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!