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"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
The Pretribulation Rapture
According to the pretribulational view of the Rapture, the church will be translated prior to the seventieth week of Daniel and return with the Lord to the earth at the Second Advent. Hand in hand with this view is the doctrine of imminency, which emphasizes that the Lord can return any moment without regard to signs. All signs are for Israel and therefore relate to the Revelation (Rev. 19:11-21), when He will come with the saints at the end of the Tribulation period. In support of the pretribulational rapture, Walvoord comments:
Two important presuppositions, however, are essential to the pretribulation position: (1) the definition of the church as a separate body of saints distinct from saints of other ages; (2) the doctrine of a future tribulation of unprecedented severity. This involves usually the concept that the seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy for Israel is also future in its entirety.
Paul D. Feinberg, in his conclusion supporting the pretribulation Rapture, comments: For me at least, the church will not go through the Tribulation because of the character of that entire period as a time of the outpouring of penal, retributive, divine wrath, as well as the promises of God to the church that exempt it from both the time and the experience of wrath.
Further, it is necessary to separate the Rapture of the church from the Second Advent of Christ because of the need for an interval for people to be saved, so that they can enter into the kingdom age in natural, unglorified bodies. Finally, the differences between the Rapture passages and Second Coming passages lead me to believe that there are two separate events referred to in the passages.
As Feinberg states, God has promised in certain passages of Scripture that the church will be exempt from "both the time and the experience of wrath." Revelation 3:10 states: "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Paul states in 1 Thess. 5:9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
Paul further explains in 1 Thess. 1:10: "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." Feinberg includes "possibly Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:6 [and] Colossians 3:6." We find many Old Testament types that add weight to the body of evidence in favor of the church being delivered from God's wrath during this period. Clarence Larkin comments:
The typical teaching of the Scriptures demand that the Church be caught out "before" the Tribulation. Joseph was a type of Christ and he was espoused to, and married Asenath, a Gentile bride, during the time of his "rejection by his brethren," and "before the famine," which typified the Tribulation, because it was the time of "Judgment of his Brethren." This is the time of Christ's rejection by "His brethren" the Jews, and to complete the type He must get His Bride-the church, "before" the Tribulation.
Moses, who is also a type of Christ, got his bride, and she a Gentile, "after" his rejection by his brethren, and "before" they passed through the Tribulation under Pharaoh. Ex. 2:23-25.
Enoch, a type of the "Translation Saints," was caught out "before" the Flood, and the Flood is a type of the Tribulation, and Noah and his family of the "Jewish Remnant" or 144,000 sealed ones of Rev. 7:1-8, who will be preserved through the Tribulation.
And, of course, there is Lot who was taken out before divine judgment was meted out upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 19:22 tells us: "Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." God was at a standstill until Lot was taken out from among them. Then there is the account of Rahab in Jericho (a type of the world system), who was spared the divine judgment of God (Joshua 2:1-24; 6:17-25).
Rebekah, who also was a Gentile bride, was spared from tribulation before leaving home to meet Isaac, who is a type of Christ (Gen. 24:1-67). Pentecost states, "While argument from analogy is a weak argument in itself, yet if a teaching is contrary to all typology it can not be a true interpretation."
The Midtribulation Rapture
The midtribulation rapture theory seems to be a compromise between the pretribulation and the posttribulation views. According to this view the seven-year tribulation is divided into two halves; the first half described as the wrath of man, and the last half as the wrath of God. The rapture of the church will take place at the middle of the tribulation period three-and-one-half years prior to the second advent. J. Dwight Pentecost comments:
Midtribulationism must either deny or at least weaken the dispensational interpretation of the Scriptures, and, (2) deny the strict distinctions between Israel and the church. This is observed in that this position places the church in the first half of the last seven years of the period determined upon Daniel's people and city. (3) The position must rest on a view of the tribulation that divides the period into two separate and unrelated halves, so that the church can go through the first half, even though it has no part in the last half. (4) The position must deny the doctrine of imminence, for all the signs of the first half of the week apply to the church. (5) The position must deny the concept of the church as a mystery, so that the church age may overlap God's program with Israel. (6) The position must depend, to a certain extent, on the spiritualizing method of interpretation. This is particularly evident in the explanation of the portions of Scripture dealing with the first half of the tribulation period.