Over many years while under the ministry of many preachers, teachers, and laymen in the church, I heard every possible defense of the pre-tribulaton or pre-trib rapture view of the church in the last day. Growing up in a small holiness church in central Ohio, the consensus was that the pre-trib timing of the rapture was certain. No dissenting view was ever heard.
As a young person, I did not question my elders’ understanding of the Scriptures. I believed and wanted to always believe that the rapture of the church came before the Great Tribulation. Christians would be spirited away (quite literally) into the heavens, kept safe from all the horrors about to come upon the earth in that day.
I believed that for the first score and four years of my life. Then one day, troubled with the lack of support for that belief in the Holy Bible, I asked our pastor about it. He referred me to the very passages that had troubled me with no explanation of the text, only an assurance that this is what it has to mean.
There was no chance of finding someone in my church to talk about this with an objective view toward the Scriptures. On some of my early and naive attempts, the mere thought of being on the earth during the Great Tribulation brought some of them to tears. It just wasn’t worth putting loved ones through that when I was not sure myself.
Fortunately, the Internet soon came along and I was able to begin searching for what people all around the world were saying. Not only did I discover there is absolutely no biblical support to the pre-trib rapture theory but also the dispensational view of the Holy Bible was lacking proof. Every single tenet, foundation, and proof for any defense I had ever heard for the pre-tribulation rapture went ‘poof!’ right before my eyes as I read the text.
As the Holy Spirit is opening more and more hearts, minds, and eyes to the truth on this matter, the remaining supporters of it are being more forceful than ever in proclaiming their defense of the pre-tribulation rapture. Some are getting down-right mean toward those who pray for them to see the truth on the matter, accusing us of having no interest in prophecy and not longing for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
That attitude may be an indication of the Holy Spirit dealing with hearts or it may be a sign of clinging to a comfortable deception that tickles itching ears. I was that way once — who wouldn’t rather believe you’re going to be taken away to be with the Lord before the world falls apart than face the truth that we need to prepared to stand true and minister as it does?
Views on Revelation and the rapture
Let’s quickly review the most prominent views of the Book of Revelation and the rapture.
The pre-trib (as in, tribulation, referring to the Great Tribulation) view of the rapture (aka the return of Christ Jesus for His church) is popular among dispensationalists. They claim that it happens so that the church is not on the earth at the time of the Great Tribulation. One reason given for this having to be so is that we are to be spared from God’s wrath, as promised. Another such reason is that it permits God to deal exclusively with the Jewish people for the last seven years of the age.
The pre-trib timing of the rapture is one perspective held among a vast number of views of what will take place during the end times according to those holding to a futurist interpretation of the events described in the Book of Revelation (that’s singular, by the way).
The futurist view stands in contrast to the preterist, historicist, and idealist views of the Revelation. To quickly review:
- Preterists generally believes everything in the Book of Revelation was fulfilled by 70 A.D.;
- Historicists propose that it covers all of church history from the first apostles to the return of Christ;
- Idealists believe it is an allegory explaining the spiritual struggle between God and the satan from beginning to end; and,
- Futurists tend to believe that all of the Revelation is describing events yet future.
Folks believing the events are mostly past or allegory may not have the same divisions as we who see the end of days as a future event in real time. I’m sure there are exceptions, but most historicists I know believe the rapture comes after the Great Tribulation and hold to the amillennial viewpoint.
As a futurist, you can hold any of many different perspective on the text as well as any combination of those perspectives, those these generally center on three basic concepts: The rapture, the millennium, and dispensationalism. The last one divides most futurists into two camps.
- If you hold to the dispensationalist view of the Holy Bible, you are almost certainly an adherent to the pre-trib rapture. That’s because dispensationalism does not make sense without it.
- If you reject dispensationlism, you can see things clearly.
I have heard people who grew up in the same little church as I did say, as an adult without Christ, that they will know it is time to get ready when the rapture happens. Not only is that bad thinking because we never know when our own personal ‘rapture’ will occur but it sets up those around those people to not be trusted when the last days turn out as they will (with the church still here). Let’s say Bill believed everything his aunt Sally told him about the Bible since he was a little boy in that little country church and one thing she’s always taught him is that the rapture happens before the Great Tribulation.
Bill hasn’t been to church in years, has no relationship with the Lord at all, but has it in his mind to make things right when aunt Sally and other Christians he knows are raptured. If Bill and Sally are fortunate to remain alive until that day, what does Sally tell Bill? That she was wrong and here is what’s happening now. Will Bill believe she is right this time? Without seeing the rapture happen, will he be provoked to find faith at all?
And then, there is the readiness of the church. I won’t accuse that those who hold to these beliefs are all going to fall should they be alive at the end times, but if we think (in the USA) that religious persecution has come to our land today, well, we haven’t seen anything yet. We must be prepared to lose all, plain and simple. Material goods, people we love, freedoms, rights, up to our very lives. The Holy Spirit will give us what to say and what to pray, so we don’t need to rehearse speeches or memorize prayers, but we need to be ready for that day all the same.
Easy to follow
This will not be one of those over-your-head articles that throw so many intricate details at you that the big picture gets missed. It’s easy to follow and understand. I promise.
No particular order
I think that’s enough of an introduction. When you are ready to begin the first installment of this series, click where you’d like to begin. There in no particular order.
More to read in the series: (full list coming soon)
More . . .