Is pretribulation rapture theology a new Church doctrine?
Some say there is no rapture of the Church prior to the tribulation and point out that it was not even taught to the Church until the 1800's.
About 373 AD Ephraem taught in a sermon that there was a pre-tribulation rapture. This writing can be found in Ephraem's sermon "On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World.", Ephraem said in this sermon, "For the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins".
Is there a pretribulation rapture?
In the rapture, the true Church of God is removed so they will not go through the trial that will come upon all the earth to try men's souls (they have no need to). Christ does not come back to take possession of the earth at that time. The rapture is just another phase of the first Resurrection that began with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the body of Christ and the true Church is also the body of Christ. The total membership making up the body of Christ must arise like Jesus to unite with Jesus. We must go before the bema seat judgment to be given the crowns that will allow us to rule and reign with Jesus when we return. If the rapture and second coming were at the same time you would have to make this judgment and the giving of the crowns an instantaneous event in the clouds at the second coming of Jesus. In the Jewish harvest, you have the first fruits, the general harvest and the gleaning. The harvest is not one event and neither is the resurrection of the saints. Revelation makes it clear that the 144,000 Israelites who have a ministry in the tribulation are still first fruits, so this would indicate that those in the true Church before the tribulation are also first fruits of this harvest.
There are well over a score of biblical passages that indicate that the return of Jesus for the Church is imminent. An imminent return is quite impossible if the tribulation has to happen first. Why would Jesus direct his people to be always ready and watching for His coming if they were meant to go through the tribulation and thus would be aware of His coming as much as seven years before He actually came?
The rapture of the faithful in contrast to the Revelation of Jesus at His coming
Christ comes for His own 1Th 4:13-18 --------------------Christ returns with His own Rev 19:14
Believers taken to Father's House Joh 14:3 ----------------Believers come with Jesus to Earth Mat 24:30
He is seen only by believers 1Co 15:52 --------------------Every eye will see Him Mat 24:30
Earth not judged -----------------------------------------------Earth judged Rev 20:4-5
A Mystery - 1 Co 15:51 --------------------------------------Foretold in OT Zech 12:10
Christians taken first 1Th 4:13-18 3 Mat 13:28-30 -------Wicked are taken first Mat 25:1-13; Rev 3:8-10; Rev 4:1,
He comes to present the Church to Himself 2 Co 11:2 ---He comes with His Church for judgement and to set up his Kingdom Rev 19:6-9, Zec 14:3-4; Jud 1:14-15; Rev 19:11-21
Casts Satan out of heaven to earth Rev 12 ------------------Binds Satan for a thousand years Rev 20
Occurs in the twinkling of an eye 1Co 15:52---------------Comes to earth to do battle at specific locations Isa 63:1-3, Rev 16:16, Zec 12:9-10
Jesus descends with a shout. 1Th 4:16 8 --------------------No shout mentioned Rev 19:11-21
Scriptural proofs that the rapture is pre-tribulation *
Proof #1: Revelation 19:11-21 doesn't mention a resurrection.
The rapture is a resurrection of those "in Christ" (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Isn't it a little bit odd that in Rev. 19:11-21, which is the clearest picture of the second coming of Christ, there is no mention of a resurrection? The rapture will be the biggest event since the resurrection of Jesus where hundreds of millions of Christians will be resurrected and translated, yet there isn't any mention here. Don't you think it deserves at least one verse? The rapture isn't mentioned because it doesn't happen at the second coming.
Proof #2: Zechariah 14:1-15 doesn't mention a resurrection.
This is an Old Testament picture of Jesus returning to earth at the second coming. Again, no mention of a resurrection.\
Proof #3: Two different pictures are painted.
In the Old Testament, there were two different pictures painted of the Messiah—one suffering (Isa. 53:2-10, Ps. 22:6-8, 11-18) and one reigning as King (Ps. 2:6-12, Zech. 14:9,16). As we look back on these scriptures, we see they predicted two separate comings of the Messiah—the 1st coming as a suffering Messiah and the 2nd coming (still future) as a reigning King.
In the New Testament, we have another picture added. Again, we have two pictures painted which don’t look the same. These two different descriptions of Jesus’ coming point to two separate events we call "the rapture" and "the second coming."
Proof #4: The Known Day and the Unknown Day.
Concerning the return of Jesus, the Bible presents a day we can't know and a day we can know. Matthew 25:13 says Jesus will return at an unknown time, while Revelation 12:6 says the Jews will have to wait 1,260 days for the Lord to return. The 1,260 days begins when the Antichrist stands in the Temple and declares himself to be God (Matt. 24:15-21, 2 Thess. 2:4) This event will take place at the mid-point of the seven year Tribulation (Dan 9:27). The Antichrist has authority to rule for 42 months, which is 1,260 days (Rev. 13:4) and will be destroyed by Jesus at His second coming (Rev. 19:20, 2 Thess. 2:8). The known and unknown days must happen at different times, meaning they are two separate events.
Proof #5: Holy ones are already with Jesus in heaven (Zech. 14:5, Rev. 19:14).
The armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, follow Jesus out of heaven at His second coming (Rev. 19:14, Zech. 14:5, Col. 3:4). These are not angels because Rev. 19:8 tells us the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. In order to come out of heaven we first have to go in, indicating a previous rapture.
Proof #6: Kept from the hour of testing (Rev. 3:10).
Revelation 3:10 says we will be kept out of the hour of testing which will come upon the whole earth (the Tribulation). Some have wrongly believed "keep" means to keep through, or protect through the Tribulation. Suppose you approach a high voltage area with a sign that says, "Keep Out." Does that mean you can enter and be protected? No, it means you are forbidden from entering the area. But this verse also says He will keep us from the hour of testing. It is not just the testing, but the time period. If a student is excused from a test, he still may have to sit in the class while others take the test. But if he is excused from the hour of testing, he can go home. The Church will be called home before the hour of testing.
Proof #7: Angels don't resurrect people when they gather them for judgment.
When the angels are sent forth to gather the elect at the second coming (Matt. 24:29-31), some have wrongly interpreted this as the rapture. There is one huge problem with this interpretation. If we are resurrected at this time, why would we need angels to gather us? In the resurrection, we will be like the angels (Matt. 22:30), able to travel in the air at will. Obviously, these people who are gathered are not resurrected, therefore it can't be the rapture. No one would claim the wicked are raptured at this time, yet Matthew 13:39-41, 49 says the angels will not only gather the elect, but also the wicked. This gathering is not a resurrection.
Proof #8: Both wicked and righteous both can't be taken first.
First Thessalonians 4:13-17 says the righteous are taken and the wicked are left behind. Matthew 13:30, 49 says the wicked are taken first and righteous are left behind. This points to two separate events, the rapture and the second coming.
Proof #9: Jesus returns from the wedding.
When Jesus returns to earth at the second coming, He will return from a wedding (Luke 12:36). At the rapture, Jesus is married to His bride, the Church. After the wedding, He will return to earth.
Proof #10: Jesus will receive us to Himself, not us to receive Him (John 14:2-3).
Jesus said He would prepare a place for the Church in heaven, then He would come again to receive us to Himself. Why would Jesus prepare a place for us in heaven and then not take us there? At the rapture, He will come to receive us to Himself, "that where I am (heaven), there you may be also." If the rapture occurred at the same time as the second coming, we would go up to the clouds and then immediately come back to earth. That would contradict John 14:2-3.
Proof #11: The one who restrains is taken out of the way.
In 2 Thess. 2:6-7, Paul says "the one who restrains will be taken out of the way" before the Antichrist can be revealed. We believe this refers to the rapture because the Church is clearly the biggest obstacle to the Antichrist becoming a world ruler. This does not mean the Holy Spirit is completely gone from the earth, just the church, as it presents the biggest obstacle.
Proof #12: The separation of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46).
If the rapture occurred at the second coming, why would the sheep and the goats need to be separated immediately after the second coming? A rapture at the second coming would have already separated the sheep and the goats. With a Pre-Tribulation rapture, the people saved after the rapture will need to be separated after the second coming.
Proof #13: Who will populate the Millennium?
If the rapture occurs at the second coming and the wicked are cast into hell at that time, who will be left to populate the millennium? Only people in their natural (non-resurrected) bodies will be able to have children (Matt. 22:30). With a Pre-Tribulation rapture, the people saved after the rapture who are alive at the second coming will populate the earth during the Millennium
There are seven supernatural translation events in God's plan:
(God does many things in sevens - the number of completion.)
The seven supernatural translation events:
The ancient Jewish marriage ceremony proclaims a pretribulation rapture picture.
Jesus said it would be like in the time of Noah and Lot.
Is the rapture of the Church in Old Testament scripture?
There are many hints in Old Testament scripture about God hiding his people during a time of judgment on the earth. Since it is clear that this has not happened yet, it is a future event:
Isa 26:20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
Psa 27:5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me secretly in his pavilion: In the covert of his tabernacle will he hide me: He will lift me up upon a rock.
Psa 50:5 Gather my saints together unto me, Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
Psa 58:9 Before your pots can feel the thorns, He will take them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.
Joe 2:16 gather the people, sanctify the assembly, assemble the old men, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth from his chamber, and the bride out of their closet.
Zep 2:3 Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger.
Many will be saved in the tribulation
The scripture says all who endure to the end will be saved (all who hold on to the testimony of Jesus during the tribulation).
That word "all" should nullify any doctrine that says there will be no second chance of salvation for those who heard the gospel but were not part of the spiritual body of Christ before the rapture or tribulation. The passage clearly excludes no one and we see that true repentance leads to salvation throughout scripture.
Rev 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.