Monday, January 11, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 2 Pre-Tribulation


The Pretribulation view is a fairly new point of originating in the 1800’s. Pretribulationists believe the Rapture of the Church, including both dead and living saints, will take place before the seven-year Tribulation beginning before the seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27.[1] The Rapture is a secret coming of Christ for his Church that could occur at any time. There are numerous passages of Scripture to support the idea that Christ could return at any time which include: Matt. 24:42-44; 24:50; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:40; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; Titus 2:12-13; Heb. 10:25; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7; Rev. 1:3; 22:7; 22:12; 22:20.

Specifying that the Tribulation is to be seven years is important because some midtribulationists believe that the Tribulation refers only to the last three and a half years of this period. So for Pretribulationists, the seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27 takes place between the Rapture and the Second Coming. This is supported by the notion that the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit must be removed before the Antichrist can be revealed as found in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.[2]

The meaning of Revelation 3:10 where the risen Lord promised the church at Philadelphia they would be kept from the hour of trial is the most debated verse in the Rapture discussion[3] and warrants some attention here.
“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of
trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10, ESV).

Jesus seems to be saying that the church would be kept from the hour of trial, not protected while in the hour of trial. This does add weight to the notion of a Pretribulation Rapture as interpreted by pretribulationism.

As stated previously, the word rapture comes from the Latin rapio meaning caught up. The Greek word is ρπάζω (harpazo) and means to catch up or snatch away. This word is used elsewhere in Scripture describing how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and describing Paul’s experience having been caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4).[4] Given the use of ρπάζω (harpazo) in other parts of Scripture that clearly mean “caught up”, there is little reason to question Paul’s meaning in 1 Thess. 4:16-17.

The pretribulational view is not without problems. While it is true that there are many passages of Scripture that indicate Christ could return at any time, there are also passages that indicate there are signs that will precede Christ’s return. Among these signs are the preaching of the gospel to all nations (Mark 13:10; cf. Matt. 24:14); false prophets working signs and wonders (Mark 13:22; cf. Matt. 24:23-24); signs in the heavens (Mark 13:24-25; cf. Matt. 24:29-30; Luke 21:25-27); and the salvation of Israel (2 Thess. 2:1-10).[5] With such clear teaching from Scripture, at a minimum there is a blunting of the idea that Christ could come at any time. Another issue with the pretribulational view is the separation of national Israel and the Church. It is difficult to find in Scripture where Israel and the Church must remain separate entities as seems necessary to sustain this view.

[1] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 562.
[2] Clouse, R. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 984.
[3] Archer Jr., Gleason L., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter. Three Views on the Rapture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, 1996), 63.
[4] Ibid, 537.
[5] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1097-99.

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