Five Positions on the Timing of the Rapture

No that’s not a typo, there really are five (not three) positions on the timing of the Rapture. With all the sub positions there’s probably 7-10 positions in total What I will attempt to do is give a brief synopsis of each of the main positions along with some of the pros and cons of each position. I will also be pointing out a few sub positions within certain main positions that I find interesting. I really do want to keep this blog post short because this topic is something that could easily spiral into book length and there are plenty of books on each Rapture position that you may investigate on your own. Each of you must be a good Berean and search the scripture with prayer and come to your own conclusions about the Rapture and not just accept whatever your pastor or favorite prophecy teacher tells you – they could be wrong. Warning: If you are militant about a particular Rapture position and are ready to go to war to defend it then do us both a favor and leave now because there will be things written here that will absolutely upset you and I wont argue or respond to you. However if you see a glaring mistake I would be happy to hear your point and update this post. I’m no prophecy expert at all so I’m sure I will be making goofs here and there so please bear with me.

 

I first became interested in the end times and the Rapture back in the 1980’s when I was young Christian in youth group. It was something that was talked about a lot at the time. When I went to college at Malone, my roommate, friend and now pastor Quint Bryan and I would often talk late into the night about the Rapture and end time events. What bothers me today is that we are 35+ years closer to the Lord’s return from when I was a young Christian and it seems in the Church world at large the Rapture is hardly talked about anymore. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this post to pique your interest – not only that but so you can examine yourself to see if you are ready for the Lord’s return because not everyone is ready and I wish we all were ready.

 

Some Important Background Info

 

Ok in order to understand the various positions on the Rapture you have to understand the framework that most of them are built around. This framework is known as Daniel’s 70th week, it’s also known as the 7 year tribulation which is the time that is just before the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth. The Bible gives us much information on this period which can be found in Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Joel, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and other places throughout the bible. The main point of contention that has caused the rise of various positions on the Rapture has to do with God’s wrath and when it will take place. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says that God has not destined us to wrath but to obtain salvation through Jesus. We know that at some point God’s wrath will be poured out, therefore the Rapture must occur just prior to the pouring out of His wrath. The question then is when exactly is God’s wrath poured out? And it is from attempts to answer this question that the various positions spring from. All except one position believe there is a coming 7 year tribulation. All but one believe God’s wrath will be poured out and all but one believe the Rapture will take place prior to the outpouring of that wrath.

 

Is the Word “Rapture” Even in the Bible?

 

In the English bible the word Rapture does not appear even once. However in the original Greek language that the bible was written in the word for Rapture is “Harpazo” and in the Latin Vulgate I think its “Raperio” which is where we get the English word for Rapture. Harpazo means to snatch something away quickly or violently, kind of like a purse snatcher – same idea. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 speaking of the Rapture that it will happen in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, therefore we see the rapid nature of this event. Another Greek word pertaining to the Rapture is “Episunagoge” seen in 2 Thessalonians 2 where the Church (sunagoge) is gathered in one place (epi) around Jesus. So the concept of the Rapture is clearly seen in the English bible even though the word Rapture does not appear in English.

 

The Five Main Rapture Positions:

 

Position One: Pre-Trib

 

This position was first invented in the 1830’s by John Darby and promoted by C. I Scofield. Since many pastors and bible teachers in England and America since the 1800’s have used bibles with Scofield notes, this position gained momentum and popularity and is now the defacto position of many if not most evangelical Christians. The Pre-Trib Rapture is by leaps and bounds the most popular Rapture position in the Western world and especially in America. Books and movies like Left Behind have sold tens of millions of copies promoting the Pre-Trib position. This position holds the view that the entire 7 year tribulation is God’s wrath therefore the Rapture must take place just prior to the start of the Tribulation. The Pre Trib position holds to the doctrine of immanence which is based on Matthew 24:36 where Jesus said no one but the Father knows the day or hour. Immanence means the Rapture can happen at any moment. The Pre Trib position also believes the Rapture is a signless event which means that there is no specific sign immediately preceeding the rapture. This position also holds to the idea that the Restrainer spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is the Holy Spirit.

 

Pros:

It’s the most popular Rapture position in the Western world. This position brings a lot of comfort to comfortable Western Christians who have never faced the kind of persecution other Christians in other parts of the world have and are experiencing. It’s an easy out – perhaps too easy. I grew up believing this position for most of my Christian life until just a few years ago.

 

Cons:

 (Sorry this may be hard for some to read)

Does the word Tribulation really mean Wrath or are these words wrath and tribulation interchangeable as the Pre Trib position purports? This is important because if Tribulation does in fact mean Wrath then this position is the correct position Christians should hold to since the entire tribulation would be the period of God’s wrath. The problem is this is not the case if you go by the Greek definition of these words. Thilipsis means intense pressure or affliction and is sometimes translated Tribulation, however nowhere in the New Testament is this word translated or transliterated as “wrath.” The word for Wrath in the Greek is “Orge” which is translated as wrath and means indignation, punishment and anger exhibited in punishment. Therefore for Pre Trib to state that the entire 7 year Tribulation is the wrath of God is incorrect. You cannot interpolate wrath for Tribulation because the two greek words have completely different meanings. To add insult to injury I must also state that the Pre Trib position is not directly stated in scripture but neither is Post Trib. If there is a single verse Pre Trib points to it’s 2 Thessalonians 2:7-9 which states, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” The Pre Trib argument is that if the Restrainer is removed then the Church must also be removed (Raptured) because the Holy Spirit (the Restrainer) is in the church. First of all the one who restrains is taken out of the way – that does not mean the same thing as being removed. How can the Holy Spirit who is omnipresent be removed? He can’t. The job of the Holy Spirit in the world is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and judgment, this is how he restrains lawlessness in the world and by restraining lawlessness he also retrains the Lawless One. If he stops these activities he can still be present in Christians on earth yet also be “taken out of the way”.

 

Position Two: Mid–Trib

 

This position was developed shortly after world war one. This view is based on 1 Corinthians 15:52 which talks about the Rapture happening at the “Last Trumpet” Since the Last of the Seven Trumpets (which is when the Rapture will take place according to Mid Trib) in Revelation chronologically takes place just prior to the 3 ½ year mid point, this position was thus labeled Mid-Trib. This view has lost popularity in recent years and has been supplanted by a new theory called “Pre-Wrath” which we will discuss later.

 

Pros: Simple and easy to understand theory. Correctly assumes at least part of the 7 year tribulation is not God’s wrath.

 

Cons: There is absolutely no correlation whatsoever in scripture between the last of the 7 trumpets in Revelation being the “Last Trumpet” Paul speaks of in  Cor. 15:51. Revelation 11:17-18 which talks about the 7th or “last” trumpet states, “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His [j]Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,  saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the [l]saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” Verse 18 says “the nations were enraged and your wrath came.” This is a past tense statement. If the Rapture happens Mid Trib then it happens after God’s wrath has started which cannot be the case. This statement in verse 18 causes problems for both Mid and Post Rapture positions.

 

Position Three: Post Trib

 

Post Trib believes the Rapture and Resurrection will occur at the end of the 7 year tribulation, shortly before or at Christ’s return. They believe that Christians have always suffered persecution and martyrdom and the tribulation will be no different therefore Christians will go through the entire 7 year Tribulation. They believe Jesus only comes once, therefore Christ appearing more than once is not biblical.

 

Pros:

Post Trib recognizes that Christians will be persecuted and martyred during the tribulation as they have been throughout the centuries.

 

Cons:

Even a cursory reading of Revelation will show that God’s wrath is poured out way before the end of the 7 year Tribulation. Revelation 9:4-5 is clearly God’s wrath being poured out, “They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it [f]stings a man.” These demonic hordes released from another dimension known as the bottomless pit are torturing anyone not sealed with God’s mark on their foreheads. Who has God’s mark on their forheads? The 144,000 Jews as seen in Revelation 7:4-8

 

Position Four; “No Rapture” Full and Partial Preterism

 

Preterism is a very old belief within Christianity and most likely got its roots from Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine). Full Preterists believe all prophecy has been fulfilled and there is nothing at all left to be fulfilled. This is not a popular position because it is clearly unbiblical and probably heretical. Partial Preterism on the other hand believes that most prophecies have been fulfilled and believe the only unfulfilled prophecy is the return of Jesus. They believe the tribulation took place in 70ad at the destruction of Jerusalem and there is no futurist interpretation of Revelation. They, like Augustine, believe Revelation is a completely allegorical book with no future significance except Christ return to judge the world. They believe the idea of the Rapture was invented by John Darby in the 1830s. (Not Just Pre Trib but the idea of the Rapture itself). They do not believe Israel has any future prophetic significance. Preterism is directly linked to the repugnant Replacement Theology.

 

Pros:

Sorry I think this belief system is completely bankrupt and lacks any positive merit. Ain’t I a peach! I guess I should work on my arrogance but it’s hard since I’m right! (that’s called humor, people) If there is a positive benefit to this belief it would be that those who hold to it don’t obsess over every minute detail in the news and how it relates to bible prophecy.

 

Cons:

Preterism stands or falls on one point. For it to stand the Book of Revelation had to be written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ad. Most conservative scholars believe Revelation was written around 95 ad and early Christian sources like Polycarp, a direct disciple of the Apostle John, Tertullian and others say it was written in 95 ad. If the Tribulation took place in 70 ad as Preterists claim, then this “fact” would be reflected in early Christian writings. The reality is just the opposite in that all early Christian writers point to a future Tribulation and return of Christ. An example of this is found in the Didache, a collection of the Apostles sayings written between 95 ad and 125 ad. At the end of the Didache we find this saying, “”Watch” over your life “let your lamps” be not quenched “and your loins” be not ungirded, but be “ready,” for ye know not “the hour in which our Lord cometh.” But be frequently gathered together seeking the things which are profitable for your souls, for the whole time of your faith shall not profit you except ye be found perfect at the last time;  For in the last days the false prophets and the corruptors shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall change to hate;  For as lawlessness increaseth they shall hate one another and persecute and betray, and then shall appear the deceiver of the world as a Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders and the earth shall be given over into his hands and he shall commit iniquities which have never been since the world began. Then shall the creation of mankind come to the fiery trial and “many shall be offended” and be lost, but “they who endure” in their faith “shall be saved” by the curse itself. And “then shall appear the signs” of the truth. First the sign spread out in Heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and thirdly the resurrection of the dead:  But not of all the dead, but as it was said, “The Lord shall come and all his saints with him.”
Then shall the world “see the Lord coming on the clouds of Heaven.” It sure doesn’t sound like this author thought the tribulation happened in 70 ad since they probably lived through that time.

 

Position Five: Pre Wrath

 

Pre Wrath is a relative newcomer to the eschatology* scene in that its only been around for about 30 years. Although it’s a new position it is a heavyweight when it comes to proving its  main point exegetically, however there are some glaring problems with this position as well. (*Eschatology is a fancy term that means the study of the end times). Pre Wrath has supplanted the Mid-Trib position and is growing in popularity. Pre Wrath like some other Rapture positions holds to the idea that the Rapture will happen before God’s wrath is poured out. They believe the Rapture takes place at the 6th seal. They derive this point of view from Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-26 and Revelation 6:12-17. Pre Wrath does not believe in a secret or signless Rapture, but that it will be preceded by monumental signs and that everyone on earth will know that Jesus came to take his own away to be with him. Pre Wrath believes the six seals of Revelation span the entire first half of the tribulation and the Rapture will take place either just at or shortly after the mid point. Some contend the Rapture could be as late as the middle of the second half of the Tribulation. Pre Wrath believes the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians is the angel Michael.

 

Pros:

I would be hard pressed to say this position is wrong when it comes to when the Rapture will happen. It’s very obvious from scripture that the Rapture does happen at the 6th seal. Like other positions it does correctly point out that not all of the Tribulation is God’s wrath.

 

Cons:

Timing. This theory does some serious monkey business when it comes to rearranging the sequential order of events in Revelation in order to make their timing work. In Revelation there are 3 main events with each event containing 7 parts. These are the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls. Sequentially 14 of the 21 events take place before the mid point of the Tribulation and 7 occur just after the mid point. Pre Wrath confuses the Abomination of Desolation as being the Image of the beast set up in the temple at the Mid Point. Therefore with this in mind for their theory to work, the 7 Trumpets and 7 Bowls have to take place AFTER the mid point. Now a little about the Abomination of Desolation; If Donald Trump would stand in front of you side by side with a life size picture of him, what would you be looking at? Donald Trump, just that one of them is the real person the other is a facsimile of him. You could say the Abomination of Desolation is both the Beast of Revelation 13 and the Image of the Beast also in Rev. 13. If this is the case then the man who is the abomination can show up in the temple long before the middle of the tribulation. The other problem is that I do not believe the Restrainer is anyone other than the Holy Spirit.

 

Pre Wrath Varients

 

Intra-Seal Rapture. Intra-Seal rapture is essentially the same as Pre Wrath except that it holds the Rapture will happen at or just after the mid point. It also agrees with Pre Trib that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit and not the Angel Michael

 

6th Seal Rapture.

This variant holds to the Rapture happening at the 6th seal, but it contends this will happen early in the first half of the Tribulation. It does this by keeping the original sequential order of the 21 events known as the Seals, Trumpets and bowls in the Book of Revelation. It also adds to the Tribulation timeline the 2300 days found in Daniel 8:13-14, which says, “Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, [o]while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”

 

Many have made huge mistakes with this portion of Scripture. William Miller, the 7th Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a few that come to mind. Some have contended that these 2300 days were fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes who around 165 bc slaughtered a pig on the alter in the Temple and set up an idol of Jupiter in the Holy of Holies. The problem is that Antiochus only had control of Jerusalem and the temple for 3 years to the day when the Maccabean Revolt took back control, whereas the 2300 days in Daniel 8 amounts to just over 6 years. This portion of prophetic scripture has never been fulfilled. The 6Th Seal Rapture position holds that these 2300 days belong in the tribulation. They conclude at the return of Christ when the temple is restored. That would mean these days start 220 days (or 7 months 10 Days) from the beginning of the Tribulation. This position holds that there could be an overlap between the last of the Seals and the start of the 2300 days, which is when the Antichrist would have control over the Temple in Jerusalem and be seen in the Holy Place, where he should not be. According to this theory the Rapture could take place as early as 7 months into the Tribulation and as late as 1½ years.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive study on the five positions on the timing of the Rapture. Nor is it a scholarly work – it’s more like a hack job. Lots of things didn’t get covered and I’m sure some were important. The point of this post is to get you interested about the Rapture and to do some digging and fact finding on your own. More importantly I want you to get ready because Jesus will come for us collectively at the Rapture but he will also come for most of us individually (at our death – which could come at any time). Not everyone who claims to be a Christian will go in the Rapture, in fact according to Matthew 25 half of all true Christians (Virgins in this parable)  living at the time of the Rapture will not go! Do you have oil in your lamps? Do you have extra oil? You better make sure!

 

Tom Brown

Elder of Spiritual Life