It has become increasingly popular in the last hundred years for Christians to speak of the "Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church." To add to that popularity, we saw around the turn of the century the publication of a set of Christian fiction called "The Left Behind" Series. While one's taste in fictional literature is a matter of personal taste, it is my feeling that the Biblical accuracy that is espoused by this position leaves much to be desired. The position follows this general outline:

  1. In a sudden and unannounced instant, all those who have died will rise from the dead and will be gathered along with all living believers to meet the Lord in the air. At this time, their bodies shall be changed as they receive new glorified bodies (I Thessalonians 4; I Corinthians 15:51-52).
  2. All of these believers will then be taken to heaven (John 14:3).
  3. In heaven there will be a judgment of all the believers who are there (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
  4. With all Christians suddenly disappeared from the earth, the world will be plunged into a terribly destructive seven years of tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-18). During this time, Russia will invade Palestine (Ezekiel 38-39) and a world-wide dictator will arise - the Anti-christ who will mandate that all must receive his mark on the forehead or on the hand (Revelation 13).
  5. Toward the end of this period, all of the nations of the world will be gathered together to the northern plains of Israel known as Armageddon.
  6. Jesus will return with His saints and will divide between the just and the unjust in a judgment of "sheep and goats" (Matthew 24-25). The "sheep" will be ushered into His kingdom while the "goats" will be cast into hell. The basis of this judgment will be the treatment that people accorded the Jews since only Christians will befriend the Jews during the tribulation (Matthew 25).
  7. Jesus will begin a 1000 year reign from His throne in Jerusalem (Revelation 20:4-6).
  8. At the end of that time, the will be another rebellion against God's rule as Satan is loosed upon the earth. Fire will come from heaven and devour them and a final judgment shall take place in which all heaven and earth is destroyed (Revelation 20:11-15).
  9. A new heaven and a new earth will be instituted which shall exist forever (Revelation 21-22).

The Pretribulationalist normally charts out these events like this:

There are several presuppositions which are proposed by Pre-Tribulationalists:

(a) There are two future comings of Christ.

The first is to return FOR His saints.
The second is to return WITH His saints.

(b) God has two distinct plans and programs in history.

One is for the church.
The second is for the nation of Israel.

(c) There will be a distinct 7 year period in the future called the "tribulation" or "Jacob's trouble."

(d) The church will not go through this tribulation.

Let me say for the record that I do not believe that the Bible teaches ANY of these presuppositions. For the remainder of this paper, I propose to go through each presupposition and discuss it at length.


One of the initial problems that the Pretribulationalist runs into is that of terminology. How shall he differentiate between these two future comings of Christ? The verses which he uses to teach of these events simply refer to "His coming" (this itself is a clue that the writers of the Bible believed that there was only ONE future coming of Christ and simply referred to it as "His coming").

Therefore, the term "rapture" of the church has been coined to describe the initial coming - the "secret" one. Note - it does not bother me that a theological term is coined; we coin terms all the time. It DOES bother me that there is no Scriptural term or statement for what is claimed by this teaching.

But enough of what bothers me - let's look at the Scriptures and see how they describe the second coming of Christ. In the following chart, I have placed verses that are claimed to represent the "rapture" with those that are claimed to refer to the Second Coming. It is taught by the Dispensationalist that these are two separate and distinct events, but when we compare the two, we find that they are described in exactly the same terms.


Second Coming

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven... (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

They will see the Son of man coming... (Matthew 24:30).

With the trumpet of God...(1 Thessalonians 4:16).

He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet (Matthew 24:31).

We who are alive shall be caught up together... (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

And they will gather together His elect from the four winds... (Matthew 24:31).

We... shall be caught up together with them in CLOUDS (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

They will see the Son of Man coming on the CLOUDS of the sky... (Matthew 24:30).

...if you will not wake up, I will come like a thief (Revelations 3:3).

The Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24:44; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 and 2 Peter 3:10).

...the coming of our Lord Jesus WITH all His saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

...the Lord came WITH many thousands of His holy ones (Jude 14).

As you look at the way Christ's coming is described in each of these verses, they appear to be speaking of the same thing. That is because they are the same event. Don't miss the implications of this: Not only are these events described in the same way using the same terms, but there is not a single passage of Scripture that makes a clear distinction between two future separate comings of Christ.


The theory that there are two distinct plans and programs which God has for people (one for the nation of Israel, the other for the church) is called DISPENSATIONALISM. Although the word "dispensation" is found in the Bible, it is not used in the same way that the dispensationalist uses it (Paul speaks of a "stewardship" or a "dispensation" that was entrusted to him - he is speaking of the gospel in I Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25).

As to the theory that God has two plans and programs which are separate and distinct, Paul says that Jesus made both groups into ONE, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:14). He goes on to say that Jesus did this to make the two into ONE new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both into ONE body to God through the cross (Ephesians 2:15-16).

In the Old Testament, the Lord revealed Himself to Abraham and promised him a great nation. In the New Testament, we read that if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29). Can you claim the promises of all the Bible? Yes, you can because you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise (Galatians 4:28).


One of the things that we must do when looking at prophecy is ask ourselves if the prophecy in question has already been fulfilled. In this case, I want to suggest that it HAS been fulfilled quite literally.

And furthermore, it has been fulfilled twice. The first time took place in the year 168 B.C. During that time, an invading king named Antiochus Epiphanes came down from the north and committed great atrocities against the Jews, forbidding them to read the Scriptures or to circumcise their children or to observe the Sabbath day. He eve went so far as to have a statue of himself erected inside the Temple with orders that it be worshiped by all on pain of death. This was the "abomination of desolation" which Daniel prophesied of in Daniel 11:31.

However, Jesus told His disciples that it would happen again (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:19). Sure enough, in 66 A.D. the Jews in Jerusalem rebelled against the Roman empire. The following war lasted 7 years. In 70 A.D. Jerusalem was taken and the Temple was again trodden underfoot by Gentile soldiers. This time, the Temple was destroyed and a great carnage ensued. However, the last resistance did not fall until 73 A.D. when the Romans took Masada, only to find that the last remnant of 930 Jews had committed suicide rather than be taken captive.

Is there still a future time of tribulation? I do not know. But I do know that Jesus said to His disciples that "in the world you have tribulation" (John 16:33 - notice the present tense). Indeed, the history of the church has been a history of tribulation. There are Christians today who are going through tribulation. It is entirely possible that this will escalate into even greater tribulation. This brings me to my last point.


Do the Scriptures teach that the church will avoid tribulation? No, I think that it is evident that they do not. The world will always hate the church and seek to destroy it (John 15:18-20). The good news is that we have a promise of relief when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire (1 Thessalonians 1:17).

Will there be a future antichrist who will persecute the church? Perhaps. On the other hand, we must admit that it is already happening and has been happening since the first century: Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now MANY ANTICHRISTS have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).


I believe that Christ is coming. I make no claim as to knowing the day or the hour (there are already too many who have made this mistake). It could be today. Or it could be a thousand years from now. But I join with all Christians in "looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).

I furthermore believe that these different views of future prophecy should not divide the church. They are not given to divide. They are not given so that we might draw charts and outlines. They are given so that we might live in a way that shows we are looking for His return.

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