rapture theory is its teaching that the first seal judgments are not the wrath of God. Scripture shows that it is the Lamb who opens the seals (Revelation 5:56:1). No other man is found worthy to open them (5:3-4). It would seem, then, these are not man’s judgments, but God’s. The tribulation begins when Jesus opens the first seal, and from that point on, the wrath of God is meted out on a sinful world.

A final weakness of the pre-wrath rapture view is shared by the other theories: viz., the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.

 

PRE-TRIBULATION
Pretribulationism teaches that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation starts. At that time, the church will meet Christ in the air, and then sometime after that the Antichrist is revealed and the Tribulation begins. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His kingdom) are separated by at least seven years. According to this view, the church does not experience any of the Tribulation.

Scripturally, the pretribulational view has much to commend it. For example, the church is not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:9-105:9), and believers will not be overtaken by the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9). The church of Philadelphia was promised to be kept from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). Note that the promise is not preservation through the trial but deliverance from the hour, that is, from the time period of the trial.

Pretribulationism also finds support in what is not found in Scripture. The word “church” appears nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but, significantly, the word is not used again until chapter 22. In other words, in the entire lengthy description of the Tribulation in Revelation, the word church is noticeably absent. In fact, the Bible never uses the word “church” in a passage relating to the Tribulation.

Pretribulationism is the only theory which clearly maintains the distinction between Israel and the church and God’s separate plans for each. The seventy “sevens” of Daniel 9:24 are decreed upon Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). This prophecy makes it plain that the seventieth week (the Tribulation) is a time of purging and restoration for Israel and Jerusalem, not for the church.

Also, pretribulationism has historical support. From John 21:22-23, it would seem that the early church viewed Christ’s return as imminent, that He could return at any moment. Otherwise, the rumor would not have persisted that Jesus would return within John’s lifetime. Imminence, which is incompatible with the other two Rapture theories, is a key tenet of pretribulationism.

And the pretribulational view seems to be the most in keeping with God’s character and His desire to deliver the righteous from the judgment of the world. Biblical examples of God’s salvation include Noah, who was delivered from the worldwide flood; Lot, who was delivered from Sodom; and Rahab, who was delivered from Jericho (2 Peter 2:6-9).

One perceived weakness of pretribulationism is its relatively recent development as a church doctrine, not having been formulated in detail until the early 1800s. Another weakness is that pretribulationism splits the return of Jesus Christ into two “phases”—the Rapture and the Second Coming—whereas the Bible does not clearly delineate any such phases.

Another difficulty facing the pretribulational view is the fact that there will obviously be saints in the Tribulation (Revelation 13:720:9). Pretribulationists answer this by distinguishing the saints of the Old Testament and the saints of the Tribulation from the church of the New Testament. Believers alive at the Rapture will be removed before the Tribulation, but there will be those who will come to Christ during the Tribulation.

 

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