To The Point: The Pre-Trib Rapture
Before continuing, please consider these principles:
- Having a good understanding of all scripture is vital if one presumes to teach any part of it. That means no cherry-picking or ignoring context.
- Every interpretation of the Bible hinges on whether there's a sharp distinction between Israel and the church. Disagreement on that point means disagreement on everything else.
- Neither of those "main branches of the tree" should call each other names. If your side is calling the other names, your side has a much bigger problem than prophecy views. Argue the idea, not the person. You and your side haven't been designated the infallible interpreter of scripture, so be humble and remember that we're all imperfect in our understanding, and that genuine believers can disagree without one of them being a heretic, a false teacher, or a devil.
- The pre-trib Rapture is the most straightforward conclusion to reach from the basis of the church not being Israel. Please see this video playlist for lessons on the 5 main covenants of scripture.
This document will begin with a claim-and-rebuttal section, then give more detailed explanations. “Pre-tribulational Rapture” will be abbreviated as PTR, and these are not in any particular order of importance.
Claim: People who believe in the PTR are conceited and “holier than thou”.
Rebuttal: The opposite is true. PTR believers simply see the promise in scripture that Jesus will remove his Body before the wrath of God is poured out on the world. It doesn’t depend on the quality or maturity of Christians, but simply their being in Christ. No PTR believer bases their “blessed hope” on their own righteousness, any more than all the Christians who reject PTR base their salvation on their own righteousness. In fact, if anyone is “holier than thou”, it would be those who pride themselves on their alleged ability to “overcome” during the wrath of God, looking down their noses at anyone who disagrees.
Claim: The PTR teaches that Christians will not suffer, so it sets them up for falling away from the faith.
Rebuttal: This is burning a straw man; PTR teaches no such thing. Jesus promised persecution to his followers (Mark 10:30), and Paul in 2 Tim. 3:12 said, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. Even today, many Christians are suffering terribly and dying for the Name of Jesus. So anyone who teaches that Christians will not suffer is clearly in error, regardless of their views on prophecy. The fact is that PTR only concerns the wrath of God and the time Daniel was told was for punishing the unbelieving world and bringing Israel back to God. Since the first 69 weeks of years of the prophecy of Daniel had nothing to do with the church, then neither will the 70th. And since all other generations of believers escaped the Tribulation, why would only one generation require this extra refining?
Those who oppose PTR are unprepared for the sudden appearing of Jesus; they look for the Antichrist instead of the Christ. They will also not receive “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). If PTR is wrong, it will be time for those who boasted of their preparation and immunity from being fooled to prove themselves. In contrast, PTR believers would never be fooled, since the Antichrist will not do any of the following:
- sound the trumpet of God
- give the shout of the archangel
- raise from the dead all Christians who have died
- give the dead new, immortal bodies
- instantly transform the bodies of the living Christians to immortal
- take all of us (not invite us to board a spaceship) to meet him in the air
We also know that we are already sealed with the Holy Spirit, so we will not accept any other seals. The Mark of the Beast is a pledge of loyalty and has to be taken knowingly and voluntarily, and Jesus would never say “take this mark or starve to death”.
Claim: The PTR is a recent invention.
Rebuttal: The most common citation of this being a new teaching is a teenager named Margaret MacDonald, who claimed to have had a prophetic vision in 1824. But she did not have a vision of any Rapture at all, let alone a PTR (see this quotation from a preterist source). Further, no PTR teacher ever cites her or her alleged vision for any reason. Critics who would then allege a conspiracy to hide such a source would be arguing from silence, not to mention opening themselves up to similar charges. There are also much earlier references to PTR, such as the post-apostolic writing known as The Shepherd of Hermas (ca. a.d. 140).
Another historical fact is that between Constantine and the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had control of what the vast majority of people believed. So whatever they were against would not be written about extensively, especially by people who faced persecution for going against the RCC. So there were many things not written about during those centuries. And since the RCC did not teach any Rapture view, it should come as no surprise that the Rapture, regardless of timing, would not be found in the history of that era.
Claim: The PTR was a heresy started by Darby and made popular by Scofield.
Rebuttal: Darby stated that he saw the PTR in scripture, three years before MacDonald’s (non-rapture) vision. Scofield was noted for his teaching of Dispensationalism, as well as his Reference Bible. The PTR is a logical conclusion to draw from a dispensational approach to scripture, but this approach is hardly heresy. The allegorical approach is at least as open to the same charge, as is so-called Covenant Theology wherein no distinction is made between the church and Israel.
Claim: The PTR is escapist and cowardly.
Rebuttal: In Luke 21:36 Jesus said to “pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen”; in Rev. 3:10 Jesus said, “I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth”. Is Jesus teaching that escape is cowardly? How about Isaiah 26:20? “Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.”
Claim: The PTR creates an extra coming of Christ.
Rebuttal: By that argument, Jesus should not come back at all, since the OT does not say the Messiah would come twice. And where does scripture even say how many times Jesus can or must come? Who decided that there is a Second Coming and not a third? We only know of the two comings in the OT by hindsight, noting that there are two sets of Messianic prophecies that could not both be true for a single coming. This sets a precedent for the future as well. We see in the NT two sets of prophecies regarding Jesus’ return, and note that they both cannot be true for a single coming or appearing. So just as the OT said nothing about how many times the Messiah would come yet we know it’s at least two, so also the NT says nothing about how many times Jesus will return yet we know it must be at least twice. And Jesus does not touch the earth when he comes for his Body; they meet him in the air.
Claim: The first resurrection isn’t until Rev. 20:5-6, after the Tribulation.
Rebuttal: That passage identifies the people being resurrected as those who had been beheaded for not worshiping the Beast or taking the Mark. So no Christian who died by some other method than beheading will take part in this first resurrection. And what about all the Christians who die during the first half of the Tribulation, before the Mark is given? Also, these people only reign with Christ for the Millennium. Further, the passage contrasts this resurrection of the Tribulation saints with the resurrection of all the rest of the dead from all ages of history, at the White Throne Judgment in Rev. 20:11-15. Though it isn’t named as such, this is the second resurrection.
Neither of these two resurrections pertain to the Body of Christ. As Paul stated clearly in 1 Thes. 4:17, not all Christians will experience death, so not all Christians will ever be resurrected; a person must die in order to rise. And if it is then argued that our resurrection is in Christ, then how many resurrections are there for those Christians who died during the Tribulation and are raised again at the end of it? How many times can the dead rise without dying again? We must conclude that the first resurrection in this context refers only to people who came to faith during the second half of the Tribulation and were martyred by beheading.
Another passage often overlooked on this matter is the scenario provided by Jesus in Mat. 25:31. This is the well-known judgment of the “sheep and goats” which clearly happens when he returns to earth after the Tribulation and sits on his throne to judge the survivors. We have already noted that this is not the final judgment of all the dead. Another reason it is not the judgment of the church is that salvation is by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9), and the post-Trib. view agrees that the church has been given immortality by this time. So we must conclude that this is a judgment of the still-mortal survivors of the Tribulation.
There are two groups of people before the separation of sheep from goat even begins: the ones to be judged, and “the least of my brothers and sisters”, But who are “the least”? It’s possible that they could be the church, but it’s also possible that these are the Jews who fled to the place of safety when they witnessed the Abomination of Desolation (Rev. 12:6, 14). They are not being judged since God kept them safe for the entire duration of the Great Tribulation, “out of the serpent’s reach”. Their safety is proof of their being righteous.
Regardless of the identity of “the least”, the indisputable fact is that there will be righteous mortals repopulating the world after the church has been immortalized and raptured. And since this is true, then there is no necessary reason for the saints of the Tribulation to be part of the church.
Claim: The PTR ignores what Jesus taught in Mat. 24.
Rebuttal: Anti-PTR ignores practically every other passage about end-times prophecy, putting Mat. 24 in a vacuum. And many people are confused by the signs and disasters in Revelation, thinking that all instances of earthquakes for example are one and the same event. But consider this: Jesus told of extreme cosmic events after the Great Tribulation which will make it clear that it is indeed the end (Mat. 24:29-31, ref. Isaiah 13:10; 34:4):
- sun and moon go dark
- stars fall from sky
- powers of heavens (skies and/or space) shaken
- extreme turbulence on earth, with oceans roaring and splashing
- the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man in the sky
- he descends in the clouds in great power and majesty
- trumpet blast to send out Messengers to collect “the chosen” from all over “the heavens”
On the surface, the first four signs appear to match up with the 6th Seal of Revelation (Rev. 6:12–14), which is clearly not the end of the Great Tribulation:
- the moon is red instead of black
- the stars fall to earth
- the sky itself “rolls up like a scroll”
- every mountain is shifted from its place.
There is at least one Old Testament reference to such things as well (Joel 2:31), and it too places them “before that great and terrible day of the Master”:
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Master.
So we see that very similar signs both precede and follow the 70th week of the prophecy of Daniel.
Claim: The PTR is the “strong delusion” prophesied by Paul.
Rebuttal: The delusion Paul mentions is sent from God to “them” (2 Thess. 2:10-13), not from Satan to Christians. So there is no basis in scripture for this ridiculous charge, and it can be made just as easily against opposition to PTR. Since PTR comes mostly from Paul in the first place, one would be hard-pressed to show how he would call his own teaching delusional.
Claim: Paul taught that the Rapture isn’t until after The Man of Sin is revealed.
Rebuttal: The passage being referenced is 2 Thes. 2:1–12, specifically vs 3: “Don’t let anyone trick you in any way, for that day will not come until the Departure happens and then the Lawless One, the destroyer, is revealed.” But “that day” refers to “the day of the Lord” in the previous verse, which is not the Departure/Rapture. Moreover, the people Paul was writing to were afraid that they had missed the Departure and would now go through the Tribulation. Who fears an allegory, or is afraid they missed the Tribulation? Conversely, who should be comforted (1 Thes. 4:13-18) by a teaching that has them going through the Tribulation?
We tell you this in the Word of the Master, that we who are alive when the Master appears will not be in line in front of those who have died. For the Master himself will descend from heaven with the loud command of the Ruling Messenger and the trumpet of God; the dead in the Anointed will rise first, and then we who are alive will be snatched away at the same time with them in the clouds, to meet the Master in the air. Then we will always be together with the Master. So comfort each other with these words.
Here is an example of how the PTR interprets 2 Thes. 2:1-8a:
Now about that question you asked regarding us meeting Jesus in the air. Don’t let anyone fool you! We said nothing like what that fake letter claimed, that the Tribulation has already started. The Tribulation cannot begin until after the Rapture, and then the Lawless One will be revealed. How could you forget what I told you? And you know what’s holding him back for now. Although lawlessness is already here, it’s only after the church is taken out of the way that the Lawless One will be revealed.
Claim: The PTR invents a “last trumpet” before the last one mentioned in Revelation.
Rebuttal: The 7th trump is not the last trump. The 7th is of an angel and is a judgment (Rev. 11:15), while the last is of God and is a blessing (1 Thess. 4:16). There was a “last” trumpet for Israel before Christ (Numbers 10:5-6), which Paul’s readers would have understood as a call to leave or break camp, as opposed to those of Revelation which had not yet been given.
Claim: The wrath of God does not begin until the Bowl judgments.
Rebuttal: It is undeniable that Jesus, the Lamb, is also God. So any wrath coming from Jesus is, by definition, the wrath of God. This is acknowledged in Rev. no later than Rev. 6:16, but note that it is the people of earth making this statement, not God or John or any heavenly Messenger. Also note that all of the Seals are opened by the Lamb, even though the results on earth are “natural” for the first four. That is, the Lamb instigates the Seal judgments, so they are all the wrath of God.
Claim: The Rapture is at the 6th Seal judgment.
Rebuttal: This claim is based upon presuming the identity of the “multitude in white robes from every nation” in Rev. 7:9-17. But the Greek grammar clearly indicates their origin and scope: they come out of the Great Tribulation. There is no indication that this was a past, singular event (lit. “coming”), and their origin is not just “tribulation” but “THE Great Tribulation”. This same expression is used by Jesus to describe “a time of trouble never seen before and never to be seen again” (Mat. 24:21), and this is immediately after Jesus quotes Daniel’s statement about “the abomination of desolation”. So the multitude comes from the time of the Bowl judgments, even though John sees them at the sixth seal.
Claim: There is nothing connecting Daniel to Revelation.
Rebuttal: Daniel 9:27 says,
He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven.’ In the middle of the “seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
We find that same event in Rev. 13:1-8, indicating the midpoint of that “week’:
Then I saw a wild animal rise out of the sea, and it had ten horns and seven heads… The whole earth was astounded at the wild animal, and they worshiped the dragon for giving jurisdiction to it. They said, “Who is like the wild animal, and who can fight it?” The wild animal was given a mouth with which to speak great and slanderous things, and its jurisdiction would be for forty-two months. It opened up its mouth to slander God and his name, and his sanctuary and all who live in heaven. And it was allowed to do battle with the holy people and conquer them, as well as to have jurisdiction over all tribes, people groups, languages, and non-Judeans. All the earth-dwellers will worship it, whose names have not been written in the scroll of life of the Lamb who had been slaughtered from the establishment of the world.
So both passages describe a world leader who confirms a seven-year covenant and then breaks it by declaring himself God and setting up an abomination in the temple. It is thus logical to conclude that both Daniel and Revelation, which no one denies extend to the end of human history, describe the same period, which Daniel stipulates to be seven years.
Claim: The PTR contradicts where Rev. says the saints will be overcome by the Beast.
Rebuttal: That passage was quoted above, but the “holy people” are not the church. The terms holy people, saints, elect, etc. were also used of the righteous in the Old Testament as well, so they are not exclusive terms for the church. That is, though everyone in the church is a saint, not every saint is in the church. And since saints preceded the church age, they will also follow it. This must be considered in context, and when the context is the point being debated, then the identity of these people depends completely on one’s view of dispensations. But if dispensationalism is the right view, then these are not church-age believers. And we must consider what Jesus said in Mat. 16:18, that “the gates of Hades” will not overcome the church.
- Bible Prophecy, Foundation and Future
- End Times Bible Prophecy Summary
- Commentary on Revelation
- Commentary on 1 Thessalonians
- Commentary on 2 Thessalonians
- Commentary on 1 Corinthians
- Commentary on the Gospels
- Thomas Ice: Why I Believe in the Pre-Trib Rapture
- Eschatology at Always Be Ready
1 Thes. 4:13–18
Now brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who have died, so that you do not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and then rose, so also will God raise the dead through Jesus. We tell you this in the Word of the Master, that we who are alive when the Master appears will not be in line in front of those who have died. For the Master himself will descend from heaven with the loud command of the Ruling Messenger and the trumpet of God; the dead in the Anointed will rise first, and then we who are alive will be snatched away at the same time with them in the clouds, to meet the Master in the air. Then we will always be together with the Master. So comfort each other with these words.
- Jesus descends
- Dead in Christ raised
- Living in Christ transformed in an instant (1 Cor. 15:52)
- All in Christ snatched away up into the clouds to meet Jesus
- This is a message of comfort, not dread
Notice also that Paul makes no mention of a time of suffering to purge, test, or punish the church before this event he is now describing. He is repeating what he had told them before, and the first thing is Jesus descending from heaven to the sky. No earthquakes, no signs, no nothing, but only a message of comfort and hope.
So there it is, in the simplest terms. It is “that blessed hope” for which “there is a crown of righteousness” for all who long for Jesus to come. I implore you all to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, so that you can, as Jesus said, “escape all these things” to come.
Mapping Daniel to Revelation
“Seventy “sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
”Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens,’ and sixty-two “sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two “sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven.’ In the middle of the “seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
First is the overview of the 70 weeks:
- They concern the people of Israel and Jerusalem, not the church.
- Purpose: to finish (complete) transgression.
- Purpose: to put an end to sin.
- Purpose: to atone for wickedness.
- Purpose: to bring in everlasting righteousness.
- Purpose: to seal up (complete) vision and prophecy.
- Purpose: to anoint the Most Holy Place in the Temple.
The 70 Weeks would begin when the decree was given (turned out to be Nebuchadnezzar) to rebuild Jerusalem, and it would stop short of the final week when the Messiah would be killed. There would be a prince to come, known now to have been Titus, whose people destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. This is the same event Jesus referred to about not one stone being left upon another, as it was literally fulfilled when the Romans wanted the melted gold that had run between the blocks. After this event there would be wars and desolations. Then after that span of wars would come he who does all of the following:
- Confirm a 7-year covenant or treaty “with many”.
- Violate the treaty at the midpoint by ending sacrifice and offering in the temple.
- Set up an idol in the temple.
Clearly Jesus did not set up any idols, nor make and break any 7-year treaties. The same he does all of this. Now we will see where this treaty and violation matches up with Revelation:
Then I saw a wild animal rise out of the sea, and it had ten horns and seven heads… The whole earth was astounded at the wild animal, and they worshiped the dragon for giving jurisdiction to it. They said, “Who is like the wild animal, and who can fight it?”
The wild animal was given a mouth with which to speak great and slanderous things, and its jurisdiction would be for forty-two months. It opened up its mouth to slander God and his name, and his sanctuary and all who live in heaven. And it was allowed to do battle with the holy people and conquer them, as well as to have jurisdiction over all tribes, people groups, languages, and non-Judeans. All the earth-dwellers will worship it, whose names have not been written in the scroll of life of the Lamb who had been slaughtered from the establishment of the world.
This point (idol in the temple, Beast demands to be worshiped as God) in Rev. is the 7th trumpet, so the 7th trumpet marks the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week. Therefore, all the trumpets are in the first 3.5 years. It is unknown whether the Seals are before or after the beginning of that time, as they may comprise a gap between the Rapture and the confirmation of the covenant for 7 years.
The Rapture precedes the Seals because it must be something Satan cannot predict, as evidenced by his continually trying to have an oligarchy in place.
2 Thes. 2:1-12
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us— whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter— asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the Departure occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
Paul is writing to calm the people who had received a forged letter claiming to be from Paul, wherein they were told they had missed The Departure and were now entering the Tribulation. Paul is writing to quash the false teaching and spell out the true teaching he had brought them before. Had he taught them they’d go through the Tribulation, they would not be comforted by his words, nor would they be afraid they had missed the Tribulation (!!).
The Day of the Lord is NOT the same as The Departure. This has to be very clear. And Paul states the order of events:
- The Departure
- The revealing of the man of lawlessness
- The Day of the Lord
Paul also gives important details about The Great Lie:
- It comes from God.
- It is given to “them”, who “have not believed the truth but delighted in wickedness”.
God will not delude his own people or accuse them of hating truth and loving wickedness. Neither will true Christians accept any other seal than that of the Holy Spirit, “the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (2 Cor. 1:22).
The continual slander against the pre-trib view is based upon failure to understand it or blind acceptance of lies from its enemies. We do NOT smugly watch the world decay, nor do we ignore the terrible persecution of Christians now or in history, nor do we wish for the suffering of the lost. Neither are we unprepared for suffering, as this was promised by Jesus to all his followers.
The truth is that we are highly motivated to spread the Gospel so others too can “escape all these things” as Jesus said. What things? Not the typical wrath of Satan and man, but the wrath of God to come.
Who will really be unprepared? Is it not the ones who disbelieve in the pre-trib Rapture? The Beast/AC cannot duplicate all the requirements of Jesus coming for his Body:
- shout and trumpet
- Jesus descending from heaven
- the dead in Christ arise
- the living in Christ are instantly made immortal
- the whole Body of Christ is taken into heaven (note that we do NOT have to board a ship)
In contrast, the Beast/AC will arise out of the earth. As for the Mark, Christians are ALREADY SEALED and would never be fooled into taking another one. But opponents of pre-trib will be caught off-guard by the Rapture, and will be among those caught “beating their fellow servants” when Jesus arrives; just look at the comments in various message boards for examples of such beatings. They will be caught looking for the Beast/AC rather than Jesus.
Even mid-trib rapture believers heap abuse upon pre-tribbers over a difference in timing of 3-1/2 years, and will call them stupid, wicked, deceived, evil, false Christians. Why? Some possibilities:
- They are unprepared for Jesus to come, because they are attached to the world.
- They are afraid to be thought unsophisticated or smeared by association with the many failed Rapture date-setters.
- They think that they have to suffer in a way no other believers of any generation have suffered, which will earn them special rewards in heaven.
- They think that during the Tribulation they will become super-Christians who are fearless and impossible to deceive.
This is why I created this document: to dispel slander and rumors, and to convey “that blessed hope” to those without hope, so they too can be given “the crown of righteousness for all who have longed for HIS (Jesus’) appearing”. (APPEARING, not “second coming”)
“…wait for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from the dead: Jesus, the One who rescues us from the coming anger.” ~ 1 Thes. 1:10
“Don’t let disturbing thoughts fill your minds; trust in God, and trust in me. There are many residences in my Father’s home. If there weren’t, I would have said so, since I’m going there to get a place ready for all of you. And if I go and do that, I will return to you and accept you as my own, so that you can be where I am. And you are familiar with the way to where I’m going.” ~ John 14:1–4