The mid-Tribulation rapture theory was developed chiefly by Norman B. Harrison shortly after WWII. The main distinctive of this theory is that the rapture does not occur until the mid-point of Daniel’s seventieth week. They teach that the church will go through some tribulation during the seal and trumpet judgments (which they don’t regard as God’s judgments), but God will spare the church by rapture for the next three and one-half years, during the bowl judgments.
Some of the leading supporters and teachers of this theory besides Norman B. Harrison are Gleason Archer, Richard Reiter, James Oliver Buswell, Harold J. Ockenga, and Marvin Rosenthal (Rosenthal and others have recently modified this view, and have called it the pre-wrath rapture theory).
In this presentation, I will present a statement of each point followed by my refutation, 6 points in all. In this post I will present the first three points.
1. Regarding Man’s wrath and God’s wrath, Matthew 24:8-21. According to this theory, the first three and one-half years, with the seals and trumpets, is the “beginning of sorrows” (v. 8), and the last three and one-half years, with the bowl judgments, is the “great Tribulation.” Norman Harrison teaches that the seals is what man brings upon himself; that it is “merely the operation of the law of sowing and reaping.”[i] And he said that the trumpets is what Satan brings to man by permission of God, and is for his own good, as a testing and as discipline.[ii] Thus they hold that even though the first three and one-half years is full of tribulation, it isn’t the wrath of God and therefore the church will go through it, and will even benefit by it.
However, they teach that the last three and one-half years is the wrath of God, because it is when the antichrist is revealed (2 Thess. 2:3-4) and is used by God to pour out His wrath upon the earth. Accordingly, they hold that the church will be raptured at the mid-point of the Tribulation, just before God’s wrath begins to be poured out.
My refutation. Though it is true that the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation will not be as horrific as the last three and one-half years, in no way should we conclude that it is not filled with the wrath of God. In fact, in Revelation 6:16-17, which is during the sixth seal, the people cry out to the mountains and the rocks,
“Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”
These verses confirm to us that the seal judgments are the wrath of God. And the trumpet judgments will get even worse. Moreover, we cannot break up the 7-year Tribulation into two unrelated parts. All seven years are the wrath of God and it is all decreed for Israel (Dan. 9:24) and not for the church.
2. Israel and the church. Since this theory places the church in the first half of the seven year period determined for Daniel’s people (Dan. 9:24), it denies the distinction between Israel and the church. According to Harrison, the two groups overlap and “may lead to an ultimate blending.”[iii]
My Refutation. It is clear from Daniel that the seventieth week (the entire 7-year Tribulation) is decreed for Israel, not the church. Therefore, the church program must be brought to an end before God deals with Israel during the Tribulation. And we see evidence of this in Revelation, for all during the Tribulation chapters (Rev. 4-19), there is no mention of the church. Based on this evidence, we must reject the mid-Tribulation rapture theory that the church will go through the first three and one-half years with Israel and blend with Israel. This cannot happen.
3. 1 Corinthians 15:52 and Revelation 11:15. They insist that the seventh trumpet in Revelation is the same trumpet of 1 Corinthians, called the last trumpet. So they would say that since 1 Corinthians 15:52 is obviously speaking of the rapture, Revelation 11:15 gives us the timing of the rapture—at the seventh trumpet, which is in the middle of the Tribulation.
My refutation. Upon careful study of these verses we must conclude that the trumpet blasts depicted here are quite different. In 1 Corinthians 15—and also in 1 Thessalonians 4:16—this trumpet is called the trumpet of God in which God is calling believers to Himself. But in Revelation 11:15; that trumpet is sounded by an angel and is a call of doom and judgment on the wicked. The trumpet in 1 Corinthians and in 1 Thessalonians is called the last trumpet, because it is the last call for the church before they will be raptured. But in Revelation 11:15, this trumpet is the last of seven trumpets of judgment. Since the trumpets in these two passages are obviously not the same, we cannot use this point to prove the mid-Tribulation rapture theory.
[i] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 183, citing Norman B. Harrison, The End (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Harrison Service, 1941).
[ii] Ibid., p. 183.
[iii] Ibid., p. 182.