Purpose of this Session
This view was first known as "the secret" or "any moment rapture." It is a relatively new position, which was first taught by the founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, Edward Irving in the late 1820's. Plymouth Brethren pastor John Nelson Darby then picked it up, and he first preached on it in 1843. It came to America in the late 1800's and was popularized by C.I. Schofield when he revised his Bible notes in 1917.
More recently this view has been popularised in the West by the writings of Hal Lindsay and Tim La Haye as well as several films on the end time.
Pretribulationists teach that the return of Christ has been imminent since the days of the early church and that the church will be raptured sometime before the tribulation period begins and before the Second Coming of Christ.
The theory is based on several scriptures that appear to exclude the Church from the tribulation, and that emphasize the surprise and imminence of Christ’s return. Proponents argue that only a pre-tribulation rapture preserves imminency (the doctrine that Christ could come at any moment). They also point out that in Revelation chapters 1-3 the church is mentioned many times, but after this in chapters 4-18 (after the Lord speaks to John who is considered a type of the whole church to “Come up here”) the Church is not mentioned again until chapter 19 when she returns to earth with Christ. The thought is that during this seven year period the Church is enjoying the marriage supper of the Lamb, before returning with Christ in the Second Coming (which is considered a separate event).
The primary reason many believe that the Pre-tribulation view is the only acceptable view is that the Scriptures appear to promise exclusion of the faithful from the ‘hour of trial’ that is coming upon the earth, the thought being that this must be through the rapture.
Examples of such promises include:
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10 NKJV)
“and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
(1Thessalonians 1:10 NKJV)
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1Thessalonians 5:9 NKJV)
In this respect Old Testament events like Lot being ‘snatched’ from Sodom prior to its destruction are also considered pictures of a pre-tribulation viewpoint.
Pastor Yongghi Cho also points out in his commentary on Revelation (Revelation – Unlocking the Mysteries) that it would be wrong for the Church to be judged a second time. He emphasises the fact that our sins were judged at the cross of Christ, and as such we must necessarily be removed from any further judgement of God.
Problems with a Pre-Tribulation Rapture Viewpoint
The problem with this view is that it requires a second and third coming, one for the church and one with the church. As noted by bible expositor Kevin Conner “This is a view widely believed in the west because it means that Christians will not go through the great tribulation. However, many martyrs might disagree with this viewpoint”.
The first second coming is referred to as the rapture, or Christ ‘coming in the clouds’, and the second second coming as The Glorious Appearing (Titus 2:13). Pre-tribulationists simply see this as one coming in two phases, first in the clouds for His people, and then back to the earth several years later.
Another possible issue regarding the pre-tribulation theory is it demands certain events to be fulfilled that are not directly spoken of with clarity in the Scripture, such as the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and re-institution of a sacrificial system in that temple. These proposed events are based on Daniel’s 70 week prophecy in Chapter 9 verse 27 of Daniel, which speaks of an individual who will make a covenant with the people of God, and cause the offering and sacrifice to cease. The identity of this individual is the key to interpretation.
Many believe that the rebuilding of the temple will come about by a seven year peace deal (the covenant spoken of in Dan 9:7) allowing the Jews to rebuild their temple. This event will be part of a huge deception performed by the anti-Christ, who will subsequently break the covenant half way through, and afterwards unleash a satanic assault upon the earth and in particular upon the people of God.