A look at the Rapture pt. 3 of 3

Some Views on How the Rapture Relates to the Tribulation

Non-Primary Views

Over the years there have been several views on the Rapture that have formed. Some people understand it to be before the Tribulation (Pretribulational), others throughout the Tribulation (Partial Rapture), some at the middle of the Tribulation (Midtribulational) and still others at the end of the Tribulation (Posttribulational). The Pretribulational view and the Posttribulational view are the most common rapture positions taken. However since there are followers of the other views, a short examination of each will be given with a look at the problems they have when compared to Scripture.

The Partial Rapture Theory

The Partial Rapture theory teaches “that only those believers who are ‘watching’ and ‘waiting’ for the Lord’s return will be found worthy to escape the terrors of the Tribulation by being taken in the Rapture.”[1] According to Ryrie’s notes, the partial rapture occurs first just before the Tribulation begins. However, only mature living saints and mature deceased saints will take part in this rapture. Throughout the Tribulation Christ will return periodically to gather up more and more believers. At the end of the Tribulation will be another rapture; this one to rescue believers from the battle of Armageddon; and the final rapture will occur at the end of the millennial kingdom. The basis for being included in the first rapture is that the believer must be spiritually mature and looking for Christ. After the first Rapture Christians will begin to realize the need to look towards God and they will be raptured out as time goes on and they become ready to be raptured out. This view appears to have been started by Robert Govett in his book Entrance into the Kingdom: The Apocalypse Expounded by Scripture published in 1835. Other supporters of this view include: J. A. Seiss, G. H. Pember, and G. H. Lang.[2]

The problem with this view is that 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 52 says “we will all be changed” (emphasis added). In a precise moment, “in the twinkling of an eye,” the dead will be raised and the living saints will be called up. These verses don’t leave any room for Christians getting left behind. Paul clearly had every Christian in mind when he said “we will all be changed.”

The Midtribulational Rapture

The Midtribulational view holds that church will have to suffer through the first half of the Tribulation (3½ years). Those who hold this view try to do what they can to discredit the doctrine of imminency.[3] Obviously, with three and half year’s worth of prophetic events that have yet to be fulfilled, this doctrine is counterproductive to this belief system. The rapture is placed in Revelation chapter eleven at the end of the Trumpet judgments. Holders of this view cite 1 Corinthians 15:52 as evidence for their belief. Paul states that the rapture will occur at “the last trumpet.” Midtribulationists think this trumpet to be a reference to the last trumpet in the series of judgments. This rapture view has been called a form of pretribulationism because the proponents hold that the actual Great Tribulation doesn’t begin until the second half of the 70th week of Daniel. They say that “wrath” is the vocabulary that characterizes the Tribulation. The problem with this is that the word “wrath” does not begin appearing after this passage in Revelation. It actually appears before. In Revelation 6 those suffering through the judgments cry out for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from “the wrath of the Lamb.” It is important to note that the wrath of God encompasses the entirety of Daniel’s 70th week, not just the last half.[4]

Supporters of this view include J. Oliver Buswell Jr. and Gleason Archer.[5]

Primary Views on the Rapture

Aside from the non-primary views listed above, two rapture views are more accepted than most. One places the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and the other at the beginning.

Posttribulationism

It is difficult to write a summary about the posttribulational position because there are so many variations and conflicting views within this particular belief system. For example, some posttribulationists believe that the Tribulation is an event which is taking place now throughout the church age, while some hold to a seven year period in the future. The posttribulational view holds that the rapture will occur at the end of the tribulation. Posttribulationists say that the church will have to live through the tribulation. They divide the tribulation into a period of three separate periods of wraths: “the wrath of Satan, the wrath of wicked men (both of which the church will experience), and the wrath of God (which will come only at the very end and from which church will be delivered)[6].” To them, the Rapture and the second coming are the same event.[7]

In reference to the church having to live through the tribulation, Benware observes “the idea is that, since the church is clearly promised tribulation, it is impossible to say that the church must be raptured prior to the tribulation period.”[8] The majority of pretribulationists fail to note the distinction between Israel and the Church, in doing so they miss the point of the Tribulation. They fail to realize that the tribulation is meant to focus on Israel so that they may turn their faith towards the Messiah. Part of this mistake comes from the fact that some posttribulationists think we are going through the Tribulation now, and that it has been going on for some time. “Posttribulationists like J. Barton Payne, following the lead of some of the early church fathers and the Protestant Reformers, completely spiritualize the great tribulation, making it a contemporary or past event.”[9]

This belief system also goes against the New Testaments portrayal of the rapture being a “blessed hope.” The impact that a posttribulational rapture has on the image of the Rapture being a blessed hope cannot be made any clearer than the way Stephen Waterhouse puts it:

How can the rapture be a time of comfort and a blessed hope if believers face seven years of terror and probably horrible deaths before it can occur? If the rapture is post-tribulational, then the present generation would be better off if the Lord delayed His return until the next generation. A post-tribulational Rapture would give believers grounds for hoping that Christ does not return within their own lifetimes! It turns the blessed hope in to a dreaded horror and thoughts of comfort into worries about impending catastrophe. The Biblical portrayal of the rapture as a blessed hope and as a comforting thought definitely favors the pre-tribulational view.[10]

Another serious problem with Posttribulationism that posttribulationists are unable to address is the issue of who will be left to populate the millennial kingdom. We have stated above that Scripture indicates the rapture will include all believers being translated to heaven. However, the text of Revelation 19:20-21 indicates that all unbelievers on earth are either immediately thrown into the lake of fire, or are killed by the sword of the Lord. Believers in their glorified bodies will not be able to reproduce. So if the rapture and the second coming are the same event (as posttribulationists claim), then only glorified Christians will enter into the Kingdom with Christ. The problem here is that Isaiah 65:23-25 describe conditions in the kingdom. “They will not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of the Lord, and their descendants with them” (emphasis added). A pretribulational rapture offers the best solution to this problem.

Pretribulationism

The final view on the Rapture, and the one that lines up most with scripture, is that of the Pretribulational Rapture. The pretribulational view obviously places the Rapture at the beginning of the Tribulation. At some point in the future (unknown because the rapture is imminent) the Lord will return for His people. They will be raptured up and spend the length of the Tribulation in heaven until it is time to return to the earth with Christ at His second coming.

Some Biblical evidences for this view include Revelation 3:10 stating quite plainly that the church will be kept from the hour of wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 and 10 says Christ will rescue us from the wrath to come. Chapter 5 of the same book says that we are not destined for wrath, but for salvation.

Another thing to remember is that the Tribulation period is the 70th week of Daniel. It may not be the strongest evidence for a Pretribulational rapture, but the Church was not in the first 69 weeks and should not be in the last week.[11] One should remember that “since the church does not fit into the declared purposes of God for the Tribulation, the church will not be a part of that period of time.”[12]

Some more secondary evidence for the pretribulational rapture includes the fact that the church makes no appearance in Revelation 4-18. Normally an argument from silence is not a very strong one, but this may be the exception. The focus of almost the entirety of the New Testament is on the Church. Because the Church didn’t start until Acts 2, there is no mention of it in the Old Testament. If the church isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament because it isn’t there, it is reasonable to say it isn’t mentioned in Revelation 4-18 because it isn’t there. Also, if the 24 elders mentioned in Revelation 4:4 are the church, then the church is in heaven at the time of the Tribulation.

Conclusion

The rapture of the church will occur sometime in the future before the Tribulation begins. Posttribulationists and Midtribulationists miss key points in scripture that lead to the pretribulational conclusion.


[1] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. p. 558

[2] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. p. 558-561

[3] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy. p. 269

[4] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy. p. 268-73

[5] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. p. 579

[6] Ryrie, Charles C. What You Should Know About the Rapture. p. 109

[7] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy. p. 234

[8] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy. p. 244

[9] Walvoord, John F. “Posttribulationism Today: Part XII: Unresolved Problems of Posttribulationism”

[10] Waterhouse, Steven W. Not by Bread Alone p. 389

[11] Waterhouse, Steven W. Not by Bread Alone p.390

[12] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy. p. 221

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