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The Rapture of the Church

Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six    Part Seven    Part Eight


Introduction

In Part One we looked at the definitions of the following terms: the Rapture, the Second Coming, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, the Millennium, and the Church. We saw that prophecy is very important to God, and therefore we should not dishonor Him by considering Bible prophecy to be a waste of time or impossible to understand.

In Part Two we examined Daniel's "70 Weeks" prophecy, and we learned that 69 of those "weeks" (483 years) have already been accomplished. The 70th "week" is still in the future, and it will be the seven years of the Tribulation. When God put His 70 Weeks plan for Israel on hold after the Triumphal Entry, almost immediately He began a new and separate plan which we call "the Church." There is only one view of the Rapture which preserves this separation between God's 70 Weeks plan for Israel and His plan for the Church, and that is the pre-trib view. All of the evidence indicates that God has intended for those two plans to be kept separate and distinct from each other, with no mixing whatsoever. Therefore, it is unScriptural to claim that the Church will go through any part of the seven-year Tribulation period.

In Part Three we saw that there will be several blackouts during the seven-year Tribulation. We also looked at the Seal Judgments, the Trumpet Judgments, and the Bowl Judgments, and we saw that God's wrath will start to be poured out onto the earth with the very first judgment at the beginning of the Tribulation period. God is not pouring out His wrath during the present Church Age (e.g. through hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.). Since the Church was not appointed for God's wrath, and since the entire seven years of the Tribulation will be the time of God's wrath, this means that the Church will not go through any part of the Tribulation period. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which has the Church being raptured before God's wrath starts to be poured out at the beginning of the Tribulation, which fits all of the Scriptural facts.

In Part Four we examined several different reasons why the Rapture will not happen at the seventh Trumpet Judgment, which disproves a common post-trib argument. We also saw why Matthew 24:29-31 does not refer to the Rapture, which disproves another common post-trib argument. We looked at some possible interpretations of what Paul meant when he said that the Rapture will happen "at the last trumpet," and we saw that the Rapture is the likely fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. In addition, we saw that the seven-year Tribulation period (ending with the Second Coming) is the likely fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. The Feast of Trumpets takes place before the Day of Atonement on the Jewish calendar, which strongly indicates that the Rapture will take place before the seven-year Tribulation begins. There is only one view of the Rapture which fits this scenario, and that is the pre-trib view.

In Part Five we saw that the Day of the Lord will begin when the seven-year Tribulation period begins, and it will continue through the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, and Judgment Day, and the destruction of heaven and earth. The Bible doesn't specifically tell us if the Day of the Lord will include the creation of the new heaven and the new earth. In addition, we saw that the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which explains why Jesus will not be in heaven to open the sealed scroll in Revelation 5:1-4. When we examined 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:5, we saw that the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which is consistent with Paul's encouragements concerning the deceased Christians in Thessalonica. We also saw that the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for the Church to take part in the Millennium but not in the Tribulation (as Paul described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:5). When we examined 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, we saw that the post-trib interpretation results in an unrealistic situation. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which results in a consistent and reasonable interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5.


In Part Six we'll examine what the Bible says about the imminent return of the Lord, and we'll see how this only fits with the pre-trib view of the Rapture.


Imminency

There are a number of passages in the New Testament which contain the idea that Jesus might return at any moment. In fact, apart from some of the Gospel writers, every single human author of the New Testament (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) mentioned the nearness of the Lord's return.

Before we examine those passages, let's review the various views of the Rapture:

  • According to the post-trib view, the Antichrist will sign a seven-year treaty with Israel (which we've learned will be the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation). At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return to the earth at the Second Coming, and all Christians will be raptured while Jesus is descending to the earth.
  • According to the various mid-trib views, the Antichrist will sign a seven-year treaty with Israel (which we've learned will be the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation). At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return to the earth at the Second Coming. All Christians will be raptured at some point during the Tribulation, but different people have different ideas about when that point will be.
  • According to the pre-trib view, all Christians will be raptured at any moment. Then some time will pass (seconds, hours, days, months, or years), then the Antichrist will sign a seven-year treaty with Israel (which we've learned will be the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation). At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return to the earth at the Second Coming, and all of the raptured Christians will return with Him.
Notice that the post-trib view and the various mid-trib views (above) cause us to watch for the coming of the Antichrist before we can begin waiting for the Rapture. The pre-trib view is the only view which causes us to be eagerly watching and waiting for the Rapture to happen at any moment, as described in the following passages:

  1. "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." (Romans 13:10-11)
    Notice that Paul wanted his first-century readers to understand the present time. He specifically wanted them to understand that the hour had come for them to "wake up" because the completion of their salvation was nearer than ever before. This attitude of "waking up" and being expectant is not realistic under the mid-trib and post-trib views, because with those views it's not possible to expect the imminent Rapture until sometime after the Antichrist signs a treaty with Israel.

    Paul considered the Lord's coming for the Church (what we call "the Rapture") to be near, not months or years after the future Tribulation period begins. Only the pre-trib view of the Rapture allows for the expectant attitude which Paul described.
  2. "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:7-8)
    We looked at "the Day of the Lord" in Part Five, but notice that once again Paul described his first-century readers as eagerly waiting for the Lord to be revealed to them (which will take place at the Rapture - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 John 3:2). With the mid-trib views of the Rapture, this eager anticipation is not realistic until around the mid-point of the Tribulation, and this eager anticipation is not realistic for the post-trib view until the end of the Tribulation. Yet Paul described the Corinthians as "eagerly waiting" for the Lord to return. The Lord's return for the Church was near enough to be eagerly anticipated back then, and only the pre-trib view of the Rapture allows for such a nearness of the Lord's return for the Church.
  3. "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
    Beginning in 1 Corinthians 3:8 and continuing down to the above passage, Paul spoke about "the judgment seat of Christ," and in Part Seven we'll see that this judgment will take place soon after the Rapture. This judgment is not for the purpose of salvation (because everyone who is raptured will already be saved), but instead it's for the purpose of judging our earthly deeds and giving us rewards. So the context refers to the judgment seat of Christ at the time of the Rapture, and once again we see Paul telling the Corinthians to wait until the Lord comes back for them. The Lord's return for the Church was near enough to be anticipated back then, and only the pre-trib view of the Rapture allows for such an imminency of the Lord's return for the Church.
  4. "What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
    Here Paul explicitly said that the time was short, and he urged his first-century readers to live as if the end was near. Only the pre-trib view of the Rapture allows for such a nearness of the Lord's return for the Church.
  5. "If anyone does not love the Lord--a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!" (1 Corinthians 16:22)
    The majority of the New Testament (including the book of 1 Corinthians) was written in Greek, but the prayer, "Come, O Lord," in the above verse was written in Aramaic (Maranatha). Paul did not explain what this Aramaic prayer means, which indicates that it was possibly a common prayer.

    Notice that if the Lord will not return and rapture the Church until after the Antichrist is revealed (as the post-trib and mid-trib views teach), then there was no reason for the first-century Christians to seek the Lord's return by praying "Come, O Lord." The only reason to be praying for the Lord's return is if there's a possibility that the Lord might return at any moment. Only the pre-trib view of the Rapture allows for the Lord to return at any moment.
  6. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)
    Once again Paul described first-century Christians (including himself) as eagerly awaiting the Lord's return. Paul said that our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like the Lord's glorious body, which is a description of the Rapture, as we can see by comparing the above passage with 1 Corinthians 15:51-53:
    "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
    So in Philippians 3:20-21 (above) Paul described the Rapture, and Paul said that the first-century Christians were eagerly awaiting this return of the Lord.

    Sometimes Christians feel that it might be hundreds or thousands of years before Jesus returns, which gives them no reason to be "eagerly awaiting" the Lord's return. In a similar way, the mid-trib and post-trib views teach that the Lord will not return and rapture us until after the Antichrist signs a treaty with Israel. So the practical effect of the mid-trib and post-trib views is that there is no reason to be "eagerly awaiting" the Lord's return until after the Antichrist signs a treaty with Israel. The pre-trib view is the only view which allows for the Lord to return and rapture us at any moment, and the practical effect of the pre-trib view is that Christians can and should be "eagerly awaiting" this return of the Lord, just as Paul described in Philippians 3:20-21 (above).

    The expression, "eagerly awaiting," is made up of two Greek words which together have the meaning of "intense expectation" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.210). This "intense expectation" of the Lord's return for us can only realistically be experienced with the pre-trib view of the Rapture. For example, kids usually love to have birthday parties, but notice that a month after their birthday they are not "intensely expecting" their next birthday party. When their next birthday is just a few days away, that's when they are "intensely expecting" their next birthday party. It's the nearness of the event which causes us to have an "intense expectation" of it, and the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which says that the Lord's return for us is always "near" or "imminent" or "at hand."
  7. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:4-5)
    When the Greek word for "near" (above) is used in terms of time, it means "The time is near" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.496). In that case, Paul was emphasizing the nearness of the Lord's return, and he was using that imminency as an encouragement for proper Christian behavior. This watchful, expectant attitude is only possible with the pre-trib view of the Rapture.
  8. "for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
    Once again we see first-century Christians expectantly waiting for the Lord to return for the Church, as if He might come for them at any moment. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which creates this attitude of expectantly waiting for the Lord's return.

    In Part Three we saw that the seven-year Tribulation period will be the time of God's wrath, and we saw that the Church was not appointed for God's wrath. In the above passage we see that Jesus will come and rescue the Church from the time of God's wrath, which perfectly fits with all of the pre-trib evidence that we have seen throughout this series.
  9. "In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:13-15)
    Once again we see Paul using the nearness of the Lord's return as an encouragement for proper Christian behavior. Paul told Timothy to "keep this command" until Jesus returns, so Paul believed that the Lord might return in the near future, within Timothy's lifetime. Paul was watching for the soon coming of Christ, and the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which creates this attitude of expectant waiting for the imminent return of the Lord.

    Since Paul said that "God will bring [it] about in his own time," this indicates uncertainty about the timing of the Lord's return. But recall that there is no uncertainty about when the Second Coming will take place, because it will happen seven years after Israel signs a treaty with the Antichrist, and it will happen 1,260 days after the Antichrist desecrates the Jewish temple (as we saw in Part One). We don't know when that treaty will be signed, but there is no uncertainty about the timing of the Second Coming. So when Paul said that Jesus will appear "in [God's] own time," this uncertainty only fits with the pre-trib view of the Rapture.
  10. "It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12-13)
    This is yet another instance where Paul used the nearness of the Lord's return as an encouragement for proper Christian behavior. Paul said that we should live Godly lives while we wait for the Lord to return for us. Paul included himself among those who were waiting for the appearing of the Lord, so Paul believed that the Lord might return during his lifetime. As in the previous passages which we have examined, Paul did not say that they were "eagerly awaiting" the appearance of the Antichrist in order to know that Christ will return several years later (i.e. the mid-trib and post-trib views). Instead, Paul said that they were "eagerly awaiting" (or "intensely expecting") Jesus to return for them, which would happen at an uncertain time but possibly within their lifetimes. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which fits the intense expectation that Paul described in a number of passages.
  11. "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay."" (Hebrews 10:36-37)
    The author of the letter to the Hebrews echoed what Paul said about the nearness of the Lord's return. In this passage we see that "in just a very little while" the Lord will come, and this fact is used as an encouragement for proper Christian behavior (as we have seen in other passages). Again, the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this imminency of the Lord's return.
  12. "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near." (James 5:7-8)
    James described the Lord's coming as being near, and he used the imminency of the Lord's return as an encouragement for proper Christian behavior.

    James told his readers to be patient until the Lord comes, so James believed that the Lord might return within their lifetime. James then pointed out that a farmer doesn't know the day or the hour when the fall or spring rains will come, but he knows when the time is near and he waits patiently and expectantly for it. Similarly, we don't know the day or the hour when Jesus will return for the Church, but it was near in James' time because he explained his "farmer" analogy by specifically saying that the Lord's coming is near.

    The Lord's return for the Church was imminent in the first century, and therefore it is still imminent now. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this imminency of the Lord's return.
  13. "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." (1 Peter 4:7)
    The apostle Peter (writing in the first century) said that "the end of all things" was near (literally, "at hand"). But what "end" was he referring to?

    • It can't be the end of the universe, because we have seen that the end of the universe will not take place until after the seven-year Tribulation and the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (the Millennium) and Judgment Day have all taken place. Therefore, the end of the universe was not "at hand" in Peter's day. In addition, the end of the universe is not "the end of [all] things" because God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1-2).
    • It can't be the end of the Tribulation period, because we have seen that the Tribulation will last for seven years, and it had not yet begun in Peter's day (it still has not begun today). So the end of the seven-year Tribulation was not "at hand" in Peter's day. In addition, the end of the Tribulation period is not "the end of [all] things" because it will be followed by the Second Coming and the Millennium and Judgment Day.
    • It can't be the Second Coming, because the Second Coming will take place after the seven-year Tribulation. Therefore, the Second Coming was not "at hand" in Peter's day. In addition, the Second Coming is not "the end of [all] things" because it will be followed by the Millennium and Judgment Day.
    • It can't be the end of Peter's life or anyone else's life, because the end of someone's life would not be "the end of [all] things."

    We have seen throughout this series that the pre-trib Rapture will be the end of all things for the Church on earth (in our mortal bodies), and we have seen that the pre-trib Rapture is always "at hand." This explanation fits perfectly with Peter's statement, and once again we see a New Testament author using imminency as an incentive for proper Christian behavior. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this imminency of the Lord's return.
  14. "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)
    Here the apostle John told his first-century readers that "this is the last hour." Not the last "year," not the last "day," but the last "hour." This is an indication of imminency, just as Peter's statement that the end of all things was near (above) is an indication of imminency. For the same reasons as above, the pre-trib Rapture fits this imminency perfectly.

    Then John said that "the antichrist is coming," which tells us that the Antichrist had not yet been revealed (and he still has not yet been revealed even today). As we have seen, the mid-trib and post-trib views say that the Rapture will not be imminent until years after the Tribulation begins. Therefore, only the pre-trib view of the Rapture allows for "the last hour" (the imminency of the Rapture) to be upon us before the Antichrist comes.
  15. "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." (1 John 2:28)
    John encouraged his first-century readers to continue in proper Christian behaviors and attitudes because of the imminency of the Lord's return. Again, the Antichrist had not yet been revealed, and therefore the seven-year Tribulation period had not yet begun, which means that the Second Coming of Christ was not imminent. The only coming of Christ which is always imminent is the pre-trib coming of Christ to rapture the Church and take us back into heaven.
  16. "Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." (Jude 1:21)
    As we have seen, all Christians who are alive or dead at the time of the Rapture will instantly be changed from mortality to immortality. In other words, we will receive our promised eternal life at the moment of the Rapture. In the above verse, Jude said that his first-century readers were waiting for the Lord to bring them to eternal life, which means that they were waiting for the Rapture. Jude used the imminency of the Rapture as an encouragement for proper Christian behaviors and attitudes, and the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this imminency of the Lord's return.
  17. "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (Revelation 1:1-3)
    The Greek word which is translated as "soon" in this passage has the normal meaning of "quickly, + shortly, + speedily" (Strong's Greek Dictionary). So the things which are prophesied in the book of Revelation will take place quickly or suddenly, and John said that "the time is near" ("at hand"). As we have seen in the above passages, the Second Coming of Christ will not be "at hand" until the end of the seven-year Tribulation, and the Tribulation itself will not begin until Israel signs a treaty with the Antichrist. Since the Antichrist was not rising to power when John wrote the book of Revelation, this means that neither the Tribulation nor the Second Coming were anywhere in sight in the first century (and they still are not anywhere in sight even today). In contrast, the pre-trib Rapture is always "at hand," which will be followed at some point by the events of the Tribulation period.

    John urged his readers to take to heart what is written in his book because the time is near, so he was using the imminent return of the Lord as an encouragement for proper Christian behaviors and attitudes. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for the imminent return of the Lord which is spoken of throughout the New Testament.
  18. "I [Jesus] am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown." (Revelation 3:11)
    The Greek word which is translated as "soon" in this verse is related to the word for "soon" in Revelation 1:1 (above), and it means "shortly, that is, without delay, soon, or (by surprise) suddenly, or (by implication of ease) readily: - lightly, quickly" (Strong's Greek Dictionary). So here we see Jesus telling Christians that He will return "by surprise" or "suddenly" or "quickly." As we have seen throughout this series, only the pre-trib view allows for the Rapture to be sudden and unexpected, at any time.
  19. "Behold, I [Jesus] am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." (Revelation 22:7)
    In this verse Jesus repeated the "sudden, quick, and unexpected" nature of His return, and the same arguments for the pre-trib Rapture apply here (as in Revelation 3:11, above).
  20. "Behold, I [Jesus] am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Revelation 22:12)
    In this verse Jesus once again repeated the "sudden, quick, and unexpected" nature of His return, and the same arguments for the pre-trib Rapture apply here (as in Revelation 3:11 and 22:7, above). Then Jesus said that His "reward" is with Him, which indicates that Christians will receive their "rewards" at (or soon after) the Rapture. In Part Seven we'll learn more about the rewards which will be given at the judgment seat of Christ shortly after the Rapture, which is one of the purposes for the pre-trib Rapture.
  21. ""I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!"" (Revelation 22:16-17)
    Here we see the Spirit petitioning the Lord to come, and we see the "bride" petitioning the Lord to come, and we see that all those who hear the words of the book of Revelation are told to petition the Lord to come. Since the Second Coming of Christ will not take place until all of the events of the seven-year Tribulation have happened, there is no reason for John's first-century readers (or today's twenty-first-century readers) to be petitioning and praying for the Second Coming. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture in which it is reasonable to be praying for the Lord to come soon.
  22. "He who testifies to these things [Jesus] says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)
    In this verse Jesus repeated the "sudden, quick, and unexpected" nature of His return, and the same arguments for the pre-trib Rapture apply here (as in Revelation 3:11, 22:7, and 22:17, above). Again, the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture in which it is reasonable to be praying and petitioning for the Lord to come soon.

Summary of Imminency

We have now examined almost two dozen New Testament passages which describe the Rapture as being imminent. Apart from some of the Gospel writers, every single author of the New Testament (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) mentioned the nearness of the Lord's return, which is a significant amount of testimony. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this nearness of the Lord's return for the Church.

One thing to notice in the above passages is that the Lord's return for the Church is described as being "near," but at an uncertain time. The Bible never gives us the option of setting a date for the Rapture. According to the above passages, we should be "eagerly awaiting" the Lord's return and "intensely expecting" the Lord's return and praying for the Lord's return and living our lives as if the Lord might come and get us at any moment. At the same time, however, we should recognize that it could be years or decades or centuries before the Lord comes back to get us, and therefore we should continue to make plans for the future (being guided by the Holy Spirit). Jesus told us to go into all the world and share the Good News (Matthew 28:18-20), so we should continue to obey this command as the Holy Spirit leads us. For example, we see Paul making plans for places that he wanted to visit (e.g. Romans 1:13, 15:23-25, and 2 Corinthians 1:15-18), even though he believed that the Lord might return during his lifetime (as we saw in the above passages).

An interesting argument against imminency is that Jesus had said that Peter will live to be an old man:
"The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"" (John 21:17-19)
Some people make the argument that since Peter knew that he would live to be an old man, this means that the Rapture could not have been imminent during Peter's lifetime. However, the Gospel of John is the only place in the entire New Testament where the above prophecy is mentioned, and John's Gospel was written about 20 years after Peter was martyred (see my article called Who Wrote the New Testament?), so there's no evidence that Jesus' prophecy about Peter was widely known during Peter's lifetime. For those who knew of Jesus' prophecy about Peter, this didn't change the fact that they expected Jesus to return during their lifetime. We know this because of the above passages.

What it boils down to is that all of the above passages demonstrate that the authors of the New Testament were anticipating the soon return of Jesus during their lifetime. After Peter was martyred and Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled, at that point Jesus could have returned at any moment because there are no other prophecies which need to be fulfilled before the pre-trib Rapture can take place.

The Rapture is imminent. It can happen at any moment, even before you finish reading this article. Are you ready?


Belief in the Nearness of the Lord's Return among "the Early Church Fathers"

People sometimes claim that the pre-trib view is a recent invention. However, here are several quotes from some of "the early church fathers" (from MARANATHA -- Our Lord, Come! -- A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church by Dr. Renald Showers, p.143-144). Notice that these quotes echo the same idea of imminency that we saw in all of the above passages:

  • First Epistle of Clement
    This was written around 96 A.D. by Clement, who was a bishop in the church at Rome and who had personally known some of the original apostles. Clement wrote, "Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, 'Speedily will He come, and will not tarry.'"
  • Epistle to Polycarp
    This was written around 107 A.D. by Ignatius, who was a bishop in the church at Antioch and a student of the apostle John (who wrote the book of Revelation). Ignatius wrote, "Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time."
  • Epistle of Barnabas
    This was written around 130 A.D. by an unknown author. This epistle says, "The Lord is near, and His reward."
  • Didache
    This was written as early as 70 A.D. or as late as 180 A.D. by an unknown author. It says, "Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh."
  • Shepherd of Hermas
    This was written around 90 A.D. to 150 A.D. by Hermas, who was a brother of Pius, who was a bishop in the church at Rome. It says, "All things around the tower [in context, referring to the Church] must be cleansed lest the Master come suddenly and find the places about the tower dirty and displeased."
  • Dialogue with Trypho
    This was written around 155 A.D. by Justin Martyr, who was one of the earliest of the church apologists. Justin Martyr wrote, "Those out of all the nations who are pious and righteous through the faith of Christ, look for His future appearance."

The "Coming" of the Lord

One argument that the post-trib group sometimes makes is that there will be just one more coming of the Lord (i.e. the Second Coming of Christ), and therefore the pre-trib and mid-trib views of the Rapture must be wrong because they require another coming of the Lord to Rapture the Church. The argument is that the same Greek word for "coming" is used in various Rapture passages and Second Coming passages, and therefore the most reasonable conclusion is that those passages are all referring to the same event unless there is reason to believe otherwise.

We have already seen that there are many reasons to believe that the Rapture passages and the Second Coming passages are not all referring to the same event, but notice that we can't simply assume that various passages are referring to the same event just because they sound similar on the surface. For instance, consider how we use the word "coming" in English. Imagine if I were to say:
Rebecca St James Offsite Link is coming to my city to perform in the musical play !Hero Offsite Link, and later in the year she is coming to my city to do a concert."
Notice that I have used the word "coming" twice in this example, but they are not the same coming of Rebecca St. James. In both cases Rebecca will be in my city, and in both cases she will be performing on a stage, and in both cases there will be an audience, and in both cases there will be music, and in both cases she will be singing, and so on. Even though these two events have a number of similarities on the surface, and even though they are both described as a "coming" of Rebecca, they are not the same event.

The point here is that the English word "coming" can be used for different events, just as Greek words for "coming" can be used for different events. In any language (English, Greek, Hebrew, etc.), a particular word can have different meanings, and therefore it's important to look at the context in which the word is being used. Here are some examples of this in English:

  • If I say, "I wonder if Rebecca will sign autographs when she comes?," notice that I haven't provided any context to indicate which coming of Rebecca I'm talking about.
  • If I say, "I can't wait until Rebecca comes!," notice that I haven't provided any direct context, but my eager anticipation implies that I am referring to the soonest coming of Rebecca.
  • If I say, "I wonder if Rebecca will sign autographs when she comes to perform songs from her latest CD?," then I have provided some information which indicates that I am referring to the time when she comes to do a concert.
With these examples in mind, let's take a look at some Scriptural examples of the "coming" of the Lord:

  • "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:27-30)
    In this example of the coming of the Lord, the context describes things which will happen at the Second Coming of Christ.
  • "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes [parousia], those who belong to him." (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
    In this example of the coming of the Lord, the context describes the resurrection of those who died in Christ, which is a description of the Rapture.
  • "According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming [parousia] of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 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." (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
    In this example of the coming of the Lord, the context describes the events which will happen at the Rapture.
  • "Concerning the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers," (2 Thessalonians 2:1)
    In this example of the coming of the Lord, the context describes the Rapture.
  • "For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming [parousia]." (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8)
    In this example of the coming of the Lord, the context describes the Second Coming of Christ (see my article called The Second Coming).
So when we consider the word "coming" in English (as in the Rebecca St. James examples above), it's easy to see that the context plays an important role in our understanding of this word. In the same way, the context plays an important role in our understanding of Scripture (as any Bible scholar will agree). In the above passages, the context helps us to understand which coming of the Lord is being described, exactly in the same way that the context helps us to understand which coming of Rebecca St. James is being described.


Conclusion

In this article we examined almost two dozen New Testament passages which describe the Rapture as being imminent. Apart from some of the Gospel writers, every single author of the New Testament (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) mentioned the nearness of the Lord's return, which is a significant amount of testimony. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this imminency of the Lord's return for the Church.

We also saw that some of "the early church fathers" echoed what the New Testament says about the imminency of the Lord's return, which only fits with the pre-trib view of the Rapture.

In addition, we saw that the context is important when we study Scripture. The context gives us an indication of which coming of the Lord is being described in a particular passage.


All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!


Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six    Part Seven    Part Eight
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 12/14/2009 - Modified some of the wording and formatting to make things clearer.
  • 11/04/2005 - Added 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 in the section called "Imminency."
  • 03/01/2004 - New article.