This a continuing series that scripturally analyzes Pre-tribulationism, the belief that the Church does not need to go through the Tribulation but is caught up to Heaven with Christ in a Secret Rapture. Pre-trib teaches that He appears to believers only at the Rapture (i.e., it is “secret”), based on Bible passages, such as these: 1Thess 4:13-18; Mat 5:8; John 11:40; Heb 9:28. Let’s look at them:
1 Thes 4:13-14: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
Paul writes that Christians are to believe that when Jesus returns He will bring with Him those who have died in a saved state—believers in Jesus. Note several items: these believers will be coming from Heaven with Jesus, that they are not “soul sleeping” until He returns, and that no sign of two returns, one for the Rapture and one for the Day of Judgment are expressed. Item #1 is a source of confusion for Pre-Tribism; indeed the saints WILL be accompanying Christ on His return from Heaven, but these are not those “who are alive and remain” (v17). Item #2—“soul sleep” is the concept that when we die we remain dead and unaware, until Christ returns to resurrect us. Paul directly contradicts that in these verses. Item #3—nowhere, including this passage, are two returns of Christ ever seen when applying the main and plain interpretation to a given passage.
1 Thes 4:15: For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Paul teaches that many believers will remain on Earth until THE Coming (singular) of the Lord. Yeshua returns and stays.
1 Thes 4:16: 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.
The trumpet of God is elsewhere called “a great trumpet” in Mt 24:29-31, “the last trumpet” in 1 Cor 15:52, and “the seventh (trumpet)” in Rev 11:15. The Revelation passage is particularly cogent because at the sounding of the 7th and last trumpet “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ”—if we were raptured away for 3.5 or 7 years at the trumpet blast, arguably the same trumpet referenced in all of these passages, how does the world come under Jesus’ control if there’s still a Tribulation to go through?
1 Thes 4:17-18: 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The Greek for “caught up” is “harpazo”, translated “rapturo” in the Latin Vulgate, the English equivalent of which is “rapture”. This is the only place in the Bible harpazo is used in the context of Christ’s return. The word “to meet” is particularly interesting in this verse; it is “apantesis”, which means ‘to go out of a city, meet a dignitary or military procession and accompany them BACK into the city’; it has the meaning of “greet”, as in greeting guests that arrive at your house. The verses state that from then on, we will always be with the Lord. Pre-Tribulationists cannot make this mean we’ll be with Jesus in the air/heaven only, or even initially, because they also hold that Christ will return to rule during the Millennium, as do Post-Tribbers, so the only certain meaning is that we will never be separated from Christ again.
Mt 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
This verse has apparently been used by Chuck Missler, a noted Pre-Tribulationalist, to state that Christ will be seen only by believers when he comes to rapture them. Not only does this verse not say that, or actually have any specific connection only to the Second Coming, but Rev 1:7 states that “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” Before you protest that this is at His second, Second Coming (to judge), please note that 1 Thes 4:17 (discussed above) says we “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” Both verses reference “clouds”, but Rev 1:7 says that despite the clouds “every eye will see Him”.
John 11:40: Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Jesus is talking to Martha here, just before He raises Lazarus from the dead. He is specifically speaking about the miraculous act about to occur; this verse does not address the Rapture/Resurrection, or whether it will be a secret event seen only by believers.
Heb 9:28: so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Again I fail to see how this supports a secret Rapture—on the other hand, the Greek “deuteros”, meaning “the second, the other of two, the second time” is translated with the definite article “the” or “a”; in other words, it references a single occurrence—He is returning a second time, not many second times. To say that is only Pre-Trib believers who eagerly await Him is incorrect.
For those who read this, and perhaps believe or come from a Pre-Trib background, like I did, note that verses referenced to support Pre-Trib notions of Christ’s return are being carefully reviewed in light of the context and what other scripture is saying. If there are any errors in interpretation on my part, I would welcome you to point them out. As long as we stay focused on what scripture actually says we are going to find the truth.