It occurred to me that no where has the News Wisdom blog made the case for the Rapture of the Church occurring prior to the Tribulation. This post should remedy that…
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. As Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42, NKJ).
The Apostle Paul certainly believed the Rapture to be imminent. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says, “the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Paul expected to be included among those who would not face death and be taken in the Rapture when he said, “we who are still alive and left…”
Among the 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 minds at ease that their persecution was not the Great Tribulation which would have meant they missed the Rapture as 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 us and the Lawless One who is the Antichrist will be permitted to come to power.
Jesus is coming back in two phases, first for His Church and next to establish His Kingdom on earth. The significant differences between these two phases can only be explained as two separate events; it is impossible to reconcile them as the same event. At the Rapture, only believers will see Jesus (Hebrews 9:28); at His Second Coming all people will see Him (Revelation 1:7). At the Rapture, we’ll meet Jesus in the air (1Thessalonians 4:17); at His 2nd coming, Jesus will set foot on earth (Zechariah 14:4). At the Rapture, all believers are resurrected (Colossians 3:4); at the 2nd coming, no one is resurrected (1Thessalonians 3:13). At the Rapture, the works of believers are judged 1 Peter 1:7); at the 2nd coming, the nations are judged (Matthew 25:31-32). As I already mentioned in the doctrine of imminence, the Rapture is not predictable (1 Thessalonians 5:2); the 2nd coming is associated with key events that have time-frames given for them (Daniel 12:11-13). There are many passages referring to timing of the Rapture as being before the Tribulation such as Revelation 3:10 while the 2nd coming of Jesus is shown to be afterwards like Revelation 19:11.
In addition to these distinctions, there are prophetic types in Scripture that reinforce the idea of a pre-Tribulation Rapture. For example, embedded within the genealogies of Genesis, we see that, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Enoch did not die; God took him to heaven prior to pouring out His wrath on earth in the world-wide flood. God protected Noah’s family as he will protect Israel during the Tribulation but Enoch represented the Church who will not see God’s wrath on the earth.
Another type was seen in the vision God gave the Apostle John… “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this’” (Revelation 4:1). This occurs after the letters to the seven churches which were chosen by God to describe the history of the church. We know that the book of Revelation is in chronological order because God told John to “write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Revelation 1:19). The idea that John being called up to heaven is a type of the Rapture is reinforced in the fact that the Church is not referred to except as being in heaven between the Revelation 4:1 Rapture passage and Christ’s return to earth in Revelation 19.
Knowing that there are no prophetic events that must precede the Rapture makes it a great blessing. As bad as things get in this world, we are just a heartbeat away from a wonderful future with Jesus… “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).