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CLARIFICATION: For those who believe there will be an event in the "end times" in which believers will be "taken up" to meet Jesus "in the clouds", and that there is yet to be a "Great Tribulation", I am curious which scriptures (primarily) are used to support the view that the rapture will happen prior to the tribulation, as opposed to after the tribulation.

REASON FOR THE QUESTION: I am studying Matthew 24 in preparation for a sermon next Sunday, and came across the following passages (from the NASB):

"...the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? And Jesus answered and said to them...' (from v.3-4)

"'...they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you... At that time many will fall away...'" (from v.9-10)

"'For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.'" (v.21)

"'But immediately after the tribulation of those days... they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds... And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.'" (from v.29-31)

Based on these passages, it sounds like the disciples asked what signs would indicate the "end of the age", and in response, Jesus described a "great tribulation" after which He would "come on the clouds" and "gather His elect". I am assuming that both "camps" (Pre-Trib. and Post-Trib.) would have an interpretation of this passage, but it got me thinking... if there was a "Rapture" before the great tribulation, why wouldn't Jesus just say something like "when you notice people disappearing, you'll know the end is here!" In other words, Jesus is answering their question, but seems to be glossing over the most obvious "sign of the end of the age", which happens before everything else (in the Pre-Trib view.)

I haven't studied the Pre-Trib. vs. Post-Trib. debate extensively, and was wondering if someone could summarize the arguments from scripture in favor of the "Pre-Trib" view. (I am aware that any passage can be interpreted any number of ways, but I am specifically looking for the most clear and convincing passages that support this doctrine.) Thanks!

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    Related question of mine: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/7044/194 – Thomas Shields Apr 19 '12 at 19:44
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    There are more alternatives than the "Pre-trib vs. post-trib" debate, namely the historic "amillennial" view, which is the one that has been held by most Christians over the last 2,000 years. – alord1689 Apr 20 '12 at 14:59
  • Chuck Missler is good at providing information on all sides of an issue, I don't remember the most recent one I was watching that address your specific question on it, but I would imagine that he addresses it in this video on the rapture youtube.com/watch?v=pV7eAuYcNpE but I haven't watched it yet. One thing you have to keep in mind though is that Chuck will often present view points that are contrary to his own and if you don't pay close attention you may miss out on him saying why it's wrong. :) – 2tim424 Jan 14 '13 at 22:08
  • Earliest Church fathers were premillennialist, not amillennialist. – user900 Jan 14 '13 at 22:24
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81: I think that's [citation needed]. My experience with trying to prove something similar is that they don't neatly fall into any of our current escatological boxes. – Caleb Feb 7 '13 at 15:40
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To be honest, I don't have a good answer for why Jesus doesn't mention the Rapture in His Matthew 24 discourse. However, I don't think that this disproves a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and many other passages support it.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (KJV) 15For 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. 16For 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: 17Then 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.

Paul writes that Christ will return in the clouds to take his Church to heaven to be with Him. It doesn't mention any other actions being taken by Christ at this time. I infer from this passage and others that this is a separate event from when Christ returns at Armageddon.

John also references the Rapture. Revelation 1-3 is all about the Church ("the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are"); John mentions the Church 19 times in these chapters. Now, in chapter 4:

Revelation 4:1 (KJV) 1After 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.

John (a member of the Church) hears a voice like a trumpet and is taken up to heaven (paralleling the Thessalonians passage above). John now shifts to the subject of the Tribulation in chapter 4, and we don't see any more of the Church on earth until Revelation 19, when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation. Conversely, there are many verses in Revelation 4-19 where we see the church in heaven (4:10, 6:9-11, etc.).

Another support is that, rather than the Church, Tribulation prophecy focuses on Israel, the unsaved, and the Tribulation Saints (those saved during the Tribulation).

1. Israel The Tribulation is referred to as "Jacob's [Israel's] trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7) and is the final 7 year "week" of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27.)

2. The unsaved Many verses refer to God pouring out His wrath on the unsaved at this time: Isaiah 13:6-11, Joel 3:12-13, Zephaniah 1:14-18, Revelation 6:15-17, etc.

3. Tribulation Saints Revelation 7:9-17, Revelation 9:4, etc.

Conclusion

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture position cannot be "proven"; however, it is implied by the structure of Revelation, the nature of Tribulation prophecy, and is supported by many scriptures. It is a consistent viewpoint which harmonizes many Bible passages.

  • Masterfully written. Thank you - that's exactly what I was looking for. – Jas 3.1 Apr 20 '12 at 3:39
  • How does Revelation 4:10-11 refer to Tribulation Saints? – Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '12 at 12:13
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    @Wikis You're right, Revelation 4:10-11 isn't about Tribulation Saints. I must have made the mistake when I was editing and moving parts of the answer around. I don't have time to fix it right now, but I will this evening. – Brian Koser Apr 20 '12 at 16:14
  • Rev.9:4 says " but only those who have not seal of God..." That means there must be man in Tribulation time with seal of God. Now are they 144000 jews or are they believers? If they are believers then it means that they are either converts in Tribulation or believers are still on this earth in Tribulation time. Am I right? So this leans towards either mid-trib or post-trib rapture. I'm not sure, but I would like to know are there man with seal of God in time of Tribulation? And if yes who are they? – alvoutila Sep 24 '13 at 21:35
  • What else is Jesus talking about if not the rapture in Matthew 24? He comes on the clouds with a trumpet blast and sends his angels to gather the elect. Sounds like the rapture to me. – A Child of God Jul 11 '17 at 12:00
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It's a combination of a couple of things.

First, there's a passage in Matthew 24:38-41:

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Dispensationalists take this to mean that the Christian will be taken, and the non-Christian will be left. This passage from Matthew is taken to refer to the same incident that will happen according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

According to this viewpoint, this is the same incident referred to in the "rescuing" in Jeremiah 30:7:

Alas, what a terrible time of trouble it is! There has never been any like it. It is a time of trouble for the descendants of Jacob, but some of them will be rescued out of it.

That is, they'll be saved from the tribulation. Revelation 3:10 echoes this:

Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

Thessalonians 1:10 is also taken to refer to this time:

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.

So these verses are all taken to mean the same time period, namely, the saving of the elect from having to go through the tribulation. All of these verses feed into the idea that we will be saved from the tribulation before it happens.

Incidentally, this interpretation was first systematized by John Nelson Darby in the 1800's. The reason it's such a popular viewpoint in America today, is because of Darby's work on the Scofield Study Bible, which was the first study Bible to be published in the United States. Since it's Darby's interpretation of Revelation that is present within the study Bible, many people viewed this interpretation as the "de-facto" interpretation of Revelation and eschatology in general.

Personally, I tend not to agree with these points (I'm an amillenialist), but having had grown up with this viewpoint, I figured I'm somewhat qualified to answer.

  • Nice. Thanks! (I especially appreciated the history on Darby.) +1 – Jas 3.1 Apr 20 '12 at 3:40
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    It should be pointed out that the "one will be taken and the other left" passage in Matthew 24 directly references "As it was in the days of Noah." In the flood, you wanted to be left (i.e. safe on the ark), and not taken (swept away to judgment). I believe dispensationalists have given this passage a meaning which was not intended either by the original author or by the Holy Spirit. – alord1689 Apr 20 '12 at 15:04
  • Yes, I'd definitely agree with that. My understanding is that the one who is taken away is not the believer. Instead, as Christ said, the meek shall inherit the earth. This is when that happens. The believers are left behind, and the unbelievers taken away. – David Morton Apr 20 '12 at 19:26
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    @alord1689, Could that passage not also be interpreted as you want to be taken onto the ark and not left off of it to face the coming judgement? – Trebor Rude Aug 5 '13 at 12:23
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    Another thing to consider about Noah is that he faced the same trial as the rest of humanity but, with God's help, he survived it. – Trebor Rude Aug 5 '13 at 12:31
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In The Rapture Exposed, Barbara R. Rossing offers a good answer for why Jesus doesn't mention the Rapture in His Matthew 24 discourse. She says (page 32) the belief that Christ will return to earth again is foundational for Christians – but this is not the same as the Rapture, which is only a recent theological development. On page 22, she explains that the Rapture has its origins in the nineteenth century beginning, according to one critic, with a young girl's vision. In 1830, in Port Glasgow, Scotland, fifteen-year-old Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service, where she was said to have seen a vision of a two-stage return of Jesus Christ. The story of her vision was adopted and amplified by John Nelson Darby, a British evangelical preacher and founder of the Plymouth Brethren. So, the Rapture is a quite recent concept and by no means as widely believed as some 'Dispensationalists' would suggest.

On page 24, Rossing says proponents admit that the dispensationalist system is not spelled out in any single passage in the Bible but they insist that a comprehensive system is necessary and that Darby's dispensationalism, with its divisions of history and its two-stage future return of Christ, is "the only system" that can make sense of otherwise contradictory biblical passages.

On page 57, Rossing says Dispensationalists find in just three verses, Daniel 9:25-27, God's framework for the world's entire prophetic future, including an implicit two-stage Rapture:

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

According to post-tribulation proponents, Titus 2:13 describes two distinct events, separated by a seven-year "gap" or interval. The 'blessed hope" refers to the Rapture, while the "glorious appearing" will happen seven years later, after the tribulation:

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

On the other hand, pre-tribulation proponents, such as LaHaye and Lindsey, find solace in Revelation 3:10:

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation [or trial], which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Tim LaHaye says this statement promises believers that they will be kept from the hour or time of the tribulation, which is called "that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth."

Matthew chapter 24 has limited predictive value for Dispensationalists because of verse 34:

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Jesus said that no man knows the day and hour of these events, but if they have been correctly attributed, they were to occur during the lifetimes of those to whom Jesus spoke. Rossing says (page 183) two thousand years have now passed since Jesus spoke these words, and the people he addressed as "this generation" have long since passed away – yet the specific events of which he spoke did not literally happen as exactly as Dispensationalists say they must.

The Rapture Ready website provides a detailed argument why a pre-tribulation Rapture is to be preferred over a post-tribulation Rapture. Some of the biblical exegesis is obscure, but includes Luke 12:36 and Revelation 19:7-8 in combination:

Luke 12:36: And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

Revelation 19:7-8: Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

Both passages refer to a wedding, and Rapture Ready sets out to prove that this is a reference to a pre-tribulation Rapture.

  • presumably this was downvoted because it seems to suggest that the rapture is only a 200 year old theology, and is mostly ignored outside of the US. Grow up people, it's true.. – danl May 15 '17 at 8:36
  • @danl To whom is your admonishment to grow up directed? – KorvinStarmast May 17 '17 at 21:00
  • @KorvinStormast when I made this comment the answer had one or two downvotes (can't remember which). Since I can't see who downvotes and who doesn't I'm not sure who I'm talking to- but the only reason I can see for downvoting this answer is that it contains a sort of criticism of rapture theology- despite also answering the question – danl May 17 '17 at 21:50
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I think Jesus does tell us about rapture in Luke:

36 Keep awake then and watch at all times [be discreet, attentive, and ready], praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things [taken together] that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.
Luke 21:36 (Amp)

I would say Jesus could've meant to have the strength to escape the desolation of Jerusalem, but what He says to escape from is coming upon on the entire earth. Perhaps by strength, He means the strength to endure our sinful carnal urges (as in Rev. 3:10).

"[Be careful because that day will come upon you like a trap, for it will come upon the entire earth.]" We will/would be trapped with nowhere to escape to..except into His presence.

But this isn't 100% proof there is pre-trib rapture. I think it could however support the idea.

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    Even if you take a rapture for granted, taking this verse as a defense of it is a very weak hermeneutic and probalby does your position more harm than good. The context of the clause you highlight is much more readily understood as praying for endurance and protection during something, not removal from it. Otherwise you would have to say that it was the strenght of a person that gets them raptured. The AMP translation here is also somewhat misleading by providing multiple possible interpretations of phrases and stringing them together rather than using the most appropriate one in context. – Caleb Nov 3 '12 at 10:13
  • I disagree. That would be redefining "escape", otherwise he would have said "endure". I also don't find it misleading. I think it does a good job at elaborating on the intended message. I would say Jesus could've meant to have the strength to escape the desolation of Jerusalem, but what He says to escape from is coming upon on the entire earth. Perhaps by strength, He means the strength to endure our sinful carnal urges (as in Rev. 3:10). – Nick Rolando Nov 3 '12 at 20:32
  • He says to be careful because that day will come upon you like a trap, for it will come upon the entire earth. We will be trapped with nowhere to escape to..except into His presence. – Nick Rolando Nov 3 '12 at 20:37
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    There is no cause to redefine the verb at all. Look through scripture for other usages. "Escape" does not at all have to mean being physical not present for something. This word is quite commonly used in the Bible in the context of judgement ... and whether being found guilty or innocent, the person is considered present for the trial. Never does it mean "not show up for court", or "break jail", it just means that the judge rules in your favor. In the context of this passage it would then mean not being caused any permanent damage by the tribulation. – Caleb Nov 3 '12 at 20:43
  • No, it doesn't have to mean that. If that picture of court is your basis, I'll just agree to disagree with you that it must not mean there is a pre-trib rapture. – Nick Rolando Nov 3 '12 at 21:00

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