Why I Left the Pre-trib Rapture View Behind

The dominant end-times view of the Church in the West is that the rapture will take place at the beginning of the 7-year Great Tribulation. This view hasn’t always been the case. In fact, as Church history goes, it’s a pretty recent view, coming into prominence only in the mid 1800s. This view teaches that after the Church gets raptured off the planet, the world will be plunged into a 7 year period of unspeakable tribulation. At the end of the Tribulation will be the Second Coming, when Jesus comes in blazing glory to defeat His enemies (Rev 19:11-21), followed by the millennium (Rev 20), etc. A minority of Christians believe the rapture will come at the end of the Great Tribulation. And then there are others who, for various reasons, like to believe a myriad of different views: no millennium, mid-tribulation rapture, ‘pre-wrath’ rapture, etc.

The views are mutually exclusive: one is right and the rest are wrong. Or maybe they’re all wrong.
But one thing is certain: despite each view being “based on the Bible,” they’re not all right.

Will The Real Rapture Please Stand Up?

I was raised to believe that the pre-trib view was the correct view, but the more I study my Bible, the harder it is for me to see how this can be. My reasons for abandoning a pre-trib view is as follows (I’ll try to be brief, and will list them in order of my discovering them. To properly understand how these passages relate to end-times, it’s helpful if you’re already familiar with the verses that pre-tribs use to support their views. Google will help you find many such articles):

  1. 1 Thess 4:15-17, the cornerstone of the pre-trib view, doesn’t say whether Jesus goes up or continues down after gathering His saints in the air. If Jesus returns to the air, then Paul is describing a pre-trib or mid-trib event. If He continues down to the earth, then it’s a post-trib event. But because the text doesn’t explicitly say which way Jesus goes, there’s no way to use this passage to support any view, and only by reading into the text can a person use this passage to argue for one view or the other. (I’m still not sure why pre-tribbers insist it’s a pre-trib event. The text simply doesn’t say.)
  2. In 2 Thess 1:5-12, Paul tells his audience, the Thessalonian church, that they will receive relief from their enemies when Jesus comes in blazing glory to destroy their enemies. That means [drumroll, please] they won’t get relief till the end of the Great Tribulation. In other words, Paul’s audience (and by extension, you and me) is going to go through the Great Tribulation. This is a check-mate for me and is the one that made me turn in my pre-trib card. I can’t find a way to bend/reinterpret it to satisfy a pre-trib position.
  3. 1 Thess 5:8-11 juxtaposes “destined to wrath” against “salvation in Jesus Christ”. Pre-tribbers point to v8 and jump up and down insisting we’re not going through the “wrath=Great Tribulation.”  I figure “wrath” can’t be the Great Tribulation because we know there will be saints in the Great Tribulation (Rev 6:10-11; Rev 16:12-16). Were those saints not “saved in Jesus Christ”? Clearly they are – and they’re in the Great Tribulation! So “wrath” can’t be the Great Tribulation, but rather, hell. And doesn’t it make more sense that if you’re “saved in Jesus Christ” you’ll escape hell? (Rom 8:1) Of course! But if those in Christ are destined to escape the wrath of earthly tribulation, isn’t that an insult to the millions of Christians who have been tortured, bled and died horrible deaths for the cause of Christ from Abel till now? There are many people that insist “God wouldn’t allow His Bride to suffer!” Personally, I find the view to be downright offensive! He allowed His Son to suffer! Where do we get off thinking the Bride won’t also suffer for His Name’s sake? We’ve been promised as much! (2 Tim 3:12; Matt 23:33-36). To say we’ll suffer as martyrs on the earth but not in the Great Tribulation is ultimately a distinction w/o a difference.
  4. Seeing the rapture in Rev 4:1 is too much a stretch for me. I get the whole “sky parting”, “voice sounding”, etc – but …so what? That happens in other places where there is no rapture (Matt 3:16; Rev 11:12). What makes Rev 4:1 so certain?
    And the fact that ‘church’ is never mentioned beyond Rev 4 is entirely inconsequential. We can’t take comfort in the absence of a word across a few chapters. I say this because “ekklesia” (the Greek word translated to be “church”) is mentioned all over the LXX (the Greek OT that the NT church used) yet the Apostles never once bothered to differentiate between OT ekklesia and NT ekklesia. This means that, as far as they were concerned, the Church existed in the OT! Yet pre-tribbers say the Church began at Acts 2 (something the Bible never says), and insist the Church leaves the earth in Rev 4:1 (something the text definitely doesn’t say). So someone help me: why should the presence of the word ‘ekklesia’ be ignored all over the OT (even when it describes a NT event – eg, Ps 22:22), but it’s absence in Rev 4-22 be celebrated as “proof” that the Church isn’t on the earth? That’s a rather selective (and Biblically/Apostolically inconsistent) method of interpretation, if you ask me.
  5. As hard as I try, I can’t see 2 distinct “coming” events in 2 Thess 2:1-8 . Nor can I see that the passage is teaching that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit. There’s just not enough evidence to go on. Could be; Could not be. I think it’s unwise to base such strong theology on such weak evidence.
  6. Finally – if we want “strong language,” then we need to start with Matt 24. Why this is skipped in rapture discussions is beyond me (Pre-tribbers usually claim that this chapter doesn’t apply to the NT church because Jesus’ audience is Jewish. I’m perplexed for 2 reasons:
    a) I agree that Matthew’s gospel is written with a heavy Jewish emphasis. But so what? Matthew never said which portions are for Jew and which are for the Church. So why did someone in the past 200 years or so decide that Matt 24 is “for Jews only”, but other chapters in the same gospel are for the Church (Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-8; church discipline in chapter 18; the Great Commission in Matt 28:19-20, etc).
    b) This same chapter which is “for Jews only” also appears in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Are those chapters also “for the Jews only”?
    Since I can’t get a straight answer from pre-tribbers about this, I would suggest the pre-tribbers reconsider their lens.
    This passage is a direct answer to the disciple’s direct questions: “Lord – what will the end times look like?” His specific answers to their direct questions ought to trump every oblique passage bar none! And when we read this passage, sure enough, the rapture is the last thing mentioned:

    Immediately after the tribulation of those days: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the celestial powers will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matt 24:29-31. Note that this same verbiage also appears in Mark 13:26-27 and Luke 21:27-28)

    Did we notice that “after the tribulation” the Son of Man appears in blazing glory and then after that, the saints are gathered from the four winds? This business of “gathering the saints from the four winds” is the only line that even remotely sounds like a rapture in all of chapter 24. I have NO CLUE why pre-tribbers ignore this, the plainest teaching of them all, and insist that vague and oblique passages like Rev 4, 1 thess 4 should have precedence over a direct answer to a direct question.I regret that I didn’t find Matt 24 sooner. (I was actually told by a retired elder that Jesus taught Matt 24 in reverse order to conceal the true future from unbelievers. And I actually believed that ..for about a week.)

So.. as I see it in the Bible, the proper order is as follows:
– Things go from bad to worse and next thing we know, we’re in a Great Tribulation
– Jesus comes in the clouds to defeat His enemies and gather His own (Rev 19:11ff; 2 Thess 1:5-10)
– Jesus sets up a 1,000-yr long kingdom (Rev 20:1-5)
– At the end of 1,000-yr reign, death and hell and God’s enemies are thrown into the lake of fire and (Rev 20:7-15) and all His enemies are thrown into the Lake of Fire.

I don’t know of any Scriptures that teach a different view (unless you squint really hard and insist on special interpretations).

Maybe I’m missing something.


For a less serious view on the topic, be sure to check out this page.

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2 comments to Why I Left the Pre-trib Rapture View Behind

  • You state in point one, “the cornerstone of the pre-trib view, doesn’t say whether Jesus goes up or continues down after gathering His saints in the air”. Jesus made it plain in John 14 that He goes to prepare a place for us. This answers the question whether up or down.
    Point two: II Thess. 2:2-3 states that the “day of the Lord” (Tribulation) and the appearance of Antichrist will not occur until the Apostasy (Departure) comes first.

  • admin

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks so much for your reply.

    I’m afraid you may have missed a couple of the details regarding the points I made.

    * “The cornerstone of the pre-trib view” is a direct reference to Thessalonians, or rather, the frequent use of 4:17 by pre-tribbers. My point is that the passage makes no reference to where Jesus and the saints will go *after* He meets us in the air. If He goes back up to heaven, then the passage is talking about either a pre-trib or mid-trib event. If He continues on down to the earth, then the passage is talking about a post-trib event. But the passage makes no mention of where He will go – and as such, cannot be used as a proof of any of the 3 views.
    John’s 14th chapter has no bearing on the passage since the rapture is not mentioned there, and the reader is given no time-reference with respect to the rapture, tribulation and Second Coming.

    * 2 Thess does indeed mention “day of the Lord”, but it does not state whether “day of the Lord” is the rapture, the Great Tribulation or the Second Coming. For every theologian who insists it means one, you can find 3 others who insist it means something else. In either case, Paul himself makes no mention of what “day of the Lord” is. If you try to take the verse in context and link it to the first chapter of the book, it would seem that “day of the Lord” is a reference to the Second Coming (see 1:10). So what Paul is saying is that the Second Coming will not take place until the “falling away” of 2:3. But pre-tribs, mid-tribs and post-tribs all believe that anyway.

    * While we’re on Second Thessalonians… What’s a particular challenge for pre-tribbers is that they don’t have a good explanation for 1:5-12. Paul is saying that the Thessalonian church will be on the ground when Jesus comes in blazing glory to deliver justice to His adversaries (ie, Second Coming). If the Thessalonian church is on the ground at the Second Coming, then Paul is describing a post-trib scenario! Because if the church was raptured pre-trib, how could they be on the ground waiting for Christ to relieve them from their adversaries?

    [+]It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, (2Thess 1:5-7)

    Note that they get their reward of rest **when** Jesus comes in blazing glory, and not 7 years before.

    Thanks for considering.

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