The Rapture in Relation to the Occurrence of the Tribulation Analysis Essay
The Doctrine of the Rapture An Analysis of Pretribulationalist View, Mid-Tribulationalist View and Post Tribulationalist View
It is evident that Jesus Christ will return to the earth to rescue the saints and institute His everlasting Kingdom. In John 14:3, the Apostle John reports Christ’s affirmation, “I will come again.” The Lord reaffirms this in Revelation 22:20, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” With regard to his return, there is no contention. However, there has been a protracted debate regarding the timing of the Rapture in view of the impending Apocalypse. There are three major competing views within the premillennialism concerning the timing of the Rapture in relation to the occurrence of the Tribulation. The three main views include pretribulationist, midtribulationist, and posttribulationalist view. Essentially, the three views concur in their belief that Tribulation will last seven years. However, pretribulationists hold the view that the Rapture will take place before the seven-year long Tribulation. Meanwhile, the midtribulationists hold the view that the Rapture will occur halfway the duration of Tribulation. Posttribulationalist, on the other hand, believe that the Rapture will happen at the end of the Tribulation. This paper is the analysis of written works produced by myriad theologians from different periods in history. It will clearly demonstrate and articulate that the pretribulationist view is consistent with the Bible. The paper aims at utilizing empirical data along with hermeneutics to definitively answer the question of when the Rapture will occur.
In posttribulationalist view, it is believed that the Church will not be removed from the earth during the Tribulation. Instead, it will have to persevere the Tribulation as it awaits the Rapture. Hence, the Church will remain on earth during the Tribulation. Consequently, it will experience the events that characterize this period. When Christ returns, at the end of the Tribulation, the dead church-age saints will resurrect. The saints, who shall be alive after the Tribulation, will then be transformed and raptured. Notably, this perspective maintains that Christ will only come back once. The wrath that is preserved to punish the disobedient will be unleashed in one day. This day shall mark God’s deliverance to the house of Jacob at the battle of Armageddon. This occasion shall be followed by the establishment of His Kingdom on the earth.
This perspective has several weaknesses that make it inconsistent with the scripture. For instance, the posttribulational Rapture suggests that God will miraculously preserve the Church through the Tribulation. If this assertion is true, then rapture does not make much sense. The perspective postulates that the Rapture is aimed at protecting saints from the wrath of God at Armageddon. However, if God will preserve the Church through the Tribulation, then why not preserve the Church at Armageddon? He is capable of selective protection as it was with the house of Israel during the plagues that hit Egypt. Essentially, the main drive of the Rapture is for living saints to escape the fierce Armageddon. Therefore, there will be no reason to raise the dead saints as they are already immune at the same time.
Apparently, this perspective suggests that all the saints will return nearly immediately to be in the Millennium with Christ. Notably, the perspective lacks evidence to submit that the Church will undergo tribulation, the 70th week of Daniel. The Tribulation is a period of wrath during which God executes judgment on the disbelieving world. It entails the purging of Israel as a nation. Conversely, those who are in Christ are not predestined to face such severe judgment. Rather, Christ redeems the Church to receive salvation, and he is coming back to deliver the Church from the upcoming wrath (1Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). In addition, it makes no sense for the church saints to be raptured and immediately return to earth to reign with Christ.
This perspective contends that the Church will experience rapture during the Tribulation. The Rapture shall not occur in the beginning; rather; it shall occur following the Antichrist’s rise to power. However, the Rapture will occur before the severe judgments that will pave way for the return of Christ and establishment of His Kingdom on earth. Therefore, there is a belief, in this perspective, that Christ shall come back in two phases. His first return will occur at the middle of the Daniel’s 70th week. It is at this point that He will rapture the Church. He will then take the saints with Him to heaven. This timing shall mark the end of 42 months or three and a half years that shall be followed by the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation shall occur at the end of the Christ’s Second Coming.
Like posttribulationalist view, this perspective suggests that the Church will face tribulation, albeit partly. Notably, the events that characterize the Great Tribulation amount to God’s judgment on the disobedient. In Romans 8:1, it is clear that believers in Christ are not under condemnation whatsoever. Floods in the days of Noah and the Fire in Sodom and Gomorrah did not touch the righteous. The generations at Noah’s and Lot’s time were exceedingly wicked. God removed them from among the wicked generations before the outpouring of His wrath. In the case of Noah, the destruction came after he had gotten into the Ark. In Lot’s time, the destruction was witnessed the morning following Lot’s departure. Having the removal of the righteous preceding destruction in both occasions cannot be treated as mere coincidence. At no point did he remove the righteous after they had endured his wrath for a while. It should be explicit that the Church has no part in chapters 4-19 of the book of Revelation. Therefore, this perspective fails to offer a correct timing of the Rapture in reference to the Tribulation.
This perspective teaches that the Church will be removed from the earth before the Tribulation. The onset of the seven-year period and revelation of the Antichrist shall take place after the Rapture. The pretribulationist view holds the Scriptural interpretation of the Tribulation in the literal sense. Most dispensational theologians embrace this perspective. This perspective treats the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ as two different events separated by the seven years of tribulation. The clear separation of these two events in this view explicitly distinguishes it from the rest. The Rapture, or the coming of Jesus for the first time, entails the ascension of the Church into the clouds with Christ; this takes place prior to the seven-year tribulation. Following the Tribulation is the Second Advent; it entails the return of Christ with the saints to the earth. Christ will return at this point, together with the Church, to exercise His 1,000-year kingdom.
The parable in Matthew 24 concerns two people in the field. He notes that one of them will be taken while the other person will be left. Dr. Showers argues that the “taken” in this context implies destroyed. This destruction, he notes, shall take place at the Armageddon during which He shall destroy the Antichrist together with unbelievers. He maintains that this teaching acts as a further confirmation that two comings in glory shall be witnessed. One shall occur prior to the 70th week while the other at the end of the period and shall be marked by the Armageddon.
Understanding the purpose of the Tribulation would help comprehend the reason why the Church is left out of Rapture equation. Tribulation in the last seven years largely concerns God’s plan for Israel rather than the Church. God is yet to accomplish His plan for the House of Jacob. This plan is more explicit in the seven years left of the 490 years as fronted by Daniel. The accomplishment of this plan does not require the presence of the Church on the earth. Notably, Israel and the Church are two distinct entities. When the Church’s role in missions is accomplished, Christ will take His bride home, to heaven, to enable the completion of the seventieth week of Daniel. Evidently, it is the 144,000 from Israel that received from God the seal for protection. The Scripture explicitly refers to the 12 groups as tribes of Israel each comprising 12,000 individuals.
Currently, God is using the Church universally as a channel of redemptive truth. However, Revelation indicates that this will shift during Daniel’s seventieth week as God will resort to the Jewish remnant as His human instrument. The unprejudiced reader would undoubtedly be captivated by the sudden shift from a focus on “Church” in Rev. 2–3 to the 144,000 Jews from Israel’s 12 tribes in Chapter 7 and 14. Moreover, it is evident that the woman in Chapter 12, who gave birth to a male child, is an Israelite. Therefore, it is clearer that the Tribulation focuses on Israel. This period marks the last seven years of the history of Israel prior to the end of this age. God set Israel apart as the vehicle of His blessing to the entire world. It was through Israel that God purposed to give a message to the other nations.
Moreover, the Apostle Paul’s exhortation for the Church to comfort each other rather than sorrow can only be logical in the context of the pre-tribulation Rapture (1Thesalonians 4: 13-18). The post-tribulationist view suggests that the Lord’s coming is a dreadful thing even to the Church. It is something to be feared owing to the horrendous judgment associated with it. Contrary to this assertion, the Church is exhorted to wait for the glorious appearing of Christ (Titus 2:13). The pre-tribulation Rapture is the blessed hope that this passage is picturing. It is what keeps the Church on toes, not to be found lacking in anything.
Eschatology in Daniel and Revelation
The book of Daniel’s 70 weeks can be employed along other Scriptures to understand the timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation. Essentially, 69 of the 70 weeks have been spent;
consequently, there is yet one more week that is coming up in the future. Daniel makes reference to the ’70 weeks’ prophecy in Chapter 9:24-27. This prophecy appears as one of the most important prophecies ever made since it entails God’s dealings with Israel. It also avails a schematic of the dealings of God with all of mankind. The one week that is remaining to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy will last for seven years. The seven years are also known as the 70th week of Daniel and is often equated to the Tribulation. Daniel refers to this dispensation as a “time of trouble” for the Jews (Daniel 12:1-2). Notably, the 70-weeks prophecy does not constitute a universal promise. Rather, it gives predictions concerning the future of the Jews in the historic land.
The book of Revelation clearly portrays Jesus as being in charge. He is set to return for the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. The concept of the Rapture can be drawn from Revelation either explicitly or implicitly. Revelation 3:10-11 is one of the most widely discussed passages concerning the Rapture. The passage entails God’s promise to preserve the Church of Philadelphia for having kept His commands through perseverance. He notes, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial that shall come upon the whole world” (vs.10). He maintains that this wrath will only be directed on those who inhabit the earth. According to David Winfrey, Revelation 3:10 provides the most significant proof for the position of the pretribulational Rapture. In essence, “ those who dwell on earth” is a description that does not befit the Church.
J. Dwight Pentecost identifies a strong evidence in favor of the pretribulationalist concept in this passage. He notes that, in the Hebrew text, the word “keep” as used in this passage does not insinuate persevering through the Tribulation. God does not promise that he will preserve the Church through the Tribulation. Rather, it implies removal of the saints from the testing arena The concept of removal explains why the Church will not be among the partakers of the Tribulation.
Revelation 4:1-2 clearly points at the events of the Rapture before the commencement of the Great Tribulation. After delivering an elaborate message to the Church, the Apostle John beheld an open door before him. He then heard a voice, like a trumpet, speaking to him. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you things that must take place after this.” Immediately, he was translated into a spirit and before him was throne with someone sitting on it. These things that “must take place” only came into play after judgments on the churches in chapter 2 and 3, and after John had been taken up to heaven. The expression “come up here” was restated in Revelation 11:12 where John gave an account of Two Witnesses who were raised. They were then caught up in heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.
John had been called into heaven to witness the things that must occur, both in heaven and on earth, following the Rapture. The ascendance of the Church to heaven explains why there is no mention of the Church in this section. For instance, while addressing the Church in chapters 2 and 3, he often included the phrase “what the Spirit says to the churches.” However, this reference changes in the subsequent chapters. For instance, in Revelation 13:9 he says, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” This view fits in the argument that the Rapture precedes the Great Tribulation. Around the throne that was mentioned in vs.2, John saw twenty-four thrones occupied by twenty-four elders (Revelation 4:4). It is the judgment throne that sat to determine the things that might happen after the Rapture. In the Old Testament, these thrones are mentioned only by Daniel.
The similarities between Revelation 4:1 and 1Thesallonians 4:16-17, and the absence of the Church in the passage make it one of the most effective reference Scriptures for the Rapture timing. It gives a prominent clue about the whereabouts of the Church during the Great Tribulation. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 declares that the Lord will, on that day of the Rapture, descend with a loud command. The archangel’s voice shall announce His coming from heaven with the trumpet call of God. This call shall be followed by the resurrection of the dead before the living saints are caught up with Christ in the clouds.
The events in Revelation 4:1-2 are also consistent with the promises given in 3:8-10. The Lord announces that He laid an open door before the Church. He declares that no one can shut this door. This door symbolizes the Church’s exit from the earth to pave the way for tribulation of those who walked contrary to God’s will. After the entry of the bride (the Church) this open door shall be shut. As in the days of Noah, the rest shall be left to face the trying moments that are typical of the Great Tribulation.
Absence of Church during Tribulation
The term “church” is mentioned 19 times in Rev. 1-3. This section pays earnest attention to the first-century church that existed towards the end of the Apostle John’s life. Afterward, there is no mention of the word “church” up to Revelation 22:16 as John accomplishes his message. If the Church continued into the Tribulation, one would question why John failed to mention it in the subsequent thirteen chapters. Essentially, it is outstanding and unexpected that John would move from giving the detailed instructions concerning the Church to complete silence regarding the Church in these chapters. If the Church will experience the events of the Tribulation of Daniel’s seventieth week, then John would have given a detailed account on the Church’s position during that time. The only way in which the complete absence of the Church from Chapter 4 to 22:16 could be explained is her relocation from the earth to heaven through the pretribulational Rapture before Daniel’s seventieth week.
Apart from the failure to mention the Church during the Tribulation, the Scripture does not warn the Church of such experience beforehand. For instance, the instructions that God gave to the Church through the epistles comprise a wide variety of warnings to the saints. They warn robustly concerning the coming of false prophets (Acts 20:29-30) and ungodly living (Ephesians 4:25–5:7). They also admonish saints to endure in the midst of present tribulation. Conversely, there is complete silence concerning preparation of the Church for the Great Tribulation. It is, therefore, inconsistent that the Scriptures would keep silent on such a distressing change for the Church. If pretribulationalists were wrong, then it would be reasonable for the epistle to teach concerning its role or position in tribulation. However, such teachings are not mentioned prior to the occurrence. Therefore, only the pretribulational Rapture can adequately explain such apparent silence.
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Symbolism in End Time Prophecy
The book of Revelation is drenched in symbolism with regards to end-time prophecy. The writer widely uses Old Testament symbols in chapters 4-18 of Revelation. This usage focuses on Israel rather than the Church. It is an indication that it is Israel that shall go through tribulation and not the Church. Revelation 12, in particular, rests entirely on symbolism. In vs.1, we encounter a woman who is clothed with the sun. Under her feet is the moon, and she has a crown composed of twelve stars. Symbolically, the description of the woman represents the twelve tribes of Israel and is clearer when paralleled with Genesis 37:9. In the latter passage, Joseph dreamt of his entire family coming to bow to him. The sun, moon and stars symbolized Joseph’s family.
The woman is also symbolic of the Jerusalem on Earth. In vs.2, Jerusalem (the woman) labored to deliver a male child that symbolizes the birth of the body of Christ. This analogy implies that when the body of Christ is birthed (raptured), Jerusalem will be attacked. As opposed to Jews in Jerusalem who travail, the Church will not experience such tribulation. This passage symbolizes how the pains of Jerusalem will increase as the case in travailing in birth. The Great Red Dragon in the passage refers to Satan. He is said to have ten horns. In Daniel 7:7, 20-24, horns symbolize kingdoms. Hence, the ten horns mentioned in Revelation 13:1, 17:3 refers to the governmental base of the Antichrist.
It is evident that Revelation and Daniel are among other Scriptures examined in this research paper that consolidates the arguments of a myriad of theologians proving that the pretribulationist view is consistent with the Bible. The other perspectives that argue that the Church will face the Great Tribulation are not consistent with the Scripture and tend to alarm the church for no justified reason. Those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior should not be horrified by the book of Revelation. Neither should they be worried of what the future holds for the Church and the world at large. Every believer will ascend with Christ to the clouds at His coming to take away the Church. As Paul wrote, in Titus 2:13, every believer ought to wait for that blessed hope coming at the glorious appearing of God and Christ the Savior. Notably, the Tribulation will begin soon after the Rapture, and it accounts for Daniel’s 70th week. It is the time of wrath when God will fully restore the Jews and deal with the lost world. Revelation 19 focuses on the Second Coming of Christ and not the Rapture. In the Second Coming, the Lord will come with His saints to combat the Antichrist at Armageddon. This battle shall then be followed by the establishment of His earthly Millennial Kingdom. The Second Coming is very open, visible and not secret as the Rapture. The Tribulation separates the two comings of Christ. As noted in 1Corinthians 15:52, the Rapture shall take place “ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” at the sounding of the trumpet.