The Pre-Trib Rapture

by Scott Huckaby

The second coming of Jesus is a very controversial subject. If this article was published in China, both the author and editor of this paper would be sent to a "re-education" camp to work as a slave laborer or worse. Tyrannical governments have a problem with born-again Christians because they can't control their minds like they can the Godless masses.

However, even the Church in Western society avoids all but a superficial look at the Lord's return. Scripture tells us that scoffers will dominate in the season of the Lord's return (2 Peter 3:3). Part of Satan's strategy to neutralize the Church is to convince us we have plenty of time for the mission God gave us. The longer it takes to complete the Church, the longer Satan gets to control the world (2 Peter 3:12).

Bible prophecies associated with the Lord's return deal with an unsettling side of our Lord when He comes in wrath to execute judgment. Studying Bible prophecy is not politically correct since it isn't consistent with the feel-good, fast-food, sound-bite culture we live in. It requires a more in-depth study of the whole Bible as does all solid spiritual food (Hebrews 5:12-14). Misinterpretations of prophecy can only become apparent when they are scrutinized in the light of the whole Bible because they must fit with all other related passages. It is necessary to search the Scriptures on your own in order to discern which interpretations are true as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.

The timing of the Rapture

One of the keys to properly interpreting Bible prophecy is the timing of the Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Rapture is when believers in Jesus Christ will be instantly changed into resurrected bodies to be in the presence of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). If this basic aspect of Bible prophecy is not correct, there will be problems with the rest of your interpretations leading to discouragement or, in the extreme, the formation of dangerous false doctrines. The world points to these issues to discredit the study of Bible prophecy or any literal interpretation of the Bible at all.

The timing of the Rapture which has the least interpretation problems is that the Lord returns for the Church before He physically sets foot on the earth again (Zechariah 14:4). The Church is removed prior to that terrible time of judgment known as the Great Tribulation (from Matthew 24:21). This 7-year tribulation period or week of years (Daniel 9:27) concludes with the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16) and the Lord's return (Revelation 19:11-21). Once the Lord returns, He establishes His own government on the earth and personally rules for 1000 years (Revelation 20:4-6). He then ushers in the eternal state by re-creating heaven and earth at the end of this 1000-year period (Revelation 21).

There are no prophetic events which must occur before the Rapture. This is the doctrine of imminence which says the Lord could return for His Bride, the Church, at any moment. Applying this truth to your life is strong medicine against procrastination about what God is calling you to do (or rationalizing about what you should not do). One of the paradoxes of the Christian faith is that we must live as if the Lord is returning today and also have a plan to build knowing that He may not come back for some time.

Dangerous doctrines

Alternative views about the timing of the Rapture have it occurring during the Great Tribulation, after it, or at the end of the millennial reign of Christ. But all these views put the Church in the dubious position of looking for the Antichrist rather than our Lord (see Matthew 25:1-13). Both the Great Tribulation and the millennial reign of Christ have very clear periods of time associated with certain key events. If the return of the Lord for His Church was not imminent, it would be possible to have a pretty good idea when it will happen. And this is contrary to the instructions He gave us (Matthew 24:44).

Thinking that the Church will have to go through some or all of the Great Tribulation has turned some people into survivalists stock-piling weapons and food in anticipation. This is an example of dangerous doctrine because it teaches people to depend on their own resources for deliverance rather than the power of God. Another dangerous doctrine is thinking that the Church has replaced Israel in the promises of God. This is one of the roots of anti-Semitism which is devil-inspired and it will keep you from discerning prophetic truth.

Other reasons the Rapture must happen before the 70th week of Daniel is that it is a comfort to the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:18) as our blessed hope (Titus 2:13). It wouldn't be much of a comfort knowing that we might have to suffer through the Great Tribulation first. We are comforted knowing that "God did not appoint us to wrath" (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

The first century Christians expected Jesus to return at any moment even then. The Apostle Paul wrote the second epistle to the Thessalonians to put their mind at ease that their persecution was not the Great Tribulation which would have meant they missed the Rapture that was described in his first epistle. A key verse reinforcing the pre-trib Rapture is 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 which tells us the Holy Spirit Who indwells the Church restrains the lawlessness in the world. Once the Lord removes the Church from the planet, the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit will be removed with it and the lawless one who is the Antichrist will be permitted to come to power.

Time is running out…

It isn't necessary to agree with a particular timing of the Rapture to be saved. What is important is putting your trust in Jesus Christ, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). If you haven't already yielded to this call, don't put it off. The Bible is clear that there will come a time when it will be too late (Matthew 24:36-44).