20. Does the bible teach a pre-tribulational rapture?
The doctrine of a pre-tribulational rapture is not clearly taught anywhere in the scriptures, but is an inference based upon several Dispensational premises: first, that the second coming of Christ is imminent (that is, that there are no prophetic events which must precede it); second, that the “Church Age” is a parenthetical part of God's redemptive sign, and that he will one day revert to dealing with his earthly people, the Jews; and third, that the time in which he will deal with these Jews will be a seven-year period known as the Great Tribulation, which is yet to come. so then, if Christ could come back at any time, and yet, there are still at least seven years of tribulation to come in world history, then he must be coming back before those seven years, to take away his Church, so that he can focus again on Israel.
The problems with this teaching are numerous. Most fundamentally, it is built upon the faulty supposition that there are two peoples of God (concerning which, see the previous question, “Is Dispensationalism biblical?); and it is also interesting to note that, according to 2 Thes. 2:1-12, the church's being gathered together to Christ cannot precede the exaltation of the “Son of Perdition,” who, according to Dispensational teaching is the antichrist, that will exalt himself in the new Jewish temple at the midpoint of the tribulation; so, even if one accepts the Dispensational teachings regarding all the events and timing of the seven years of tribulation (which is unwarranted anyway!), the “rapture of the church” cannot come before three and a half years of the tribulation, at least.
Basically, all of the intricate chronologies of the rapture and events of the tribulation are not found in scriptures, but mandated by the false presupposition that the Church and Israel are two distinct peoples of God, and that, since God is not fulfilling his promises to Israel in the present age, he must be planning on doing it later, after he has removed the Church. But in contradiction to this philosophically-derived schematic, the bible often speaks of the second coming of Christ as an event that no one can know the precise timing of, but may recognize signs of its approaching (Mat. 24:32-42; 1 Thes. 5:1-6); and that will involve contemporaneously the resurrection and judging of both the wicked and righteous, the creation of the new heavens and earth, etc. (Mat. 24:29-31; 25:31-46; John 5:25-29; 2 Thes. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-58).
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