During the past year, the Lord called me away from my career as a financial analyst to pursue writing on a fulltime basis. This call began with a stirring of my heart as I saw the ridicule of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture on Facebook and felt a strong desire to defend my beliefs in this regard.
I am not a scholar nor do I possess a great theological mind. However, a careful and prayerful study of many passages in the New Testament has led to my deep conviction that the Rapture happens before the start of the Tribulation.
I recently read a blog post arguing against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. In doing so, the writer made several common arguments, ones based on human reasoning rather than the Word of God. At first, I dismissed the post.
As I later reread the post, however, I felt compelled to answer his attacks on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I have heard these arguments made many times over the past several decades; they are not new. However, in the past I have not written out a response to them.
This is the time to do so.
Is The Pre-Tribulation Rapture a Get-Out-of Jail-Free Card?
The first argument of this blog post is that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture offers believers a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Here is his exact quote:
First, believing I won’t have to endure the awful end-times tribulation period, fosters in me an “early-out” mentality, in which I don’t need faith to live my life. Waving my get-out-of-jail-free card, all I need do is simply hang on, and hang out until my sudden extraction. How does this jive with Jesus telling us that all who believe, will ‘suffer persecution’ ? It doesn’t. [i]
First, there is a huge difference between persecution and the wrath of God that will be poured out on sinful humanity during the tribulation. Approximately half of the world’s population will die in the judgments during first years of the tribulation. The tribulation is not the “persecution” of the church; it is God’s judgment on the world.
No one who advocates a Pre-Tribulation Rapture does so to escape persecution. It is God’s wrath we seek to avoid and understandably so. This is not an “early-out mentality” whatsoever. The Lord, through the apostle Paul, says the church will miss the pouring out of God’s wrath on the earth during the tribulation (1 Thess. 5:9). We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises we will escape it.
Second, this point only applies to believers in America. For most believers in our world today, the Rapture is most certainly not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Many believers across our world are experiencing fierce persecution; they have seen loved ones brutally killed by ISIS and have left all their belongings behind while fleeing for their lives.
What this blogger describes only applies to the church in America. It’s a totally invalid argument in almost every other nation of the world where so many believers are currently undergoing great persecution. How does this argument apply to them? It would seem foolish to them.
Yes, Jesus says His followers should expect persecution and this is what we see in many places in our world and even to some extent in America. The tribulation, however, is God’s wrath poured out on the world. It’s far worse than “jail.”
What About Those Who Are Left Behind?
Secondly, this blogger objects to the depiction of those who will be left behind as being unscriptural:
Second, the pattern of being suddenly whisked away in a cloud, to the consternation of those unfortunate ones who erroneously thought they were believers, is a pattern I don’t see anywhere in Scripture, other than in the fictional presentations so prolific on our “Christian” bookstore shelves. I suppose with Hollywood getting involved we no longer need to study our Bibles to ‘be approved’!?[ii]
My primary objection here is that this will be a reality regardless of the timing of the Rapture in the tribulation. There will always be professing believers who will be left behind. How can this be avoided?
As for the lack of scriptural support, I beg to differ. Jesus’ parable, The Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-30, points to this exact occurrence; there will always be real and professing believers among the followers of Christ. Regardless of when Jesus returns for us, there will be church attenders who will miss out on the Rapture. I am at a loss as to how this argues against a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
There will never be a time when for the Rapture to occur when a number nominal believers will not be left behind. It’s simply unavoidable.
The whole point of the Parable of the Ten Virgins is that when Christ returns at the end of the tribulation there will be professing believers who will not have the Holy Spirit, who are not truly saved. They will not only miss out on Jesus’ Second Coming, but they will have no further opportunity to repent and turn to Jesus. Their fates will be sealed as the text indicates.
A Pre-Tribulation Rapture actually benefits those left behind. With the Rapture occurring just before the tribulation, they will have a much better opportunity to recognize their need for the Savior and respond to the gospel. If the Rapture occurs in the middle of the tribulation, many of these professing Christians would possibly be killed before realizing their lack of saving faith.
What About the Lucky Few?
The last point he makes is also weak and lacks not only an understanding of history and Scripture, but also of what is happening throughout the world:
Third, with the Pre-Trib scenario, there is little or no reason to think the “last” generation of Christians will undergo anything resembling what all the preceding generations of Christians had to face in the way of persecution and trials. Does this point to a fair and impartial God? I believe this is inconsistent with Scripture and history, and it thereby allows for the immediate translation to heaven of a “lucky” few who will arrive on the shores of Glory with empty hands and perhaps relatively unchanged hearts.[iii]
Besides reflecting a viewpoint totally devoid of what is happening in the church around the world, this writer ignores Jesus’ message to the churches in Revelation 2-3 where individual churches experienced much variation in regard to persecution. The church at Smyrna suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews (2:8-11) while other churches experienced significantly lesser amounts of oppression.
Jesus promised the church at Philadelphia they would escape “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell on the earth” (3:10). Does Jesus’ promise to them make the believers at the church somehow the “lucky few” as compared to those in Smyrna? Does this make Jesus unfair and impartial because one church gets spared and another does not? Absolutely not!
Jesus’ promise to keep His church out of the coming turmoil, the Tribulation, does not make Him unfair as the writer suggests it would. If it’s His purpose to do so, who are we to complain?
In addition, many generations of believers in America have walked faithfully with Christ and died without experiencing the persecution of which the writer talks about in his post? Why must the current generation of believers in America suffer in order for God to be fair and just?
Significantly, this third argument applies if the church only exists in the United States. If the truths of the Rapture in Scripture apply to the church worldwide, and they certainly do, this argument is totally meaningless.
The whole argument of this blogger is based solely on the American church. That’s highly dangerous ground on which to base any theology.
Besides, we may still yet face fierce persecution here in the United States. What happens then to these arguments against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture made by this blogger? They go out the window.
The Lord tests the faith of every believer. Regardless of our experience on earth in regard to outward persecution, no believer arrives in heaven “with empty hands and perhaps relatively unchanged hearts.” This is a highly ridiculous and hurtful assertion that contributes nothing to the argument for the time of the Rapture. It makes no sense whatsoever!
God’s Word must be our standard regarding the Rapture, not human experience. Careful interpretation of the text of Scripture must always determine theology, not the experience of a few or even of a great number.
This is why I write. My passion is to show the biblical grounds for not only premillennialism, but also the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church. To this end . . . I am just getting started!
[i] John Miltenberger, Rapture
Jonathan C. Brentner
North Liberty, Iowa
Eternity Versus the Moment