Rapture Timing Views

BY ALF CENGIA

There have been various rapture timing views over the years. Which is the correct one? We summarize them for you below.

But first, some preliminary observations:

The rapture is mentioned by Paul in 1 Thess 4:15-17Open in Logos Bible Software (if available). He also alludes to it in 1 Cor 15:52Open in Logos Bible Software (if available). Most theological systems believe in the rapture. Even non-premillennial systems such as the Amillennial Reformed schools and Catholicism accept some form of the rapture, albeit posttribulational and without a future millennium.

See our previous post on the different millennial positions HERE [http://www.zeteo316.com/millennial-definitions/]

We lean towards the pretribulational position because we believe it is the most biblically defensible position. Even so, pretribulationalists such as John Walvoord and Richard Mayhue admit that Scripture does not explicitly state when the rapture occurs. Some will disagree; however, we all come to conclusions by making assumptions and drawing inferences from a number of texts. Therefore, in our view, we should not be dogmatic regarding the timing of the rapture.

From a premillennial pretribulational standpoint, we must clarify that “tribulation” in context to rapture timing really refers to the last seven years of the 70 Weeks of Daniel. Pretribulationists acknowledge that the church is not spared tribulation (see Rev 1:9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). In other words the church has always, and will always, experience tribulation. Nevertheless we see the entirety of the 70th week of Daniel as containing God’s wrath. The church is promised exemption from God’s wrath (1 Thess 1:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); 1 Thess 5:9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Rev 3:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). So when we speak of tribulation in context of the 70th week we really mean God’s wrath. Note that some argue these passages refer to God’s White Throne Judgment wrath. We think the context refers to God’s premillennial eschatological wrath.

What are some of the rapture timing positions?

Partial Rapture Theory

This theory was held by several theologians in the 19th century but is rarely defended today. Proponents of this system argue that only faithful spiritual Christians who are watching and waiting will be raptured before the 70th week of Daniel begins. Carnal Christians who are unprepared will be raptured during the tribulation, at its end or may miss the rapture entirely. You can read a critique of this system by Tony Garland HERE [http://www.spiritandtruth.org/questions/181.htm?x=x]

Midtribulational Rapture View

Midtribulationists generally acknowledge a future 70th week of Daniel. They also see Christ’s coming for His church and the second coming as (arguably) a dual-stage event. But they only consider the second half of the week as containing God’s wrath. Some proponents refer to themselves as pretribulational because they say the Great Tribulation is God’s wrath which begins mid-week. Some “mid-tribulationists” prefer to use the term midSeventieth Week. Still others refer to themselves as Mid-Week rapturists and some of these believe the first half of the 70th week has already occurred.

It’s fair to say that the midtrib view in all its forms is rarely held today. It was defended by Gleason Archer in the original version of the book Three Views on the Rapture. It was there referred to as Mid-Seventieth-Week. Andy Woods briefly discusses it HERE [http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/documents/articles/171/171.htm?x=x] as has John Walvoord.

Posttribulational Rapture View

Posttribulationists generally like to say that their view is “historical.” They unequivocally teach that Christ’s second coming and the rapture are a single event. There are four different posttribulational systems.

a) Classic Posttribulationism

CP holds that the church has always been in tribulation. It denies there will be a future seven year Tribulation-Wrath period or any prophecies to be fulfilled prior to Christ’s second coming. Proponents often allegorize prophetic Scripture and see the church as the New Spiritual Israel. Ironically, they also hold to the doctrine of imminency and use much the same verses as pretribulationists to defend that view.

b) Semiclassic Posttribulationism

SP agrees with CP that the tribulation is contemporary. In contrast, it also understands that there are some events which need to be fulfilled prior to Christ’s return. Hence it rejects imminence. Some proponents hold to a literal future seven years of severe tribulation while others do not. There is considerable disagreement within this group and a lack of clarity over which eschatological events should be taken literally or symbolically.

c) Futuristic Posttribulationism

This is the view of people like George E. Ladd who defended the position in his book The Blessed Hope. Although it is sometimes referred to as the “Historic Premillennial” view, in fact it is a relatively new one. George Ladd promoted a future seven years of tribulation prior to the second coming. While Ladd took a more literal approach to prophetic texts than his posttribulational predecessors, he also tended to rely on the New Testament to re-interpret the Old Testament. Like his predecessors he also saw the church as the New Spiritual Israel. [http://mikevlach.blogspot.com/2011/07/yes-george-ladd-believed-that-church-is.html] To confuse things somewhat, some historic premillennialists (Craig Blomberg) see no need for a future seven years of tribulation. This view has the second coming of Christ and the rapture as one event occurring just before the millennium.

d) Dispensational Posttribulationism

This is a rare position, and it aligns closely with Ladd’s view. In contrast it purports to see a distinction between Israel and the church. It is represented by Robert Gundry in his two books The Church and the Tribulation and First the Antichrist. Gundry argued that the church is not exempt from the 70th week because the last half is Satan’s wrath. He attempted to show that the Sheep-Goat judgment occurs after the millennium. Gundry needed to do this because this judgment would have been a redundant exercise post-rapture. Also, such a judgment poses a problem for posttribulationism as regards to how the millennium is populated. Ron Rhodes responded HERE [http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Rhodes-Posttribulationismand.pdf] You can also read my blog post On Populating the Millennium. [http://mac-eschatology.blogspot.com/2014/09/on-populating-millennium.html]

John Walvoord has addressed posttribulationism HERE [http://www.walvoord.com/series/328] and HERE [http://www.walvoord.com/series/329] You can also read his critique of Ladd’s book HERE [http://www.walvoord.com/article/68]

Pre-Wrath Rapture View

Even though prewrath proponents appeal to historicity, this is the newest rapture timing position. We briefly discussed this view in a previous post reviewing the book, Antichrist Before The Day Of The Lord. [ http://www.zeteo316.com/antichrist-before-the-day-of-the-lord/%5D This view was conceived in the late 20th century by Robert Van Kampen and introduced to the public via Marvin Rosenthal’s The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church.

Prewrath teaches a literal future millennium and 70th week of Daniel. It denies imminence and that all the 70th week contains God’s wrath. It divides the final seven years into three segments: the Beginning of Sorrows takes up the first half of the week, while the second half is divided by Satan’s Wrath followed by God’s Wrath (Day of the Lord.) It proposes that the bowl judgments of Revelation occur after the 70th week.

The indispensible tenet which holds prewrath together is its reliance on a peculiar interpretation of Matt 24:22Open in Logos Bible Software (if available). Prewrath teaches that the rapture is not currently imminent but becomes so after the Abomination of Desolation. Some time during Satan’s wrath, God intervenes by cutting the tribulation short and coming for the church. Prewrath charts generally depict this point at around the three quarter mark of the 70th week. However, the timing is unknown.

I have found that books written by proponents of this system can sometimes be misleading by not providing enough information. Van Kampen embraced several future comings of Christ yet called it a single event. He also taught that the 4th seal was only applicable to Jews and the church. Van Kampen denied that Rev 3:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) was a rapture passage yet many modern prewrathers have now adopted the verse.

One supporter has called the prewrath view “meat and potatoes.” In fact it is a complex system which has undergone some reviews and changes since its conception. Its proponents have zealously sought converts even though some supporters appear not to fully understand the issues. Unfortunately, their promotional material often relies on criticism of the pretribulational system rather than defending it on its own merit. Most of its criticisms of the pretrib model have been borrowed from posttribulationism. Eric Douma has engaged the view at length on his website. [http://www.zeteo316.com/rapture-timing-views/]

Pretribulational Rapture View

The name is perhaps misleading because (as mentioned earlier) pretribulationists do not deny that the church experiences tribulation. It sees the entire future 70th week of Daniel as wrath. Therefore the pretribulational view teaches that the rapture occurs before the final seven years of the 70th week of Daniel.

Most pretribulationists tend to stress the doctrine of imminence which is why non-pretribulationists go out of their way to refute it. We will write more on this subject in a future article.

Critics of pretribulationism inevitably say that it’s a “new idea.” They claim Darby invented it or (erroneously) got it from Margaret MacDonald. [http://our-hope.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/ReviewMacPherson.pdf] We’ve already noted that prewrath is a new system, yet they frequently use this argument. Ironically most of the critics of dispensationalism or pretribulationism hold to Covenant Theology [https://drreluctant.wordpress.com/?s=covenant+theology] which was formulated around the 16th to 17th centuries.

Recall also that there have been four different posttribulational views and different millennial views over the centuries. Amillennialism and the allegorical interpretation of prophetic texts dominated until around the 19th century. It was around then that the study of eschatology was revived. Within this more literal, sophisticated framework, premillennialism began to thrive. It was in this climate of rethinking the allegorical interpretation that several scholars eventually developed different rapture theories (e.g. partial, midtrib, pretrib, prewrath etc).

Richard Mayhue offers some reasons why he thinks the pretribulational view is the correct one HERE:[http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj13i.pdf]

http://www.zeteo316.com/rapture-timing-views/

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