There are many Bible-believing Christians who have different views on end-times events. While these events are not core doctrines, it is important to understand as much as we can about God’s complete purpose and plan. This includes the Lord Jesus Christ’s return to earth and His making all things new. The question, What is the Rapture and is it biblical? has already been answered. Now let’s look at the biblical support for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture (commonly called a Pre-Trib Rapture).
The Return of Christ for His Bride
We must remember that the Rapture is Jesus’ coming to receive His Bride, the Church, unto Himself. It is not the Lord’s second advent (commonly referred to as the second coming). Jesus came to earth the first time as the Lamb of God and He will only come again one more time. His second coming will be in judgment as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. When Jesus returns for His Bride, He will not set foot on the earth. But we, His Bride, will be called up to meet him in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 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: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
In Jesus’ second coming, He will stand upon the earth as prophesied:
Zechariah 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east,
A literal reading of the Scripture strongly supports a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. A Pre-Trib Rapture is defined by its expected occurrence before the Antichrist rises to power during the Seventieth Week of Daniel (i.e. the seven years we call the Tribulation). There are many biblical reasons to support that the Church will not be present during the Tribulation. Let’s look at five of those reasons.
1) A passage in 2 Thessalonians speaks clearly of the coming “lawless one” (elsewhere described as the Antichrist).
2 Thessalonians 2:6-10 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
“He who now restrains” and He who “will do so until He is taken out of the way” is a reference to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit now restrains evil on the earth, by teaching, guiding and strengthening believers to be a light in a dark world and to love and serve others. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s goodness dwells on this earth and is manifested through His people. When the Church is raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:17), the indwelling restraining power of the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth.
It should be understood that those who come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation will not have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Although God is omnipresent (His Spirit is everywhere), it will not be the same as this time now, when the power of the Spirit indwells believers. Once the Restrainer is removed, nothing will stop the Antichrist’s rise to power. The rest of the world will accept him and will believe his lies, especially when they witness false signs and wonders during the Tribulation.
2) Jesus has promised to keep His own (those called worthy in the verse below) from the wrath of God that is to come.
Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
When judged by God, those whose sins are covered by the blood of Christ are “accounted worthy.” In this verse Jesus promises that those accounted worthy will escape all the trials and difficulties, as well as God’s wrath. A Pre-Trib Rapture supports this.
3) Jesus has promised to keep His Bride, the Church, from both the wrath and the time period that is to come.
Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
4) We have been delivered from God’s wrath through salvation in Jesus and have assurance.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 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 Thessalonians 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
5) There is a distinction between Israel and the Church.
The Church has not replaced Israel. In the Old Testament, Israel was chosen by God and prepared as His people to receive their Messiah. They failed to do so. In the Tribulation, God will call Israel to Himself and through their affliction they will come to know that Jesus came first as their Messiah and Saviour. It is prophesied that the afflictions in the Tribulation will cause a believing remand of Israel to seek Jesus and trust in Him.
Hosea 5:15 I [Jesus] will go and return to my place, till they [Israel] acknowledge their offense [the rejection of Jesus as Messiah and His work on the cross as Saviour], and seek my face [trust in Jesus]: in their affliction [the Tribulation] they will seek me early.
During the Tribulation, the believing remnant of Israel “will seek Him early,” which was also prophesied by Isaiah:
Isaiah 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth [the Tribulation], the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Another prophecy that reveals that the Seventieth Week of Daniel is about Israel, not the church, is found in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
The great day spoken of is the coming judgment of God. . .and “none is like it.” The affliction will be great. “It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble.” We know that Jacob’s name was changed by God to the covenantal name of Israel (Genesis 32:28) representing that through him would come the nation of Israel. This “time of Jacob’s trouble” cannot be a reference to a time of personal trouble for the man Jacob because Jacob was no longer alive at the time this prophecy was given. This is a prophecy of a far-future time that will take place during the 70th week of Daniel. It will be a time of trouble for the nation of Israel. They will face God’s judgment, but “he” (the believing remnant of the nation Israel) “shall be saved out of it [the Tribulation].”
This is more about the doctrine of ecclesiology (the Church) than it about eschatology (end times). The church is not Israel and when the Church is gone, Israel will not be the church. The Church and Israel are distinct and separate. When the church age ends with the Rapture, God will judge Israel with the purpose of calling the people of Israel to repentance and faith in Jesus (through the testimony of the two witnesses and the 144,000).
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel
To fully understand the timing of the Rapture, we must understand the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 and how it foretells of Israel’s future. It speaks of a period of 70 weeks. The word “week” in the Hebrew mind signifies the number seven. This goes back to the beginning when God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh. God set the pattern for life as a cycle of seven. The number seven indicates both completion and perfection (read: The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible). The “week” in ancient Israel meant seven in the same way that we perceive the word “dozen” to mean 12. Therefore they understood Daniel’s prophesy of “seventy weeks” (Daniel 9:24) to equal 70 sevens or 490 years, just like we would understand 70 dozens to equal 70 x 12 or 840.
In retrospect, we know with certainty that Daniel 9:24-27 is precise in its timing of the 69 weeks (a week = 7 years) or 483 years. He tells of the time when the Messiah would be “cut off” (that’s a Hebraism for killed) and it is timed precisely to the day when Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed. We call that day “Palm Sunday,” the day when the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey heading toward the cross.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
The Sixty Nine Weeks Fulfilled
The 69 weeks of this prophecy (483 years) were fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming. But there is still one week (seven years) to be fulfilled. The entirety of this prophesy is about God dealing with His covenant people Israel. It was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, who is seen in Scripture as God’s messenger to His people. Gabriel spoke to Daniel in 8:15–26, 9:21–27 of the coming Messiah and in Luke he spoke to Zechariah and Mary with prophecies of the sons whom God would give them (Luke 1:11-38). Just as God brought forth those two promised sons, God will fulfill everything prophesied in Daniel.
A Gap in the Timeline?
There is clearly a “gap” in the timeline of this prophecy. The gap covers the time of the Church Age, which is about the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is distinctly different from the Nation of Israel. It is comprised of all who have trusted in Jesus, been saved by Him, and have received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This time is also called the “time of the Gentiles” — another indication of its distinction from the Nation of Israel. During the Church Age, believers are in covenant with God through the New Covenant established in Christ. They are not under the Old Covenant that God made the Nation of Israel. And yet we must remember that there are covenantal promises that God made with the Nation of Israel that are yet to be fulfilled. God is faithful and He will fulfill them, beginning in the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
Jesus will be the One who ushers in the Seventieth Week of Daniel by opening the seal judgments (Revelation 6:1). Although the severity of wrath will increase and culminate in the Great Tribulation (the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation), the judgment and wrath of God will begin to be poured out when the Seventieth Week of Daniel commences.
Only Jesus is worthy to open the seals (Revelation 5:2-5). Only Jesus determines when this period of judgment and wrath begins. Understanding this explains why a pre-wrath view (suggesting a mid-Trib or slightly later Rapture), is not widely held. The entire seven-year will be God’s fulfillment of the prophecy given to Daniel. It will be judgment on the Nation of Israel with God’s purpose being to bring to Himself a remnant of people (believing Israel) and fulfilling His covenant promises to them.
More Reasons for a Pre-Trib Rapture
- The Tribulation and the Second Coming were prophesied clearly in the Old Testament, but the Rapture was a “mystery.” It is a separate event not clearly spoken of until the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
- The exhortation to the Church is to be eagerly watching and waiting for the imminent return of the Lord, not for seven years of tribulation (1 Corinthians 1:6-8, Titus 2:13, Philippians 3:20)
- Hypothetically if the Church were to go into the Tribulation, the next event on the prophetic calendar would be the signs described in the book of Revelation. If that were the case, believers would be looking for signs, not walking by faith. Signs and wonders are for the Jews, that they might believe (1 Corinthians 1:22).
- Paul speaks of the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:8) and the “day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10, 2:16; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ). These are references to the Rapture. The “day of the Lord” is a reference to the time of God’s judgment.
- Typology and pattern in the Feasts of the Lord point to a Pre-Trib Rapture. The Passover pre-figured Jesus’ first advent and the Feast of Tabernacles points toward the time when He will come again. The late spring/early summer feast of Shavout points typologically to the Rapture (Read: What is Shavuot? Is there a prophetic aspect to it?)
There are many other biblical verses and passages and theological reasons that support a Pre-Trib Rapture. Continue to study and come to your own understanding of God’s fulfillment of His promises to the Church and those promises that He made to Israel that He will one day fulfill.
Remember the Rapture is not a core doctrine and it should never be divisive among Christians. As interesting and important as this subject might be, remember to discuss such matters with meekness and fear, kindness, and gentleness (1 Peter 3:15), for Christ has told us…
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)
Read also: What is the Rapture and is it biblical?
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