The End Times: Arguments Against a Pre-Trib Rapture

I concluded my previous blog post by asking the question, “is the notion of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture really taught in Scripture?” The doctrine of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is an assumption based on the belief in a 7-year tribulation which some have interpreted as Daniel’s 70th week. Pre-Trib Rapture proponents argue that God will remove the Church before the beginning of the great tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation. However, in the Book of Revelation, the Pre-Trib Rapture is conspicuous in its absence—it just isn’t taught! The doctrine was, in fact, created by John Nelson Darby in 1830.1

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of John Nelson Darby until I started doing research for this writing. I guess proponents of this fabrication aren’t that anxious to divulge its origins especially if it didn’t originate in 1611. So, while it’s not really known how Darby came up with this doctrine, I have my own theory. I believe Darby knew that the Pre-Trib Rapture was easier for congregations to swallow than the alternative actually taught in the Bible. As can be seen clearly in the Church today, the doctrine hasn’t lost even an ounce of its appeal.

In order to optimize the structure of my arguments, I’ve decided to partition my discussion of the Rapture in two separate posts. This blog post contains my analysis of the popular arguments that have been used to defend Darby’s Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine and in my next blog post, I’ll present my own arguments for a Post-Trib Rapture.

Multidimensional Second Coming

Noted author Hal Lindsey describes Jesus’ second coming in two phases, where the first phase is His secret unexpected return in the air and the second phase is His return where every eye will see Him.2 When Jesus described the signs of His second coming to His disciples, He said that it would be just like the days of Noah and like the days of Lot; where everyone was going about their normal business. (Luke 17:26-29 NASB) On the surface this seems to support the surprise return of the Lord before the start of the 7-year tribulation period. However, in the very next verse, Jesus makes clear that it will be the time of His visible return, “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:30, emphasis mine) So, without taking any of the verses I’ve just mentioned out of context, the Scripture clearly teaches Jesus’ second coming will be a visible, not a secret event. Nowhere does Jesus even hint at His second coming being multidimensional.

The Tribulation is Not for Believers

There are many instances in Scripture to substantiate the fact that believers will experience tribulation in this life. The most well-known verse on this subject is given by Jesus in John 16:33 where He says, “’these things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.’” The Apostle Paul clearly teaches that believers will experience tribulation as he wrote in Romans 5:3, 8:35, and 12:12. So, in order for Pre-Trib proponents to say that God is somehow obligated to deliver believers from tribulation in unscriptural.

Punishing the Just with the Unjust

Another popular defense of a Pre-Trib Rapture is that God doesn’t punish the just along with the wicked. They always use the example of Lot being delivered from the destruction God brought upon Sodom. They will even go so far as to point out that God preserved Noah and his family when He brought about a flood to destroy all living things on the earth. However, an example they will never point out is when Moses brought numerous plagues upon the land of Egypt. At that time, God demonstrated that He was able to preserve Israel in the midst of the plagues that were being brought upon the Egyptians. As was spoken by God through Moses:

But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land.
‘I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur.’ (Exod. 8:22-23)

I believe that God is able to protect His elect from any or all of the judgements that will be brought upon the earth during the Tribulation period. Not only do I believe that He can preserve His elect, but I believe that is exactly what He will do.

The Timing of Paul’s Snatching Away

The favorite verse that Pre-Trib Rapture proponents use to defend their position is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

As far as Pre-Trib proofs go, there are none more pervasive than 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. As far as importance is concerned, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is to the Pre-Trib Rapture as John 3:16 is to salvation. But is the Apostle Paul really trying to teach a Pre-Tribulation Rapture? The only reference to the timing of the event is that it will occur along with the trumpet of God. Compare the language used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 with the language used by Jesus when He describes His second coming as recorded by Matthew:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:30-31)

Notice that in Matthew 24:30, Jesus’ return is visible, not in secret as is taught by Hal Lindsey and other Pre-Trib proponents. It’s interesting to note that Jesus also refers to a trumpet which seems to coincide with Paul’s statement in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The only reasonable conclusion we can arrive at is that the verses in 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24 are describing the same event.

A particularly troubling aspect of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is the “alive and remain” phrase. Wouldn’t saying just “alive” be enough to get the point across? But by saying “alive and remain” gives the reader the impression that it implies a special condition for those believers to be in at that time; and It would be special for those who have survived the Tribulation.

Clearly, the verses we’re considering in 1 Thessalonians and Matthew 24 strongly corroborate a Post-Tribulation Rapture position.

Seven-Year Tribulation Theory

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post in my End-Times series, there are two schools of thought on how to interpret Daniel’s 70 weeks. One school of thought says that there is a gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week and that it will be fulfilled by the Antichrist (or more accurately, the beast) during the 7-year Tribulation. The second school of thought says that Daniel’s 70th week has already been fulfilled by Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion; and had ended when the Jews stoned Stephen to death as recorded in the Book of Acts.

I don’t recall ever hearing any sermons or reading any books that taught Daniel’s 70 weeks have already been fulfilled. What I have heard were fantastic theories such as the Israelis secretly building a temple under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and are waiting for the Antichrist to come and give them permission to raise it up!

Thief in the Night

There are many verses in Scripture that teach that Jesus’ second coming will be “like a thief in the night,” such as: Matt. 24:43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 3:3, and Rev. 16:15. This saying tends to give credence to the Pre-Trib Rapture theory since it appears to suggest that the second coming will be in secret. The problem with all this is that Jesus never taught that His return will be in secret or that it will be in two different stages. Every time Jesus talked about His second coming it was always in reference to the time when He will be revealed. Jesus’ analogy of His return being like a thief in the night was given as a warning to His hearers that His return will find many unprepared and that it will be when they least expect it. Since Jesus was talking only with His disciples (Mark 13:3) and not with the general public, we have to assume that His warnings about His second coming were intended for believers and not for the world at large.

Conclusion

Even though Jesus gave us a lot of information about His second coming, we still struggle to understand all that is written in the Scriptures concerning this important event. As a matter of fact, He even said that He told us “everything in advance.” (Mark 13:23) Many books have been written by authors who have attempted to lay out a clear timeline of the end-time events. I believe the assertions made in many of these books are based on presumptions that are not entirely scriptural. That being said, the approach I plan to take in my defense of a Post-Trib Rapture is to start with things that we already know for sure and use these as a key to understanding other more obscure scriptures. I’ve gleaned from Scripture what I believe to be three things which we know for sure:

  • Jesus’ second coming will be visible and unmistakable
  • His second coming will take many by surprise, as a thief in the night
  • At the time of His second coming, people will be going about their normal business as they always have done, e.g., as in the days of Noah and Lot.

I’ve used this same approach in previous posts to defend my proposition that salvation is by election. I think it worked well. Stay tuned…


  1. “John Nelson Darby and The Pre-Trib Rapture,” Thomas Ice, Pre-Trib Research Center, accessed April, 28, 2015, http://pre-trib.org/articles/view/john-nelson-darby-and-the-pre-trib-rapture

  2. Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey, (Santa Ana, Vision House Publishers, 1973), 77-78. 

The End Times: When You Least Expect It

September 11, 2001 began as just another normal day for most people. People hurrying to catch subways, trains, and buses or whatever other means of transportation they chose to get into the City. Elsewhere along the East coast of the U.S., many people were anxious to get to the airport to catch flights bound for the West coast either for business or pleasure. It was a near perfect late summer day in New York; sunny, warm without a cloud in the sky. People went about their normal routine, some maybe stopping at their favorite deli to get a bagel and coffee on the way to the office. For others, the World Trade Center was to be their ultimate destination. Everywhere on the streets that day you could see the multitudes scurrying to get to work on Wall Street and the surrounding area. Life went on as usual until 8:46 AM when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

Likewise, it was partly cloudy that early Sunday morning on December 7, 1941 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. On that day, most sailors stationed on the island were enjoying a day off from duty. They were most likely resting; catching up on letters; reading newspapers; or preparing to attend worship services. Still others were having breakfast or maybe had just finished their morning chow when the calm was broken at 7:55 AM when 360 Japanese warplanes descended on the U. S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack.

No one in the World Trade Center’s North Tower that Tuesday morning on September 11 could have imagined that they would be engaged in a life and death struggle to survive that day. Nor did any of the occupants in the World Trade Center’s South Tower have any idea what was coming as United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into them at 9:03 AM. In the same way, none of the 1,117 sailors serving on the USS Arizona knew that they would be killed that Sunday morning on December 7.

The events I just described all happened in the past, so what about the future? Both of the aforementioned events happened in modern times, but, are there any analogous events described in the Bible? Can we draw any parallels with events described in the Bible? I believe there are at least two similar events we can point to and they are the destruction of Sodom and the Genesis flood.

We are told that during the days of Lot that people were going about their normal every day routine. They were eating and drinking; conducting business; farming; and working in construction. (Luke 17:28 NASB) Life went on as usual until the day God brought Lot out of Sodom. (Luke 17:29)

And what about time of Noah and the flood? Again, life went on as usual. People were going about their normal routine of eating and drinking; and getting married and raising families. (Matt. 24:38) (Luke 17:27)

Jesus made it perfectly clear to His disciples that His second coming will take the world by surprise just as the flood took the world by surprise during Noah’s time; and as the fire and burning sulfur took the city of Sodom by surprise in Lot’s time. (Luke 17:26-30) Isn’t it obvious that the times leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pearl Harbor are remarkably, if not frighteningly, similar to those events as told by Jesus and recorded for us by Matthew and Luke in the Scripture?

Hollywood has been trying to tell us all along that there will be various apocalyptic conditions that will lead up to the so-called end of the world. If this were true, how then could Jesus say that the world would be going about its normal business at time of His second coming? Hollywood has portrayed the end of the world in terms of a nuclear holocaust; zombie outbreak; alien invasion; climate change; and other unnatural disasters. Do you really think people would be going about their normal routines if a worldwide nuclear exchange were to transpire? I don’t think so. And we all know that life wouldn’t go on as usual if there were to be a global zombie outbreak—okay, seriously…how about a deadly worldwide influenza pandemic.

So how do we reconcile Jesus’ second coming prediction of “just as it happened in the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26) and “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot” (Luke 17:28) with the apocalyptic events described in the Book of Revelation? Of course the answer is pervasive throughout the modern day Church and that is the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. This doctrine teaches that Jesus’ return to earth will be in two phases or stages; the first phase is His secret unexpected return in the air and the second phase is His return where every eye will see Him.1

There are many problems with the 2-stage return of Jesus not the least of which is that Jesus never taught that His return to earth would be in multiple stages. Another troubling fact is that the Rapture or Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church is not mentioned in the Book of Revelation either. I would have expected that such an important event as the sudden removal of all believers from the earth would have been communicated by Jesus in His Revelation to the Apostle John for inclusion in the Bible. Why would such critical information be withheld?

The doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church teaches that all believers who are alive during Jesus’ first phase return to earth will be caught up (raptured) to meet Him in the air. Since it is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, believers can expect be rescued from all the horrors that will be unleashed upon the earth during the seven year tribulation period.

The entire premise for the seven year tribulation period is derived from the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks. There are two schools of thought; one is that the prophecy has already been fulfilled and the other is that it is future fulfilled. The following URLs present a case for each interpretation:

Already fulfilled: http://www.daniels70weeks.com/

Future fulfilled: http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/pages/rapture/daniels-70th-week-explained.htm

On the sites I’ve just provided, you will be able to get some background information on where the Rapture doctrine originated. Since I plan to base my arguments primarily on Matthew 24 and Luke 17 and not on Daniel, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy is more plausible.

I’m sure Jesus’ disciples were troubled by His teaching on His second coming and it would be for us also were it not for the Rapture. But is the notion of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture really taught in Scripture? I plan to explore this question further in the next entry in my series on the End Times.


  1. Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey, (Santa Ana, Vision House Publishers, 1973), 77-78.