Volume 13, Number 2 (Fall 2002)
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An Issue Devoted to the Subject of The Pretribulation Rapture
by James F. Stitzinger
The coming of God's Messiah deserves closer attention than it has often received. The future coming of the Messiah, called the "rapture," is imminent, literal and visible, for all church saints, before the hour of testing, premillennial, and, based on a literal hermeneutic, distinguishes between Israel and the church. The early church fathers' views advocated a sort of imminent intra- or post-tribulationism in connection with their premillennial teaching. With a few exceptions, the Medieval church writers said little about a future millennium and a future rapture. Reformation leaders had little to say about prophetic portions of Scripture, but did comment on the imminency of Christ's return. The modern period of church history saw a return to the early church's premillennial teaching and a pretribulational rapture in the writings of Gill and Edwards, and more particularly in the works of J. N. Darby. After Darby, pretribulationism spread rapidly in both Great Britain and the United States. A resurgence of posttribulationism came after 1952, accompanied by strong opposition to pretribulationism, but a renewed support of pretribulationism has arisen in the recent past. Five premillennial views of the rapture include two major views-pretribulationism and posttribulationism and three minor views-partial, midtribulational, and pre-wrath rapturism.
by Larry D. Pettegrew
The Olivet Discourse as the ultimate exposition of events related to the future of Israel has been a proving ground where incorrect rapture systems have gone astray. A survey of the Discourse starts with the backdrop of a scathing rebuke and proceeds to note the stunned disciples, the doomed temple, the timing question, the unexpected delay, the great tribulation, the second coming, and the application. The first of three erring rapture systems, posttribulationism, understands the Discourse to focus on the church, but the larger context and the immediate context demonstrate conclusively that Israel is the main focus. The pre-wrath system is the second erring interpretation when it misconstrues Matt 24:22 and its mention of the shortening of the great tribulation. The third erring system is preterism with its teaching that the Discourse was in the main fulfilled in events around A.D. 70. Preterism falters hermeneutically in its non-literal interpretation of the prophecy. Pretribulationism responds to the hermeneutical fallacies by interpreting "this generation" in Matt 24:34 to refer to the generation alive when events of the great tribulation take place. Consistent pretribulationism understands "one taken, one left" and "the fig tree" to refer to events pertaining to the second coming, not the rapture of the church.
by Robert L. Thomas
Fathers in the ancient church dealt frequently with the doctrine of imminence, sometimes viewing God's future wrath against rebels as imminent and sometimes viewing the future coming of Christ as imminent. The NT furnishes good reason for the fathers to view both aspects of the future as imminent, beginning with the teachings of Christ who laid the foundation for the teaching of imminency though His use of parabolic expressions of a master standing at the door and knocking and of an unexpected coming of a thief and His use of the futuristic tense of (erchomai). In company with other NT writers, Paul emphasized the imminence of both future wrath and the return of Christ in His two epistles to the Thessalonians. He did this in several parts of the epistles-in discussing the day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5, in describing the "catching away" in 1 Thessalonians 4, in 1 Thess 1:9-10 and 2:16, and in 2 Thess 1:9-10 and 2:1-3. A study of the two epistles and a survey of the rest of the NT indicates that the church fathers were right: the rapture of the church and the beginning of the day of the Lord could come at any moment.
by Keith H. Essex
The relevance of the book of Revelation to the issue of the timing of the rapture is unquestioned. Assumptions common to many who participate in discussing the issue include the authorship of the book by John the apostle, the date of its writing in the last decade of the first century A.D., and the book's prophetic nature in continuation of OT prophecies related to national Israel. Ten proposed references to the rapture in Revelation include Rev 3:10-11; 4:1-2; 4:4 and 5:9-10; 6:2; 7:9-17; 11:3-12; 11:15-19; 12:5; 14:14-16; and 20:4. An evaluation of these ten leads to Rev 3:10-11 as the only passage in Revelation to speak of the rapture. Rightly understood, that passage implicitly supports a pretribulational rapture of the church. That understanding of the passage fits well into the context of the message to the church at Philadelphia.
by Richard L. Mayhue
This article raises four key questions: (1) What does "rapture" mean?; (2) Will there be an eschatological "rapture"?; (3) Will the "rapture" be partial or full?; and (4) Will the "rapture" be pre, mid, or post in a time relationship to Daniel's seventieth week? In answering the fourth question concerning the time of the rapture, seven major lines of reasoning produce the conclusion that a pretribulational rapture best fits the biblical evidence and raises the fewest difficulties.way of conclusion, the article answers thirteen of the toughest objections to pretribulationism.
by Dennis M. Swanson