What Are the Various Views on the Rapture? (Part 1)
Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

Several folks have asked us to comment on the different views about the rapture. It is hoped this brief five part overview will be helpful.

1. The Partial Rapture View

a. The Position:

Only those faithful believers who are "watching" and "waiting" for the Lord’s retum will be taken in the rapture. The rapture is seen as a reward for faithfuless to Christ. As believers in the tribulation are purged, they are raptured in groups, as described in Rev. 7:9-14; 11:2; 12:5 and 16:15.12:5 and 16:15.

b. The Proof:

Some Scriptures seem to emphasize waiting and watching, as Mt. 24:40-51; 25:l-13; Lk. 20:34-36; 21:36; 1 Cor. 9:27; 1 Thess. 5:6-10; 2 Tim. 4:8; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 9:24-28 and Rev. 3:3-10 and 12:1-6.

c. The ProbIems:

The translation and resurrection are part of the believer's salvation, not a reward for faithfulness. Then too, the Scriptures plainly teach that all believers will be included in the rapture. Paul declares in l Cor. 15:51 that "we shall all be changed," including the carnal Corinthians whom he rebukes most sternly. A division of the body of Christ is unbiblical and unthinkable.

Furthermore, Paul asserts that God has not appointed believers unto wrath (1 Thess. 5:9-10) but wi11 remove us before the tribulation “that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. The term asleep is not a reference to the dead believers. Rather, katheudo refers to one who is not being watchful or alert.

2. The Midtribulational Rapture View

a. The Position:

The rapture will occur at the midpoint of the seven years of tribulation. Only the last half of Daniel's 70th Week is tribulation, thus the view sees itself as really espousing a Pretribulational rapture of the church. Like the pretribulationists, midtribulationists distinguish between the rapture and second commg and insist on a removal of the church to heaven prior to the time of the wrath of God.

b. The Proof:

Both Daniel and the book of Revelation portray the last half of the 70th Week of Daniel as being a time of tribulation and terror, with Antichrist ruling over the world from Jerusalem and the severest judgments poured out upon the earth (cf. Dan. 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11; Rev. 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5).

The removal of the two witnesses in Revelation ll is seen as a symbolic description of the rapture. The earlier judgments in the book of Revelation, including the seal judgments and six trumpet judgments, are not seen as God’s wrath but as the wrath of man. The believer must endure the wrath of man but is exempt from the wrath of God.

c. The Problems:

It is impossible to espouse a midtribulational view of the rapture and hold that Christ could retum at any moment. The appearance of the Antichrist, his covenant with Israel, and the destruction caused by the four horsemen must occur before Christ can retum. The rapture cannot happen today. It must be remembered that even the first part Of the tribulation reveals God’s wrath, not simply human or satanic wrath. The earthlings of Rev. 6:16-17 recognize that the seal judgments are the "wrath ofthe Lamb." In Revelation 5 it is Christ Who breaks the seals and releases judgment on the earth.

As to the two witnesses of Revelation 11, they couuld not possibly be the church. The witnesses are literally killed and lie in the literal streets of literal Jerusalem for three days.

3. The Pre-Wrath Rapture View

a. The Position:

This relatively recent view of the rapture is espoused by Marv Rosenthal in his book The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (1990) and his periodical Zion's Fire. It is a variation of the mid-trib position and has similarities to the post-trib position. The basic thesis of this view is that the church will be removed from the earth by the rapture just before the fourth quarter of the 70th Week of Daniel.

b. The Propositions:

The tribulation invoIves three distinct periods: the beginning of sorrows, lasting 3-1/2 years, the Great Tribulation, lasting 21 months, followed by the Day of the Lord, spanning the final 21 months. The church thus needs to go through three-fourths of the tribulation. Believers will endure the time of man’s wrath and Satan’s wrath but wi11 be delivered before the Day of the Lord, the time of God’s wrath, which begins with the opening of the seventh seal (Rev. 8:1).

c. The Problems:

This view totally destroys the doctrine of imminency, Which Rosenthal calls "untenable." However, Passages like 1 Thess. 5:6; 1 Cor. 1:7; Tit. 2:13 and 1 John 3:2-3 speak of the blessed hope as an imminent event. Rosenthal has no clear explanation where the church will be for 21 months after the rapture. He totally ignores the promise of Christ in John 14:1-4 that the church will be taken to heaven after Christ's retum.

It should not be overlooked that the Day of the Lord includes the entire tribulation and the Millennium (Zeph. 3:8-13; Hag. 2:6-23; Zech. 14:1-10), including a total of 1007 years. The judgments in the first half of the tribulation are clearly divine judgments. It is Christ who opens the seals and uses various means to judge a Christ-rejecting world.

4. The Post-Tribulational View

a. The Position:

Post-tribulationism teaches that the rapture and the second commg are aspects of a single event occurring at the end of the Tribulation period. Christ retums to the clouds, the church meets him in the air, and together they retum to the earth.

b. The Proofs:

Since identical terms are used for the rapture and second coming, this event must refer to the coming of Christ after the tribulation. The terms parousia, usually translated "coming," apokalupsis, translated "revelation," and epiphaneia, translated "appearing" must relate to the same event. Furthemore, many post-tribulationists insist that the pre-trib rapture view is recent in its origin. J. N. Darby formulated the pretribulational position in the 1830’s, at least partially based on Margaret MacDonald’s revelations. Since the view is recent, it must be wrong.

c. The Problems:

The three words used in connection with the Lord’s return, "coming," "revelation," and "appearing" are not technical tems but can refer to either event. Similarity, as stated before, does not prove identity. Furthemore, the rightness or wrongness of a position does not depend on its recency but whether it is scriptural or not. While a systematic study of prophecy is fairly recent, evidence can be found throughout Church history of a belief in a pretribulational removal of Christians from the earth.

As all the other aberrant rapture views, post-tribulationism denies that Christ’s coming is imminent. It could be today. To deny that is to deprive the believer of the blessed hope. That is a serious matter.

5. The Pretribulational Rapture

a. The Position:

The pre-trib position espouses the retum of Christ to the atmosphere to resurrect the dead church age believers and to translate the living saints before the 70th week of Daniel. The rapture is the next event on God’s prophetic calendar. No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before it occurs. The rapture is therefore the imminent or any-moment retum of Christ for His own.

b. The Predictions Conceming the Rapture:

The night before His crucifixion, Christ made the first discIosure ofthe rapture to His disciples (John 14: 1-6). He promised to retum for His own and take them to the Father’s House. In the post-trib scheme of things, believers would meet the Lord in the air at the end of the tribulation and then immediately retum with Him to earth. Christ would thus have uttered a falsehood in John 14. Also, the Lord promises the believers exemption from the tribulation (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rom. 5:9).

c. The Proof for the Pretribulational Rapture:

(Rev. 3:10) The Lord’s promise is clear: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." It should be observed that the believers are not promised preservation in or during the hour of trial, but protection out of (ek) it.

On the other hand, tribulation saints are not promised exemption from suffering (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-14; 14:1-3, etc.). As Charles Ryrie observes: "If the church will not be raptured before the hour begins, then the promise will not be fulfilled because many saints simply will not be preserved in the tribulation but will suffer and die along with unsaved people." (Revelation, [1996] 34.)

© Manfred E Kober

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