by Mark Robinson
“Pre-trib”, “mid-trib”, “post-trib”, “pre-wrath”. Perhaps you have heard these terms—perhaps not. They refer to the timing of the Rapture of the Church. “Trib” refers to the seven year Tribulation period prophesied in the Bible that will occur just before Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on earth. While all rapture positions agree, based on Daniel 9:27, that a seven year period will take place, there are various theories regarding the timing of the rapture in relation to this seven year period. “Pre-trib” teaching believes all church age born again believers, dead and alive, will be bodily resurrected and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) before the seven year period starts; “mid-trib” believes the rapture will be in the middle of the seven year period; “post-trib” at the end of the seven year period; and “pre-wrath” believes it will occur before the wrath of God is poured out during the seven year period which, according to the theory, is sometime during the last half of the seven year period.
Is this issue really important, or is this just “prophecy buffs” arguing over something that doesn’t amount to much at all?
Although not the most essential doctrine of the faith, it is nonetheless a doctrine that does have profound implications for our Christian life. The issue of the timing of the Rapture is important because it has significant ramifications on how we live. If, for example, the rapture could occur at any moment,
as the pre-trib proponents believe, we should live righteously and godly, for we know we may meet Him face to face even today.
The Bible does tell us “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…” [emphasis added] (2 Timothy 3:16). And we are told to “…rightly divid[e] the word of truth” so that the “workman needeth not be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15).
If you believe in any of the rapture positions other than pre-trib, perhaps you need to prepare for martyrdom, as most believers in the Tribulation period will lose their life for their faith. One writer, who doesn’t accept the pre-trib rapture position, believes Christians are headed for disaster if they don’t reject the pre-trib view and accept his position. “The church will enter that period unprepared, spiritually naked, vulnerable, and ripe for the Antichrist’s deception. A questioning of the trustworthiness of the Word of God will naturally follow. It will be a spiritual catastrophe—a Pearl Harbor of incalculable proportions—a satanically planned sneak attack.”1
What an indictment of the spiritual walk of godly people who hold to the pre-trib position. Actually, it would seem to me that someone holding to a pre-trib rapture position, and living in light of that truth would be prepared for anything that comes along, as we are told in 2 Peter 3:14 of those looking forward to future events: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
There are many arguments that could be presented to defend the pre-trib rapture position. Briefly, we will look at three which I believe establish the correctness of this view.
DISTINCTION OF THE CHURCH AND ISRAEL
Daniel 9:24-27 is a very strong Scriptural argument for the pre-trib rapture position. My contention is that, of all the rapture positions, this passage supports only the pre-trib view.
24 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.
25 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.
26 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.
27 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 prophesied period of time is broken into two periods which we need to consider, the first 69 weeks and the last week. The first 69 weeks (a week is 7 years2) refers to the time the prophecy was given to the time the Messiah is cut off—killed. After His death, “the people of the prince” come and “destroy the city and the sanctuary” (vs. 26). This took place in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. It is clear that about a 40 year gap of time exists between the beginning of verse 26, “Messiah cut off,” around 32 A.D., and the “destruction of the city and the sanctuary” in 70 A.D. The final week of the prophecy starts in verse 27, so the last week starts sometime after 70 A.D. This week starts when the Anti-Christ “shall confirm a covenant with many…” This is a treaty between Israel (the focus of this prophecy) and her enemies, orchestrated by the Anti-Christ.
The entire 70 weeks is exclusively for the Jewish people. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and thy holy city.” Since the church wasn’t born until after Jesus ascended into heaven, 40 days after his death and resurrection, it is clear that the church was not present during the first 69 weeks.
It is reasonable to assume that since the church was not present in the first 69 weeks she will not be present in the last week. There is another analogy to consider. In the beginning of the Church age, both the Church and Israel were present for a short time (until the nation was destroyed in 70 A.D.). It is reasonable to conclude that at the end of the Church age, both the Church and Israel are present. With the re-birth of the nation of Israel in 1948, this is the exact scenario we have today. For this analogy to be carried through the Church must be gone during the last week (seven years) of this prophecy, as she was not present during the first 69 weeks. The only position to allow for this is the pre-trib rapture position. It is based upon this understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 that we conclude the rapturemust be before the Tribulation period begins.
Imminency means no prophecy has to be fulfilled before the Lord returns for His bride. The only rapture position that meets this criteria is the pre-trib rapture view. In all the other rapture beliefs there are many prophecies that have to be fulfilled before the Lord can come for His Church.
A plain reading of the Scripture makes it difficult for anyone to deny the imminency of the coming of the Lord. Among many verses, here are a few:
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:12-13
“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” James 5:7-9
The language of these verses clearly speaks of an “anytime” coming of the Lord. “Looking for that blessed hope,” (not the coming of the Anti-Christ or any other prophecy); “the Lord is at hand;” and “the judge standeth before the door” all demand an understanding of imminency in regard to the coming of the Lord. J. Barton Payne declared, “In fact, no natural reading of Scripture would produce any other conclusion3.”
The imminent coming of Christ has been consistently taught throughout church history. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states, “Primitive Christianity believed the event to be imminent and this belief has been revived from time to time in the history of the church.”4
It is difficult to understand how the biblical writers could believe a rapture position that required the Tribulation period and certain prophecies to take place before the coming of the Lord, while also clearly teaching the imminent coming of the Lord. To be consistent, the only correct position would be the pre-trib rapture position.
RAPTURE BEFORE WRATH
All rapture positions, with the exception of post-trib, believe the rapture will take place before the wrath of God is poured out. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 and 5:9 tell us, “… to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” And, “for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” The question we are confronted with is when does the wrath of God start? When this is determined, we then know that the rapture has to take place prior to this time.
God has given the authority of judgment into the hands of His Son. John 5:22 and 5:27 state, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” and “…hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” It is clear that when God executes judgment, it is through the Son.
In the fifth chapter of Revelation, we have a scroll sealed with seven seals. The question is asked by an angel, “Who is worthy to open the book (scroll), and to loose the seals thereof?” The answer to this question is vitally important because the one identified will be opening the 7 seal judgments, along with the subsequent trumpet and bowl judgments that will be poured out upon this earth. Verse nine provides the answer, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book (scroll), and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” The Lamb of God, Jesus, is the only one worthy to open the book and, as John already told us in his gospel, He will be pouring out these judgments upon the world.
In the first seal judgment, Revelation 6:1, we are told “the Lamb opened one of the seals.” In fact, the Lamb, Jesus, opens all the seal judgments, vss. 3, 5, 7, 9, 12. Then, with unmistakable clarity, we are told, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” This is the wrath of God from which believers are promised deliverance. His wrath has already commenced. His wrath is initiated with these seal judgments. The seal judgments start at the beginning of the Tribulation period and so the Church must be raptured before the Tribulation period starts in order to “deliver us from the wrath to come.”
THE BLESSED HOPE
Three lines of evidence have been presented for the validity of the pre-trib rapture view. The scripture passages examined, to this writer, leave no possibility for the mid-trib, post-trib, and pre-wrath position to be the correct biblical position. It is this writer’s conviction that the Bible supports the pre-trib rapture and that born-again Christians will be taken off this earth before the Tribulation period begins. This is truly a blessed hope!
1. Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 281-82.
2. For an in depth treatment of this entire prophecy including why these are weeks of years I recommend The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson published by Kregel.
3. Quoted from Maranatha, Our Lord Come: A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, Dr. Renald Showers, (Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995) p. 129
4. Ibid. p. 143