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Seven Proofs of a Pre-tribulational Rapture Pt 1

In this article, we will seek to go deeper into the numerous Biblical reasons that suggest the certainty of this doctrine. We believe that there is more than enough evidence in scripture to form a strong opinion on this issue and to rest in complete assurance that this is a Biblical truth. We will offer seven convincing proofs of the pre-tribulational timing of the Rapture.

1 – The Mutual Exclusivity of Israel and the Church

When a literal or plain interpretation of scripture is consistently applied, a downstream result is the understanding that national Israel and the Church are distinct entities in God’s prophetic program. We can also then understand that God deals with them mutually exclusively. Our outline for this perspective is given in Daniel 9. This chapter records how in the mid-500s BC, the prophet Daniel was given the seventy-weeks prophecy, which declared seventy weeks or heptads of years that would take place for national Israel and Jerusalem. It is critical that we recognize that according the text, these seventy weeks are specifically designated for the Jews and Jerusalem – not the Gentiles or the Church (Verse 24 – “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city”). These seventy weeks amount to a total of 490 years (70 x 7). This acts as the framework for all future Bible prophecy.

A beginning point and ending point are provided for marking the first through the sixty-ninth weeks of years. The sixty-ninth week of years ended with the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in 33 AD, just days prior to His crucifixion. According to the prophecy, it is clear that this prophetic time-clock for national Israel stopped with the completion of the sixty-ninth week, leaving one future week – the seventieth week – to still be completed. But after the sixty-ninth week, something “unexpected” happened. After Israel killed her Messiah, rejecting His offer of the Messianic Kingdom (which had been promised and prophesied of throughout the Old Testament), this prophetic seventy-week program of God for Israel was paused, and God instead introduced an interim program called the Church, as the Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost of that same year – 33 AD (Acts 2).

Subsequently, the gospel was to be spread to all nations, as God’s focus temporarily shifted from that of national Israel to His new work called the Church, which focused on all nations. And so, at the Triumphal Entry, the time-clock for Israel’s seventy-week countdown was paused and a gap period we call the Church Age was inserted. In 70 AD, the final harbinger of this shift took place as Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were eventually scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth in what is termed the Diaspora. The Church Age has been in effect since 33 AD, and will last until the closing event of this age – the Rapture, or supernatural catching away of the Church to heaven described in scripture (Romans 11:25; I Thessalonians 4:14-18; et al.).

We understand that God’s time clock for the Church will stop with the Rapture, and either immediately or soon after, His time clock for national Israel will again begin, as there remains one final week of years – the seventieth week – to be completed. During this time, Israel will once again become the primary focus of God’s plan during this final seven-year “week” of time often called the Tribulation, or Daniel’s seventieth week. This final week for Israel, the Tribulation (Revelation 6-19), will be a time of great trouble for the world as God’s wrath is poured out – but will be especially focused upon Israel, especially the second half of this seven-year period. One primary purpose of the Tribulation is to drive the nation of Israel to repentance through great affliction. Sometimes God has to knock us down in order to get us to look up at Him – and that’s what’s happening to Israel during the Tribulation. Through this experience of unimaginable distress, Israel will finally be brought to faith (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:25). When Christ does return to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, Israel will be ready to receive Him as their Messiah. This now-righteous remnant of Israel will be rescued from the nations that have gathered to destroy her, and Christ will set up His Millennial or Messianic Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 12:2-3; Chapter 14).

How does all of this inform our perspectives of the timing of the Rapture? We see that when the first sixty-nine weeks for Israel were active, the Church was not on the scene. But the same year the sixty-nine weeks ended – 33 AD – the Church then began almost immediately after on Pentecost. Israel’s clock stopped and the Church’s clock began. The Church was God’s interim program that He inaugurated after national Israel rejected her Messiah. This is the time we are living in presently – which we call the Church Age. Again, the Rapture of the Church will be the event that stops the Church’s clock - permanently. But as we’ve discussed here, when the seventieth week begins, Israel’s clock will resume until its completion at the Second Coming – which will take place at the end of the seventieth week.

So, the first sixty-nine weeks and the seventieth week (in other words, all seventy weeks) are designated specifically for Israel, and have nothing at all to do with the Church. In fact, the Church and the seventieth week are completely incompatible. They are mutually exclusive according to this prophetic calendar. This itself is one of the reasons that necessitate the pre-tribulational removal of the Church from earth in order for God to begin Israel’s final week. God will not reinitiate His program for Israel until His program for the Church has been concluded (at the pre-tribulational Rapture). No other Rapture view makes a clear distinction between Israel and the Church.

2 – The Church is Exempt From Eschatological Wrath

The Tribulation is the culminating subset within the judgment phase of the broad Day of the Lord. The idea of this whole period being the wrath of God is shown most plainly in Revelation 6, as the Sixth Seal opens and even the wicked earth dwellers finally recognize that they’ve been experiencing God’s wrath. The people of earth cry out in fear.

And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? Revelation 6:16-17

The wrath (the judgment phase of the broad Day of the Lord – which includes the Tribulation) didn’t just begin with the opening of the Sixth Seal - it began with the opening of the First Seal. Why? Because Jesus is the one in heaven opening the seals and releasing these wrathful judgments (Revelation 6 and following)! They are all part of the “wrath of the Lamb.”

But here is what we’re really getting at: the Bible clearly teaches that believers escape before the time of God’s wrath. They don’t experience any of the judgments of this period. In other words, the Church is caught up in the Rapture prior to any of the judgments of God’s wrath that get poured out upon the earth. Consider the following points.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, Paul tells the Church that Jesus delivered us from the wrath to come.

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Notice that this says Jesus delivered us (past tense) from the wrath to come (future tense). When we were saved and we entered into the body of Christ or the Church, that salvation brought with it an exemption from the coming time of wrath. It doesn’t say God will bring us through the wrath in the future – it says He has already saved us from it altogether.

Then, in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul says: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,1 Thessalonians 5:9

So, we again find it clearly taught that we are not appointed to wrath. The Tribulation is the culmination of God’s time of wrath for those that dwell on the earth (as we will see even more clearly in the following passage). If we are not appointed to wrath, then our being on earth during the coming time of wrath is irreconcilable.

And most convincing yet, in Revelation 3:10, the Lord Himself promised to keep us from the time of the Tribulation altogether. Jesus, speaking to the Church at Philadelphia says:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 3:10

There’s simply no way to interpret this to mean God will preserve us through the Tribulation. It specifically says God will keep us from even the time of the Tribulation. We won’t be here to experience it. Notice also that it says the hour of trial is coming on the whole world and will affect all those who dwell on the earth. The only way then for the Church to be untouched by this hour of trial is for them to be removed from the earth prior to it.

Of course, the Church – like anyone else – will endure normal tribulations of life (lowercase “t”), but the Church is exempt from the Tribulation (uppercase “T”) – and the entire judgment phase of the broad Day. We will experience none of it.

3 – The Rapture is a Comfort

In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, after giving us the promise of the Rapture in the previous several verses, Paul then follows this up by saying: Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 -

We find that the Rapture is intended to be a comfort to us. Only a pre-tribulational Rapture is truly a comfort, since it is the only view that includes a rescue of the Church out of this world prior to the outpouring of God’s wrath during the broad Day of the Lord. This will be a time of unparalleled distress on earth.

If the Rapture doesn’t take place until sometime during this period of Tribulation, or especially until the end of the Tribulation, how could it provide us with any comfort? It would be like saying, “Be comforted that those of you who endure through the worst distress in all of earth’s history, who do not get decapitated by the Antichrist, will get raptured at the end of it.” Obviously, that’s not a comforting promise at all - nor does it make any sense.

And so, this description of the Rapture as a comfort supports the earlier passages that detail our exemption from this coming time of wrath altogether – all requiring a pre-tribulational Rapture. When we study the Tribulation in the broad Day of the Lord, we can all be comforted by the teaching that we will be rescued prior to it. We will experience none of its judgments. All other Rapture views require Christians to participate in at least part of this time period.

Part 2 next time

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