The Pre-Tribulational Rapture
By Chris Schang
One of the most interesting and controversial topics on the end times prophecy scene is the topic of the pre-tribulational rapture of the church. The pre-tribulational rapture is a secret event that occurs sometime before the seven year Tribulation period that starts the wrath of God on unbelieving Israel and unrepentant sinners on the Earth. The rapture's purpose is to remove believers in Jesus Christ (the church) from the time and place of the coming wrath of God.
The rapture itself is an event where the Lord Jesus will come in the air and remove Christians from the Earth and take them to Heaven. This event is clear displayed in the scriptures as seen from the following scriptures:
"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: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess, 4:16-18).
As we can see from the scriptures the Lord will descend in the air with a shout, the dead who died in faith will rise first, followed by those who are alive on the earth at the time of the rapture event. This rapture event is often referred to as the blessed hope of Christians as we eagerly await for the event to take place. Another scripture verse that clearly shows the rapture event is as follows:
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
The rapture wording, while it is not found in our modern Bible versions, actually comes from the Latin language and word "harpazo" which means to "snatch up" or "to carry off" or to "caught up". This meaning clearly gives weight to the rapture event as it confirms the intent of the biblical writer. The rapture event is one that could happen at anytime. The date of the rapture is not known ahead of time, but will happen when God gives Jesus the command to gather his church (bride). The fact that the timing of the rapture in relation to a date is unknown is further emphasized in the following verse:
Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
It is interesting to note that the rapture of the church is modeled after the ancient Jewish wedding process. It is here that a man and woman are approved to be wedded after the details have been ironed out and both sides are willing to undertake the marriage commitment. The groom goes away to build a house for his bride, oftentimes which is simply an addition on to his father's house. Once the groom has finished the new living quarters, the father will give the blessing for the son to go and get his bride. Jesus stated in the Bible that he was going away to Heaven, to his Father's house, in order to prepare a place for us - the church. this is seen in the following verses:
Jhn 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
Jhn 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
Jhn 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.
There are several hints of the timing of the rapture in the scriptures. We will know look at these verses and see that the rapture of the church is indeed a pre-tribulational event that occurs before the onslaught of the seven year tribulation, whose purpose is to call unbeliever and sinners to repent one last time. In Revelation 4:1, the apostle John is told to " come up hither" in order to see the visions of the revelation of Jesus Christ. The verse from Revelation 4:1 reads:
Rev 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door [was] opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard [was] as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
Here we see that John is taken in the spirit to Heaven where he sees the visions of the things that "must happen hereafter" which refers to the Tribulation period as the things he sees are is the start and end of the seven year Tribulation period. This "come up hither" is seen as a subtle reference of the rapture of the church. John was the apostle most aligned with the church and yet when he arrives in Heaven via the spirit he does not recognize the Tribulation saints that have been martyred for the faith. If this was indeed the church, John would have surely recognized them. But he doesn't. This is because the church is already in Heaven prior to the onset of the seven year Tribulation period which fits perfectly with the declaration that the church is not destined to wrath, but to salvation in Jesus Christ.
In Revelation 19:11-16 the church is seen again as the "army in fine linen" that returns with the Lord at the battle of Armageddon. The church is promised a unique destiny unlike any other group in the history of mankind. The church is promised to "rule and reign" with Christ during the Millennium Kingdom which follows the seven year Tribulation period. This picture of the saints following behind the Lord at his Second coming fits will with the overall prophetic picture painted by the Bible. The following verses show the church returning with the Lord:
Rev 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Rev 19:12 His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
Rev 19:13 And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
Rev 19:14 And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Rev 19:15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Rev 19:16 And he hath on [his] vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
As we've seen from the above scriptures and reasonings, the rapture of the church is definitely a pre-tribulational rapture. Opponents of the pre-tribulational rapture have all kinds of problems with trying to either ignore scriptures that we have covered in this article or they simply spiritualize away whatever doesn't fit their pre-conceived ideas. But the fact of the matter is that the pre-tribulational rapture is supported by many other scriptures in the Bible. Yet the key to understanding the placement of the rapture in the end times is to clearly understand the nature of the Tribulation period which is to prepare Israel for the restoration and regeneration. As we know most of Israel today is secular and not religious at all. The Tribulation period will be God's attempt to "wake up" his spiritually asleep people and tune them into to his presence. It is often said that God does not focus on both Israel and the church at the same time. So using this rationale we can conclude that if the Tribulation period is God's way of dealing with Israel, then the church has to be gone. Which exactly confirms what we've been saying in this article. The rapture is a special event promised only to the church as a special reward for believing in Jesus by faith. And as the Bible clear states, we are not destined to wrath, but salvation though Jesus Christ.