As I mentioned in the previous article, the main distinctive of this theory is that the rapture of the church will occur immediately after the seven-year Tribulation at the Advent of Christ. Hence, this view rejects the pre-Tribulation view that there are two phases of His coming; they teach that the rapture and the second coming will all occur all at once: 1) Christ will come in the clouds, 2) He will rapture and transform the church—first the dead and then the living, and 3) He will then immediately (or very quickly) bring them back to earth in their glorified bodies to reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom.
In this third part we will deal with the subjects of imminence and the resurrection.
5. They Deny Imminence
This post-Tribulation rapture theory teaches that the believing church should and will know when the Lord is coming by the signs given in scripture (Matthew 24); thus they will not be caught off guard and be surprised. Imminence, they say, “Applies only to the wicked and the spiritually unprepared people that are still alive before the Return of Christ.”[i] To them He will come like a thief in the night and they will not be ready.
Another argument they use for this point has to do with Jesus’ announcements that certain events will occur, such as what he prophesied for Peter: that he would grow old, and supposedly how he would die (Jn. 21:18-19). They teach that since the Lord could not come until such events had taken place, this makes Christ’s imminent return impossible.[ii]
Rebuttal. The doctrine that Christ can return at any moment to rapture the church, without the necessity of any signs of His coming, is the pre-Tribulation rapture position. We believe this is what the bible teaches about the rapture. The following verses will show us this meaning of imminence: 1 Corinthians 1:7; 16:22; Philippians 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 1:13; Jude 21: Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 17, 20.
Regarding the announcements Jesus made that certain events would occur that post-Tribulationists say would make the pre-Tribulation theory invalid; well, this has caused many (including myself) some frustration. But I have found much truth in Dr. Thomas Ice’s study on this subject.
Concerning what Jesus’ prophesied about Peter, that he would not die until he was an old man (Jn. 21:18-19), Thomas Ice writes,
John’s Gospel was not written until decades after Peter’s death when it would no longer be an issue one way or the other.[iii]
Citing Marshall Hawkins: It was not until the book of James (written just about A.D. 50), and then later in Paul’s writings that the imminence of the rapture is revealed. Twenty years would have elapsed between the prophecy [regarding Peter] and the writing of James-enough time for Peter to have aged sufficiently. . . . By this time imminence was a viable doctrine for most of the church since they would have no idea whether Peter was alive at any one moment or not. . . . For those accompanying Peter at this time, the rapture was also imminent because Peter may have been seized and martyred at any time, making the rapture possible immediately afterward.[iv]
Thomas Ice concludes by saying, “We will find as we diffuse the many landmines set against pretribulationism that nothing in the New Testament stands in the way of Christ’s any-moment return.”[v]
6. The Resurrection of Believers
The post-Tribulation rapture theory holds that there is only one resurrection of all believers, both Jews and Gentiles. It is at the time of the inauguration of the kingdom (Rev. 20:4-6), which is just after the Great Tribulation, on the “day of the Lord” (Jn. 5:28-29; 11:24). And since it is clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that the resurrection of the “holy dead” is at the time of the rapture of the church, this they say is proof that the rapture must come after the Tribulation, when (or just after) all believers are resurrected.[vi]
Rebuttal. No, there is not only one resurrection of believers. Even though all believers are part of what is called “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5-6), this does not mean that there is only one resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:23 teaches that the resurrection will be “each in his own order.” Those resurrected will be as such: the church saints will be resurrected sometime before the Tribulation period; the Old Testament saint and the Tribulation saints, at the Second Advent of Christ; and the millennial saints will probably be resurrected at the end of the millennial kingdom.
The saying by Martha to Jesus, “I know that he [Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (Jn. 11:24), does not teach us that there is only one resurrection on “the last day.” This “last day,” or the “Day of the Lord,” should not be considered as a twenty-four hour period. Dwight Pentecost writes,
The term Day of the Lord, or that day, is not a term which applies to a twenty-four hour period, but rather the whole program of events, including the tribulation period, the Second Advent program, and the entire millennial age.[vii]
I must also point out that the term for those resurrected in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is “the dead in Christ,” and not the “holy dead,” as some suggest. Therefore, since the dead in Christ can only mean those in Christ, or the church, we cannot use this passage to teach that these are all the saints; thus we cannot use this passage in any way to prove a post-Tribulation theology.
[i] Wikipedia, Post-tribulation rapture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-tribulation_rapture.
[ii] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 168.
[iii] Dr. Thomas Ice, Pre-Trib Research Center, “Imminence and The Rapture (Part 1),” http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/imminence-and-rapture-part-1.
[iv] Dr. Thomas Ice, Pre-Trib Research Center, “Imminence and The Rapture (Part 1),” citing Marshall Hawkins, “Rebuttal of the Posttribulational Denial of Imminence” (Unpublished ThM thesis, Capital Bible Seminary, 1979), p. 45. Cited in McAvoy, “Critique,” p. 83.
[v] Dr. Thomas Ice, Pre-Trib Research Center, “Imminence and The Rapture (Part 1)
[vi] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 173, citing Norman S. McPherson, Triumph Through Tribulation (Otego, New York: Author, 1944), p. 41.
[vii] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 174.