The image above is the timeline I use when speaking in churches. Notice the timing of the rapture — “sometime in the final seven years.” I really don’t like dealing with the rapture because it is such a divisive subject. It also is only one aspect of the many details in the Bible about the end times, but I’ve spent the past couple of articles on it. We began by introducing the different views of the rapture timing — pretribulation, mid-tribulation, pre-wrath and post-tribulation. The names give away the timing of each of these views.
In the last article, we continued the format of this series, which presents the different views, then looks at the historical and contextual rulings on the field. By “ruling on the field,” I mean we need to address interpreting the Bible and selecting our biblical positions like NFL replay officials. With replay reviews, the rule is that the ruling made by the official on the field stands unless the replay footage shows clear and obvious evidence the call was incorrect. I believe we should apply the same rule to our interpretation of the Bible. The ruling on the field historically is what the original audience understood, and the textual ruling is the plain reading of the Bible in context.
In the last article, we looked at the historical context of the rapture timing and found that the predominant view of today is at odds with the ruling on the field. The predominant view of today is the pre-tribulation rapture view, while the view of the first followers of Christ and of first-century Jews was something akin to a late pre-wrath view or post-tribulation view. Undoubtedly, the realization that our current leading view isn’t the historical ruling on the field is challenging, but the historical ruling isn’t the only factor in our selecting of biblical positions. The most important ruling is the plain reading of Scripture in context.
For the most part, we should run from new views. Think of the new biblical views that are being introduced. New is nearly always dangerous, but I do believe if there is an area in biblical studies where new might be okay, it is in prophecy. The Book of Daniel alludes to this in that it says the scrolls would remain sealed until the last days. With that said, the rapture is not something covered in the Book of Daniel.
So, what is the textual ruling on the field for the rapture?
For a long time, I was under the impression that it couldn’t be known, but I no longer believe that. Over the next couple of articles, I want to challenge you to be a Berean. The Apostle Paul commended the Bereans because they searched the Scriptures, they didn’t just take his word. I want you to do that. My own journey in studying the rapture timing has been interesting. I had a stranger reach out over social media and challenge me to read four passages. I did, and I walked away from that reading feeling like those passages were clear on the timing of the rapture. That clarity matched that of the original audience’s beliefs.
I then immersed myself in the passages used to defend the pre-tribulation rapture. What I found shocking was that nearly none of those passages actually gave a timing. They defended a rapture but weren’t specific about the timing. I want to start with those verses. For the rest of this article, I’m going to lay the groundwork for you to be that Berean. Here are the main defenses of the pre-tribulation rapture, followed by a question:
• Romans 8:1 — This is one of the leading defenses of the pre-tribulation rapture. Dr. David Jeremiah recently had a large social media campaign where he cited this verse as proof of a pretribulation rapture: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 NIV).
Question — Do this passage and its context identify the condemnation here as the tribulation on earth in the final years of this age? Does it give a timing of the rapture?
• Revelation 3:10 — Another leading defense is this verse in Revelation. This is part of the seven letters to the seven churches of Asia. On the surface, those letters seem to be seven real letters to seven real churches. Though some interpret them as prophetic, they never claim to be. So that is one problem with this passage, I encourage you to judge the rest: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
Question — Does this passage give a timing of the rapture? Is it even referring to the end of the age or just the church in Philadelphia?
• Revelation 4:1 — This is one of the main verses used to defend the pre-tribulation view. The argument is that the first part of the Book of Revelation shows the church on earth, then it pivots to show the church in Heaven. The verse never identifies the rapture or timing. Leading pretribulation proponent Paige Patterson wrote in his commentary on Revelation that defending the pretribulation rapture with Rev. 4:1 should be done “on the basis of passages other than Rev. 4:1.” He went on to write that the passage should be seen as “John’s personal visionary experience.” “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’” (Rev. 4:1).
• I Thessalonians 4:16-17 — This is the defining passage on the rapture is and it only provides the timing of the rapture by placing it at the same time as the resurrection. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and 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. And so we will be with the Lord forever”(I Thess. 5:16-17).
Question — Does this passage give a timing of the rapture?
• I Thessalonians 5:1-3 — This would seem to be the most helpful, but if we read it objectively it may not even be talking about the rapture.
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (I Thess. 5:1-3).
Question: Does this passage mention the rapture or give a timing of it?
These are the leading passages of defense of the pretribulation view. In the next article, we will look at some others that seem to actually present a timing. Again, the goal is to identify the plain reading of the text in context.
— Jake is the newest state missionary and would love to share about the work in Northwest Arkansas and encourage your church to stand firm. (standfirmministries.com)