7 Bible Reasons For a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

I’m currently preaching a prophecy series at the church, and it has gotten me neck-deep in the subject as my study is awash in prophecy books and commentaries on The Revelation. As part of the overflow from all my recent studying, I thought I’d devote a handful of posts to dealing with a few prophetic issues. For this first post, I’ll share the Biblical evidence that supports the idea that the Rapture will take place before the coming tribulation period begins. This interpretation is called “The Pre-Tribulation Rapture.”

Reason #1 has to do with the overall chronological layout of the book of The Revelation. In the first three chapters of the book, the word “church” is used seven times and the word “churches” is used twelve times. However, after the end of chapter 3 neither word is used again until one of the last verses of the book’s last chapter: verse 16 of chapter 22. Even then the word “churches” is used only to refer back to the seven churches to which Jesus instructed the apostle John to write. This means that in chapters 6 through 19, the chapters in which the seven-year tribulation period is laid out in detail, not one reference is made of the church.

Reason #2 goes right along with reason #1. In chapters 4 and 5, The Revelation places the church squarely in heaven before the tribulation period begins in chapter 6. In those chapters, the church is represented as the group called the 24 elders. We know this group represents the church because of the white robes they wear (Revelation 3:5; 19:8), the thrones upon which they sit (Revelation 1:6), and the song they sing to Jesus (The Lamb) in Revelation 5:9:

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign upon the earth.” (N.K.J.V.)

Reason #3 involves the revealing of the Antichrist. In regards to that revealing, 2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8 says:

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. (N.K.J.V.)

The term “the lawless one” is clearly a reference to the Antichrist. But who is the one who now restrains and will do so until he is taken out of the way? He is God the Holy Spirit. And since God the Holy Spirit dwells inside each Christian, the passage seems to refer to Christians being taken out of the way.

Okay, so how would such a removal take place? The answer is, the Rapture. Notice that the passage plainly says of the Holy Spirit’s removal: …And then the lawless one (the Antichrist) will be revealed. The teaching is that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, and that means that Christians, each of whom is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, must be taken out of the way.

Reason #4 comes from a certain promise that Jesus made to the church in Philadelphia.  He said to them:

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10, N.K.J.V.)

What’s interesting about this verse is that in the days when the church in the ancient city of Philadelphia actually existed, there was no “hour of trial” that came upon “the whole world.” Yes, those Christians of Philadelphia were definitely persecuted under the rule of the Roman empire, but that empire didn’t rule over the entire world. Therefore, it seems that Jesus meant for His promise to reach into a future time. When we couple this up with the fact that it is commonly believed that He intended for the seven churches of The Revelation to symbolize all of the churches throughout the entire age, we begin to understand how His promise could be applicable to a future time and a future church.

Coming at this issue another way, many excellent commentators also interpret the seven churches to be symbolic of the various eras of the church age — the early church (33 A.D. to 100 A.D.) being the era of Ephesus, the next era (100 A.D. to 313 A.D.) being the era of Smyrna, etc. On this topic, J. Vernon McGee has voiced an interesting thought. His contention was that Jesus specifically addressed His promise to keep the Philadelphia church from the hour of trial (the tribulation period) because the Philadelphia era is when the Rapture will occur. This, according to McGee, will leave the Laodicean era (which is the next one after Philadelphia and the last one of the seven) to the apostate church that will be “Christian” in name only. In other words, he believed that the Laodicean church symbolized the false church that will congregate each Sunday during the tribulation period. As possible evidence for this interpretation, Jesus does say that He will vomit the Laodicean church out of His mouth, which evidently meant that He would have nothing to do with it.

Reason #5 why we are correct in saying that the Rapture will take place before the tribulation period is similar to reason #4. Just as Jesus spoke to those Christians of Philadelphia about a way of escape from the tribulation period, He spoke similar words to His audience in Luke 21:36. In His conclusion to a teaching about the tribulation period, He said to those people:

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (N.K.J.V.)

It doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to deduce that the way of escape to which He was referring is the Rapture. And how much of the tribulation period will Christians miss because of the Rapture? Jesus says, “…that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass.”

Reason #6 encompasses all the passages of scripture that teach that Christians are not under any kind of condemnation from God and will never have to experience any of His wrath. These verses (all from the N.K.J.V.) are relevant to this topic because the tribulation period is described as the time when God will pour out His wrath upon the earth (Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10,19; 15:1,7; 16:1,19; 19:15):

  • Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
  • For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
  • For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

Again, since The Revelation specifically speaks in ten passages of the wrath of God being poured out upon the earth during the tribulation period, it is obvious that the snatching away of Christians must take place before that period begins.

Reason #7 why we know that the church will not go through any of the tribulation period is found in all the New Testament passages that teach that those early Christians were looking for Jesus Christ rather than the Antichrist. The list of such passages is numerous (all of these from the N.K.J.V.):

  • And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. (1 John 2:28)
  • …and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (1 Peter 5:4)
  • Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit from the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:7-8)
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… (Titus 2:11-13)
  • I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing. (1 Timothy 6:13-14)
  • I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ… (1 Corinthians 1:4-7)
  • For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
  • For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
  • When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
  • For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
  • Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)
  • For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In conclusion, some sincere Christians say, “But the church (Christ’s bride) must be purged before she can be joined to Christ. She must be made clean, and her garments must be made white. And that can only happen if she experiences all or some of the tribulation period. That will be her purging.”

My response to these well-meaning folks would be to remind them that Christians have been dying for 2,000 years now. That means that a large percentage of the church is already in heaven and all those believers up there never got purged by going through any tribulation period. It seems absurd, then, that God would exclusively reserve the purging of the tribulation period for a group of Christians who just happen to be living on earth right before the tribulation period begins. No, as these seven pieces of scriptural evidence prove, the Rapture will occur before the tribulation period begins. That’s what John, Peter, James, and Paul were expecting, and it’s what we Christians today should be expecting as well.

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2 Responses to 7 Bible Reasons For a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

  1. Dale Hall says:

    Excellent

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