Since I have been posting about the rapture I thought I would repost something I sent out on my old e-blog a year ago concerning the timing of the rapture.
Many of you know I am post-trib when it comes to the timing of the rapture. I consider this to be a secondary, not a primary doctrine in the overall taxonomy of doctrine, and thus I do not believe differences of opinion on eschatological matters such as this should serve as dividing lines for fellowship. Neither do I normally make a point of actively proselytizing pre-trib Pentecostals to the post-trib side. But when the topic comes up I engage the issue thoroughly and with passion. After all, we are talking about our future hope. The subject is definitely an important one, and I take it rather seriously.
I am much more tolerant of my pre-trib brothers than I am of those in the pan-trib camp—you know, those who have resolved that it will “all pan out in the end.” Sure, some of them are well meaning individuals who have heard at least some arguments for all sides and simply remain confused because they don’t have the theological know-how to sort through the competing arguments. Others, however, simply choose not to give the issue much thought. For the latter group pan-trib is justification for intellectually laziness. That is unacceptable for those who claim to love the Lord and His Word. This is a subject we ought to study out. But many believers are of the opinion that we can never know when the rapture will occur because the Bible is not clear on the matter. I beg to differ. Below you will find a link to a very short article written by Greg Koukl entitled “The Rap on the Rapture,” in which he makes a simple case demonstrating that the Bible is clear on the timing of the rapture. I do hope you will read it.
Koukl provides two clear passages for the timing of the rapture, but I would like to add two more.
II Thessalonians 1:6-10
For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed– for our testimony to you was believed.
Paul makes it clear that the church will receive relief from those who afflict them when Jesus is revealed from heaven and deals out retribution to sinners. Even pre-tribbers agree that Paul is talking about the second coming here. This brings up a question: Wouldn’t the church get relief when they were raptured into heavenly bliss 7 years before this event? Not according to Paul.
Verse 10 is extremely important because Paul connects the day the Lord comes to judge the wicked with the day He will be glorified in His saints. It is on “that day” that the Lord comes to be glorified by His saints. “That day” is used in II Tim 1:12, 18 and 4:8 to refer to the day we end our Christian race.
II Thessalonians 2:14
In II Thessalonians 2:1-4 Paul wrote:
Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you brothers 2 not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until there is a falling away and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God. … 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed [after the restrainer is taken out of the way] whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the appearance of his coming.
What day will not come until there is a falling away and the man of lawlessness is revealed? Paul had just spoken of the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him (a clear reference to the rapture). Which is he referring to? Is he referring to the day on which Christ returns or the day of the rapture? Pre-tribbers say the former, while post-tribbers say he is referring to both; pre-tribbers believe Paul has two different events in mind that are separated from each other by seven years, whereas post-tribbers argue that the two events occur simultaneously at the end of the tribulation period.
If Paul is talking about two separate events in verse one I find it interesting that he only went on to give the details of one event—and all agree that the event he went on to describe is the 2nd coming. If Paul’s stated purpose was to address both the coming of our Lord and our gathering together to him, when did he ever discuss the rapture? If you are in the pre-trib camp you must admit that he didn’t! I guess he was inspired to forget that he brought it up. If, however, Paul understood the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him to take place at the same time, then he discussed the rapture when he discussed the 2nd coming (for that is when our gathering would occur). The fact that Paul only described one event is a clear indication that, for Paul, the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to him are one and the same event.
When does Paul say this coming/gathering event will take place? He says it will occur only after two things have happened: 1. there is a falling away; 2. the antichrist is revealed and sets himself up in the temple as god. After that the Lord will return and destroy the antichrist. Wait a minute! If our gathering together to the Lord will not occur until some time after the antichrist appears and sets himself up in the temple as god (after 3 ½ years), then the doctrine that the church will be raptured prior to the tribulation must be false. Interestingly, the testimony of church history is unanimous that the church will be raptured at the end of the tribulation, at Christ’s 2nd coming. The idea that Christ would rapture the church prior to the tribulation surfaced only 150 years ago.
The occasion for Paul’s writing was a false teaching being spread among the Thessalonians in Paul’s name that the day of the Lord had already come. Paul warned them not to be deceived by this idea. How had they been deceived? They had been deceived because Paul had told them while he was with them (v.5) that certain events must transpire before the coming/gathering. They had bought into the idea that the rapture could happen prior to certain objective events previously named by Paul. This is devastating to the pre-trib understanding of “immanency” in which the rapture can occur at any moment—no prior events being necessary.
If you would like to read more evidence for the post-trib position and against the pre-trib position, see William Arnold’s short book online at http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/post/index.htm.