By Nathan E. Jones
Dr. David Reagan and I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ron Rhodes on a Christ in Prophecy TV program concerning this tough Bible question. Dr. Rhodes is the founder and director of Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries. With nearly 50 books penned and decades of public teaching, he is an expert on the Bible. As a former "Bible Answer Man," he specializes in easy to understand answers to the really tough questions about the Bible and the defense of the Scriptures.
Dr. Rhodes: I'm a firm believer that the Rapture of the Church is going to happen before the upcoming 7-year Tribulation, and there's a number of reasons why I say that.
I'd say the most important reason is that the Church has no purpose for being in the Tribulation. The Scriptures clearly define the purpose of the Tribulation and I believe it's two-fold: there's going to be a judgment on unbelieving nations and there's also going to be a purging of Israel.
Now, that's aside from the fact that there's not a single verse dealing with the Tribulation in the Old Testament that mentions the Church. There's not a single verse in the New Testament dealing with the Tribulation that mentions the Church.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 as well as 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that the Church is not appointed to wrath. That leads me to believe that God is going to take the Church out of the world prior to the time of wrath which is coming upon the world. I also think this is related to Revelation 3:10 where the Church has promised deliverance from the actual time period of testing that is going to come upon the earth.
One of my favorite verses is John 14:1-3, which I don't think fits a Post-Tribulation scenario at all. Jesus says, "I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." In other words, Jesus is going to take Christians back to Heaven. That doesn't fit the Post-Tribulation scenario which says that they all stay on the earth.
Imminence is absolute. That's the assumption that is always present. There's nothing that needs to take place before the Rapture of the Church. It could happen at any moment.
But, there are many events that must take place before the Second Coming. If you had a nice little calendar you could pretty much tell when Christ was going to come again. You could watch, for example, when the Antichrist signs the peace pact with Israel in Daniel 9:27 and do a countdown of seven years, which is also called the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
When we're talking about the Rapture, we don't see signs that are prophesied prior to that event. So you see, it is an imminent event. It's something that could happen at any moment.
The Bible teaches about the Rapture of the Church. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 speaks of an event called "the Rapture", Latin "rapio," Greek "harpazo," which means "to catch up, to snatch away, or to take out." "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
Paul states that the concept of the Rapture is meant to encourage believers during this Age (1 Thes. 4:18). Other references on the Rapture are Isa. 26:19-21; Mal. 3:17; Jn. 14:1-14; I Cor. 15:51-58; and 1 Thes. 4:13-18.
There will be a Pre-Tribulation Rapture because the Church isn't destined to endure God's judgment on the world, as promised in 1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:4; and Rev. 3:10.
A great explanation that points to the timing of the Rapture comes from Jesus in the Parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25. This story is about the Bride of Christ (the Church of 2 Cor. 11:2) being prepared for the Rapture and Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Jesus). This parable goes with what Jesus stressed in His teachings concerning end times. Over and over He told His disciples to be ready for His return at any moment (Matt. 24:44). Jesus used the Parable of the Ten Virgins to illustrate this point.
Five virgins were not ready when the bridegroom came and were thus left behind. "Be on the alert, then," Jesus warned, "for you do not know the day nor the hour" (Matt. 25:1-13). On another occasion, Jesus put it this way, "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight… for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect" (Lk. 12:35, 40). And, while the virgins left behind may have a form of godliness, they are not saved and so are not qualified to be members of the Church, and are therefore not ready to be included in the Rapture.
Evidences of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture also come from Paul who comforted the Church of Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 when he wrote, "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come." The church there was concerned that they had missed the Rapture and were living in the Tribulation. Paul assures them in verse 3 to "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction." In other words, they'd know if they were living in the Tribulation.
The only hope that comforts someone staring into the face of the horrors of the Tribulation is that they would not have to endure it. These words from the Apostle Paul provide that very encouragement and hope of the Lord rapturing the Church beforehand.
Nathan E. Jones
Evangelist & Web Minister, Lamb & Lion Ministries