Why I Believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Part 3
The study of prophecy and the revelation of future things has always been given by God in the context of comfort and encouragement so that when we go through times of national crisis, world-wide calamity, or personal adversity, we know that God has a plan that He is going to bring to completion. And even though things may look bad in the near future there is certainty in God's plan. So the doctrine of the Rapture is designed for comfort.
When is the Rapture?
Within pre-millennialism there are different views about the Rapture. Premillennialism, amillenialism, and post-millennialism have to do with the relationship of the Second Coming to the Millennium, whereas the Rapture views have to do with the relationship of Christ's coming for the church to the seven-year period known as the Tribulation. The pre-Tribulational Rapture view states that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation and will include all believers who will be immediately taken to be with the Lord in the air. This is followed at some point by the seven-year Tribulation and then the Millennium.
The second view is the partial Rapture view, that spiritual Christians get raptured at the end of the church age but carnal Christians, immature Christians, have to go through the Tribulation. This view is defined as the view that only those faithful, totally dedicated Christians will be caught up, leaving carnal Christians behind to be chastened by the Tribulation.
Then we have the mid-Tribulation Rapture view in which all church age believers will be forced to endure the first three and a half years of wrath, but then when it comes to the most intense form of the Tribulation we will be removed. Not a large number of people have held this view over the years, but a new view came along about 15 years ago called the pre-wrath view. This was the idea that the wrath of God is poured out most intensely during the last quarter or so of the Tribulation, so this is a sort of three-quarter Rapture view which is similar to the mid-Tribulation view. These views all forget the fact that the wrath of the Lamb is poured out on the earth from the very beginning of the Tribulation, as we will see in Revelation chapters six and seven. So why would the bride of Christ receive the wrath of her groom just before the wedding?
The post-Tribulation Rapture view is that all believers go through the Tribulation and the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, forcing all believers to endure the entire seven-year period.
Problems with the post-Tribulation view
1) Believers are subject to the time of wrath. This would mean that church age believers, the bride of Christ, are subject to the wrath of the Lamb and the wrath of God during the Tribulation period. The term "wrath of God" is a term that is used in several passages as a technical term for the extreme judgments that come upon the earth during the Tribulation.
2) This is not talking about divine discipline upon believers, this is talking about divine judgment on the earth, and the object is the earth dwellers, which is almost a synonymous term in Revelation for those who are unbelievers in the Tribulation.
3) The Antichrist is to appear before Jesus Christ, but according to Titus 2:13 we are looking for the blessed hope of the appearance of our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. If that is preceded by anything then that is what we are to be looking for. And if the Antichrist is going to appear before Jesus Christ then we should be looking for the Antichrist so that we can be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ. The Antichrist is not going to appear until after the Rapture occurs.
4) Populating the Millennium. There is no one left to populate the Millennium on a post-Tribulational viewpoint.
5) The Rapture, then, is equivalent to the Second Coming, according to a post-Tribulation viewpoint; they are not distinguishable events.
Basic approaches to prophecy: We need to think of three views as past, present, and future.
The first view is called preterism. Preterism is simply a Latin word meaning "past." Perterism is the view that all prophecy was fulfilled by 70 AD, that all the language in Matthew 24 and in Revelation 4-19 was simply symbolic language related to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and Israel's being taken out in judgment. Only a few passages in Revelation 20 & 21 that would be yet future. It is most consistent with a covenant theology and post-Millennial viewpoint.
Then there is the view known as historicism in which prophecy is being fulfilled during the church age. In historicism we go into various passages and try to find out where we are today in light of this panorama of biblical prophecy. It is the view that prophecy is being fulfilled throughout the church age. We see dispensationalists act like historicists when they try to identify when the Rapture is going to occur. Date setting is consistent with historicism but not dispensationalism, because dispensationalists believe that the Rapture could occur at any time, it is a non-sign event.
We believe in futurism, that passages like Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-19 are yet to be fulfilled.
Pre-Tribulation doctrine is based on several critical things. It is the culmination of certain theological conclusions. The foundation is literal interpretation, that we believe the Bible should be interpreted in its normal plain sense.
The first essential element is pre-Millennialism. If you are not thinking pre-millennially that Jesus is going to return before the Millennium then you are not going to be at all concerned about the Tribulation or when the Rapture occurs in relation to the Tribulation because neither post-millennialism nor amillennialism deal with a seven-year Tribulation. So for all that period of church history when no one was thinking in terms of premillennialism no one was thinking about when the Rapture would occur. Then, futurism has to be in place, the idea that these prophecies haven't been fulfilled and they are yet to be fulfilled. Third, there has to be an understanding of the distinction between Israel and the church. For much of the church age, under amillennialism, the church was viewed as a replacement to Israel, and so they have spiritualized the promises to Israel to make them apply to the church.
There are other elements that are built upon that foundation. The first is a contrast between the comings, that there is a distinction between the Rapture of the church and the Second Coming. Therefore there must be an interval between the comings, they can't be the same event. We believe in imminency, that the Bible teaches that Christ could come at any moment, so therefore no signs indicate the Rapture. Then the nature of the Tribulation, that it is centred on Israel. Israel is a focal point in the Tribulation period and the judgments during the Tribulation are such that the church would not be here. The nature of the church is another aspect. Because of the nature and the purpose of the church we do not see a role of the church in the Tribulation period. Then the work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Thessalonians 2 says that the restrainer will be removed before the Antichrist will be revealed. The restrainer is a reference to God the Holy Spirit.
The result of all this is that a study of these things is a practical motivation for spiritual growth, evangelism and missions. During the last 200 years as this has been taught more and more it has stimulated missions, especially to Jews. It is only out of dispensationalism that many of these Jewish ministries have emerged. As a result of that thousands of Jews have come to understand Jesus as the Messiah.