This article aims to establish the fact that the Pretribulation rapturism is the authentic and the most Bible based and doctrinal theory concerning the rapture.
It is an established fact that there are three main theories concerning the rapture as propagated by various theologians from different climes, denominations, faiths, religious background and worldview. These three theories are: the Pretribulation rapturism theory (the crux of this work), the Midtribulation rapturism theory and the Posttribulation rapturism theory.
The Pretribulation rapturism theory postulates that the rapture will take place before the Great Tribulation.
The Midtribulation rapturism theory states that the Great Tribulation will start and in the middle of it, the rapture will take place and the Great Tribulation will continue.
The Posttribulation rapturism theory opines that the Great Tribulation will happen before the rapture, adding that the rapture will bring an end to the Great Tribulation.
Meanwhile, the Great Tribulation is a time of pain, agony, suffering, punishment and wickedness that will be unleashed on the inhabitants of the earth.
It will be well understood and established at the end of this work that the rapture must take place on the earth before the Great Tribulation.
As opposed to the brief introduction of the rapture in John 14:2-3, 1 Thessalonians, probably the first epistle written by the Apostle Paul, contributes more to the doctrine of the rapture than any other book of the New Testament. It is most significant that this truth is given such prominence in teaching a young Church that is being introduced to basic truth. The rapture is mentioned in one way or another in every chapter of the book of 1 Thessalonians viz-a-viz 1:10, 2:12, 3:13, 4:13 – 18, 5:1-11 and 5:23.
As a result of the frequent reference and extensive revelation relating to the subject of the rapture, most pretribulationists find basic proof for their position in 1 Thessalonians. In contrast, post tribulationists are faced with the problem of what to do with the evidence for the rapture presented in this epistle. While post tribulationist like Gundry argue at length in attempting to relate the revelation of this epistle to post tribulationism, most post tribulationists tend to ignore the details given here. Obviously, if the Great Tribulation is going to precede the rapture, it would be natural to state this in a book dedicated to the exposition of the doctrine of the rapture. The problem for post tribulationists is that these books of 1 Thessalonians present the rapture uniformly as an imminent event, as if there were no Great Tribulation preceding it.
Even though some of the references to the rapture in 1 Thessalonians are brief, they all imply that the Thessalonians were looking for the return of Christ any day, which of course implies that the rapture must of a certainty happen before the Great Tribulation. The first reference in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 is of this character where Paul described their expectation, “And to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath”. Here the hope of the Lord is seen as an event duly anticipated and an event that preceded the coming wrath.
In the closing verses of 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul described his Joy when they will all stand in the presence of the Lord: “for what is our hope, our Joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Also, in this passage the rapture is presented as an event that could occur at any time and one that should bring great Joy to the apostle.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:13, a similar thought is expressed. “May He give you inner strength that you may be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His Holy ones”. Some have taken this as the time of meeting Christ when the rapture occurs in the earthly sphere. Others picture this as possibly referring to the arrival of the church in Heaven, as indicated in the phrase “in the presence of our God and Father”. Although not a clear reference, it is in harmony with the pre tribulational rapture point of view that the Church will be taken from earth and presented in Heaven in the presence of the Father.
There are two important passages in 2 Thessalonians that have a vital relationship to the interpretation of the doctrine of the rapture. The first concerns the comfort extended to the Thessalonians in their persecution in 1:5-10; the second is the word of correction concerning Paul’s teaching that had reached the Thessalonians, as stated in 2:1-12. A third reference is in 2 Thessalonians 3:5, where the believers are exhorted to “patient waiting for Christ”. Thus third reference is indecisive, for it is similar to many other references to their hope of the Lord’s return.
It is crystal clear from both Thessalonians epistles that the Christians in Thessalonica had undergone much persecution which can never be compared to the Great Tribulation. Paul exhorted the Christians to bear in mind that in due time God would punish their persecution.
It is also crystal clear that one of the two main passages on the doctrine of the rapture in the New Testament is found in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58. In many aspects, this passage complements the other major passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In 1 Thessalonians 4, the question was whether those who had died in Christ would have the same benefits and experience as those who were translated. In 1 Corinthians 15, the question is whether those who translated will have the same experience and benefits as those who have died and who are resurrected. The two passages together give a complete answer to the basic questions concerning the rapture as an important prophetic event.
While all agreed that 1 Corinthians 15 is a major passage in the doctrine of the rapture, there is a strange reluctance on the part of post tribulationists to deal with this passage. Robert Gundry, for example, who frequently goes on for many passages discussing a conjectural minor point, devotes only four or five pages on this passage in connection with the general discussion of resurrection. A study of 1 Corinthians 15 will reveal the reason for this neglect on the part of post tribulationists. The passage, as it is given, contributes particularly nothing to the post tribulational concept of the rapture, and the post tribulationists have to deal with this passage mostly to refute any possible use of this revelation by pre tributionalists.
Generally speaking, post tribulationists agree that the rapture is a mystery that is a truth not revealed in the Old Testament. Having properly defined this truth as a mystery, however, most post tribulationists attempt to minimize the force of this truth. Their problem is that the resurrection of the saints is not a mystery, as it is clearly taught in the Old Testament. Why, then, is the rapture of the church, including both resurrection and translation, declared to be a truth revealed in the New Testament but not in the Old Testament?
Ladd, after properly defining the term, said, “the mystery of the rapture is not the time of the rapture as pre tribulationists assume it is the fact of the rapture. Ladd was a bit over eager to destroy the force of this term in relation to pre tribulation rapture but he couldn’t produce any substantial evidence to prove his point. Obviously if the rapture was not revealed in the Old Testament, nothing about it was revealed, including the time. Gundry, in his discussion of the church as a mystery, spent all his time trying to minimize the fact that the rapture is a truth not predicted in the Old Testament.
Another element in the revelation in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 is the exhortation that is attached to the doctrine of the rapture. In verse 58 apostle Paul stated “therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain”. The doctrine of the rapture, whenever mentioned in the Bible, is always related to practical application showing that this rapture must of a surety take place before the Great Tribulation since the Great Tribulation is an event so horrible as portrayed by the Bible that no mortal can be able to withstand.
The Spirit of GOD Who enables believers here on earth to triumph over the sufferings on earth now would have been off the earth by the time of the Great Tribulation which of course will begin after the rapture. It is an established fact that the Holy Spirit who is at work in the Church Age on earth would have been out of the earth since the work of the Holy Spirit on earth will end after the rapture which will culminate the Church Age making the Great Tribulation a really terrible time as the name implies.
Conclusively, there are so many evidences in the scriptures supporting the Pretribulation rapturism theory and this clearly shows that the Rapture must definitely happen before the Great Tribulation.
PASTOR MOSES, MICHAEL O. (JP) M.A, M.Div (In View)