Is there a pre-tribulation rapture?

What does GOD’s Holy Word really say in the Christian Doctrine of Eschatology – the “study of end-times” – pertaining to the “rapture”? And does the Latin word for “caught up” being rapturo mean a literal “pre-tribulation rapture”?  

The Dispensationalist Futuristic Eschatology believers advocate the “rapture of the Church” prior to the great tribulation described in the Book of Revelation when GOD pours out His wrath upon men left on the earth as well as on His ‘chosen people’ from the House of Israel, the Jews, who will be experiencing Jacob’s Trouble in fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the seven-year tribulation. As the pre-trib advocates’  interpretation goes, the Church has been “raptured out of the earth” and are in heaven and will therefore not be present when GOD pours out His vial judgments upon the earth. This can then leave born-again Christians with an understanding that we need not worry about the mark of the beast or ever being deceived by the anti-christ, the beast or the false prophet, or taking “. . . the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev 13:17) as “the Church” will not be present on the earth during the tribulation!

The English evangelist Leonard Ravenhill (June 18, 1907 – November 27, 1994) put it aptly, quote: “Today’s church wants to be raptured from responsibility.” Is this a true reflection of modern churchianity? In Scripture we learn that “there is no respect of persons with God” and that Jew and Gentile will be treated justly in salvation by His judgment and His reward, as we read,

16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. ~ Romans 1:16

9  Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 
10  But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 
11  For there is no respect of persons with God. ~ Romans 2:9-11

So what does Scripture then really say concerning the “rapture” and its timing? Let us first look at the verses that “pre-tribulation rapture dispensationalists” use to advocate the rapture taking place before the great tribulation where our Lord Jesus Christ “returns” for His Church in the air, but does not “come to the earth”. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4 the following,

14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

The apostle Paul is addressing the ekklesia at Thessalonica and explaining the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and its relationship with the dead, “which sleep in Jesus”, and the believers who are “alive and remain” when the Lord Jesus comes. The context can be gleaned from certain words and verses that confirm this. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13 Paul writes “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (Emphasis added by writer in bold and hereafter throughout). This “To the end” is of time that Paul speaks of when the believers will appear before GOD and Paul confirms it by saying “at the coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say at the fetching of His Church, but “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” Who will not come to fetch His Church alone, but “with all his saints.” The question to the pre-trib rapture advocates, is: Why does our Lord Jesus Christ come fetch His Church in the air bringing with Him “all his saints” only to return back to heaven with His saints again?

Paul then starts chapter 4 with the words, “FURTHERMORE then we beseech you . . .”; the apostle Paul continues with the emphasis of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but now exhorts and gives instructions to the ekklesia about holy living which is leading up to him reiterating the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know,

14  Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: ~ Hebrews 12:14

In 1 Thessalonians 4:14, the apostle Paul speaks of our belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus and states that the believers “which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” This is pertaining to the first resurrection of “the dead in Christ” (1 Thess 4:16), as we also read, for it is written,

4  And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 
6  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. ~ Revelation 20:4-6

Those believers “which sleep in Jesus” who died during their lifetime before the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, God will bring with Him. It should also be noted from the preceding portion of Scripture in Revelation 20:4 that the souls that take part in the first resurrection “. . . were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; . . .” and therefore it is common sense from a literal reading of GOD’s Word that they must have been present at the time of the worshipping of the beast and of his image and the receiving, i.e. the giving, of the mark of the beast. The apostle Paul writes that the “dead in Christ” will be raised to life and those “which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15) “. . . shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17). Twice the phrase “alive and remain” is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17 in reference to those living at the time. Interestingly Paul uses the “we” which is the first person plural, for since the time of Pentecost all believers were living with an expectation of the soon returning Lord Jesus Christ, and the end-days started almost two thousand years ago. We too live with an imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ perspective, and it was no different back then in first century A.D., in the year of our Lord. We read in Scripture that we are to “watch” for we know not when the time is for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is written for our instruction,

35  Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36  Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
37  And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
~ Mark 13:35-37

36  Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. ~ Luke 21:36

6  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:6

7  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. ~ 1 Peter 4:7

3  Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. ~ Revelation 3:3

The word “remain” in the phrase “alive and remain” (1 Thess 4:15,17) is the Greek word,

G4035 περιλείπω , perileipō, per-ee-li’-po; from G4012 and G3007; to leave all around, that is, (passive) survive: – remain.

It speaks of “survive”. To survive is to overcome something, be put through something! It is used in these verses speaking of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and this can only be that the believers have survived the wickedness upon the earth and the “seven-year great tribulation”!

The reason why these Scriptures can only be describing the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is the wording that is used. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 Paul writes, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven . . .”. To descend is to physically come down. To descend will also be a physical sighting of our Lord and if this portion of Scripture was for the “pre-tribulation rapture” of the Church then our Lord’s descending would constitute the second coming and the actual second coming would then constitute a third coming! This is false teaching and heresy! The descending is also not a “secretive rapture” as many argue, but there are announcements at the coming of the Lord with “shouts, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump [trumpet] of God”. All will know and see the Lord is coming and there will be further evidence as the graves will open and would have the dead in Christ rising first in the first resurrection.

If the “Church of Christ” is “raptured up to heaven” before the tribulation and we are to appear before the bema seat of Christ to be judged and receive our rewards as per 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 during the seven-year tribulation period on the earth as the pre-trib advocates believe, then when do the tribulation saints appear before the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ to have their works tested by fire – gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble?

Further questions which need to be answered, are: Should “new” tribulation saints die in Christ during the tribulation period, when do they get resurrected? Will it be at the second coming after the tribulation? If the dead in Christ are raised at the then second coming of Christ after the great tribulation, will this not then constitute a second resurrection of the dead in Christ which goes contrary to what Scripture tells us in Revelation 20:4-6 above? The second resurrection is for the dead unto eternal damnation!! Further, if the “pre-tribulation raptured Church” have appeared in heaven at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), why have the new tribulation saints been excluded from the Lord’s marriage supper? Would these tribulation saints be deemed second-class believers in Christ and therefore not be partaking in His marriage supper? You can see that the pre-tribulation rapture theory is contrary to the Word of GOD!

It is not preposterous for the genuinely born-again believers who are alive at the great tribulation for them to pass through the tribulation. Many believers even today are losing their bodily lives through persecution and even tribulation. There are disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ who have lost their physical lives in tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, landslides, great forest fires, electrical storms, violent accidents and other disasters, including wars and diseases, and yet spiritually they are saved from the wrath of GOD of eternal damnation. Scripture reveals that GOD can save those He will as according to His Divine purpose for His Glory, for “. . . The Lord knoweth them that are his . . .” (see 2 Timothy 2:19). YEHOVAH (YHVH) is able to save His elect saints – Jew and Gentile – and even in the midst of the great tribulation of Revelation which is to come. In Exodus GOD gives us assurance that He is able to protect His chosen people when He placed them in the land of Goshen in Egypt when He brought the plagues upon the Egyptian Pharaoh and his nation. None of the plagues touched GOD’s chosen people as we read some select Scriptures with emphasis by the blog’s writer concerning,

The plague of flies –

21  Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
22  And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.
23  And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. ~ Exodus 8:21-23

The murrain of beasts –

3  Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain. 
4  And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel. 
5  And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land. 
6  And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. 
7  And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. ~ Exodus 9:3-7

The plague of hail –

23  And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
24  So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
25  And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
26  Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. ~ Exodus 9:23-26

The darkness –

21  And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
22  And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
23  They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. ~ Exodus 10:21-23

The firstborn –

4  And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 
5  And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 
6  And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. 
7  But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. ~ Exodus 11:4-7

Therefore, from reading the preceding Scriptures from the Book of Exodus all things are possible with GOD and even in the midst of the great tribulation of Revelation, GOD can keep His people safe and untouched.

We further know that the Scriptures in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17, could only be referring to our Lord Jesus Christ’s second coming at the last trumpet and not a “pre-tribulation rapture”, for we read,

50  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:50-53

And when does the last trumpet take place? Certainly not before the great tribulation of the Book of Revelation! For we read concerning the “elect” (and this portion of Scripture is not just for the Jews as some erroneously believe) when we read in Matthew 24, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” (Matt 24:15) which event takes place before the days of the elect spoken of in Matthew 24:21-24 concerning “21 . . . great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”  These events all precede, as it is written,

29  Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 
30  And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 
31  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
~ Matthew 24:29-31

There is therefore sufficient proof from GOD’s Word that there is no pre-tribulation rapture. The rapture, a catching up of the dead in Christ and those that are alive and remain will take place at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ immediately after the tribulation, i.e. post-tribulation. In closing, is ‘Chart No. 5 – The Seven Thousand Years of Human History’ then a true representation of what the Holy Bible teaches? Clarence Larkin (1850-1924), a dispensationalist, studied the Scriptures and “with the help of some books that fell into his hands, led him to adopt many of the tenets of the premillennialist theology that was gaining favor in conservative Protestant circles in the Gilded Age.”* It is widely accepted that the teachings of the pre-tribulation rapture theory was invented in the 19th century by a man named John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) who is considered to be the father of modern Dispensationalism and Futurism (“the Rapture” in the English vernacular)**.

The Seven Thousand Years of Human History

In Larkin’s aforementioned chart (click to enlarge) the pre-tribulation rapture is depicted and taught to have taken place before the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in A.D. 2000! We are now in the year 2016 A.D. and therefore what has been recorded in Clarence Larkin’s chart as “gospel truth” is false for neither had the “rapture” taken place neither had Christ returned in the year 2000 A.D.!

The plumbline of GOD’s Word is not what men teach, but what GOD’s Word tells us! Let GOD be true, but every man a liar.Soli Deo Gloria

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Footnotes:

* Clarence Larkin http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Larkin

** Christianity Today: Christian History, John Nelson Darby, http://christianitytoday.com/history/people/pastorsandpreachers/john-nelson-darby.html and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nelson_Darby

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