By Ed. F.
most popular and prevalent viewpoint on the rapture and return of the
among fundamentalists is called the Pretrib
position. This theory holds that the Lord will come before the
rapture the saints, then approximately seven years later will return in
Thereby the Church Will escape the final period of tribulation and
persecution before Christ comes to set up His Kingdom. This teaching
attractive and because many popular and prominent Bible teachers and
had popularized it, it is the one I accepted as a young Christian.
further I read in Scripture and studied for myself doubts arose which
challenged me to determine if I was following the teachings of men
God. After a careful and exhaustive study of the Scriptures I concluded
the rapture occurs at the Second Coming of Christ, after the
Furthermore I found that the hope of escape from trouble and
persecution in the
last days was contrary to the N.T. concept of suffering and
the issue of the Christian’s relation to the tribulation is of
importance I have summarized the following reasons why I believe the
Church will pass through the tribulation and that the rapture and
will occur after the tribulation. Please consider the following points
"search the Scriptures", as the noble Bereans did, to see if these
things are so (Acts 17:11). We must look to Holy Scripture and the Holy
to determine God's Truth and not to annotated Bibles, man made
1. Jesus taught that He would not return
"immediately after the tribulation” (Matt. 24:29-30, Mark 13:24-26,
21). These passages occur in the great Olivet Discourse given by the
Lord to His
disciples in answer to their specific questions concerning His return.
never taught that He would come before the tribulation as the pretrib
requires. The rapture takes place at the “Coming of the Lord” (1 Thess
No passage of Scripture can be cited to justify changing the Lord's
nor can any passage be cited that states Jesus will come before the
2. Jesus specifically taught that the rapture
be after His posttribulational coming (Matt 24:31, 40, 41, Mark 13:27 -
integrate the context). The “elect" people of God are gathered together
the Second Coming in glory (who are the elect? - in the NT the word
to Christ, once to a group of angels, and all other references are to
church or individual Christians). Paul reflects this teaching on our
together unto Him” in 2 Thess 2:1-3. The Scripture order, when given is
the tribulation, then the coming of the Lord and the rapture.
3. The Apostle John wrote the Book of
only N.T. prophetic book, to the Christian Church to guide it
events (cp Rev. 1:4. ch. 2-3, 22:16). In Revelation there is no mention
pretrib Coming of the Lord or a pretrib rapture. John portrayed only
of the Lord - after the tribulation. His coming is visible, victorious,
vindication of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 1:4,
Revelation does not mention a pretrib rapture and coming it is
insert one into the inspired order of events (cp John's warning in
4. The Apostle Paul, in his teaching on the rapture and resurrection, does not give any evidence that he was changing the previous teaching of the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, he never stated that the rapture would occur before the tribulation. An examination of Paul’s teaching shows that he was in perfect harmony with Christ’s teachings:
A. In 1 Cor. 15:51-52 the rapture is shown to occur at the "last trump”. This last trump is the same event described in 1 Thess. 4:16 and must be equated with Christ's last trump of Matt. 24:31 (called by some the "gathering trump"), and this occurs after the tribulation as verses 20-30 show.
B. In 1 Thess 2:1-3Paul indicates that the Coming of the Lord and our gathering together unto Him (rapture) will not occur until after the final religious rebellion and the man of sin - which places the Lord's return and the rapture after the tribulation. No amount of arbitrary exegesis can separate 2:1 from 2:2 by a period of seven years, as the pretrib theory requires.
C. It is sometimes claimed that Paul taught “something new"- that Jesus would first "come fort His saints, then seven years later He would come with His saints”. But no Scripture can be produced to support such a claim. Actually Paul taught that the return of the Lord would be both "for" and "with" the saints! Read carefully 1Thess 3:13, 4:14 (coming with), and 4:15-17 (coming for). How the coming of the Lord ‘with’ His saints and the coming ‘for’ occur at the same time period is seen in 4:17 - the saints who are “left alive" are caught up to “meet” the Lord in the air as He comes with His saints. There is no basis in the Greek text to interpret this verse as the Lord taking the saints back to heaven for the tribulation period.
D. In 2 Thess 1:4-10 Paul teaches that the Church is now in persecution and tribulation and will not receive rest from the tribulation until the Revelation (apocalypse) of Jesus Christ from heaven with all His mighty angels, in flaming fire, pouring out vengeance upon the unsaved (2Thess 1:4-10). This is clearly after the tribulation. Note that believers are to experience tribulation but it will not experience God’s wrath (cp 2 Thess. 5:9), which is poured out at this Second Coming. The tribulation will be an intensification of trouble, persecution, and martyrdom, which believers have always been called to face.
E. Paul also teaches that we are to be ”looking for that blessed hope" which is the “glorious appearing” of Christ Jesus (Tit. 2:13). This appearing (ἐπιφάνεια - epiphany) is after the tribulation at the establishment of the Kingdom (2 Tim 4:1, cp 2Thess 2: 8).
F. According to Paul the Christian commission
preach the Word and the gospel does not expire until the appearing in
Christ and His Kingdom (1 Tim 4:1-8). How can Christians preach the
the gospel until Jesus comes to set up his kingdom if they were
years earlier? (Cp Jesus commands in Matt 28:18-20).
5. The Apostle Peter indicated to the early church that Jesus will not com until His coming in Glory to set up the Kingdom: Jesus will not leave heaven until He comes to make His foes His footstool (Acts 2:34-35, cp Heb. 10:12-13). Heaven must receive Christ until He comes to set up His Kingdom (Acts 3:20-21). Peter was also in perfect accord with Christ’s teaching.
6. The writer of Hebrews shows that we are to be looking for the Second Coming (Heb.9: 28). There could not be any coming before the second except the first, over 19 centuries ago. The Scripture nowhere reveals a Third Coming As the Lord came only once at His first Advent He will come only once at His second Advent.
7. Two angels showed the disciples how the
coming of the Lord will be in Acts 1:10-12:
visible, glorious, personal, from heaven to earth, back to the Mount of
(compare Zech 14:1-9). It is obvious that this next coming in glory of
will be after the tribulation, not before. This is too in harmony with
8. The Coming of Christ for His church in connection with His Second Coming to earth has historically been the teaching of the Church. The teaching of pretrib rapture is a modern doctrine. Searching the pages of Church history and literature you will find no mention of the Lord coming before the tribulation until around 1820. No one has cited any literature, writing, or quotes to the contrary! The doctrine first appeared publicly at the Powerscourt prophetic meetings in England. The theory rapidly became popular through the influence and teachings of J. N. Darby who had attended the Powerscourt meetings along with other Plymouth Brethren. C. I. Scofield was greatly influenced by Darby's teachings and incorporated them in his Reference Bible that has influenced millions of Christians. The men who have continued teaching the pretrib theory are undoubtedly sincere Christians, but they have become enamored with a teaching that is not Scriptural. Bible Doctrine does not depend on how many or how popular the proponents of it are; the truth rests on what God's Word says.
These few points do not exhaust the issue but constitute some of the arguments of the Posttrib position. For anyone who would like to pursue the subject in detail I have prepared a series of notes, Outline Studies On The Rapture Question that may be obtained by request.
The Blessed Hope and The Last Things, George Eldon Ladd
The Church and the Tribulation, Robert Gundry
(section on Eschatology), Wayne Grudem
1973 Biblical Research Institute, (c) 2004 www.theologue.org
 Abbreviations used in this essay: ‘pretrib’ (pretribulational - before the tribulation) and ‘posttrib’ (posttribulational – after the tribulation)
 I.e. the Antichrist
hope’ is equated with the ‘glorious appearing’ as proved by the
Sharp rule of NT Greek exegesis (nouns with the definite article
connected by ‘kai’). See
Harris, teaching a course on Acts at Trinity Evangelical Divinity
(1972), related to me how this passage (Acts 1:10-12) alone
demolishes the pretrib case and establishes beyond a doubt the next
the Lord will be posttrib.
 Since writing this in 1973 I have become
aware of some other theories about the origins of the pretrib theory.
See article on Origins Of The Pretrib Rapture
Outline Studies On The
Question (c)1973 by the Biblical Research Institute is
updated and will be republished in
book form as The
Late Great Rapture Debate (c)2005