Is the Rapture Pre or Post Tribuation?

Barbara wrote:
Hi, I’m new and a lil confused. Is there a prevalant view on the end times in this group? some believe in the rapture, and some in a millenium, some dont. I dont know enough to have an opinion.

I’m Barbara. I was a Muslim until the late 90’s. I have been a secret Christian since then (long story about family who is mad). These days I am deciding if I want to stay as an Independant Baptist or join the JW’s.

James replies:
The rapture in its simplest form is the return of Christ, the resurrection of the righteous and their subsequent ascension up into the air to meet Him. This doctrine is taught in I Thess 4:14-17. Here’s what it says:

1 Thessalonians 4:14 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:

You can see for yourself that verse 16 shows the Second Coming and the resurrection of the righteous. V17 shows the righteous being caught up into the air. The phrase “caught up” is the English translation of the Bible Greek word “harpazo”. Back in the days when the Bible was primarily in Latin, the Latin translation for “harpazo” was “raptura”. The Latin word is the source for our English term “rapture”, so while our English Bible does not use the term “rapture”, the Latin versions did, and that where it all started.

Most people that have any respect for what the Bible actually says accept that there will be a future event at which time Christ will return, the righteous dead will be raised first, and they will rise from the earth to meet Jesus in the air. The problem is the timing of when this event happens. There is a huge fight between people that believe the Rapture happens before all the terrible events described in Rev 8-14 and the people that believe it will happen after that. Scholars like Hal Lindsay, Tim Lahaye, Thomas Ice and John Walvoord believe the righteous are caught up at an invisible coming of Christ before the tribulation begins. Some scholars such as Anthony Hoekema and John McArthur hold the post-tribulation view.

It is clear from II Pet 3:10-13 that when the Lord returns He will burn what’s on the earth. When He appears with His mighty angels and their flaming fire (II Thes 1:7-8), He will be all to apparent to those on the earth (Rev 6:16). The coming of God and Christ are mentioned repeatedly in the scriptures (I Thes 4:14, I Cor 15:23, I Th 2:19, II Thes 2:8). His Second Coming is often called “THE Day of the Lord” (II Pet 3:10, I Cor 5:5, II Cor 1:14, I Th 5:2). It is a single day in which God will raise the dead, end unrighteousness, and cleanse the earth of all wickedness (Acts 17:31). At His coming, EVERY eye will see Him (Rev 1:7). The Bible never mentions an invisible coming of Christ. When Christ comes, it is the harvest and the end of the world (Rev 14:14-15, Mt 13:39). Matthew 24:29-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 both mention the same actors (Jesus, his angels) and the same events (Jesus coming, the trumpet of God, and the gathering of the elect) in the same order. The 1 Thes passage written by the Apostle Paul is seen as being based on Jesus’ comments in Mt 24. We know Paul ties his comments with Jesus’ remarks because of the usage of “by the word of the Lord” in verse 15 and that Jesus and Paul are talking about the same event–the coming of Jesus with His angels at the harvest. However, Jesus’ remarks in Mt 24 are explicitly dated “after the Tribulation”, and the Paul’s remarks are where we get the term Rapture. Hence the Rapture is after the tribulation.

Paul’s remarks in I Cor 15:52 are conclusive. He says that when the resurrection occurs that the dead in Christ will rise at the same time that some righteous people remain alive, just like the rapture passage in I Thes 4:16 does, but the I Cor 15 resurrection happens “at the last trump” (I Cor 15:52). Well, Rev 8-14 prophesies of those 7 trumpets, and when the last trumpet sounds, Jesus returns to harvest the earth (Rev 11:15, 14:14-15), and the harvest is the end of the world (Mt 13:39). Therefore, the trump of God (I Th 4:16) is the last trumpet and it is sounded at the coming of Christ, just as John describes it in Rev 11:15 and Rev 14:14-15. The last trumpet in Rev 11:15 happens at the end of the long series of plagues of the tribulation and it happens at the end of the tribulation, not at the beginning.

Jesus cannot return to the earth until the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21). The restitution of all things would include the abolition of death by the resurrection and restoration of man’s access to the tree of life, but the pretribulation theory has Jesus returning before death is destroyed, and God’s word forbids such an eventuality. Jesus MUST (Acts 3:21) remain in heaven until the last enemy is destroyed, but the last enemy is death (I Cor 15:26). In the pretribulation view, death is not destroyed until Jesus’ third coming, but Peter says that when Jesus comes, ALL things will be restored, and He must remain in heaven until the restitution of all things. Paul says that when Jesus comes that death will be destroyed, and it will be the LAST enemy (I Cor 15:24-26). There can be NO further tribulation once Jesus returns, for He will destroy death and all other enemies at His coming.

The people I know of that dispute the Rapture, dispute the pretribulation version of it, and they do so because I Thes 4:14ff does not use the word “Rapture”. However, no Bible believer disputes the resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of Christ.

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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