Thursday, February 20, 2014
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
In short order today I want to present the reader with 5 arguments given by post-tribulationalists for their position. The second part of this post will feature five counter-responses and five additional arguments given by pretribulationalists for their position.
5 arguments given by posttribulationalists for their position
Before we begin, let me remind the reader what the posttribulational position is in comparison to other views by way of the following chart from the site: enWikipedia.org:
For many years this writer held to a posttribulational viewpoint and so the following five arguments represent what was most commonly heard or read in print in support of this view:
1. Christ's second advent and the rapture are treated as one event in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
2. Jesus will accompany his church through the end, which means the church will go through to the end of the tribulation. He will have His angels gather His elect from the four winds right before the final wrath of God at the end of the tribulation. (See Matthew 24:31; Matthew 28:18-20
3. There are believers in the tribulation period and so it is presumed that they are the church, even though they are not called "the church" in Revelation 7:13-14
4. Saints of God have had to endure suffering throughout all redemptive history. Thus it should not seem unusual to expect Christians to go through the tribulation period, exempt of course from God's wrath poured out at the end. (See Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:14)
5. The posttribulational position is claimed to be the oldest position on the rapture, being that it would had naturally fit with the oldest eschatological view on the Millennium - i.e Premillennialism.
Five counter-responses and five arguments for a pretribulational rapture position
Now that this writer is a pretribulationalist, the following five counter responses to the posttribulational rapture position and five additional affirmative arguments for the pretribulational viewpoint represent where this author stands on the issue. It must be stated of course that the proposed timing of the rapture is not an essential or 1st order concern of the Christian faith, but rather occupies an area whereby we exercise greater liberty and humility toward one another.
Counter responses to posttribulational arguments from a pretribulational perspective
1. When we compare 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11, we discover that the 1 Thessalonians passages are speaking of two distinct events, not one event. Studies of the distinctions between the rapture and the 2nd advent yield their differences.
2. Matthew 24:31 is speaking of the gathering of the resurrected Jewish saints at the end of the tribulation at His second advent, not the rapture of the church. Furthermore, angels are doing the gathering of the Jewish believers, whereas in the rapture passages it is Christ Himself Who does the gathering. The church age will come to a close then when the rapture occurs prior to or right at the beginning of the tribulation period.
3. To try to advocate pre- or post- tribulationalism from the book of Revelation alone cannot be done, being that the book is focused entirely on the events surrounding Christ's second advent. With that said, the fact that the tribulation martyrs in Revelation 7 and 14 are not named should give pause to posttriublational interpreters. For this writer (a pretribulationalist), it is preferred to leave them as the scripture indicates - as people who got saved in the tribulation period and who will be part of the sequence of events of the resurrection of the righteous.
4. Undoubtedly Christians should expect to suffer if they want to be Godly in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:12). However there is a major difference between trials and tribulations and the specific prophetic event termed "The Tribulation" or "The Great Tribulation", wherein the wrath of God will be poured out in increasing measure. No church age saint will have to endure such wrath and even the tribulation martyrs will be exempt from the extremes forms at the end of the period.
5. This argument from church history is reaching in that the timing of the rapture was not as thoroughly discussed in the first four centuries as it is today. Yes Premillennialism was the majority report of the early Christians, however the reasons they held to the distinctives of their positions can often times be different from the more nuanced versions of today. History can be a great aid in measuring orthodoxy, however it is scripture alone that defines such.
Additional affirmative arguments for a pretribulational rapture
6. The pretribulationalist bases his or her view on the fact that God has promised His church that she will not have to endure future wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). The entire seven year period will consist of God's wrath. Therefore the rapture is the means by which Christ will keep His promises to His church. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-11)
7. The Holy Spirit's restraining influence exercised currently through the church will be lifted in order to give the Anti-Christ opportunity to be revealed and to work forth his evil schemes. Having a Pre-tribulational rapture seems to best explain how this will occur. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8)
8. Pretribulationalism ( and to a lesser extent mid-tribulationalism) best preserve the distinction made in the scripture between the rapture of the church and Christ's second advent.
9. The prophetic sequence laid out in Daniel 9:23-27 is particularly for the nation of Israel. For God to complete His purposes for her, He must needs remove the church from the scene, which now He is using to make Israel jealous. (read Romans 11)
10. Though there can be comfort found in all the rapture/tribulational viewpoints, yet the pretribulational rapture viewpoint achieves Paul's admonition with the least amount of effort in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 "comfort one another with these words".