One of my close friends has recently taken to believing in a pre-trib rapture, and out of respect for her, I've tried my best to understand why she believes it. I've seen the texts which the pre-tribulationists use to support their views (mainly 1 Thess. 4:13-19, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, John 14:1-3, Matt 24, Rev. 3:10, and many others) and heard their arguments but I'm still perplexed by how the logic works.

I can see how, if you already had the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture, you might think some or all of those verses support that interpretation. However, what I can't see is how you anyone came up with the idea in the first place. Clearly, someone did, since there has not been a continuous tradition of pre-tribulationists and the evidence that anyone at all held that view before the 19th century is pretty scanty. So, what I want to understand is how did the idea of a pre-tribulational rapture originate (or re-originate, if the pre-tribbers are correct and it was the original doctrine)? How does one get to the idea of a pre-tribulational rapture without already having it in your mind?

To be clear about what I'm asking (I don't think it's a duplicate of What scripture is used to support a "Pre-Tribulation Rapture"?): I want to know how one would use Scripture to build up the picture of the pre-tribulational rapture, i.e. that Jesus will return in a secret way to gather the church off the earth and we all go into heaven prior to the seven-year Tribulation period, during which many (all?) ethnic Jews will become believers, after which Jesus will return in glory and destroy the anti-Christ and rescue the faithful Jewish believers. If you read the Bible with no pre-conceived notions of the eschaton, what kind of reasoning would lead you to believe that it teaches this timeline?

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    – agarza
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 20:11
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    @Dark Malthorp First of all welcome to Christinity Stack Exchange. On this subject nobody has a "corner on the market" of the right answer. Please read the following: google.com/… The best one can do is study your Bible and come to your own conclusion. I use to be pre-trib many years ago, even before Hal Lindsey. After much study I'm a post-tribulationist.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 20:21
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    The idea was developed by J N Darby and William Kelly (or, at least, was substantially promulgated by them) in the mid 1850s. John Metcalfe extensively covers the theory and its history in his book The Revelation of Jesus Christ wherein he explains the four main interpretations (Praeterist, Futurist, Historicist and Resumptive) then goes on to fully expound the Resumptive. It is the best exegesis of Revelation that I have ever read.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 22:04
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    No your not a dunce. My point in presenting these verses was to show a rapture believer will say this is a rapture verse. I as a post-tribber would disagree on the grounds that at vs24 it says, then comes the end. Read Matthew 24:3, the disciples ask Jesus Christ "what will be the sing of your coming and the end of the age/world." Jesus then explains what is going to happen which is already happening today. Read all of Matt 24 and notice what I call a "tip off" as to when Jesus is coming. Antichrist appears then look at vs 29, "But immediately after the tribulation etc. So where's the rapture?
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 23:57
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    To comment on your last sentence; as far as I can tell, it is done by taking scriptures in isolation and out of context in order to create a new understanding, one of the great faults of modern Bible reading. In this case, it is the verse about being "taken up" (RAPTI in Latin) to see the Lord.(1 Thess. ch4 v17). Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 6:34

4 Answers 4


Well, I wouldn't, but I quite recently learned how that pre-tribulation rapture view came to be presented in certain Christian circles in the second half of the 19th century, gradually gaining a following so that 100+ years later, lots of Protestants thought it was mainstream teaching!

You point out that "there has not been a continuous tradition of pre-tribulationists and the evidence that anyone at all held that view before the 19th century is pretty scanty. So, what I want to understand is how did the idea of a pre-tribulational rapture originate (or re-originate, if the pre-tribbers are correct and it was the original doctrine)?" And you want to know how Scripture would be used "to build up the picture of the pre-tribulational rapture, i.e. that Jesus will return in a secret way to gather the church off the earth and we all go into heaven prior to the seven-year Tribulation period". This answer will stick to answering those two related points.

In this book, the author briefly explains the four main interpretations of the prophecies in Revelation. One view (the Praeterist) puts the entire book into past history, claiming it was contemporary with the first century, and this held good for a few centuries. Then, with the Reformation, the view was that (apart from the prologue and the epilogue) Revelation was a continuous unfolding of the history of the church in the world. This Historicist interpretation commences with the apostolic age and continues to unfold to the end of time.

Another view was developed which clashes with the Reformers view. It is called the Futurist view, and this is where the explanation you seek comes in. I quote from this book:

"The Futurist Interpretation views the church prophetically from the day of Pentecost till the second coming of Christ in historical sequence throughout chapters 2 and 3 of the book. But in chapter 4 a secret rapture of the church is proposed, the history of which had been recorded in the prior chapters.

It follows therefore that the prophetic narrative of events from chapter 4 to chapter 20 have nothing to do with the church. It is presumed that this is to do with Israel over a future seven year period of tribulation.

In chapter 20 the thousand years are taken literally, assuming Israel on earth, and the church suspended above it in heaven for the entirety of this period. Old testament priesthood, sacrifices, temple, and covenant figures are expected to be reinstituted beneath the heavenly suspension of the church for the duration, the Lord himself being, as is supposed, on earth reigning over Israel and the world." The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 14-15, John Metcalfe, http://www.johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

The point is that, without a foundation of premillennialism and dispensational theories, Revelation cannot be made to fit a secret rapture doctrine. This can be seen from the book Lectures on the Book of Revelation by J.N. Darby's 'disciple', W. Kelly, so anyone wanting to discover how chapters 6 to 20 are explained by him could either study that, or read Metcalfe's view of that interpretation in pages 167 to 172 of his afore-quoted book. This shows how Scripture has been used "to build up the picture of the pre-tribulational rapture" as you request. It is too complex a subject to detail here; but the claim that the pre-tribulation rapture has to come first before various scriptures can be argued to support it, holds good.

It only needs to be added that Metcalfe's view of Revelation is that it applies to all ages of the church, appearing as a vast unfolding of great but unseen principles. It reveals massive but invisible powers that lie behind the outward appearances of history and events. Graphic imagery is used in Revelation to show two opposing forces over the heavens and the earth. This titanic conflict takes on various aspects, with the period from the ascension till the judgment repeated seven times over, showing different perspectives but arriving at the same conclusion. Hence the term 'Resumptive view'. The entire age of the church is resumed under a different standpoint in seven parallel phases of conflict. This is totally at odds with the pretribulation rapture idea that is said to happen secretly in chapter 4, making the events from chapter 6 to 20 nothing to do with a church that is no longer on earth. The whole of the Revelation has everything to do with the church on earth! Therefore, the pre-trib rapture idea has to be the starting point before its particular interpretation of Revelation can be claimed to follow. Nor was it ever "the original doctrine".

  • This is what I suspect as well; I was hoping to see how a pre-tribulationist would argue. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 20:06

Your question is the story of my life in the last few years. As someone who is post-trib, pre-wrath the majority of teaching in today's church is pre-trib teaching. I have recently asked my pastor this same question. Mainly because I feel like scripture is warning us to be prepared. I feel that the great apostasy to come will be based on many believing that the church will be removed before. This leaves many lukewarm not grounded with scripture written on the heart to sustain them in the hour of trial. The answer provided by @SLM to me has problems in the timeline aspect. Most pre-trib viewers also say that the verse 2 Thessalonians 2:7

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

Another thread on Bible Hermeneutics addresses this in the grammar that presents a different view that I believe to be in line with scripture. My question is how would one be called to accept Christ in the tribulation if the holy spirit is removed? It doesn't make logical sense to me.

The scripture speaks of a Second Coming, not multiple. Scripture states it will be visible to all. I have searched the older teachings of the early church. A reference for this would be Didache as it is a historical text that confirms the teaching the disciples gave to new believers.

Another issue with pre-trib is the idea that it could happen at any moment. This too has scripture that states otherwise yet those in the pre-trib camp often deflect to say it pertains to the Jews or to tribulation saints. I am not yet able to comment as my reputation here is new so I provided it as an answer in hopes of getting the last 20 points I need.


Excellent Question If you read the Bible with no preconceived notions...what kind of reasoning would lead you to believe...? It would be great if everyone who came to the Table of discussion (on any subject) could come without any "preconceived notions." And then let the facts determine the logical conclusions. This would be the ultimate in discovery of truth from scratch.

However, in the real world NOBODY comes to the Table without a lot of baggage---a suitcase full of preconceptions and assumptions. That is why reason dictates that there be guidelines, and rules of logic, for interpreting another author's writings. When approaching the Bible we call these rule of HERMENEUTICS. And most scholars agree on the major principles of Hermeneutics. (e.g. consideration of context, culture, historical background, original Greek definitions, scripture interpreting scripture, law of non-contradiction, avoidance of fallacies of logic, etc.) These are stipulated, and are non-negotiables.

Rapture Rules Since no one comes to the topic of eschatology without assumptions, or preconceived schema, it is important to see if those schema are valid in helping interpret scriptures...if they do not violate basic rules of hermeneutics...if they engage in faulty eisegesis instead of legitimate exegesis.

So when we come to the writings (and interpretations) of pretribbers (believers in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture) we find that they believe in, what they call, the Golden Rule of Interpretation: When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, but take every word at its primary, literal meaning unless the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise. (Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm, p. 240)

Mr. LaHaye expanded on this by listing two major Keys for interpreting: (1) Take the Bible literally if you can (even the prophetic passages of scripture), (2) Ask, does he draw a distinction between Israel and the Church? (Op cit., p. 247) This second rule plays heavily in Pre-trib. interpretations!

Actual Exposition When, however, we encounter Pre-trib. commentaries pushing the Pre-tribulation Rapture we are shocked to find many verses treated in "isolation," and out of context. For example, prophecies said and fulfilled in the O.T. are treated as if their fulfilments are way off in the N.T. era in the future. Eisegesis proliferates, with the Dispensational theory used as a overlay. Greek syntax is ignored. Etc.

Examples REVELATION 4:1--The voice T had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. Mr. Scofield, in his Dispensational Reference Bible in the footnote here stated that this call seems clearly to indicate the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. That is he claimed it was a reference to the Rapture interpretation of Thess.!

But the angel spoke ONLY to John here in Revelation; and made no reference to the whole alleged "church rapture." The angel is giving a vision to John, not a summons to a group of people. There really is NO pre-trib. rapture as a topic. But such is the fallacious exposition,

DANIEL 9:27--He will confirm a Covenant with many for one "heptad", In the middle of the Heptad he will put an end to sacrifice and offering... This final "week" (7 years) is the only place in the Bible where a "prophetic" seven years is mentioned (different from the agricultural 7 years of the Law). And it is here where Tribbers of all sorts do their foundational beginnings. It is here where an alleged Rapture is to exit the Gentile Church, a Covenant is made between Jews and Antichrist for 3 and 1/2 years...where horrible tribulation occurs after the breaking of a covenant, and at the end of which Jesus is suppose to come and set up a physical Kingdom.

The nasty problem is that this is all make-believe! There is a "Christ" (anointed One) mentioned in chapter 9, but NO anti-Christ at all. Traditional interpretation has Christ making a covenant with the "many." (This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many. (Mark 14:24) Not a covenant with some anti-Christ. And the desolation to come was a reference to the Destruction of Judea, confirmed by Jesus interpretation (Matthew 24:15). The topics of pre-tribbers, mid-tribbers, and post-tribbers are not mentioned here! Exposition from scratch doesn't produce them. It's all eisegesis.

1THESSALONIANS 4:16-17 -Secret pre-trib. Rapture? This verse is used to apply to a secret snatching away of the Church. But notice all the accompanying sounds: loud shout, voice of archangel, trumpet call. Compare the events surrounding the End listed in 2 Peter 3:10; and notice that that Day of the Lord is applied to the saints Peter is writing to. (what kind of people ought YOU to be) So Christians are still on earth at this mentioned Coming.

TITUS 2:13- Tim LaHaye stated that both the Rapture and the separate Glorious Appearing (as two events) are mentioned here. But to separate this phrase here, We wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of out great God and Savior..., this Pre-tribber must ignore the Granville Sharp rule of Greek syntax. The NIV translation is accurate in its translation: the blessed hope---the glorious appearing,linking the two phrases as one event (just as "God and Savior are linked as one, by the same application of the rule.) There is really just one Second Coming---not a Second, then a Third...

ACTS 15:13-18-Perhaps the most egregious abuse of hermeneutical rules is by pre-tribbers is Scofield's treatment of this passage in Acts. We quote him:

Dispensationally, this is the most important passage in the N.T.. It gives the divine purpose for this age, and for the beginning of the next. (1) The taking out from among the Gentiles of a people for His Name (the Church)...(2)After this (viz. the out-calling) I will return. [The final regathering of Israel] (3)"I will build again the tabernacle of David [reestablish the Davidic rule over Israel.] (4) "That the residue of men [Israelites] may seek after the Lord" (5) "And all the Gentiles" Reference Bible, 1945, p. 1169-1170)

Scofield does not treat the prophecy of Amos as being fulfilled right then, but instead uses it as an outline of future Israeli times at a Return of Jesus. But the Apostles used it to justify the entrance of Gentiles into the church right then in the first century. "The residue of men" is misinterpreted to mean Israelis, but the Greek word is simply anthropos. And the "rebuilding of the Tent of David" has to do with Gentile worship, not an establishment of a Jewish nation!

If this is "the most important passage in the N.T. for Pre-trib Dispensationalism, then that schema is a house built on sand. It cannot stand hermeneutical reasoning. And a reasonable person---if they could start from scratch---would never end up with such a preposterous conclusion!

It should be pointed out that much of Darby's Dispensationalism was influenced by Mr. Tweedy's insistence that Jews and Gentiles have a different destiny in God's plans. (Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm) The wall of separation that Jesus took great pains to tear down, was re-erected by Darby! (Ephesians 2:14-16) So Dispensationalism was not derived from the scriptures "from scratch" but it was plopped down upon the scriptures by outside schemers!

By What Reason? Actually, no reason, or logical exposition, could ever come up with a Pre-Tribulation Dispensational presentation of a Rapture of the Church to make way for an Israeli world domination.

I sincerely wish all eyes of understanding would be open to this, and there would be a return to an expectation of the one BLESSED HOPE--the Appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Options By the way, there is a valid option, beyond arguing over an alleged future Tribulation (pre, mid, post debate). That is the biblical position that the 24th Chapter of Matthew did not deal with FUTURE tribulation, but referred to the horrible tribulation at the Fall of Israel in the first century. The "normal times" Jesus portrayed in the second half of the Olivet Discourse is a description of the times in which the Blessed Hope of Christ's Second Coming will occur. We have Jesus's word on that!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 22:42
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    The "Israeli"s should be "Israelite"s. (Israeli refers to the current day state of Israel.) Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 22:56
  • Ok ray, I need a point of reference from you regarding your options comments above. You said, "Matthew 24 did not deal with FUTURE tribulation, but referred to the horrible tribulation at the Fall of Israel in the first century." Please give me the specific verse in Matt 24 that the "normal times" Jesus portrayed in the second half? What verse starts the second half and the Second Coming? Thank You!
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 23:10
  • @Mr.Bond-Gladly and humbly answer that verse 34 ends the first section: this generation will certainly not pass away until ALL these things have happened. And verse 36 begins the Second Coming section: But concerning that day and hour... (Gk. peri de) The uneventful times of Noah's day, the normal occupations of vs. 40-41, the usual break-ins (especially if you live in Portland, or Seattle, Chicago, etc.), the economic business (vs. 45-51, honest and dishonest, check the Wall Street Journal, for examples), weddings (25:1-13), investments (25:14-30)----Notice the change in vocabulary.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 23:24
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    "(2) Ask, does he draw a distinction between Israel and the Church? " This is what has forced the creation of the Pre-Trib view. There is a notion that God has yet to keep certain promises (mostly land promises) to Israel and the Rapture was invented to facilitate this. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 12:48

OP: how one would use Scripture to build up the picture of the pre-tribulational rapture, i.e. that Jesus will return in a secret way to gather the church off the earth and we all go into heaven prior to the seven-year Tribulation period, during which many (all?) ethnic Jews will become believers, after which Jesus will return in glory and destroy the anti-Christ and rescue the faithful Jewish believers.

To summarize the OP's timeline in this way:

  • Christ has ascended to heaven (Acts 1)

    Christ returns

    Calls Christians to heaven

    7-year Tribulation

    Some become Believers

    Christ returns in glory

    Christ destroys the anti-Christ

    Christ rescues the Believers converted in the 7-year period

How would you use scripture to show this?

We know Christ will return based on a number of scriptures. To return means one has left.

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:11

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: 1 Th 4:16

So, with these two verses, we know Christ left and Christ will return. When will He return?

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Th 5:19

When is wrath?

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. 1 Th 5:10

It is to come; this was written after Christ left and He had not yet returned. This is Christ returning for His saints before the wrath (tribulation).

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. 1 Cor 15:52

But what wrath specifically?

It is the day of the Lord.

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 1 Th 5:2

When is this?

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Pe 3:10

Out with the old and in with the new.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. Rev 21:1

Can this be narrowed further?

In Revelation 20, the chapter before, we see a picture of Satan bound for 1,000 years and then freed, but then cast into the Lake of Fire. And then comes the Great White Throne judgment.

So, in short, Christ has ascended, He will return to gather His saints so we do not face His wrath in the Great Tribulation. Once completed, Satan is bound 1,000 years. Satan is then released one last time before being thrown into the Lake of Fire. The Great White Throne judgment is for those unsaved. The second death has no power over Christians. The new begins.

  • "so we do not face His wrath in the Great Tribulation" . "But what wrath specifically? It is the day of the Lord." Is His wrath the tribulation or the day of the Lord? Or is it that the Great Tribulation is the day of the Lord. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 12:38
  • It looks like they are synonyms, but that there is more than one day. Probably seven. But haven't worked it out.
    – SLM
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 16:58
  • There is a substantial and critical gap in the logic here - how do you find the "wrath" in 1 Thess. 5:9 to be the same as the Tribulation and before the Millennium? In fact, your logic would connect it to the total destruction of this world in 2 Peter 3, which, if I understand the pretrib premil view correctly, occurs after the millennium, not before. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 20:20
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    @DarkMalthorp-There is substantial and critical gap in logic here. The whole Pre-Trib Dispensational schematic is wrought with fallacies of logic, illegitimate hermeneutics, and faulty reasoning!---The Bible clearly stated "a" Second Coming (Hebrews 9:28), and it will be a time of Justice (Judgment): rewards for Believers (Romans 8:18, Heb. 6:10), and wrath (judgment) for unbelievers (2 Cor. 5:10, Jude 1:1-25). It is the wrath of an angry God who hates sin, that we are saved from! Because of Amazing Grace, and the blood of Jesus, and patience (2 Peter 3:10-15) .
    – ray grant
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 22:49
  • I thought the Great Tribulation was seven years not seven days? How can the GT and the Day of the Lord be synonyms? Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 12:54

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