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THREE VIEWS OF THE RAPTURE - Part I
Author: Jim Hodge
The second coming of Christ is quite possibly the most important
doctrine contained in the Scriptures. It is said that more space is
given in the New Testament to the second coming, than to the
atonement. Where the atonement is mentioned once, the second advent
is referred to twice. Where the first coming of Christ is mentioned
once, His second coming is mentioned eight times.
Redemption is not complete until Christ returns to reward His church
and pronounce judgement on an unbelieving world. The second coming of
Jesus Christ is an absolutely indispensable doctrine in the Biblical
teaching of redemption. Apart from the glorious return of Christ,
God's work will forever be incomplete.
The controversy today rests not in the fact of Christ's return, for
almost all conservative theologians expect a literal, visible, bodily
return of Christ in the like manner of His earthly departure (Acts
1:11). The controversy arises when we are presented with the
question of when Christ will return.
The theologian Augustus H. Strong summarizes his thoughts concerning
the time as such:
Although Christ's prophecy of this event, in the twenty-fourth chapter
of Matthew, so connects it with the destruction of Jerusalem that the
apostles and the early Christians seemed to have hoped for its
occurrence during their life-time, yet neither Christ nor the
apostles definitely taught when the end should be, but rather
declared the knowledge of it to be reserved in the counsels of God,
that men might ever recognize it as possibly at hand, and so might
live in the attitude of constant expectation.
There has been much speculation as to the time of Christ's return.
Those who expect a personal return of Jesus agree that it will occur
sometime in relation to the seventieth week of Daniel as indicated in
the ninth chapter of Daniel. The time is referred to as the Great
Tribulation (Matt. 24:21) or the time of Jacob's trouble (Jer. 30:7).
There are three prominent views today concerning the coming of Christ
for His saints (rapture). These are classified as pretribulation
rapture, midtribulation rapture, and posttribulation rapture.
We will begin our study by first examining the least prominent view,
that of the midtribulation rapture theory. Advocates of this theory
state that the church will be raptured three and one half years after
the beginning of the tribulation period or precisely at the time of
the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 9:27) and
Jesus (Matt. 24:15).
To substantiate this view, midtribulation rapturists try to deny the
belief in an imminent return of Christ. Norman B. Harrison writes,
We see from the Scriptures that Christ could not have returned in the
lifetime of Peter; nor yet in the days of the apostles; nor yet before
the reformation; nor yet before the missionary program is completed;
nor yet before the apostasy has overtaken us; nor yet before the last
days in which we seem to be living.
While it has been attempted to disprove the doctrine of imminence,
Scripture consistently teaches that the coming of Christ could be at
any time (John 14:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20-21; 1
Thess. 1:9-10; 4:16-17; 5:5-9; etc.).
Another argument of the midtribulationist is that the church was
promised tribulation and, therefore, can expect to experience the
first half of the tribulation period. Many verses are used to
substantiate this theory such as Luke 23:27-31; Matt. 24:9-11; and
Mark 13:9-13 which are addressed to Israel, as well as John 15:18-19;
and 16:1-2, 33, which are addressed to the church. It is argued that
because these verses speak of tribulation for the church, it would be
logical to assume the church will experience a portion of the Great
Tribulation. They often cite Acts 8:1-3; 11:19; 14:22; and Romans
12:12 which refer to actual persecution of the saints as a partial
fulfillment of the tribulation to come.
In answer to this argument we must first distinguish between Israel
and the church in the economy of God. Israel and the church are two
distinct entities in the plan of God and must be so regarded. Those
scriptures which promise tribulation to Israel can not be made to
teach that the church is to experience the tribulation period.
Furthermore, we must observe the usage of the word tribulation in
Scripture. In one sense it is used in a non-technical or non-
prophetic sense in reference to any time of suffering or testing into
which one goes (Matt. 13:21; Mark 4:17; John 16:33; Romans 5:3; etc.).
It is also used in a technical or prophetical sense in reference to
the whole period of seven years of tribulation (Revelation 2::2 and
Matt. 24:29). We must be careful in applying the prophetic reference
to the church when in fact it seems to be referring to Israel during
the tribulation period.
The second most common view, and perhaps the oldest is the
posttribulation rapture theory. This theory suggests that believers
will be raptured at the end of the tribulation period only to return
again immediately again when Christ comes to pronounce judgement on
The most common mistake made by supporters of this view is that they
avoid a literal interpretation of Scripture and often spiritualize or
interpret Scripture allegorically. James McKeever, a leading
supporter of posttribulationism says this, "I would encourage you to
read the book of Revelation, asking God to show you the spiritual
interpretations, which are equally as valid as physical
interpretations." To interpret Scripture in such a way is dangerous
to say the least.
Mr. McKeever argues that the word "last" is significant in 1 Cor.
15:52. He points out that this last trumpet is synonymous with the
last trumpet in Rev. 11:15. He states that because there are no
other trumpets recorded in Scripture after this one, this must refer
to the rapture at the end of the tribulation. Also, since 1 Thess.
4:16 makes mention of a shout accompanying the trumpet, he feels it
is significant to find loud voices (or shouts) at the seventh trumpet
in Rev. 11:15.
While this may appear to be a valid argument, a closer look will
indicate that this line of reasoning is faulty. First of all, the
word "last" may signify that which concludes a program, but is not
necessarily the last that will ever exist. Secondly, the trumpet
that summons the church is called the trump of God, while the seventh
trump is an angel's trumpet. Also we notice that the trumpet in 1
Thessalonians issues in blessing in life, in glory, while the trumpet
in Revelation issues in judgement upon the enemies of God.
(Cont. in THREE VIEWS OF THE RAPTURE - Part II)
Compliments of the Manna System
THREE VIEWS OF THE RAPTURE - Part II
Author: Jim Hodge
Another prominent argument supporting posttribulationism is the
historical argument. It is said that the idea of a pretribulation
rapture did not appear in prophetic interpretation until the
nineteenth century. This is illustrated by the fact that many of the
early church fathers indicated a belief in a second coming following
the tribulation period. George Ladd, a leading posttribulationist
supports this view with many non-inspired writings such as the
Didache, the epistle of Barnabus, the Shepherd of Hermes, and writings
from other church fathers. In addition to this we are told that S.P.
Tregelles, a member of the early Plymouth Brethren church, said that
the idea of a secret rapture at a secret coming of Christ had its
origin in an "utterance" in Edward Irving's church, and this was taken
to be the voice of the Spirit.
In reply to the historical argument, we must note that the failure to
discern the teaching of the Scripture does not nullify that teaching,
and furthermore, the early church lived in light of the belief in an
imminent return of Christ. The doctrine of imminency is plainly taught
in Scripture in such passages as John 14:2-3; 1 Cor. 1:7; Philippians
3:20-21; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 4:16-17; 5:5-9; and others.
Posttribulationists will also argue that the church must suffer
tribulation and therefore will not be raptured until after the
tribulation period. This line of reasoning has already been dealt
with, but we must remember that there are two types of usage for the
word tribulation: the technical and the non-technical.
One of the major arguments in support of a posttribulation rapture
deals with resurrection. Mr. McKeever summarizes this argument as
1 Thessalonians 4:16 makes reference to a resurrection of the dead in
Christ. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of the first resurrection. There
could not be a resurrection at the beginning of the tribulation, or
this one in Revelation 20 could not be the first.
A similar argument by Mr. Ladd is as follows:
Revelation 20 is the only passage which describes the resurrection of
martyrs. This passage locates the resurrection both of saints and
martyrs at the "revelation" of Christ and not at the "rapture".
Again this appears to be a valid argument. However, it would be wise
to examine other portions or Scripture with deal with the
resurrection. Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians deals extensively with the
doctrine of resurrection. In verse 23 we see the phrase "But every
man in his own order." It is assumed by some that this means that
the first resurrection is composed of different groups: church
saints, Old Testament saints, and tribulation saints. This passage
seems to indicate a natural progression of resurrection. Christ is
said to be the "firstfruits" of them that slept. This phase of the
resurrection program was accomplished at the time of Christ's
resurrection on the third day and marks the beginning of this whole
A second group is introduced by the word "afterward." This word
(epeita) signifies a lapse of time of undesignated duration. This
would allow for a lapse of time between Christ's resurrection and the
resurrection of believers.
Even though there are different times of resurrection, they are still
a part of the first resurrection program and are "orders" in that
program. Therefore the resurrection of tribulation saints at the time
of the second advent does not prove that all who are resurrected unto
life are raised at this time.
(Cont. in THREE VIEWS OF THE RAPTURE - Part III)
Compliments of the Manna System
THREE VIEWS OF THE RAPTURE - Part III
Author: Jim Hodge
The third and final theory concerning the rapture deals with a rapture
of all believers in this present church age prior to the seven year
tribulation period. The key passage for this event is found in 1
Thess. 4:13-18 which describes the resurrection of all born again
believers and the meeting of Christ in the air.
Probably the most significant and common of the arguments for this
theory deals with the nature of the seventieth week of Daniel (the
tribulation period). The "tribulation" describes a period of
suffering unsurpassed, "such as was not since there was a nation, no,
nor shall be" (Dan. 12:1). The suffering is to be greater than
anything that has yet been seen. The very nature of the tribulation
period is that of wrath (Rev. 6:16-17,; 11:18; 14:19; Zeph. 1:15, 18).
Yet we see in 1 Thess. 5:9 that the church is not appointed unto
wrath, but unto salvation by Jesus Christ. The simple use of logic
would indicate that the church would have to be gone during this time
It is also important to look at God's purpose for this world during
the seven year tribulation period. The first great purpose of this
time is to prepare the nation Israel for her Messiah. Mal. 4:5-6
tells us that God will send Elijah to preach to prepare Israel for
the second advent. The tribulation is primarily Jewish. We see many
Scriptures that indicate the "Jewishness" of this time. It is said
to the "the time of Jacob's trouble." It concerns "Daniel's people,"
a "false Messiah," the city of Jerusalem, the twelve "tribes of
Israel," the "son of Moses," and flight on the "Sabbath." All of
these speak of Israel and prove that the tribulation is a time that
God will deal with His ancient people. Another purpose of God at
this time is to pour out judgement on unbelieving man and nations Isa.
26:21; 2 Thess. 2:12; Rev. 14:7; 15:4; 16:5-7). God has not appointed
His children to wrath, nor to judgement resulting in punishment.
Christians will be judged at the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor.
5:10) but this is not a judgement in the sense of a trial, to
determine whether the judged are guilty (lost) or innocent (saved),
for all present will be saved. At the cross the believer's sins were
judged and punished in the person of his substitute Savior (Isa. 53:6;
Rom. 3:25-28; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).
Nowhere in Scripture are we told that God will make special provisions
for the church to escape this wrath and judgement during the time of
tribulation. The only special provisions we see are for the 144,000
which are of the tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:14). Therefore, it is
clear that the church will not be on the earth during this time and
has obviously been raptured according to 1 Thess. 4:13-18.
Many Posttribulationists argue that the rapture and revelation of
Christ is one and the same event. However, it is important to
distinguish the differences between the two events. Emery Bancroft
illustrates this fact perfectly:
In the first stage He comes as the "Morning Star" (Rev. 22:16); in the
second, as the "Sun of Righteousness" (Mal. 4:1,2). In the first He
comes "into the air" (1 Thess. 4:17); in the second, He descends to
the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:3,4). In the first, He comes to receive
His bride to Himself (John 14:3); in the second, He comes to be
received by repentant Israel (Zech. 12:10). The first stage is called
"our gathering together unto Him" (2 Thess. 2:1); while the second
stage is called "The revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven" (2 Thess.
After examining the major premises of the posttribulation view and the
midtribulation view, we must conclude that these views are
unwarranted. The pretribulation view is the only view that can be
accepted based on a literal interpretation of Scripture.
Truly this is a source of hope, for no person wants to suffer the
wrath and judgement of God almighty. We must continually thank God
for delivering us from the judgement and tribulation to come, and
prepare ourselves for the day that we will meet our Savior in the
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great
God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he
might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar
people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and
rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee (Titus 2:13-15).
Beechick, Allen. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Denver, Colorado:
Accent Books, 1981.
Bancroft, Emery H. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: rvan,
Ladd, George Allen. The Blessed Hope. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B.
McKeever, James M. Christians Will Go Through the Tribulation and How
to Prepare for It. Medford, Oregon: Omega Publications, 1978.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come. Grands Rapids, Michigan:
Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson
Compliments of the Manna System