Jesus warned his disciples about a coming time of tribulation such as the world has never known that he said would take place right before he came back (Matt. 24:3-31). For centuries, Christians have expected to face this difficult time before the return of their Lord. However, in the past few hundred years, some began to teach a way of escape - a crown without a cross. Originally, it started with a small group in Britain, but today it has spread so far that to some people it is almost gospel. Could this new idea be true, that the church had not known of for hundreds of years? Did not our Lord warn us of this time of tribulation so that we would indeed be prepared for it? These are the issues I want to address in this book.
Many do not see this as an important issue. I think that the primary reason is because we don't know what real persecution is like. Or they simply believe the escapism because that is all they were ever taught or because it sounds so much better! Of course. Who wants to suffer? But if we are going to face this most difficult time, shouldn't we be prepared for it? More often than not, God's people went through the hard times, not around them. Why should we be any different? Jesus said that at this time many would fall away and would even turn on one another and betray one another (Matt. 24:10). He also said that the love of many would grow cold (Matt. 24:12). This can hardly be considered an unimportant issue. I pray that you would at least consider the arguments put forward in this book and critically evaluate whatever position you may hold in comparison with the word of God. "Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).
A Plain, Literal Approach
First of all, I would like to state that in this discussion I am taking a plain, literal approach to interpretation, which is more literal at times than many pre-tribulationists.1 I want to look primarily at what the Bible actually has to say about this topic. However, I will use accepted terminology such as the non-biblical words "rapture" and "Millennium," only because these are the words most people relate to. I will usually follow the common usage of the word "Tribulation" to refer to the entire seven-year period even though I believe biblically it is only used of the latter three and one half years.
Pentecostís Things to Come Eschatology
I realize that not all pre-tribulationists agree on all points. Some of the issues I cover may not apply to some. Although I have heard and read a variety of pre-tribulationists, I was formally taught from Dwight Pentecostís Things to Come, which has been a standard pre-tribulationist textbook for a long time. I will attempt to point out where modern pre-tribulationists have changed their views, but I do apologize if I overlook some.
Pre-Tribulationism Is Based on Inferences and Is Not Specifically Taught in Scripture
The doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture is not specifically taught in the Bible. Instead, it is based upon other doctrines which pre-tribulationists conclude require a pre-tribulation rapture: such as, imminency, exemption from wrath, distinction between the church and Israel, etc. However, nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus will come prior to the Tribulation. On the other hand, Jesus himself said that he would return "after the tribulation" (Matt. 24:29-31).
Burden of Proof
Finally, if pre-tribulationism is not specifically taught in Scripture, and we all agree to the post-tribulational second coming, then post- is the default position. It is up to the pre-tribulationist to demonstrate that there are two separate events and that the first of these takes place before the Tribulation. Unless it can be demonstrated otherwise, we are left to assume that the "blessed hope" of the believer is the second coming of Christ after the Tribulation.
1. This is primarily a discussion of Pre and Post-tribulationism. For an evaluation of the new "Pre-Wrath" rapture theory, see Pre-Wrath. <back>