One of the most common rebuttals to the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is that it originated with John Nelson Darby. I will readily agree that any doctrine that begins with any man ought to be refuted and rejected. If it truly were a product of Darby’s imagination, it would be foolish for anyone to follow it. The reality however is that the whole concept of a Rapture of the saved prior to the Tribulation period is rooted, suited and fruited in the scriptures of the New Testament.
There is an outlined timeline within the scriptures that make this truth very plain. Yet before I get there, there are a few other things that we can look at that by their very nature, and sound spiritual thinking, leave us with no other viable option than the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. It is those things that I want to deal with in this post.
Three natural reasons from scripture that the Rapture will occur prior to the Tribulation Period:
1.) The Doctrine of Imminency. 2.) The Days of Normalcy. 3.) The Declared Unexpectancy.
1 – THE DOCTRINE OF IMMINENCY
Some time ago I quoted on another forum one of the most comforting scriptures in all of the Bible for the believer, which is the comfort of the ever present possibility of Christ’s call for us to meet Him in the air. At the close of 1 Thessalonians 4, after Paul had explained the rapture, he said for us to “comfort one another with these words.” A brother of a different stripe rebuked me saying, “If the comfort Paul meant to give the Thessalonians was the rapture, then he was a miserable comforter, because the rapture didn’t come in their day. They lived out their lives suffering tribulation for the cause of Christ.” This brother, and others like him, fail to realize one thing. It is not merely the Rapture that offers comfort, but it is in the “expectancy” of the Rapture that comfort is found.
What do I mean when I speak of the Doctrine of Imminency of Christ’s return? The simplest way that I can say it is this: The Rapture of the Saved is an Ever Present Possibility. There is nothing in God’s Word that keeps Him from calling His children to meet Jesus Christ in the air. At any second, in any moment, of any day, the Rapture can occur.
As stated earlier, the New Testament is rich with warnings that the possibility exists that Christ could call us up at any time.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:42 – “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
He reiterated again in Matthew 25:13 – “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
Mark 13:35-37 – “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
Not only did Jesus press upon those in the distant future the ever present possibility of His return, but also upon those in His immediate presence. Even they were to be in a state of anticipation that He might be calling for them at any time in their life. James told us that the coming of the Lord is always near, Peter told us the last things are “at hand;” and John the Revelator explained also that the time is at hand.
Now it stands to reason that if Christ could not come at any moment, then the entire premise behind the motive and commands to be always watching, always anticipating, is really nothing more than a fictitious lie made up by the Lord to get us to pay attention under false pretenses. If in fact that the “Rapture” does not occur until the after the tribulation period, one must first wait for Anti-Christ, The Great Tribulation, and the Battle of Armageddon. No anticipation, no hope, and no comfort.
The problem is that the scriptures do not bear that out. They encourage hope, they encourage us to take comfort in the ever present possibility of His calling out the saved. There is an urgency in the tone, and a fervency in the message that we are to be living our Christian lives in great anticipation of thought that Christ could rapture us in any second of the day.
2. – THE DAYS OF NORMALCY
To me one of the most overlooked, and underdiscussed portions of this debate is the one pertaining to the “Days of Noe” description of this event. In Matthew 24; the disciples asked Jesus two questions: When Shall These things Be. What Shall be the Sign of Thy Coming and of the end of the age”. Two distinct questions, and Jesus gave two distinct answers. Here we are going to deal with the second one. But first . . .
We find that verses 4-thru 31 is Christ’s answer to question number 1 of when shall these things be. From verses 4-31 Christ gives an overviewed timeline of the conditions of that time that will constitute the “last things.” He does not mention anything in answer 1 about a “rapture”. He goes from the beginning of sorrows, into the tribulation period, into the second coming, and the glorious victory, and the gathering of the elect. Period. End of Answer. Between verse 31 and verse 32, there is a “Now learn a parable.” – Christ now proceeds to answer the second question. What shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the age.
In the answer to the second question, we find Christ’s revelation of the rapture. Now there a couple of things here to address.
First of all, many theologians reject this as being a rapture passage, because of the reference to Noah. It is asserted by some that this is not a “rapture” but rather a “judgment.” In their way of thinking, just as the Water of Noah took the wicked to judgment, this taking away is also a taking of the wicked to judgment. Let me say a few things about that here.
1. – There is no other event in the prophecies of the scripture that describe anywhere, that wicked people are merely snatched away in judgment, and the righteous are left behind. There is nothing within eschatology along that line of thought that this can be referring to.
2. – Second of all. The Rapture IS a judgment. It is where the Judgment seat of Christ will take place. Rather than the evil “snatched away” in judgment, it will be the righteous taken before Christ.
3. – This is a sign to all mankind of the coming of the end. The sign can only be to those left behind, not to those who are gone. Those who are righteous will not need a sign for the end, only those who are unrighteous.
Now all of that being said, here is what I want to point out above all of that. Do you notice how Jesus describes society during the time of this event? Completely normal. Eating, marrying, giving in marriage, are pictures of a society that is cool, calm, and collected, just as they were in the days of Noah. Dear friend if you put the Rapture at the close of the tribulation period, this description of society will not stand. At the end of the tribulation period life will be duck and cover, survival of the fittest, and every man for himself. The Bible tells us that men will be losing their lives for fear their hearts failing them. Men will be hiding in holes and looking for protection. The rest of the scriptures pictures of society during the end of time is one of a complete chaotic meltdown.
I believe that clearly because of the Normalcy of Life that Jesus described surrounding the rapture we must recognize that it cannot be during the closing days of the tribulation period.
I will address the declaration of unexpectancy next time, and then we’ll deal with the revealed timeline in a little more detail. Until then, dear friends thank you for the emails that I have been receiving, and God Bless you. Jesus is the only Change Worth Making.