According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NIV
What must happen before the Day of the Lord
· Sun Moon and star signs. Joel 2:30-31
· Elijah before day of the Lord. Mal. 4:5
· Israel must be a nation & back in its land. Daniel 9:27; 2 Thes. 2:3-4
· The Apostacia (falling away). 2 Thes. 2:3-4; Mt. 24:10-12
· The man of sin must declare himself to be God in the temple (Abomination of Desolation). 2 Thes. 2:3-4; Mt. 24:15
If the Rapture and the Day of the Lord are back-to-back events, the Rapture could not have happened for the last two thousand years.
Many verses are used in defense of this theory:
We are those who are looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Greek words and texts used as supportive texts (Chris White on the Greek):
looking for and waiting for
wait near or at hand
None of these has the meaning that nothing must happen before an event takes place. In fact, without a single exception, every Greek word in every proof text regarding this issue, not a single one of them carries the meaning that no events have to proceed Christ’s coming. All of the words, save one, are dealing with the believers’ attitude concerning His coming, not the timing of it at all. This attitude should be defined as expectancy, not imminence. That’s why some people term this the Phantom doctrine. I don’t want to prejudice you against this term because there is a time in which the Lord’s return WILL be imminent. Those attitudes never talk to the Rapture coming before the Antichrist until the 1800s. They only refer to the it after certain events take place first. To some, pre-tribulation was the pill to the early church because it seems that many of them believed the Rapture to be imminent in their lifetimes. And that is true for some of them, but if you look even closer you will see that they also believe that the Antichrist was already on the scene, whether it was a Roman Emperor or both, or the end of the persecution that they were in, the persecution of the Antichrist. There is no talk to the Rapture coming before the Antichrist until the 1800s. They do not refer to the point before which some certain events must take place.
Larry Crutchfield, a professor at Columbia Seminary and a pretribulationist, is an expert on the early church fathers. He wrote a paper called Rudiments of Dispensationalism in the Anti-Nicean Period. He was looking for pretribulationalism in the early church. But, “while there are seeds from which the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture could be developed, it is difficult to find in them an unequivocal statement of the type of immanency usually believed in by pretribulationists.”
In fact Thomas Ice, of the PreTrib Research Center, quotes him in his article, The History of the Doctrine of the Rapture. He uses it as his evidence of a belief in an imminent return of Christ in the early church saying they believed that they were in the Great Tribulation, but not the day of the Lord. With few exceptions, the premillennial fathers of the early church believed that they were living in the last time, and looked daily for the Lord’s immanent return. This puts the immanent return of Jesus Christ within the context of ongoing persecution, and has prompted us to broadly label the views of the earliest fathers: “imminent intratribulationalism.”
The early church was holding to a more biblical view. We find in Revelation chapter six that the only thing preventing the beginning of God’s judgment of the earth is that the number of martyrs be completed.
How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
Revelation 6:10b-11 NIV
A really good example of this is Matthew 24 where we see this passage.
“Immediately after the distress (tribulation = thlipsis) of those days “ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Matthew 24:29-31 NIV
There is confusion about these verses because we have incorrectly defined the word tribulation as the wrath of God; they are not equivalent. The thlipsis is used as affliction or persecution. This is talking about a great affliction being cut short by the Rapture. Almost every instance this word thlipsis in the New Testament is promising believers they will go through it, as in Mark 4:16,17.
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution (thlipsis) comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Mark 4:16-17 NIV
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have thlipsis. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NIV
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships (thlipsis) to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Acts 14:22 NIV
We are Not going to experience the wrath of God; but to say that we’re not going through thlipsis is unbiblical. So there will be great tribulation, great persecution at the hand of the Antichrist; but we are promised that we will be raptured out of the midst of it. Praise God!