I was born into a Christian home that believed in a Pretribulation (Pretrib) Rapture. Growing up I was surrounded by it. I knew no other view. The Bible college and seminary that I attended held to the Pretrib view. I strongly held to it and defended it.
But I can no longer do so. Why? Because the more I have become acquainted with the Bible, the more it has become clear that it does not teach a Pretrib rapture.
I have listened to those who insist that the Pretrib view is Biblical. I know their arguments. But they cannot prove their view without taking verses out of context, ignoring the literal meaning, and using extraBiblical explanations. These are tactics that they normally condemn.
What have I found in the Bible? This article explores that. The content here comes from the Bible and nowhere else.
Tradition has given us three possibilities as to when the rapture occurs: before the seven year tribulation (Pretrib), in the middle of the tribulation (Midtrib), or at the end of the tribulation (Posttrib).
The Pretrib position holds an unfair advantage over the others because no one wants to go through the tribulation. Some people have even told me that they do not care what the Bible says, they are not going through the tribulation. With a Pretrib rapture, they don't have to.
The insistence of many Christians to force the Bible into teaching a Pretrib rapture has thrown the world on its side in understanding what the Bible actually teaches.
The Bible is specific about when the rapture will be, but it does not put it into one of the three categories above.
The Bible tells about the life of Jesus, but it also tells of a time when He will come to earth again. This will be His second coming.
An examination of the verses that describe Jesus' return reveals that it will not be one coming, but three: in the clouds (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; 1Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 1:7; 14:14, 15, 16), standing on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1), and riding on a white horse (Revelation 19:11-21).
These are three different events. Jesus coming in the clouds is the rapture. Jesus standing on Mount Zion is when He comes for the 144,000. And Jesus riding on a white horse is when He comes to destroy His enemies and set up His government. This last coming is known as what is usually called the Second Coming.
Few people dispute when Jesus will come riding on a white horse. It will be at the end of the tribulation.
But when will He come in the clouds? When is the rapture? What does the Bible say?
The Bible states specifically when the rapture will be, at the last trump. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMP: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52 KJV).
This destroys the Pretrib view. In order for the Pretrib view to be correct, the rapture must be at or before the first trump, not the last. This also eliminates the Midtrib view. The Pretrib and Midtrib people have to ignore the trumpets during the tribulation and thus ignore the Bible in order to hold to their position.
The last trump in Revelation (the seventh trumpet - Revelation 10:7; 11:15-19) fits the description of the rapture. It is not at the end of the tribulation, but it is near the end.
There it is, right in front of everyone's eyes. How simple is that? But most "Bible-believers" miss it because it is not what they want.
One of the biggest proofs of the Pretrib view is that the rapture is imminent (no one knows when it will happen). But this is not entirely truthful.
The two Bible passages used to support the imminence of the rapture are Matthew 24:36-25:13 and Mark 13:32-37.
Matthew 24:36 says "of that day and hour knoweth no man" (KJV), verse 42 says, "ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (KJV, some other Bibles say "day" instead of "hour"), verse 44 says "for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (KJV), and 25:13 says, "ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (KJV). Do you see that? Four times it says that the day and the hour are not known. It says nothing about not knowing the week, month, or year. Day and/or hour is always the qualifier.
Mark 13:32 agrees with this. It says, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (KJV). Notice that it says, "of that day or hour", not "of that year, decade, or century".
Interestingly enough, Revelation 14:14-16 gives an illustration of this very thing, Jesus is sitting on a cloud waiting for word from the temple, from the Father, as to when He should reap the earth of believers (how can this not be the rapture?). In this illustration, Jesus knows the general time period, but not the specific time.
These passages are specific. They state that the day or hour is not known and only that. In the Bible, the terms, "day" and "hour", are not used to mean a period of millennia, centuries, or years.
So it is possible and Biblical that during the tribulation, people will know the week or month that the rapture will occur, just not the day or the hour.
Look at the times that Jesus mentions the rapture and the tribulation together. He always puts the rapture after the events of the tribulation. Why would He do this if it is at the beginning? Unless, it is not.
Matthew 24:4-29 has the events of the Tribulation "AND THEN" the rapture (verse 30).
Mark 13:5-25 has the events of the tribulation "AND THEN shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (verse 26 KJV).
Luke 21:8-26 has the events of the tribulation "AND THEN shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (verse 27 KJV).
The words "and then" show that Jesus is giving these events in order. He puts the rapture at the end.
To believe that the rapture happens before or in the middle of the tribulation, a person must ignore these words of Jesus.
Luke 21:28 is often quoted as proof of the Pretrib view. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (KJV).
Those who think this verse shows a Pretrib rapture ignore the context and actual meaning of the verse.
"Begin to come to pass" sounds like a Pretrib statement, but it is not. The "these things" that begin to come to pass in this verse are the list of tribulation events laid out in the previous verses (some of them happen toward the end of the tribulation). Even if all these events are at the beginning of the tribulation, if these things have begun to happen as this verse says, then the tribulation has already started. The time cannot be Pretrib.
Also at the end of the verse it says "your redemption draweth nigh". Your redemption (the rapture) does not happen in this verse (a time well into the tribulation), it draweth nigh (near). It hasn't happened. So according to this verse even after the events of the tribulation (many of them toward the end of the tribulation) have started, the rapture is not there yet. It draweth nigh.
This verse is proof that the rapture is not Pretrib.
In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul addresses the people in Thessalonica who thought that the rapture had already happened (verses 1 and 2).
Paul comforts them by stating that that day cannot happen until certain events happen: a falling away, the "man of sin" is revealed (verse 3), and "he who now letteth" is "taken out of the way" (verse 7). These events happen during the tribulation.
Paul is saying that the rapture is not Pretrib and cannot be Pretrib.
But some Pretrib proponents have focused on verse 7 ignoring the context and flipped the entire meaning of this passage. They claim that "he who now letteth" has to be the Holy Spirit (It doesn't. It could be many other things: an edict from God, an angel, the hand of the Father, or something else). Saying that this verse proves that the Holy Spirit will not be in the tribulation, they then say that it will be impossible for any Christians to also be there because they would have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them (which can't happen because the Holy Spirit is not there). Incorporating Bible twisting, they use verse 7 to prove a Pretrib rapture when it does just the opposite.
Their position also ignores the fact that Christians are mentioned throughout the tribulation in Revelation (Revelation 7:9-17; 12:17; 13:7; 14:12-13; 15:2; 20:4).
1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 seem to indicate that the rapture will be before God's wrath. But when is God's wrath?
Revelation is clear as to when it arrives, at the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:18). This is near the end of the tribulation preceding the seven vials.
The seven vials are described as "in them is filled up the wrath of God" (Revelation 15:1), "full of the wrath of God" (Revelation 15:7), and "the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth" (Revelation 16:1).
The seven seals and the first six trumpets are not the wrath of God. In fact, the only mention of wrath during these is during the sixth seal when the people say that the day of God's wrath has come (Revelation 6:16, 17). But just because people say something, does not make it true. They will think that what is happening to them is the wrath of God, but unless God identifies it as such, it is not. God identifies what starts in the seventh trumpet as His wrath.
There is a rapture position called the PreWrath Rapture. It puts the rapture at the sixth seal (which is in the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation but they say it is in the second 3 1/2 years). Their timing of the rapture is Midtrib or soon afterward. Their arguments may seem to match the Bible, but go beyond their arguments and see what the Bible actually says. Their timing is inconsistent with what the Bible says.
The rapture is prewrath, but it is not where the PreWrath position places it.
Here is a basic timeline of the book of Revelation:
7 Seals (1st 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation) -> 7 Trumpets (2nd 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation) -> 7 Vials or Bowls (an unknown short amount of time before the end of the Tribulation) -> Second Coming -> Millennium -> Eternity
In addition to this, much of Revelation is parenthetical. The parenthetical sections break from the narrative of the above timeline and explain something in or outside of the timeline. Many of the verses in Revelation about the rapture are in parenthetical sections (that is why there are so many of them).
Revelation is the last book of the Bible. It tells about the last times and mentions the rapture many times. This section lists each of the verses about the rapture in Revelation and gives my comments.
"Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will look at Him, even certain people who pierced Him. And all the family lines of the earth will beat their chests in grief over Him. Yes. Amen." (BV)
Every eye will see Jesus at the rapture. It will not be a hidden event or an event that only some people see.
Those who pierced Jesus are included in this. Notice that "those" is plural. Only one person stabbed Jesus with a spear, but many were behind that one soldier. All of these people will see Jesus (Jesus told the High Priest who condemned Him that he would see Him coming in the clouds - Matthew 26:64). These people are in hell. So even the people in hell will see the rapture.
"After these things I looked, and look, a door having been opened in the sky and the voice (the first one that I heard as a trumpet speaking with me) saying, "Step up here, and I will show you what is necessary to happen after these."" (BV)
The Pretrib view says that this is the rapture. It isn't. Nothing in this passage says that this is the rapture. It is John stepping up into heaven. That's all.
The Pretrib view must have the rapture in Revelation and it must be before the tribulation, so they put it here and ignore much of what Revelation says about the rapture.
"Because you kept the message of My persistence to do what is right, I also will keep you from the hour of the trouble, the hour that is going to be coming on the whole civilized world to trouble the people residing on the earth." (BV)
This verse may or may not be referring to the rapture. The part that says "I will keep you from the hour of the trouble" was written to the church of Philadelphia. They are all dead, so they have been kept from that hour. It did not require a rapture.
If it applies to people today and in the future, there are still ways to keep them from that hour (like, provide protection for them). Some amateur "Greek scholars" have claimed that the Greek word behind "from" requires that this be a rapture. That is not true. The Greek word is a common word for from, ek. It appears almost a thousand times in the New Testament. It does not require that this is the rapture.
But let's say that it is the rapture. Look at what these people are kept from: "the hour of the trouble, the hour that is going to be coming on the whole civilized world" (BV).
There's that word again, "hour". An hour is a short amount of time, not seven years. In addition to that, only the seven vials at the end of the tribulation are on the whole earth. The fourth seal is over one fourth of the earth (Revelation 6:8). The first (Revelation 8:7), second (8:8), third (8:10-11), fourth (8:12), and sixth (9:15) trumpets are over one third of the earth.
This verse promises to keep people from the seven vials, not the entire tribulation.
"But in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, whenever he is about to be blowing the trumpet, the secret of God was also finished as He shared good news with His own slaves, the preachers." (Revelation 10:7 BV)
"And the seventh angel blew a trumpet, and loud voices happened in the heaven, saying, "The empire of the world became our Master's and His Anointed King's. And He will be king for the spans of time of the spans of time." And the twenty-four older men, the ones in the sight of God sitting on their thrones, got down on their faces and bowed to God, saying, "We are thankful to You, Master, God, the All-Powerful One, the One who is, and the One who was, because You have taken Your ability, the huge ability, and became king. And the nations were enraged. And Your rage came and the time of the dead to be judged, to give the pay to Your slaves (the preachers, the sacred people, and the people who fear Your name, the little and the great), and to devour the people who devour the earth." And the temple of God, the temple in the heaven, was opened; the box of His treaty was seen in His temple; and lightnings, sounds, thunders, an earthquake, and huge hail happened." (Revelation 11:15-19 BV)
These two passages are about the seventh trumpet. The strange thing about the seventh trumpet is that Revelation does not tell what it is exactly. It give some hints: the secret of God will be finished at this event (10:7), the world becomes God's and Jesus' (11:15), Christians receive their reward (11:18), the devourers are devoured (11:18), and God's temple is opened (11:19).
The secret mentioned here is the time of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25; Ephesians 3:4-6; 5:32). It is also called the Church Age. The Church Age ends at the rapture. The rapture itself is also called a secret (mystery) in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
At the rapture Jesus will have the pay (reward) for His people (Revelation 22:12).
These attributes show that the seventh trumpet is the rapture.
"And I looked and, look, a white cloud and sitting on the cloud someone like a son of a person having on His head a golden award wreath and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple yelling in a loud voice to the One sitting on the cloud, "Send Your sickle and harvest because the hour to harvest came to You, because the harvest of the earth is shriveled up." And the One sitting on the cloud threw His sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested." (Revelation 14:14-16 BV)
These verses are part of a larger group of verses (Revelation 14:6-20) that is an overview of the events toward the end of the tribulation: good news shared with everyone on the earth (verses 6-7), the fall of Babylon (verse 8), a warning to those who receive the mark of the beast (verses 9-11), Christians who die right before the rapture (verse 13), the rapture (verses 14-16), and the great wine press of the wrath of God (verses 17-20).
This is a nice picture of the rapture.
"And look, I am coming quickly and My pay is with Me to give back to each person as his work will be." (Revelation 22:12 BV)
At the end of Revelation Jesus gives a reminder to the reader that He is coming and that the pay that they will receive for what they have done will be with Him. This is the rapture. It is the next event every reader should be anticipating.
After considering what the Bible says, what is the conclusion? When will the rapture be? It will not be before the tribulation. It will not be in the middle of the tribulation. And it will not be at the end. It will be at the last trump, the seventh trumpet. This will be near the end right before the seven vials. No one knows the day nor the hour, but now you know the approximate time. When that time comes, look up and watch. Your redemption draweth near.