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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Rapture Question

I'm reading in 1 Corinthians these days and I came across this:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed (1 Cor 15:51-52).
Ah, the Rapture, the End Times, all that good stuff! Last year Harold Camping and clan assured us that the Rapture was going to be May 21, 2011. Okay. He missed. Actually it was October 21, 2011. Turned out that neither of these were any more accurate than his previous predictions. The Rapture, you see, is cloaked in mystery.

Now, my mother reads this and she would know, but I'm going to operate here off of my (elusive, fleeting) memory. I seem to recall, when I was young, that an amazing aunt of mine (great aunt, actually) and her husband had preparations in place for them to survive the Great Tribulation. I know, I know, I could be wrong. But I seem to recall provisions being set aside so they could get through the Tribulation even when those who belonged to the Lord wouldn't be allowed to buy or sell. And I recall thinking that it was odd. It was odd because, after all, didn't everyone know that the Lord was going to call His own out of the world before the Tribulation? So what would all those preparations accomplish?

The notion was this. There would be a time when the Antichrist (not mere antichrists) would come upon the scene. Just prior to that there would be "the Rapture", a calling out of the saved to be with Christ. We call it a "pre-Trib Rapture" because, as everyone knows, it happens prior to the Great Tribulation. Seven years later, when the Tribulation reaches its end, Christ and the "called out" saints will return and wipe out the Antichrist and his minions. Oh, you know that one. That's Armageddon. You know the "big battle".

Funny thing. Turns out that, while I held the majority view of the day, I was in the vast minority in Church history. In fact, not one single writer prior to about 1850 ever once took the position of the pre-Trib Rapture. As it turns out, the standard view was what I recall my great aunt had -- the post-Trib Rapture.

Why would anyone think that? Well, as it turns out, the concept of the Rapture is only documented in two places in Scripture. Oh, you might start with the Rapture concept and try to pull it out of other places, but there are only two explicit spots. The first is that one from 1 Corinthians 15. The most popular is the one in 1 Thessalonians 4.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4:13-18).
The topic, again, is resurrection (as it was in 1 Cor 15) and the coming of Christ, the Second Coming. Both mention the trumpet. Both speak of the two groups -- those who are alive and those who died -- rising. All of that is pretty clear. So at the Second Coming the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will rise first followed by those who are left alive to join Christ and be with Him from then on. (The word, "Rapture", comes from the 1 Thess text where the Latin for "caught up" is rapture.)

Okay, so we have two texts on the concept of the Rapture. Both texts place the Rapture at the Second Coming. No text describes "the Third Coming" or any such thing. Consider the facts, then. We should always interpret the implicit from the explicit. The explicit on the topic of the Rapture is at the Second Coming. Further, prior to the mid-19th century, no one held to a "pre-Trib Rapture" concept. Given both Church history and explicit Scripture, could it be that the oh-so-popular "pre-Trib Rapture" is not a biblical concept?


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I call the pre-Trib view the "get out of tribulation free card."

I believe the Scriptures have one 2nd coming at the end of the trib. In fact, last year when I read the first volume of the ante-Nicene Fathers, I found a couple places (don't ask me where - i didn't mark them) where the old guys mentioned what we would call the post-Trib position.

I agree, prior to the mid-19th Century pre-Trib did not exist. Funny how it was missed for 1800 years! "If it's new, it isn't true!"

Stan said...

Yes, the "post-Trib" position is the historical position of the Church. I know that Protestants don't like to include tradition in their figuring, but I think it's a mistake when we ignore it. Things like "post-Trib Rapture", church leadership, and the definition of marriage have not changed until very recently. "Very recently" becomes a problem for me.

David said...

I used to have a problem with the Pre-Trib position because nothing I know about God says believers won't suffer, and since half the Tribulation is merely suffering, the idea that God would remove us from that suffering didn't add up. My eschatology at the time made me mid-trib because I believed the second half was God pouring out His wrath, and believers wouldn't suffer His wrath. Of course, now I don't know where I stand, changing from a pre-Millennial to an amillennial really messed up my tribulation view. So, whenever the second coming occurs, (to adlib Bill Cosby) "You and me Jesus, you and me."

Jeremy D. Troxler said...


Boy, you sure do like posting only the most controversial and pointed subjects, don't you? I suppose that's why I like reading your posts so much.

For what it's worth, my take is that I am waiting to go home (my real home, not my temporary lodging) and until that time I have the following: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

My Shepherd knows me, and I know His voice. My Father is greater than all and no one can snatch me out of His hand - before, during or after. My time to go is under the control of the One who orders my steps and has numbered my days and is holding me. Keeping that as a first principle makes the timing of when trouble comes (in whatever fashion, to whatever degree, and to whatever earthly end) secondary and therefore much less important a concern.

Stan said...

Looks like David and Jeremy end up in the same position -- "Whenever is good for you, Lord, is good for me."

Craig said...

I'm pretty much pan-trib. Just wait to see how it all pans out.

Stan said...

This is not a hill I am willing to die on. I was raised pre-Trib. I've (obviously) had problems with that upbringing of late. If it turns out that I'm wrong and it is pre-Trib, I'm good with that. If not ... I'm good with that.

Craig said...


Me too. There was a point where I was pre-trib, but over the past few years it just doesn't seem to be as important as it did earlier. God's in charge, and I'm comfortable with whatever he chooses.

starflyer said...

Imagine the fights at Stan's house growing up.

"Where did we go wrong, Stan...we thought we raised you in the best pre-trib way we could, and now you go and treat us like this..."

Stan said...

Growing up? Nah! I was a good, "pre-Trib" boy. Now, at recent family gatherings? Yeah, that gets interesting. :)

Anonymous said...

[Yo, Winging. Saw this on the web. Enjoying your good blog. Terry]


How can the “rapture” be “imminent”? Acts 3:21 says that Jesus “must” stay in heaven (He's now there with the Father) “until the times of restitution of all things” which includes, says Scofield, “the restoration of the theocracy under David’s Son” which obviously can’t begin before or during Antichrist’s reign. ("The Rapture Question," by the long time No. 1 pretrib authority John Walvoord, didn't dare to even list, in its scripture index, the too-hot-to-handle Acts 3:21!) Since Jesus can’t even leave heaven before the tribulation ends (Acts 2:34,35 echo this), the rapture therefore can't take place before the end of the trib! (The same Acts verses were also too hot for John Darby - the so-called "father of dispensationalism" - to list in the scripture index in his "Letters"!)
Paul explains the “times and the seasons” (I Thess. 5:1) of the catching up (I Thess. 4:17) as the “day of the Lord” (5:2) which FOLLOWS the posttrib sun/moon darkening (Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20) WHEN “sudden destruction” (5:3) of the wicked occurs! The "rest" for "all them that believe" is tied to such destruction in II Thess. 1:6-10! (If the wicked are destroyed before or during the trib, who'd be left alive to serve the Antichrist?) Paul also ties the change-into-immortality “rapture” (I Cor. 15:52) to the posttrib end of “death” (15:54). (Will death be ended before or during the trib? Of course not! And vs. 54 is also tied to Isa. 25:8 which is Israel's posttrib resurrection!)
Many are unaware that before 1830 all Christians had always viewed I Thess. 4’s “catching up” as an integral part of the final second coming to earth. In 1830 this "rapture" was stretched forward and turned into a separate coming of Christ. To further strengthen their novel view, which the mass of evangelical scholars rejected throughout the 1800s, pretrib teachers in the early 1900s began to stretch forward the “day of the Lord” (what Darby and Scofield never dared to do) and hook it up with their already-stretched-forward “rapture.” Many leading evangelical scholars still weren’t convinced of pretrib, so pretrib teachers then began teaching that the “falling away” of II Thess. 2:3 is really a pretrib rapture (the same as saying that the “rapture” in 2:3 must happen before the “rapture” ["gathering"] in 2:1 can happen – the height of desperation!).
Other Google articles on the 181-year-old pretrib rapture view include "Pretrib Rapture Scholar Wannabes," “Famous Rapture Watchers,” "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," “X-Raying Margaret,” "Edward Irving is Unnerving," “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” "Walvoord Melts Ice," “Wily Jeffrey,” “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “Scholars Weigh My Research,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," “Deceiving and Being Deceived,” and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" – all by the author of the bestselling book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books).

Anonymous said...

Sir, it is great to see you reject the pre-tribulation rapture but do you believe in the teaching of once saved always saved (eternal security)? Thanks.

Stan said...

I believe in the perseverance of God for the saints.