Pretribulation Rapture: Five Reasons
No feature is more closely tied to dispensational premillennialism than the pretribulation rapture. There are at least five major arguments in support of this doctrine. 102
1. The purpose of the tribulation demands it. The tribulation is not about the Church. It is part of God's plan for the Jews, to prepare to accept Christ. It is "Jacob's trouble" as prophesied by Jeremiah:
How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob,
but he will be saved out of it. (Jer. 30:7)
It is a later day trial that will foster the return of Jews into favor with God:
27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. (Deut 4:27-30)
During the tribulation God's wrath will be for the entire world:
For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev 6:17)
The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth." (Rev 11:18)
However, God promises to spare the church from wrath:
and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Th. 1:10)
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Th. 5:9)
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (Rev 3:10)
Therefore logic demands that the church be removed prior to the rapture.
2. The imminence of the blessed hope. Paul teaches of a "blessed hope" for believers that can occur without notice:
11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:11-13)
9for 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, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Th. 1:9-10)
These passages, according to dispensationalists, refer to the rapture. If the blessed hope is imminent, then in effect it occurs without any precursor signs. The tribulation would be a whopper of a sign; hence the rapture must come first. In fact, no other event in the prophecy timeline should come before the rapture.
To some dispensationalists, nothing is more important than the imminence of the blessed hope, or equivalently the surprise nature of the rapture. They find it abhorrent should occur after the tribulation which would deny the imminence of the blessed hope, for the believer would know at the beginning of the tribulation that the rapture was seven (or three and a half) years into the future. 103
This "next event on the prophetic timetable" argument is bolstered, according to dispensationalists, by the fact that scripture that deals with the rapture never talks about signs, while scripture dealing with the Second Coming does.
Matthew 24 [The Olivet Discourse] is by far the most exhaustive [example of Second Coming text] and in my judgment relates events that will occur throughout the tribulation. In Matt. 24:32-51 our Lord makes it clear that these signs are to alert the believer that His coming is near. 104
The remaining three reasons for the pretribulation rapture will be discussed in the next segment.
102 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, pp. 105-107.
103 Ibid. p. 106.
104 Paul Feinberg, Case for a Pretribulation Rapture, pp. 80-86.