The fact that the Bible teaches there is going to be a rapture is, I think, perfectly clear. There can be no question about it, based on the passages in Corinthians and Thessalonians. Now, the critical question is this: When does the rapture occur in relation to the Great Tribulation? This is an important question. Does the rapture occur before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, or at the end of the tribulation? Those who believe the rapture will take place after the tribulation are known as post-tribulationalists. Those who believe the rapture will take place in the middle of the tribulation are known as mid-tribulationalists. Those who believe that the rapture will occur before the tribulation are known as pre-tribulationalists. The pre-tribulationalist position is what we hold at Calvary Chapel. It is not an essential doctrine, but we believe it is an important one.
What the New Testament Teaches
I believe the New Testament overwhelmingly teaches that the rapture will occur before the tribulation. Of course, there are people who think that is ridiculous. Yet, I want to show you it is not something for which we are just sort of hoping against hope.
When it comes to the subject of the timing of the rapture, a lot of people say, “Oh, it is all so confusing. No one can ever really know.” Those who do not want to be dogmatic say, “I am not pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib; I am pan-trib.” Meaning, it will all pan out in the end. That is okay for some. But we are not pan-trib at Calvary Chapel; we are pre-trib all the way!
Praying We Can Escape
Let’s look at this critical question of the timing of the rapture and some things Jesus said.
In Luke 21:34–36, Jesus said this, speaking to His own followers:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Jesus is clearly talking about the tribulation, and what does He say to His people? “Pray … that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things … and to stand before the Son of Man.” I would say that Jesus is speaking here of the rapture, and it seems obvious that it is a pre-tribulational rapture. We are to pray that we may be able to escape these things.
A Message for All Time
In Revelation 3:10, Jesus speaks to the church in Philadelphia, a historical church back in the first century located in what is now modern-day Turkey. The message given was obviously applicable to the church at that time, but if you study the seven letters to the seven churches, it’s evident that the messages were for the church for all time. Some Bible commentators see the seven churches as seven different periods of church history, and they see this particular church as part of the last day’s scenario. Regardless, listen to what Jesus said in Revelation 3:10:
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
Jesus Will Keep Us Out of the Tribulation
Some have made the claim that this verse means He will protect His people during the tribulation. But the word translated “from” is the Greek preposition, ek, which means “out of.” A literal translation would be, “I will keep you out of the hour of trail, which shall come upon the whole world.”
Paul sheds further light on this teaching, and we will look at that next week.